“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” Amelia Earhart
You couldn’t hear them move over the forest floor. The snow was fresh and soft like powder. Each step left an imprint but no resounding echo. You could only hear their breathing. You could not hear their steps.
Algid and windless, the day smacked without breeze. It used its atmosphere like a cave of teeth biting you on the cheek, or on the wrist if your glove slipped down. Your neck if it had become exposed. They had no choice but to walk through. The tension combined with the dropping temperature and lack of water, snack or any sense of direction; how does one not go mad with fury? It was the middle of January, seventeen degrees and she felt it.
Hardly any birds circled so they were mostly trapped in the infinite stillness of the woods and the remnants of a harsh blizzard that slowed them.
“It’s the eye of the storm.”
“Okkkk….but that doesn’t mean it’s not coming back.”
“It’s not,” she texted.
She bet her friend didn’t check her weather app. She bet her friend didn’t question her. She bet her friend trusted her to lead.
“Watch, I bet we get the yellow car,” she said to her friend the day they stood in line at the amusement park.
It was hot then, shining, blissful. They had eaten nothing but sugar. They were waiting to go to the final water ride of the day, spent, thirsty, aging yet jubilant. The trams were in no particular order, randomized, and every time they waited, she guessed.
“ I guess with about a 98.4% accuracy.”
Leana laughed loudly next to a woman’s ear, so loudly she shot them a look only Cat saw.
“What? I have been right every time.”
“That’s 100% though.”
Catarina tapped her thigh to keep the time as they stood.
“Well, you can’t be right every time.”
“True,” Leana said, sort of smirking, half engaged, half stuck in her own secret fixation.
Catarina kept her hands free of the straw most of that day, preferring to play with the strap of her bag or the cap of her aluminum water bottle. She tapped her thigh only in line sometimes. They were engaged off and on but paused when it happened.
“Did I tell you about the time I drove my car into the car dealership?” Leana suddenly said.
“What?! Tell me now.”
But the train was rolling in. Both women’s eyes widened as the big yellow tram rolled up. Cat smiled the biggest and threw a look behind her exposing all of her teeth.
“Now, you trust my psychic ability?”
Everything was hiding. The snow had ceased but every once in a while a tree shook when a bird perched and a big clump fell startling them. They would both look up, unspeaking and resentful and a growing worry between them. The cold was a barrier. The distance was a barrier. The unsettling feeling that this was not going to end was a barrier They heard a crow call a few hours ago; at least three or four hours ago. They hadn’t spoken since she looked up and said,
“It must be noon.”
Her friend didn’t question it or speak to her. Cat turned slightly to check on her. Her breathing was labored. Her cheeks were bright pink and dotted with tiny drops of ice. Leana’s face was pallid, stinging, her endurance waning and their breath came out in synchronized huffs.Together, they marched but separate, each in their own quiet obsession. Catarina was counting hours. Catarina was reviewing lists. Catarina had practiced this walk, had a deep resolve, a spine made of knife and her knees were going to buckle but she knew what adrenaline can do. She drew hearts on her hand with each passing hour. The only time she pulled down the glove. Pockets devoid of cell phones, only a sharpie and some protein bars, there was no cell service here. She had advised Leana to keep her cell phone in the car so she didn’t lose it. Pliant for show only, Cat reassured her.
“I have a metronomic heart, you know. I can always tell the time”
Leana trudged behind her, adjusting her parka and getting ready for the first small incline.
This was hours ago, when they were friends. She turned, bright, dawning, her auspicious eight am self: well fed, hydrated, head covered but face still exposed. She smiled to show her teeth.
“You’re full of shit.”
All they saw were endless groves of bare trees dotted with sparse patches of evergreens; a brightening to the dense forest of trunks. An interminable white crystal blanket to cross kept them moving, reserved and privately poignant. All conversation had ceased between the two friends. You could only hear breathing. You could not hear their steps.
