And then there was Shay, who took sugar packets from the dispensers at dinner and tore the paper into tiny strips. She bent her soup spoon backwards. She promised me that no matter what, she would be gone by the morning. She asked if that excited me and I said I didn’t know. She asked if it terrified me, and again I wasn’t sure. Maybe she wanted me to be sad at the prospect. Her laugh was bright and so obviously fake that I wanted to stop with the jokes, but how else are you supposed to have a good time?
I offered wine and she took whiskey. By midnight she’d dragged me into my own bed and had me wriggling and shirtless before asking if this was what I wanted. I breathed Yes in a handful of dust.
Only she paused and reminded me that she would leave before dawn. Nails curled and black hesitated on my chest, the thumbs torqued backwards. I told her that that would make me sad, very much so, and I might as well have been laughing with her voice.
'I think it's time to sleep now.' Her voice low, chirruping.
'Not yet. Just a little more time.'
'You'll always want a little more time.'
I woke lightly hungover and tasting iron in the back of my throat. In bed beside me, Shay’s clothes slumped deflated, empty. A baker’s dozen of sparrows flitted about the opposite end of the room. They hopped along my bookshelves and questioned one another in their sparrowspeak. I opened a window with one hand and covered my nakedness with the other, shooing the birds into the frozen morning. All but one took wing, the holdout flitting onto the windowsill. It squeaked once, twice. A third time, high and bright, fake the way a photograph is fake. A featureless simulacrum of the actual.
Then it too turned and sped off, laughing all the while.