Jack Moody

by Horror Sleaze Trash on July 12, 2017

Jack Moody is a short story writer, poet and freelance journalist from wherever he happens to be at the time. He has had work published in Down in the Dirt Magazine, Tipton Poetry Journal, The Round Up, Cold Creek Review, CC&D Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, Ignatian Literary Magazine, The Legendary, and Southern Pacific Review, with work forthcoming in Brick Moon Fiction. He didn’t go to college. He likes his privacy. He doesn’t have a social media account. Don’t ask him to make one. Contact him at j.moody9116@gmail.com

 


 

Kristine

By Jack Moody

 

            “Look, it’s over. It’s done. I need space. This has been too much, it’s moving too fast. I didn’t set out to hurt you, but I realized I’m still all fucked up from my last relationship and I still love him. You’re nice and you’re fun, but you made this all happen too quickly and I’m not ready for that. I hope you can understand, because I don’t think we should talk anymore. I don’t wanna be with you. I don’t know if I wanna be with him, but I don’t wanna be with you. …Henry?”

            I thought about hanging up. “Yeah. I understand.”

            “I’m sorry, I just think—”

            I hung up. It was two in the afternoon and I had lost a woman.

            The bar was dark and quiet. Two heavy wooden doors blocked the sunlight attempting to shine in from the outside. I ordered a whiskey and went to work feeling sorry for myself. It went down fast. I ordered another.

            Kathy leaned over the bar with the glass in her hand and smiled at me. Kathy was the bartender during the dayshifts. She was white-haired, in her mid-fifties; a caring woman with a motherly instinct and a pronounced snaggletooth that I found endearing, perhaps because of the relationship we had formed after years of seeing each other during hours when most people wouldn’t choose to drink. She said something, slid over my refilled glass, and continued a conversation she’d been having with a young woman I hadn’t noticed at the end of the bar. I made an effort not to look over at her, letting the cathartic heartache instead take over my chest and swim down to my extremities.

            Heartache is a real thing—physically as well as emotionally. It starts in the center of your chest, a tightness similar to severe anxiety, but more akin to a 40 lbs. weight pressing down on your sternum. Then the sharp burn emanating from the weight spiders out like a poison entering your bloodstream. The pain nearly forces you to double over. The most troubling aspect of it, though, is that the sensation can be invigorating—perhaps only to those who take a sort of twisted joy in self-inflicted pain, but it could also be the simple realization that you are alive and are feeling something.

            After draining most of the next drink, I worked up the courage to glance at the young woman, if only to fuel my self-loathing with the knowledge that I would never know her. She had her nose buried in her cellphone, only looking up from whatever she was so immersed in to nurse the bottle of High Life in front of her and respond to Kathy. I returned to my glass, thinking about if ants killed themselves over their women.

            I heard the young woman speak—a confident voice with a soft and traveled tone—then noticed Kathy point over to me as they talked. She walked over to my side of the bar.

            “Henry, this is Kristine.” Kathy pointed over to the young woman who was already looking at me. She was pretty. “She’s not from here and she’s looking for a place to stay. I told her there’s hostels up on Shattuck, but d’ya know any other hostels closer to the bar?”

            I tried to make it less obvious that I was staring. “Yeah, I mean, downtown there’s a lot.”

            “I know, but I don’t want her staying downtown by herself, it’s too dangerous down there. She’s traveling alone.”

            “Oh okay.”

            She looked back over at Kristine. “Sweetie, this is Henry. He’s safe; you can trust him. He’ll help you out.”

            I got up without thinking and sat down closer to her. She looked better up close. Her face was perfectly constructed: high cheek bones sat above red, parted lips; her eyes were bright green and placed just right on her face—eyes a centimeter too apart or together can ruin the features of an otherwise beautiful person. Brown hair with faint blonde highlights hung over her head in a loose bun, with two thick bangs hanging down in front of each of her ears.

            I needed to say something fast.

            “You could try Airbnb or one of those things. I used that to stay when I was in New Orleans, it ended up being on the top floor of a twenty-four hour karaoke bar on the edge of the ghetto. I hate karaoke. Really bad singers. A crackhead told me he was gonna break my neck ‘cause I wouldn’t give him a dollar—But, I mean, I’m sure yours’ll be better.”

