“I should be working.” She shifts, restless as sand in the cave of sheets.
“You should,” he agrees. “So should I, for that matter. Poets and thieves and madmen and lovers; all commonly believed nocturnal. That’s us.”
“Write a poem, then.”
“Ah, it’s not so easy. Steal me something, why don’t you.” Her eyebrows contract, lower, rise and spread.
“I will,” she says. This time when she rolls against him it is a calm movement. “For every poem you write me I’ll steal something you own.”
“Not a very good inducement.”
“Why not? You said you had too many things. You said you were being mummified by the strata of the past.” He winces.
“Just my luck to pick a woman who remembers all my bad metaphors. Mixed, too. How can I write a poem with the influence of that hanging over me?”
“Write me a poem, Ben.” He groans and rolls over onto her; she puts her palms flat against his clavicle as if to ward off his weight.
“I’m helpless when you say my name.”
“You don’t feel helpless. You’re fucking heavy.”
“Helpless,” he insists, face on neck. “If we had no skin or muscle my ribcage would fall through into yours. Linked by bones.”
“Your ribs wouldn’t fit between mine,” she says.
“So honest. Didn’t your mother ever teach you about white lies?”
“I can’t help it if you have an enormous ribcage.”
“All right.” He rolls off her again, sits on the edge of the bed. She hears the sharp scratch and then sees his back rise smoothly as he inhales. In a moment, her hand comes sliding up his spine, followed by a second hand, then her breasts are pressed flat into new creatures against his back. “I read this article in Playboy once, about a disembodied hand…” But she refuses to cooperate. He sighs and lays his left hand absently over hers while he thinks. “All right,” he says again. He grabs a pen from the bedside table; rends a tissue box into cardboard limbs until he has a large enough flat surface; writes a poem in the light of the headlights sliding, suspicious and ordered, in and out of the slats of venetian blinds.
Later she will lie holding this cardboard fragment while he sleeps, reading it like Braille where his pen has grown enthusiastic and dented its canvas. Harm, she thinks, testing the words which she can feel under her thumb. Matchbook. Clavicle. She will fall asleep holding this new idea, and in the morning she will slip downstairs before he wakes, dress, and leave the house with one of his mother’s crystal vases secreted deep in the cargo pocket of her grey pants.