The Hour of Forgiveness – by Anna Keeler

The Hour of Forgiveness

Brazen may have laid down the title of ‘loving boyfriend’ long ago, but if there was one thing he thought he did right, it was protection. His body fabricated intuition from the same collagen as his primordial stone eyes, and this concept became a constant in his personality. He anticipated words that flinched against the throats that birthed them, catching the lifeless bodies of secrets before they could thump against the floor. Even when his own legs were cut from out beneath him, he found the vigor to put others first. But his boldened nature could never be retroactive.

He may have cared for Allegheny, but he couldn’t provide protection.

He spent countless nights at her side, trying to stitch his fingers between hers and pull her from the past into the present and despite his sustained presence at her side, he could shake the feeling of loneliness from her psyche. That same feeling that wasn’t kind enough to grow fangs and claws, but rather, took on the exterior of an angel. One that took memories and mangled them into soft words which were pooled in the dips along her ears. Words that were far worse than she would ever use for herself.

It’s my fault.          

I know that I deserved it.

It was moments like these when those lies got to her. “Brazen, I want to be alone.”

Her words ticked across his face, but didn’t break the skin. “No,” he said. “You don’t want to be alone.” She made an effort to look cross, toneless tears betraying her. “I don’t need anyone else telling me what I want.”

And it was those moments that made him want to take his body apart brick by brick and enclose her in hyperbole and metaphor; the sweat built into his muscle that could absorb tears, the bones that were reconstructed on the prospect of survival. Most important, a mind too durable to be occupied by gray matter and lungs assembled on the backbones of bloody screams. A citadel of himself wasn’t capable of  her salvation — he knew that, as much as it pained him to admit. But it would take the burden of durability off her shoulders for a moment.

Deep down he knew that wouldn’t be enough.

Not when Allegheny dragged around the carcass of that inner child, and on her worse days, left her strapped across her spine. She let that girl’s tears sever the vertebrae with barbed wire, and color anemic blood with sickled crayons. She fed her, bathed her, even well after the notion of innocence was purged from her vocabulary.

She lets that little girl abuse her, in words that he can never see.

On your feet. You know you deserved what you got.     

He tried, in vain, to carry both girls, both of them terrified to divorce from the past. Because carving away those ties meant acknowledging they exist.

“I love you,” was all he could offer.

Peeling back the sheet, he took her left arm in his hands, cradling her wrist close and safe. His fingers worked down the more sensitive areas, halting over the harsher, still stiff tissue. Like the rinds of a sabertooth’s jaw pooled their frustration into her flesh, isolating opal veins and branding them with the mnemonic of her turmoil.

The marks didn’t register in his mind as her scars. They should have belonged to someone else. As deep as she cut, she could never be un-molested. No matter how much blood she tried to pour into her former self, that girl was never coming back.

Her body was lifeless as she swallowed down sobs. Her words came weak, “Please don’t leave me here alone.” Her conflicted tone didn’t go unnoticed, nor did her hesitant moves. She wanted to be held. But didn’t feel like she deserved it.

He couldn’t love her. Another way he knows he’s failed.

That’s the only thing he seems to know, because he doesn’t know how to help her until she allows anyone inside those grottos. The ones she’s isolated from the world, because she was so afraid to work wade through them.

Wherever the thought came from, he surprised them both when he said, “I think it’s time that you forgave yourself.”

She sat upright for the first time in hours and let the conflict wage its battle inside her mind. Her silence was painful, like being trapped in the back of an alley with no option but to climb or face what’s feral. In her mind, those trepidations could fight against their secular constraints, any metaphor leash too overburden for sedation. It didn’t matter that the men who hurt her were dead, it mattered less that she was physically safe.

She couldn’t see Brazen. All she saw was her younger self. And for the first time, he saw her too, all bloody knees and plasma eyes, lips frisking a withered ‘no!’

He could tell she didn’t know that she’d screamed that word outloud. She didn’t hear that same word slip from his own tattered mouth.

This moment should have felt bigger, and in its own way, more cathartic. He should have shamelessly slipped back into the role of her patron. But through a lens of comprehension, the strength he once held somehow left him.