            I stopped talking when I realized I was rambling, and finished the whiskey hovering under my nose. Kristine’s lips parted farther like a blooming flower, opening up into a wide grin, and she laughed. I was glad for that.

            “I know. I’m looking right now, but it looks like no one is gonna let me in on this short of notice.”

            I wanted to tell her she could stay with me, but I was a freelance (unsuccessful) writer crashing on a friend’s couch. All the money I did make from dead-end jobs and the occasional publication was quickly blown on a single meal a day and multiple drinks.

            “Are you hitch-hiking or something? That’s sort of dangerous, isn’t it?”

            “No,” she said, “I’m driving my car. It’s been fine so far. I just spent a week camping alone in the woods, and right now all I wanna do is shower and sleep in a real bed for a few days.”

            I ordered another drink for the both of us and cursed myself for not having a real bed.

            We talked for four hours. She was incredibly interesting. Her mannerisms were combative but approachable. She spoke loudly and enthusiastically about her life and perspectives, without being overbearing or over-sharing, taking jabs and poking fun at my awkward demeanor as if we had known each other for years. When she would become particularly excited by a certain topic, her eyes would light up and widen, and her quirky, midwestern twang would come out when she spoke words with hard A’s. Kristine was confident and unafraid to tell the truth without hesitation. I was drawn to her immediately. She fascinated me.

            Kristine was born and raised in a small town of about 5,000 outside of Cleveland, and had been working jobs since she was fourteen: bartender, waitress, mail clerk, dishwasher, and most interestingly, a member of a cleanup crew for a local nuclear power plant that she worked at for six months at fifteen dollars an hour, seventy hours a week, in order to save up enough to jump in her car and drive. I couldn’t imagine that petite, 22 year-old body inside one of those anonymous HAZMAT suits. What a waste of beauty.

            She had been on the road for two months before wandering into the bar I happened to be at, stopping in Kansas City, Missoula, Olympia, etc., etc. She was only planning on being in the city for a night or two, but I already knew I had to convince her to stay longer.

            By the time she left to go to a cheap motel, I had her number and plans to see her the next day to hear a band she’d seen play in another city that happened to be coming to town. Kristine smiled and waved as she walked out the wooden doors into the moonlight. I had forgotten completely about the other woman. She was it.

            That night she texted me. “This motel seems really creepy. I don’t know if I feel safe.”

            “Where are you?” I texted back.

             “What do you mean? I have no idea where the fuck I am.”

            “Oh right. Well what’s the address?”

            She sent it to me. She was staying on the street on the edge of the city where the hookers and drug dealers hung out. We were always taught as kids never to go there. I did out of curiosity, but never had the street smarts enough to avoid trouble each time I went.

            “Yeah, that’s not a good area. What creeped you out?”

            “Some shirtless guy with tattoos all over him kept telling me I could make a lot of money and he’s been following me around. I think he’s waiting outside my motel room right now.”

            “Well I’m sure you could.”

            “Could what?”

            “Make a lot of money.

            “That’s not funny. Should I leave?”

            “I would. But I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

            “No, I wanna leave.”

            “Okay. Find a place closer to the city.”

            “Okay. I’ll text you tomorrow.”

            The next day we met at a bookstore in southeast. She had moved to a nicer hotel next to the local college campus. I found her browsing through the philosophy section. She had a stack of books by Nietzsche and Kierkegaard under one arm and a small cup of coffee in her free hand. Her hair was down. It hung down around her breasts on a tattered jean jacket. She looked beautiful. She looked too good to be seen in public with me. I felt lucky, something that didn’t happen often.

            “I always end up buying too many books when I go to stores,” she said.

            “Have you tried the library?”

            “I never bring back the books. I think I still owe my old high school library about 500 bucks. It feels good to own them.”

            I followed loyally behind her as she glided between the aisles of books. Her ass was pristine. It was large and well shaped and her hips were wide. I was reminded of a woman I hadn’t seen in years who once told me after sex that she had childbearing hips. The last time I talked to her, she was pregnant. I assumed it wasn’t mine. She never said anything.

            Kristine turned around and stood very close to me. “Have any suggestions? I need more shit to read when I’m alone in the woods. Nature is nice but I get bored easily.”

