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Avital Gad-Cykman

Astrid's adolescent dreams make for the qualities by which she defines men as lovers. She strings their traits like beads on a necklace: spark, warmth, intelligence, humor, originality, a bit of cynicism, a lot of romanticism, tenderness, strength, looks.

Across the years, she learns her heartbeat and her heat as they come and go. Their looks shift from dark to light, their faces bear a certain detachment, and their eyes strive for more than they actually see. Their power is in their yearning; their attraction is in their indifference.

She dates one and then another. They touch her lips, her neck, her breasts. One writes her a poem. Another plays the guitar. They are gentle when she spreads her legs. They are demanding when they thrust their bodies into hers. Though perfect, they light no spark. She enjoys their nights in a bodily way. Afterwards, she mixes names and faces. Two affairs melt into friendships, the others end in oblivion.

One day, she meets a man whose face is not detached and whose manner is different. His gaze seeks for more, and reaches for it without hesitation. Inside her, his eyes demand even more. She looks for his face and his body in other men, and it hurts when she can't. Her need for him has something to do with the warm skin of the hand he puts on hers when she tells him a far memory.

Her soft, round body nestles between his long limbs; his bare skin warms her. She looks up at his large soil-brown eyes and, in the words of an old poet, she finds that others may be more handsome, but no one is handsome like him.

As years go by, they share so much they nearly coincide, except when tiny sparks explode the nice little image of marital harmony. They humor each other to escape comfort: that terrible brotherhood between husband and wife.

They mix love and whiskey, belly buttons and wine, skin and honey. Their tongues trail down their spines, climb the softness of their buttocks, dive into the folds. They interlace their thighs, their fingers, their lips. They burst. They grin.

He closes a jasper necklace around her neck, and the beads reflect the green-blue color of her eyes. Each bead carries his sight.

At times, she lusts to go beyond tenderness. When he does, she hopes he still exists inside the wilder man that throws her and takes her and turns her around without doubting: is it good for you, is it not. He drinks her, he takes her in, he tastes every cleavage, every slit, every region of her skin. He penetrates her fantasies, and in his intoxication, she finds hers. Where else should she take him, where could she? He wants to find out.

Here they are in front of a Parisian shop-window, at night, in an alley, though they are not. He takes her from behind. A passerby glances. They see the three reflections gleam from the dark windows. She doesn't dare to take him further than Paris, but he asks to cross borders, and she brings other men to bed, though she doesn't. Afterwards, he offers her red wine.

"Is it too much?" she asks.

"It's never too much," he says.

"What's next?"


Avital Gad-Cykman is originally from Israel but has lived with her husband and children in Brazil for the last twelve years. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Imago, Nemonymous, Karawane Magazine, Salon, and other publications. She has completed a story collection and is at work on a novel.

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