The spine unhinges when detached from the ligaments that bind it. How naturally a resting body lies on the damp earth, uninhibited. An alarming sense of reanimation, the way wisps of hair catch enthusiastically on the wind or an ant parades up a thigh thick with nutrients for the taking. Laced to the ground through a weave of decay – no longer human, just naked skin pulled tightly to bone. Such intimate moments – a disconnected arm, torn by a fox who slipped under the fence of the enclosure, grasping onward against the pull of time; the stomach of a fresh specimen, bloated with gas; a decomposing face blackened with sunburn.
These are the details of death. Within decomposition hides the incontrovertible fate of all humanity: if left to sit, we rot away to nothing but a cloying stain on the forest floor. We are picked apart and reused.
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Legs were connected like tree roots, jutting in and out from the snowfall of bedsheets. Pale and dark roots that had come from two trees turned one. One dreamed of the other, his hands subconsciously tightening their grip around Rhys’s bicep, “a little on the small side, but I make up for that elsewhere,” he used to joke like some kid on the playground who had learned about sex too early from his older siblings. Aron would look up at him and retort with something like “where? Not up here, clearly,” tapping his head. “Well, I do have more than one head, you know.” The jokes would continue until they were breathing each other’s air, sharing that casual, almost lazy sex that had been expected of them their first summer in Pasadena, with the heat index doing their poorly constructed AC unit no favors; it wheezed in apparent rheum, which masked their lovemaking in a veil of machinery and the smell of ruined industry.
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TW: sexual abuse, prostitution, sex involving a minor
As the door clicks shut, I am spitting the chewed remains of a stick of gum from my mouth onto the grass, an attempt to purge all my emotions in the mangled wad. There is a body still breathing heavily behind the door, in the dense and stagnant air of the apartment. The body still damp with sweat—I can see it, feel it, even now, as I walk to my car.
I counted the numbers on the doors all the way to forty while savoring the taste of fresh peppermint gum. This was all too new. Breathe. A line of four dark windows stood between apartment forty and forty-four. As I walked past two of the black windows, I heard the door click open ahead of me, as if whoever was there was waiting, watching through the thin curtains. The screen bobbled for a moment, indecisive. I walked past, acted casual. It opened wider and I reached for the knob. A dark hand pulled the storm door open and I stepped over the threshold like it was supposed to happen naturally.
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