            I knelt down and looked through the stacks of dead old white men. “Have you ever read Camus? He gave up on the universe but wrote a little more happily than most.”

            I handed her a copy of The Stranger. “The art of not giving a fuck.”

            “It’s easier than you think,” she said. “I like that it’s short. You don’t need to say much.”

            Kristine checked out and we wandered out into the rain and smog. She wanted food and I told her I’d show her around the city.

            The day went smooth enough. I had forgotten how little of the city I really knew, and got us lost multiple times attempting to take us to spots I would never go but assumed a tourist would want to see. She quickly became as bored as I was.

            “Hank, this is lame. Just take me to a fuckin’ dive bar. Let’s get a drink.”

            No one ever called me Hank. I liked when she did it.

            “I know a place,” I said.

            I took her to a local biker bar called The Dead Rabbit. I figured it would do the trick. Motorcycles hung from metal wires over the inside of the bar. I always wondered when one would fall and kill a bartender. I wanted to be there when it happened. Kristine ordered a High Life. I ordered the same.

            We sat in silence for about three beers. I didn’t mind. She didn’t seem to either. I liked that. People talk too much, feeling like they need to fill space with idle words. I never understood that. I don’t normally talk unless I have something to say. It just felt good to sit next to a beautiful creature like her. I was proud that life sometimes threw you moments like these. I could feel the stares of the old men in leather jackets, wondering how I pulled this one off. If I had an answer, I would have told them.

            After a crippled man with a lazy eye and a wart on his nose approached Kristine to tell her how a blood clot in his chest almost killed him a week earlier, I made with the conversation to shake off his presence.

            “Why did you decide to just drive? A lot of people talk about that, but I’ve never met anyone that actually did it. Especially your age.”

            “Why does anyone do anything?” she said. “I just got bored. It was something to do.” She took a sip from her beer. “Why’d you brush off that old guy? He was interesting.”

            “He was rambling. He just thought you were cute.”

            “Jesus. You’re not one of those people that think they’re too good to talk to strangers are you? Let me guess: you don’t like people? Don’t be such a cliché.”

            “People are fine. I like some of them. I like you, anyway.”

            “But not him.”

            “Most of them, yes.”

            “Don’t be that guy.”

            “I’m not. People interest me from a distance. I get too close and I see what they are.”

            “And what’s that?”

            “Waiting to die. Desperate for something to help them forget what’s gonna happen.”

            “You don’t like people. I think everyone has something interesting to say if you listen.”

            “People scare me. We’re sick. I try to avoid them.”

            “That’s no way to go about life.”

            “Probably.”

            “You’re pretty boring. Has anyone ever told you that?”

            “Probably.”

            I ordered two more beers and asked the bartender if he was worried one of the motorcycles would ever fall on him. He showed us a video on his cellphone from the security camera, of a light fixture narrowly missing him as it smashed on the floor just left of his shoulder.

            “I dove the fuck out of the way, but my homie told me I should’ve just taken the hit and copped that fat worker’s comp check. Could’ve been sitting on a beach in Mexico right now if that fight or flight instinct hadn’t kicked in. Fuck it, next time.”

            After a few more rounds the sun had gone down. Kristine ordered an Uber and we piled in the back to head towards the venue for the show.

            The show was playing at a dive called the West Street Saloon in the heart of downtown. We paid a five dollar cover to get in, and were greeted by about five hipsters watching a band comprised of three elderly men with beer guts and short white hair who looked like they’d have to wake up early to get to the office the next day. They were playing a cover of the Star Wars cantina theme. Evidently they were the openers.

            We left for food to pass time until the real band came on. Kristine wasn’t used to the amount of homeless people scattered throughout the streets, and felt obligated to bring back some of her food to deliver to one of the poor bastards. So as we walked back, it became a game of sorts to determine who was to be blessed with half a burger from the fifth street diner. The point was you couldn’t give the food away to just any old homeless person. They had to be crazy, but not crazy enough that you might get spit on or screamed at if you were to approach them. It felt like we were perusing the animal shelter for a traumatized dog to save, but one that still wouldn’t shit the rug or eat the toddler if we took it home. Eventually Kristine decided that none would do, and so we dumped the bag of food next to a tree outside the venue.