He held her and she cried, and she felt harder in his hold, like she’d aged ten years in the last few moments.

“I want to be alone,” she said, sobbing into his chest. Seconds later, “You’re too nice. I don’t deserve this. I don’t.”

Burying his face in a her hair, he realized she wasn’t stronger. In fact, her limbs and joints had become more disconnected. Her sobs curled into his neck, like she was trying to scale his plexus and bone and crawl into his skull for an escape. Because he was the one that was different, the one that would never treat her that way, and she indulged his herculean roots until they took hold inside her own skeleton and forced the bond of her shoulders and hip bones.

He pushed back at the thought of clemency, and the inclination for an end, and the brooding notion to think about himself.

“It’s not your fault,” he said, extorting his selfishness from the comment.

“Brazen. I’m not your fault either.” He pretended not to hear her, instead focusing on rubbing circles on her back.

“I’m sorry,” he said, doing his best to shelter her from his own defeat.

The foundation rippled from the inside, but he did his best to hold her form together.

Even when he failed, she’d forgive him in the morning.

annakeeler

Anna Keeler is a poet and fiction writer attending Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. Her work has been published or is upcoming on Poets.org, Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Red Fez Literary Journal, Indiana Voice Journal, Potluck Magazine, Leopardskin & Limes Literary Journal, The Merrimack Review, Cleaver Magazine, The Writing Disorder, Outsider Poetry, The Chaotic Review, and Smaeralit.

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Rod Says Number 12 Looks Just Like You – by Tessa Livingstone

Tell me, Reverend: is life so stinking cheap that you can throw it down the drain?

I’ve got a worthless, miserable little life, but I also have an instinct for survival.

 

I know I had a nervous breakdown. I know I had it on a plane.

I know it looks to you as if the same thing is happening again.

 

Look, there’s someone on the wing. I’m not imagining it; he’s out there!

Don’t look, he’s not out there now. He jumps away when you see him.

 

Fasten your seatbelt, sir. We must muddle through these things.

Push up and push out because if you stop, it’ll get you by the throat.

 

The truth is, this isn’t real flesh. There aren’t any real nerves under there.

Each of us woke up one moment and here we were in the darkness:

 

No knowledge of what went before. No understanding of what is now.

No knowledge of what will be.

 

Your whole life has been a fantasy, a parade of illusions,

and now you can have it all to yourself.

 

Look! Remember what I told you before, about seeing something outside?

There’s a man out there. A—a gremlin! He’s tampering with the engine.

 

Hurry, hurry! He’s out there! Look, Reverend, he’s pulling up one of the cowlings!

There’s a man out there! Would you look! Would you please look in the name of—

tessalivingstoneTessa Livingstone lives and writes in Portland, Oregon with her haunted clown doll, Jack.

celestial 13 anomaly / add colour to taste – by Peter Bracking

celestial 13 anomaly

infinitely rarer than cerulean moons

artemis armed gorged to burst edge

one : a whole lot of zeros

full this isolated 13

Friday

rarer than night overcast g street june evercold

neon breathes whiskey

pheromones disguised as musk

sing antennae jolts

desparate dna dance

moves earth and sky wheels

early am wakeup sirens rude

unlucky

 

unique as that

 

add colour to taste

mix the light now

fold it impossibly in into itself

producing crenelated twilight creeping preceding

that bowl of shy city stars soon

this mix

light enfolding dark

balancing dancing a pinheadful

at a time

peterbracking

Peter Bracking tells tall tales. Earth point: a tropical metropolis

 

Words have literally been published from ocean to ocean to ocean by some really great literary mags in a growing number of countries on half the inhabited continents.

 

The only occupation is being a beach bum. Peter is the artistic director of Utter Stories.

 

Self aggrandizement: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017AFRGEK

http://utterstories.wordpress.com

Poetry Collection – by Adam Levon Brown

live

I exist in the shadows

of an empty stomach

and broken dreams

I strive for the stars

while sitting amongst

the windswept clouds

I stare in the direction

of the soliloquy sun

while biding my time

I jump at the opportunity

to share a piece of myself

in the bleak December rains

I live for the unexpected

and the train-songs sung

by the unknown poet.

