"So, what do you do?"
My gaze flits to another pair of eyes. Clear blue. Cold. There are flakes of mascara and strange purplish smears in creases that have been so desperately hidden away.
I want to run my hands along those creases, to take soap and water to hidden places and to let my lips hover long over the beginnings of crows feet.
I never do.
My hand tugs hard at hair that I probably should have washed, but my double-standards are exceeded only by my capacity for hypocrisy.
And I know it will be another one of those nights. A night when I'll go home alone to a prison of an apartment and a mirror covered in toothpaste and spit to see my hair standing up on one side, the only visible sign of the torture each of these encounters puts me through.
The torture I put myself through.
Shaking the ice and whiskey in my glass, I sigh again, avoiding the sight of the cold blue gaze and the dipping tongue. I try to remember that there are worse fates than blind dates in this large and lonely world.
Because the rings around my eyes and the near permanent state of arousal of my untouched cock remind me I've traveled down the road of isolation in this life, too.
For months now, I have been meeting this endless string of women, a blurring rush of diners and restaurants and coffee shops, and all the venues and all the girls have started to look the same.
After a lifetime of hovering in corners, keeping strictly to the walls in every aspect of my life, I had a breakdown, a realization of my need for comfort and for touch. And so I did what I always do when I am beyond my needs and my experience.
I called my brother.
He is now the the guardian and the keeper of my lonely nights, and as it is in so many other aspects of my life, ceding control to him was like an exhale, like a long-held breath finally finding its release. There is a web page, apparently, and a profile with a picture of my face that is charming and handsome, and that scarcely resembles me at all. I know he has concocted banal answers to even more banal questions, and that none of them belie the answers to the questions that would get to the heart of who I am.
Questions about exactly what sort of a sick, lonely fuck I happen to be.
Or, it would appear from the frequent recurrence of the question, what I do for a living.
He calls me each Thursday with the details about another engagement for the following day. Another brush with monotony meant to break up the infinite tedium of my endless days.
"So what do you do?"
The eyes are green tonight, but they have a strangeness to them. Contacts. Surely.
I want to take them out.
I run my fingers through my hair again and tug in a way I know I shouldn't.
Because this is always where things go wrong.
I look down, unable to stand the too-bright color of her eyes.
"I w-write," I mumble, the stutter I have spent thirty years trying to master recurring. As it always does.
The response is always the same and it's never enough. There are bubbly words and ponderings, questions about whether or not I write anything she might have read.
She hasn't. Why would she?
It's not as if the swirl of thoughts that only tumbles out of me in my not-quite-rhyming words would appear in the glossy pages of the magazines she professes to adore.
Then this particular girl even goes so far as try to turn my own inner turmoil about not being able to get the words that fall so freely from my hands to leave my mouth into a kink, implying less than subtly that perhaps my words are naughty.
Her too-long fingernails twist themselves around a straw wrapper, making it look like a restraint. I fixate on bubble-gum lips sucking softly at the hollow tube, and I know tonight I'll go home even harder than usual.
And as always, I'll go home longing for hands that are not my own.
But I'll touch myself all the same.
And when I come, it will be silently, and with shame.
Another Friday night passes me by.
Another pair of eyes and of matching sets of silverware, another glass of scotch sliding thickly between my lips.
A chaste goodbye at a door in the intricate dance of mutual rejection that repeats itself to the point where my body and nerves are stretched so taut I can scarcely stand it, my solitude wrapping even harder around my empty heart until I am choked, unable to escape or speak or breathe.
I don't even bother to remember the girls' names anymore.
And instead of making connection more difficult, the very anonymity of it makes the loneliness of these trysts with people with whom I have no spark just a little bit easier to bear when they inevitably end without contact or touch.
But just a little.
Another pair of eyes.
"So what do you do?"
The eyes are brown tonight, the skin around them clean and pale. They're tired eyes. But they're real.
And that simple fact alone pulls me just an inch or two above the numb, the bitter edges of my untouched heart clawing at the cage of my ribs. Desperate for something.
Rose-red lips leap upward over teeth in ivory, parting to reveal just the tiniest edge of wet and pink and tongue. They're chapped lips, slightly torn on the one side where an incisor bites delicately into flesh.
And they're naked. Obscenely so, without a hint of pigment or gloss.
I startle. "Oh?"
Surprise itself is a shock to me at this point in my life, and I am struck dumber than usual, my brain fogging with the exact same sorts of questions that leave me empty and dismissive when they are constantly asked of me.
But I want to ask them all anyway.
"Yeah," she says, those naked lips forming a wistful grin in teeth and confidence. "In fact, I was sure I would send you screaming," she whispers, as she leans in close, her brown eyes crinkling and conspiratorial. "I, um, I sort of channel people when I write them. And I was writing a very strange man tonight."
