Harrison watches as the woman on the screen arches her back and plumps her behind into the air. He delights in the suppleness of her exposed breasts, of the nipples that sit taut in a whisper of cotton candy pink, of her hair: a shock of blonde cut sharply at the chin. She wears nothing more than straps that wrap around her thighs and peak at her hips. She moves like a dancer to her own music; graceful twists and lunges across her stage. Harrison leans forward in his chair as she looks back at him, the curves of her body confined to the 13” box of his computer screen, her ocean eyes wrapped in sooty eyeliner, her head cocked 30 to the right, her chin jutting forward, lips parting just slightly, as if to say to him, “Darling, I’m right here.” Maggie Mae Parx. She’s his favorite.
The day around him falls into early winter darkness as he watches each one of her films on a loop, the next beginning right as the one before ended. The younger generation has no appreciation for the marvels of the internet; this freedom he has to watch her all day if he wants to, the power he has to uncover those buried gems, like the videos during that time she dyed her hair pink, and then blue, before settling on trademark blonde. Or the amateurs made when she was just starting out: fuzzy and dark, it was just her and a camera and someone else in the room, someone else to serve as a prop, someone who was only filler to her shine. In those, her hair was still dark and long, and she used it as shield to cover parts of herself. No one else but him could recognize her like that, he was sure of it. She looked at the camera less back then, almost hiding away from recognition. But Harrison knows that it’s Maggie, because he’s put the time in. He’s studied her. He’s paused the video and stared at every visible inch of her, pulled up a more recent clip and put the frames side- by-side. It was the same red downturned mouth, the same slim nose, the same pocket of freckles tucked at the sharp angle of her left collarbone.
He has a friend who claims to have once fallen in love with a woman for her hands. They were like delicate spiders, the friend says. Like tugging on harp strings. His friend’s favorite thing was to watch this woman open a can of soda: the earnest flick of the wrist, the satisfying pop. His friend could watch those hands move all day, he says. Harrison understands this. He has fallen in love with the arch of Maggie’s spine, that gully that forms in her low lumbar, right above the two dimples at the base of her back, just above the soft bump of her ass. He yearns for some sort of artistic skill just so that he can paint it. He could live in that C-curve.
He’s quiet as he watches her, his body still, his hands remain innocently at desk-level. He has watched her for so long, deep feelings of familiarity have set in, feelings too close to the core of him to sully with animalistic aggression and a sticky tissue. Instead, he only watches and marvels. He wonders if this is what love feels like.
Now, he pauses the screen at mid-moan (the smaller, first one; the main event would occur in another three minutes and forty-three seconds), and moves to the kitchen to pull a beer from the fridge and make a turkey sandwich. He slathers the last dregs of mustard onto one side of bread and layers on cheese, sliced turkey, tomato, scrunching the whole thing together with a second piece of bread. He wonders if Maggie likes turkey sandwiches. Maybe she prefers something fancier. Maybe she eats in fancy restaurants all the time. Was she a beer girl or a champagne girl? He could become a champagne guy, a fancy sandwich guy. He stands, looking around his kitchen as he takes a bite. It’s a tiny place, dark, perpetually messy. He hasn’t yet gotten to the pile of dishes from the pasta he made yesterday, and a few stray macaroni noodles sit frozen in congealed tomato sauce, and the floor could do for a sweep, and the counters need a wipe, but maybe not so bad. Still something she’d be impressed by, if he had the occasion to straighten up. He grabs a half-empty bag of potato chips and plops it on his plate, carrying everything back into the gray light of the living room. For a moment, he catches a glimpse of himself in a mirror against the wall. He tucks the beer into the crook of his arm and balances the plate in one hand. With his free hand, he picks up his protruding gut and flattens it to his body. He turns to his face and pokes at the extra layers around his neck. He should lose weight, he thinks. She probably likes the slim, muscular types. He moves away from the mirror returns to his screen. Opening a new browser window, he pulls up an old episode of Family Guy. He hates to eat in front of her.
Sometimes, he can picture she is with him. It’s after long days of watching her, thinking of her, when he falls into a light but effortless sleep, images of her still projecting in his mind. He sees them holding hands, can almost feel her tucked in his lap or lying next to him, can see her stretched out on the couch wearing his shirt as he cooks Sunday breakfast. He makes the best breakfast. She would love it, she would.
Alisha Ebling's fiction and essays can be seen in Yalobusha Review, Split Lip Magazine, Junto Magazine, The Avenue, The Rumpus, Luna Luna Magazine, The Head & The Hand Press, Bangalore Review, Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Dhaka Tribune, Apiary Magazine, The Stockholm Review, and other anthologies in Philadelphia and abroad. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. In her writing she explores family, femininity, and the relationships that shape us. Read her work at alishaebling.com.