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Authors: Tim Waggoner

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BOOK: The Men Upstairs
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Liana listens silently while I tell my story. When I finish, she makes no comment, doesn’t even look at me. But she reaches across the car seat and takes my hand. She holds it the rest of the way home.

* * *

We make love for the first time that night. Or at least we try.

At first, bedtime goes as usual. I get ready in the bathroom first to get out of Liana’s way, I say goodnight to her, and head out to the couch. Sometimes I stay up reading, but tonight I turn out the light, lie down on the couch, situate my head on the pillow, pull the blanket over me, close my eyes, and try not to think about Liana lying in my bed. And I especially try not to think about her body and what it would feel like beneath my hands.

My attempts are, not unexpectedly, an utter failure, and my penis swells rock-hard. I lie there for what seems like hours, wide awake, staring up at the darkness where the ceiling should be. I must fall asleep because the next thing I’m aware of is soft lips brushing against mine, so hesitant and tentative that I’m not sure I’m really feeling anything, but the sensation, real or not, brings me instantly awake.

I sense her presence in the dark and I turn toward her. She’s kneeling next to the couch. I can hear her soft breath, and a second later I can make out her outline against the blackness. She slips a hand beneath the blanket and lays it on my chest. I’m surprised to feel it trembling. Before Liana came to live with me, I slept naked, but lately I’ve been wearing boxers to bed. My penis—as it seems to do so often these days—swells instantly and strains against the boxers’ fabric.

I reach out to touch Liana, and my hand finds her upper arm. Finds it bare. An electric thrill runs down my arm, shoots through my body, straight down to the base of my cock. My balls tingle and, though I wouldn’t have thought it possible, I get even harder, so hard it hurts.

Liana begins rubbing her hand in circles on my chest while she draws back the blanket with her other hand. Part of me is glad it’s dark so she can’t see the awkward sight of my penis tenting my undershorts, but part of me wishes she could see. I wonder what sort of reaction she’d have, what sort of expression her face would show.

Then I remember what she said to me that first night.

I’ve been traveling with…friends. They weren’t good to me, so I left.

Suddenly ashamed of my own desire, I pull my hand away from Liana’s arm, almost jerking it, as if I’ve been burned. Before I can pull too far away she snags my hand by the wrist, her grip stronger than I’ve imagined. She pulls my hand to her bare breast and firmly places it there. She keeps hold of my wrist, as if to make certain I don’t pull away again. She begins moving my hand around, using it to massage her breast, and I feel her nipple stiffen beneath my palm, as small and hard as a kernel of dried corn. Her breast-flesh feels different somehow. I haven’t slept with all that many women in my life—and none since my divorce—but I’ve been with enough to know that not all breasts feel the same. Even so, Liana’s isn’t like any I’ve ever touched before. It’s almost like the flesh is filled with cold molasses, and when I squeeze it, it holds the shape for an instant before the thick fluid inside flows back into place. It’s an odd sensation, no doubt, but it does nothing to slacken my raging hard-on, and when she finally lets go of my wrist, I keep my hand right where it is.

She leans down to kiss me, and there’s no hesitancy this time. She slips her tongue into my mouth, and I find her saliva sweet and slightly thick, almost like honey. I squeeze her breast tighter and she moans. A smell fills the air then—the pungent odor that usually clings to Liana, but it’s far stronger now, and I imagine that it’s coming from her vagina which has just opened like a flower blooming. It’s not a good smell, not at all, but it’s an
smell. I feel a tingling rush in my groin and I think her smell alone is going to make me come. But then I breathe through my mouth as we kiss, blocking her scent, and I manage to pull back from the edge.

We continue kissing—lips sliding, tongues probing and circling, teeth gently nipping—and Liana slides her hand from my chest, across my stomach, and beneath the waistband of my boxers. Her fingertips brush my penis, and I almost come then. I’m forty-seven, for godsakes! I have more control than this! But it’s been a long time since I’ve been with a woman, and I’ve never been with anyone like Liana.

