Polemic

Jun. 25th, 2012 09:13 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


A little over an hour ago, Lisa Green did something I'd never seen before--she retreated. It happened in the East Village during our historic, long-overdue bar crawl. She'd briefly glimpsed someone she knew, and the effect it had on her had the same effect on our heartfelt, confusing, energizing, and, at times, shockingly violent reunion. Silently we went on a short walk, a train ride, and another short walk, until returning to my soon-to-be-vacated apartment. The whole time, questions crawled around inside of me, pleading to be unleashed--the biggest and most insistent being, "Who the fuck was that guy?" I kept them sedated, out of respect.

However, after she spent an unknown amount of time on my mattress, staring at the ceiling, I decided to skip past the question in question and dive into our inevitable back-and-forth: "You have to tell someone."

She shrugged weakly. "I'll get around to it eventually."

"That's new."

"No," she replied, "it's not."

"What I mean is, you're positive you're never talking, and then I usually drag it out of you anyway."

"Really?" She gave me a look that made me wonder if I'd just told her that purple rhinos were contemplating with shoes. "Really? Do you think that, after ten years, you know anything about me?"

Clearly this was a rhetorical question, so I didn't answer.

"I actually trust people now," she said. "More than one person who just might not be there tomorrow."

"Now just wait a minute."

"Just shut the fuck up, Max."

"Um." Though we were only seven when we'd met, we'd never used each other's first names. Originally it was because our relationship was strictly business. Later, it became a private joke. The only time I'd ever called her Lisa was during the heated conversation that would separate us for a decade. Even then she didn't call me Max. And now, as the word set fire to my ears, I was reminded of how I felt the moment I gave up my virginity, and how, even though it was only an imaginary construct that meant nothing, I'd lost something I could never own again.

"You don't get to talk anymore."

"Now you're just being dramatic," I told her.

"I said shut up!" she roared. "That's what you always do! You just keep talking and talking, and you never have to fucking deal with anything."

"I always listen to you."

"No, you fucking don't." Her voice was softening, but my heart was terrified. "You just let me give you something you can use to make yourself my hero. Like you were some kind of a fairy princess, and it was your job to turn me into a real boy."

"Your analogy is problematic."

She shook her head with the kind of disappointment that cause me more violence than her fists ever could. "You're just like him."

"Like who?"

"That's none of your goddamn business."

"Why the hell not?"

"Because you weren't there." She spat out the words. "Because you told me to go fuck myself, and you left me alone. And I had to fix myself. And I think I did a pretty damned good job of it."

She had, but that's not the part that stuck. "I left you alone because it was impossible to be your friend. You pushed me too far."

"I'm bipolar. I had no control over myself back then."

"So you had no control when you smashed the hell out of my kitchen? When you shoved our friend Angelo into that arroyo because he said something stupid about your breasts? When you ran around and had sex with every teenage boy who would? When you called the cops on my cousin and got him thrown in jail for dealing, where he still is?"

"Yes."

"You are so full of shit."

Her eyes narrowed. "You don't have any idea how mental illness works."

My eyes rolled. "Please. You should know better. When someone gets drunk and beats the shit out of his family, do the cops arrest the six-pack?" That was low of me, I admit, considering her father. But I was mad.

"Drinking's a choice."

"Maybe the first couple."

"Hitting's a choice."

"So were the times you hit me," I told her, "but I forgave you yesterday, because..." Shit. How should I put this? "Because I love you." It was a weird kind of love, and that something we both understood, even to this day. It went deeper than the love I felt for my family, and was sturdier than the love I've felt for anyone I've ever had sex with.

"I know," she sighed. "But I've moved on."

"I haven't."

"I'm sorry."

I needed to escape and slump down on a chair, but the closest thing I had to that in my now-empty apartment was a pair of barstools in the kitchen. I shuffled over there, because I couldn't stay here in my bedroom with her forever. I had no idea whether or not I wanted her to follow.

After a while, she did. "Do you ever want to look at me again after this?"

"It depends," I replied. "Do you miss me?"

"Oh, God yes," she sighed. "You have no idea."

"I probably do."

"What now?"

Another long hush smothered us.

I said, "Want another drink?"

"I thought you'd never ask."



to be continued...

Leviathan

May. 29th, 2012 09:37 am
i_17bingo: (Default)

The first thing she remembered about that day was how annoyed she was that she had to come onto campus during the summer. The asshole still lived on campus, even though he was, like her, a senior in a month and a half. Besides, she'd heard he was rich, so if he really felt like isolating himself, he could live anywhere. Whatever. It was one of those stupid fucking things he did to make himself seem cool and unique--kind of like that stupid fucking sweater of his.

Lisa's relationship with the asshole had cooled by that point, so they could actually take a small amount of comfort in each other. Maybe it was because their mutual presence brought to mind her boyfriend--his best friend. Maybe it was because she couldn't trust him to be alone with his own thoughts, and vice versa. What mattered was that it was Fourth of July weekend, her boyfriend was back home in Idaho, she was bored, she was hungry, and she was going to drag his skinny ass over to May's Cafe for a greasy omelet.

When he didn't answer the door, something she couldn't put a finger on thought it was a little weird. He was always home, except when he was at her place. Sure he was entitled to go to the restroom or buy cigarettes or something, but not if it inconvenienced her. She knocked again out of spite, and, for a second there, she thought she'd heard something. She knocked one more time, and there it was--a dull moan. She tried the knob, but it was locked. After a quick glance around to make sure no one was watching, she pulled out her men's wallet and removed a key.

What she was doing with that key was a long story, but the short version was this: before she came to college here, she ran with a pack of hoodlums. The alpha hooligan, a sneaky son of a bitch and aspiring criminal mastermind named Fuentes, taught her dozens of tips and tricks for breaking the law, none of which she'd forgotten. High up on the list was never to let a good skeleton key go to waste. Lucky for her, her boyfriend was an RA, and that meant he had access to every room in this dorm. She made herself a copy, not because she'd been planning on stealing anything, but rather to honor her heritage.

Besides, you never know what that kind of thing might come in handy. And that day, it was really fucking handy.

Inside, the asshole was lying on his back with his eyes half-open and a little stream of drool trickling down his cheek. It didn't even take her a second to figure out what was going on.

"No!" she whispered. "No, no, no!"

Breathing deeply, she tried to figure out what needed to happen next. "Think," she muttered, "what would Fuentes do?" He'd figure out what it was that was killing the person in question. That was easy. The asshole was overdosing on something. The next thing would need to get a little more specific. Something about the drool shouted opium, so she'd go with that. Next up was the delivery. It wasn't a needle, because there wasn't one lying around anywhere, and he wouldn't have had enough time to stash it. She was pretty sure that wasn't possible to smoke that much heroin, and besides, there was no smell. Snorting was out, or there would have been blood coming out of his nose. That left his stomach, and that she could do something about.

She crawled into bed next to him and listened to his chest to make sure he was still breathing. Satisfied, she stuck two fingers in his throat. He gagged, and, just before he threw up, she rolled him over so his head was hanging over the floor. She let him finish, and then repeated the procedure, just in case. When she was sure he was done, she wiped her hand on his stupid sweater and sat him up.

"Hey fuckface!" she yelled.

"Uh?" he mumbled.

Oh, thank God. "Yeah, you, fuckface!"

"'Appen?"

"You tell me, you rock-stupid motherfucker!"

He shook his head imperceptibly. "No."

"No, you're not going to tell me?"

"Don't," he coughed. "Stop."

"This is getting us nowhere. Phone." Because, honestly, she'd forgotten that hers was in her back pocket.

"Sweat," he sighed, "er."

It was right where he said it'd be. She called 911 and told them, "I have someone here that OD'd on something."

"I need you to calm down, ma'am, and tell me where you are."

"This is my calm voice!"

After a bit of back and forth, she stayed on the line while at the same time trying to stop him from nodding off. Just when she thought she couldn't keep it up anymore, the EMTs showed up and did whatever it was that EMTs do, and in no time, he was gone.

They had a lot of questions too: "Do you know what he took? Does he have a history of mental illness? Is he your boyfriend?" Shit like that. She answered the best she could--"No. I think so. Are you fucking kidding me?"--until they left her alone.

She held it in as long as she could, but really, that wasn't very long at all. She collapsed onto his bed and sobbed like a goddamned baby. Eventually, she pulled her shit together and remembered the phone in her hands. Sniffing, she sat up and scrolled through his contacts. A part of her was disappointed when L went by with no mention of her. That part, as much as she hated it, pushed her back down onto the mattress, where she cried some more.

Finally she returned to the phone and scrolled down to where it said "Mother." She hit send and waited.

On the other side of the phone, an exasperated voice sighed, "What is it this time, Sean?"

"Mrs. McCoy?"

"My name's not fucking McCoy."

"What the fuck is it then?" Lisa didn't know why she asked that question.

"Yoshida."

"That your first or last name?"

"Look," the voice snapped, "stop wasting my fucking time and tell me why you're calling me on my son's fucking phone."

"I think he tried to kill himself."

The other end went silent.

"Hello?"

"Goddammit!" the voice bellowed. "What the fuck?"

"I'm sorry."

"I can't keep dropping what I'm doing every time he pulls shit like this?"

"The fuck?"

"Are you with him right now?"

"No," Lisa replied.