 

Gifts of Burden

I carry around my misery

like a bag of presents

I present them to everyone

I meet along the arduous journey

Suffering for you, self-pity for them

and a bit of darkness to top it all off

By giving these gifts away, I am

freed to experience positive emotions

By giving these gifts away, I can

relate to you in ways that simple

Consumerism fails to do.

I will walk the lonely road

and settle in silence when

the day is over and done.

 

Architect of Dreams

The madness washes

over me like waves of relief

I can feel my mind

begin to warp

into the multi-headed

hydra

I push open the door

and reveal my true being

That of both a saint and

a sinner, hellbent to

callous the inner

markings of my heart

I drop the multitudes

of philosophical

progeny which

have been created

I run naked

through the realms

of paradoxical dreams

 

Matrimony of Thoughts

Ricocheting off my brain

like cedar doors on a hot, humid day

Your voice cannot penetrate

the inner workings of peripheral

nightshade

Moody malignancy

performs the ensemble

in fast forward renaissance

fashion

Split the atom and

now we end

adambrown

Adam Levon Brown is a published author, poet, amateur photographer, and cat lover. He is owner of Madness Muse Press; a micro-press that publishes dark poetry, and a book  reviewer for Five 2 One Magazine.

Poetry Collection – by C.C. Russell

ANOTHER POEM ABOUT D.

Simply because sometimes

when I come back

to this town,

 

all I want

is to trace the route

through the red

push-pins on the map

of us

 

to see if anything

is left.

 

Previously published in Arsenic Lobster – 2015 anthology

 

FOOTNOTE

I want to be a footnote in your single sentence, a history of waters and the chemical constitution of summer air – outlined and credited, denoted in small subscript by a single digit.  I want to be the wordy explanation of your choice of dialect – your justification.  I want to be quoted, if even indirectly, by your life.  I want to be a clean reference, further proof to back you up.  I want to be a footnote in your single sentence, a footnote longer than the sentence itself, the convoluted back-story behind the words that have been decided on, the words that – though diminuitive – finally say all that needed saying.

 

   Previously published in Firewords Quarterly

 

I SUPPOSE I SHOULD HAVE TOLD YOU

The rain across your face, hair stuck

in backwards commas to your forehead,

I suppose I should have said it –

something stupid, sentimental.

 

Wyoming fall trees, black branches

against slowly whitening sky,

we touched palms to fingers;

a quiet kind of language.

 

We walked together, coats catching

in a slow sort of friction.  We taught each other

small new words for anger, for lust,

slight words towards forgiveness.

 

Hours in a parked car

trying out new sets of rules,

how to break each one.

The night you asked me to kiss you.

 

Just once.  And the night I said no.

Ice formed on the windows, your face –

cracked shadow.   Suppose I would have.

 

Previously published (print only) in Grasslimb

 

PHOTOGRAPH – Jennifer 1993

 

She looks up from her Taco Bell

as the flash

snaps her skin to light,

raises her middle finger

towards the ceiling

of the trailer, the hand

thrust towards the lens.

 

If I’m right, this is the final picture

that I ever took of her.

If I’m right, I deserved

the gesture.

 

A SIMPLE POEM FOR AHMED AL-JUMAILI

 

For I have also stopped

to marvel

at snowfall.

 

I have photographed

moments of wonder

in the attempt

to remember.

 

I have also trusted

in the sanctity

of my neighbors.

 

I have stood

and heard

the simple crack

of gunfire.

 

I have been witness

to the same nights as you

and I am still

here.

 

For that, I offer

my apologies,

small as they may seem

 

and a pledge

to remember

your name.

 

ccrussellC.C. Russell lives in Casper, Wyoming with his wife and daughter.  His writing has recently appeared in such places as Tahoma Literary Review, Word Riot, Rattle, and The Colorado Review.  His short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best of the Net.  He has held jobs in a wide range of vocations – everything from graveyard shift convenience store clerk to retail management with stops along the way as dive bar dj and swimming pool maintenance.  He has also lived in New York and Ohio.  He can be found on Twitter @c_c_russell384909712_e76e91d716_o

Yesterday – by Paul Tristram

Yesterday

She twirled it around

her finger,

it didn’t break

because she

willed it not to.

