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Once beautiful

31 Oct

He glanced at her once-beautiful face, and then turned the opposite direction to avoid her eyes. There was no sense in hurting her feelings even if he knew how this blind date was going to end for her. Not well.

She was etched with the passing of time. Not that she had lied about her age on her profile. But man was she the oldest looking forty-two year old he had ever set eyes on. It wasn’t the ageing process that had distorted her appearance. If anything, her wrinkles added an interesting dimension to her. The sun had done most of the irreparable damage. And the burning smoke of tobacco exiting her lips and bathing her face, day-in day-out, must have taken care of the rest.

Hers was a skin tone of lifeless grey. Just like the walls of his old prison cell. Blurred facial features contorted asymmetrically and drooped when they should have been elastic. As if her multiplying cells had decided to finally punish her for many years of disregard for the well being of her body.  Despite that, he mentally peeled off layers imparted by time, the elements and her own recklessness and could see with great clarity how she looked once upon a time when she really was fetching. To do that was his special talent. Or what singled him out as a freak. And ever since he was released on parole and started baiting women online only to butcher them at the end of the night, he had never once backed out for failing to see beauty in a victim.

Everyone is beautiful, somehow.

Except him. He was born hideous. Not necessarily on the outside, but on the inside. The bastard child of the devil and everything wretched in this world. Killing beautiful, or even once-beautiful women was the only way he knew to heal and feel cleansed on the inside. Even if just for a few fleeting hours in the dead of the night, lying naked in their pool of blood.

“Very beautiful,” he whispered now turned to look her straight in the eye.

She smiled, but seemed taken aback. Not by the odd tone of his voice or the unnatural, nonhuman pitch. Or the iciness of his deadened eyes. But as if it had been a long time since she heard these words from a man who really meant them.

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Writers, do you struggle with sex scenes?

22 Jun

Erotica and comedy are probably the hardest types of fiction to craft. Humor and sex are universal in their effect on us, but sexual preferences and sense of humor vary greatly from one person to the other, and indeed from one culture to culture.

What makes you laugh or aroused will doubtless be different to what works for someone else. Yet, sometimes, erotica or comedy can transcend personal tastes and cultural idiosyncrasies and move us all in the same way. How is this possible? What are the features of this highly-coveted and universally-appealing writing ability, and indeed, how can a writer emulate it?

With erotica specifically, unless you specialize in this genre, it’s hard to write sexually explicit material and not make it seem gratuitous, or worse uneventful. Sex, like any ingredient in successful fiction, has to move the plot forward. It can’t just be there for the sake of looking pretty.

Now, to further exacerbate the difficulty of making erotica resound well with a reader is the gender variable. Men and women respond to sexual stimulation in vastly different ways, including written erotica. For instance, women prefer detailed descriptions of physical appearances, and innuendos. Men on the other hand want to get to the gory details quickly, and explicitly. So not only does the writer have to contend with the innate difficulty of writing sex scenes per se, but we also have to account for the fact that just by being who we are in terms of gender, we may already be alienating members of the opposite sex.

I believe all writers have to hone their skills at writing meaningful love scenes, and the best way to do it is to try it out, maybe in a short story format. You never know when you will need it.

The Italian Laundromat

3 Mar

cover_pageDonatella studied the repulsive face of the man sitting at her dining table, shoveling chunks of lasagna in his mouth. She considered closely what he had just told her.  “I have a surprise for you.”

What surprise?

After stating these words, he continued eating, as if he had wanted to plant the seeds in her mind then tend to whatever they sprouted later, after he satiated his hunger. With his mouth open and chewing loudly, his nicotine-stained teeth were a sickening shade of sulfur-yellow.

She squeezed her brain to remember what exactly she had found attractive about this man twenty-four years ago. His hair had thinned where it mattered, and grown profusely where it repulsed her most—on his back, out of his ears, and in his nostrils. Mauro had aged quickly and with little grace. He had let himself go.

What happened to the Neapolitan heartthrob who had walked into papa’s gelateria and made a woman out of me?

Mauro was the first man to lust after her when she was a homely teenager. She had a flat chest and androgynous features. The other girls ridiculed her, and boys just skipped over her like she was the steamed vegetables option on the menu. But Mauro was different. Apparently, he had seen something in her. His powder-blue eyes had pried her out of her shy, insecure clam. And his strong, ripped body, bursting out of the tight shirts he liked to wear, had tugged at her heartstrings. Something about the way he used to stare at her with one dirty thing on his mind had unleashed a flutter of emotions in her heart. And a yearning of the flesh in her body and soul, the likes of which she had never known.

Every Tuesday when she was alone at the gelateria, Mauro would come by for a zabaione cornetto after lunch. Not long after, he started coming back every day. Slowly he unwrapped her until he finally reached her core and left her with no option but to surrender to him—in the name of love, desire, or some other madness that had taken over her body but which her mind was yet to find a name for.

At first, it was slow-burning kisses behind the counter during lunch breaks when traffic at the gelateria was low. His tongue would leave no part of her body unexplored. His expert hands, and the way he knew exactly what to do with a woman felt like a tornado of desire pummeling through her inexperienced, hungry body. Then, they started locking up the gelateria and shacked up in the back to do more daring things. And before long he finally took her. On the floor between large sacks of white sugar, two naked, sweaty bodies were fused. Mauro’s pelvis pounded her hard as her lustful screams were drowned by the sound of whole milk churning in steel drums.

She blossomed after that. Like a curse had been lifted. The angular lines and plain contours of her teenage years quickly morphed into soft curves and womanly swells in all the right places. She grew her hair and her boyish face transformed, eradicating the looks of doubt she used to see in people’s eyes wondering “what” she was.

Against her family’s will, Mauro had convinced Donatella to elope with him to Rome in the dead of the night. They would start a family together. He’d work as a mechanic at his uncle’s auto repair shop until he had enough money to open up his own place. And she would stay at home to raise the children, one of whom was already growing inside her. A boy. Mauro promised her a life of material comfort away from the gang violence and shattered dreams of Napoli.

Now, a whole quarter of a century later, the man she had fallen in love with was but a stranger living under the same roof. What possible surprise could he have in store for her now? She’d seen all of his “surprises” and they were usually the sort that left her cut open. In our twenty-four years together, he never remembered my birthday let alone our anniversary. Never once did Mauro impulsively bring home some flowers or perform any gesture of unconditional gratitude. He was the sort of man whose ability to take was bottomless, but gave nothing in return except pain.

You can continue reading this story by purchasing the eBook on Amazon for $2.99.

The Egyptain Affair: A short story about love, deception, and insanity in pre-revolutionary Egypt

25 Feb

The place, Cairo, Egypt. The time, a few years before the Arab Spring.

When a man discovers his wife is having an affair, self-restraint and reason fly out of the window. Humiliation rests on his shoulders like a burden too heavy to bear. And the onus of doing something about it lies squarely on him. The universe will not let him rest or have his peace until he acts to set the balance straight. Even if he wanted to look the other way and take one for the team, he would still wind up facing his demons with no option but to react. To do something. Anything. Even the unthinkable.

 

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