            We both moved onto whiskey and started in at the bar, as the last opener was finishing up. Kristine was matching me drink for drink. I’d never met anyone able to do that before, man or woman. I found it incredibly attractive. But she was getting drunk, and pressed her leg against mine, smiling and giggling at whatever bullshit came out of my mouth. Kristine did most of the talking, allowing me to let the drunk really fill me without worrying about whether I was saying the right things. I realized something was about to happen, and didn’t want to fuck it up with my nervous, verbal diarrhea so close to the moment.

            The band started playing. We moved up to the front to help fill up the empty room. It was us and about ten old women, and one dirty guy with a backpack who kept whooping like a feral dog during inopportune times. They were good though. The singer was screaming and crying and moaning in high octaves, rolling his eyes to the back of his head when he hit certain notes. I was starting to feel good. I kept shooting glances over to Kristine, waiting for eye contact. When she didn’t reciprocate I would look up at the band posters lining the ceiling to play it off.

            Between songs, Kristine leaned in to say something.

            I said, “What?”

            She said something again, and she smiled. Her eyes were full and glowing from the stage lights, and looked into me. A loose strand of hair fell onto her forehead and she blew it out of her face. She was still looking at me. The music started up again. It was slow and nocturnal, and my body was vibrating. I leaned in to kiss her. She backed her face away only an inch, bringing her body closer to mine. 

            “Uh uh,” she said, still smiling with closed lips.

            “Uh uh?” I mumbled.

            “Uh uh.”

            Then her lips parted and she reached in for mine. I went back in again and she dug deeper, sliding her tongue along the inside of my mouth. Then we parted. She reached her arm around my back, laying her other hand on my chest, and laid her head against my shoulder. I rested my arm around her and took a deep swig from the beer in my left hand. That band could really play.

            “Give me that.” She took the bottle out of my hand and sipped, holding back a laugh.

            I kissed her again.

            “Take me somewhere else.”

            “Where?” I asked.

            “I don’t care.”

            “Let’s go to your hotel.”

            “Yeah.”

            We ended up in the middle of the street, making out and groping at each other as the homeless and insane watched. She could really kiss. She would fill up your entire body with her intent, forcing you to let go of intuition and allow her to take you wherever her passion was going. It felt like I had no control whatsoever. We fell into the wall of the saloon. I slid my hands up the curves of her body and pulled at the back of her hair, pushed my tongue into the deepest part of her mouth I could reach, reveling in the wetness and warmth of it. She latched onto my bottom lip with her teeth and bit down hard. My cock rose and she grasped it violently through my jeans. That’s around when the next Uber showed up.

            We were kicked out a few blocks away from the hotel when I lit a cigarette in the car. On the walk back, Kristine picked up a bottle of wine from a gas station.

            The room was already messily decorated with loose clothing and toiletries. She sat down on the bed, popped open the cork and took a drink out the bottle, handed it to me. It tasted cheap. I fell down onto the bed and she climbed on top of me. We started in on the kissing. I pulled off her shirt and she undid her bra, revealing breasts with pierced nipples. I sucked at them and tasted the cold metal before laying back and taking another drink from the wine. There were no words spoken. I pulled off the rest of her clothes until a perfectly naked woman was lying on the bed next to me. She pulled off my shirt and wrapped her bare thigh around my leg. Her lips were on my earlobe, licking and biting, and I began to moan softly.

            Kristine sat up abruptly. “I’m on my period, so you know.”

            I spoke between heavy breaths, “Yeah, yeah. No sex, okay.”

            She then slid her body down my bare chest, letting me feel the warmth, and undid my jeans. Her hair was strewn across her face and I couldn’t see her eyes as she pressed the head of my cock against her tongue.

            “Oh Jesus fuck, Kristine.”

            “Mhmm,” she moaned with it in her mouth.