Yesterday didn’t matter

and tomorrow

can fuck right off.

It’s jagged

when you think of it.

So don’t fool yourself,

it’s a grind unacceptable,

a price too fucked up

to pay.

There’s no logic

in the teeth

behind you.

And that is not

the correct way to play.

paultristram

Paul Tristram is a Welsh writer who has poems, short stories, sketches and photography
published in many publications around the world, he yearns to tattoo porcelain bridesmaids
instead of digging empty graves for innocence at midnight; this too may pass, yet.
Buy his books ‘Scribblings Of A Madman’ (Lit Fest Press)  http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1943170096
‘Poetry From The Nearest Barstool’ at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1326241036

And a split poetry book ‘The Raven And The Vagabond Heart’ with Bethany W Pope
at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1326415204

You can also read his poems and stories here! http://paultristram.blogspot.co.uk/

Perception – by Kate Murdoch

Perception

It was his favourite jacket. Distressed brown leather, supple and buttery. Jana held it in front of the wardrobe, a smile curved on her lips. A mania gripped her and she seized his shoes, shirts and trousers, letting them fall to the floor. A satisfying pile of his things mounted at her feet.

She remembered seeing the girl at a drink’s night they attended. Fitted red dress, honey-coloured hair reaching her waist. A friend of a friend.

The coat hangers screeched as she searched for prized garments. The black velvet jacket, the linen shirts from Paris. The pile smelt of him, so she held her breath.

Before he left, she had trailed him around the house, holding her wine glass so tightly she thought it might break. ‘What are you going to do?’ she demanded.

‘I’m not sure,’ said Alec, his palm pressed to his forehead. ‘I need to think, to figure things out.’

The door clicked shut behind him and she slid down the wall onto her haunches. She wailed, her wet face in cradled in her hands. Somehow she managed to drag herself to bed.

When she woke the following morning the house was still. She stared at the other side of the bed, smooth and unwrinkled, before rising and going to the window. A thick fog blanketed the grass, obscuring everything but the roof of the steel shed. She shivered and pulled on her dressing gown, rubbing her arms.

Alec’s guitar was kept in a wall-mounted glass case in the study—it was a midnight blue Fender Stratocaster. The key to the case was kept in the top drawer of the desk. For a moment she felt guilty, then remembered the way he had showered after work, calling out a cursory greeting as he took the stairs three at a time. There was also the endless beeping of his phone and his indecent haste to pick it up.

Jana jostled the key in the lock on the frame. The door of the case swung open and she lifted the guitar from its hooks. She retrieved an old clothes rack from the garage and positioned it on the nature strip. Then, armload by armload, she carried his clothes outside and hung them. The final item was the guitar, which she placed on the grass in front of the rack. She leant a piece of cardboard against it with the message—‘Free to take.’

Jana peered out the window, watching as the neighbours crept up to the display, glanced around and chose items.

It did not take long for everything to go. The guitar was taken by a bald man, his scalp gleaming pink. He squinted through gold-framed glasses and fingered the strings before tucking his prize under his arm. He scanned the street and loped towards his car, the engine still purring.

Jana was heating soup on the stove when the doorbell rang. She turned off the gas and hurried to the door. It was Alec. He barged inside, his movements charged.

‘I need to speak with you.’

‘Of course,’ she said, ‘come and sit down.’

‘No, Jana. It’s over.’

‘Are you going to live with her?’

‘With who?’

‘Your new girlfriend.’

‘Jana, I’ve already told you, there’s no one else. I’m leaving because there are only so many accusations I can take. Your trust issues are driving me insane. You are insane.’

‘What about all the showering then?’

‘I’ve been going to the gym after work. I told you that as well.’

‘Your phone beeping all the time?’

‘My boss—we’ve had a new client and he needed my help with lots of complications. Again, I explained this to you many times. This is pointless, I’m going upstairs to get my things.’

‘They’re all gone, Alec.’

He narrowed his eyes. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Exactly what I said.’

‘Where are they?’

‘I put them outside and people took them.’

Alec paled and sprinted to the study, his footfalls echoing on the tiles. There was an anguished yelp, then several muffled thumps.

