The Seven Five Nothing

The Seven Five Nothing are a collection of hyper-short stories, each written in a single sitting with no editting.

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23. Kissing Strangers.

I listened to the radio for the first time in a long time. So long in fact, I could only recall images of me pressing record on the cassette deck, trying to steal moments of what was being piped through. I hadn't intended to listen - it was simply that there was a song that got my attention. The man's voice was rich yet tattered, like he'd drank too much whiskey and smoked too many cigarettes. It was a voice I'd always wanted, if I'm honest. A voice that tells a story even before you've begun.

I lay on the bed, and just listened. She was in the bathroom, doing whatever it was that she needed to do. She had been there a while. The air between us was confusing, like we'd been talking, but not yet spoken about what we both really wanted to say. This is the problem with being strangers just a few days earlier, we were still figuring out how to cherry-pick the right words to not let ourselves down. Not just yet at least.

I wondered how this man's singing could portray exactly what I was feeling, yet couldn't quite say. I turned the music up a little, hoping that the words would slip under the doorway, signalling to her just how I felt, making it easier for us both to just get to the point. I wanted to kiss her, I thought. But somehow, in the real world, when you're not a character in a book, or a player in a movie, or even a lyric in a song, shit just gets even more complicated. And it's because we have guarded hearts, I thought. It's because we don't know how to just say what we're really feeling inside.

In a few days, she'd be gone. I knew that, hoped that it had freed me up a little. Made me appreciate that I could take a couple of risks, but in fact, it had had the opposite effect. In my mind, I was even more scared of getting close to her because I knew anything that happened was going to be wasted. That any kisses, any touches, they'd be investments that would never be fully realised. That whichever way we looked at it, we were over even before we'd gotten started.

I let the last of the song run through my head, eyes closed, imagining what it would be like to have a glimmer of a future with this woman. It felt like I was teasing myself unfairly though. So instead, I let the vision of us fade as the song tapered off. I almost faded out myself.

She came out of the bathroom. Slowly, I turned my head and opened my eyes. Looking at her sideways, I could see her thighs walking toward me. She leaned forward, her hand touching me gently on the side of the face, and the ends of her hair laying down onto my skin. 'Were you sleeping?' she asked.

She lay down next to me, our fingers slowly touching. This was crazy, I thought. You've done this a thousand times before. But not with her. Not with this woman. 'Im scared,' she said. I took a moment before I asked her why. 'Because,' she continued. 'Because...' And I didn't need her to say anything else.

We listened to the next song. I felt her fingers climb onto mine. She squeezed my hand ever so, and I squeezed back. This was the beginning, I thought. From here on out, wherever we go, this simple moment happened to us both.

I don't know how long after we kissed. It became a hazy kind of evening, one where you feel drunk from the passion that wells in the air. The radio streamed song after song, but if you asked me what played, I couldn't recall. In my mind, all I get is flashed memories of two people just indulging in each other. As soon as we had learned to cut loose, we went somewhere else in our minds, in our lives. In that night, we hoped it would never finish, but we both knew it couldn't last. I just wish I hadn't wasted so much time.

When she was gone, I missed her. Not forever, not the way that you do a love that you have invested your whole heart into, but rather in the way that you remember a great song. You don't hear it often, but when you do, you want to be that guy. Or at least, that guy again.
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