            She worked up and down, sticking her tongue out and wrapping it along the length of my cock. I knew immediately I wasn’t going to make it; the alcohol was keeping me from getting hard enough. I could feel her working, really working, bobbing and twisting, trying to get me there. I appreciated the dedication. I took a handful of that long, brown hair and forced her down to the bottom, thrusting it into her throat. She then surfaced and cupped the balls, stuck her tongue out again with her eyes looking up at me, and lapped at them before licking up the length of my shaft. It was a master class. I was happy knowing it was going to last as long as she could do it. She lay prone on the bed between my legs, her ass up in the air like an animal in heat. Her eyes burned green and I let out a whimper. She would moan back when I made noises, wriggling her ass and thrusting her hips against the bed. I took advantage of the moment and reached for the bottle while she continued. But it wasn’t going anywhere and she was beginning to realize it. She let my cock reappear from her throat like a magic trick, making a suction-like popping noise when the head was released, glistening with saliva.

            “It’s not gonna happen, is it?”

            “I don’t think so,” I relented.

            “That’s okay. I’m tired.”

            “It’s not your fault.”

            “No shit. We can try again in the morning. You aren’t one of those that can’t make it hung over, are you?”

            “Not at all. I like it better. Sweat, morning breath, body odor, I get off on that shit.”

            She laughed and sat back up against the bed. I handed her the wine. We sat naked together, passing the bottle until it was finished.

            I woke up the next morning hanging halfway off the bed, not sure of where I was. Kristine was lying naked on her stomach next to me. I checked my phone: it was nine o’clock. I had a dishwashing shift in twenty minutes. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen. I stumbled to my feet; thought about vomiting, shook off the feeling, and drank five glasses of water from the sink. I knew my car was somewhere, but couldn’t remember where I’d left it. I walked out into the hotel parking lot to smoke a cigarette and see if somehow miraculously I had brought it back there. I hadn’t.

            When I returned, Kristine was sitting up in bed with her breasts exposed, drinking coffee and watching the morning news. It was a segment about the hidden health benefits of eating small amounts of high-end dog food.

            I rolled into bed and began kissing down her stomach. She arched her back and exhaled, dug her nails into my scalp. Kristine seemed like a woman who would haul off and punch you during sex. My fingers found her clit and I rubbed it in slow circles until I could feel her parting for me. She was wriggling and moaning loudly. Her mouth opened wide and her eyes rolled to the back of her head. I moved back up and pushed my tongue between her lips. She bit down hard and forcefully pushed my head back down to her stomach.

            The shape of her body was amazing: a thin, flat stomach bloomed into wildly curved hips and thick flanks that wrapped tight around my head as I bit down on the inside of her thigh. I couldn’t breathe, but I thought, what a way to die this would be.

            Just as my tongue was about to touch the edge of her clit, and I was just about to suffocate, Kristine relinquished her grip and slapped the side of my head.

            “Ow! What the fuck!”

            “No! Period! Period blood! Gross!”

            “Oh shit, that’s right. Jesus, why’d you let me go down there? That could have been traumatizing.”

            “It felt good…”

            “Okay. Then I’m going to the store. I’m gonna handle this. Want anything?”

             “Nope.”

            “Booze? Cigs? Tampons?”

            “No. Come back.”

            Kristine pulled me in for a kiss and then pushed me off the bed. I threw on a loosely buttoned shirt, slid a cigarette in my mouth and walked out into the world.

            When the sunlight hit my eyes, the full scope of the building hangover became apparent. I lit the cigarette behind a bush, gagged, and spit a glob of white mucous onto the cement. People in suits passed me by on the street, visibly off-put by my appearance. It was a productive morning for them. They had woken up bright-eyed, eaten breakfast, scanned the morning paper for political scandals and murder sprees, kissed their kids, mistresses and significant others goodbye, and were on their way to well-paying jobs. I was messy-haired, stinking of pussy and liquor, walking down the street with squinted eyes, hacking up phlegm between drags of a Camel Blue. I did not envy them. I felt good. I felt great.

            A middle easterner with a heavy accent was behind the register of the gas station.

            “Condoms?” I asked.

            “Condoms?”

            “Yeah. You got those?”

            He hesitated and looked around, pointed to the assortment of prophylactics on the wall behind him. “You want?”

            He took a box of Magnums off the wall.

            “Look, I’m flattered but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.”

            He pointed to another box.

            “Yeah, that’s fine.”

