It was hard for me to believe that there was a time that I loved him. But even as he collapsed, eyes wide not with terror but with the irreconcilable fury of betrayal, mouth sputtering with dark liquid, I found that I did not hate him.

This was not how it was supposed to go. For too long, long after Martín had stopped struggling, after the body made its final relaxation, I stared unmoving into the fluorescent reflecting pools of red splattering across the concrete. It was all so unreal. It had all been so fast.

I remember vividly placing the switchblade in my back pocket, remember the uncomfortable lump it made as I made the long train ride from Oak Park to Belmont – all just to meet him, see him, if for only one last time. No! That was never the plan, only a precaution, a last ditch safety valve because no matter how badly I needed to see him, I knew I could never let him hurt me again.

We met in a place special to both of us. We met in the back storeroom of that tiny fruit market. The smell of overripe bananas and mold was instantly triggering. Martín fooled me with initial tenderness, warm words, a whiff of white bar soap. But it only took a moment for him to turn, for emotion to overwhelm him and turn to rage.

Almost as soon as it happened it became something distant and indistinct in my memory, a vision of a moving image of someone else as viewed through fogged up goggles. The strongest sense remaining after was the smell of iron. Even now, in the unrelenting wind of the night, I can still taste his gushing blood through my nostrils and in my throat.

Northwest Side Night

Outside, the night is suffocating, air heavy and hot though the sun’s been down for hours. The street is awash with motion: cars flash by, rushing to make the next light, young couples moving from the bar on the corner to the pizza parlor across the street, gangs of high school kids hover in the convenience store parking lot down the street. Behind us, a kid on a BMX bike rides up, knees hitting handlebars. In soft-spoken Spanish he asks us if we want to buy any weed. Luis laughs and says no, his shoulders tense as we watch the boy ride away.

“Alright, you had your walk, got your pop, let’s go home.” I say.

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