Our Halloween treat continues with a story called "Skin Dreams" by Kent Nelson from issue 296.4, Fall 2011. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
The room is dark; Justine wants darkness to sleep. It’s a requirement for her, like silence and warmth. But now a smooth gray light appears as a rectangle around the heavy-lidded blinds, so I know it’s morning. I’m lying on my back next to her, not touching, she on her side facing me. She stirs, stretches, and settles back, pulling the quilt around her. Her breathing is close and clear, awake-breathing.
I close my eyes, hoping she’ll think I’m asleep and will lie quietly for a few minutes more. The danger of being silent is she’d get out of bed and shower and dress and meet her ride to the lab. I’ll have to shave and pack my suitcase because tomorrow I have an assignment in Anchorage. But to honor our history, I want to linger. After four days of being together it’s our last morning.
Justine is thirty-eight, frail, though not particularly thin, a weekend biker and occasional skier at the Snow Bowl. She has brown eyes, a wide mouth, and a faint scar above her left eye. She has light bones. Her breasts aren’t large, but perfect in tone and texture, with small, sensitive nipples. Her hips flare from her thin waist. Her hair is long, brown, and straight, but the tufts of her pubic hair are blond.
I touch her bare shoulder with mine and thought of the peace Justine must have felt the night before, falling asleep after we touched each other, gently and without hurry, as a goodbye. Perhaps sensing my thought at that moment, she lays her arm across my chest and rests her hand on my far shoulder. Her right knee slides along my thigh, and she settles her body against mine.
I know she won’t speak. The quiet continues and despite the brightening morning outside, the near-darkness in the room goest on. A minute or two passes.
We met seven years ago on the trail to Mount Atalaya when I was visiting friends in Santa Fe. I was training for a mountain race, and she was on a bird census. She was looking through binoculars at a hovering bird, and as I passed, I called out, “Goshawk.”
On the return, when I came upon her again, I stopped, jogging in place.
“How did you know?” she asked.
“Long tail. Red eye.”
“Running like that, you couldn’t have seen the eye.”
“Would you go to dinner later?” I asked.
Isn’t that a simple story? After that dinner, we exchanged letters and sporadic phone calls – I am a freelance eco-journalist in Colorado, she works in personnel at the Alamos Lab. We are both unmarried and childless. In our different ways, we are loners. Each accepts distance as necessary and important, though we agree work is never enough for the whole spirit.
The first night of our visit, Justine obliged me, working my cock with her hands and mouth until I came with an urgency that blinded. I reciprocated, touching her with my fingers until she shuddered. The second night she demanded “the real thing and from behind.” She likes the depth and power generated in that position, and when I eased into her slowly and put my hands under her and between her legs, she moaned and came and pushed back against me so I came, too. The third night we rested on splotchy sheets, the smell and memory of sex all around us.
Sunday morning we woke late to a day overcast and cold. We had brunch at a patisserie, walked in the plaza, and toured a few galleries. In the afternoon it snowed. We drank hot wine at La Fonda, then had dinner at a place by the old railroad station. Everything we did was in anticipation.
Last nights are bittersweet. I was reading when Justine came in from her bath wrapped in a blue towel. She lowered the blinds and lit the candles. Then she pulled back the quilt and stood beside the bed, looking down. “You’re wearing underwear,” she said.
“If you want, you can take them off.”
“I want,” she said.
She dropped her towel, and we looked at each other for a long moment. Her shoulder and breasts were etched in candlelight. Her face was shadowy. It was the beginning of a story we both knew the end to. What she made of me, lying there in my underwear, I can only guess. I was nearing fifty, but had stayed in good physical condition by hiking, running, and cross-country skiing. I was six feet, one-eighty, wiry arms and legs, gray hair at the temples. Her eyes traveled from my face to my underwear and back again. My cock stirred in reply.
She knelt on the bed sideways to me, her legs slightly apart for balance, and touched my lips with her fingers. I kissed them, opened my mouth and sucked two of them in. She kept her eyes on mine, but I felt her other hand skim down my chest, over my cock, down my bare thigh. She leaned down and kissed my cock through my underwear, trailed her lips back over my chest, and kissed my mouth. My hand slipped down her belly.
Then her yellow cat jumped onto the bed.
Justine thought nothing of the cat. She fetched it from the bed and put it out. To her the cat was forgotten, and she straddled me, pressed her body into mine, kissed me avidly. But for me the mood was broken. I hated cats.
My cock withered, but I was eager not to disappoint her. I kissed her genuinely in return. I pressed the palm of my hand against her breast and kneaded the nipple between my thumb and forefinger and felt it harden. She closed her eyes, absorbing the sensation. Then I rolled her on her back and got to my knees between her legs. She welcomed my tongue with a sigh. She pressed upward and moaned, and we were suspended there in pleasure.
Such pleasure lingers in memory. The morning quickens. As if sensing my memory, Justine breaths deeply against my neck. Minutes of silence dissipate. She is awake, wishing the moment might last longer. She doesn’t move, but I smell her hair, taste her from the night before. My skin dreams what it wanted next. She’d move her hand from my shoulder to my nipple. Her foot would delve upward along my calf, skin against skin a measurable sensation. Her hand would inch downward and touch my cock, which would harden in her grasp. My whole sentient being would collapse into feeling, into wanting.
My skin dreams of the hours spent alone, the solitude of the meadow, the void of starry space, the expanse of the sea, but I am not lonely. I am with Justine. How I want her to touch me! The briefest caress of her hand or her mouth would make me come, but the absence of touching is the joy, the keenest sensation, the most exquisite reality. Not touching is the permission of the dream. My body floats, drifts, wishes for purchase. My mind arcs with my body. My skin dreams of not-sex, supersex, and bears me to every place and no place, into light and into darkness, the presence and absence that cohabit every second. My skin dreams this: the moment before, the moment after. Her not moving makes me not-move, and all I possess is desire reaching into air.
Kent Nelson has identified 754 bird species in North America and has twice run the Pikes Peak Marathon (7814 feet up and down, 26.3 miles). He lives in Ouray, Colorado.
Illustration by: Marty Gotera was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area with a hand in art at an early age. He found graphic design while attending college. He changed his path and is now a working designer.