The old building was cold, its concrete walls never absorbing the day’s sunlight. A small heater that sat in the middle of the room, its metal bars glowing a fiery, hellish red but spreading little enough heat beyond the foot or two of air right around it. The owner of the little room sat huddled by it, shirtless, with a sweatshirt draped over his back. The warmth on his chest almost felt as if there was another body there, pressed close to his.
He knew he should be working, spewing word after word onto the blank screen, crafting some sort of pseudo-intelligent babble that his dissertation adviser would eat up. A disturbing image of turds wrapped inside scones came to his mind; it seemed oddly fitting, though nauseatingly easy to imagine. He put his fingers up to the heater and marveled, as if he were four again, at the way the light shone right through his fingers, making the nails shine with the blood moving under it. The thought of blood always made him begin to hear his pulse knocking through his ears.
Her pulse had always been discernible in her stomach, right where his hand rested when they slept, curled up, their two pairs of cold feet trying to soothe each other in vain. That had been a long time ago. There had been others in his bed since, but they either didn’t spend the night or didn’t fit into the curve of his body quite as well. Besides, they’d all wanted to be the small spoon, and he often needed to be hugged himself, comforted in sleep by the presence of someone at his back. It was one of his only child-like traits. Otherwise, he was often too grown-up, he was told. Even in college, he’d never been as free as he should have been, as easy in himself.
The balcony door blew open and a sharp wind stung him. Getting up, his sweatshirt dropped to the floor, and he felt assaulted as he stepped over the heater, into the harsh breeze. He had to fight to close the door.