"Well, where the fuck is he?"

"Hospital."

"Are you there with him?"

"No," Lisa told her, "I--"

"Well get the fuck over there and keep an eye on my son until I get there!"

"Okay?"

The call ended, and she stared at the phone for what was probably five minutes before she finally shook her head and muttered, "Asshole doesn't fall far from the bigger asshole, does it?"



to be continued...

A Taste

May. 21st, 2012 05:54 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

Her broken-in jeans and threadbare shirt, through which he could make out a dark bra, clashed delightfully with his antiseptic decor. "Fancy," she said.

"Yeah," he replied, "fancy."

"Must be nice being rich."

"Indeed it is."

She glanced around the apartment and asked, "Somebody actually lives here?"

He slung his jacket onto his easy chair, threw himself onto its matching slate gray sofa, loosened his tie, and kicked off his wingtips. "I fully intend to ignore your vague insult."

"Nothing vague about it," she told him. "Thanks for letting me stay over."

"Think nothing of it. It's a long cab ride to your place of residence."

"I wish you wouldn't use that kind of language around me."

"Request denied."

She grunted.

He pointed to a hallway. "The bedroom is through there. As I am, if anything, a gentleman, I will sleep out here."

"And if I don't want you to sleep out here?"

"Then you are welcome to use the sofa."

"You are such a doofus." She rolled her eyes. "Got anything to drink here?"

"If you'll recall, I've been sober longer than you've known of me."

"People have been known to change," she said. "You did."

"Not as much as you think." He popped out his gold-plated cufflinks, tossed them into an empty ashtray, and rolled up his sleeves. "Besides, alcohol was responsible for these."

It had been years since she'd seen the scars that ran down the underside of his forearms, and their presence almost seemed to comfort her. "You think it was the liquor that did that?"

"I've chosen to believe so."

"Fair enough," she sighed. "Mind if I have one?"

"Perhaps I should have been more clear regarding the absence of potables in this place."

"I brought my own." Sure enough, there was a stainless-steel flask in her purse. "Got any place to put this?"

"There are highball glasses in the cabinet near the refrigerator."

"I thought you told me you still don't drink."

He shrugged. "I pretend."

"You are so weird." After pouring herself a few fingers of whiskey, she leaned on the counter, as casually as if it belonged to her, and took a long swallow, locking stares with him. They said nothing for what could have been hours until she asked, "Miss it?"

"Every day."

"Still? It's been, what, seven years?"

"In my defense, I enjoyed alcohol a great deal."

"Fair enough." She studied him for a moment. "Remember what it tastes like?"

He frowned in concentration. "No," he replied sadly.

She strutted over to him, taking her time doing so. "Want a reminder?"

"Perhaps I should have been more clear regarding my sobriety."

Propping her knee on the sofa next to him and steadying herself with a hand on his shoulder, she took a deep drink of the whiskey. Her lips brushed against his, and instantly he recognized the sour sting of the rye. He leaned hungrily toward her, but she backed away.

Without a word, she dipped a finger in the glass, traced her lip with it, and kissed him again. Eager for the flavor of the drink and of her, he licked and nibbled, causing her to moan.

"More," he whispered when she pulled away again.

But when she raised the glass, he snatched it from her hand and placed it on the end table behind him, not caring that there was no coaster. Her hand, now free, stroked his cheek, drawing him in.

He brushed a lock of hair from her face. "More," he told her again.

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


The coolest thing about police interrogation rooms anywhere in the country is that they all look exactly like they do in the movies or on TV. There's variety, of course--some have shackles, while others don't, and their sizes differ, but that's really it; they're all decorated with a metal table and plastic aluminum chairs, and they're all lit by unflattering fluorescents. Through the two-way mirror--also a prerequisite--I watched a uniformed policeman enter, legal pad in hand. Tradition dictates that he should have had a file folder as well, but this was the twenty-first century, and paper costs money and trees.

"So your friend in the other room told us the whole story," he said.

"Are we really going to do this?" I asked him.

"Do what?"

"Well, there's no Good Cop with you, and you don't strike me as a Bad Cop, so I guess that makes you Mildly Irritated Cop."

"Shouldn't you be taking this a little more seriously?" he asked.

"Look, Officer..." I squinted at his name-tag. "... Reynolds. Do you know how many times I've done this?"

"A hundred and two."

"Seriously?"

His expression told me nothing.

"That's really cool." I reached into the pocket of my trademark brown leather pea coat and pulled out my notebook and pen, which, for some reason, they hadn't confiscated. "Can I write that down?"

"Be my guest." He clicked his own pen so he could record the upcoming conversation. "Do you know why you're here?"

"Because some guy in a trucker hat got punched in the face."

"And the girl..."

"Don't call her a girl to her face," I interrupted. "She hates that."

"... woman with you, a Lisa Green, states that you were punched in the stomach."

"True."

"Did you happen to see who did it?"

"I did not," I replied. "I'm assuming it was the same guy." It wasn't.

"That seems unlikely."

"The bar was kind of crowded, and my attention was already occupied."

"By what?"

I smirked. "By the ladies. The attention-getting ladies, if you catch my drift."

If he had, he didn't let on. Definitely Irritated Cop. "Why did you volunteer to come in to sign an affidavit then?"

"I didn't," I replied. "My friend did."

"She gave us a description of a white male, age eighteen to thirty-five, dressed in blue jeans and a denim jacket."

"That could be anybody."

He rolled his eyes. "The victim said he didn't know who assaulted him either, so he's not pressing charges." That was probably because he didn't want to admit that a diminutive woman knocked him out with one punch. "That said, between you and me, were you the one who did it?"

I snorted. "If I had, my knuckles would be broken, and he wouldn't have suffered a concussion. I'm a wimp, Officer."

"I see." He jotted that down. "So you think it was your companion?"

"She hits like a girl." Well, a cave girl. Especially when somebody knocks the wind out of me.

"I thought you said she didn't like to be called a girl."

"There's no reason that statement has to leave the room, is there?"

He shook his head.

"Then she hits like a girl."

"Is that a no?"

"That is a 'I can't tell you for certain.'"

He stood and said, "Mr. Fuentes, we don't want to take up anymore of your time." What he meant was that he didn't want me to take up anymore of his time, but calling him on that was a good way to get pepper-spray in my face. "You can go ahead and check out and go your own way."

"Do I need to sign anything?"

"Only whatever Roger gives you when you check out."

"Roger?" I both grinned and frowned. "Is he ever not at that desk?"

"Not as far as I know." Heading for the door, he recommended, "Stay out of trouble, Mr. Fuentes."

That wasn't likely. "Have a nice evening, Officer!"

He grunted.

After I'd been processed, I exited the building, only to be greeted by Lisa, who was leaning against a lamppost, lighting a joint.

"You've got balls of solid steel," I told her, "going into a police station with an eighth of weed in your sock."

"Being here with you after all these years," she replied, "inspired me to act out."

I chuckled. "Why don't we head back to the Village and find ourselves bar without fisticuffs on tap."

She held out her arm, and I wrapped mine around it. "Let's."

A quick train ride later, we wandered the narrow, vibrant streets of my favorite neighborhood in which to drink a lot. While contemplating a well-worn pub, a douchebag in a gray, three-piece suit, a black shirt, a white tie, and a camel-hair overcoat rounded the corner, thus lowering the tone. Something about the way he studied us with his expensive, horn-rimmed glasses and looked away as if we weren't there made me want to break my knuckles on his nose. It didn't help that he was informing his cell phone, "Our business partnership goes into full effect at the start of the next quarter. I suggest that, between then and now, you grant Mr. Franklin sole contact with my company, inasmuch as you can't be trusted to ..."

All of the color drained from Lisa's face. "Wait a fucking minute! I know that asshole's voice!" She then squeaked, "Sean?"

The douchebag turned back around, this time with his eyes wider than I'd ever seen anybody's get. "Fuck me in the ear!" he replied before dropping his phone and running like hell.

"What the fuck was that?" I asked, intending the question for anyone who might be listening.

"Take me home," Lisa replied.

"What... ?" I repeated.

"Take me home now."

Since she was my best friend in the history of the entire world, I obeyed, but not before picking up the discarded cell and pocketing it. I loved myself a good mystery.



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

She stared at the ceiling. It was easy last night to avoid thinking about the afternoon phone call, but here, hours before the alarm would go off, there would be no avoiding it. Maybe if she reached over and played with the boy snoring next to her, she could put it off a little while...

She sighed. Now that the phone call had taken root in her mind, she wouldn't be able to focus, and, given the boy's condition, she'd have to do most of the work. Fuck.

"Lisa Green?" the man at the other end of the line had asked yesterday afternoon.

"Speaking," she'd told him.

"This is Steve Hartmann? From CUNY? In New York?"

For just a second, her heart and lungs had just stopped. "Hi?"

"I wanted to talk to you about your CV and letters of recommendation. Do you think it would be possible to schedule an interview sometime this coming Thursday or Friday?"

"Yes."

"I know it's short notice," he'd apologized.

"I can be there."

"But we need to fill the position next semester."

"I can make it work."

"And you live in Montreal, and most of the applicants live in the area, but you are extremely qualified, and we'd really like to meet you in person."

Ordinarily, she'd pick that time to shout to get this guy's attention, but this was someone whose good graces were crucial to her future. She decided to wait until he finished.

