Too Close to Touch

by Nicholas Cook

The Astronaut

The astronaut's writing me love letters. I watch you from outer space, he says, your house a speck of gold in the night. He asks about my plants, says he misses gardening and fresh air. I picture him levitating, circling my body three or four dozen times. The astronaut's a mouth breather—his breath is sweet like candy. Must be all the apple pie MREs. He could touch me if he wants but he doesn't. He says, I long to feel your skin through my space gloves. I close my eyes and wait for him to circle above like clockwork.

The Contortionist

The contortionist sleeps in a box. She doesn't understand why he likes being folded up tight without her. It has to do with his mother, how she made him play in her suitcase. That's when he learned he could fold himself into something small and tucked away. She wonders how he breathes in there. If she were to cover it in shrink wrap would he suffocate or is there a trick she doesn't know about? She's going mad from a lack of tenderness. People need to be touched, she shouts. The box makes a thud sound. In the morning he'll walk around on all fours, say, Look how much I love you.

The Chocolatier

He comes home smelling like dough and has a buttered-up look. I'm leaving you for the chocolatier, he says. The chocolatier makes the world's most beautiful bonbons. They literally bring people to tears. She has red hair and fake breasts. I think of running her through a pasta press. I notice hand prints on his apron. Are those hers? I ask. They're small and childlike. He leaves a few loafs of French bread on the kitchen table. I crack some eggs, add milk, cinnamon and sugar, vanilla extract. I make his favorite dish, try not to think of her breasts pressed against his chest.