Dave Shaw

The Limbs of the Thing

It is morning and the sun is up and Will had watched it come up through Anna's window. Anna is asleep in her bed and Will is lying next to her, on his back, looking at the sun through the window. His eyes feel strained but it will be worth it, he thinks. I will literally burn this moment into my retinas. I will have it forever. He smiles to himself. It is late August and the room is warm and Will and Anna had slept naked and covered by a thin white sheet. Will thinks of what Anna had said last night, she said sex was a just a limb of their whole thing. Will had laughed at her, and he had kissed her, and later, while she was asleep, he had thought about what she had meant.

Earlier that summer Will had read a book by John Updike, in which a man is having an affair and confesses to his wife that he is in love with another woman, and his wife asks, later, if when he's with this new woman, if they come at the same time. She asks it like a taunt. When Will read this he had tried to google it to see what she meant but mostly just found porn sites and erotic fiction blogs.

Will looks at Anna and she is asleep and looks beautiful. He kisses her shoulder and then leans forward to the foot of her bed and takes her MacBook and opens it. She has fifteen tabs open in google chrome, thirteen of which were different recipes for green tea cupcakes. Will smiles. One of the tabs is twitter and it is still signed in to Anna's account. Will tweets 'I have fifteen tabs open and thirteen of them are recipes: this is how I live my life'. He feels satisfied. He opens a new tab and absently googles 'john updike' and then 'David Foster Wallace' and then 'DT Max' and doesn't really focus on what he is reading. David Foster Wallace shit-talking Bret Easton Ellis. Who cares. David Foster Wallace isn't even alive and Bret Easton Ellis is still shit-talking his dead body. The body of the thing, the bit with all the organs, what is that, he thinks, what part is that. Will had always viewed love as something half-heartedly or almost sarcastically pursued, something like the future, which by definition could not be obtained, but is desired as if by default. Love was like the thing at the bottom of an infinitely deep pit that every living human had thrown him or herself into, something you were falling toward without any hope of actually reaching and the rate at which you approach it is the same whether you want it or not. This feels comforting, like the sun. Just don't look directly at it and you're okay. And just how many limbs are there, on this thing.

When Anna is awake they will make coffee and drink coffee together in Anna's bed, and then they will go to that breakfast place, the one Anna had talked about last night, and they will look at each other’s faces without urgency, with confidence that like the sun, their faces will always be there to look at, and, like the sun, their faces will only hurt each other if they look too directly. And Will will ask Anna what she meant about the limbs last night, and she will say she meant just this, that there were limbs and there was a body and that they didn't need the limbs but they were nice to have, and then she will tell him that love is like the prize of a Japanese game show that no one actually understands but the colours are bright and compelling, and it is so literally foreign that no one asks questions, and that metaphors are just tools for dummies like Will that are too absorbed in their little brains to look right at the thing. Like the sun. Then she will stand and lean across the table in the breakfast place, and she will kiss Will's forehead and smile at him, and he will feel confused but good and smile and they will eat the rest of their breakfast and talk about Jim Henson.

When Will was young his teacher had told a story to his class about a deer with no legs that was alive only because a person adopted it and fed it every day and cared for it. It was a wild animal but it didn't need to be wild as long as someone loved it, was what the teacher had told the class. Will had asked if it mattered that the deer didn't know that it was loved, or even understood what love was, and the teacher had told him that it was only a story, as if that were any kind of answer at all.

Dave Shaw lives in Canada. He writes stories and plays music. You can be friends with him on the internet here:

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