Public Mastication

Once there was a man who kept his love in his pocket; it was a black sticky thing, and small. The love smelled of ripe pears and seaweed. When he pressed his thumb against it, the surface dimpled, like raw meat. Specks stuck to his palm where he’d cupped it, flaking away. His pocket was full of crumbs of old desiccated love, and shaking it out here, on the tiles of the subway’s public toilet, didn’t seem right.

He let it fall back between the fabric and the lining of his coat, where it bumped against his fingertips as he walked toward the platform. He thought he might effect a bit of sleight-of-hand, dropping the irregular lump to the commuter-crowded floor. They would step in it, smear it across their shoes, transport it to their cream carpeted offices and wipe it off on newspapers left half-folded in the crack between seats.

The dusty wind of the arriving train wrapped around his hands and face. The love was moist with his own sweat; he would not share it. The man set it upon his tongue and began to chew.

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