The Sound of a Second

In the bedroom, a soft light makes walls seem grey. There’s a four-poster bed, and on the bed, a young man with brown skin and longish, black hair. He sleeps naked with a thin, yellow sheet pulled around his middle. He is not cold, even though outside the wind scrapes branches against the double-paned window. An occasional jolt through his body makes it seem as if he might be dreaming. An old-fashioned clock on the wall ticks and seconds seem longer than usual. But he doesn’t hear the time passing.

She dreams of him, but she doesn’t know who he is. He’s on the edge of a bed while she sits in a folding chair across from him. He wears racecar-print pajamas and a cowboy hat. He tells her that today he’s going to test her on how to say different body parts in Spanish. She looks at the door. He says, relax, then points to his heel. She looks at his foot and then back at his face. His eyebrows raise. She hesitates, then she says calcaneus. He gives her a look, then taps his lower leg, upper leg and then his hips. She says, tibia, femur, caderas. He lays back and pulls up his racecar pajama top, exposing his muscled stomach. First she looks away. But then she sighs, looks at him, and says, estómago. , he repeats, . Then she inches forward and places her lips on his bellybutton. She feels his hands on the back of her head. Her tongue touches a dry piece of lint in his navel. She would stop kissing him, except she is suddenly aware she is dreaming. And as her body pulls her out of sleep, she hears his voice matching the cadence of the second hand ticking away on the wall, qué rica, qué linda, qué rica, qué linda.

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