“Therefore, every man …”
I opened my eyes to the scrape of the wipers.
“… look to that last end …”
They labored across the windshield.
How long had I left them running?
The rain must have ended a while before.
“Therefore, every man, look to that last end that is thy death …”
After having occurred to me, I couldn’t finish the quote any more than remember its origin.
The road approached before me and shot out beyond while apparently never changing.
Although, from behind the wheel, I could only guess at its length, I knew that it lay as straight ahead as it had for hundreds of miles behind.
The flat monotony of the land, sprinkled only lightly with barns and ranch houses, can wear on a man’s brain that late at night.
I vaguely remembered the rain that had fallen. Where had I been and who had been driving? It must not have mattered that I had been gone.
A cold wind in the face and blasting music in the ear are the keys to a weary traveler’s attentiveness (short of sleep, of course) but I had neither. The endless static on the radio consoled me little. A cold wind hadn’t blown through that valley since March (they didn’t expect it back before November). Although people learn to bear the heat, they complain all the same and welcome winter when it arrives. Still, a few times each summer, in the midst of the sweltering weather, some dirty bath water drips on them and passes for what they consider relief.
But the rain had subsided and the journey continued. How long it had lasted I couldn’t have said any more than how long I still had left to go. And why had I taken those back roads? Less traffic I had thought — more scenery I had thought. What I had gotten was just as little scenery and far too many stop signs. It would be a miracle if I were still headed north at all, having been nearly asleep for half the trip. My powers of navigation deserted me back when I left the area covered by the roadmap. Of course, a mariner of old could navigate by the stars, but what good was that with an overcast sky? Had it been clear, I was still no astronomer; each of a million celestial bodies were no more unique than a single blade of grass or bit of gravel speeding by on the shoulder beside me. I had no idea precisely what time it was either. At least I could locate it somewhere between when the darkness had fallen and when the sunrise would illuminate what lay around me again.
Still the fence posts went flashing past and the endless strands of barbed wire that had seemingly spanned that evening’s many miles. The wind was amazingly warm given the recent rain. It gusted across my left side. I remained damp there. Why roll up the window, I had figured, if it feels good? Whatever my desire on such a balmy night, why shouldn’t I indulge it?
* * *
That being one point at which she interrupted, “This guy isn’t anything like you. It’s hard to believe that it’s true. Are you making this up?” I should stop before I get too far and explain myself.
These are the pages in which I have organized all that remains of a previous life. Were it not for the urging of an artist friend of mine, I may never have made them public. He alone admired my work: “It’s art, man … like you’re painting naked people with your words!” Still, after emerging from the haze in which I wrote them, I knew that my lines were too vague on their own to be able to tell the whole story. The author, to be honest, isn’t reliable, either. He and I share an identity but I haven’t felt anything like him since undergoing treatment. I tend to think of him now as somebody else. Although I have always seen what he said was a masterpiece for the literary mess that it really is, something wouldn’t ever let me dismiss it entirely.
I began to unravel these tragic events under the watchful eye of a therapist. While planning to capture that night in a poem, I would talk and come up with a couple of lines, write them down and then wait for her comments. Our project grew into a monster. At novel length, I envisioned myself redefining the world of literature with it when I should have been gladder to simply survive.
It bothered me, at the time, to have such a constant critic. Her contributions were so insightful, however, that I have included some of what she said in the interest of clarity. We had barely begun discussing it when she objected to me describing myself (or the character based on me) as a lover of anything pleasurable. Why should I pretend to be somebody else? Eventually begging her, “Go with the story,” at least I admitted it, “even if it wasn’t really what I was thinking.”
“I wouldn’t mind but my time could be better spent.”
“Am I not the patient here? Isn’t the time really mine?”
“Getting over your trauma? Is that what you want? Then we ought to be talking about how it actually happened.”
“Hey, take it or leave it, already. God, doesn’t the bigger idea mean something? Where was I?”
“Out driving around in the country and caught in a lie … you were never the type to indulge your desire.”
“Fine. Now, can I continue?”
“I didn’t mean to stop you, only to say that you dwell on the negative.”
“Well, maybe if the car had been running better.”
“You hadn’t mentioned a problem.”
“I hadn’t gotten to it yet!”
“So you broke down?”
“They said it was the alternator.”