Catarina guessed it was about three or four pm. They had gotten lost, separated from the trail and if they were not out when the sun finally went down, there was no way they were going to survive. She could see it in the distance: the veiled sun, the yellow halo obscured by boundless gray barely shining through the clouds. The sky heavy and pregnant with fresh blizzard. It was an unforgiving winter. It had been and remained unforgiving now. The sunset they faced would turn to black without portrait. We will survive, she had lied. She knew that soon she would hear the twig snap and that she would run. She didn’t know what her friend do but she did know she would hear her scream. She would dart across the forest as fast as she could. She would sprint. She would sprint the whole way without looking back or without time to reflect on her reflex. She would have no time to wonder.
Forget the whole thing. It was agony to know and it didn’t seem fair. Wear the blindfold. None of this was fair. But she did see the wolf. She was reaching to pull the pen out to mark the four pm chime in scrawl on the veins of her left hand. A ritual of safety. That’s how they met. He was gray and white with yellow eyes. Low to the ground and keen, he held a silent snarl between his teeth. She couldn’t hear their steps. Her head lowered, she did not reach past her hips any more. Heedful, without making a sound, she turned her head slightly to the left. From her periphery, she saw his friend skulking carefully and quietly on the other side of them, low and snaking through the branches. Walking this clearing for the past five or six miles exposed them. It will be faster, she said. She already knew.
At least one branch had fallen and the wolf wouldn’t see it. He would step on it just as he was getting ready to pounce and she would be afforded an extra second that would propel her. She kept her eyes and head down. She inhaled and felt her pulse begin to thrum and warm her body in anticipation. She began to lift the balls of her feet. She began to clench her palms into fists and from her right, she heard the snap. From the left, she felt the hesitation. She knew there were only those two. She began to run. You could not hear them breathing. You could only hear screech turn to scream and then only her own breath quickening in time with sprint; each quickening step. You could hear a flutter of wings above, one call and if you had time to look up, you’d see a flock of blackbirds pushed to movement from the violence below. But there was no time to look up.
“The Woman Who Saw Her Own Death” (or “The Woman Who Ran From Wolves”)
My hand was still there, I thought. In his. Sweating, and he was dumbstruck at her, mouth agape and I was staring at the twins through the fire. They were also staring through the fire. My other hand was on my leg plucking at the garter without me noticing at all. From my periphery, I could see the alien admiring my thigh, or what I thought maybe–the etched star atop it.
“Bravo, Freya!” the man who offered me the beer said. “And way to intimidate us all!”
I pulled my hand away without meaning to just instinct. Suddenly very close to a stranger and also being pulled the other way. I was squinting towards the man but trying to look at the cloaked woman too. Had I really just been twirling in the center for an hour?
“This suggestion for a theme was from another guest actually and I should give more details before we continue,” she waved her hands towards the fire. “Especially since there are new people here. But I just wanted to make sure I was first.”
“Naturally,” a woman laughed.
I hadn’t noticed many people yet. The woman laughing also had a dark bob and was wearing all black but no cloak. More like shiny see through tights with black platform boots and a strappy halter but black nails, sharp, like the others. Next to her: a mousy companion fiddled with her hair and my mouth dropped open on accident. Someone cleared their throat. Freya. And she was peering at me; sticking her tongue out of her teeth a bit. I was digging both of my hands, claws out, into my skin and realizing I’d met the mousy one before.
“This is the woman who saw her own death. How we play is the first story sets the theme, the tone, the characters and all the little details. You have to use the elements already introduced,” she was stolid as she explained, with no gesturing, hands crossed in her lap. Lifeless. Kind of stoic. Even though that story felt alive, she seemed inert. “And continue the story about a woman who saw her own death.” She paused. “Other than that: be creative and of course, don’t be last.”
She smiled. I held back a cough.
“Isn’t there like a rule or something?” another man spoke, to her left.
He tapped her thigh. She stared at him but didn’t say anything. They seemed intimate. My throat felt dry and I had something stuck in it. Like I couldn’t swallow. I just kept needing or wanting to swallow and couldn’t. I felt dizzy. I felt Sansom put his hand back on mine. I didn’t turn to look.
“That was just a drinking game we played last year. No rule tonight. Just the theme,” she waved him off.
“I’ll go,” one of the twins interjected. “I have a good one.”
