A star-shaped man of twenty, spread-eagled on a wooden floor, staring at an off-white ceiling with a cobweb in the corner, and through a paper-thin wall permeates the metronomic squeaking of a bed frame, staccatos of grunts and crescendos of moans. His hand wanders under his shirt, touches his chest, slides down to his navel and along the trail of coarse hair and below the belt into darkness. He disgusts himself, feels repulsed by his own pathetic, lonely existence, and into his mind wanders a woman he met a year ago, a young professor of mathematics, thirty-three, wavy black hair and dark-lashed eyes; he particularly liked the shape of her arms and the curve of the back of her knee. He remembers how she made him laugh, the way she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and that particularly racy message she’d sent him once - he’d read that over and over again alone in his room. A distorted image of her, supine, on his bed, a stream of light falling across her naked torso. She left for Germany the next morning to start a new job and they lost touch.
Now he’s sitting, silent. Guilt in his hands. No noise from next door. A stupid thought to get in touch with her again, six months since they last spoke, crosses his mind, and he shakes it off. He looks down at himself, now, at the unzipped fly and the holes in his socks, wanders why he doesn’t have higher thoughts, why he is so base, so animal in his behaviour, and proceeds to spend the night in sleeplessness, sitting in front of the cold light of his laptop, typing out her name onto Google, finding photos of her, .pdfs of her papers, difficulty breathing, knowing that he was too young, stupid, clueless for her, he’d never be her equal, and ends up falling asleep at his chair, in a position that, upon waking up, will result in a crick in his neck that will momentarily remind him of the depressing mood in which the evening had drowned, and then he’ll go about his daily life and slowly try to forget she ever existed.