A grunt, barely audible, escaped his lips, trailed by a curl of smoke. Putting the cigarette back into his mouth, he leaned down and used his hand to brush the cigarette smoke and stench from under his nose. He pulled a pen from his pocket, gnawed at the end, and lifted the sheet once more to get another look at the body. Christopher Harris, twenty-three years old, multiple gunshots to the abdomen and a vicious exit wound on the back of the skull, courtesy the execution-style kill shot.
“Jesus, you can’t smoke here, Ted.” Lebowitz, a skinny, nervous Jew with coke-bottle lenses said, sounding scared, which he was. There weren’t many on the force that didn’t have some reason to fear Theodore Marinelli.
“Hey Leebs, maybe I could just put it out by shovin it up yer ass?” Marinelli said with a smile which evaported as quickly as it materialized.
“It’s a fucking crime scene, Teddy, come on…put it out.” Lebowitz pleaded, one hand on his hip, the other half-extended, as if he were going to touch Marinelli, but thought wise of it.
Inhaling one last, long drag, Marinelli stomped out the butt and squatted back down. The familiar clicks and pops of his knees reminding him of just how long he’s been doing this. “Too long.” he thought to himself. In a flash he recalled the past twenty six years of his life, and in the midst of this flashback a screaming voice brought him back to the scene.
“My Christopher! My son!” a middle aged, fat, black woman came rushing toward Marinelli, and was intercepted by two uniforms to walk her back to the perimeter of yellow tape in a vain attempt to calm her down. He’d heard it before. “My baby” this and “My sweet child” that. He wondered if these women knew that their sons were drug dealers, hit men, pimps, and murderers. Did they know, and just pretend not to, or, were they really that ignorant to the situation surrounding them? It mattered not to Marinelli, who was craving a Woodford on the rocks.
The glance at his wrist-watch was a painful mistake. Five forty-seven. He’d be at it all night, he knew. Made to look like an stick-up gone wrong, anybody with half a brain could tell there was more to it than just that. The kill shot alone was enough to scream gang violence. Putting the gun into the victim’s mouth and pulling the trigger a sign that this young man had far too big of a mouth. “He won’t be talkin no more.” muttered Marinelli as he reached for another cigarette and walked to the perimeter. The victim’s mother still screaming, demanding to see her son, or what was left of him. He pulled another smoke from his pocket and looked around, seeing if anyone would stick out to him in the crowd. Mostly middle-aged black men and women, a few children, some homeless people, and then his eyes fixed on a group of younger black kids. He took a long drag from his cigarette and waited to see if they would look at him. Only the one with a hat took a quick look at him before motioning to his friends it was time to leave. He and one other hopped onto their bicycles and the third rode the pegs on the back as they pedaled down Eighth.
“Hey, Leebs?” he called out.
“Yeah?” Lebowitz was working with Grabinksi, a fat Pollock member of Ballistics, and his cohort, Torturo, the blood-splatter guy. Marinelli hated Torturo, the Italian loudmouth who, on more than one occasion, insisted that Marinelli had to be Italian, too, based on his name. This conversation almost came to blows one night at Rudy’s, ending in Marinelli stomping off and heading back to the office to finish the Jameson left in his desk.
“You got any of your boys workin the crowd? I mean, what the fuck, do we have anyone who saw anything, or are we just standing around with our dicks in our hands?” Marinelli called out, embarrassing Lebowitz, who was supposedly in charge of this whole situation.
“Yeah, of course Teddy, cool it.” He said, raising his hand to placate Marinelli.
Two uniforms came up to him and provided him with the name of one Arnold Washington, whose location was currently “unknown”.
“How the fuck did you two jerkoffs manage to misplace the only fucking person who claims to have seen any of this shit go down?” He started in on the uniforms, who already had their heads bowed, knowing this was coming.
“Boy, I’ll tell ya, Leebs…” he trailed off, starting to walk away. “Some real fucking geniuses ya got here!” He yelled in the vicinity of Lebowitz who was either ignoring him or did not hear him.
“We have an idea of where he is.” one of the uniforms muttered.
“What was that? I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you…” Marinelli leaned in to see his badge “Stevens. Could you fucking repeat that?”
