“Interior Design”

Published in Featherlit Issue 9 (February 2013).

Interior Design

Jacob is propped on his bed with pillows behind his back, his splayed legs the color of fresh milk, thinking about Alison in his History class. His mother is gone for the afternoon, playing tennis with her book club, and Jacob knows he will be alone for at least another hour. Just after she left the house, he jogged to the kitchen—his mom noticed the last time some of her lotion was missing and the scent gave him a headache before he could finish—and borrowed the vegetable oil, which is now sitting on the floor beside his bed. The thick blue carpet below the bottle is a wet ring from the excess liquid that leaked out when he poured a layer into his cupped palm, and for some reason, Jacob is concentrating more on the possible stain and missing oil than the task he has set out to do while the house sits quiet, empty. The images of Alison—her slim legs that are bare even in winter, the way she holds her wrist when she writes letters to her friends rather than Mr. Cochran’s notes, the few curly blonde hairs that wander from behind her ear to her lips and stick there as she speaks—are not gilded in Jacob’s mind the way they were last time, and Jacob wonders if Alison is really as attractive as his fifteen-year-old friends claim. Surely he would know if she was unattractive—it is the very job of men to decide such things, the only goal his testosterone-laden body seemed to have up until about twenty minutes ago. Jacob sighs and looks across the room at the tapestry he pinned aside to reveal the curves of Jenna Jameson’s stomach, her pouty cheeks and “come fuck me” eyes. But Jenna, too, seems disinterested. Her mouth no longer appears shaped to whisper his name, almost as if even Jenna can see that he is having trouble concentrating, cannot quite figure out which part of her body he is supposed to like most. Jacob shuts his eyes hard and begins biting the inside of his cheek, flexing his calves like he usually does in an attempt to fool his body into excitement. A minute later, Jacob feels a cramp developing in his right leg, above the tendon that runs to his heel, so he opens his eyes, lets his right hand flop onto the red sheet beside him, and looks at his digital clock. Rather than lay here and writhe in his defeat, Jacob decides to clean up and watch afternoon reruns. He rises, moves toward the TV on his dresser as his still-slick hand tries to awaken what is now mocking him, and presses the power button as he turns to the door; but in his peripheral vision, Jacob spies something on the screen that makes him stop—the curve of a hip fit into just the right shape, the lines of muscle running down a thigh, the slight slope just above an ass—close his eyes to savor what he has seen. His hand is now moving again, reenergized, and Jacob can feel with his entire body the passion moving from his chest to his groin as he spreads his feet on the carpet, his objective now apparent and very close. Jacob moans, opens his eyes without meaning to, and is surprised—not entirely and not necessarily in a bad way—to see footage of men preparing for a dive competition, stretching long arms and rolling solid shoulders, slicking back short hair. He studies the wet, graceful lines of the divers’ muscles, the curves beneath their dark blue Speedos, as his ankles begin to tremble and his tongue seethes behind gritted teeth—he knows that Alison would look nothing like them, would have nowhere near the machine-like intensity and efficiency that he sees written in the rigidity and flex of the men piercing the water. His mind flutters for a second to the poster on his wall, its disguise pulled aside, and knows that instead of lounging on his bed with hands freshly washed, he must next take down the poster of Ms. Jameson and find a way to dispose of it before his mother comes home. Jacob also knows he will find another poster to hide behind the tapestry—featuring someone gritty with a snarl-like grin, a square jaw shadowed with stubble, shorn hair and wide pecs that speak of lifting firewood or recent construction work—as his legs buckle and deposit him on the floor, stained and still sweating, the eyes of the man in the poster he has yet to buy glinting and calling his name.

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