My leg is hurting tonight but with no one to see me, I don’t try to hide my limp. I hobble into the kitchen, not hungry, but knowing I should eat just for the sake of nutrition. Food tastes bland and lackluster, and I never crave it for enjoyment.

Opening the fridge, I peruse the contents. Mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup in the door along with some pickles. Leftover containers of Chinese food that are probably over a week old. A few protein drinks and some moldy bacon.

Closing the refrigerator, I pull open the freezer drawer underneath. A handful of frozen dinners that don’t entice.

Back into the fridge I go, snagging two protein shakes. I uncap them both and as I stand with one hand resting on the granite countertop of the kitchen island, I drink them one right after another. Guzzling without tasting because I couldn’t even if I tried. I toss the empty containers in the trash, then move through the shadowed house.

I don’t bother looking into Cassidy’s room. The door has remained closed since I returned home from the hospital, and I don’t have the guts to even peek inside. I ignore the double doors at the end of the hall that provide entrance into the master suite.

If I were to go in there, like everywhere else, drop cloths would cover the furniture. I even had them remove the mattress because it smelled like April, and I didn’t want the reminder should I have to go in there for some reason.

Instead, I head into the guest room I’d taken over. The furniture and decor in here had not meant anything to me. There wasn’t even one family photo in here to be dealt with. Just a comfy bed with a neutral-colored comforter. It’s where my parents stayed when they came to visit from Michigan or where April’s twin sister, Angela, slept when she passed through Vegas on occasion. I’d added a small desk near the window that overlooks the front yard, then equipped it with a laptop I can do work on late at night. I don’t sleep as much as I used to so my paperwork has never looked better.

Flipping on the bedside lamp, I let myself sink into a sitting position on the edge of the bed. The immediate relief to my leg causes an involuntary sigh to escape, and I rub my hand across my beard.

This is my home life existence. A ten-by-twelve guest bedroom and an empty fridge.

And yet, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Living has become quite simple for me. I keep my attachments to people and luxuries to a minimum, concentrate on my job, and put all my energies into saving lives. I don’t worry about anything else. By not giving anything value, nothing can hurt me if taken away.

Self-preservation at its finest.

And yet, I’m in a conundrum because I’ve just recently found something that has proven valuable to me.

At least on one occasion.

The woman from The Wicked Horse Vegas last weekend. If I were being honest in the brutal, flagellating way I’ve developed over the last year, I’d call her a plague because she’s occupied way too many of my thoughts since our encounter. It’s disconcerting because the only thing I’ve allowed to penetrate any of my brain matter, is well… brains.

Those I operate on, evaluate, and fix. I only have room for work, or so I thought.

But this past week, I repeatedly replayed every single moment of that evening over in my mind. I wasn’t with her more than thirty minutes tops, yet I’ve spent hours analyzing every minute of it. Why this woman fascinates me is vexing, because on the surface, she’s no different than any other beautiful, hot, fuckable woman at the club.

I’m not sure how many times I went into the fantasy app since our hookup, intent on setting another meeting.

Another chance for me to feel something.

And while she might be labeled a frustrating annoyance to me in so many ways, I must admit she has proven to have value to me.

Because my body reacted differently to her than any other of my conquests in The Wicked Horse. For the few months I’ve been a member, I’ve fucked my fair share of the women there and I’ve gotten off each time. But I’m not sure it’s been worth the exorbitant fee I pay to be a member.

At least not until last Friday night with the mysterious @elencosti89 and what was the most mind-blowing sexual experience of my life. It all boiled down to the fucking orgasm that made me almost believe in God again.

Yes, she has value. She made me feel again, and isn’t that the reason I went to The Wicked Horse in the first place? Because I’d gotten so far removed from life itself that I wasn’t feeling much of anything. Even I know it’s not a good thing, and it is only a thin line separating what I had and the peace that might come with death if I thought about things too hard.