He closed his eyes. He could now feel the seams of the uncovered mattress beneath him and as he breathed the weight on his chest rose. He put his hand on her back and she curled her body tighter into his as his sensations unspooled slowly, one by one.
Within the body desire becomes itself. The future does not extend toward the infinite asymptotically – time loses its definition. No year or hour, he thought, only now. Only next. Similarly space drops its measures while desires that span countries and waters collapse and only close remained. This conjured another term: near. Was Jemmy near to him, or was she close? He felt a difference, but lost it in the repetition of the words until they became meaningless, a phenomenon called semantic satiation. He had looked it up once after a breakfast when his fruit salad became undefinable. One by one he had repeated each fruit into oblivion – banana banana banana, mango mango mango, melon melon melon – until he did not know what was in front of him, and so he stopped eating. And now he stretched beside a girl in the exhale of sex and was she close to him, or was she near, or was she neither?
The thought floated above him and fell apart leaving only its uncertain discontentment, lingering like the blouse hanging ghostly from the bedpost. Every thought had been suspended as he and Jemmy had entered her new apartment, or almost every thought. He remembered thinking only this is you, this is your body. You. Your body. The desire that tremolos along a new love or an unexpected crush, this was a kind of high yes, but so ontologically different from the desire that breathes again the breath of one whom one breathed with. Pejoratively perhaps it could be considered routine, the movements that lock and step, the touch that runs along the same veins and down the same paths, but while they both had this thought before, each crackle of experience shooed it away: their desire was a spiritual one, a truly faithful one that finds its truest form not in expertise, or talent, or strategy, but in practice.
The half-light of an unseen sun colored the walls a deep blue and the fan whirring above them spun out of focus, only the shadow of a moving object remaining. He opened his eyes and stared up at where the fan probably was. He tried to think about what the room would be soon, decorated in Jemmy’s classy minimalism, her straight lines and her order. He would buy her a plant so something would bend and change here. He tried to picture the room in the winter and the spring and the summer, how the light would change in each season, where the window would heat the room most, but he could not get past the drop in his gut that felt like a sinker waiting to pull him into the center of the Earth.
The same every time afterwards. The rush and release seemed to empty his blood and in the moment after he felt drained, like a plug had been pulled somewhere and he could hear himself being poured into a sink. And yet it was not purely physical. He did not comprehend even the first premises of the experience, but after sex he felt sad, almost inconsolably distraught at a tragedy he could not pin down, could not name, could not feel except now. He was certain it wasn’t guilt, and just as certain it was not some Freudian trick trying to point him toward his actual feelings for Jemmy. My subconscious would have to be more subtle than this, he thought, exculpating the idea because of its plausibility.
He wondered if she had ever felt this way, but did not know how to ask. The feeling was undeniable, and it took his remaining strength to stay in the bed counting up Jemmy’s spine. He wanted to get dressed and leave, be away from her and alone on a hill far away, looking down on everything in the cold wind, watch the world like the God of creation.
Surprisingly, it had a name. On a whim, he searched for “sex + sadness” one day, wanting to know if he was the only being who had experienced this or not. Post-coital tristesse. The article explained it through natural hormone changes in sex, which he promptly disregarded because how could such a distinctly ripe emotion, so curious in build and origin, fail to have a more specific and meaningful explanation? He searched philosophy message boards instead but kept running into gender theory discussions on Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.
The term had succeeded in reminding him of another: la petite mort, the French phrase for an orgasm, the little death. This seemed to match like a palimpsest and the picture beneath it: could he be dead, for just a short time, and could this be the afterlife he should expect? It was gray and blue and washed out, and the view of everything around felt much like he thought a cadaver might see it, with a general disinterest compounded by an edge of something simply not right, something wrong. He looked down at Jemmy’s hair, moved his hand to push it behind her ear, tried to stop thinking about each action. He loved Jemmy deeply, and to stay in the bed with her against him, body against body, was his unknown sign of it.
Rain continued to fail to fall. Did he just want a metaphor outside of himself to document his feelings and his psychological state? After all, he did not see a single cloud today. He thought about how nice it would be to hear the fat drops ping off of the window. Perhaps the roof was thin and he would be able to hear them pop all around him and hiss through distortion. The red maple outside would collect droplets on its leaves, ready to be shaken by a squirrel. He imagined himself underneath it, hood pulled up on his sweatshirt, sitting on the damp ground and watching cars spray the mist with their tires.
The term meant that there was a struggle between the parts of our minds that can repeat and the parts that ascribe concepts, and a limit to their connectivity. Keep repeating the word and it becomes something of a motor activity instead of a meaning building one, and so our ability to perceive the word as bearing a real-world anything is satiated, or saturated. Semantic – the very meanings within our language – satiation – unable to take on more; satisfied.
“How are you feeling?” Jemmy asked circling his chest with her hand.
“Satisfied,” he said. He could feel her smile so he pulled her tight and let go, returned to the fan above. It cycloned like a portal in space and he wondered what could be past it.