A Tie By Joshua Couvares (2015)

Jennie Hackman Memorial Award for Short Fiction, Third Place (2015)

Another shot. Tequila dried onto his knuckles, his fingernails. When he makes a fist, the skin between his fingers sticks together, like his hand’s one ball of flesh and bone.

It tastes like an extra-bitter version of Vicks nose spray is dripping down the back of his throat, the nervous up-and-down of his heel, the stick and unstick of his shoe against the grime on the bar floor.

He catches her watching him, like she’s calculating something out in her head, figuring the odds to a game he doesn’t know he’s playing.

Adam wonders how this would all end if it were a movie. But every time he plays it out in his head, the ending always changes.

“We shouldn’t do this,” she says, her hands resting on Adam’s belt. Her other hand pushes him against the siding of the building, its cold ridges digging into his shoulders.

It’s like he’s getting plowed into over and over again by a car made up of these little lines of white he keeps putting into his body, leaving less and less of him intact with each hit.

She’s laughing, leaning against the bar counter, staring right at him. Why’s she laughing?

It’s starting to occur to him that that’s what him and Rachel have been doing to each other for months — going at one another until there’s less and less of them left.

His phone buzzes. It’s his mom. He ignores the call, turns his phone off.

Adam’s gin and tonic slips out of his grip, all four dollars worth of it spilling out on the bar floor.

“I’ve never felt better,” she says.

Adam pictures Rachel middle-aged, married. What will she think of him then?

She says, “How good do you feel right now?”
She says, “How good is it to be in college?”
She says, “How good is to be this young?”
She says, “How good is it to be alive?”
She says, “How good would it feel to fuck right now?”

It sounds like a dare she wants Adam to take.

Adam’s almost sure he could have her right now, could bring her outside behind that parked Honda Civic where there’s nobody watching, could lie her down on the cold ground and dirty her dress, could feel his hands smear into the warmth between her legs, could feel the stretch of her panties while he slides them down her bare thighs, could feel the ache in his knees against the hard asphalt, could feel her small hands under his shirt so cold it burns his back, could hear the small slap sound of their bodies against one another, the heat and electricity of their hips and the screwed-shut eyelids and the tight breaths and stiffened limbs and loss of control.

“Here? In this parking lot?”

“Let’s be adventurous,” she says, her fingertips squeezing their way into his underwear.

Why not have her? He wants to fuck everything. He’d fuck the whole world if he could, because it seems like it’s always been trying to do the same to him.

But Adam keeps seeing her middle-aged, married with kids — older.

And what about the abortion she had to get because they’d been sleeping together, and what about the condom he doesn’t have, what about her boyfriend — and his friend — Tyler, and what would his mom think if she knew what he was doing?

His belt’s undone. She takes his hand, guides it between her legs, under her dress.

He doesn’t want this. He knows that, but he’s already doing it, and it feels good, how can he stop now? It’s different. It’s the same — same bodies, same tits, same ass. But different. He tries to get it over with as fast as he can, but his body is so deadened with alcohol and coke it takes an eternity, and when he finishes it feels like a tired yawn lost in a sea of noise. He gets up off the parking lot pavement, wipes off his penis with his hand, buttons up his pants, and looks at Rachel: she’s got that crooked twisted smile of hers. Like she’s happy because she knows she’s doing something wrong.

Never again, he tells himself.

This story first appeared in the 2015 edition of LRR.