“So you broke down?”
“I could see a light on the horizon … some kind of a sign.”
“So you broke down …”
* * *
I broke down. As the sputtering motor gradually groaned to a halt, I pulled onto the side of the road. With it hovering over the shoulder a long way ahead, the word gasoline heralded civilization. I spotted the glow of the pumps and a luminous store in the distance. Still, I couldn’t drive any closer. A turn of the key having met with a click, the headlights flickered a final time. My alternatives: one. That alternative: walk.
At seventy miles an hour, my surroundings had been a blur. On foot, the incredible weight of the emptiness suffocated me. I would rather have wondered about the world outside of the range of my high beams than know for certain how dismal it really was. Where a couple of ghostly roads happened to cross, the gas station arose with a ramshackle bar on the opposite corner. Still gloomier businesses sat farther off. I found, at the sole lit establishment, two lonely cars — one around the side, probably belonging to the clerk on duty, and the one near the front that I passed on my way to the door. The vintage Corvette, its convertible top folded down, hunkered over the pools on the ground where the black curves along it swelled out of the shadows. The sight of it conjured up my younger lust when machines were the key to more carnal fulfillment, a glistening example of magazine dreaming that brought adolescence to where I could reach it … but only a car. I had a bigger problem. Beyond its sleek contours stood a pay phone (the mobile devices of the future were rare in 1994). I should call up a tow and get something to eat.
I found a severed cord where a phone-book should have hung. My despair only deepened. It fed my contempt for that type of a town. They decayed, in the end, until they were as dead as the few people living there. Dust covered everything in them eventually.
“Therefore, every man, look to that last end that is thy death and the dust that gripeth on every man that is born of woman …”
I still couldn’t finish the quote.
It continued to plague me.
The clerk was a well-mannered, dark-skinned man who not only loaned me his phone-book but gave me the name of a friend of his who could tow and repair my car in the morning “for cheap.” Having guided me into the back, he picked up the receiver, despite his amending, “It’s been on the blink,” after handing it to me. They’re never congenial down in the city. You say what you want to a microphone, getting whatever is small enough stuffed through a slot in the bulletproof glass. Not here in Nowheresville, California, though. My search began for a twenty-four-hour service to get me going again.
I leaned on a desk in the manager’s office while looking back into the cramped little store. With the instrument cordless, it didn’t get even a dial tone. Otherwise silent, the sound of her high heels called to me shortly before I could follow my view of her into the aisle. She finished seducing me only a few paces later because of the way that she moved.
With the beauty embodied for me to behold in a woman who thought me a man worth approaching, though often I’d longed for it, I dropped the phone yet was still at a loss for a suitable opening.
“So whose Corvette is that out front?” I blurted out in a deceptively brilliant maneuver, for my query was addressed to the room in general, for her response would be directed at me specifically, for she, technically, would be the instigator of our conversation, for I had nothing to fear — so why was I shaking?
“It’s mine,” she replied and strode forward. While clad in black fitting as if she had poured herself into it, she wore a low-cut ensemble. The depth of her neckline revealed as much as the height of her hem. Left to bask in her rich olive skin tone, it colored the rest of what I enjoyed during her quip, “Are we maybe a little late getting here?”
“You … you’ve been waiting for me?” I stammered.
“I saw your headlights a while ago, but you stopped way down the road. There’s parking out front here, you know,” she sarcastically told me while brushing a hair from her cheek. As it flowed with the rest of her rust-colored mane, the deep red of it shined in the light. Still, a strand of it lined how she batted her lashes. When saying, “I guess that you had some car trouble,” her eyes filled with sorrow.
“Yeah, car trouble,” I, like a moron, replied before asking her, “You’ve been expecting me?”
“Don’t sweat it Mister, you haven’t ruined my evening … just set me back some. You like the car, huh?”
“Then it’s yours! You got some paper back there, Swami?” She suddenly bent to the bag at her beautiful side. The inadequate fabric elastically tightened. It left me consumed by the very desire because of which I must have misunderstood her: she couldn’t have said what I thought she had. Nevertheless, I considered the stretch of her dress alone with it more firmly enwrapping her flesh. She said, after upending her bag on the counter and pushing the minimal contents around on it, “I have the paper but, God damn it, Swami, I still need a pen!” with the air of a debutante versed in intolerance.