She was glad she did, because he had good news: "We're aware of the hardship this will be, so we'd like to reimburse you for your airfare." And bad news: "But due to budget cuts, you're on your own for sleeping accommodations."

"I'll see you Friday."

Clearly, she hadn't thought this out. She couldn't really afford to get a motel--the flight would come close to maxing out her credit card. She could always stay at a friend's place, but she didn't have any friends in New York. She did know people there, but one she didn't want to see again, and the other didn't want to see her again.

Fuck.

As quietly as she could, she rolled out of bed into a her jeans, pulled on a pair of heavy socks, shrugged on a parka, and tiptoed to her balcony. She stopped when, for a just second, and for the first time she could remember, she thought the weight in her jacket pocket was a half-empty pack of cigarettes with a lighter stuffed into it. And for just a second, she was so relieved that she didn't have to ride out the sting of this bitch-slap of a day alone. And then she realized it was only a phone.

Not long after Steve Hartmann had called her, she'd met her boyfriend at that franchise coffee bar, just like they always did after classes, squirming in her seat.

Her grin echoed in his face as he sat down and asked, "What's got you all worked up, babe?"

"I'm going to New York!"

He'd frowned. "When?"

"This weekend!" She shrugged. "Well, Friday."

"But..."

She always found his confusion adorable. Even more adorable was how easy it was to make him that way.

"But," he continued, "we're going to that dinner party at Gabe and Marilyn's this weekend."

"They'll understand."

"I don't understand."

She'd fought off the urge to keep herself from squealing like a little girl, because that's something Lisa Green never did. "CUNY!"

His eyes widened in disbelief.

"It's only an interview," she clarified, "but they practically begged me to come in. That's a great sign, don't you think?"

"What if they make an offer?"

"I'll pretend to play hardball, but I'm going to take what they can give me."

"Oh."

It was then that she recognized that the disbelief wasn't the kind of giddy excitement she deserved.

"What do you mean, Oh?"

"Aren't we going to discuss this?"

"We already discussed this," she reminded him.

He didn't reply.

"You told me I should go for it. That I needed to go for it. You know how much this means to me."

"I don't know if I'm ready to deal with this," he breathed. "This changes everything."

"You said..."

"It was easy to say that when I didn't think you'd get the job."

She set her jaw and took a deep breath through her nose. "Brody, that has to be the coldest way anybody has ever dumped me."

"Wait a minute," he said. "I never said anything about dumping you!"

"You did just now."

"We can't end this because of that!" he pleaded. "We're going to move in together!"

"You just saved yourself some trouble then."

"Come on, babe! I'm sorry!"

"So am I." She stood up and whipped her jacket off the back of her chair.

"But I love you."

She loved him too, but, Jesus. Did he really think that? She had to get out of there.

"Don't go, Lisa."

But she did.

Now, as the cold air burned her lungs, she asked herself if she'd overreacted. The answer was easy; she had. Still, this simplified things. Five and a half months was hardly enough of a relationship to bear the burden of long-distance--or even a mutual move. And it sure as hell wasn't long enough put up with that kind of shit coming out of his mouth. Besides, he hadn't called at all over the past nine hours. He was probably waiting for her to apologize. He didn't know her at all.

Still, she felt like such an asshole.

Goddammit. How the hell was she supposed to dazzle the folks in New York with this Brody-shaped hole sucking her in?

She took her phone out of her pocket and checked the time. Four thirty. Her alarm wouldn't go off for another hour and a half. The best way to pass the time would be to get her mind off of things she couldn't fix right now, and the only idea she had to do that would be to go inside and fuck the boy in her bed.



to be continued...

Coprolite

Jan. 27th, 2012 08:34 am
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


When her alarm went off at six a.m., her first impulse was to smash it to death with the table lamp. Instead, she held the urge back, picked up the phone, moaned, and shut it off. She rolled out of bed and rested her heels on the hardwood, cold-as-fuck floor and came close to crying out the dirtiest word that came to mind that day, just like she wanted to every morning. And, just like every morning, she swallowed it. This was her own fault for moving to goddamned Canada after growing up in a goddamn desert.

New Mexico. Shit. What did she have to go thinking about that for?

She closed her eyes, took a breath, and restrained the thoughts that wanted desperately to run there, steering them in the direction of the day ahead.

Shit. That didn't help.

She focused on the next ninety minutes.

That did it.

As she shuffled into the bathroom, her hand instinctively swept up a bottle of mood stabilizers and fumbled fruitlessly with the childproof lid. She barely kept herself from hurling it at the wall. After a great deal of concentration, she finally got the pills down her throat, leaving her free to speculate on the person watching her on the other side of the sink. Five years ago, that person would have been hung over. Ten years ago, she would have been crying. Twenty years ago, she would have been whining. This morning, she was calm, naked, and Zen with the events of yesterday.

She shook her head before wrapping her hair in a ponytail, slipping into a pair of track pants, pulling a sports bra over her head, making the necessary adjustments, zipping up a thick hoodie, and lacing up a pair of sneakers. On her way out the door, she leaned over to kiss the boy in her bed on the cheek. She wanted to tear off her clothes and fuck him, but she told herself she couldn't.

"Pete," she whispered, "I need to go to work."

"Why?" he mumbled.

"It's work."

"Oh." He rolled over. "Call me later?"

"If I feel like it."

Poor Pete--her perpetual rebound. She could tell he had been falling for her for a while now. She should probably stop calling him after days like yesterday, but she hated sleeping in a cold bed. Maybe she should just get a goddamn cat, like every other librarian.

It didn't take long to get to the gym, where she wrapped her hands and stretched. Here, in front of the heavy bag, her weight on the balls of her feet, her gloves up to keep from getting hit in the face again, it was okay to give in.

Five years ago, someone who maybe understood her more than anybody in the world--the person she hated most--walked out of her life.

One, two, one, two, one, six. Jab, straight right, jab, straight, right, jab, right uppercut. One, two, one, two, one, Sean.

Ten years ago, the closest friend she ever had up and quit on her.

One, two, three, two, five. Jab, straight right, left hook, straight right, left uppercut. One, two, three, two, Fuentes.

Twenty-five years ago, her mother was gone before they ever had a chance to get to know each other.

One, four, three, four, three, four, three, four, three, six. Jab, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right uppercut. One, Mom, Mom, Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! DAD!

Yesterday, her boyfriend said something she could only think of as a deal-breaker, leading to a pretty dramatic public breakup.

One, one, four, three, two, seven. Jab, jab, right hook, left hook, straight right, nut-punch. One, one four, three, two, Brody. Okay, so she made up seven.

She bounced back for a second and had to admit that she and love just didn't get along.

Over her shoulder, she caught a glimpse of some person bouncing around in the reflection of the room. Teeth clenched, sweat and tears stinging her eyes, muscles tight, lightning searing her bones, she looked like someone she used to know.

One more round to go: Six. Right uppercut. Me.

After a long shower, she didn't have to worry about holding anything back anymore--the medication had kicked in, taking care of most of it; the rest had been rinsed away. It had taken a long time for her to stop hating herself so much that the world wanted her gone; simultaneously, it had taken a long time for her to stop loving herself so much that the world wanted only to do her bidding. Now, with her collar straight, her hair swept back, and her makeup alluring-but-subtle, she was just another twenty-seven-year-old on her way to work.

A long day beckoned. She needed to have a talk with her more-likely-than-not-ex-boyfriend, she needed to figure out whether or not to keep stringing Pete along, and she needed to pick up her phone and call the man who'd told her specifically never to "ever fucking dare" ask him for anything ever again and ask him for something. In other words, she needed to clean up a series of messes she'd made. In other words, it was business as usual.

She studied the woman in front of her, through the rouge, the eye-shadow, lipstick, and brushed-out hair. "Yeah," Lisa Green said. "I'm still in there."

i_17bingo: (Default)

I know what those three little words mean. At sixteen, I'm not supposed to, but I do. They've been so diluted by music and television and movies that it seems pop culture's most touching uses of them is how they get substituted with little codes like "I know" and "Ditto." They still do mean something. I'm not stupid, you know.

Sometimes they're used to manipulate; my friend Hakim does that. Sometimes guys say them to each other when they're too drunk to know better; my friend Dusty does that with his frat brothers. Sometimes they're used to stop an argument; my sister and her boyfriend do that. Sometimes they're used as an apology; my step-uncle and aunt do that.

This is not what happened. She just whispered those three little words into my ear. Okay, it wasn't just those three little words. She started with three other words: "Maximiliano Alejandro Fuentes"--two big words and a medium-sized one, I guess, followed by those three little ones.

It started last night. Before that, it started in the afternoon, when I said, "I'm not getting naked. Not for anybody."

"Not even for Heather?" asked Hakim.

I did have to think about it. "Not even for Heather."

"Oh, come on!" he whined. "You made it to second base with her!"

I cleared my throat. "Third."

"So you've been naked."

"Well," I said, "we kept the rest of our clothes on."

"You must be the only sixteen-year-old who's never done it."

"Heather hasn't."

"I have," he told me.

"That's because you're a slut."

"Lisa has."

I stuck my fingers in my ears. "La, la, la-la, la!" Lisa has been my best friend since the first day she scrambled my huevos, so I wasn't going to think about her like that. Ever.

