He chewed his nails. With a sort of unrestrained desperation, it appeared. To the quick. And till they bled.
When she first met him, unexpectedly, on a train (he must have been slumming it in coach), she was surprised at his nervousness. And at this, her heart was overwhelmingly moved: a man like him, cowering in her comparatively infinitesimal presence. She hadn't expected this of a movie star. She had anticipated the man from his shoot-'em-up movies, the man hanging from the sides of buildings, wearing army fatigues and black leather, blasting his adversaries with lethal precision, full of noisome machismo and Hemingway-style anecdote.
But she soon found that, instead, with this man came only a medicine cabinet full of amitriptyline scripts, an overflowing hamper of never-washed bikini briefs (which it seems he believed were carefully hidden ... ho, ho!), a fetish for donuts and vintage issues of Jugs (indulged regularly in the backseat of his Roadster), and the faintly damp and musty mattress of a clandestine bed-wetter. His right hand, when relaxed, went into a permanent, tightly formed "C" shape. His left thumb was persistently moist.
She ceased seeing him within a month (oh yes, it lasted that long). Her mother took to him then, thinking he might be primed for modification. She, like bleach on the moldy hem of a shower curtain. She brought him casseroles and spoke to him about clean, church-going living. Ah, hubris! This man could not be changed. No 12-step program could reach into those subterranean depths. He did, however, cease sucking his thumb. And he was better able to grip his assault rifles for it.