On the train, I catch the girl sitting next to me trying to find a page in a notebook full of math notes. Any chunk not occupied by formulas and proof explanations bears sketches of faces. The faces are composed of only lines and facial features; smooth, practiced contours containing eyes that track the viewer. The faces are like mirrors that let me see her; she is far too pretty to look at directly. Her makeup is so perfectly applied that it looks good under fluorescent lighting.

But she’s looking down at her notebook now. Shadows fall into the few tiny notches in her skin; a stretch of her nose shines rapturously with freshly secreted oil; and, within proximity of her ears, her cheeks hint at redness. I’m given a few seconds to survey the internal terrain of her ear for dirt. If I could find anything there, even just a small film of grime tucked into an inconvenient fold, she’d get me off, right here. She must have cleaned thoroughly this morning, though.

Her head turns robotically and her eyes are focused on mine. It happens before I’ve removed my thoughts from her ear. I imagine the expression I must be wearing and laugh.

“Sorry!” I say, with excessive enthusiasm, “Your hair is just fantastic, is all.”

She quickly gives me the calculated smile that means she’s just received a compliment and she tells me who cut it. I’ve never been to that part of town but it must be expensive. She has a friend who works there, he’s the best. Oh, well, that’s great.

The notebook falls open again and I wipe something imaginary away from my eyelid, pretending to crumble it into oblivion out of disappointment.

An announcement tumbles through the speakers, made indistinct by its echo rolling after it throughout each car. In response she packs her notebook and smiles before she stands, and it happens. Just below the line of her denim skirt, the striated backs of her knees are revealed. The front of her legs, the entirety of their façade, is spotless and smooth and presentable, but just this lump of flesh, immediately behind the knees, is unevenly colored and burdened with cellulite.

I have to bite my lip and clench my legs together to remain inconspicuous. My skin gets hot, my vulva wholly throbs, and I’m digging my fingers into my seat to keep my shivers from ejecting me onto the floor. I’d like her to be pressing her face, hard, into mine, disassembling the balance of her makeup. I’d like her to pull away – when I’ve finished writhing my sheets into knots – and look at me – her face a beautiful unkempt mess, chunks of her painstaking haircut jutting ceremoniously upward – and give me a smile that she would probably never give to another woman.

I would like to be filling my grip with the folds of her skin, which would feel nothing like the scratchy ripped leather I settle for now. I would like to tackle her and try to tickle the imperfect lumps that sit proudly just above her calves.

I contort a trumpeting series of pleasurable exclamations into a labored sigh and open my eyes to see the figure that replaces the face I wish to see.

The figure is my age, a member of the older gentlemanly class who calculate my presence into their hopes for romance.

“I pray this seat is open for my use, dear?” he asks, following procedure by immediately placing me in the diminutive.



           

 

 

He will offer a hand, at my stop, to help me stand. He will offer with generous modesty to carry my bags, and will make quiet conversation all along the way. His words will be imbued with the learned vocabulary of a reserved sage. The mother of his children will have left long ago, carried away gently by the delicately helpful hands of euphemism. His children will have moved away and he will state that they are enthusiastically pursuing his assumptions of hetero-normativity.

When we reach the foyer of my apartment building he will put the bags down by the door. His eyes will pour compassion into mine, eagerly anticipating that it will be reflected back. His lips will be hard, and will taste dry, and I will get a familiar excitement out of his inability to properly maintain them. His nose will whistle in spurts, as his breathing rate will increase, and it will deposit warm air on my face.

I will place my hand on his chest and thank him for the help with the bags. He will start to ask a question but I will interrupt him to tell him that I will see him again on the train, and then I will fold inward along the motion of the door closing. He will be standing outside smiling because old men are horny in a way that has nothing to do with sex.

 

 

My key jammed in the lock. Upon reaching the last pin, a well-worn groove in my key prevented it from lifting appropriately. I left my keychain dangling from the half-inserted key and watched myself give up. Instead of opening my door I pried open a window on the landing and sat on its sill. I slid a cigarette from a crumpled soft case and clutched it with my lips. As I lifted my right hand to light it, I noticed the subtle lines along the valley of my two primary fingers; smoke stains. In the same moment I thought of touching myself, touching someone else, with those two fingers. Those are my primary fingers, those would be the fingers to rub a clit with.

The crowd on the street below became thick with people moving. From the fourth floor, I could distinguish enough to know that these people had faces that presented features. I yelled at them to stop moving, and a few of them did. A few paused and stared upward with the disorientation of children. I quickly spun the cigarette in my hand, showering ash on the concrete sill, in order to hold it like a pencil. I drew small blemishes on every frozen face; small, but clustered, numerous blemishes. I made lines thick in places so that their edges would not be so smooth. I made the skin slightly swollen and red in patches that they had been scratching throughout the day.

They shook their heads and walked away, carrying with them enough faults to get me off, right there on the sill. But before I could plunge my stained fingers downward, and feel the texture of their flaws protruding against my flushed face, I raised my pencil. I gave them all cracks, blisters, folds, bumps, bruises, cuts, and birthmarks; all bestowed charitably upon the backs of their knees. Then, I parted my lips and let my legs fall open and rattled into the stairway, and pressed my face hard against the affectionate cheek of infinite imperfection.