a short story
February 24, 2013 § 5 Comments
A Brief Jung Love
Next, there was the pain in his back, a twinge, as if a dull needle had passed through the base of his spine. As pains went, it was easily relegated to a growing list of minor symptoms, all of which combined might add up to something, but singly were each insignificant and tolerable. The loss of hair, the soft slackening of his skin, for instance, both caused Adam more alarm than the weak ache in his spine.
Ava was not without sympathy. It is all part of it, she told him, speaking to his image. She sat at the vanity, straightening her long black curls into something fashionable and sleek. Beneath one raised arm, the reflection of Adam turned over, struggling to rise from the bed.
“Maybe you pulled something,” she suggested, “A muscle or something.”
“The weight of years,” Adam grunted, hefting himself upright, “is what I’ve pulled.”
She watched him from beneath lush, dark lashes. The mystery of those eyelashes had captivated him, their implied secrets stunning him into giddiness in those early days when she was a fresh young thing and he was already a man with too much past. Now there were new mysteries hidden in her eyes, and Adam realized the lashes were only spiked bits of hair after all.
Now he read the news. He read books and magazines, went to museums and the theatre. She was filled with career and children. He watched movies, listened to music, dabbled. She went to the gym, took Spin classes. Now he knew her by the things she did not know, and did not care to know. It was an overflow of lake water carving the Grand Canyon.
Ava ran down the list of her day, subtly disparaging his weight of years. Her mouth was moving. She was saying something. But his skin had gone clammy and his spine had melted, and he could no longer understand her meaning, and he understood there was no meaning. Nothing she said required a response.
Inch by inch, he left the room. Ava seemed not to care that he had become a snail, or that only habitat and behavior separated him from a slug. Did she know that only the thin luxury of his shell, the hollow shelter he carried with him always, kept him from going about exposed and slithering through the world? Perhaps in her mercy, she allowed the shell. Adam shrugged through the hallway, down the stairs, taking infinite time to curl and uncurl over the precarious edge of each step.
Ava passed Adam on her way out the door. He sat drinking coffee at the kitchen table, reading the morning paper. Peering up at her, his eyes appeared moist, bugged out under the magnification of thick reading glasses. He was a disheveled, silly dear, she thought. She did not regret her marriage. She felt for Adam a genuine affection, and a true regard for his well-being. His stability allowed her to settle, yet paradoxically to spread and grow. And growth, she had learned, was her core strength and cottage industry. As her business thrived, their children grew taller every day, all tendril vines carefully tended and trained to a trellis.
“Are you off again?” Adam noted the small travel suitcase, which she wheeled perpetually after her like a vendor’s pushcart.
“Off again,” she agreed. “I told you all about it a minute ago. You never listen. I’ll be back on Wednesday. The twins have a recital on Tuesday, so you’ll have to cover that. Will you remember?”
“Certainly.” His eyes dilated on the ends of their ommatophores, taking in the long expanse of her legs, the curve of her ass. He turned his eyestalks upside down and peered up her skirt.
“Adam! What are you looking at?”
“You.” He retracted his eyes. She smiled indulgently at his open admiration. Adam reached for her and she opened her arms, folding him into a fragrant cloud of affection. She smelled humid and ripe.
“I’ll miss you,” she said. She mussed his remaining hair, kissed his pate, the skin tattooed with sun and age. Unique patterns were beginning to emerge.
His radula scraped a subtle buzz saw across the succulent skin of her chest. Yes, she was grown to ripeness now. The razored tongue pulled a tiny ribbon of flesh. He savored its cool sweetness. A bit like cucumber, he thought.
Ava laughed and pushed his hands away. She wheeled her suitcase out the door behind her with a cheerful wave. She would not miss the small bite he’d taken. Not this time. Not yet.