‘YOU BITCH!’

He marched back into the hallway and stood before her, his pupils black and his skin flushed maroon. He raised his hand and dropped it, breathing hard through his mouth.

‘I’m sorry, Alec. I believe you about the girl. Can you forgive me?’ Jana’s voice shook.

His gaze was fixed on a point beyond her shoulder. ‘I don’t know. But I sure as hell can’t live with you.’

The door rattled in its frame as he slammed it behind him.

katemurdoch

Kate exhibited widely as a painter before turning her hand to writing. In between writing historical fiction, she enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction.

 

Her stories have appeared in Eunoia Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Flash Fiction Press, Spelk Fiction, Ink In Thirds magazine, and Visible Ink.

 

She writes at her blog: kabiba.wordpress.com

Lovesong of the Damaged – by Ruma Chakravarti

Can you tell me

How I should feel?

You had laughed to hear me ask.

That first time you touched, that second time we kissed.

But I was unsmiling, questions in my eyes

And you unable to comprehend

Could only wonder at the demons in my past.

You were born in a different land, under the best of stars

I was born to joy suppressed, to questions, to unfulfilled hope.

You were given the best of things, the choicest piece, the fullest glass

I grew knowing I would have to share, that I was weak, needing a man’s care,

Can you tell me why it was that I was second class?

I was still a girl, when the change began

They said it meant I was now a woman

I wondered why it needed proving with blood.

When I had grown to think of being woman as my fate

What did blood do to stop the prying eyes on the street?

Would my blood now stop the seeking eyes and hands of men I meet?

I still remember being up on the roof high above it all

The teenage servant my uncles had

He was given the duty of watching their children play

He singled me out for one special game

Because you are so beautiful he would say.

I remember washing my face at the tap

To wash his spit off my skin

But other memories of the ugliness

Are seared into my mind, I dare not look too deep

Can you tell me how I should feel

Suddenly waking up from my sleep?

What should I say when you tease

Was this better than your first time

You seek to know how to please

How do I say I have never been first,

I have only stood by while things were being done.

rumaRuma Chakravarti was born in Ghana and schooled in India. After living in Africa, India and Papua New Guinea, she now calls Australia home. She has been blogging for six years, translating songs, poems and stories from her native Bengali language at the beginning. A year after she started three volumes of Ruma’s Tagore translations were published at the Kolkata Book Fair in 2013. Ruma has since been writing her own stuff and is currently working on what she hopes will be her first novel. Ruma credits her love of words to her schooling and her parents, but also to a wish to connect with people; something she missed out on as an only child growing up in remote parts of Africa. Personal experience has led Ruma to believe that everyone has a story to tell and that writers can help their readers feel linked to places.

Wishing You’d Stayed – by Amanda Eifert

Wishing You’d Stayed

It takes a great deal of pushing and a lot of poking to make me angry, but Yasmine knew which buttons to push. The neighbors never heard us fight until that night in August.

“You always want to be together and I can’t be with you all the time. I’ve work and sometimes I need alone time, and occasionally guy time,” I yell.

Yasmine flicks back her long brown hair and laughs at my rage.

“Look who’s upset,” she says softly. “It took me a long time to make you this angry, Logan. I thought you would never notice me. You’re always leaving me alone.”

“Yasmine, I’m extremely angry at you, scared for your mental well being, and scared for our relationship. But you think my words are a joke.?”

She laughs and slides her arm around my shoulders. I shrug her off. Yasmine huffs and crosses her arms.“Calm down Logan. Stop being such an ass. You’re married now, you don’t get space anymore.”

“Being married doesn’t mean no space.You never used to be this way Yasmine.You did stuff with your friends and visited relatives. You also worked as a successful interior designer.”

“Now, you stay home all day and you lay in bed. I’m trying to be a good husband and I know you’re not well, but one of us has to work and support us financially.You need to find ways to occupy your time. Read, write, watch TV, walk, or pretend you’re designing a new interior space.”

Yasmine smiled thinly at my suggestions. “I suppose you want me to keep visiting the psychiatrist, the doctor who says I’m suffering from depression because I lost our baby?” Tears leaked out of her deep brown eyes. I wiped them away.

