Hope you don’t mind talking about sex, because that’s where my subject matter has landed for the second year in a row at the In-House Writer’s Contest for the Denver Woman’s Press Club. My first stab at flash fiction came in second place last week. The idea was to write a complete story in 500 words or less. It was a challenge to keep my writing lean, but I still squeezed in some abandon – steamy, caffeinated abandon – which I now share with you. A fellow writer suggested that maybe its time for me to start writing under a pen-name. So loosen your bra (or collar), savor a sip of your favorite coffee or tea, and enjoy:
(Photo by: Alfonso Surroca)
THE AFTERNOON SLEEPWALK
By Cara Lopez Lee
It slithers into her home office around three in the afternoon. The snake coils around her brain and squeezes, a tourniquet strangling thoughts. She’s ghostwriting a book about asserting your voice. This existential joke elicits a slack-jawed yawn. Last night she suffered insomnia again, and her husband’s snoring inattentiveness offered no muscle relaxant: neither big O’s nor little ahhhs. Listless hands slip from the keyboard. Her reflection blinks back from the screen, and the lonely-eyed girl reminds her of one she knew long before laptops. Loose eyelids descend into dreams.
So the afternoon sleepwalk isn’t really her fault.
She steps from empty house to tempting street. Summer rays make her squint, blinding her to intention. Heat wraps her in a tropical vacation: languid, flat-bellied, bikini-clad. Her body waits for a lover to squirt sunscreen on her back and spread it with firm, circular strokes — everywhere.
It’s four blocks to the coffeehouse where college boys with dark musical eyes and careless black curls, or well-read blue eyes and tangled blond ponytails, pour scalding espresso or tall, cool, spicy chai choked with ice. Because she comes often, they smile unhurried smiles and speak in husky tones about this one’s blue grass band or that one’s almost-finished thesis. Coffee beans grind, steam hisses, genre fiction tap-tap-taps onto Mac keyboards: sex and betrayal, sex and crime, sex and sci-fi.
She lingers inside the eyes of the dark, mandolin-playing barista, certain he smells it too, this thing between them, like burnt coffee on tongues and summer mud between toes.
He slides a mocha into her waiting fingers. “I drizzled it with caramel. I remember how you like it.”
She slips a dollar into the tip jar and leans across the counter. “Take a break… now.” Her lips shine, not with promise, but a guarantee.
Twenty years separate them, but that’s what she wants: yielding hips of experience exploding against ropy muscles of discovery.
He follows her home past shuttered workday windows. As the world waits for five o’clock, two escape artists hide under soft, slippery 400-thread-count cotton and fill her bed with a thick, low moan. It’s not love, but it’s tender and hard in a way that love forgot.
“What’s your name?” he asks.
“No names.” She pulls his lower lip between hers and savors a smoky hint of herbal African rooibos. “This is all I want to know.”
By five o’clock, she’s twisted in sweat-soaked sheets and he’s pumping more shots of caffeine for the addicted after-work rush. She rises, tosses the dregs from the bottom of her coffee into the kitchen sink, and recycles the cardboard cup and sleeve. Then she sways under a hot shower to an alternative rock song from twenty years ago and rinses away evidence of her somnambulant stroll. When she steps out, she hears a key fumbling the back door. Then her husband enters the bathroom steam-cloud, twines suspicious fingers in wet hair, and asks with a dry smile, “So, did you take another unplanned nap today?”