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When James bites his nails. When James kisses a woman. When James uses drugs. When James beats off to the rit-rit-rit of a jackhammer. When James eats something sweet enough to hurt his teeth. When James bites his lip. When James holds his breath. When James’s thoughts are like greyhounds. When James walks in quick, choppy steps down the stairs of his apartment building, jacketless, sweaterless, out into a snowstorm. When James’s thoughts are greyhounds, folding and unfolding in their strides. When James eats so quickly he cannot taste. When James punches his credit card number into his computer keyboard, face lit blue on the edge of his dark bedroom. When James listens to music so loud it nauseates him. When James joins dating websites and gives himself screen names like DarkHeart445 and Master982 and EviltTwin254. When James’s thoughts are greyhounds that run as fast as they can around the track. When James, having walked quickly out into the snow, must keep moving, not for warmth but because even then, with the stinging frost against his skin, he needs more. When James fucks a woman. When James’s thoughts are greyhounds folding and unfolding in their strides, beating dust from the track like dirt from a broom-thwacked rug. When James fucks a woman while watching a man fucking a woman on his computer screen. When James is at work, chewing calluses onto the sides of his tongue. When James is trying not to think about painful shit. When James is fucking a woman who says his name, and he says, No, call me Master. When James receives things in the mail that he has ordered with his credit card over the Internet and leaves the packages unopened. When James is at work in his office, and he needs to urinate, but he sits at his desk just feeling the pressure on his bladder all day, until it hurts, how badly he needs to urinate, and he can think of nothing else. When the unopened packages ordered over the Internet pile up on the floor of James’s bedroom closet, tumbled into a heap with dirty laundry. When James’s thoughts are greyhounds that do not know they are being measured against each other, that they are in competition, so fixated are they on the lure. When James remembers painful shit and walks quickly into the snow and starts running. When the lure in James’s mind, that whirring mechanical hare, is always faster than the greyhounds. When James eats, but cannot taste his food. When James’s thoughts are greyhounds chasing the lure at speeds so incredible that the greyhounds blur together, bleeding into the air due to their quickness, blending, so that it starts to seem like each of the greyhounds is in fact part of one single thing. When James is in the cold but cannot feel the cold. When James kisses a woman and bites her lip, and she gasps. When James’s apartment is silent. When James kisses a man because he has never kissed a man, and the man is physically stronger than James, and could choose not to stop despite whatever James might say or do. When the whirring furs of those greyhounds blend together as though they are one thing, and unification has occurred. When the man stops when James asks him to stop. When James doesn’t talk about painful shit. When that unified mass of fur whirring around the track becomes a second lure, a big lure following the little lure—that mechanical hare whizzing around the rail. When James fucks a woman while watching a man fucking a woman on his computer screen while thinking about the difference between silence and sound. When James drinks hot coffee too quickly. When James thinks about tragedy on a global scale—children, women, war, disease, famine—when he thinks about people who do not have the energy to brush flies away from their lips, when he thinks and thinks, when he thinks about tragedy, when he remembers about tragedy. When there are no greyhounds anymore, just a big lure and a little lure, going around and around. When James cannot sleep in a silent room. When James tries to find relief in the warm suction of the orifices of bodies. When James tries to find relief in biting bits of skin from his dry lips. When the lure chases the lure around the track. When James orders things from the Internet, costumes and throwing stars and computer software he does not know how to use. When James tells himself he will stop. When James holds his breath. When James stops eating. When James stops running. When there’s nothing but two lures: a big one and a little one. When James is sleeping and it’s snowing. When James wakes up in a wide blue world. When James wakes up under the cover of snow.  

Emma Smith-Stevens is an editorial assistant for Conjunctions. Her work has appeared in Conjunctions:55, Urban Arias and The Collagist. She is from New York City and currently lives in Gainesville, where she is an MFA candidate at the University of Florida.