            When I got back to the hotel, I got turned around and forgot what the room number was. I knew I was on the right floor, but decided to take a stab at a room that looked familiar with the door cracked open. I opened the door, and inside was a fat man lying naked on the bed masturbating to what appeared to be an aerobics infomercial on TV.

            “OH JESUS SORRY MAN!”

            He turned to look at me, and continued masturbating, straight-faced.

            “Hey, it’s all good.”

            “FUCKING OH MAN, WRONG ROOM DUDE SORRY.”

            “It doesn’t have to be. What’s your name?”

            “WHAT THE FUCK, OH MAN SORRY.”

            I ran out and slammed the door.

            About five minutes later, I found the right room. Kristine was on the bed.

            “Do you know what day it is?”

            “Ah, I don’t know, man.”

            “What’s wrong?”

            “Nothing. What day is it?”

            “It’s Cinco De Mayo! Let’s get tacos!”

            “Yeah, tacos. Good.”

            “Are you sure you’re alright?”

            “Yes. Let’s fuck. I wanna have sex with a woman.”

            “What?” she laughed.

            “I don’t know. I got condoms.”

            “Well, I’m busy.”

            “Are ya?”

            “I’m kidding. Come here.”

            I felt funny putting on the condom. I tried to make it sexy and kiss her while I was doing it, but multitasking can be difficult. I climbed on top of her and watched her expression change as I slid it in.

            Having sex with a woman you find truly attractive can be a formative experience. Good sex is the closest thing to spirituality I’ll ever feel. When under the right circumstances, sex can be purely the meeting of two souls. Time stops and the Earth spins slower. Death no longer exists. The vulnerability of it all, the openness and the ecstasy can destroy the deepest of depressions. I understand that it can be explained away as simply a chemical reaction, an instinctual response in the human body as a living organism to elicit procreation, but most all other religions don’t make any sense either. You take what you can get. I worship women and whiskey. You worship your God. We’ll end up in the same place.

            I pumped away on top of her, listening to the moans and screams and the creaks of the shitty hotel bed. Pillows were falling onto the floor, onto her face. She laughed and threw them off. Her nails dug into my back and sliced through the skin, down from my shoulders to my hips. I would pull out to tease her, sliding in my fingers until it created a reaction, then jam it back in with forceful thrusts. It drove her crazy. I felt like a wild animal, a god, an immortal. She grinned and all I could see were the whites of her eyes as they rolled back. Her cheeks were flushed red and she pulled me deeper inside her.

            “Come inside me! Come inside me!”

            I gave her the best ride I could give. I wanted to please this woman. I thought of corpses, grandmothers jamming dildos into each other, tortured puppies, anything to keep this feeling from leaving me. I couldn’t hold out any longer.

            “I’m gonna come, fuck.”

            “Do it! Do it, Hank!”

            That did it. Hank. I’m not sure why.

            I growled and grunted, and spurted everything into the condom inside her. Kristine grabbed the back of my head and bit down on my lip until I tasted blood.

            The resulting scene was a mess. I pulled off the condom and saw that it was doused in crimson. The blood was everywhere. The blanket was covered with a wide spot of dark red. Bloodstained streaks ran down the top of the bed from where she had grasped at the sheets. It looked like the aftermath of a murder. I got up to wash off my parts in the sink as Kristine lay on the bed laughing.

            “I told you!”

            “The maids are gonna hate you,” I yelled around the corner.

            “I’ll leave a tip on top of the sheets.”

            “A tip, shit. Burn those things and pretend it never happened.”

            “Ahahaha. I’m taking a shower.”

            She walked around behind me and kissed me on the neck before disappearing into the bathroom. I washed off the blood on my fingers with soap and wiped the blood from the corner of my lip. It was everywhere. I stood in the mirror looking at my naked body. I felt like a primal beast, drinking and fucking and bloody. Where had my morals gone? Were they ever there? Whoever the animal was looking back at me, I liked him. I wasn’t sure what that meant.

            Kristine was singing in the shower, still laughing. I could feel myself falling in love again. I was fucked.

            We spent the rest of the day walking around the city, eating and drinking at every Mexican joint we could find. She would hold my hand and pull me into corners to make out every few blocks. She looked happy.

