Modern lovers.

Author:Moody, Rick

FICTION - Short story


Physical descriptions! His head, for example, was like a melon, except it was like a melon with unfortunate tonsorial stylings. His head was like a Gothic cathedral poorly renovated, featuring leaky window casements. His head was like a soccerball, some of whose hexagonal panels were beginning to peel. His head was like a mushroom cloud, she said, rising over an unpeopled test site. His head was an overripe tropical fruit, but not a melon, more like one of those equatorial fruits that hints of decomposition. His head was like the world of European philosophy at the moment this world expands to include psychoanalysis and socialism. His head was like a day at the beach. But which day? One of those days in autumn when the beach is empty except for a forlorn herring gull whose broken wing is dragged disconsolately behind it? His head was garlanded in cobwebs, she said, like a musty basement where the wiring is exposed and there is danger of fire. His head was like the emergency tone at the airport security door when the employee fails to enter properly the security code before passing through. His head, and here she was referring to the shape of it, not to its contents, was like cumulus cloud cover. His head was like five common house flies, circumambulating a ceiling fixture, heedless of flaking paint. She strongly believed in comparing his skull to insects, for example that variety of hissing cockroach from India, which some people say is even capable of making a barking noise. His head was like a dung beetle. Or his head, she said, was like maggots, most particularly those used for debridement therapy, that medical practice whose apogee, as emergency procedure, came during the American Civil War, when pupae of the common fly were applied to battlefield injuries and made good use of the excrescences of rot, retiring thereafter to any moist place, any fulminous wound, where they might graduate to their housefly stage. His head, or at least the part at the top, above the ears, where the hair was really thinning, was similar in shape to the bonnethead shark, as in that recent article about parthenogenesis. No, wait, his head was more like that of a hammerhead shark. His head, she said, was an igneous stone left behind by receding glacial activity, or a stone from some dolmen circle, Iron Age Ireland, let's say. Some dolmen circle that was out in back of a block of rundown 18th-century dwellings in a rural village, laundry flapping out on the line like a semaphore. Damp, barely heated homes. A winding road out into the countryside where three or four townsfolk missed the turn each year and overturned their tiny European coupes, crushing themselves. A dolmen right behind the high-kicking laundry of the last crumbling house on the street. No one paid this druidic site much mind, except the tourists who read the fine print in the Lonely Planet guide. His head was like one of the neglected stones in the dolmen circle. Or, his head was pizza with everything on it. In his puttanesca head, he was the son of a good woman, and his head had many ingredients in it that were available to almost any Italian chef, particularly if the chef had time to shop in order to include ingredients with a fishy tang, as well as black olives and capers. His head (she said) was a head for numbers, so it included fanciful numbers, like the irrational number known as e, also the square root of Archimedes' constant, [eth], because, as she observed, his head was a circle that could not be squared. This argument failed to take into account that his head could also appear to be square, or was perhaps roughly similar to a square. His head, she said, was a thing of deepest underwater, his head was a bathysphere, or a creature that might be observed from a bathysphere, a bioluminescent head, and she put it this way because she couldn't entirely understand his head; she could not always understand the contents of his head, or the relational aesthetics indicated in the bits and pieces of his head that were available for her delectation, or the relational aesthetics between these bits and pieces, and so she could do little else but remark as to the contents of his head, or the shape of his head, or the relationship between his head and its contents, because he was giving her so little in the way of actual conversation. He ought to have done better on their very first date.

HE WANTED TO SEE HER moving in so many ways that he might, at the conclusion of his researches, have witnessed every possible movement she might make, all the muscle groups, even the easily overlooked ones. He wanted, he said, to see these things before committing to an extended form of relationship that was as yet unclear to him or woefully abstract. He needed, that is, to better understand her skeleton and how it operated within and in relation to her musculature. He needed to be able to completely intuit the way in which certain muscles were attached to certain bones underneath her all-but-perfect skin. The complete range of motion was what he was after, he said, sort of like she was a Renaissance sculpture and he the guy chipping away at it. He wanted to watch her doing a sit-up, for example, or at the very least the variety of sit-up known as the stomach crunch. Sort of amazing, in fact, that he had yet to see her perform a sit-up, or a series of sit-ups, say five groups of 20. He wanted to see specific abdominal muscles, especially non-erotic and routinized muscle groups. Maybe he wanted to watch her do some of those twisty sit-ups, you know, head touching opposite medial collateral ligament. He would like to watch her doing sit-ups until it was boring, or perhaps unseemly, because when she was sweaty and exhausted he would know something about her that might affect the outcome of the extended form of relationship that was unclear to him. He wanted to see exactly which muscle groups got used when chin touched the opposite medial collateral ligament. Was there some stomach muscle, some sequence of muscles in her core, as a tanned trainer of feminine physiques might call it, that was getting flexed in this torqued motion? He wanted to watch her bicep move when she lifted her arm in order to put her chin in her palm, as if she was going to have her photo taken. This gesture of chin in palm would amount to an expression of ennui, such as a woman might express in the middle of some extended form of relationship, in which case he needed to know. Here was the arm lifted slowly, the cupping of the palm, and the chin coming down to meet it--the gesture might be one of indifference, or perhaps even resignation, but he liked to think it would not be resigned, but would rather be on the proud side of things, her expression in the viewfinder of some camera. How could he answer the question as to what would become of the two of them, in an extended form of relationship, before he had seen this palm meet this chin? He had seen, it's true, a particular ballet pose, which is the pose of the woman shucking her underwear, though he preferred women not use the word underwear, or the word underpants, or even the word undergarment. In any event, he had seen this balletic sort of pose (at various points in the past), and he knew what to expect from it, but there were many other poses that were less well known to him, and he needed, since he believed he was making the equivalent of a large-ticket purchase, to get a better idea of these other arrangements of the physical her. Here, for example, was a very specific activity that he was not sure he'd seen, which was the activity of getting down on one knee. Had she ever gotten down on one knee for any reason? Had she gotten down on one knee while balancing something on the other knee, like an ashtray or a terra cotta planter, into which...

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