"Dude," Hakim insisted, "I'm not going skinny-dipping without you."

"That's wrong on so many levels."

He clarified, "I'm totally chickening out if you're not."

"But Ange and his girlfriend, Whatshername, said they'd go."

"Not the same."

"And..." I gulped. "... Lisa..."

"I get to see Lisa naked anytime I want."

"La, la, la-la, la!" I repeated.

"Come on, dude!"

"My name's not dude." And then, with utmost finality, I told him, "And I am not taking Heather skinny-dipping!"

And so last night I took Heather skinny-dipping.

Getting to that point was only a small challenge. The weaknesses in the security of the municipal swimming pool were the windows above the locker-room doors. These windows were really narrow, mind you, but, fortunately, Hakim was much, much narrower. He was tall enough that it only took the slightest boost to get him within reach, but, unfortunately, Hakim was as awkward as he was tall.

The only person with the strength and stubbornness to lift him up was Lisa, who steadied his legs with uncharacteristic patience. Her hands, perpetually grease-stained from the tune-ups she performed on her piece-of-shit truck and my piece-of-shit car, cupped his ass for balance, and her raised arms lifted the hem of her hoodie and turtleneck, exposing the bare skin of her hip as it thrust his weight upward.

"La, la, la-la, la!" I whispered.

"What the hell are you doing?" Heather whispered back.

"Did I just do that out loud?"

She giggled. "God, you are so weird." She gripped my cheeks in her palms and drew me in for a clumsy kiss, complete with anxious squirming. "Sexy and smart and totally weird." That's all it took to snap me out of whatever the hell that was.

A glance at Lisa stretching out her taxed limbs snapped me back into it.

In moments, Hakim cracked open the locker-room door, and we scrambled inside. Ange wasted no time stripping and getting into the water, which was just as well, since I had no desire to see him naked. His girlfriend, Whatshername, took her time, which was not just as well, since I had no desire to see her naked either. Teenage curiosity made me look anyway, though, and I was not happy about that.

Heather did a slow striptease for me. This would have been much more exciting had it not been for three things: the first was that, having rounded 75 percent of the bases, I was already very familiar with her long, creamy white torso--perfect for stroking with my tongue, and her barely swollen breasts--perfect for holding in my hands while my fingertips squeezed her nipples. The part of her I hadn't seen was covered by black denim, which she had yet to dispose of.

If she had gotten that far, I just might have missed the second thing, which was in my line of sight behind her. Hakim had removed his shirt to reveal the jutting ribs and shoulder bones I'd always suspected were hidden there. He'd peeled off his fishnet sleeves and half of his pants before he remembered he was also wearing tightly laced, calf-length leather and canvas boots.

The third was something I would not have missed, no matter how many girls might be rolling her hips for my benefit. And no amount of la-la-las could hide the way Lisa whipped off her hoodie and turtleneck and unhooked her bra in one smooth movement. I couldn't stop it--a teenage heterosexual boy was blessed and cursed with a photographic memory when it came to exposed female flesh, even if it was just an arched, muscled back.

And then, almost as if she could feel me fighting the urge to stare, she turned her head, smirked, and uttered to me three little words that seemed at the time to be just as--if not more important than--the earth-shattering three little words I would hear later. "Don't look now," Lisa said.

Just like that, a door slammed shut in my mind, reinforcing the wall of the status quo, echoing with the loudest la-la-la of them all.

That settled, I focused again on Heather, noting that most of her jeans were gone, and her thumbs were hooked around the elastic of her underwear. After they dropped down to her ankles, she kicked them over to the rest of her clothes and told me, "Your turn."

Home plate now in sight, I obeyed, with considerably less grace than she had shown.

"Wow," she said.

"Yeah," I repeated.

The other four were comfortable enough with each other's bodies to splash around the pool, squealing with the goofy innocence of five-year-olds. Heather and I, however, stared into each other's eyes in stunned silence. We drifted away, my arms holding her waist, her arms draped over my shoulders. After a romantic eternity, she leaned in close and said those three words--well, those six words. But it was those three at the end that were the most important. And though even though we're both only sixteen, we know they'll last forever.

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


"Whoa!" I shouted to the hairy, naked ass and to the girl whose legs were wrapped around it. "Jesus! What the hell? There is a lock! Right there! To keep this kind of thing from happening! Jesus!"

After recoiling and slamming the door, I stole a quick glance of the bar where she sat, tucking her hair back into a clip with one hand and sipping from a beer with the other.

Forty hours ago, my world was gone. The woman I loved had dumped me with the help of the US Postal service, I had a few days left to vacate my apartment without anywhere to vacate to, and, because these things happen in threes, somebody put a gun to my head and took away my money. Alone and unsure, I'd resigned myself to spending the rest of my life without smiling again.

And now, there she was, catching my gaze and flashing me a raised eyebrow, a smirk, and a shrug so slight that only I would see it. She showed me how to get back to my feet and keep doing what I did best--much the same as I did to her from the moment we first met. She was beautiful, wild, sexy, and totally not my type. She was the most important friend I've ever had. She was my angel.

And it was that look in her eye that inspired me to open the door again and say to the couple, who had by now resumed fornicating, "How do you guys even dothat? Yoga? There's not even enough room in here for a sink!" I wish I was kidding, but it could actually be found around the corner. That reminded me: "And don't forget to wash up. Seriously."

"Get!" the woman yelled in the voice of a bear. "The fuck! Out!"

"Lock. Right here," I replied and slammed the door.

Forty hours ago, I never would have imagined me laughing, but here I was.

Lisa Green shot me an expression and gesture that said, "What the hell is going on over there?"

With my own expression and gesture, I replied, "I'll fill you in later," before stepping over to enter the second restroom.

"Occupied," snarled the unshaven redneck sitting on the toilet.

"I can see that!" I snarled back. "There is a motherfucking lock!"

I returned to the stool beside Lisa, sipped my beer, and told her, "Occupied."

"There's two restrooms, you know," offered Dan the bartender.

"Also occupied," I said. "By three people."

Lisa squinted at me. "Each?"

"Total," I replied.

Dan the bartender asked, "How can anybody even do that? Yoga?"

"And some lube, I'm sure." To Lisa I explained, "They're kind of small."

"Figured that's why the sink's on the outside."

"Do me a favor?" I asked. "Keep an eye out over my shoulder and let me know when someone finished up?"

"That might be sooner than you think," she told me.

"I don't know what that means."

"Was one of the guys a hick with a chin-beard and a trucker hat?"

"He's right behind me," I sighed, "isn't he?"

She nodded.

"Pissed?"

She nodded again.

Facing the man, I told him, "I said I was sorry."

"No you didn't."

"Well, I'm saying it now: I'm sorry I interrupted you defecating. Please forgive me." And with that, I returned my attention to Lisa.

"He's still here," she said.

"Still pissed?"

She nodded.

The man asked, "Anybody ever teach you to el knocko?"

I turned back around. "I see what you did there: You transformed an English phrase into a mockery of Spanish by adding an O and the article el to the..."

The next thing that happened was unclear, but I noticed that all of my air had been forcibly, the world burst into a bright shade of pink, and I groped the bar for anything to hold onto. As I sank to my knees, I managed to gasp, "Green, I'm going down."

The environment rushed back in, filling my lungs, and populating the space around me with an audience asking if I was okay. In my opinion, this was a dumb question. I panted for a bit and scanned the room for cute faces. "Any of you ladies a nurse?"

Just about every one of those cute faces frowned.

"Any of you ladies want to learn?"

That's when the crowd parted, and from my vantage point, I watched a pair of scuffed work boots stagger backward. The dungaree-clad knees attached to them buckled, and shortly thereafter, the rest of the redneck crashed to the floor.

Lisa's hand appeared in front of me, and I took it so she could drag me to my feet. "You had that coming."

"It's true," I replied.

It was then that we realized that everyone, including Dan the bartender, was aghast.

"What?" I asked them.



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

I hadn't been physically cornered, but I knew from experience that running would only hinder my escape. The only way out of this situation would be to stand still, remain calm, and keep talking.

The authority figure sipped his coffee and asked, "Aren't you supposed to be in class right now?" Given that I was a fourteen-year-old wandering around an empty high school hallway at ten thirty on a Tuesday, this was a fair question.

The answer was going to require a heaping helping of premium bullshit, which is best served wrapped in a thick layer of facts. In this case, I was supposed to be in class, so I said, "Yes." What I left out was that the class I was supposed to be in was located in the catholic school on other side of town.

"And why aren't you in it?"

"I'm running an errand." This was also true.

"Can I see your hall pass?"

"I don't have one." This honesty thing was a breeze!

The bearded teacher took another sip from his coffee with a grunt. "What's your name?"

There was no reason to start lying now. "Max," I replied. "Maximilian Fuentes."

"And who sent you on this little errand, Mr. Fuentes?"

Now I was going to have to start lying. "The principal."

"Which one?"

There was more than one principal? What was this nightmarish, tyrannical dystopia I'd stumbled into? The situation called for a Hail Mary—both the blind, desperate sports maneuver and the blind, desperate prayer to Jesus's mother. "The funny one?"

He grinned. "She is pretty funny, isn't she?"

I noted that the funny principal was female.

"Go on, run your little errand," he told me. "But when you get back to Mrs. Mihelcic's office, you need to remind her not to send students out to the hallways without a pass."