“Well, we asked around, and apparently he shacks up on the steps of St. Al’s, up on Liberty.” the other uniform offered.
“That’s great boys. Well, why don’t you go get him, and bring him down
He was already working on another cigarette from the soft pack in his pocket.
“We can’t.” Stevens said.
“Why the hell not?” Marinelli barked.
“We already been working overtime this whole week, Lebowitz said we can’t pull no more hours, cuz they can’t give us unlimited overtime no more. We were told to get you the name of the witness, and then go the fuck home. So that’s what we’re gonna do.”
Dumbfounded, Marinelli stood there and watched the uniforms walk over to Lebowitz, hand him a piece of paper, point toward Marinelli, and then get into a patrol car and leave.
Before Lebowitz could even start walking toward him, Marinelli yelled, “Don’t even fucking bother. I’ll go look for him now.”
He pushed his way through the crowd, cursing at the people for not getting out of his way, and began his search for Arnold Washington.
seeing the used condoms in my trash can is a painful reminder of the hooker i paid entirely too much to fuck last night. then i have to ask myself, “when was the last time i took my trash out?” i examine my room, a clusterfuck of clothing, shoes, belts, trash, beer bottles, books, most of which are covered in dust. the urge to masturbate is a fleeting glimpse of the libido that once was. once you turn forty five, jerking off just starts to lose its appeal. the last time i started i actually ended up crying during. the decision that i was pathetic more overwhelming than my horniness. “fuck it” i say out loud, and reach for the beer bottle without any cigarette butts in it. i stand up, wearing nothing but tighty whiteys and scratch my ass through the hole above the left cheek and take a swig of the beer with the other hand. i can smell some sort of strange ethnic food being prepared by Ms. Lin downstairs and wonder what she would say if i just entered her apartment and asked for some. i havent had real food since megan left, yet my stomach continues to grow outward. i feel sad about her being gone for about two seconds, and then remind myself that she doesn’t ever think about me, she has that young, hispanic-looking kid coming over to fuck her now. this thought causes me to make a noise that i didn’t even know my body was capable of making. i find a pair of shorts in the rubble and toss them on, and an old t-shirt that is incredibly wrinkled. i need more beer, and cigarettes. the indian guy behind the counter looks disgusted to see me, a look that i’ve grown accustomed to. only when i see myself in the security camera, the one that changes images every few seconds, do i realize just how terrible i look right now. i try to smooth my hair down as he reaches for my change, and rub my chin, which is surprisingly not just stubbly, but nearly a full beard. my car doesn’t start on the first try and i cuss and hit the steering wheel and look over at some lady’s dog that she left in the car. it barks at me and i try to start my car again, this time it works. there is a gun somewhere in my apartment, and when i get home i intend to find it.
I’m somewhere in Kentucky, inside of a liquor store. My hands are shaking as I reach for a bottle of red wine. I’m supposed to hang out with Beth tonight, but I don’t really have the energy to turn on the attitude to flirt with her and remain friendly, smiling. I took too many Percocet earlier and I can barely keep what food is left in my stomach there. I think about just going home, turning off my phone, and getting into bed. I look at the fat cashier behind the counter and wonder how she manages to turn back into a human so quickly each time I look at her. I know that when I look away she turns into something else. I am scared to allow my hand to touch hers as I give her the bottle. She rings it up and gives me a questioning look, asking that I extend my arm to show her my ID. I’ve been alive for 27 years and have never wanted to forget a moment more than this. I squeeze the brown bag around the top of the bottle tightly and reach up with the same hand to wipe the snot from my nose. The snow is crunching under each step I take. I’m lost and I don’t have any directions, yet I find it hard to care. A roach rests in my ashtray and the decision to smoke it is involuntary. I am somewhere near Covington when i realize my phone is ringing. My body entirely numb and buzzing so the vibration of the phone is barely felt. It’s Beth and there is music in the background.
“Hello?” She asks this because I have said nothing.
“Hey, are you getting close?” I can hear the music turn down, or maybe she is walking into another room in her house. I can picture her house and suddenly remember the way she smells.
“Yeah, I think so.”
A long pause before she says, “Do you remember how to get here?”
I lie, for no reason, and say, “Definitely.”
