Casey Kuklick
Casey Kuklick

Morning After

The morning light saturates the room and the stickiness of her leg is overwhelming. I feel an inescapable crush of skin on skin; all of my tactile capacities are concentrated in one spot on my aching thigh where her sticky leg presses heavy in the early morning heat. It was thrown there the night before, heavily and hotly in groaning, sleepy dizziness, in that groggy time between sex and sleep, arms and legs flailing in a sea of sheets, finally collapsing soft like the flutish fingers of a jellyfish. Forgotten then, it possesses me entirely now; my whole self melted down into one now hardened and pressure-throbbing spot, maybe 6 inches square, sticky skin on sticky skin, unrelieveable.

If I move – if I dare – there’s a chance I’m free, liberated. I think wistfully of curling down and cooling up, untouched, on that half of the bed that we have left unused, criminally, all night. Instead we are crumpled, the two of us against the wall, folded haphazardly against each another like two beach chairs in the trunk of a car, the only thing missing, and the only thing that might make it worse: sand. Our arms are thrown about each other’s bodies in misplaced iterations of passion, tightening like ropes as the morning wears on. The sheets strangle my foot, and the sweat from my neck has seeped onto the half pillow tucked uncomfortably behind my head. Everywhere is damp.

I have not yet mentioned my arm, under assault from her weighty head, which she has managed to place directly into the crook of my elbow. It threatens to arrest entirely the flow of my blood, damming it up in my shoulder. I can feel my forearm and fingers dying, like static. It confirms my almost frantic belief that all my blood and life and feeling has rushed to the middle of my inner thigh, where her leg rests like an anvil.

The other half of the bed, mere tiny inches away, might as well be miles. I can almost feel the freshness of that unruffled sheet on my back, but then I imagine the consequences of moving- her head turning up to me sleepily, sighing stale, acrid breath into my face, breaking my cherished Sunday morning quiet with high pitched weekend platitudes, her makeup disappeared, the hair that fell so purely over her back the night before now mottled and molting onto my pillows. I’ll find stray strands there, and in my socks, and in my water glasses perched on my bedside table, for days afterward- and I waver, afraid. In denial, I think to myself; my leg can take the staleness, can suffer the smooth slab of suffocating flesh. But every natural urge and burning instinct implores me to stretch away for release.

I open my eyes. The fan in the window buzzes, too far away to ripple and cleanse the air above our wrinkled bodies. It smells vaguely of cigarette smoke and spilled beer and alcohol.

And sex. Ripped condom wrappers on the windowsill are a receding reminder of the previous night’s animalism, the grunting and straining and sweating. The grabbing and the smacking, swearing fuck mes, the oh my god keep goings, pull my hairs and yes yes oh yeses. Building up and up, slinging bodies around, pinning arms down and rhythm rhythm. Then the panting, final vibration, my head collapsing onto her chest, wiping my sopping brow on her breasts, feeling them against the stubble of my chin, her chuckling as she jogs her fingers through my hair.

The wall above her head stares back at me silently and all of that is now a distant memory, my mouth now dry as a cork, caked with some indefinable grime that I imagine tastes like the bottom side of an old couch. She snores a little, shifts in her sleep. It gives me an opening. Slowly, from my side to my back I move. At the summit of my movement there is a brief moment when air enters the passage between our limbs, but just as soon it is gone. The sweat and stickiness clamp down again ominously, like the sliding door of a prison cell.

But I’ve made it onto my back, where suddenly I am faced with another, still more urgent problem: I have to pee. The intensity of the pinching, stinging feeling in my groin brought on by too many beers, whiskey, and the full glass of water I downed in between bouts of sex had been latent while I lay on my side, lurking almost undetected under the ocean of pressure that was, and still is, her leg on mine. My stretched bladder now feels the full, burgeoning force of sloshing liquid; it has reached that level of urgency where, behind the stinging, there is a dull ache growing in the bottom of my abdomen.

Mirror ailments; one a sharp and urgent pain, the other a dull, airless preoccupation. In a halting movement, I remove my leg from her stifling grasp. It breathes, the air in the room gives it life, and I feel like I can exhale for the first time since waking. Half free now, I unlock my arm from under her head. The best way to do this, I tell myself, is unforgivingly, quickly, to convey a finality to sleep that I am reluctant to give up but understand as necessary. Her head plummets inches onto the mattress as I stumble blindly out of bed. I’m halfway out of the room, moving slowly and almost bent at the waist, legs jittering, when she wakes.

“Where are you going?” she says. Her voice is muffled by hungover sleep.

“To the bathroom.” I speak with what I hope is just the slightest, plausibly deniable amount of exasperation, and then soften. “Want anything?”