Scoffing at, “Swami?” I had to remark on her insensitivity.
He said, “I’m Mike.”
She rebutted, “We’re friends aren’t we, honey?”
He answered, “The lady may call me whatever she likes.”
“That’s right, and you wouldn’t even run me down in the street, would you?”
“It’s not honorable, ma’am,” Mike reminded her tiredly, finding a pen and retracting the pad as she added, “A gentleman!” almost to slap him and gathered his item along with her scrap of a sheet although leaving it folded in half. “Okay, let’s do this right,” her defiance began, with the implement cocked in her scribbling hand and her hair lilting over the left of her neck where it fluidly settled with “Last Will and Testament”.
Wait! There was something important that I must have missed.
“… bequeath unto one Mr. …”
Given how perfect the health that I witnessed and morbid the girl sounded, it didn’t make any sense.
I grew mute and was given a chill at her, “… one Mr.!” building a louder insistence.
“Huh? Oh, sorry, Morrister.”
“And today’s date?”
“The date! It’s got to be dated to be official — on this, the first day of the last month of … that sort of thing.”
“You seem to know all about writing a will!”
“Sure, I’ve got a few things to leave behind … but no one who cared until you came along.”
With the dip of her head, she put her few belongings back into her purse again. Hoisting it, as if incredibly cumbersome, onto her shoulder, she pled with the clerk. Not impatient but curious, she had to question him, “Where are those smokes?” When he told her, “Don’t do it,” he seemed too concerned for an obvious stranger’s intentions. “Oh yeah, like denying a lady her last request is so honorable?” she bore the trace of a smile. Though rising to emphasize how nothing frightened her, she began trembling more like a child. He pushed her the pack on the counter beside the still unopened register. Turning, in spite of not touching her twenty, he tried organizing a shelf while she murmured, “You keep the change, Mike, and thank you again.” He said, “Have a nice day, ma’am,” from over his shoulder while curtly ignoring the difficult patron as anything more.
She rotated. Her gentle eyes swayed up to mine. Taking hold of my arm, she said, “Walk with me,” softly.
Our passage outside, where I breathed the fresh air, carried with it a sense of the crisis subsiding. I found the wet asphalt that smelled of a shower more cleansing than I had the sterile interior. Writing her will and her last cigarette were the ploys of a childish prank, at their best. I refused to be reeled in. Like most women were, she was accustomed to having her way. This charade with the clerk had run its course, explaining his hasty farewell. In her mind, it was simply a game. I decided to play it too.
Led by the elbow alongside the car where my fingers were free to glide down it, I dreamt of how I could have felt her with only a twitch of the arm in her grasp … but I didn’t. A sliver of space in between us, she bent to the driver’s door, swung it wide open and gestured me by her. I sank in the water that pooled in the seat before seeing how badly it beaded the cockpit.
“It’s wet!” I reported.
She glibly replied, “Yeah, the rain felt so good I said, ‘Why put the top up?’” To flaunt it, she fingered a few of the droplets that dotted the chrome and said, “Frank would have killed me!”
“So Frank owns the car?”
With a nod for an answer, I ended up asking her, “He doesn’t want it?”
“He certainly would if the guy was alive!”
With her message a mystery, I clarified her sarcastic announcement, “He’s dead?”
After causing the handbag to fly by my lap with a toss, it fell onto the floorboard before she responded.
Though starting with, “Yeah,” and the same nonchalance, “I should tell you the story,” was forcefully somber. She urgently uttered, “Wait, I’ll come around.” With her stare penetrating, it clashed with the smirk having surfaced despite her deliberately pouting. Her eyes had the gleam of a sinister secret while shutting the door and caressing the chrome. After swinging her shoulders while locking her focus and eagerly bounding ahead to the curb where the concrete, although just a few inches taller, became a stage for her, the store silhouetted her blatantly female form. It fluorescently haloed her shape and contrasted her charms with the gaudier neon pulsating beyond her.
She trod through my mind to the slow-motion timing of actors in romances just reunited. But she had to walk through her spotlight alone with her arms spread apart for elusive embraces. And little she knew of the life I could show her, with someone to worship her beauty at home and devotedly cherish her. Better than baring herself for a stranger, I could have adored her.
