I asked him if he wanted a blow job. I asked him this frequently, and not because I ever expected to be permitted the pleasure, but because it made him smile when I did ask. Even if he declined.

And he always declined.

But tonight his smile was patronizing, disingenuous. My heart broke as I watched us, from afar, from a place of indifference, suffer another fatal blow. I watched as our institution crumbled gradually like an ancient Greek coliseum. I watched myself slink away into that dungeon of self-loathing and self-doubt, where I would hide and use razors on my skin till the blood came because at least that was feeling something.

I wondered if all marriages suffer this same fate. If every couple begins as passionately as we did, but fizzle and fade as quickly. I wondered if this had something to do with the divorce rate.

And I wondered what all these unwanted partners do with their unwanted feelings. Eat them. Spend them. Foster addictions to internet porn and chemical highs. Take up knitting. Cheat.

The alley was dark, the walls slick and shining with moisture, and the ground threw back the yellow streetlight at its entrance. It was the only light. I hung in the back, outside the door of the club; I felt the music inside throbbing like a weak heart, or perhaps I felt nothing and only imagined what I knew was there. I pulled on the joint. Coughed. It was rank, not the good stuff. But it was something to soften the jagged edges.

He emerged from the shadows, one side of his face illuminated by the yellow light. He was tall, slim, with a 5 o’clock shadow scruffing his jaw. The eye I could see was nothing more than a dark pool with a glinting surface.

I felt no fear, no threat. I couldn’t tell if he smiled. When he spoke, his voice was warm and flowed like honey. “That smells terrible.”

I offered him a toke. He took it. Coughed and gasped. Handed it back. Then it dawned on me where I’d seen him. “You’re in the band.”

He nodded. “I saw you dancing.”

“Badly.”

“May I kiss you?”

“I’m taken.”

“May I kiss you?” This time it was whispered and husky, and he’d stepped closer. Excitement heightened my blood. I tossed the spent roach away, and nodded slightly. I wanted to give permission but couldn’t quite commit to it.

His lips were soft, dry, and tasted of the rank weed and something sharp and salty like olive. And with them came his hands, resting on my hips. He deepened the kiss and pulled me into him, let me feel his arousal as his tongue swept against mine. I was too eager. I took him in and savored him, and let instinct take over and dictate my movements.

It was a dance too long in coming and far too brief. But the memory is exquisite. I listen to the click of the knitting needles in my hands, and the hum of a cop show on the television, and I feel the cool rough brick at my back and waves that shimmer like a soft yellow streetlight in an alleyway grease puddle.

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