Nina was terrified by the force with which the thoughts of this man pushed everything else out of her mind. She had just met Max at a friend’s friend’s party, and did not understand why she wanted to pounce and fuck him on the spot. Max was not really her type. He was far too thin for her taste, with jet black hair that Nina usually found off-putting against a complexion as pale as his. But he was tall, with long legs and beautiful long fingers, and he had warm, intelligent eyes.
Max barely remembered meeting Nina. She had left no impression on him whatsoever.
Nina and Max had been running into each other with some regularity through common friends. Nina hated herself for following Max around like a lovestruck puppy whenever they met. As if in a trance, she would find herself inside his orbit and just stand there, giddy. Max was the life of every party, his jokes scintillating. As much as she wanted to fuck Max, Nina wanted to become Max—he was so much of what she was not, but had always wanted to be.
It did not take Max long to pick up on Nina’s admiration. He did not find her attractive; with her large breasts, thick thighs, and an aura of trepidation, Nina was too fat and too insecure for his taste. Yet, Max was amused by how he could make her whole body glow with excitement when he dispensed clichéd innuendos. Toying with her was easy, like pulling wings off a fly.
Nina and Max found themselves spending more and more time together, alone and with friends. They had a lot in common—the same sense of humor, similar professional backgrounds and favorite pastimes. As the two relaxed around each other, Max found Nina to be bright and hilarious. He came to feel connected with her, like she had gotten under his skin, but if you had asked him about it, he would have denied it.
Max would also not admit that he spent a lot of time staring at Nina’s décolletage, or that he liked how her hair sparkled in the sun as she walked toward her car. Max would also deny that he brushed against her arm or placed his hands on her shoulders whenever he was around her. The changes in Max’s behavior left Nina confused and perpetually aroused. Their friends rolled their eyes and were placing bets on whether or not the two were already fucking.
Soon enough, brushing against the arm and placing hands on shoulders became kissing slowly, then more urgently… And their friends stopped placing bets.
Nina and Max became inseparable. They fucked around the clock and showed up everywhere together. Yet, Max insisted they were not a couple. Their friends rolled their eyes and assumed the two were just being ridiculous.
Max would tell you that she was just not hot enough to be his girlfriend. What he really wanted was to remain out of her reach, keep the upper hand.
So, every couple of months, Max would bring another girl as his official girlfriend to parade in front of his friends. Each girl was around for a week or two, and he did not even fuck most of them.
After all the time Nina had spent salivating over Max, fucking him was cathartic. She woke up from the sex haze after several months and was able to think straight again. She was still deeply infatuated, but would catch herself feeling irritated by Max’s ostentation or bored with hearing the same jokes over and over again.
One day, Max hinted—as he had done many times before and Nina had always believed him—that she should be grateful for the gift of his affection, of which she was apparently unworthy. “Fuck you, asshole,” Nina muttered. For the first time, she was furious.
After that day, whenever Max brought another girl to show off, Nina felt humiliated and angry. Another tiny piece of her heart broke off.
Nina and Max had officially become a couple and appeared very happy. Max had seemingly gotten over his ego and allowed himself to behave as a man in love. Their friends had finally stopped rolling their eyes. Everyone thought they were perfect together, destined for forever.
Nina loved the kind and affectionate Max who had finally broken free, but she had grown to detest the arrogant blowhard who had been taking her for granted for so long.
As Max’s love for Nina grew, Nina’s love died little by little under the weight of Max’s past crimes against it, until it vanished.
Nina received a job offer in a city far away. She took it and did not tell Max about it until she was ready to leave. She hugged him goodbye, wished him good luck, and drove off.
Max was left standing, his mouth agape. He thought they were happy. He could not fathom that she would ever want to leave him. In his gut, he felt he was missing something, something important, and he was terrified by the force with which the thoughts of this woman pushed everything else out of his mind.
Curriculum Cupidinis (‘the course of desire’) was originally published by The Fiction Pool. Jo Simmonds (editor of The Fiction Pool) did a great job with the layout and the choice of image to accompany the story. Thanks, Jo!
I really like the feel of The Fiction Pool — Jo comes with experience as a reader at PANK Magazine, and The Fiction Pool definitely reflects it. The stories feel modern, edgy: interesting, flawed characters; realistic dialogue; raw, unfiltered emotion. It’s an honor to be published there!