Still, however righteous my lofty concerns were, my eyes strayed to feast on her physical bounty. A hunger of mine and her body resounded in unison. Although alluring enough by themselves, her endowments were more appetizing because of the lunge of her high-heel stride. She became, unabashedly, sexual. Was I, like so many males were, such easy prey?
“… every man that is born of woman …”
It drove them.
Desire and doom were the same.
They would ache to return to the place from which everyone came.
Mortal men, though ambitious, can never roam far.
“… the dust that gripeth on every man that is born of woman …”
It totally tore me apart with a lust of my own.
She had already passed while I fought to look forward. The gas station window continued to glow in her absence. Maintaining her pace, her approach brought her opposite to me. Attracted as if by a magnet, I welcomed her role as my passenger. Closer-by, I could more thoroughly bask in the minute allure of her sensuality down to her hand as it weighted the armrest. Her masterly fingers dug into the vinyl as much as her beauty had into my brain.
With her sliding inside to reach over the console, it planted her next to my shoulder.
She questioned me, “What’s your first name?”
I was suddenly shaken as if from the hypnotic depth of a dream.
Hearing, “Daniel,” she pulled herself into my sleeve.
Therefore tilting more steeply, she seemed even needier.
Lifting her legs, holding each of them close to her chest and resultantly stretching her dress out, I watched her contortion and heard something shred while I breathlessly waited for her to begin.
“Once upon a time in a pitifully small town where everybody knew way too much about everybody else’s business, there lived a pretty young girl. This girl’s boyfriend, whose name was Frank, was the biggest, strongest, proudest man in town. He had the fastest car and all the girls loved him. Anyways, one-night Frank and his girl went out partying at this bar and everybody got pretty drunk. Frank went to the bathroom and this stranger asked his girl to dance. And even though nobody else was dancing and even though she said no, the stranger forced her. When Frank came back and saw this, he was furious and took a swing at the guy. But because he was so drunk, he missed and the guy ran outside while Frank’s friends were holding him back. When Frank got free, the guy was across the street getting into his truck. Frank ran to get him but, right at that second, a speeding car came barreling through the intersection. Frank was killed instantly.”
Her brighter eyes beamed with superior pride.
Although fighting to keep her lips tight, a grin widened across them.
No matter how tragic her tale had been, she triumphantly swayed from my side to lean into the door panel waiting behind her while asking me, “Well, Danny, what do you think of my beautiful romance, the lie that we feed the unfortunate daughters who grow up believing that men would be willing to die for them?”
Changing her tone as though serious all of the sudden, her eyes agonizingly darted to mine, “You see word in this town, well, it gets around fast, and it wasn’t too long before I heard what happened. The two worked together, it turned out. This other guy, he stole a job that was rightfully Frank’s … which I didn’t find out until after that night. I’m so stupid that I thought he got in a fight so the jerk wouldn’t hurt me!”
The truth had discouraged her badly enough that she tiredly turned to sink into the bucket seat timidly further. A virtual curtain of hair had descended as soon as she buried her chin in her chest. Even so, I could measure the depth of her graver despair. It concerned her not causing her boyfriend’s untimely demise. I could not fathom why getting killed for her sake would have conjured her smile.
My hand settled onto the fishnet enwrapping her knee. It was strewn near the console between us. My stroking her thigh like an idiot, I felt, was only a gesture of sympathy. Meanwhile, I tried to lighten her grief, “But it’s better,” by easing her guilt, “that you don’t get the blame.”
With her brushing her rust-colored veil away, she revealed the child behind the disguise. “It sure would have been sweet if he had died for me, though,” she said before crying, “instead of his pride.”
The tears streamed down her cheeks while she bared her bereavement.
I questioned her, “Sweet?” out of sheer disbelief.
With her wiping her face, her mascara was streaking it during her struggle for clarity, “I don’t wish anyone harm. But it’s done. What I mean is, why shouldn’t I think that he did it for me?”
Vocalizing it made her more wildly weep.
Momentarily short of breath, she had to heave to inhale.
It drove her to brokenly speak, “Frank could … have any girl … that he wanted. He chose me … so I’m not complaining. But sometimes … I feel like this car. I just made him … look better. He’s gone now … and it leaves me wondering … what good am I?”
