She isn’t there when he wakes up. Damon growls, moans, yawns loudly, king of the pride. Damon listens, waiting for her to tell him to shut up, or for her giggle. There is no sound in the loft.
Damon reaches blindly on the floor, finds a pack of matches from the diner around the corner and a cigarette that’s falling apart. He uses the end of a match to pack the tobacco back in, strikes, lights, inhales, extinguishes and breathes out. He puts a hand under his mane, streaked black and white and grey.
This is not the life he imagined for himself, mostly because he never stopped moving long enough to imagine a life. He was more interested in the way words looked on a page, the taste of them as he hurled them from behind his teeth into a crowd. Everything else had happened because of the words. Some schmuck had heard him reading at a bar and had given him a deal. He wrote a book. People liked it. Then came the transcontinental flights and commitments, the transcontinental fights and the hangovers. There had been words in between.
They made a movie of his third novel, starring his fourth wife. Oprah thought he was a trip. The girls were plentiful. They never aged.
The newest one had started out well enough. She’d seen Damon across a crowded gallery, she’d sauntered over, she’d quoted his first novel, told him she’d loved him since high school. With her eyes slit and her lacquered index finger in her cleavage, she’d told him she, too, wanted to be a writer, and would he think about reading her manuscript some time?
Lying in bed, he traces her outline on his own chest, patches of him that she warmed with her smoothness, her firmness, her unfinishedness. He closes his eyes, thinks about what she’ll wear tonight on his arm. She looks good in red, almost too good, but never wears it. She wears a lot of black. Words on a page are black. All these girls, they always wear black, because they think it’ll make them profound. She was wearing black when they met in the gallery. She wore black last night, satin and lace as she writhed in his arms. She’ll wear black when she moves in. She’ll be wearing black when she leaves, but that won’t be for another few months, he supposes.
Gazelles are beautiful, but too easy to catch. He sighs.
Damon reaches blindly on the floor for his glasses and a marker. He writes RED DRESS across the pillowcases and stalks off to the shower.