She ran her nails over her hair like she was going to tuck a strand in but didn’t which made me think it was a wig. I was also wearing a wig. They are stiff at times. I could see her eyes were very delicately painted as she looked at the ground. Her eyebrows were carefully drawn in an arc and in the same shade as her winged eyeliner; the same shade as her mascara. Perfect, steady, meticulous hands she had
“It’s called the woman who ran from the wolves.”
“Oh, that’s the rule,” the man snapped his fingers. “I remember, last year we said, put the titles at the end because it’s scarier.”
Freya nodded and held her hands out, “Continue. It’s fine. There was another rule too but we are past that.”
The woman smiled.
“Certainly, I didn’t ruin anything yet.”
Then she smiled even wider and her fangs were shiny in the glare of the fire and I caught her eyes: green. Bright green
It was 91 degrees and rising. Sunny. Saturday. A bit windy but a bright blue sky and I had been looking forward to the weekend since Monday. Home for a brief stop and my favorite place since I was a kid– the beach. I had the day off. Well, I took the day off. Fourth of July, let freedom reign. I got my best book and my old bikini and five seconds of space from my family, my colleagues, my friends. I was ready this summer for love. Ready for whatever may be. My tarot cards had been flashing Two of Cups and I was keeping an eye out. If there’s anything I trust, it’s tarot.
My mother let me borrow her folding chair, a towel, her flip flops. I always needed something when I went home. I always needed something in general. It was a littler windier than I would have preferred, as I said, so that sand whipped my thighs as I was getting ready. Better to wait on the suntan lotion, I thought. It was already too messy. But bright: bright, hot and sunny, like a heat storm which is unusual actually. On windy days, I usually see darker clouds even in the distance but the storm was coming and hadn’t caught up. Skies were serene, blue, clouds looked placid but the wind. Because I was starving, and I knew it would be bad but had to eat, I reached into the red and green Christmas colored bag my mother let me borrow as well.I had only brought a suitcase with the essentials: my laptop, my book, two outfits, underwear, socks, my three year old bathing suit that didn’t fit my breasts right anymore but I kept wearing it. The cup of the inseam twisted so my naturally crooked breasts looked even more crooked. Frugal and disheveled, I didn’t replace it. I also always brought my toothbrush even though my mother had one for me. I believed in packing light, and flight. I believed in moving.
The minute I opened my hummus container, the wind kicked up once more and blew all over the top so there was a nice grating as I bit into the first carrot stick. Nevertheless, she persisted. Persist in ideology, robustness, routine. Establish a routine. My new inflammatory flares were forcing me to eat differently, choose differently and make sure I ate breakfast, less coffee, less walking, more veggies. I dipped the second stick in and another gust blew. I turned my face to the left and felt a nice big chunk of sand land on my tongue. No more bread for me and all the better for it really. If I want to meet a mate, I’d have to shape up.
My friends say I’m lucky. That I’ve always been lucky. Yet, here I am, five years in a row alone and not always the better for it. Rough. I would say I’m getting rougher. I would say I’m getting scabrous, prickly to the touch. Like a cactus but drier inside. And empty. And void. I look at the stand to the right of me noting the yellow flag which means “Caution,” but not “Danger.” Not “Unallowed.” I place the hummus back in the bag and pull out the container of blueberries pouring a handful into my palm and then beginning to count. On red days, you can only really go calf deep. On yellow days, you have to swim by the stands. On green days, they didn’t blow the whistle that much. I stand up to brace the water. I came here to swim.
The sand was scalding hot. The sole of my feet burned a little on the way down. No reprieve, and my cheeks were whipped the whole way down. Hesitant for a moment, I turned back to face the chair once more. Something in my stomach lurched as I looked at it there, alone, made for one. I could hear my family’s laughter in the distance. Something in my chest hurt. I kept going. Dipping just my toes in at the shore line, the water was ice cold. Coriolis effect be damned, a storm was coming and had brought up the deep ocean currents. It was also July. August had more jellyfish but also warm water. When were there crabs? All the time.Growing up here, I knew everything about the beach.