Minimizing a death, she bemoaned her survival. I failed to find it unfortunate. Hearing her dwell on herself, I had dealt with her type before.
Gasping for air when it started, the interval wore on so long that she got her composure back.
Our difficulty had seemingly maddened her, “Frank lived his life for himself. Can you understand how I lived mine for him too? But, the way that he went, I thought, ‘God, he did all this for me’, and I felt as if we were in love for once.” Pleading for pity no longer, her eyes had indignantly dried to the point where they nearly demanded it, “Dancing with me was like keying his car. Having somebody mess with his property bothered Frank. He didn’t care whether I was okay or not. What really mattered was who won their argument!”
Ringed with the garish remains of her makeup, she deepened her scowl to get me to say something.
Left at a loss, though, I let her keep talking.
My question, “What now?” put the pressure back onto her.
With that, she moved her attention beyond me to gaze at the pavement that wetly reflected the flickering street-lamps erected like sentinels guarding the faraway ground that she pondered, “I’ll do what I always have … I plan to follow him.”
I had to sit up and ask her more cautiously, “You wouldn’t hurt yourself, would you?”
She grinned, “I would go a lot further and have someone hit me the same way that he did!”
While said in a spirit befitting a little girl, I didn’t doubt her sincerity. She had awaited a stranger. The car broken down up the road would have ended up running her over. With her organizing the whole thing around me, the motor had died. A far different encounter had spared her destruction. That piece of the puzzle the last, I could see more than just her insanity. Worse than her death, it assembled a gruesomely chilling scenario. Grislier still, I could picture myself as the man who would kill her.
Dismissing how I felt aghast at fulfilling it, she spoke as if I would actually grant what she wanted, “I’ll try not to get any blood on it. Take your new Corvette and be on your way after cleaning the mess up. The cops wouldn’t blame you if it’s my idea and I leave a suicide note.”
She reached forward and into the bag on the floor mat. As if flaunting her nonchalance with the new pack of cigarettes, pounding them into her palm didn’t stop her from adding, “It’s sad how the car doesn’t matter without him around. I could tell once somebody explained to me how there are two kinds of people. If you look at life through a window, you get to enjoy all the beauty. Frank didn’t. To him, everything was a mirror. It wasn’t his fault. That’s why he never saw me.”
Enduring his cruelty must have exhausted her once.
With him gone, she referred to it fondly.
The same kind of weaknesses preyed on us all.
“… the dust that gripeth on every man that is born of woman …”
And wouldn’t Joyce have understood?
“… as he came naked forth from his mother’s womb …”
With the quote from Ulysses, I finally remembered James Joyce.
The reward was seductively poised, in the meantime, for me to more freely enjoy it.
She carelessly straightened her calf on my thigh. From the mesh of her stocking, I spied her entirety’s strenuous grace in more painful a placement than anything previous. Wrenching her creases still tighter, the fabric sadistically shaped her as would have a mental asylum restraint. “Will you do what I want? If you won’t, just be honest and let me start looking for somebody else.” With the wrap off the carton, the cellophane sailed away, “The poor guy in the store was afraid of me. I can’t imagine why.” She traced the length of her leg with a foot after kicking a shoe free. The embers extinguished because of her scheme were ignited again. While her body was feeding the flames, my opinions were slow to escape them, “Of course I’m not going to kill you! I want to help you. You need help!”
With the package aside and the cigarette yet to be lit, her lips reddened the tip of the filter. It bounced up and down with a handful of syllables. After removing it, her saying, “I can help you,” put her tongue to the sensual use of the sentence’s emphasis, giving a lick to her loosening mouth. As I wound up allowing her foot to work up to my shirt and around me, she let it submerge in my opening fold.
Although happy to feel it crawl into my clothing, I fought the distraction to keep my control of our battle by asking her, “Help me?” sarcastically, “Aren’t you the one getting killed here?”
She suddenly heaved herself out of her watery seat. After planting her pelvis in front of the wheel, she whispered the question, “What is it you need, Mr. Morrister?” adding, along with a grunt while adjusting her weight on my stomach, “I wonder.”