We continue kissing and Liana traces the surface of my penis for a few minutes with her fingers before finally taking hold of it. Now it’s my turn to groan. She begins gently stroking the shaft, and I decide that I’ve paid more than enough attention to Liana’s breast. Time to do a little exploring of my own. I shift over to my side so I’m at a better angle, and as I move my one hand to her other breast, with my second hand I reach out and touch her taut stomach. I leave my hand there for a moment, enjoying the feel of her muscles beneath my fingers—I had no idea she was so in shape, and for an instant I feel self-conscious about my middle-age paunch. But then I shove the thought aside and trail my fingers down her abdomen until I reach her pubic hair. It’s thick and coarse, almost like steel wool. I reach deeper and find her wet. No,
. So much so that she’s dripping a steady stream of fluid onto the carpet, and I realize that for the last few minutes I’ve been hearing a constant plap-plap-plap of her vaginal juices dripping, but for some reason I’ve failed to register it.

I thought I was as excited as it was possible for a man to get, but this realization—that she’s so turned on that she’s dripping wet—drives me insane, and I plunge two fingers into her vagina. She’s so damned wet, they go in without any resistance, but before I can begin thrusting in and out, I feel a pulling sensation, almost a kind of suction, and my fingers are drawn deeper inside her. The rest of my hand follows, her vagina growing slack and widening to make room, and I think of a snake unhinging its jaw in order to swallow its prey. I’m so shocked that at first I don’t react, and before I know it, my entire hand is inside her up to my wrist. I can feel ripples of muscular contractions as her vaginal walls work to pull me in farther.

Fear surges through me, cold and fierce, and I try to pull out of her. At first I can’t, and my fear edges toward panic, but then I yank harder and my hand comes free with a horrible moist sucking sound, almost as if Liana has given birth to it. She immediately releases my penis, which is rapidly deflating. My hand is coated with thick, foul-smelling mucus, and the stink causes a splash of hot bile to rise in my throat.

“I’m so sorry!” Liana whispers. She sounds horrified, embarrassed, and scared. Before I can say or do anything, she jumps to her feet, runs to the bedroom, and slams the door shut. An instant later I hear the click as she engages the lock. I can’t hear anything else, but I imagine her throwing herself onto the bed, putting her face into a pillow, and sobbing.

I should go to her, I know, at least make the attempt, even if she won’t unlock the door. I could stand outside and talk to her, reassure her, tell her it’s all right, everything’s okay. But I’m lying on the couch, my hand slathered in goo, and I stay where I am and tremble.

* * *

The next morning I have to work at a department store portrait studio. It’s a part-time gig I took to supplement my freelance income and I rarely go in more than two or three times a week. Which is good, because I can only stand taking so many pictures of squirming toddlers while their overanxious mothers hover close by.

I try not to think about what happened last night, and I more or less succeed. Over breakfast, I ask Liana if she’d like to accompany me today. The studio’s a bit cramped, but there’s room for her. I don’t suggest she do some shopping on her own while I work, though. I know she’s afraid to be in public alone, just in case she runs across

Liana’s subdued this morning. She doesn’t speak much, and she avoids meeting my gaze. It’s like she’s ashamed about last night. I want to reassure her, but I don’t know how. If she’s experienced the kind of abuse I think she has, just the fact that she approached me last night and tried to initiate lovemaking is a huge deal, and I want to let her know that I understand and appreciate how big a risk she took. But I can’t find the words. I’ve come to believe—or at least pretend—that her vagina didn’t really suck in my hand and clamp down on it, but I still don’t know how to say what I want to say. Instead I repeat my invitation for her to come to the studio with me, and I try to sound enthusiastic, but I’m relieved with she tells me in a small voice that she’d rather stay home today.

On impulse, I give her a quick kiss on the forehead before I go. She looks up at me and meets my eyes for the first time today and smiles. There’s warmth in that smile, and gratitude as well, and the thought of it keeps a smile on my own face all the way to the studio.

