Short Story Review – Rupert Dastur – This is Why We Didn’t Have Sex Last Night

Last night I was in bed with my boyfriend and because it was warm and we were feeling frisky, we were naked and wrapped in each other’s arms, enjoying the solidity, the weight and the closeness of one another.

This reads young.  Not necessarily in age, but time – this strikes me as a new couple.  When you have less than 400 words to work with (and this story is 360), you have to make it count.  Here, we learn that the relationship is young.  Passions are high, feelings can change quickly, moods swing, and the sex, at least for now, is endless.

A young couple in bed, touching.  And then one of the worst things that can happen, happens – one of them finds a new, strange, hard spot on the other.  The first thought – not explicitly written – is cancer.  Of course it is.  What else have we been conditioned to think of when something new happens to our bodies?  Google search anything about yourself, and invariably the answer is cancer, probably terminal.

Anyway, Rupert Dastur’s  This is Why We Didn’t Have Sex Last Night isn’t playing it for laughs, and so I won’t, either.  Instead, the protagonist queries this new spot, alternating between concern and sexual engagement.  It’s clear that they still wish to keep the sexual energy of the night alive, but as the story progresses and the ordinary tasks of turning lights on, checking spots, wondering, take over, the chemistry ebbs.  What has happened to him?  Is this it, then?  Or is it nothing – just a tick.

It’s a tick, collected probably from a park, a park that he shouldn’t really have been visiting.  A tick is an odd thing to find on someone, but there it is.  This turns the story away from a shared experience of ‘him’ and ‘I’ tackling a potentially significant challenge, to a withdrawn, subdued ‘I’ wondering just where that tick came from.  There’s no easy answer, and, left unwritten, is the sleepless night ahead for the protagonist.  Why was he at that park?

From sex, to concern, to hurt, all in a few paragraphs – it’s a clean and nice example of what flash fiction can do.  Dastur hasn’t overwritten the text (so many of these tiny stories are festooned with unnecessarily complicated words, as though (bad) poetry is being written, and not prose), and I like very much his choice of sliding the dialogue into the text.  To break it up with dialogue marks would have made the story too long and formal, clumsy.

There’s a few word choices here which seem off – just a few.  Talking about sexual energy dissipating seems to be a touch high in terms of register.  Most of the other language is relaxed, intimate, close – ‘dissipated’ is too bookish, too writerly.  The same too with ‘secreting’, which comes a little later.

These are minor quibbles, but we are dealing with so few words here.  The story works, and it works well.  In a couple of hundred words we have playfulness, then (mortal) dread, then shared concern, then distaste, then (emotional) dread to end the piece.  There’s a lot packed in here.  Give it a read.

This is Why We Didn’t Have Sex Last Night is a short story by British writer Rupert Dastur.  You can read the story online at Reflex Fiction.

Author Rupert Dastur (Twitter)
Title This is Why We Didn’t Have Sex Last Night
Nationality British
Publisher Reflex Fiction

Please visit the Short Story Reviews page to see all of the available reviews.

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