I smile into the phone like she can hear it, like it will reassure her. I think I can hear her smile back. She says she is making stuffed shells and I think about what she looked like in my bed, naked. I let out a quick laugh and say, “Can’t wait,” and keep driving until the streetlights fade away like a thousand little memories.
i never claimed to be perfect. far from it. it’s just not possible when i have no grasp of what perfect is. i have no idea what i am or what it takes to be anything i consider to be “real.” i have culminated all of my emotions, expressions, and sayings from those ive met, loved, idolized, even hated. there is an urge to find out just who or what i really am, but it is clouded by terrible fluctuations of chemicals over which i have no control. there have been times when i felt i was getting close to figuring out the nature of the beast that i have become. a beast ive created myself through years of regretful actions and interactions with others. ive almost located the thorn wedged in my paw, but as i go to remove it i am blindsided by bursts of uncontrollable rage, happiness, or some other extreme of either high or low. never do i maintain a constant. never can i hold onto a solid piece of what could be identified as “myself.” i am a ghost, a shell, a mix of shadow and light. these feelings are not special or unique to me, i know this. but, i am no one but myself, and my ongoing quest to discover just what that means is a violent, stubborn, and reckless one. i seek out only what may give me satisfaction, pleasure. many of these things, i am learning, are simply flashes. temporary positive reactions to certain stimuli, most, if not all, are fleeting glimpses of what one could consider happiness. this is most likely what life is “all about”, something people seem to obsess over. to find a reason to live. i don’t mean to sound depressing when i say there simply isn’t a “reason” to live at all. the only “reasons” that people can come up with are created by man. and deciding whether or not they are “noble” or “good” seems to hold more value than the deeds themselves. a wise woman once told me to be “selfish with your emotions.”
your emotions will make you a monster.
the sun’s blinding reflection on the pavement, the asian girl holding a small dog, eating an ice cream cone, smiling and laughing, the teenage couple holding hands, pretending they’re in love, her face in the moonlight, sunburn, the smell of dead animals baking on the side of the road, girls in tiny, denim shorts, gum stuck to my shoe, the smell of carnival food mixed with exhaust fumes, waiting in line for a movie, my brother’s smile, the undying urge to wash my hands, driving my car off of a cliff, eating ice cream, insomnia, the story about hemingway’s mother, burning leaves, calling off work tomorrow, a fat, black woman in a wheelchair, rosaries, knee pain, constipation, ulcers, rabid dogs, foaming at the mouth, and jealous ex-lovers.
even though i was lying to her about the reasons why i “had to go”, why i was leaving, i was taken by surprise how real my urge to cry was. this girl had actually made me feel human emotions again. maybe it was just because she was crying the entire time, though. regardless, i fought it back, beat it down far inside of me until it was a tiny rock in my throat that i forced down with a hard swallow. she said something about calling her as soon as i landed and i kissed her forehead and she began to lose it again. i hugged her as tightly as i could. i was second guessing my reasons for leaving and for a flash panicked that the decision i’d made was terrible, but i swallowed that up, too.
In the back of a car, drunk, on the highway driving home. The smells of the city clawing for life in my nostrils as I make my escape. Cara and mike are yelling at each other in the front seat and one of them asks my opinion on whatever meaningless topic they are arguing about and I just ignore them. Mike is about to miss the exit for my house and I debate mentioning this for rougly two seconds before Cara tells him that he’s “fucking wasted” and apologizes to me for the way he is driving. I’m saddened by this. She believes that I give a fuck about what kind of driver Mike is. I don’t. A loud hum overtakes my hearing and I swallow against it, trying to relieve the pressure. My efforts fail and so I swallow again, meaninglessly, and realize it’s been silent in the car for about ten minutes. Cara has fallen asleep in the front seat and Mike feels the impending awkwardness, as do I. He asks, “which way do you normally take home?” And I tell him the route I take. He says he should try it sometime and then it’s silent again. We are off of the highway now and the smell of a fire has made its way into the car. Summer is fast approaching, and all of its smells, also. I gag on the strength of the odor and suddenly re-live a thousand memories of past summers. Numerous years spent re-living this same worthless cycle, all compiled into one disgusting amalgamation, and I try my best not to vomit. I hold my breath until I almost pass out and finally inhale. The burning smell is gone and has been replaced by the smell of the car’s artificial heat and a sweet, cool smell of the trees which recently gained new leaves. Mike drops me off and I make my way up to my bed like a pinball, bouncing back and forth off of walls until I find my pillow. As I fall asleep, I fight the memories of my past and dread the summer that awaits me.
