David Applegate
Ten fingers.
(09.23.03 mix)

First finger.

I put this finger inside of her first.

Second finger.

The pool cue fit snugly in my hand.
I looked at Angelina and knocked some balls about the table at random. The other players left in disgust, their game scattered. Angelina glared at me, hip leaning into her pool cue, swirling a glass of chilled liqueur in her hand.
"Why did you do that?"
"I’ve never been any good at games with rules."
Hands seem crude and incapable when set against the mind and its devices. Though the hand, too, is intricate. Its network of nerves, its muscles as they twitch in spasms of creation... The synthesis is flesh plus a mystery we all admit in different ways.
Third finger.

We kept drinking
and drinking
and drinking.
I think of how many pages Pessoa must have written, how many Kafka. These men spun their thoughts into strange poems admitting the absurdity of life. Their language spreads a sickly blight through the pages of their books. My own thoughts grow strange, mutant bits of fruit from gnarled and twisting limbs. I watch thoughts of bodies and trees sprout from my imagination's soil, a slow unfolding of forms from a bleak and empty center.
Fourth finger.

"You should go with your friends!" Angelina cried.
We grab at what we can. This is law and we find we have grasped a lament. Everything we touch is a burst of light, a joy, and yet a blue sadness penetrates each action. The sadness has been arranged for a big band which is introduced every night by a phony orator with a big mouth.
"No, it’ll be all-right. I’ll walk you home."

Fifth finger.

Angelina and I walked with our arms locked through the park toward her apartment. The cement was dark and wet from a rainstorm which had come and gone while we drank in the bar. Angelina paused and led me to sit on the edge of a fountain. She told me things about herself I can’t remember because I had had too much to drink. Each time she divulged something new, I pulled her body closer to mine.
This process, both endless and strange, confronts me with my own limitation. I cannot say anything which conveys the fullness of my meaning. This is always good enough for me because what I utter is as close to truth as I can come at that moment. No matter... but I am, constituted as these words are, encapsulated in chemistry, alive in some kind of palpable flesh. My meaning and theirs . . . Touch is the last resort.
Sixth finger.

Angelina’s apartment was small and comfortable. Strangulated sculptures of headless men and women curled into fetal positions hung on the walls of her living room. Two birds caged in the kitchen sang along loudly with the jazz music on the stereo.
"Did you make these sculptures?"
"Yes. I’m an artist, too."
We sat down on the red couch. I leaned over to read the spines of the books Angelina kept on her shelf. A good collection of Kafka. She talked about her family and I watched the cat paw around the room.
"Would you like a drink?" she asked.
I do not agree that there is free choice.
I do not agree that there is no free choice.
Angelina got up and poured two glasses of her favorite chilled liqueur. She finished hers in a single lewd gulp and smiled over her empty glass as I sipped helplessly on the sweet drink. She grabbed the glass out of my hand and drank that, too. We began to kiss.

I agree that we are here.

Seventh finger.

I took her shirt off.
"That’s not fair," she said.
"I owe you one, huh?"

She smiled, pulled my shirt over my head.
"No below the belt action tonight," Angelina warned.
We kissed and fondled one another on the couch. Her breasts rose from her chest, small cushions with pink tips which I would lean in and lick. Her skin was warm and tasted clean. The tiny wisps of hair covering her body tickled my fingers as I dragged them over her. I took off my shoes. Angelina seemed happy. She would do a jerky dance with her hips to the music at intervals, my tongue in and out of her mouth.
"Get up, I want to watch us in the mirror," she said.
We stood up in front of a mirror which covered almost an entire wall of the living room. Topless, curious, we kissed each other and watched ourselves.
"I want you to put your hands on my ass, like before." Smiling, I watched myself reach down her back and pull her hips firmly into mine.

Eighth finger.

Angelina had a ring on each finger. I had asked her what each of them meant. One was from her father. One was a cheap silver band from a street vendor. One was an old family heirloom. "And this one?" Touching her fingers with mine as she talked, it seemed her voice issued from a far corner of her memory where she was soft and small, still innocent.

Ninth finger.

What can I hope for? Only the infinite penetration of the present. And after I am dead? That someone will find me here, hanging in eternity at the furthest point I reached through words.
Angelina grew impatient.
"Do you want to lay down?" she asked.
"Yeah, hold on." She pranced into the bedroom while I emptied my pockets onto her rug. I took my belt off and walked in to find her sprawled diagonally across t bed.
"You’re serious!" Her eyes widened at the sight of my pants falling half off my hips. She got up to use the bathroom. While she was gone, I made myself comfortable on the bed. Angelina made a little sound when she returned, surprised I’d made myself so easily at home in her space. She lay down next to me.
Our clothes came off.
She wasn’t wearing a belt anymore. I moved my hand, drawn to her sex, intoxicated by her body. Her rules collapsed beneath my touch. Our sounds filled the room. My tongue found its way inside of her. The thick smell of her arousal drove me deeper, toward the center. Her back arched with pleasure. I ran my fingers into her, feeling the moist walls of her interior. She made noises, whimpers and moans, an ecstatic language I translated into action. She snapped when I tried to fuck her, snatching my penis as it began to work its way into her body.
I remember my childhood, its extreme emotions of joy and rage. I experience these feelings with the same intensity now, though I have learned to quell the anger and swallow the joy. Both emotions exist inside of me equally, keeping each other in check. I live in an empty smile for most of the day, a sick equilibrium driving me toward the only end I can remember; to my bed, to sleep and the endless possibility of the dreams which await me each night.
"No way! I’ve only known you for five hours!"
"I’m sorry, I lost my head, wasn’t thinking..." She turned away. I put my hand on her shoulder. "Are you all-right?"
"Yes." She turned around and kissed me hard. Angelina ran her tongue down my body, teasing my nipples and navel. When she reached my cock, she placed it in her mouth, gripped its base with her fist. I could feel the chilled metal of her rings on my skin. After a few moments of pumping and slurping I came into her mouth. She slid over my body with a sticky grin, her breasts tickling my stomach and chest. When she kissed me, I tasted the salt of my come on her lips. She rolled over and we fell asleep gently, each running our fingers over the body of the other.

Tenth finger.

The morning light penetrated the bedroom. Angelina and I woke up and talked about our plans for the day. She had an appointment to see a new apartment. I had to go to work. Her birds started to sing again. The cat jumped up on the bed and regarded me strangely.
"You’re sleeping in his spot," she explained. I kissed her. "I’m going to take a shower." She didn’t get up. I kissed her again. She pushed me away and got up.
In the living room, after I had dressed, Angelina grabbed me and kissed me with a sleepy, residual passion. Knowing I would not see her again, I savored the particular feeling of her body against mine.
An elucidation of non-order, no pattern, nothing-left-except- life is an uncertain repetition of confusions, perceptions that do not sit still for.
"I’m not much good with phones," Angelina said when I offered to write down my number for her.
"Me neither." She gave me her number, anyway. "I’ve got to go."
"Goodnight," she said, closing the door.
Her face disappeared and we ceased, broken somehow by the sound of the shutting latch