            I tried my best to avoid thinking about the fact that Kristine was leaving the next morning. I would probably never see her again after that. But knowing that felt good in a way. She would leave before I got in too deep, which I certainly would if she stuck around. Knowing that I had a short, finite amount of time to spend with Kristine allowed me the ability to be fully present with her. There was no future there, so any thoughts of the future were pointless. I wished it could always be this easy. Sometimes a guy just got lucky.

            We came back to the hotel with two bottles of wine before the sun set. At some point she fell asleep. I lay in bed and watched the ceiling as she breathed softly. She didn’t snore. That was nice.

            I must have fallen asleep eventually. The vibration from my phone forced me back to consciousness.

            “H—hello?”

            “Are you sleeping?”

            “Yes, I’m asleep. Who is this?”

            “Rita, you idiot. Where are you?”

            “Oh. I’m in a hotel room.”

            “What? Where?”

            I thought about it. “I don’t know. Somewhere downtown.”

            “Okay, I’m not gonna ask. Well, Marcus and I are about to head downtown. Wanna meet us for a drink?”

            “Sure.” I looked over at the sleeping woman lying next to me. “I’m with someone though.”

             “Of course you are. Kaitlyn?”

            “No. That didn’t work out. Turns out she doesn’t like queers.”

            “Sorry. So who’s the new one?”

            “No new one. You’ll meet her.”

            “Alright, send me an address. We’ll pick you up in an hour. You and your not new one.”

            I hung up and shook Kristine awake. “Hey. Hey! Wake up. Drink this.”

            She stirred and groaned, and took the bottle of wine out of my hand. “What’s happening?”

            “We’re drinking. Do you wanna meet a couple of my friends?”

            “Can we finish this first?”

            “That was my idea.”

            “Then yes.”

            We passed the bottle and watched a news segment about a teacher who abducted one of his high school students. He took her to a cabin in the redwoods to have his way with her. Apparently it was consensual and she did her best to avoid the both of them being caught. But he was, and she went back home to her parents and he went to federal prison for rape and crossing state lines to have sex with a minor.

            Kristine was confused. “If she was down, how can this guy be convicted of rape? I mean, that’s the opposite.”

            “She was a minor,” I said, and slugged from the waning bottle. “That’s statutory rape, it doesn’t matter. The argument is that she didn’t know any better on account of not being a legal adult and all.”

            She took the bottle back and drank it down to the bottom. “I had sex with my teacher.”

            I coughed. “How’d that go?”

            “Not so well. He cried after and took a shower. I still had to go to his class for another six months after it.”

            “That’s a cute story. Did he give you an A at least?”

            “C plus.”

            “Is that wine gone?”

            “Yeah.”

            Once Marcus and Rita arrived we were properly wasted. We spilled out through the revolving doors of the hotel, kissing and holding each other to keep from stumbling over. I collapsed into the backseat next to Kristine. “Guys, this is Kristine. Kristine, this is…the guys.”

            “Hi,” she chirped.

            “Hi,” said Marcus.

            “Hello,” said Rita. “You got a cute one this time, Henry.”

            “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Rita.”

            After a few minutes of small talk, we pulled into some bar I had never been to. I lit a cigarette and Kristine took it out of my mouth, so I lit another one. Rita stood awkwardly with Marcus on the sidewalk, watching us, waiting for us to finish and go in. “So…how’d you guys meet?”

            “How do you think?” I laughed.

            “Tinder?”

            Kristine answered before I could. “Yeah, I just travel around the country hitting up dudes on Tinder.”

            There was a short silence.

            “Well…that’s cool.”

            “We met at a bar,” I said.

            Marcus attempted to be witty. “Well, what’s the difference these days?”

            I had no idea what that meant.

            The bar was loud and abrasive. Many young people our age filled out the space, stumbling and yelling over each other’s stories of their college majors and relationship woes. It was a sea of blue hair and ear gauges and Pabst cans. I hated the place. I try not to hate these places but I do. Establishments obviously meant to cater towards my generation easily disillusion me. I suppose the easy answer is simply that I’m disillusioned by my generation.

            I ordered a whiskey-soda for far too much money to drown out the feeling of alienation. The wine was getting to me, though—it always had a way of working into the deepest part of my stomach until it slowed down my mind and twisted my body beyond its ability to do so.

