I Love It When You’re Like This

“It’s cold,” he said, which meant, I’m freezing. She could see it in the way his shoulders huddled inwards. He never could tolerate the cold. He was accustomed to sun-scorched sand dunes, balmy, 100-degree days and nights – that’s why he kept his room at a stately 80 degrees, day in and day out and never broke a sweat, even after hours-long sex marathons – and so he couldn’t withstand the 55-degree windchill of a Los Angeles winter’s night. She’d been born into the snow bluffs of the harsh, Chicago tundra, of -10-degree windchills and snow up to your thighs and stocking up on buckets of calcium chloride or cat litter to de-freeze the driveway before going to school and starting up the car twenty minutes before you had to leave because otherwise you’d freeze your ever-loving buns off and putting the news on in the evenings to obsessively watch the snow-day school closings roll in, praying yours would flash across the screen. She’d been born into another world, entirely.

She took the hand closest to her and rubbed it between her palms, rapid-fire. Their conjoined skin grew warm, fiery with the friction of her movements. She drew his palm away from his body, his sleeve shirking up past his wrist so that it was bared to the chilled night air and he groaned in complaint – it’s cold! What are you doing? – but she didn’t let up. She cupped his hand between hers and blew into his palm, and her breath, gently-probing and moist against his flesh, like the little licks of a kitten’s clement, flushed tongue, warmed him. She gave her breath to him, and let the backs of her hands, her knuckles, the skin of her wrists, all exposed to the frigid air, grow cold and numb as she did so.

He didn’t know she had Raynaud’s disease. She’d never thought to tell him – whenever she went out and the temperatures had dropped below 60-or-so degrees, her blood decided not to circulate in her fingers, and they turned completely white, ice-cold as a corpse, absolutely numb. Even as they walked the quarter mile to the turnaround, she felt the index and pointer fingers on her left hand begin to tingle, little pinprick icicles bouncing from nail to knuckle her only warning as to what would soon come – an utter loss of feeling – yet she didn’t remove her hands from his. She didn’t stop breathing into his palm. Not until it was suitably warm, and then she grabbed the other and did the same.

“You’re so fucking sweet,” he told her, and she looked up at him from where her lips were still pressed to his palm, and his purr & growl was neither a purr nor a growl just then, and his lips were parted in the slightest of smiles, though it took noticeable effort for him – the muscles of his cheeks had grown stiff with the cold and it was all he could think about, she knew, because she had an intimate relationship with the cold.

“I love it when you’re like this,” he said, softly.

She smiled up at him.

Excerpt from Stack Canary, Arsenic Tastes

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