Sext

This is a work of fiction.


Love is fantasy, filtered through structured queries, precipitated in bars and bedrooms, and decayed into fantasy once more. H used to ask me for dick pics at 2 in the morning, after ignoring my texts and emails for a week. I would spend an hour adjusting my DSLR on the tripod before sprawling out on the couch for her. She never reciprocated. K and I dated for 9 months. One evening we wrapped our bodies in bed and K talked breathlessly of how cutely we could decorate an old brownstone, how he'd buy the sleekest bookcases for me. Three days later, I awoke to an email announcing that he bought an apartment in Colorado for a research position. He thanked me for our time together and blocked my number.

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J messages me online, asking for a poet to read on christmas break. I browse his photos: in one, he is perky at a brunch table, winking over a mimosa. His chamomile oxford shirt fits his chest tightly, while his glasses frames sit bold and boxy in front of oak-colored eyes. He reminds me of a glossy cologne advertisement. In another, he dons a racing bib beneath a technical shirt and shorts, flexing his muscular legs in flight, eyes concentrated and maybe suffering. In his last picture, he is wearing a doctor's coat in front of a baby-blue background, smiling at the camera like a stock photo.

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J is cute. I am brittle and pale, often swimming under frayed sweaters. I imagine J flinging me onto the bed and gracefully commanding my body with his hands. But I also imagine a dinner table in dull silence because his idea of fun consists of trendy restaurants, bitching about coworkers and reality television, and taking photos of his food. I see myself describing my latest poem as he obligingly nods, without comment, steering the conversation away. I would most likely adapt the text I have used before: "It was lovely meeting you J, but I don't think I have the bandwidth for dating, I wish you exceeding luck with [personal detail]". I'd immediately switch back to my dating app.

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In a short blurb, J describes himself: "Med student but I can't treat your broken heart. Books, choirs, cats. 5'8", top/vers. Here for friends and dating, not hookups."

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Would he discard me before he graduates, or after? J would work all day until the late evening, trudging through the door like an animated corpse, expecting me to care for him. At best, he'd want us to pump ourselves with alcohol because he comes down from his daily stimulants with nightly depressants. But I pull myself back. I am assuming too much. He is cute, he likes books, and I am devoid of dates. I message him back: "If you've never read Frank O'Hara, he is deeply affecting and fierce. Do you read much poetry?" J doesn't read much poetry, but we arrange a date in spite of it. I still text him a poem by Frank O'Hara.

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We meet at a jazzy asian-fusion restaurant. Walking to the entrance, my stomach bounds with kinetic dread. J would look at me with visible disappointment. He'd prattle endlessly about the humanitarian struggles of being a doctor. He'd spike my drink when I wasn't looking. He'd send me a "I'm too busy for dating text" before I even came home. But J greets me effusively with a hug, smelling sweetly of citrus and pine. His hand grips just a little lower on my back, enough to shock me into blush. He guides me by the waist inside, joking about how the jazz would animate us like raucous flapper girls.

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We begin with perfunctory first date questions: J is in his last year of med school, he is originally from San Diego, and he can't stand the snow here. I write social media copy for a startup but want to save up for an MFA in writing. He excitedly asks if he could read anything I'd written, I tell him I wasn't published yet. In fact, I was once published in a small online literary magazine, but it was a slim poem about a working-class intellectual in the 1970s committing suicide. J clearly amounts to some amount of wealth and I am feeling too warm, too buoyant to discuss my sad little story. I may be depressed and pretentious but I don't want him to know it yet.

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J seems so sweet. He gently touches my hand in rushes of laughter. I describe how I write poems backwards and his eyes transfix on me, mouth agape. He wiggles his broad chest whenever I remark on depravity in literature. He describes his rounds at the hospital and I mock swoon, calling him "Young George Clooney" which only makes him giggle more. Increasingly I feel submerged in a thick flow, a heat emanating from our mouths and our skin rushing faster. When the meal comes and we take turns chatting, I greedily scan my eyes down his clean neck, across the hints of muscle in his biceps, down his steely forearms. I watch his mouth while his eyes burn at me.

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J casually mentions "Dating is difficult since I won't be here for much longer, but I still want new people in my life ya know?"

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Not much longer. Fading to pixels and updates, photographs exchanging later and later in the night, lusty adulations withering into check-in fragments. I'll browse new profiles and avatars for solace, fantasizing about men and women excitedly saying that they signed their lease another year. That they're applying for jobs here. That they really love it here. I will be sprawled on my bed, masturbating to my phone, trying to summon the memory of his warmth, where he is increasingly blurred and vague.

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I don't know why I'm here. J is discussing, at length, an obstinate doctor that I don't care about in the slightest. I know I am just an artsy dalliance to him, what could be a passionate fuck to relieve him of his mind for a few hours. Free emotional labor, transient. Maybe he hopes to read about himself in one of my poems someday. He is vacant. But I like his wry smile when he teases me. The way he listens to me as if I've been published around the world. He could be fucking any sad artist in the city but he is here, with me.