She crouched like a cat having pounced on its prey and so, after she pinned me, got down in my face where the breath that rushed over me carried my name on a warmth that was balmy with alcohol fragrances, meaning that she could be drunker than crazy. She mounted the saddle she’d made of my lap as her dress, having hiked up well over her panties, revealed the silken triangle that straddled it, slowly at first but at last acrobatically pounding the passion of all her anatomy into my shrinking amazement. The wilder rock of her torso and whip of her skull catapulted the strands having gently adorned her before at the aid of her beautiful torture.
I cried out for, “Stop!” the more noble cause, “Stop!” from a lust run amuck and a virtual flogging and, not without effort, forwent my obsession with, “Won’t you stop!” watching her fall from the neck of, at best, a precarious garment.
While desperately tearing my eyes from the bounce of her breasts, I attempted to plead with her.
She, like a predator bored with its prey, finally started to slow down.
More spent than relaxing, she had to collapse in a pile of flesh and it flattened her back. When she buried her head in my shoulder, a shadow appeared like a phantom while actually cast by the bulk of a stranger emerging and passing us. He blocked the edge of a blanket of grey breaking over a distant horizon. A trace of light painted the onlooker somberly sauntering up to the storefront.
I welcomed an occupant other than us in a world too uncomfortably small where a life could be, left to me, lost.
“Look, don’t think I don’t want you, alright, because I do. More than you can know. But this isn’t how it should happen. I’ll take you out to a meal, open your door and pull out your chair. At the end of the night, when I bring you back home, you can send me away with a kiss. That’s how it should happen between a man and a woman. I’m not like him, treating you like an object of my desire. I want to show you some respect.”
“Like an object of your respect?” with her tearfully wetter cheek on it, she dampened my collar. A hungry new actor had stolen her stage. He was rugged and even authentically bowlegged. Thusly, he lumbered across it alone with the starlet distracted. While I got far more than a close-up, she played an emotional wreck and I cautiously sought to prevent her portrayal, “Yes, don’t you get it? You’re denying yourself some very fundamental human rights — rights that women have spent their lives fighting for.”
“I’m not those women,” she echoed me yet again. It made the passerby fleetingly face our predicament. However much of a spectacle, she at least drew his attention less sexually. Still, he averted his eyes in embarrassment. Checking the mirror, I spotted his truck at the pumps. On her side of the cab sat the other and prettier part of the elderly couple. Her gray hair betraying their ages, it hung in a loose-fitting bun. I could tell, as I hadn’t before, that her husband was not any younger. Their meeting the sunrise without ever tiredly wavering might have been due to their mindlessly doing so. Peasants refueling their mule, it would probably carry them into oblivion. I said, as if I had actually been listening, “It’s always the same with your type. What you’re wearing alone would set the women’s movement back a decade!”
“It isn’t their dress,” her replies were nonsensical. I didn’t pay much regard to them, anyway. Rather, my focus remained on the storefront where giving a push on the door didn’t open it. Watching the traveler, he tapped on the glass until going away without getting an answer. His animal waited, demandingly thirsty for gasoline whether a clerk had been absent or not. With the customer climbing lethargically into his pickup and staring, along with his woman, ahead, he seemed almost inoperative. I could recall how the telephone line had been dead in the office, too. Mike could have fled, after locking the station and by the rear exit, to find us some help. In the meantime, I told her, “Your clothes don’t excuse the abuse that you had to endure but I wonder why you aren’t concerned about how people see you.”
“They see me?” she longingly pondered my question yet hardly addressed it. A single paralysis seemingly swept over everyone. All three were frozen together: an old man, his wife and the neighborhood tramp. With nobody left willing to so much as act, they invited the doom of the future that trapped them. So, clinging intently to each of their wheels, they steered without swerving and couldn’t predict what the bends in the minutes that nonetheless ticked away had, in the midst of their ignorance, hidden. They traveled through life like a backcountry highway and practically straight to its pitiful end while fixating, instead, where the smallest of incidents added a layer of hope. It was only the dust of a road that got everyone nowhere.
“Therefore, every man, look to that last end that is thy death and the dust that gripeth on every man that is born of woman for as he came naked forth from his mother’s womb so naked shall he wend him at the last for to go as he came.”
* * *
At once from the swell of her stomach up,
Or somewhat, at least, with that much of her
Above the torn dress at her panties
And no longer painfully clad,
With her having allowed either breast to be shockingly bare, I was shamefully tempted to stare at them.
