Glistening in from the nineteenth guitar solo.
The girl in the argyle socks blinked. Her uncle had been right. The man with the rifle was actually dead. Given the complexity of how he managed to stave off bodily decomposition affirmed just how dead and for how long he had ceased to be a living being. She began to feel it when their bodies became enmeshed. His life force was not coming from within his body, it originated outside of it. The girl with the argyle socks sensed the separation of matter and the dusting of matter as they kissed. Yes, the man with the rifle could grip her waist and thighs; yes, she experienced the wetness of his tongue and the roughness of his caresses, and yet, underneath that hunger was a stillness, a detached rhythm that signified a simulation of life.
The “pretense” was the most impressive the girl with the argyle socks had ever encountered. His unclothed body was warm against hers and he’d responded to her exploratory touches. He’d moaned when she pulled his hips ever closer to hers; he’d instilled into her the momentum of a man very much alive. The heat from his breath, the low grunting that marked the apex of his muscular ascent, and the sweat that made his skin look thirst-quenching underneath the sunlight, these perceptions were in fact exquisitely focused projections.
They were sensory and muscle memories of his life before death. The girl realized it the instant their bodies were united. Honeysuckle filled the air like fireworks of stars in a summer night sky. What she thought was unique to his body chemistry turned out to be the very subtle sign that a human’s body had died some time ago, and someone or something was keeping it “conscious” and ambulatory by not performing the proper death rituals and by binding memories to that body so it could roam free like a tangible phantom.
The girl with the argyle socks looked over at the man with the rifle, who was lying beside her. His chin rested on the edge of her left shoulder. After he opened his eyes a few minutes later, he told her that he would not be mad at her if she kept him here a while longer.
“The people waiting for my last delivery have waited long enough, they can wait a bit more.”
To her utmost surprise, the hard part wasn’t figuring out the true status of the man’s life or death. On the contrary, what would prove to be more challenging, frustrating, and saddening would be how to tell the man with the rifle that he needn’t bother with any more missions and why. She had at last penetrated through his survival instincts, and soon she would have to be the bearer of news she already wished she didn’t know.
“What was it that you wanted to tell me?”
The girl with the argyle socks sat up and looked at the man with the rifle. She cupped his face with her hands, kissed him very lightly, and put a hand on his chest where the beating of his heart was an illusion.
“It can wait until tomorrow.”