[Being the latest in a series of excerpts from my novel, Man Bites Dog, which is currently on sale at Tomely for only 99c until 23 June 2014]
The sex is gentle and lucid. Last night we were breaking down inhibitions. This morning we’re shyly saying hello with our entire bodies. There’s a nervous energy to it that makes me think maybe I won’t need any painkillers today—maybe the endorphins and the adrenalin and the sheer pleasure of this encounter will keep the hangover at bay.
Afterwards we lie in each other’s arms and continue our get-to-know-you conversations. We swap middle names, high-school crushes and favourite comics. Emma gets out of bed and I watch her move around the room as she searches for something. She comes back with the Krazy Kat book we talked about last night.
‘Read it later,’ she says. I put it to one side as she moves in for another kiss. Eventually we break the clinch, and our lazy hungover conversation drifts around to jobs. Emma talks about how much she hates her current job, temping in an office in the city, but I trump her with my story about the recent traumas on my run.
‘Man bites dog,’ she says.
‘It’s the test for newsworthiness. Dog bites man—that’s something that you’d expect to happen, so it’s not news. But man bites dog—that’s unusual. That’s news.’
‘But I didn’t bite Satan,’ I say. ‘He tried to bite me.’
‘Why chicken? Wouldn’t something like—I don’t know—sausages or a handful of mince be cheaper?’
‘I guess. I never thought about it before. Wayne said “chicken”, so I got chicken.’
The alarm clock on the bedside table says twelve-fifteen. We’ve slept and snuggled and fucked the morning away.
‘I should probably get going soon.’
‘Yeah, I have a few things to do today,’ says Emma. I make an effort to sit up. My head doesn’t fall off or implode, so I figure that’s a good sign. I could use some water, though. And I need to take a piss.
‘Do you want a shower?’
I do want a shower, but there’s the whole housemate thing to take into consideration. I don’t know if Emma lives alone or not, or if her housemates are awake and moving around at the moment, but I’d rather avoid bumping into them right now. It’s always awkward being ‘the stranger that so-and-so brought home last night’. I don’t think I’m up for the polite nods and the surreptitious exchange of knowing glances that comes with the situation.
‘Um, no thanks. I’ll just have one when I get home.’
‘You smell like a goat, you know.’ I stare at her. ‘Because of the sex,’ she whispers in a stage mock-whisper. Goat? Is that an insult or intimacy?
‘Uh . . .’
‘And so do I, which is why I’m going to have a shower.’
She slides out of bed, shrugs into a black satin robe with Chinese embroidery on the back, and pads out of the room. Now what do I do? I’m lying naked and sex-stained in a stranger’s bedroom—what’s the appropriate response? Should I be here when she comes back? Was she giving me some kind of hint? Should I just get dressed and sneak out the front door now? Leave a note? I wanted to kiss her goodbye. I think about our lips touching and decide that, yes, I definitely want to kiss her goodbye, so that means I’ll wait here until she finishes her shower. Maybe I can do a little victory dancing while she’s out of the room. I jump onto the floor and wiggle my hips, then do a bit of hip-hop posturing. Oh yeah. Look at me. I just had sex. Twice. To the beat y’all.
That feels better. I stand still and look around the room. Lots of bookshelves. Lots of books. Emma’s got a good comics library here. I flick through a couple, but I’m not in a reading mood. I check out the shelf underneath and a slim spine catches my eye. You and What Army? by Emma Monori. Monori? I wonder if that’s Emma. A quick look at the photo on the back cover confirms that it is her. It’s weird that you can know what the back of someone’s knee tastes like, but not know their surname. I jump under the doona and start reading.
It’s different from Wayne’s poetry. More like I expect poetry to be, but still conversational—like song lyrics that tell a story. It’s not all about everyday life. There’s a poem about skinning a horse, another one about superhero sidekicks, and a couple based on primary school games like scarecrow chasey and those old skipping-rope rhymes. ‘Hide and Seek’ is a longish poem about a girl hiding from her boyfriend in weirder and weirder places. The last few lines catch my eye.
Now I’m here, resting quietly
between the folds of your brain,
mesmerised by the arc and shimmer
of your neurons in action.
I knew you had a remarkable mind,
but it’s another thing entirely
to watch synapses hiss and crackle
as you seek me out, piecing together
the clues I left for you. It won’t be long now.
This time, though, things will be different.
This time, when you find me, I plan to stay found.
I think it’s a love poem, but it’s full of weird things from science fiction B-movies. A B-movie love poem. How cool is that? I would have said that laser guns and long-lost loves had nothing to do with each other, but Emma’s poetry seems to suggest otherwise. That’s a remarkable brain she’s carrying around in that head of hers.
Emma comes back with her water-darkened hair plastered against her neck. I look up, feeling a little guilty.
‘Where’d you find that?’
‘In the bookshelf.’
She pauses, looking at me, almost frowning. ‘Had a bit of a rummage, did we?’
‘I was looking for comics.’ I sound more apologetic than I mean to, so I clear my throat.
‘It’s fine. Teasing.’ She closes the door behind herself. ‘I was wondering if you’d be here when I got back.’
Stay tuned for further excerpts from Man Bites Dog, or buy a copy from Tomely for only 99c and read the whole thing for yourself.