* * *

It’s close to four o’clock by the time I return home. I’m used to seeing the parking spaces in front of my building empty. The couple that lived across the hall from me moved out a couple weeks ago, and the apartment above me has been vacant since I moved in. But today there’s a white van parked in front of the building, in the space I usually take, as a matter of fact. I park my Mazda Protégé one space away from it, turn off the engine, and get out. The van’s windows are tinted, and painted on the side in stylized letters are the words
Sons of Babel.
I assume the vehicle belongs to a business, though there’s no phone number or web address beneath the name. There a slogan, though. A strange one.

Sons of Babel: Because Sometimes Entropy Needs a Little Help.

I decide the apartment complex’s management must be having some kind of work done on one of the other units. Sometimes they bring in outside contractors to do stuff the onsite maintenance crew can’t handle.

Odd name for a business, though. Sons of Babel.

I head up the walkway to my building, but the door opens before I can reach it, and a stocky man in his early sixties walks out. He’s wearing a short-sleeved gray uniform shirt, jeans, and heavy work boots.
Sons of Babel
is stitched in red over his left breast. His hair is a washed-out gray, long, greasy, and scraggly, and his bushy mustache is the same oatmeal color. His eyes are blue, large, and set a bit too far apart. They remind me of Liana’s eyes, but where her eyes make her seem exotic, this man’s just make his face seem distorted, as if he’s made of clay and someone grabbed hold of his face with both hands and gave it a good stretch.

He smiles at me, displaying teeth that are white and so small they remind me of rice.

“You live here?” he asks.

He seems cheerful, almost too much so, as if he’s putting on an act.


His smile broadens. And the greasy strands of his gray hair sway gently in the breeze. At least, I think there’s a breeze. I don’t feel it, though.

“Looks like we’re going to be neighbors,” he says. “For a little while, at least.”

He offers his hand for me to shake. Confused, I clasp it, find it strangely soft and moist, give it a perfunctory shake, and release it. My skin feels suddenly hot and itchy, and I have to resist the urge to wipe my hand on my pants.

Before I can ask the man to explain what he means by
a little while
, the door behind him opens and two more gray-uniformed men walk out. One is around my age, taller and leaner than Gray-Hair. His hair is black and cut short, and his mustache—while thick—is neatly trimmed. He wears horn-rimmed black glasses, and his eyes are also a bit too far apart. He gives me a smile and a nod as he walks past me and heads for the van. An unpleasant odor lingers in the air after him, an acrid tang of hot metal, like overheating electronics.

The third man is the youngest of the three, twenty at most, and maybe a bit younger. He’s lean like the second man, but more muscular, as if he works out. His head is shaved, and he has a black soul patch below his lower lip. Same eyes as the other two. He’s pierced and tatted up, metal ring in his nose, a pin through the left side of his bottom lip, circular expanders widening his earlobes. His tattoos are dark tribal designs, and they cover his forearms and neck. Maybe the rest of his body, for all I know. The longer I look at the tats, the harder it is for my eyes to focus on them. I get the impression that they’re moving slowly, so much so that I can barely detect it, but of course, that’s nuts.

The young guy also nods to me as he goes past, but he doesn’t smile. He joins the second man at the back of the van. The former has opened the doors and pulled out two white plastic garbage bags stuffed full—of what, I can’t tell. But from the way they hang in his hands, I know they’re heavy. He hands the bags off to the boy, grabs two more for himself, and then he shuts the van’s back door and the two of them head back into the building, carrying four garbage bags filled with something.

I turn to Gray-Hair. “You say you’re moving in?”

He nods. “The three of us. We’ve found some work in the area—a long-term project—and we’re going to be living here until it’s finished. Beats staying in a hotel. Cheaper too.”

I want to ask him what sort of work he’s talking about. It’s already November, so I doubt’s it’s anything outside, so not landscaping. Construction? If so, they’ll probably be working inside. Though with that slogan of theirs, maybe they’re more into
struction, helping to tear down and perhaps refurbish an office building. I decide not to press the man for details. The less I know about him and his companions, the better. It’s not like I want to be friends with them.

BOOK: The Men Upstairs
4.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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