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By Eithne Shearer

The slight ache is still there in the morning— a warm and elastic stretch in my thighs, the inward twinge to my spine when I turn the wrong way.

This bed is only big enough for me, and that is everything I have ever craved, and loathed, in these depraved twenty-three years of living.

I can always see the change in the seasons from the window right above the bedframe— it is where I first smell the rain from the night before, pooling in the curves underneath the bushes, dropping onto spider webs and clinging to the last budding petals of spring; the daffodils have died, but their corpses hang their heads, still, and the lilacs have started to bloom in their stead. That I may only smell them at the flourishing birth of dusk every evening is a pleasure in itself— I press my nose to the blooms, velvet soft against my cheek, and hold myself there for two seconds when the first puff of downy, powdery sweetness fills my lungs.

It is, of course, what inevitably happens in the cavernous absence of immediate or presumed pleasure otherwise. As a young French woman once did, you must cultivate your pleasures elsewhere, in the small things. My bedsheets are damp, from sweat; the summer air is blessedly light, still, this early in the afternoon. No matter the place I enunciate myself, it is wet and yielding and perfectly pathetic in its instances; the bathtub water always sloshes too far over the lip, even with one leg draped over its side for better purchase. My spine curves upwards against the comforter and is passably reminded of trying to be quiet, even amidst the throes of ecstasy and only-just repressed desire.

I would muzzle myself in all these efforts; an open-mouthed scream, but without any sound to justify it. It sometimes is performative, or at least feels that way. Again, like dead flowers trying to beautify their decay by remaining in place onstage, playing their death as well as they did their living.

This is made worse when I finally turn off the lights each night, and bring him to life between my hands; he is Molly, now— a delicate, shaking mess of praises and pleas, dark eyes blown wide at the closest sight of me he’s ever been allowed. My hands are in his hair, twisting the curls around my littlest finger. He is peeling me back, layer by layer, a clementine in his hands that I wish he’d be impatient with— spill the juices everywhere and smile through the skin stuck in his teeth, sticky and uncertain with where my mouth is but kissing it anyway.

I see the complete film of it in my head— tying the knot of my dress at my breasts, the trace of thumb and forefinger around the glass curvature of my waist (the earth, he calls it), tumbling fingers through my hair and its counterpart.

This makes the push of my own hand more frenzied, and desperate— a severed, wavering cry out in desperation, and need; his voice takes on a tinge of my own, never really himself. He has never truly existed, only ever filled the space between then and now. If I cannot find love, gifted at my doorstep or against the wall of my childhood bedroom, or in the confines of unfamiliar sheets, then I must invent it myself. Even as the chasm grows wider, and infinitely more impatient.

It insists upon itself; the silky cream of conditioner in my hair, the cling of silk to my hips in that strawberry print dress, red lips to match; lace scalloped lingerie in a mirror for one; buttery sunlight casting my eyes bronze as the grass tickles my bared shoulders. I am touched in every way the world might offer, except in the hands of someone else. This is somehow its loneliest omission, and I am grinning through the indiscretion of untethered abandon in the face of it. I become a maddening, hungry mess of disillusion and hopelessness, plunging my fingers further to reach some unmissable point, and finding myself wanting. Always wanting— every boy is a conquest, a plucked request from the cutting room floor. I stand behind my workplace till and imagine their cries, their hair wet with exertion, skin shivering and slick to the touch. The universe is soft and melding in this place, pliant to my touch and commands; I am turned over when I imagine the delights in the full pain and the gasps of breath in amongst the loss. I am ripe, fresh and sweet to the tongue; I am meant to be hungered for, but I am out of season, and the summers pass every year, and I wither in the cold along with my red roses and the fouled strawberries in their bushes, overrun with oozing insects and the harsh pinpricks of thorns.

These are the minute satisfactions of the flesh, but it does not stop me chasing them, even when my feet are bleeding along with my insides, with my nose, with my mouth. The girl I see in my head is very unlike me, even in her most vulnerable moments— I leave my stains everywhere, yearning, thirsty marks of dominance, claiming space over the scraps left to the dogs. There is a honey musk under my nails, a crimson smear across my mouth. A wild, dark look in my eyes.

I am bloody, heavy and sore; a dissected collection of limbs in my bed, a nightmare of Angela Carter loping through the charred and scattered tethers of my desire. I am pawing through the wreckage, for any signs of life. I am throwing my head back when he finally takes that first taste. I am clawing at his skin, at my own, at the wallpaper and peeling paint and pillowcase.

I am stretching my hands to the bedframe as I gaze, bleary eyed, up to the blinking, afternoon sun.

It will do for now, I suppose.


Fragaria features in Erato's Issue III: Hunger - available in print and online.

"When you have been denied the sensual world for so long, you start hunting for it." - I wrote this piece to explore a theme very central to my heart: of sexuality and desire, and its often pressing absence in my life. There's a fight to take as much of your hunger for it by the throat, but it will always fall short, and trying to deliver it to yourself is an exhausting, if not also inevitable, process.

- Eithne Shearer


About the Author:

Eithne Shearer is a recent graduate student, with a burgeoning love of the colour red, Kate Bush's entire discography and the four black cats that continue to skulk around her neighbourhood. When not writing, she enjoys taking moody walks along the coastline ("Heathcliffing"), and infinitely creating new Pinterest boards for her ideas.

Twitter: @e.c.shearer

Instagram: @e.c.shearer


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