I usually tried to avoid beaches with lifeguards because you can get away with more and my Everclear Slurpees were more hidden from sight on secluded spots or at night, but to be honest, that was a long time go. Today, it made me feel safe. The waves weren’t particularly large but there had been some rip current warnings at the beginning of the walkway. A sign was posted; probably always there but today I stopped and read it. Swim parallel to shore.
“I know,” I said out loud, as I began to wade.
I’m a strong swimmer and my friends say I’m lucky. I once ran headfirst into a cement mixer with my car and came out unschathed. Well, I broke my sternum and concussed mildly but the police didn’t take me to the hospital. They took me to jail for drunk driving. My head leaned against a metal toilet as I threw up all night and couldn’t see straight but I lived. I got that charge reduced to a first offense. I got that jail time reduced to house arrest and an ankle bracelet. I got that first arrest completely stricken from the record. I once also slid across the trolley tracks on my bike and flew headfirst into a car. Doctors said I was lucky I was wearing a helmet or else I would have concussed worse than I had, and probably worse than the cement mixer, and my glasses would have broken in my eyes. I fell through a treehouse and landed on a rusty nail that pierced only the rubber of my shoe, not even touching the foot. The glory of the ocean is current, tides, undertow. The glory of luck is timing.
I was up to my knees and waiting. Before I went to the beach today, I promised my guides I would do the ritual. Throw the blueberries in the water and say the right name. Thirteen of them. As I waded further in, I began to let one drop from my hand little by little so there was a curling line of blue dots at the surface for a moment. A fish darted past me. An omen.
“Whole body healing,” I said out loud.
And then dove in. Algid ripples cut through my skin like shards of ice were piercing me. Something pushed my torso backwards: an undulation, a phantom hand. Arising covered in goosebumps, I let out a long breath. Slowly, I let my toes touch the sea floor doing a quick sweep for broken shells that could cut or crabs that could pinch. Planted, I looked behind me to see if I could still see the fish. My body was pushed backwards by the force of the wave. I swiveled my body to the right a bit to see if I could still see my stuff or had it blown away? Squinting, I could see the little blue chair in the distance. Smiling, turning back to face her, a larger wave was forming. Get smacked or go under. I chose to dive in again. An underwater sway took over and my body was pulled towards it slightly and then pushed towards the floor. It felt like something was dancing with me but viscous, moving and in control. The tips of my toes pressed into the sand as I held my arms upward so I could propel myself back up. It was only three seconds since my head went under and my mouth opened again to salty air. It felt longer. Where I stood, I could feel the current pulling me backwards now. Had I not been firmly seeded in the ground, I may have floated further. I looked back to see if the lifeguard was still there. But I began to feel dragged.
I let my body take in what I was experiencing. Rip tide. Without any dawdling, I began to swim parallel towards the stand, a little further from my stuff.. I hit the trolely tracks the one time because I didn’t move perpendicular across them. It crossed my mind twice today, that accident. Once, driving here over the bridge and then again as I read the rip tide sign and hearing my friend says “you’re usually lucky anyway. Things have a way of falling in your lap>” She was referring to a job opportunity I was just offered to do private freelance consulting for less hours but more pay than my social work job.” This came shortly after I decided I wanted to quit social work and I hadn’t even applied for anything. But i’ve been fortunate in accident too. And I did feel my luck changing. I swam backs towards the beach perpendicularly for a moment, then parallel again. Then perpendicular, then parallel. What rip tides do is exhaust you. They pull you further and further out and because they are fast, they pull you far. They don’t take up the expanse of the short; just one line, but that one line is a bad place to be. You have to swim parallel to the shore to get out of the current, but it’s not easy and by the time you’re out, you’re far out. did about two more of these “T-movements:” to the left, then forward back to the beach. As I got my footing again, I looked to the lifeguard who seemed unconcerned by anything I was doing. She can see better than me. I felt calmer.
“Perhaps that was just a strong current,” I say out loud and see a family standing near the shore. “There are children in this water.”
