SmokeLong Quarterly

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The Invitation

Story by Amy Scharmann (Read author interview) December 18, 2012

art by Carrie Guss

I am the size of a penny and sitting on the fan above his bed, my legs dangling over the side of one of the still blades. He is lying flat on his back below, eyes open and looking into the space between us. We are no longer lovers. Our last embrace was months ago, stiff with the knowledge that it would be our last. The room is hot and I am small enough to see the hovering dust particles bouncing into one another. He tosses the blankets to the floor and hugs his chest. His sharp elbows point at me. I think how thin he looks.

A woman enters. I hear his bedroom door creak and she creaks it differently than I ever did, swinging the door carelessly, not taking the time to consider each tone of the hinges. She isn’t careful, I think. This isn’t right. He acknowledges her. She lies on the empty space of the bed and throws her leg over his waist.

“It’s hot,” she says. “It’s so hot in here.”

He gets up and flips the switch by the door. The fan begins to turn on the slowest speed. I move with the blade toward the back wall and float past his doorless closet—his clothes are still in perfect order, but his shoes are piled recklessly. I smell incense burning from the corner. Nag Champa, my favorite, because it starts out potent and moves into a cool sweet smell as time passes. He used to burn Nag Champa after we made love. I can see the cloudy smoke twirling away from the stick and into itself.

As the fan turns me closer to facing him again with the woman straddling his bony hips, I remember our last morning together. He was cutting his short hair shorter with electric clippers. He had placed a clean towel in his bathroom sink to collect the little hairs as they floated down. His eyes seemed to be consuming all of his energy, the whites of his eyes unusually bright, the life pumped out of his cheeks. I stood in the bathroom doorway next to him and listened to the buzz of the clippers deepen as he ran it over his head.

“You’re not really cutting anything off,” I said. “What does it matter if your hair is that much shorter?”

I all but pinched my fingers together and held them up.

“It matters,” he said, and tilted his head around. “It matters,” he repeated.

I went to stand behind him. He had turned the clippers off and was getting ready to clean up. I traced animal shapes into the back of his head because he’d grown up on a farm and I wanted to show him that I remembered. He turned and held my arms against my sides and looked down at me. I breathed in the quick exhales from his nose.

“Look,” he said. “I don’t think I would be that messed up if we weren’t together. I don’t need you, and that bugs me.”

And now I am sitting on his fan three months later, watching him. The woman has on a nude-colored bra. It comes off. Her breasts are pointy, like party hats. He pinches her nipples and she tenses, not able to take it. That’s it, I think. Realize she’s all wrong. But then he grabs at her hair and his tongue reacts to her face being so close and I see it push past her open lips. I remember the softness of his tongue running over my skin. I am now small enough to be eaten, to let his tongue have me in the way it was meant to—plunge me back and down. The woman disappears under the covers and I pretend she isn’t the one making him breathe heavily, that his mouth is opening and closing as an invitation to me. The blanket moves with his body. His face is tense but his mouth is wide, and that’s when I fall from the fan to his mouth and slide down to the darkness that is him.

About the Author

Amy Scharmann is from Manhattan, Kansas, and currently lives in Gainesville, where she is an MFA student in fiction at the University of Florida. Her work has appeared in the Flash Fridays series at Tin House and Bodega. She works as an editorial assistant for Subtropics, edited by David Leavitt.

About the Artist

Carrie Guss is a Canadian writer and art maker currently residing in Gainesville, FL. Her work in illustration and photography has previously appeared in Lucky Peach and AOL News Online.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-Eight of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Eight

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