I saw a man wearing a nice suit running in terror from a building downtown this morning. He kept looking back over his shoulder and didn’t stop running until, eventually, after becoming smaller and smaller, he disappeared from my vision. I remember thinking, “The fleeting American Dream” like it was really witty or something. I’m such an idiot sometimes. He left his briefcase on the sidewalk. It started to rain when I leaned down over the paper. A few dark dots started to appear and I reached my hand to my nose, thinking it was bleeding again. The wind kicked up the papers and pens and sent them spiraling, rolling across the sidewalk. More rain began and its strong smell invaded my nostrils. I looked over my shoulder one more time before holding a single hand up, above my face (like it did any god damned good), and started to jog towards the door of my building. I turned around and looked back outside as the rain grew stronger, eventually becoming a wall of white, cleansing the city. I couldn’t help but wonder where the man in the suit was then and if he minded that he was getting wet or not. People’s shoes were squeaking loudly on the floor and there were two security guards forcing homeless people outside, into the rain. One of the homeless guys’ legs was the size of my torso and I almost threw up getting on the elevator thinking about it. My boss was on the elevator and I said, “Hey, Sally.” And she called me Eric. I just laughed and then stood there, silently. Eventually she made a comment about the rain and I laughed and said, “I inhaled an eight ball of cocaine in a 2 hour session and learned how to fly, all with my imaginary friend Kyle, last night.” She smiled and looked at her cell phone and said, “I know it. Ok, have a good day, Eric.” when we went our separate ways off the elevator. I remember thinking she had to have been sexy when she was younger. I couldn’t help thinking about fucking her and laughed and shook my head at myself. “You’re a fucking weirdo.” I said, not moving my lips as I passed Lindsay, the girl whose desk is adjacent to mine. She asked me why I was so late. I tell her I had to save some workers from a collapsed mine and she laughed and told me that I was “too funny.” I tried to laugh, too, but couldn’t even crack a smile. I just sat there and stared at my blank computer screen, thinking about the lives of the imaginary miners I just created in my mind.
the foreign guy sitting in the cubicle adjacent to mine is speaking a tongue i can’t recognize. ive seen him walking around the cafeteria, or on the way to the bathroom. i think his name is Koman, but i can’t be sure. judging by his volume and the rapidity of his words, he is having an argument with someone, his wife? for some reason his voice begins to bother me, like a small itch that I’ve tried to ignore, which ends up growing more and more prominent, until it is the only thing i can focus on. i decide to get up from my desk and walk past him, sneering. i take the elevator downstairs and someone waves to me and starts to slow down like they want to talk, but i don’t recognize him, and i don’t want to hear another person’s voice right now so i just continue walking, silently nodding as i pass. outside, there are twenty, maybe thirty, people smoking around one of those giant cigarette butt collectors. the ground is still wet, and puddles remain. a mix of colored cigarette butts litter the ground. gifts from the lazy. some are brown, some are white with lipstick on them, all are wet and soggy, disgusting. the majority of these people are grossly overweight and when i walk past them i hold my breath, thinking that if i can avoid smelling even a tiny amount of smoke that i have accomplished some great goal. my face is red by the time i cross Main and i try not to look exasperated when i finally do exhale. i didn’t have a destination in mind when i first left my desk, but now i suddenly remember the bookstore on Eighth where i bumped into Kelly (the girl from the coffee shop) once and decide that is where i am going. it’s getting close to noon, and the numerous, faceless businesses and corporate offices empty out like nests of rats suddenly fleeing because of threat. i try to walk on the edge of the sidewalk to avoid having to change my course, or weave in and out between these waves of hungry rodents, and fail. i am greeted with shoulders, elbows, and people stepping on my feet, causing me to question my visibility.