But you can have rip tides form without knowing anywhere there are breaking waves. My gut dropped. I also felt something inside of me, underneath the water, some terror. I felt the pull of fingertips upon me. My head began to spin a little. Shivering, I begin to wade back towards the mother with her black curly hair and pink one-piece gripping her young daughter’s hand with her shorter but just as black and curly hair in a pony tail. Their bathing suits match.. They all have a dreadful look. Probably adjusting to the temperature. Her husband was wearing blue swimming trunks and has that typical dad bod; beer gut, mustache, sparse hair on chest and the son looks like my dead brother. Something in my sternum creaks. Old broken bones. Suddenly, very taken by my thighs glistening with droplets as I emerge, I keep my head down as I walk past them. I give the boy a glance but nothing more. His whole body is pale where the rest of the family is olive. Something in my heart moves. I hope the girl finds my blueberry. Or the fish that found my blueberry.
My seat is still there and covered with sand and I’m surprised it didn’t blow away. All that is weighing on it is sand that I had pressed on top of the two metal bottom bars and a prayer. My red and green Christmas bag too. My hands are a little shaky for some reason as I reach for my pink towel. I feel dizzy again. Plopping down without drying, giving up on it, pebbles stick to the back of my thighs.
I look down. I can’t get my breath.
The water must have kicked up my mild vertigo.
It helps to speak out loud when these attacks happen, although sometimes it helps to do nothing at all. Sometimes I sit clenched and don’t speak and barely breathe and my legs just fall off. I felt like I couldn’t move again. Like I couldn’t stand. Breathe. The wind kicked u. Sand got in my eye and I had to close it. Breathe. Then my face was hit. Ugh. Then I opened my eyes and there it was. The way you see things matters. The way you see them move. Right before something hits, your brain flashes: Oh. And it’s not like they say, I didn’t see my past. Well, I did but I didn’t see my past in this life so much as all the other lives coming together, coalescing into a nice tight and bitter coffin. The mordant taste of betrayal and several and today on my tongue: sandy and caustic. The knowing. The way I saw it first. The way under water I even thought, this isn’t it but it could have been. I’m a strong swimmer. The warning. The current, the warning. The dizziness, the warning. The way I read this article about something similar earlier. The way I rode over the bridge. The way I stopped in front of the sign. The way the umbrella flew towards me and some people think attracting luck means that the umbrella will blow past you but once the pointy end hit my chest, I knew it was something else.
Once my throat let out that air, that final air, I saw the first life of the hooded black women. Once my neck lobbed backwards and I now longer cared about the sand on my tongue, I saw myself walking across a lake of ice. As my tongue fell out, I could feel my body press into the bottom of the chair; once inexplicably sturdy, now tilting to the left. Once my lids closed and everything stopped, I knew that luck meant you’re hit, and you’re the legacy now.
“The woman who went to the beach”
I was obsessed with the lights across the yard; magnified by the low thrum of the bass. . The way the breeze ran through my tights every so often and the weather, I could feel it. Not just in my knees but between my fingers: 68 degrees and dropping. I could feel the wave of people as they circled us and Sansom was obsessed with watching me sway in the middle of the yard, unruffled by the movement around me. My curt, tight smile that sometimes flashed a fang.. The way I swatted his hand when he tried to touch my thigh.
“I wanted to know the fabric of the garter.”
The way I cocked my head to the left and my mask: black latex, plain, tight shined bright under those starry little lights.
“What’s your name?” he said again.
My lips were drier than they looked but I had just applied a new cherry lip gloss and I decided to kiss him on the mouth to keep him quiet.
I had taken a few hits more of the lavender joint and felt free and strange and Sansom and I danced a bit. Giggling amorously towards him, he didn’t mind my constant denegation. I let him suck my neck for a second when I thought no one was watching but then I pushed him gently back.
“What’s your name, mate?”
Pointing to his name tag, he smirked and then pointed past me. I turned to see a crowd circle around the fire. Four people were carrying chairs and others were sitting down on the logs that were already there. Their movements seemed synchronized. It’s the weed. It’s their masks. They floated in the lights. I was gazing upward at the lights missing the announcement, letting Sansom’s tongue glide its way up to my right earlobe. Now, holding my hand: mine, and leading me towards the fire. The angel somewhere scowling, gone. My knees numb from standing.