She yawns. My bladder aches. “No.”

“I’ll get you a glass of water.”

She turns over, and in doing so I can see her lovely underwear, violet colored, skin peeking out of a lace pattern, and half of a robust cheek outing itself from underneath the sheets. The scratches on her back are there from only a few hours before, inglorious and stirring testaments to a spent and now, I realize, suddenly growing desire. I bite my lip, and rush downstairs to pee.

***

“Come here.”

She motions to me, head still down in the mattress, hair falling smoothly again over her bare back. She has opened a window and air rushes in, the fan whines pleasantly in the corner. She has rubbed clean the windowsill, the torn condom wrappers now discarded, their shame and uncertainty hidden forever in trashed tissue paper. A box of mints is open in their place. The traces of cold water left fuel and invigorate my face. The dull pain in my bladder has vanished, alleviated, replaced by a feeling of elastic lightness. I walk (spring?) across the room to her.
“How’d you sleep?”

“Fine,” I lie, removing the remaining bits of sheet from her back and staring down at her behind. I start kissing the back of her neck.

“You?”

She smiles, tracing a finger down the front of my chest. “Really well.”

She turns over, and now I see her breasts fall in front of my face, squeezed casually together by her freckled arms, and all of the dead and heavy weight she was moments ago is gone; she is now a naked woman with soft smooth skin and lustrous black hair. She smells faintly of last night’s perfume. I look at the lone cheek again, and sure enough it is still there, sitting perkily in the air, round edges sloping gently down her tawny legs and pale painted feet. She looks into my eyes and smiles, kissing me quickly on the cheek as if to test me, and I, irresistibly now, slide my hand down the front of the plane of her stomach between her legs.

The sex that follows is quiet, a little slow, and immensely enjoyable. A vindication of the night before, that it was all good, that we might even like each other, that we could dance the whole waltz again and neither of us would be opposed to it. I’ve thrown the covers completely off of the bed and she sits on top of me, the light catching her face, hair no longer mottled but naturally askew, like us, devoid of disingenuity. Her abdomen moves in a genuine rhythm, and my hands grip her behind perhaps a little too tightly, her soft cheeks spilling through the inside of my fingers. I trace the same tender scratches on her back. The acrid and stale breath is gone too, lost in each other’s mouths. The bed and the pillows are like clouds.

Our bodies pick up speed, and we become a gyrating ball of flesh, shaking and vibrating from within. Our muscles tense and our lives are half-forgotten. In a mounting rush, we achieve that divine moment of simultaneous elation; we shudder and twist and twitch and finally clench, no sudden stop but rather a slow descent from the apex of feeling of life itself. Breathing heavily and wet with sweat, still possessing me between her legs, she flops into my neck, panting. Our once hard, tensed bodies have melted again to jelly; I am surprised I have bones. I feel her smile on my skin. We lie there for a few minutes, and I can feel the heat rising through my body and emanating through my skin, and I wonder why it doesn’t whistle like boiling water.

***

After a few minutes of embered silence she stands up, and, a little awkwardly, climbs out of my bed. She’s naked, and so takes the greatest possible care not to trip, stumbling over to the rumpled crumple of her jeans on the floor, her heels, worn so naturally, so naturally worn, the night before, sit tipped over like spilled milk on the carpet. I wonder if she had the forethought to bring sandals. Pulling on her jeans, she tries not to hop on one foot. She doesn’t succeed.

She stands in front of me jeaned and shirtless.

“I should go.” She manages to smile through the words, which I imagine are painful for any woman to say the morning after, or, in this case, fifteen minutes after. “I have to meet a friend for brunch soon.”

“Ok.”

I get up too, and, cautiously, move to my dresser where I cover my own vulnerability with a pair of shorts. I turn back to her as she attempts to clasp her bra, helpless to help her, and I wonder: how very strange it is that two people can share such intimacy and then find themselves struggling through the unforgivingly agonizing motions of pulling on clothing. We struggle through momentary confusion, through our inability to move gracefully from the uncertain act of intercourse to the simple task of dressing oneself. But then I think maybe its better that way; that inexplicable as it might be, if moments in the human condition are to be uncomfortable, they might as well be mundane.

She sniffs a little bit, clears her throat, and I think now would be an appropriate time to hold her and kiss her, to remind her that I haven’t forgotten. She likes this, and kisses me back, another short sweet peck, innocent. She smiles as if she understands, as if perhaps only a woman can. For an instant, we are back in the place we were when our gyrating ball exploded, but then, in the cold necessity of putting on her heels and tottering down the stairs, and whispering goodbyes, it is gone.