Toothache

The sex itself only lasted two minutes. Victor was warned that the first time could go like that, had worried about it all afternoon, expected it. He hated himself for that.

Susan’s arched and naked body seemed to hoover just above the sheets. Skin and bone, her bleached form took up one whole side of the bed and then some, elbows bent, hands folded beneath her head. She exhaled toward the ceiling, already lost in thought.
Victor scissored the blankets, shook a cigarette out of his pack and lit it.

“How long have you been smoking?” Susan asked. “You seem so old.”

“A few years. I started in ninth grade,” Victor said. He sucked sharply, let the smoke come swooping out his nose.

“See, that’s an old trick,” she said. “You don’t even see that anymore outside the movies.”

Victor smiled. The window was open, and he could hear the distant rattling of the Red Line train climbing the tracks north toward Fullerton. A crisp breeze sailed through the room, raised the hair on both their legs. Fall was coming. This was a good moment, Victor thought. His virginity was gone, lost in the sweet smelling room of a pretty girl. Freshman summer was over in a week too, he thought. Classes started in September. The soothing sound of the train faded and disappeared. In a matter of seconds the most meaningful cigarette of his life would burn out.

“Ouch!” Victor yelled. He doubled over, clamped a hand over his mouth.

“What is it?” Susan asked. “You okay?”

“My tooth,” Victor said. His voice came low and muffled through his fingers.

“You have tooth problems?” Susan said. “My dad has those.”

“It’s been popping up for weeks… Ahhhhh!” he moaned. “The pain never ends.”

“You could get it fixed,” she said.

“Doubt it,” Victor said. “I’ll have to live with it.”

“That’s silly,” she said.

“It’s not. Look,” he said. Victor uncupped his jaw.

Susan leaned in tight, squinted hard. “I don’t see anything,” she said.

“You’re nice for saying that, but I know it’s permanent. These sorts of things always are.”

Very slowly he turned away from her and moved to the edge of the bed. He put his feet on the floor and stared down at them for some time, waiting, before he plucked his underwear from the carpet and slid into them one inch at a time. She didn’t argue.

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Simon A. Smith writes and teaches English in Chicago, where he lives with his wife and a murderous orange tabby named Cheever. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Quick Fiction, Keyhole, Monkeybicycle, Whiskey Island, PANK and more. He likes it here.