“Here,” he led me to a white wicker chair that felt reserved for someone else but here I was. Taking his place on the log next to me, he continued stroking my knuckles and I hadn’t talked to anyone else the entire time. There were two women in front of me: both in all black and both had jet black bob wigs, or so I thought, black masks like mine; plain and red lips like mine, black long fingernails. Kind of like mine except mine were red. They were dressed like twins. And I was dressed like them. I smiled. They smiled. They had fangs.
“Here you go,” someone tapped me.
I turned around, saw the other pirate hand me the joint. The angel must be here.
“Oh, no thank you. I’m ripe.”
He shrugged and passed it to Sansom who gestured to him to bend over so he could whisper something. Something in my stomach hurt. I grabbed it on instinct and felt the walls closing in. Next to me sat another man in a white folding beach chair. He was dark with dark features and a wild metal mask: blue with silver designs, kind of like swirls and the edges looked like they could cut. Decorative, you would see it hanging on a wall. . He was wearing a shiny blue suit to match. And a cape. My gaze lingered on him because when he moved the suit changed from blue to silver and because I recognized him.
“Ok!” A woman in a long white dress clapped her hands.
I shot back. I could feel the twins eyes boring but I focused on the leader. She had short pink hair and a flower crown and her name tag read “Freya.”
The man with the dark features unprovoked leaned towards me and said, “Originally, the theme was a midsummer’s dream in outer space.”
I saw that the top of his mask had two pointy antlers on top with balls on them. Like the old alien suits. It was blue too the coil springs, the balls, the headband. My mouth dropped open but I don’t know why.
“We are going to play my favorite game,” the hostess continued. “It’s called Thirteen Stories and we only play when there are thirteen people left.”
I turned back and she looked right at me. Lowered her head in a nod as if including me. That I am the thirteenth in the white wicker chair. My right leg was trembling slightly. I bit my lip. I turned to the fire.
“For those who are new, it is a Halloween tradition. We each tell a story; a scary story and the person who starts sets the theme. Everyone must follow the theme.”
A guy to the right of my dark friend held up a beer my direction. I could see him in my periphery. He raised his eyebrows at me. I shook my head no. Suddenly, I was paralyzed. My leg was shaking but I felt unable to speak or swallow. I felt unable to move my hand from Sansom’s hand and to move my hand from the chair.
“We then each tell a story that follows the theme and whoever goes last….”
I don’t know how I got here.
“…they are cursed.”
I don’t know how to get up.
“Legend has it, the rest of the year, they will be living this story. So it is in your best interest to go first, or to jump in fast.”
“Wouldn’t we just tell a story in our favor, Frey?” a pink fairy looking woman asked.
I don’t remember how to walk.
“Well the theme of this year is the narrator’s unexpected death and I’ll go first,” she said.
Don’t get up and don’t squirm.
“The first story is called The Woman Who Saw Her Own Death.”
Don’t breathe and don’t choke.
Inside, the place was lit with candles and there were a few mingling around the snack table in the kitchen but I could see past that everyone was out back.
“Here,” my friend handed me a joint. “It’s got lavender in it.”
“Perfect. I could use the relaxation.”
“You have beautiful eyes,” he said.
I did not tell him I was already stoned nor that I don’t do well in crowds but merely sucked the paper and felt it burn in my throat.
“Thank you,” I cough. “Take me to the backyard.”
I hand it back. We walk past the crowd and I realize his friend and the angel are behind me, shuffling and I hear her murmur but can’t make out what she said.
“First,” he says. “Pardon me, mate.”
I did not realize at first he had an Australian accent which made it more interesting.
“Greetings,” I say to the man he pushed aside.
I am seven inches taller than I am, towering over the women in the room.
“You have to wear a name tag,” he hands me a black sharpie.
“I don’t have to do anything, mate,” I say mimicking his accent.
“Haha,” he squints at me. “True. Where are you from?”
Outside, it was cooler and I was relieved to be out there as the weed was getting to me. The crowd was getting to me too.
“Unseasonably warm, yeah?” Sansom was blathering.
I found it hard to focus and kept nodding, clutching the seltzer in my hands. He touched my hand lightly admiring my long, red acrylics and it didn’t bother me though I hissed.
“What’s your name?” he yelled over the music.
