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   PROSE > Chasing Lights

1. The alarm clock gave a nasty electronic beep, forcing him into wakefulness. Even so, he did not open his eyes right away, trying not to remember that it was somebody else’s alarm clock, that he was sick with hangover and that he just buried his father yesterday.

But it all came pounding back -- the funeral, the reception held at the hotel, the drunken night out.

The woman next to him finally reached over and turned off the alarm. He kept his eyes shut. He remembered the frenzied drunken sex, the kind only two strangers could have, but he did not want to open his eyes and see her. All he wanted was to stumble out of there while she slept and leave it all behind. The alarm killed all chances of that. She was awake now and the room was starting to fill with that awkward silence.

After some length, he cleared his throat at the same time she apparently decided to speak.

“Who was drunker last night, you or me?” She asked. There was still sleep in her voice.

“I figure me.”

“Could’ve sworn otherwise,” she muttered, turning over onto her stomach. He glimpsed a smooth leg peek out from under the sheets.

“Do you always wake up this early?”

“Yes,“ she replied, her voice muffled, and then, “Did you tell me your name?”

“You don’t remember my name?”

“No. Are you insulted?”


“Really?” Her tone was casually curious.

“No.” He drew the sheets back and lowered his feet on the floor. It was freezing cold. He gritted his teeth and asked, “Where’s the bathroom?”

“Down the hall to your right.”

2. She thought he had gone so she lingered in the shower, letting the warmth of the spray beat a tattoo on her skin. Slowly, she felt herself relax.

Last night, she might have been a little out of it. She was already regretting having invited him back to her apartment. But she told herself that it did not matter. They were going their separate ways and whatever they had shared, it meant very little in the context of things.

She lathered twice, washed her hair, and then because it soothed her, she slathered on scented cream. She slipped into a loose robe, debating whether or not to have breakfast. Normally, at this hour, she would be at the hospital, making her rounds, but today was a Saturday and she just pulled a 48-hour shift. She was looking forward to doing nothing for a change.

“Hi,” he greeted when she finally stepped out of the bedroom. He was standing in her kitchen, barefoot and shirtless, looking surprisingly at ease arranging breakfast on the table.

She paused, staring at him, at the food, back at him. He was already taking a seat. “I never said I wanted breakfast,” she stated.

“That‘s okay. I‘ll eat yours, too,” he said complacently as he poured himself a cup of coffee.

“Or company.”

“Fine. You can leave,” he answered without missing a beat.

She sat down instead. “Why,” she asked slowly, “are you still here?”

He reached for a toast. “Because I’m hungry.”

3. “Do you remember my name?” She asked him as soon as he appeared in the doorway. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, shrugging on a terrycloth robe.

In the dim light that seeped in through the blinds, he could see that she looked a lot better than he expected. A hell of a lot better. He sat on a chair next to the bed and looked straight at her.

She had a slim athletic frame and long, shapely legs. The skin revealed by the deep-V of her robe was smooth and silken. She finished dressing and turned to regard him with a frank, slightly quizzical look. A long, slim nose, full lips and dark hair that was cut so short it looked like a boy’s finished up an exceedingly pretty face.

“Well?” She prompted.

While he was in the bathroom, he had taken the liberty of inspecting the assortment of products inside the medicine cabinet. He found a prescription bottle addressed to one M. Sanchez from a Dr. Joan Yu. He took a chance and she smiled, a crooked half-smile that suddenly made her look very young to him. “You looked through my stuff, didn‘t you?”

He found that he liked her frankness. “But you don‘t remember mine?” He countered smoothly.

“Actually, I just did.”

4. There was something odd about watching some people eat. It felt almost like an intrusion. So, with an inaudible sigh, she rose to her feet and walked towards the window to draw the shades up.

“So, Doctor,” his voice reached to her, very casual, very matter-of-fact, “do you always wake up this early on Saturdays?”

“Only colleagues or idiots are allowed to call me that.”

He was in the middle of raising his cup of coffee but her haughty comment made him pause. “Wow,” he said, adding thoughtfully, “Should I be flattered?”

“If you like to be called an idiot.”

He chuckled, then took a sip of his coffee. She turned to glance at him. He sat there like he belonged and she, the intruder. It was annoying. She purposely walked back to the table and took her seat. Without her asking, he poured coffee into her mug.


She nodded. “I didn’t ask you to stay.”

“You never would have.”

“Why did you?”

“Didn’t we have this conversation already?” He wondered, then held up a jar. “Sugar?”

She shook her head. “No sugar.”

5. “So how old are you?” She next asked.

He was putting on his clothes. “Thirty-two. You?”

“Twenty-two,” she answered.

“I’m too old for you.”

“Like hell you are.” She watched him for a while before saying, “I see that you’ve showered and dressed and all. Any minute now and you’ll be out of here.”

He did not respond and continued shrugging on his coat.

“Well, don’t leave until I tell you that I don’t usually go to bed with strange men I meet in bars,” she said.

“I figure you don’t have to,” he replied.

“I don’t.”

“So why did you?”

“Because,” she said, rising up from the bed, “I just found out that my asshole boyfriend has been sleeping with my best friend and thought maybe getting drunk and getting laid myself would do me some good.”

He remained where he was. “Did it?”

She looked straight at him as though challenging him to refute it. “Yes.”

6. He sat back in his seat, one hand resting on the table. He had beautiful hands, long, slim fingers made for playing the piano or holding a brush. An artist’s hands. He caught her glance and grinned.

“I’d like to give you the day to change your mind about me.”

An eyebrow raised involuntarily. “That‘s very kind of you,” she said sarcastically, “but no thanks.”

“…after breakfast, we can head down to the beach,” he continued as though she never said anything. “Take a short dip and then come back up here.”

She started to open her mouth to speak but he did not let her.

“-- or if you want, we could just stay here the whole day. In bed,” he added with a leer.

She was not amused. “Which part of ‘no’ did you not understand?”

“The part where you lied?” He shrugged.

“Drop it.” She stood up and went around the table to the window once more.

He had both hands on his nape in a forcefully relaxed pose but his eyes were intense as they followed her across the room. He waited.

“Listen,” she began, turning to him, “last night --”

“Last night,” he interrupted in a deceptively nonchalant tone of voice, “we couldn’t get enough of each other.”

7. “But I don’t like this hangover and I don’t like that you seem as though you’re trying to get out of here as fast as you can,” she told him.

He glanced at her to see if she was angry but she was still wearing that crooked smile. “I do have to leave,” he told her.

“Why? You off to work?”

The resignation letter he left on his superior’s desk came back to mind. “No, not today,” he said.

“Well, would you like some coffee before you go?”

He hesitated for only a moment, then nodded. “Sure.”

8. “I love you,” he said, his face suddenly dark, “you bitch.”

The sentence hang in the air as they stared at each other. He waited again. She let him. A full minute passed.

Then: “I’ll break your heart,” she warned him unnecessarily.

And his face relaxed. “I don’t fucking care.”

NOTE: The idea behind this is to write two stories peopled by different characters in different situations but going through the same stuff.

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