I noted that the funny principal's name was Mrs. Mihelcic.

He shook his head and resumed his walk to wherever it was he was going before I'd interrupted him, adding, "I'd hate for you to get written up for this."

"I'd hate that too," I said truthfully.

As soon as he was gone, I strolled around the corner and casually opened a classroom door. Whatever doodling, letter-writing, daydreaming, or, God forbid, note-taking was going on in the classroom came to a dramatic halt. I didn't know what the teacher had been doing, because I hadn't seen her at all until the moment she appeared in front of me, her eyes burning with rage and impatience. "Can I help you?"

With my cheeriest voice, I replied, "Hi! Mrs. Mihelcic sent me to pick up Lisa Green!"

"There's no Lisa Green here."

"Are you sure?" I asked. "My height? Light brown hair? Red hoodie? Kind of a mean look about her?"

"Do you see her here?"

I scanned the students' faces, taking care to wave at the really pretty ones, and turned my attention to the plaque on the door. "Oops!" I declared. "I should have looked more carefully! This is room C-101!" Smacking my forehead for emphasis, I added, "I have to learn to pay better attention. Thanks!"

Leaving behind handful of apologies, I slipped back outside, walked across the hall, burst into room C-102, and announced, "Hi! Mrs. Mihelcic sent me to pick up Lisa Green!"

It took me until D-112 before I had to move onto the next stage.

"And why does Mrs. Mihelcic want to see Miss Green here?" The teacher nodded his head in her direction.

I didn't look, because there was no way I could hide the inevitable, incriminating giggle that would spark with eye contact. Instead, I focused my attention on the teacher. "She didn't tell me, and frankly, sir, it's none of my business."

"Aren't you a little too young to be an office assistant?" he asked with a frown.

"I don't know how young that is, sir."

"Do you have a note?"

With a shrug, I replied, "You know how Mrs. Mihelcic is."

"I can't let her leave without a note."

"That makes sense. I'll just go back and tell her that I need a note. Is there a specific format or something, or should I just get a signed piece of paper?"

"I think that, as an office assistant, you'd already know the answer to that," the teacher snorted.

"I'm sorry, sir," I sighed. "I'm trying to learn but I just transferred in and Mrs. Mihelcic is so mad about something and I don't know for sure but I think it has to do with this Lisa Green person and I was afraid to ask too many questions and I know it was stupid and I'm trying to learn and if I have to go and come back with a note I just want to make sure it's the right one because I don't want to be yelled at again and if I learn to do it right I won't get yelled at so much..."

He shook his head, pulled a notebook of blue paper from his desk, and wrote on it. "I'm going to give you two a hall pass. The next time she sends you out, make sure you're carrying a slip of paper that looks like this, but in green. You got that?"

"I do, sir!"

"Go directly to the administrative office; no messing around."

"Okay," I said. "Thank you so much!"

As Lisa got up from her desk and sheepishly joined me in front of the room, it was more crucial than ever that we not look at each other. Her blushing alone threatened to melt my ruse.

As soon as we were alone in the hollow corridors, she grinned and punched me in the shoulder. "What the hell do you think you're doing? You're gonna get me expelled!"

"Come on, Green," I reminded her, "that was slick, you can't deny it."

She rolled her eyes and shrugged. "Should we grab Hakim?"

"Screw that guy," I told her. "It's just you and me today."

She blushed again. "What next?"

"What time does class let out?"

"About ten minutes."

"Then we're going to wait outside C-108," I said. "There's a girl there in black jeans I'm hoping to get to know better."

I heard her growl, but I didn't think anything of it. "Let's just go."

"Give me eleven minutes."

"We'll get caught."

I touched her cheek and looked her directly in the eye. "Trust me?"

"Yes," she sighed.

"Then trust me." Taking her hand, I led her toward the room in question.

i_17bingo: (Default)

When people point at a teenager and say, "That girl is crazy!"; there are a handful of things to which they might be referring. They could be condemning her choice of fashion, hairstyle, piercings, and/or tattoos. They could be praising her willingness to drink a lot and dance topless on furniture. They could even be editorializing on the way she drives. They're not talking about any of these when they say that Lisa Green is crazy.

For a good example of what I mean, we need to look back onto the morning of my fifteenth birthday, when I was supposed to be asleep. I wanted to stay that way, but the hand slapping my face didn't seem to care. "Get up!" it yelled.

I tried to ignore it and drift off, but that hand slapped me again. "Get up!"

"I can't," I replied. "I'm dead."

After another slap, I opened my eyes to a set of swollen lips spread out over an excited grin and a pair of dilated pupils peeking out from a curtain of stringy brown hair.

That woke me the rest of the way up. "What the fuck are you doing here?"

Lisa bounced off of my bed and landed on her feet on the floor. "I broke in!"

I sat up and scratched my head. "You did what?"

"I broke in," she repeated. "Hakim told me how. With a screwdriver and a ruler. I'll show you!"

"That's okay," I mumbled. "I'm the one who taught him." Okay, that wasn't even remotely accurate; but it was my word versus Hakim's, and my lies were way more convincing than his truths. Oh, and: "Don't you think it's a bad idea to break into someone's house when their family might be home?"

She impatiently blew a greasy lock out of her face, crossed her arms, and leaned on a nearby wall. "Your parents are at work, and your sister is doing whatever she does."

I sighed. "So what are you doing here?"

"I'm going to cook you a birthday breakfast!"

With a laugh, I asked, "You know how to cook?"

"I'm learning," she said. "Come on!"

"I need to get dressed first."

"Nothing I ain't seen before."

"What did I tell you about that word?"

She rolled her eyes. "Nothing I haven't seen before."

"Better," I replied. "And you haven't seen it on me before, so turn around."

She rolled her eyes again and obeyed. "Ready?"

"It's been two seconds."

"How about now?"

"Go wait for me in the kitchen."

She sighed and left. I sighed in turn.

Unwashed, untidy, and uncouth, Lisa Green was seven years old and feral the day I met her. And so, even though we were the same age, I made it my mission to civilize her. It took a lot of work, for three main reasons.

First off, we were both trailer trash, so if I was going to teach her some class, I was going to have to learn some myself.

Second, she was a slave to her id. In the third and fourth grade, this meant she ate anything she could forage and beat up anyone who looked at her funny. As she approached high school, she smoked, snorted, drank, and fucked anything or anyone she wanted.

The third reason presented itself a moment later, just as I was pulling a wrinkled rugby shirt over my head, and something metal clatter to the floor. I winced. It occurred to me that my mother tended to pack the kitchen cabinets a little tightly, much to the surprise of anyone who wasn't prepared. The crash was immediately followed by a howl of rage and a solid thump.

I charged into the kitchen to the sight of a huge, fresh hole in the faux-wood-paneled wall, the frying pan lying beneath it, and Lisa, her teeth gritted and cheeks stained with furious tears.

"What the fuck did you do?" I yelled.

She took quick breaths, and the rage began to drain out of the room.

I groaned. "How am I supposed to explain this? Papa's going to kill me."

Behind me, she let out a little squeak. "I'm so sorry."

My eyes still on the damage, I sighed, "I know you are."

She began to sob, "I don't know why ... I'm so ... So ..." When I did turn around, she had backed into a corner and had begun to sink to the floor, trying to disappear into herself. "I didn't mean to ..."

I know she didn't. And I wanted to tell her it was okay, but it really wasn't.

I sat beside her on the floor and scratched her back. She lifted her head and rested it on my lap. As I'd done since we were in the fifth grade, I stroked her head and rocked her back and forth.

"What's wrong with me, Fuentes?"

We used each other's surnames because our relationship had begun with a business transaction; i.e., I'd hired her to beat up a bully. Even during raw, naked moments like these, and even though we were as close as people could get without one having given birth to the other, we still stuck to our professional monikers. It was our thing. "I don't know, Green," I replied, because I really didn't.

"Am I going to be like this forever?"

"I don't know."

"Is that why you don't look at me like that?"

"Like what?"

"Like the other boys."

So we were having this conversation again. "Because I don't think about you like that." And that was true. Admittedly, I did check her out, but I was a teenager, and she was a cute girl; although her oversized clothes made it difficult to tell.

"Why not?"

"Because I'm in love with my girlfriend." I was young. I didn't know what love meant. Still don't.

"She doesn't know you like I do, Fuentes," she said.

I chose to ignore the implication.

Taking a deep breath, she sat up, wiped the drying tears out from her cheeks, and got to her feet. "Let's see what we can do to fix this."

"We can't fix it, Green," I told her. "You broke the wall."

"I said I was sorry!" she snapped.

A moment passed, and she sniffled. After returning her attention to the damage, she concluded, "I can't make it perfect, but I can make it not look so bad. Maybe easier to explain that way."

"How?"

"I need some duct tape, a claw hammer, and a couple of rags."

And I'll be damned if she didn't make it look almost like nothing had happened. I still got in trouble, but I only had to explain a little ding as opposed to a fist-sized hole. The only thing we got for breakfast that morning was a pair of bagels from my refrigerator and a shared cup of coffee from the May's Cafe down the street. That episode, like the dozens before it, was never spoken of again.

Being her best friend took a lot of endurance. It was only a matter of time before it would run out.