“I think it’s best for you Yasmine. The psychiatrist makes a lot of sense. You’re sad, tearful, and you can barely make it out of bed. You’re also anxious and have terrible self-esteem right now. When I tell you you’re wonderful, talented, and beautiful, you don’t believe me. Yesterday, you said you believed you were nothing but a baby killer,” I said.

Yasmine smirks,”Before the baby died I believed your compliments. Now I don’t believe you’re telling me the truth. I look hideous and I’m in awful shape; I think you’re placating me. I believe you’d rather by anywhere than with me, Logan.”

“Listen,” I beg Yasmine, “When I said I need space, all I meant was I need some time each week where I can tie up loose ends from work. I also need a night each week or two, for my own mental stability. I need a few hours where I can forget and not deal with our issues.”

“I talked to your friends Becca and Lynn,” I tell her.. “They said they’d love to take turns hanging out with you one night a week if you’re okay with that? You guys could go see a movie, or go shopping, do something along those lines?”

Yasmine buries herself beneath the comforter on the couch.”I don’t want to see my friends, look at me? And I need you here Logan, I was thinking we could have another baby?”

“It’s not that I don’t want another baby with you sweet heart, ” I say carefully. “I keep telling you, it’s not your fault Jacob died. It happens to many woman with their first pregnancy. Right  now, you’re still recovering from losing Jacob,” I say.

Yasmine covers her ears,”I don’t want to hear it Logan. Stop talking about Jacob. It’s my fault he died; I didn’t take care of myself. Now I’m sick and I feel I can’t do anything. Everything makes me tired and I’m so mad at myself.”

I sit down beside her and rub her back, “Relax, we have time. Work on feeling better. Try to take a short walk, even around the block. Be in the sun on the patio to get more vitamin D and sleep whenever you need; however, you have to promise me you’ll take your pill.”

“I don’t want to! I hate my medication, Logan. It makes me feel foggy,” Yasmine complains.

“The doctor says in a month or so, when you’re used to the medication, the fogginess will go away. But you have to let your body get used to the anti-depressant. I notice when you take it, you’re much happier. You get out of bed and you make conversation. You sketch out designs for rooms,” I tell her.

“But Logan . . .”

“Please, for two-weeks, try taking your pill. If you don’t, the Doctor says you’ll have to go back into the hospital, Yasmine.”

Suddenly, she flys into a rage. Yasmine pushes me away  and screams, grabbing her car keys before I can catch her. She hurries into the elevator and the doors close before I can reach her. When I make it to her parking space, it’s empty. I never saw Yasmine again.

Yasmine’s my wife and it hurts me to know she could be anywhere and I can’t help her. I don’t know if she’s well or still suffering from depression. No one’s been able to find her, not even a private detective.

I grieved for Yasmine. It took me two-years before I started writing my stories down in journals. I thought, when Yasmine came back, she could read about what happened in my life after she left. I tried to make my journal entertaining for her to read.

Then they found her body. Parts of me which I never knew existed ached, when I learned Yasmine was dead. I’m not sure how they can find out her cause of death. But I’ve convinced myself I influenced her to commit suicide.

I tore the pages out of my journals; I had had them bound and printed into volumes for Yasmine to read. Now I know she will never be able to read what I wrote.

Broken and grieving, I destroy my journal volumes. All the typed pages scatter across the floor in our home office. Broken journals, like my heart.

How does one heal after hurting so long? After believing their other half couldn’t be dead? Reality is painful and final.

amandaeifertAmanda Eifert is a writer, blogger, and student from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She enjoys yoga, walking, drawing, the Edmonton sports scene, and spending time with her friends and family. Her blog is www.mandibelle16.wordpress.com and includes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction writing. She has her BA in English Literature from Concordia University of Edmonton.

HASH – by R.E Hengsterman

HASH

On any given day I put myself in a position of catastrophic failure. If you spend any time reading my words, you need to be keenly aware of this fact. And if you’ve invested any time in me, I am likely to disappoint. I only ask that you don’t deprive me the beauty of my destruction.

I would also say, don’t be too secure in your own normalcy. What happens to me could easily happen to you. And on this day, I wandered from one particular bad situation into another.