            We all made our way into the basement section of the bar and sat down against the wall. Kristine leaned her head against my shoulder, letting the full glass of beer in her hand hang softly at an angle. “I’m tired. I don’t like this place.”

            “Me neither,” I said.

            “Let’s drink wine and order a pizza at the hotel.”

            “Alright. We can finish our drinks and we’ll get out of here.”

            “You promise?”

            “Why wouldn’t I?”

            Kristine was falling asleep. I had to shake her awake multiple times to keep her from spilling the beer. Marcus and Rita tried at times to make conversation, but all the words fell away into the abyss of shitty pop music and adolescent screams.

            I began to doubt humanity’s ability to survive a nuclear holocaust when I noticed a large, dark-haired man staring at me from across the room. He was slouched over on the barstool as if he had a serious issue with his posture as a child that was never corrected. His mouth didn’t seem to fit his face—it was too small. In fact, everything on his face appeared as though it was tacked on like a Mr. Potato Head doll. Too much face, not enough eyes, mouth, nose. I didn’t like him.

            I looked away and laid my hand on Kristine’s knee. When I looked again, the odd fellow’s gaze had intensified. I stared back. He didn’t look away. Finally I broke the tension: “What the fuck are you looking at?”

            “What?”

            “I said, what’re you looking at?”       

             The distance between this confrontation made the whole thing feel juvenile.

            “What do you think I’m looking at?”

            “You’re looking at me, motherfucker. I’m asking why.”

            We must have been yelling across the room. People were looking over at us.

            He then got up and walked over. He was larger than I imagined. Sitting at a barstool has a way of distorting a person’s size.

            “Who’s the girl?” he asked.

            Kristine shot up out of her stupor. “Who the fuck are you, man?”

            He was a bit taken aback by this, but composed himself and continued with his noble crusade. “Do you know this guy? Trust me, you don’t wanna do this.”

            “This guy?” she spat, and pointed at me. “Nah, never met him. He told me he’d buy me drinks if I came home and fucked him on his sex swing.”

            “She’s kidding.”

            “No I’m not.”

            His face contorted with shock and anger. “You should come with me. I’ll take care of him for you.”

            She laughed. “Nah. I’ve always wanted to try a sex swing. I wanna see what it’s like to hit that spot in anti-gravity, y’know what I mean? I think I’ll go with him.”

            I began laughing but this was a difficult situation to unfurl myself from. I leaned towards her ear. “What’re you trying to do, get me stabbed?”

            “Maybe,” she grinned. “Give me some chaos. Wake me up.”

            “Yeah?”

            I stood up. The guy had at least half a foot on me. “Look, this ain’t your business. The lady wants to go with me. If she wants the sex swing, and I wanna get her a couple drinks to get her there, then that’s my right as a GODDAMN AMERICAN. What’re you, a COMMUNIST?”

            Kristine burst into laughter behind me.

            The ogre-like man puffed out his chest and stepped closer to me. He smelled like cheap cologne you’d get on sale at Wal-Mart. “It is my business. You’re my business. The lady isn’t coming with you.”

            “Then I suggest you invest in a sex swing. It pays for itself.”

            The blood began rising to his face. His eyes widened. It was coming. I never knew why I let these things happen. It would be easy to blame it on alcohol, but then where’s the fun in that?

            I leaned in once more next to Kristine. “Are we paid out?”

            “Yep.”

            “Ready to run?”

            “Yeah. I think you’re cute.”

            “Tell me that after this.”

            The shit I would do for a pretty girl.

             Now, before I go on, I should explain that I’m not much of a fighter. I’m not particularly inclined towards violence, and alcohol rarely spurs me towards it unless it’s merited in a specific circumstance where it can’t otherwise be avoided. But something about being in the presence of a woman—a woman who demands blood, gets off on it—changes your entire brain chemistry. A bar fight becomes an epic battle with a dragon, and that scaly motherfucker is harboring your damsel in distress, and your fists become a mighty sword and shield. Your dick grows six inches, your fears are distant sirens in the middle of a crowded city, your mind calms and your heart rate slows. But obviously it doesn’t last very long.   

            As that first punch landed across the side of my head, I thought, I wonder what Kaitlyn is doing?

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