The water just wasn't cool enough. On her cracked skin and dry eyes, the coolest of water just wasn't cool enough. Leant over the basin, she pressed the palms of her hands against her eyes, watching hot incandescent circles skip across her eyelids. It seemed to her that the entire world was humming with static. That it had crept out of screens, boxes and batteries till it was in her head, buzzing like an untuned television.
She stood in her stained nightie in the bedroom. It was not untidy, but only the dirt drew her eye today, appeared like glowing pin pricks on the film of her tired eyes. The mildew creeping in through the window frame. The smudge on the glass. The weary, crumpled sheets. A buzzing fly was constantly in her way, no matter how hard she swatted. Mist pushed hard and heavy against the glass. She felt restless; trapped.
The material in the room had soaked up smells like a sponge. The curtains stunk of cigarettes. The carpet, a sweet sourness, uncannily like feet. After her wash, it still clung to her, leaked out of her nightdress like the lingering taste of yesterday's meal; the honeyed stickiness of sex.
She could still taste that, too. A little shiver ran through her. The events of last night were laid out across the room like a narrative. Her best china, stained with coffee-brown hoops. A pizza box. Wine bottles. Her blouse. His shirt. Skirt. Pants. And—
It had been like dying. Not dying and going to heaven, but dying the most poignant, awful death. She hadn't wanted him to stop; she couldn't bear to let it go on.
She had torn, bled, and that had been it. Now, she felt sore, and numb, and sick. She was nauseous, but prising the window open to let the cool mist in, to freeze the taste in the back of her throat, she caught only the harsh tang of chemicals. Fumes from the great smokestacks rising like great monuments, silhouettes cast like sails against the grey day.
He lay there, had writhed so much he'd wrapped himself in the sheets like a sailor in his hammock. A dark mound in the centre, the very centre of the room. Her eyes, drawn away to specs of dirt, stains, anything else.
She had loved him before- or thought she did. Now she despised him, wanted to amputate him away like an infected limb, before it killed her.
The mound in the bed stirred, stretching the sheet taut like a ghoul. She froze, a child again, breathing. The ghost subsided back into fitful slumber.
She had waited all this time. Slumped in the passenger seat like a drugged maiden, nodding off against the headrest, waiting to be taken away to some faraway place… not this.
She'd have to drive. Drive and feel the horsepower trembling beneath her thighs. The terrible roar of the engine and the slash of the rain against the windscreen. She crouched, trembling against the wall, and dared herself to do it.