It was an accordion synthesizer. There had been no lyrics since I had been standing here which felt like an hour but I was certain only fifteen minutes had passed. My eyes darted around the room. One index nail pointing to the name tag.
“Isn’t that part of the game? We don’t tell anyone?”
Everyone was wearing a mask of some sort. The angel had one of those ones you held the whole time with big white feathers at the top and pearls lining the edges. All white.
“How did you get here?” Sansom asked.
“I walked, mate.”
“Haha, I mean, like, who invited you?”
I touched his arm and he forgot the rest.
We should match.
My cape hit a woman’s mini skirt as I balanced myself on my right foot, baring down and feeling the shock through my knee; a sudden current of flame. Twenty five blocks in and in closed toed black velvet knee highs to boot. Letting a little ssssts escape my mouth,I stood up straight so as not to aggravate my thigh any more, draw attention, centering my torso and with grace (and because I didn’t want to touch anyone), I paused. I faced the women and then pulled my left heel straight out of the crack.
“Excuse me,” I said again to the Barbie in all pink sequins.
Not jealous but dazed, amazed at her attention to detail; her hair pulled back, tense. I remember what that felt like as a kid; so tight the creases of your forehead hurt. Maybe she’s a mermaid. She had a turquoise shell at the top of her head, pinned. Neat. Blowing her cigarette my way. Her nails long, clear with just the tips colored silver and sparkling. Blue eyes. She winked at me. I nodded, dizzy for the moment and back in time.
We should match.
“Excuse me,” I repeated, turning to the rest of the crowd.
“Excuse me,” I barrelled
Politeness was the indelible torch I carried. Way was made and things broke at the green light. The crowd was just out front of the building for a smoke. The clacking of my heels became louder as I moved away from the speakers, the crowd, a blaring of a horn somewhere behind me. Some blue eyes. My knees on fire.
We should all match.
“We should all match,” I say out loud.
I picked up the edge of my cape and tossed it over my shoulder so it hit him as I passed. Underneath my hood, I smile but I don’t turn around and I don’t reach out. Thirty blocks in and counting. Heels clacking. Knees on fire: resolute and willful.
I could hear their caroling before I even arrived, at least ten feet from the door; the chorus of guffaws and low fi. That’s how I found them. Walking up to the door with nothing in my hand save the same red and white straw I’d been gnawing on for days, covered in my saliva, anyone who touched it would be dead. My key around my neck attached to one gold chain.
A group of two men and one woman turned towards me. The men were both pirates, I supposed. They had patches on their eyes and the woman looked like an angel in all white with wings and a little white halo, gold star streamers dangling down.
“Hi there,” the man nearest me said leaning on the railing. Holding a beer can in his hand, he gestured to blue cooler at the top of the stoop. “Want one?”“No, thank you.”
“We have other party favors,” his companion interjected.
They were both wearing black and white striped shirts and black palazzo plants and a red kerchief so they matched. Leaning on opposite railings, they looked similar. Both had sandy brown hair though one was a little taller than the other. I could only see the one on the right’s name tag: Samson. She was on the ground, leaning on the bottom part closest to the window. From my periphery, I could see her arms were crossed and her hair was long and dark. I could also see a little orange pumpkin light glowing from inside.
“Oh yeah?”I kept my focus on Sansom.
A tingle went through my right arm as she eyed me up and down but didn’t say anything. I didn’t look at her once.
“Would you like to come in and see?” the taller man on the left said. The one who offered me the beer.
“Yes,” I smiled real big showing my fangs. “I would love that.”
you? you will know me by
the devil etched squarely on
my thigh and my ascetic
right arm, twitching
for something to grab,
my left nail picking
at the scripture
In God We Trust,
circling a web on
my inner elbow
from the plucking.
my nails are unpainted,
filth-tipped and broken.
my clavicle is jutting,
as are my eyelids,
neck perched, gazing upwards
and down at you,
the long legs beaded with sweat,
you found me exhausted
watching it drip
from my lips
like little fits of rave
and fury; my concern
not being water,
or the saliva
leaking to my bottom lip
I clear my throat again.
you invite me in.
we needed a spark.
I grin full tooth to
show you my new