im on Main again, crossing Seventh, when a voice calls out, “hey man. my man!” i don’t recognize the voice, and don’t imagine he is calling out to me when i feel a slight tap on my shoulder. my heart jumps and i whirl around and scream, “what?” at a well-dressed black man who reeks of a powerful cologne, or maybe aftershave. his eyes widen and he looks offended, but says, “hey man i just need a dollar to catch this next bus.” i laugh a quick laugh at the fact that i don’t have a single dollar in my wallet and he mistakes it for me laughing at him, so he calls me a “fucking asshole cracker” and moves on. i just laugh again and turn, the awning for the bookstore is in sight. just before i enter the building i hear the same voice “hey, my man! hey buddy!” and i look over to see some poor sap actually pulling out his fucking wallet to give this guy money. the door closes and silences the street sounds, destroying that world, placing me in another. the dampness that has been tracked in from outside has left the welcome mat soaked and blackened. there is an old man behind the counter reading through glasses that seem to be able to fall off of his nose at any instant. i smile, pointlessly, as he doesn’t even look up from the page he is reading. i walk around for maybe ten minutes, looking without really looking, and then exit back to the street. it has started raining again and i look at my phone, cringing at the fact that it is only eleven forty-seven. the idea of returning to work fills me with an empty terror. i see a bus coming down Main and imagine myself jumping directly under one of the front tires, and laugh at the image in my head of my stomach erupting, and sending my intestines exploding from my body. my eyeballs would surely pop out and land in the middle of the street in dramatic fashion. i come to and debate just walking back to my car instead of my desk, in the rain, giving up on trying to be something i am not.
i need to have a beer, and it has to be out of a glass. the song “messenger” by blonde redhead needs to be played repeatedly. i wince at the fact that my TV isn’t turned on and turn it on, muting it immediately. for some reason i have to say the word “civilian” out loud, and i do. i make random shapes with my mouth as i say the word and stare intently at the television. when the guy from blonde redhead starts asking “so how can i keep anything to myself?” i realize i probably don’t have anything in common with him. the commercial that comes on the television shows pictures that i create my own words for. it shows a woman being tied to a railroad track, an impending train, an evil, caped villain, twirling his mustache wildly. smash cut to a sweltering sun as soon as the train arrives. somehow it is a deodorant commercial, or maybe jeans. my hands feel tight and i pop every knuckle, every joint, that i already know i am capable of popping. my armpits are beginning to sweat and i cant stop grinding my teeth. for roughly two minutes i feel everything. i feel this immense anxiety burning a hole in my stomach. and my heart beating as a series of slow explosions. i see my own death. i witness great, world-ending catastrophes. i imagine everything there is to be imagined, i create it all in two minutes. and then i feel nothing at all.
so i thought, fuck it, now or never, and i leaned over and kissed her. she looked at me, confused, and asked if i was “drunk or something.” before i could even start to lie with my mouth, i was lying with my eyes. of course not, i said. i just wanted to do that all night, i mean, for a while really. of course i was drunk. we had spent an awkward, silent hour or so watching Resevoir Dogs, something i insisted on after she said she had never seen it. really? i asked her. you’ve seriously never seen it? never she said. so i started it up. all i really wanted to do was get her upstairs into my bed. i thought she was kind of dumb when i first met her. she’s one of those people that smiles all the time. for some reason that really bothers me. anyways, she got up off the couch and went to the bathroom. i looked at her beer and she had only taken maybe a sip from it. i sighed, loudly and stomped my way into the kitchen to get another beer. she isn’t even paying attention to the fucking movie, i thought. i grab a beer and make my way back to the couch. when she comes out of the bathroom she tells me that she has to get going. im sure i fucked this one up, but i am drunk and dont really care. ok, i said, ill catch you later jules. she kind of looked at me weird and i realized i had never actually called her that. then she grabbed her purse off of the arm of the couch and started to the door, slowly. i knew she wanted me to get up and walk her to her car and give her a hug, but i didn’t feel like getting up. she said, i’ll call you. so i lied, that would be awesome, and smiled what she did not recognize as my sarcastic smile. when she closed the door i decided, for some reason, to scream, at the top of my lungs, the next few lines along with the movie:
are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?
what was that? i’m sorry, i didnt catch it. would you repeat it?