I notice her from a distance, across the street, through the crowd, and past the rush of life, standing solitary at a payphone. Yes, a payphone, one of few that remained. I suppose that was a sign in itself. But there was something more to her. Something I couldn’t shake.

It was her hair, a deliberate shade of red.

Enough so that my eyes follow the curves of her dress impulsively. There is taut fabric gathering among clenched fingers, and a slender, pale thigh.

Just beneath her neck, three buttons lay undone over the slope of her breast, causing no apparent concern. I watch her lips twist under the burden of cumbersome words, pushing anger into the phone. The witness of this leaves me feeling voyeuristic and dirty.

I see her look up in disgust. Then down in shame, her face flickering flush with panic, before emptying paleness onto the concrete. She shifts restlessly. Her feet bare, her body closed.

I move in her direction, and then stop; her eyes pinned to mine like sharpened tacks. There’s a dismissive shrug as she throws her hair into the sunlight, wispy shadows scattering across her face before the payphone slams the receiver. I catch sight of her alabaster skin glistening under the charge of emotion, fresh moisture pushing across the freckles that mark her chest. As I watch with curiosity, her body opens with a simple twist of shoulder and torso in opposition.

In a burst, she closes the distance, leaving space for our words to move slow and intimate.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

She hesitates, manipulating the buttons on her dress between the tips of her fingers, before the hint of need escapes. I am willingly pulled deeper into the distraction. And I realize we have no past.

“I need a ride,” the stranger says to which I respond with a quick nod.

Ten minutes pass before another word is spoken. I lean my head against the window and watch the buildings shadow long and ominous under the penetration of headlights. Doubt slowly creeps.

“You have any money?” she inquires.

“A little,” I answer.

Two stops later her motivation leads me to a house just off the main street. It sits odd but ordinary under the withdrawal of light. Together we cross the walk and hurry the stairs. A rusted rail groans but forgives my eager grasp.

Inside mirrors the out.

It was no time before the newly acquired product finds the coffee table, previous contents spilling onto the stained carpet, her oil-stained fingers moving with an efficiency that heightens my sensibilities. Within minutes of my third inhale, all feelings of connection leave my body. I float above the couch, above the house, above everything.

When I finally awake, the sun is pounding on my neck. My arms, outstretched and numb, drape the couch like a bird frozen in flight. My pants tangle my ankles, my cock sideways and limp. When I could, I swallow dry and unforgiving. A bottle of Jim Beam stands sentinel at my feet. The room is empty. The streets hum low, and the shadows retreat under the mounting sun. The darkness is now long absent.

Reality surfaces from the fog, she is gone; along with my wallet, keys, phone and unconsumed hash. It takes 45 minutes to force myself upright; the residual numbness muddling my limbs uncontrollably frantic. I navigate the hallway, stumbling onto the street to stop the first stranger who crosses the decaying sidewalk. The man pauses, peers deep into me with emptiness, and stands mouth half-cocked. A small amount of dried saliva paints the corners of his lips like a pale, dry clown.

When I ask the day, he mutters reluctantly “Tuesday,” drawing out the word as he stumbles, brushing my shoulder with annoyance and pity, his presence leaving a stain on my conscious.

I realize filth has emerged, something previously camouflaged by darkness and anticipation. I have lost time to this place, to this person. I have lost a piece of myself.

When I return to salvage my dignity days later, I find myself rapidly shuffling faces like a deck of cards; each stranger on display in a frantic search for something purposely red.

It was a good hour into the hunt that my body turns cold in contrast to the midday sun.

Motionless, I stand and watch the familiar unfold.

It was her hair he would notice first. Then her tight clothing drawn between clenched fingers exposing a slender, pale thigh.

I watch him; his eyes quickly moving down her dress.

In a blink, they drifted from sight. I sift through the crowd of humanity to the payphone. I lift the receiver. The phone is dead, the cord dangling free in the air.

reheng

R.E Hengsterman is a writer and film photographer who deconstructs the human experience through photographic images and words. He currently lives and writes in North Carolina. You can see more of his work at http://www.REHengsterman.com and find him on Twitter at @rehengsterman