Mirage

Mar. 28th, 2011 07:23 am
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


I'll never forget the very first thing she said to me. She said, "Shoes sink. New plan: set A-list dove wings in curl?" On second thought, maybe she said, "Blue-pink toucan wet, hurray! This loving the world?" It also could have been, "You think you can get away with shoving a girl?" It was kind of hard to hear because my testicles were aching from a recent, enthusiastic kick, and dirt was being shoved into my mouth.

Twenty years ago, at the age of seven, I had a gang. My lieutenant was Hakim, a master thief who could get anywhere. My thug was Angelo, who was tall and kind of chubby and therefore intimidating. Rounding us out was my cousin Banjo. Banjo was younger than the rest of us and pretty useless, but he wasn't annoying, so we let him hang around. If we were a miniature mafia, I was the miniature godfather. Hakim stole what I told him to, Angelo threatened who I told him to, and Banjo stayed out of my way when I said so.

One afternoon, Angelo were hanging out at the school playground, and we saw a girl our age sitting on our swings. I wasn't having that, so I sent him over to push her off. The fact that she landed in a mud puddle was a sweet bonus. A few mornings later, she retaliated.

My life changed that day.

Prior to that moment, Hakim, Angelo, Banjo, and I were marching down a path that led to juvenile detention and a mailbox full of welfare checks. But as I went home to clean myself, change my clothes, and lie to my parents so they didn't know their son just got his huevos handed to him by a girl, I thought about her. If I was this humiliated without witnesses, how did she feel with a couple of her peers pointing and laughing?

From that point on, I had a new mission. I sent Hakim out to retrieve stolen toys and Angelo out to frighten bullies. But after about a week and a half of this, some of the bullies began to fight back, and it became apparent that Angelo was not a very good enforcer. What we needed was someone mean and angry. We needed that little girl.

I tracked her down and paid her five Merde Bars to take care of Simon Largo, one of our more obstinate problems. It worked out so well that we put her on retainer, at a price of one candy bars and a bag of Xtra-spicy Munlach Brand Buffalo Chips per week. Eventually, she loosened up enough with us that she started kicking ass pro bono.

Her name is Lisa Green, and she was the most important friend I've ever had.

I'll never forget the very last words I said to her, ten years after we first met. I said, "Don't you ever fucking dare ask me for anything ever again."

And yet, there she was on the phone, asking me for something.

I repeated it, just to be sure: "You seriously want me to let you sleep in my place this weekend?"

"You're right," she sighed. "I don't know why I thought calling you was a good idea. It's probably the stupidest thing I've ever done."

"Pretty high up there, at least."

We both laughed nervously.

I told her, "I don't have a choice, do I?"

"You can tell me to fuck off."

"I don't want to do that." I took a moment to squeeze back the tears that were coming. "JFK or LaGuardia?"

"Newark."

"Figures," I muttered. "See you there."

"Fuentes," she told me, "I've missed you so much."

I wanted to say, "I know," or "Me too," but my throat had tightened too much to let words out.

At Newark Liberty Airport the next day, I alternated between watching the arrival board and pacing. I couldn't recall the last time I was this nervous about seeing a girl, especially one I had no plans to seduce.

With the travelers from her flight pouring into the baggage claim area, I paced harder. Would I recognize my long-ago-exiled best friend? Of course I would. I knew that face better than I knew my own. I'd spent my childhood and adolescence witnessing her growing into it.

There was that slightly too-large nose, which I'd had to squeeze shut the first time we'd ever smoked pot. It flared when it was angry, as it did when she'd discovered that the boy to whom she'd lost her virginity was interested only in keeping score. Today it was still a little too big, but smooth and elegant.

There was her jaw--a little too sharp to be feminine--that set when she was hurting, or clenched like it did when she saw me mere moments after uber-bully Ricky Ortega had shattered my nose in retaliation for some stunt I'd pulled. Today, it was still strong, but now soft and relaxed.

There were her eyebrows, furrowed, arched, and raised, now thin and inquisitive; and her hair, greasy and tangled, but now full and soft and bunched into a loose clip at the base of the neck I'd never seen before. There were her engorged lips, which rarely grinned, preferring instead to smirk and pout. Once, they were barely darker than the rest of her face, but now they were crimson, swollen, and sexy.

And then there were her chocolate-colored eyes, able to convey the broadest of emotions by being perpetually narrowed. They could be annoyed, as they always were around Banjo; they could be disappointed, as they always were around my friend Angelo; they could be inquisitive, as they always were around Hakim; they could be judgmental, as they always were around my girlfriend at the time, Heather; they could be stoic, as they always were around her family; they could be coy, as they always were whenever we exchanged secret glances; they could be flirtatious, as they were always were around most boys; and they could be angry, as they were most of the time. On the other side of the baggage carousal, they scanned the crowd until they found me and lit up.

She cautiously moseyed over, her head cocked as she examined me to make sure I was the right guy. As she did, I wondered what she had remembered about my face and whether the current one disappointed her in any way. I gave her a smile.

At this moment, so much needed to be said. She needed to apologize for what she did to make me hate her for so long. I needed to apologize for giving up on her. She needed to tell me how she'd grown up to be such a woman. I needed to tell her about the deep tear I'd made in my soul when I'd walked away from her ten years ago.

She went first. "Fuentes."

That was my cue. "Hey, Green."

"It's good to see you again."

"You're wearing lipstick," I told her.

"Yeah," she replied. "Started doing it to impress a boy."

"Did it work?"

She shrugged.

"It looks good," I said.

"Thanks."

"You want to get out of here?"

"I do."



to be continued...

Jetsam

Mar. 20th, 2011 07:27 am
i_17bingo: (Default)

There was nothing Lisa Green hated more than being a kid.

When she wasn't floating around this vast, barren trailer park in this vast, barren town in this vast, barren desert, she was wedged into her tiny, secret ditch far from her bed. When she wasn't hiding there, she was in her room, getting chewed out by her father's latest "aunt" for not being quiet enough. When she wasn't sitting through that, she was at school, getting chewed out for not learning hard enough. When she wasn't in class, listening to their bullshit, she was at recess, pretending not to hear what the other kids were saying about her when they followed her around. And when she wasn't getting tormented by them, she was home with her father. It got so all she wanted was to be left alone.

But even with the way things were in her seven-year-old life, she never believed for one minute that it could get worse; but there it was, in her hand: an F. Since she was in for a long, long weekend now, she figured she'd take her time getting home, and that's how she ended up in the catholic school playground. She went there all the time on the weekends because they had the cool, older-kid swings--the rubber ones you could jump off of, not the shitty baby harnesses they had at the public school.

As she sat there, swinging back and forth, imagining what it would be like to bring home an A, a pair of hands shoved her off the swing, into a puddle. She rescued the soggy report card and sat up in time to watch a chubby kid her age waddle over to his scrawny friend, who just stood there, wearing a wicked smirk.

Something in her snapped. Sure she'd been pushed to the ground more times than she had fingers, but this time she was getting even--just not yet. The coming revenge armored her up that night as her father punished her coming home late and soaked, and again when he came back for seconds because of the F. She had no intention of going after the kid who'd done the deed. It was obvious that shoving her wasn't his idea. Besides, she didn't know who he was. But his friend? Him she knew.

He was alpha dog to a pack of little shits that prowled her trailer park, breaking things and running away from grownups. His dad was her father's supervisor at the bottle factory, so he had a name: Fuentes. If he had a first name, she didn't give a fuck, especially now.

A few days later, she woke up early, and skipped breakfast so she could find him alone at his bus stop. She never said a word. She just snuck up behind him, kicked him in the balls, and made him eat two handfuls of dirt. That night, she slept like the dead, even with inevitable retaliation circling the sky around her.

A couple of Saturdays later, it finally swooped down to her secret ditch. Her face hot and her stomach very, very cold, she watched Fuentes, his chunky friend in tow, stroll up and look her in the eye. There was no fear on his face; just that predatory smirk. "Hi," he said, "I'm--"

"I know who you are, you fart!" she told him, balling up her little fists.

At that, the chunky one charged, but Fuentes held him back, saying, "I got this, Ange."

"But she called you a fart!"

"I said I got this!" To her, he said, "Sorry. He's still pretty mad about how you cracked my huevos."

In her toughest voice, she asked, "You want me to do it again?"

"Yeah," he replied.

She dropped her arms. "Huh?"

Ange frowned. "Huh?"

Fuentes's cheeks lifted with that dangerous smirk. "Not to me, you dummy. Simon Largo."

"Who the fart is Simon Largo?"

"He's in my class at the catholic school."

"And you want me to kick him in the balls?"

"You don't have to kick him in the huevos," he explained. "You can give him a black eye or a wedgie or make him eat dirt like you did to me; all I care about is that he knows he got beat up by a girl."

"Why?" she asked.

"He's a bully."

"So are you."

"I got better." Again, there was that cocky smirk. "Simon Largo and his friends need to know they can't get away with that kind of stuff anymore. You're the meanest, toughest person I ever met."

Ange growled.

Fuentes ignored him. "I need you to make an example out of him."

"Why?" she asked again.

"Name your price."

She thought of the most ridiculous one she could imagine so they would just go away. "Five Merde Bars."

"You're crazy!" shouted Ange.

"Let me handle this!" Fuentes barked. He turned to her. "Deal."