ARE YOU GONNA BARK ALL DAY, LITTLE DOGGY, OR ARE YOU GONNA BITE?!
I’m suddenly in a vast, colorless plane. There is an incredible amount of pressure on my body and I can sense a horrible presence nearing me. I am trapped in my own private nightmare (something meaningless to everything but myself), devoid of thought, incapable of emotion. My eyes are bulging and my teeth feel like they are going to burst from my skull. I sense the presence getting closer, but it never arrives. This is hell, I think, and then I’m back, trying to figure out what everyone else is talking about.
It’s 10:00AM and I am at my desk with my head in my hand. I remove the small baggie from my pocket, containing a few loose Ativan, and pop two into my mouth. I have already been to every single website that is able to be accessed through my work’s security filter designed to keep us all in line. Productive, clean, perfect workers. My boss has walked past my cubicle a few times now. I get the hint that he is not too thrilled with me just sitting here, browsing the internet. So, the next time I hear him get up from his desk I open a week old file and pretend to be perusing through it when I get a text from Rachel, asking if I want to meet for lunch at noon. I haven’t seen her in some time and decide yes, why not?
“Sure. Servatti’s?” my suggestion.
At about 11:45 I leave for lunch with Rachel. I arrive before her, as I expected, and catch her walking up seventh looking down at her cell phone. I don’t stand up when she gets there, my silent way of letting her know she was late. She is oblivious. She talks about 95% of the time. The other 5% is allocated to my one word responses and birds chirping around us. I know that she likes me, and has since I first met her through an artist I had previously met in Over the Rhine at a party once and had seen a few times before it fizzled out. So, now that she is dating someone who, I guess you would consider a friend of mine, this is a “non-threatening” way to get close to me, although we have already had sex 4 times, something we never really address. The waiter comes and we each order. I don’t even know what I’ve ordered, even after I say it. Anyways, she is talking about all of her old boyfriends and how the guy that she was with now (my “friend” Tom) is just the best out of all of them, and how he treats her so great. I stopped listening minutes ago, keeping my eyes toward the street and watching this black couple arguing, standing in the open doors of their car, a child’s seat in the back. She, Rachel, mentions something about an ex that died recently and I think that she wants me to think that he did it because of her, only I don’t know what’s expected of me.
“How did he do it?”
Was she talking still? The way she is looking at me makes me think I just interrupted her. I’m trying to resist a half smile that is taking me by surprise.
“How did he do it?” she looks down, sad, then toward me, confused.
“He had leukemia…”
I now know what’s expected of me and I hate myself for following real people protocol, for going “through the motions” and so I say,
“Oh my god, I’m sorry…” I brilliantly fake, and reach a concerned hand across the table, and then pull it back, forcing guilt across my face. It works.
“No, no no, I don’t…” she looks down to the ground again, and I see the confused look on her face again. It makes me smile. I think about the sex we had, and in those candid bedtime conversations seeing the multitudes of looks and expressions on her face, from pleasure to disgust. I’m getting bored with this so I get up and walk into the street, directly into oncoming traffic.
She’s talking again.
“I didn’t really even care about him…I mean, he was kind of a piece of shit, you know?”
No, I don’t. I can’t help but think this. Concern is her mask now and it’s convincing enough.
“I know exactly what you mean.” I say and smile, leaning in. She starts rattling off more useless pieces of information and so I look around and scan the people around us. A rich, fat man with a pink tie and a younger looking (but still old) good-looking woman, who appears to be on some form of medication, judging by her constant grin and odd shaped, glazed over eyes. I imagine that she is the secretary at his work that he has a secret child with, and then of his wife (whose image I create from I have no idea) standing at the kitchen sink, staring out the window, wringing a dish rag in her hands. There is a young black kid crossing the street, wearing only the colors black and green. He meets up with the couple at the car who immediately stop arguing when he arrives and gets into the backseat and they pull away. I picture him dead, and the baby crawling around on the floor in his vomit, the mother incapacitated on the couch. The other man pacing the room with a gun in his hand. I snap to and face Rachel again, ignoring the giant rat behind her, ordering filet mignon.
I can tell by the inflection in her voice that she has not only asked a question, but has repeated it.
