After Party

A forever tunnel stretched bending and swirling, a gateway to the infinite tilt of galaxies exponentially expanding further and further. I moved at light-speed. The cold of space smacking against my face, my wide open eyeballs, freezing everything solid and stiff. And then, propulsion failing, the universe began a slow collapse. It was a thing of beauty, the few visible lights stretching into ribbons curling and forming ethereal figures. Hard uneven ground met me fast, copper and spit pooling behind my teeth.

The fall sobered me somewhat, enough that I could stand with a passable percentage of unsteadiness. Without thought, I ran without any reasonable conscious command from memory. At some point, time travel had been activated. Point A had been Terry Messer’s living room, Point B had been the bottle of ten-year-old scotch Terry had busted out. Dale and Brent were there too, distant faces beneath ripples now, only open laughing mouths and loud voices. Points C, D, and E had all been lost to the ebb and flow of amber liquor.

There had been a reason for this flight into the cold December night. There was a reason for the heavy cutting stitch in my side – tender to the touch. Batman T-shirt torn at the collar, torn at the back, sub-zero atmosphere clutching at my bare skin. A dog barked, echoing far enough to engulf the near pitch-black street. The nearest streetlight might as well have been the closest star.

It may have been the echo of my own footsteps, may have been the throbbing within my head tinged with rapid loss of body heat and general paranoia, but it seemed that someone was behind me in perfect lockstep clomping against the frozen street. I couldn’t slow though, couldn’t turn around, it was struggle enough to keep my eyes open and forward against the cold. It was enough of a struggle to simply keep the world steady upon a horizontal axis.

I thought, stupidly perhaps, that if I could only reach that distant streetlight, if I could reach it’s safety, everything would be alright. I thought I would wake up. I thought that something would emerge from the shadows to usher me away from all that was evil.

I begin to enter into phases of microsleep while still running upright, sight and mind blinking in and out of the real world. I can see the fear in Terry’s eyes as he lay panting on the living room carpet, hear incessant howls of pain from the closed-off bathroom, feel broken glass and liquid scattered across the otherwise clean beige tile of the kitchen floor. Need to stay awake, I fight the gripping blackness against the edges of my vision, biting through my own tongue, fresh pain, fresh metal. But even with my eyes open wide, there still remains something slithering and dark hanging about my peripherals. No matter how hard I bite down, no matter if I bite it clean off, the lingering shadow darker than the night does not dissipate.

A wail rises through the cold, whether it is human or mechanical I can’t tell. Blue and red lights flash against the faces of the houses as I realize that my legs will no longer work beneath me. I stand swaying, drained, numb.

It’s then that I recall the shape of something tall standing at the end of Terry’s hallway, only a shade darker than the lightless room at the hall’s end. I remember coming out of the bathroom, flesh warm with drink, and feeling an overwhelming sensation of weight upon my entire being, a magnetic force reaching out to grab my gaze. I stood there staring into that glorious abyss of a hallway for a long time, several minutes or maybe an hour. So long enough that eventually Dale yelled for me, asking if I fell in. After that…

“Get on the ground!”

There’s a bright light in my face. A man shouts as I hold my hands up to shield against the too bright light. In the glare, I can see my skin covered with the stains of human spillage. More shouting, empty threats. The light is too bright, the blues and reds swirling too fast. The shape is there to lend me comfort though. It is invisible to those who do not love it as I do. It grants me the power to move, beckons me to walk forward. It fills me with the knowledge that there is nothing to fear from the lights, nothing to fear from men.

Gush

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.

Continue reading “Northwest Side Night”