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The check arrives at the table, which J promptly snatches, declaring "this is for the starving artist". I stutter something about thanking him with a drink back at my apartment. His shoulders perk and his eyes gleam. "Oh well well well then, how could I resist?". I excuse myself for a moment to go to the bathroom. Shielded by the stall, I text H "Heyy ;)" with an old mirror selfie. I text K, "Hey there, how you've been in Colorado?". I open my hookup app and see a message from a woman. We've been messaging for a few days, she says "I want you in me. Tell me what it'll be like." I text her a photo of my cock, one of the DSLR photos for H.

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J and I walk a number of blocks, separated by a slim gap of air, occasionally grasping each other's arms and waists. We enter my apartment, a suffocating studio dappled with black stains on the ceiling, towers of books on the floor, and a sunburst red futon centered beneath a cold window. I offer a slight apology for the mess, but J dismiseses it, proclaiming that it feels like Paris in the 20s. I ask him if vodka gimlets would suffice, ignoring the fact there is no other liquor, but he gladly accepts. We perch on the futon and sip our drinks in a heavy stillness. He has a slight smile, bent slightly towards me, rubbing the top of his hand. My arms are crossed while my legs quiver. Out of politeness I place my phone on the coffee table.

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J asks if I could read him one of my poems. My lungs and stomach feel as though they're being pummeled by a tightened fist. The only poems within reach are barren reflections on violent love, populated by greek gods in seedy bedrooms. I don't want him to see my pathetic descriptions of consumed bodies and decay. He couldn't understand, he's too beautiful, too surface. He'd use it as a justification to fuck me and leave me. I deflect for a moment... "Here's something I wrote a few days ago" and I recite a poem I know by heart.

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You are always a little too
young to understand. He is
bored with his sense of the
past, the artist. Out of the
prescient rock in his heart
he has spread a land without
flowers of near distances.

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As the last syllable passes from my lips, J presses his mouth against mine. Our breath accelerates in broken fragments. He is pulling his shirt off and my hands are tracing his chest. Mouths still enclosed, he rushes his grip to the tightened outline of my cock. I unbutton my jeans and he tears them off. He lowers his head as he digs his fingers into my thighs, a slick sheen trailing from his lips. His head rocks deeper as flush emanates through my legs and stomach. I feel the swelling, I betray a hushed "soon", the tempo of smooth lips on skin racing just a little more forward, still steady. In the moment, my hips crush outwards as I spill into his cheeks and throat, J swallowing me into him with a muffled moan. He holds me through the diminishing quakes until my body returns to stillness.

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I lust towards his bulge, still obscured by jeans, but J gently taps my hand away. "I would rather just cuddle", he says. I cringe. He reaches his arms for my neck, but I throw my body backwards on the futon. He stares at me, eyes tightening. "Is that not okay?" he says, with a drop of venom. "It just takes me a bit of time to warm up to people" I reply.

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"Warm up? Didn't I just make you... feel good?"

"It was lovely J, really."

"Do you want me to leave?"

"No, no, I didn't mean that."

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J sits upright, staring between his feet.

.

"I was hoping we could be close. I really like you."

"I like you too, I just... don't have the bandwidth for something serious."

"So you only wanted to fuck me then?"

"I didn't say that. Besides, you're finishing school soon. What else could we be?"

"Am I not allowed to connect to anyone? I should just be a temporary fuck?"

"You want to connect, but do you try? The poem I read, I texted it to you. It's by Frank O'Hara. You didn't read it, did you?"

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J stands up, clenching his scalp, eyes darting around the room.

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"So you lied to me. That wasn't your poem."

"You didn't even read it."

"I got the text during my rotation, I didn't have time for it."

"You don't have time for a text, so how could you have time for me?"

"I'd at least fucking try."

"And then you'd leave. And that's it, unless you want me to nurture you and cum for you when you're back home?"

"I never said that! You're projecting onto me."

"Everyone does this to me. They think I'm sweet, they see this frail little artist that will give them passion and drama until they want to build a life for themselves. Then I'm not practical. I'm not realistic. I'm dumped for an upgrade."

"I didn't want that. I just wanted to get to know you."

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My phone buzzes on the coffee-table. A grainy image of breasts in a mirror illuminates on the screen, a notification from my hookup app. A flurry of text notifications follow beneath. J glances at the phone. He closes his eyes and inhales deeply. He pulls his shirt from the floor and tucks it over his torso. I pull my knees against my chest and bury my head between my knees. I hear him stomp towards the door, dodging the perilous books strewn across the floor. "Good luck with your writing," he says. I expect a smashing door but I hear a slow creaking, pausing, before a final thud in the doorframe.

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Months pass. The woman from the hookup app never shows up for our date and doesn't answer my texts. K doesn't respond to me, H drunkenly spews a few dirty words to me that she never elaborates on. I uninstall and reinstall my dating apps in fits of self-loathing. One night, after a miserable date, I sink myself in vodka gimlets and pull books off the floor-stacks at random. I come across a book of collected poems and flip to a page marked with a star: "Out of the prescient rock in his heart he has spread a land without flowers of near distances". I recite it aloud. I draw my phone close. "Hey J, how've you been?"