“I just…” I search her eyes, wondering what I’ve been asked. She is looking at me, expecting some sort of divine advice, I suppose. Her eyes are extremely beautiful, brown. I prefer green or blue eyes, but her eyes are especially stunning right now, wide open and curious.
“Don’t sweat the small shit. Gotta move on. Can’t let anything get in your way.” I don’t think she’s biting,
“Your emotions will make you a monster.”
“You’re so smart.” She leans across the table to kiss me and I turn my head, raise my glass, and take a drink, leaving the awkwardness for her alone.
She is about 22 years old, and teaches Spanish-speaking students in America how to be English-speaking students in America. She is also short and has big tits.
The wind is blowing her brown hair gently over her tanned shoulders. Her cheeks still slightly sunburned, freckly, adorable. I think about fucking her from behind in front of everyone here, and start to get hard. I shift in my seat and nod, smile, frown, shake my head; whatever the emotion I feel is called for, I act out. She wants me to come to a party at her (admittedly very nice) rooftop apartment, equipped with a pool, hot tub, and amazing amount of revelers who are constantly awake, drinking heavily, fucking one another probably.
“Yeah, sure, I mean…why not?” I smile. I should have lied. I don’t really want to go. I know all the types of people that will be at a party like this. Smug, wannabe artists, girls who are all too aware that they are attractive, lesbians looking for attention, girls with shaved heads, over protective boyfriends who drive bmw’s and Mercedes’. She gets up, not offering to pay, knowing that I was already aware I was paying. I stand up and tell her I’ll see her soon.
“At my party.” She warns.
“At your party…”
She is standing there, I know what’s expected of me but I hesitate. I think of what would happen if I just turned and left, waving, not giving the awkward hug (she will go for a kiss, I know it) that is executed each and every time we see each other. I eventually cave and follow protocol, giving her a hug, forcing her kiss to be planted on my cheek instead of my lips. She starts to walk back down to seventh street, and I watch her for a moment telling myself this is the last time I will see her like this, especially after the voicemail I received from the unknown number the other day.
I don’t go back to work right away, despising the hot humid walk 10 blocks from here. Instead, I order a slice of strawberry cheesecake and eat it, slowly, while humming “Bolero”.
The sun is a gigantic orange mass of heat in the sky, which is darkening with the waning day. I’m sitting on my back patio with sunglasses on, completely wrecked on Bulleit Rye and various pills. I can’t get an image out of my head. It was imprinted there against my will and I cannot erase it. I am alone in a desert and my eyes have been gouged out of my head. I am naked and my body has various growths and disfigurations protruding from it and my teeth are broken, crooked, falling out. I clench my jaw and inhale deeply. I shake my head and try to rid the thought. Standing up to move back inside for more bourbon is more difficult than I envisioned, and I actually have to sit back down and take off my sunglasses to rub the blur from my eyes. I left my TV on and I have no idea what times it is. I pat my pockets for my cell phone and find nothing. The TV catches my eye on the way to my bedroom and I stop to watch. It is a story about another victim of the murderer in Long Island. She was a prostitute, as the others. Of all of the victims they had shown, she is by far the ugliest. For a second, I am there. I am in the darkness with him, waiting for the moment to take her. I can even smell a wet alley and perfume. I come to and remember I was looking for my phone and stumble into my room. What day is it today? I have a text message from my sister.
“Hey buddy, just wanted to let you know that we are having everyone over for dinner next Sunday.”
I inexplicably begin crying and decide not to respond. I lie down on my couch and fall asleep watching the news, wondering how much time I’ve got left.
The rest of the week is a blur. When Friday rolls around Trent calls me and asks if I want to trip and go to a party at some girl’s house that he knows, from I don’t know where. It’s starting to rain and there are a ton of people wasted, skinny dipping in a pool. The girl’s name is Alice, or Candace, or something with a ‘ce’ at the end. On the way in I bump into Mark, an old friend from high school, who tells me that he and Angie are sitting outside on the porch. I lie about joining them shortly and pull out my flask and take a long drink of bourbon to wash down some of the mushrooms that Trent gave me that are still stuck in my teeth. Peering throughout the room, I see a girl and think she looks like Katie, and then she turns and I realize that she is about 40 years old, and seemingly a fan of meth amphetamines. The party is in a strange old building, on the second floor loft which has white walls on every side, dark wood floors below my feet.