"How do I know you'll pay up?"

"If I don't," he replied, "you make scrambled eggs in my pants."

She couldn't stop herself from smiling. "Deal." They shook hands, and he passed her a slip of paper with Simon Largo's address on it. The following Monday, she snuck into the Largos' backyard, punched Simon in the face three times, and threw his action figures into the street. That Wednesday, Fuentes found her in her secret ditch. He was carrying a paper bag and that stupid smirk of his.

She snatched the bag away and looked inside, ready for one more disappointment in a long life full of them. Instead, she found six assorted Merde Bars, and not the mini ones either. "I only asked for five."

"I know," he replied, "but I threw an extra one in because everyone knows what happened to him, and no one knows it was me."

"Thought that was what you wanted."

"It was, but I didn't expect you to do it so good." Again he smirked that cute smirk.

She blushed. "So, ah, if you want me to, like, I don't know, beat someone else up, um ..."

"And if you ever, you know, want to throw rocks at stuff with me and Ange, like, whenever, you totally can." He added, "I'm Max."

Okay, so she was crushing on him then, just a little, but she didn't want to be too easy. "I don't give a fart, Fuentes," she replied.

"Suit yourself, Green." Right before he ran back to the vast, barren trailer park, leaving her alone, wedged in her tiny, secret ditch, he gave her one more dazzling smirk and told her, "I'll be in touch."

Haute

Jan. 27th, 2011 07:44 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

Before this ordinary duplex in the middle of this ordinary town, a bellow rose from the earth, deep and dark as if it had been mined by an army of industrious dwarves. Birds took flight from the surrounding trees as words formed: "Anybody home?"

The most reasonable reaction to this sound would be terror and retreat. However, baking in a cloud of ozone on the roof of this ordinary duplex were a pair who could not be described as reasonable; she knew no fear, and he just didn't give a damn.

He shouted, "We're on the roof!"

The bellow replied, "The door's locked!"

"Please," he muttered. "As if that would stop that."

"You're useless," she told him with a glare. "Keys!" she announced before flinging them over the edge.

From beneath them came a roar of pain.

"You could have given some kind of warning," he said. "Or at least aimed."

She punched him in the shoulder.

The building shook as it ascended the stairs, stomped across the threshold of the apartment, and approached the window, blotting out all light from inside. "You guys out there?"

"No," he replied.

"Sean, is that you?"

"No," Sean said before she hit him in the shoulder again. "Yes."

"Cool." Somehow, it pulled itself through the narrow window without breaking anything. When it was fully outside, the A-frame of the roof bowed, but held. This particular golem was named, appropriately enough, Rocky. "Smoking weed?" Rocky asked.

"No," Sean replied, "we're sitting here with bloodshot eyes, heightened appetites, and mellow demeanors, wondering where that smell is coming from."

Rocky's eyebrows slid together into a frowning shelf. "You think it might be coming from that pipe in your hand?"

"Care to join us for once?" Sean offered.

"I can't," Rocky replied.

"Why not?" he asked.

"I kind of ..." Rocky started. "It's hard to explain." He tried: "I ... change."

"Into what?" Sean begged.

"Trust him," she said, "and just let it go."

"Not now that my curiosity has been piqued!"

Rocky sighed. "Fine."

She bolted to her feet. "You don't have to do this, Rocky."

"I'll be okay."

"No you won't!" she pleaded. "Remember what happened last time?"

"You know Sean," he told her, "he's like a Chihuahua."

"I'm more of a Shih Tzu," Sean declared.

"He won't let go until he sees for himself," Rocky continued.

"While that is a softly blended metaphor," Sean said, "it is accurate."

Ignoring him, she asked Rocky, "Are you sure this is okay?"

Sean appeared between them. "Enough with all this foreshadowing!" He handed Rocky the hash pipe and a lighter. "On with it!"

After a few thoughtful, cautious tokes, Rocky sat down and exhaled.

"Well?" Sean whispered to her.

"Wait for it," she replied.

Rocky jumped to his feet and exclaimed, "Zut alors!"

Startled, Sean lost his balance, but she caught him before he could stumble off the roof.

"Tu bien?" Rocky shouted at him.

While Sean gasped for air, she said, "He'll be fine, Rocky. How are you?"

"Comme ci, comme ça."

Regaining his physical and mental balance, Sean cried out, "What the fart?"

"We warned you," she said, "he changes when he's high."

"Changes into what?"

"Je suis français," Rocky explained.

"What?" Sean took a few deep breaths before asking, "Why?"

"Je ne sais pas," Rocky replied.

"Are you just fucking with me?"

"No," she lied.

Rocky shrugged. "Ça va."

Sean retreated through the window, mumbling, "I can't deal with this."

Rocky smiled an enormous smile and handed the paraphernalia back to her.

"Tu es très haute?" she asked him.

"Mais oui," he replied.

Icarus

Jan. 22nd, 2011 01:43 am
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


"What's your relation to the patient?" the duty nurse asked her. "Family?"

"No," she replied.

"Girlfriend?"

She would rather get a pap smear with a rake than date the patient in question. Still, desperate times... "Yes."

"I see." The nurse wheeled her chair back to a stack of files on the other side of the desk.

"He wake up yet?"

The nurse glanced at one of the folders. "There's been no change in his condition."

So he wouldn't be much company. There was some good news. "Can I see him?"

"Room 313," the nurse said before returning to whatever it was that duty nurses did.

She crept down the corridors of the intensive care unit, in no particular hurry to get there. She didn't know what to expect when she did. It couldn't be any worse than finding him alone on a bed in a dark room the night before. She was wrong about that; seeing him today, alone on a bed in a bright room, was much worse. Instead of shivering and convulsing like he did last night, he now just lay still.

But what really disturbed her was the way he was wrapped in needles and tubes and pale sheets rather than in the droopy cotton sweaters he preferred. She'd known him for a while, and had no idea he was so tiny. Sure he wasn't all that tall, but she'd always attributed that to his slouch. Turns out he was just this little skeleton with some skin on it.

He wasn't going anywhere, so she might as well get some rest. After settling into the visitor's chair, it took only a moment for her eyes to drift closed. They took less than a moment for them to shoot back open as soon as something she'd seen reached her sleep-deprived brain.

Wide awake now, she hopped to her feet and crept closer to his side. Slowly--oh so very slowly--she rotated his wrist to get a good look underneath. A white, surgically precise scar ran down the length of his forearm. It had completely healed, but still couldn't be more than a few years old. And it was serious. Whoever made this did not want it to close up.

She sank to the floor. When she'd discovered this drooling mass of sweat and flesh in his dorm last night, she'd just assumed his overdose was accidental. Now she felt really, really stupid. He'd always been the kind of guy who just shuffled his way through life, glassy-eyed and distracted, as if he'd rather be elsewhere; but it wasn't until just now that she realized that he really did want to be elsewhere.

She'd had to drag herself through years poverty, abuse, illness, and mountains of cruelty to be alive, and yet here he was, surviving a second suicide attempt out of dumb luck. What an asshole!

Behind her, on this bed, without his cigarettes and marijuana and smartass comments and narrow, condescending eyes, he looked just like a little boy. And that's all he was: a petulant, self-absorbed, frightened little boy. So why the fuck did she even care about him?

She didn't even like kids, much less this guy. It was only a combination of boredom and curiosity that brought her to him in the first place. If she had any sense whatsoever, she'd get up off of this floor and fly the fuck away while she still had a chance to escape.

But she couldn't.

After a while, she melted into sleep, waking some time later to a soft voice croaking, "Crap. Not again."

Embarrassment yanked her to her feet immediately.

He blinked a few times, squinted, and frowned before focusing in on her face. "Shit," he whispered. "If you're here, then I must be in hell."

The only thing keeping her from laughing in relief was the way she collapsed back into the visitor's chair. Too late now. She was going to burn, and it was her own damned fault.

i_17bingo: (Default)

"I ain't goin' in there," Hakim told us.

I turned around to stare into his collarbone. Like the rest of us, he was eight. Unlike the rest of us, he was really, really tall. His growth spurt had kicked in about half a dozen years too early. You'd think the height advantage would have given him a little more courage.

"Fine," I said. "Angelo?"

"That place is haunted!" Angelo replied.

"I ain't goin' in alone."

"Get Lisa," Hakim said.

"So you're saying," I clarified, "that a girl's braver than both you guys, and you don't care that I'm gonna tell everybody?"

"That place is haunted!" Angelo replied.

"You people make me sick." I hopped on my bike and pedaled back to our neighborhood, seized by a bit more dread than I felt about that allegedly haunted house.

Lisa Green scared the crap out of me, and because she did, I could rest assured that I was perfectly sane. She was a sixty-pound bucket of undiluted viciousness, ready to splash on anyone standing too close.

What I'd discovered some time ago was that she was willing to splash on commission, and so we kept her on retainer at a cost of five stolen candy bars a week. The result was that we got a thug, and she got to eat chocolate and beat people up--her two favorite hobbies. Relationships didn't get more professional than that.

Usually she was wherever we needed her to be, like magic. This morning, though, she wasn't in any of the playgrounds she frequented, nor was she in her secret, special place in the desert hills that surrounded our trailer park. I had no choice: I had to go to her home, which I'd never been to before. Something about that scared me even more than she did.

