By Joshua Krigman

For Belmont the sex had been memorable not for the end, nor even the moments just prior to the end, moments that, if he had to compare, he enjoyed more than the ending itself—that brief sprint of time, often a minute or less, where he was still thinking just enough to witness his own thinking slip away. No, this time the part he held onto, the part he played back repeatedly as the brick and steel of the Manchester skyline slid past the train window, was the beginning. The low hush of her voice in his ear, at once asking and telling him what to do. The grip of her hand on the back of his neck, the other pushing off against the wall behind her head. She knew what she wanted and had made it easy for Belmont to give it to her. It startled him. How quickly comfortable she was. How she treated him as if they’d been sleeping together for years, and hadn’t just met in the hotel bar downstairs.

Maybe it was generational. Maybe these younger women didn’t see anything special about telling you to lift a leg, or wait a moment while they rummaged for an aide in their bag. That’s what she had called it, an aide. It looked like a lavender jalapeno. He’d only just begun when she pulled the pepper from her purse that lay open on the floor beside her bed.

“Do you mind?” she asked, and placed it where their bodies met.

He did not, though he hadn’t expected it to turn on. The little pepper never touched him, but he felt it all the same. Like when his morning train passed through a station and he felt the vibration through his seat. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was new, and after all these years Belmont had stopped expecting something new. The woman continued giving him direction and he continued to follow, but he was no longer sure what he was actually contributing, and soon he couldn’t help but feel that it was he who was the aide, and that the woman and her toy would have been just as happy without him. He slowed down, eventually stopping altogether until he was simply inside of her, her back arched, one arm over her face, the other pressing the buzzing pepper into herself.

“Everything alright?” she asked.

Yes, he said, he only needed to catch his breath.

The train rumbled to a stop beneath him, reminding his body how it felt to feel what he’d been only remembering. He took this train almost every day, and now he worried the sensations would be forever linked. He hoped, too.

Josh Krigman is a writer, editor, and teacher. He currently teaches creative writing at Hunter College, where he received his MFA in fiction. He is also the co-founder and Brooklyn host of Club Motte, a public storytelling series that centers spontaneous audience participation and holds events in New York, San Francisco, and Berlin. His work has appeared in Lunchticket, Breadcrumbs Lit Mag, and Akashic Books.