I’m standing with my back to Trent listening in on these people’s conversation. As a whole, the group can’t have an average age greater than 20 years old, but then again I’m not a very good judge of age. They are talking about this kid that died in the dorms that they knew. He had gotten into a secured electrical closet and ended up on the transformer. The only reason they found him was because some guy heard a weird “clicking” noise coming from this closet all day and night for 2 days straight. Eventually they opened up the door and there he was, fried to a crisp, face down on the electrical equipment. The guy telling the story ends it with his joke that I’m sure he tells at the end of this story each and every time he tells it.
“Wade Phelps: hide and go seek champion 2010…”
He looks around the room waiting for the laughter that sure enough follows. I can’t think of anything but what that kid’s body probably looked like when the cops found it. I take another drink of the bourbon, wondering why no one asked,
“What the hell happened to this kid? “
“Suicide? Got murdered? “
“How the hell did he get into the closet in the first place? Aren’t they usually opened by a maintenance man’s keys and his keys alone?”
More bourbon, its warmth conquering my negative thoughts. Some terrible techno music is being played over the sound system and I ask Trent if he wants to smoke. There are girls dressed up as aliens dancing in cages. He says “sure”, and invites this girl he’s been talking to, (Jessica?), to smoke with us. We huddle outside under the awning, helping one another block the rain and wind. Trent gives Jessica a shotgun, which turns into making out. I’m getting uncomfortable and wet and just walk back inside, not stoned. Tonight is terrible. I think about just ditching Trent and the stupid-looking girl and walking across the bridge through downtown, all the way back to my apartment. It wouldn’t be that long of a walk, I think. Fuck him, anyways. He can fuck off and die for all I care. Another wave of the trip is coming along and I have to take a piss. I wait in line for the bathroom and the guy in front of me tells me that the line is so long, that “I would be better off using the men’s room in the dyke bar downstairs.” I laugh at his joke, but he isn’t smiling. He’s serious. There is a lesbian bar downstairs called “The Blue Bar” and, as one could imagine, not many male clientele would be waiting in queue. I turn away, run outside past Trent and what’s her face, and scream with laughter. I’m running down the street in the rain full speed and I can hear Trent running after me, yelling my name, but only run harder. He is fast and I can hear him getting closer so I stop in the middle of the street and lie down. A car barely misses me and lays on its horn screaming “fucking maniac” as it tears away into the night. I’m giggling and rain is filling my mouth, and then bourbon, and then rain again.
“What the fuck, man!?’ Trent is reaching for my hand but I yank it away, glaring at him. I think about telling him what I know, but decide not to and just giggle there, lying on my back. I might as well move the game along. I am the one controlling things here.
“There’s a fucking car coming, man! Get the fuck-“ he’s pulling my arm right now when suddenly a car comes into my field of vision from the other direction that neither of us saw coming. Trent is thrown straight up in the air, and I can see his eyes filled with terror. And then a strange look takes over his eyes. It’s about the time that I realize he’s looking at me, but he doesn’t see anything. He lands on the pavement with a sickening smack. The car stops and the driver gets out, a woman, screaming at the top of her lungs, already on her cell phone. I can see Trent’s blood on her white BMW sedan and I look back down at him. He is not moving. Blood begins to pool around his hip. I reach down and touch his face.
“Trent…” I am leaning over him, smiling.
Trent drops me off later at my place, soaking wet. He tells me I was a “reckless fucking asshole” and not to call him if I was going to “pull shit like that again”, and asks me if “I wanted to die or something?”
His hair is dripping water over his cheekbone and I think that he looks very attractive (in just a “he’s a handsome guy” kind of way, nothing like a sexual attraction) and notice that he does not grow facial hair. I get out of his car and say nothing and get into my shower and sit down, letting burning water redden my skin.
I’ve learned to truly stop worrying what people think about me. A lot of people say that, but they don’t fucking mean it. They don’t have a clue. I know exactly what they are thinking. I have a natural ability to get people to like me, but I don’t want anything to do with them once they have begun to do so. They become another person I have to hide from.
“…people hate you when you’re changing…”