The woman who answered the Greens' door looked tired. There was no other way to describe her. She was really pretty, and really young, like she was in high school or something. Maybe she was the babysitter.

"Um," I asked her, "can Lisa Green come out?"

The woman craned her neck inside and barked, "Kid!"

Lisa appeared instantly under the woman's arm. For the first time since I'd met her fifteen months ago, she actually seemed a little happy--maybe not happy; more like not pissed off. "Hey, Fuentes," she said.

"Hey, Green," I replied.

Before we could exchange more words, a hairy, meaty hand clamped down on her shoulder. "Where the hell do you think you're going?" it growled before yanking her inside and slamming the door shut.

I should have left, but my feet were stapled to their cinderblock steps by the words pouring out of the walls. Most I'd never heard before. Of those, I've since became fluent in all but one. To this day, I have never spoken that one word, nor do I intend to.

More jarring than all that shouting was the way it stopped without warning. My feet still couldn't move for the long-as-hell minute it took for the door to open again.

Lisa emerged, pulling on her enormous red hoodie, despite the fact that it was August. Through the curtain of her stringy, brown hair, I could see that her thousand-yard stare was bloodshot, and the snot trickling out of her nose was beginning to dry. "What do you want," she said.

I gulped. "I need your help with …"

"Don't care," she replied. "Let's get out of here."

Nothing was ever the same again after that.

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


"Bring me her phone number," demanded Lisa, my oldest and closest friend in the world. She subtly pointed to the other side of the crowded bar where a skinny woman with too-straight hair, too-long fingernails, too-high heels, and too-much makeup sipped from her unnaturally pastel alcoholic beverage.

"You want me to do what?" I squeaked.

"You heard me, Fuentes." She used my surname to indicate to me that she was serious.

"I don't really go for the Long Island type, Green." I used her surname to indicate that I too was serious.

"I'm not asking for her hand in marriage," she replied, "just her number."

"Why?"

"Because it's something you've never had a problem with before."

"People change," I told her.

The look she gave me was one part mourning and one part pitying. "What happened to you?"

"Feel in love," I replied. "It took the edge off."

"It'll do that."

We shrugged at each other and took a sip of our beers at the same time.

After a moment, she grabbed me by the shoulders, looked deep into my eyes, and said, "Trust me."

Taking a deep breath, I stepped away from her protective aura and flexed my fingers in a quixotic attempt to restore circulation to them. I moseyed over to the plastic doll and forced my lungs to spit out the single most successful come-on line I've ever used: "Hi, I'm Max."

"Lara," she replied.

"Are you from the ..." I stopped when I realized that we'd both lost interest about three words ago.

Head hung low, I returned to Lisa's side. "I give you ten for effort," she said, "but dock you seven for desperation."

"I am desperate!" I sighed. "Can we just go?"

She gently slapped my cheek and pushed my forehead with her index finger. "I don't think you're listening, asshole. We're not leaving here without a phone number."

I groaned.

She nodded toward a pair of women a guy like me could fantasize about but never date. "Round two," she said.

"I can't even get one number."

"I'm only asking for one," she replied. "And the sooner you bring me one, the sooner we can get out of here and go find a real bar."

"Look," I began.

"You look!" she shouted, startling the both of us. She took several deep breaths before reaching up, grabbing my chin, and forcing me to look her in the eye. "Do you remember your cousin's graduation party?"

It took me a moment to change gears to keep up with her, but I did.

"You brought the keg, and you were fifteen."

I shrugged.

"Or the time you and me stole my father's truck to go tailgating, and he never noticed."

"What does that have to do with ..."

"Fuentes," she said, "you don't do things that are impossible; you do things because they're impossible."

We locked stares for a long time until I broke away with a grin. "That's a pretty moving speech."

She blushed. "Been practicing." She tapped her finger on the bar in the space between two shots of whiskey. "They'll be waiting for us when you get back," she said before she spun me around, patted my ass, and shoved me away from the counter.

I counted to ten, regained my composure, corrected my stumble, and broke out into an easy stroll. Ahead of me stood the women in question, hugging the wall and looking as bored as thirteen-year-old nerds at a spring formal.

Without warning, I appeared between the two of them, leaning against the wall so casually you'd be forgiven for assuming I'd been there all night. "Hi," I said to them, "I'm Max."

They giggled, more out of surprise than anything.

The woman on my right held out her hand with a smile. "Jaz," she told me.

"My pleasure," I replied.

Her friend informed me, "Legs."

"Your name is Legs?"

She shrugged.

"Really?"

She took a coy sip from her daiquiri.

"So your parents could tell the future."

She peered at the space between the hem of her skirt and the floor before grinning and playfully punching my shoulder. I was doing pretty well so far, but if I didn't wrap this up soon, I was going to lose control and stagger into boorishness. "I like both of those words," I told them, and with a well-oiled, smarmy flick of my wrist, I held up a business card.

"What’s that for?" Legs asked skeptically.

I pointed at Lisa. "See that woman over there?"

"Yeah?"

"She's like a sister to me," I said, "and she's never been to New York before." I made intense eye contact with both Jaz and Legs to make sure they were with me before continuing, "I'm thinking of stuff to show her, and I want you to call me if you had any ideas." Backing away from them, I grinned. "Thanks!"

I turned around, let out a slow sigh of relief, and made it back to Lisa's side before I fell over.

"Nice move with the wrist there." She reminded me, "But aren't you forgetting something?"

"Wait for it," I replied before downing the whiskey.

After a moment, a delicate hand placed a different business card on the counter, and a throaty voice whispered in my left ear, "I don't know about your friend, but I have a pretty good idea what to show you."

Another card fluttered over to the bar, and another voice whispered into my right ear, "I don't want you to get lonely when she goes home."

The expression on Lisa's face was halfway between stunned and smug.

I picked up the cards and studied them. "Allegra," I said. "That explains that. And Jasmine. Of course."

Lisa grabbed my cheeks and pulled me toward her to give me a grateful, platonic kiss on the lips. After giving me a moment, she took her shot and announced, "Come on, Fuentes, let's get out of here."

As we left and walked down the street, her grin was matched only by my own, I bumped her shoulder, she brushed my palm with her pinkie, and our hands drifted together.



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


Last time I saw her, she was seventeen, unwashed, and covered in hooded sweatshirts and baggy jeans. Now her jeans fit delightfully, her long-sleeved T-shirt showed off her voluptuous, athletic figure, and she cleaned up remarkably well. At twenty-seven, she looked like a woman.

She squinted around my apartment. "Anything to drink around here?" she asked.

"As a matter of fact, there is," I replied and directed her to the kitchen, where I showed her a bottle of vodka. "We have potatoes." I held up some gin. "We have juniper berries." Waving at my collection of scotch, whiskey, and bourbon, I told her, "We have various grains. And finally..." I indicated the tequila; "whatever the hell this is about. Worms or something."

"I'll take the worms."

"Of course you will."

Between us, we exchanged a half-dozen shots, three joints, and a mea culpa or two. With all of this behind us, she said at last, "I'm exhausted. Where am I supposed to sleep?"

"You're tired?" I asked.

"This has been a hell of a day," she replied.

I sighed and pointed. "There's a lumpy mattress in my room right over there."

"Where are you supposed to sleep?"

"On the same lumpy mattress."

"Interesting." She strolled down the hall, shaking her hair out of its clip and pulling her shirt over her head. As she reached back to unhook the clasps on her bra, she peered over her shoulder and purred, "Don't you look now."

I turned my wide-eyed, bewildered attention to the liquor. "Um," I said and poured myself a shot out of the closest bottle without looking at it. I gagged. It was the gin.

"Coming to bed?" she shouted.

Since I'd known her, she'd been constantly careening through various moods and identities. Adapting to these had become a routine for me--a jarring, sometimes terrifying routine, but a routine nonetheless. Clearly I'd fallen out of the habit, because I had no idea what to do with the seductress currently in my room.

After blessing myself with the sign of the cross, I inhaled and peeked around the corner. She'd long since covered herself in a T-shirt and a blanket while having stripped away all the suggestion from mere moments before. Relieved, I plopped down on the mattress and removed my boots. I asked, "Anything you want to do while you're in town?"

She appeared at my side immediately, brushed her thick hair behind her ear, bit her lower lip, and glanced down at my mouth.

Crap. I knew where this was going.

"Yeah," she breathed and kissed me.

It was the longest kiss of my life. Of course, I'm not referring to the duration. What I'm referring to is how it felt. She and I had been the oldest and closest of friends; she protected me from bullies, and I protected her from herself. Not once did it ever occur to us to try this, but here we were, twenty years after we first met, ten since we'd last spoken, our lips and tongues probing each other.

Until we stopped.

"Anything?" she gasped.

"Nothing," I replied reluctantly. "You?"

"Nothing."

"This is really awkward," I said.

She rolled onto her back. "I guess we know the answer to that question."

We stared at the ceiling even longer than we'd spent trying to kiss, waiting for the other to say something that might dig our way out of this silence.

She was a woman of action; I was a man of words, and therefore, it was up to me: "You know, this isn't the most embarrassing thing we've done together."

"It's the most embarrassing thing we've done to each other."

"Touché."

Another long hush smothered us.

I said, "Want another drink?"

"I thought you'd never ask."



to be continued...

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Jeremiah

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