My intrigue and my cock both rise as she describes a thought process I'd thought was mine alone, her words and the blood-hot scent of her mouth wrapping around my mind and body equally as I struggle to remember this woman's name.
No and no.
Yes. Bella, it is.
"What sort of m-mman?" My chest rumbles when I speak, and I am clawing at the walls that surround my head as I seek communion in words.
And maybe, later, in skin.
"He's sort of … sort of a stalker-type. Very obsessive." There's a wet crackle to every 's' in the word obsessive, like a dark and tempting kiss.
How many nights I have longed for the simple seduction of a kiss.
Even a kiss made only of words.
She ponders, and there's a wrinkle between her brows. "More selfish, really. But if it served his purpose, he could be."
"And what p-purpose is that, Bella?"
She bites into a slice of bread, and the tearing motion of her teeth is more obscene than the most graphic of pornography.
A humming sound pulls me up to her eyes, and they are dark with laughter and sex and double-meanings.
"Why, Edward," she purrs. "Of course it's to get the girl."
At the end of the evening, I walk her to her door, and the fluttering touch of my hand against her elbow is a more tantalizing glance with intimacy than any I have known in months.
We pause, a key held softly between tiny fingers, and those warm eyes peering up through the longest, most naked of lashes.
It's the point in the evening where I always run.
But I don't this time, even though the roiling thoughts inside my head want nothing more.
My body – my skin wants nothing less. Nothing less than completion, perfect coupling and a world of pleasure in the dark comfort of the space between her thighs. My cock wants hands and lips and I am humming and alive.
Where I should be bold, I'm mute and shy, and I am cursing myself for having nothing more to offer than wordless grumbles and the shuffling of feet. It is all the worse, because for the first time in all these dark and needy months, I have finally found the answer to the question of what I could possibly even mean when I tell my brother I'm looking for more.
Awkward moments pass until we are well past the point I should either step in and take her mouth with my own or walk away into another night of loneliness in this infinite series, and I can feel the time slipping away, the window of my own reticence and my locked-up, locked-down head closing, and my fists ball up against the boiling sting of my own self- defeat.
Just when I think my chance is shot, though, my body turning away in the full knowledge and shame that I am about to fuck this up, she is suddenly there. And she is leaning closer.
Her breath is hot and wet, a glance of flushed flesh on the sizzling nerves of my cheek, a burning line being painted softly as she drags her mouth to my ear. I hear her rasping breath, my fists clenching.
It's a command and it's the only thing that could thaw me.
Hot fingers, buzzing and restless, unfurl to grasp at chestnut tresses, pulling her mouth from my ear. In so doing, I only earn the sharp twinge of her teeth, and it makes me growl.
Then I am falling. Lips and mouths and a secret taste of flesh as I obey. As I kiss. The wet muscle of her tongue tastes the salt-venom of my spit. I fall into the inferno of her lips, untroubled that this is our only point of connection, right up until her body is pressing into mine, soft curves fitting to hardened flesh, and we are so exposed in the shadow of her entryway.
I want her to take me, to strip me bare, and I am desperate for her to fuck me.
As if she can sense it, though, she chooses that very moment to pull away.
Our lips part wetly, her cool fingertips making a brushing line against the slickened corner of my lip.
"Perfect," she whispers, her hand still lingering. I feel like a petted animal, like this is a modicum of approval intended just to tame me.
And I lap it up.
She pulls my fingers from the tangle of her hair, kissing softly at the knuckles, and then she drops them.
The door is open before I can return to my senses, the key twisting with an eerily loud sound of metal on metal, her frame already just an instant from disappearing, and I need to know that she is real.
"B-Bella," I stutter, and again there are lips and a smile.
"Mmmay I call you?"
She only makes me wait a moment as she eyes me up and down. I feel like meat beneath her stare, and I do not mind it as her teeth tear hungrily at the raw edge of her lip.
Teeth that I wish were sinking violently into the sinews of my body or marking the tender flesh between my hip and my cock.
I feel naked and ravaged as I lean deeply into the wall, watching the door as it finally clicks closed. My arousal is hot and hard, and I feel like I could come from the most casual of touches, from a breath really.
At that I imagine her lips, my body prone beneath hers as she hovers and whispers and puckers her lips to blow.
I palm myself, shifting the long line of my body only to feel eyes.
She is staring through the glass, her eyes wide and focused intently on my crotch.
Lips part. Tongue. Wet.
She mouths the word, "Perfect," again through the glass.
And then she winks.
And then she's gone.
And I'm left alone with my need and my own sad touch hovering hot above my cock.