I only wanted to be held. To feel the heat of another wrapped up within my wings. To tumble against one another in a crowded backseat as the car rushed thump-bump over the joints in a bridge.
I peer through windows longing for belonging: watch horny teenagers tussling on couches, “just friends” bumping hands in the popcorn bowl, long-married couples laughing at each other’s corny jokes before leaning into each other.
Do you ever think about how cold and alone it is, lurking at the edge of your lawns? Or do you only worry about burning eyes in the night, the beady eyes of animals reflecting your anxiously-flicked-on porch light or… something else? Do you go upstairs, glass of water on your tidy nightstand, and curl alongside the heat of another to protect you against the chill of the world against you?
After every living room lamp is extinguished, every lover wrapped up in each other, there is nothing left for me except the long night of being misunderstood. Of steeling myself against every flinch or gasp if I am discovered. Every loner holds within them the hope of being known.
I want the night to swallow me. I want you to swallow me. I don’t know. The universe could bend against itself until the veil between us is so porous that we cross over, melt into each other as if what I am does not matter.
Stephanie King is a past winner of the Quarterly West Novella Prize and the Lilith Short Fiction Prize, with stories also appearing in CutBank, Anomaly, and Ghost Parachute. She received her MFA from Bennington and serves on the board of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. You can find her online at stephanieking.net or Twitter @stephstephking.