Pushing the door, she fell out of the car but unevenly mounted a half-heeled mockery.
I said, to stop her from something obscener, “You better watch out before somebody sees you!”
While gripping the garment to peel it off, she cried, “Let them …”
It squeezed her beyond being easily shed.
With her words having halted, she bent to the shredded remains.
After pulling one leg at a time out, a pile encircled her feet.
Once repeating the motion and working her underwear free, she continued her sentiment, “… see me!”
She tripped through the parking lot seeking an audience willing to want all that she had to offer while
To leave on a singular spike, as though
Her strut failed, buckling sideways, yet
For someone to try to entice
She moved on and left me behind her.
Careening into it, she had to collapse in the dust of a hood only partially damp until it had begun to rub into a lather beneath her resultantly plastered anatomy. Smearing the mud with her cleavage increasing the more that she pressed either breast to the truck, she rose onto her elbows and called to the couple who sat in the cab where they rotated from her to scream at them, “See me!” Within their routine and wind-shielded comfort, the occupants seemed to be numb if not ignorant even more stubbornly.
Shoving herself from the metal, she clumsily spun with it sounding the slap of her flung around flesh. When her shoe threw her further off balance, it flew from her foot as if for a finale and over a gas pump. She drunkenly tumbled and rolled out from under the awning that covered both her and the station’s unsatisfied customers.
Wallowing into a wetter yet area, grit from it coated her, clumping her heavier hair in a puddle but, no longer writhing, she helplessly melted. Her verdict was dealt and with “See me,” a sob she eventually settled. Strewn over the pavement like meat for the slaughter, the truth had defeated her fervor to flaunt it.
Her body wound up belly down in the water with all of it oily. Because she continued to cry, every breath undulated the shine of each shoulder, her spine, either cheek and her thighs where the sheen of a streetlamp had landed to line them but suddenly didn’t as visibly quiver as if at the sign of some possible sympathy.
Sensing what summoned her, she began sluggishly
Simply to stand up and walk before
Onward in solely her stockings while
To not let her nudity stop her
Until she had gotten as far as the edge of the road where the headlights were growing eventually bigger.
She saw them and narrowly focused her hopeful attention.
A truck and its loud intervention mechanically crept along. Trembling at each of its eighteen wheels, it rumbled to reign in its diesel momentum. A window revealed the driver within it, a sailor adrift on a sea of cement. With the naked pedestrian nearly beseeching him, he finally heard her repeat “Do you see me?”
Alive with excitement, hormonal unrest made him answer, while tipping his hat back, “God, do I!”
She held her arms wide and displayed her entirety. Wearing so little except for the light from an overcast sun only gradually rising had made her look uninterruptedly vibrant. As soon as the stranger’s offhanded appraisal got taken to heart, she flowed over with pride and, where I had been causing a torrent of tears, he was already earning a smile.
Her radiance glowed as intensely through most of what happened, including the stare as it came to be cast like a spell in between the two. Although entranced by the sight of her no longer secret anatomy, something else broke it. The sound of a horn barely audible over his idling motor, he realized how she strode into the path of whoever was honking it. Owed to her crossing the line where it guided another’s approach, he began, with his cap off, to wildly motion her with it. She didn’t retreat to the shoulder but almost hypnotically failed to notice it. Nor did the newcomer quickly respond. The car tore up the road despite somebody blocking its way. In a panic, the rig’s operator more frantically warned the nude woman to watch out. The cruel hand of fate made the oncoming tires slide out of control. Until hit with the horror amid her new bliss yet before undergoing the deadly collision, her smile remained.
* * *
“Why like this?”
“Why like what?”
“Why like … in rhyme?”
“Why? I don’t know. I guess I thought that it was important that it be … special.”
“You didn’t find it special at the time.”
“Well maybe that’s why I would write it … wait … you’re trying to get me to analyze myself!”
“Look, don’t play games, okay.”
“Is that it then? Is that the end of the story?”
“No, it’s only the beginning. The others, they’re because of her.”
“And you dug them up because …”
“Somebody owed her something.”
“Fair enough. What next?”
“The news report.”
“No it’s not, it’s how he found out about her.”
“My next character.”
“Character? Are these stories real or not?”
“I don’t know. You’re the expert.”