Copyright is held by the author.

CATASTROPHIC FAILURE is a position I put myself in daily. Invest any time in me, and it will lead to disappointment. Destruction litters my path, so please don’t deprive me of my beautiful collapse. Your normalcy isn’t something you should be secure in because what happens in my life might happen to you.

On this day, I wandered.

In the distance, she stands, across the street, through the crowd, and past the rush of life, solitary at a pay phone.

The hair hooks me first, a deliberate shade of red. My eyes track the curves of the dress. And the sheer fabric clenched to reveal the full length of her slender, pale thigh. Under the burden of cumbersome words, the stranger’s lips twist, pushing anger into the phone. The voyeuristic moment leaves me dirty.

Right before me, it plays out. The redhead recoils, her face flickering flush with panic, before emptying paleness on the concrete. A restless shift exposes bare feet.

Pinned to mine, I catch her eyes, sharp as tacks. A dismissive shrug escapes, as she throws her hair into the sunlight, wispy shadows scattering across her face before the pay phone slams the receiver. The sight of alabaster skin glistening under the charge of emotion is mesmerizing. Sweat covers the freckles on her chest. The moment devours me, and I surrender.

In a burst, she closes the distance between us, leaving space for our words to move slow and intimate.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

She manipulates the buttons on her dress between the tips of her fingers with a hint of need. Deep and deeper into the distraction I fall, realizing we are nothing to each other, but I am incapable of ending the exchange.

“I need a ride,” she says.

My head nods, a nervous reflex.

Minutes pass before the silence splits. Steel erections puncture the skyline, the buildings shadowing long and ominous beyond the headlights. Doubt creeps.

“You got any money?”

“A . . . little,” I say.

Blocks later her direction leads me to a house off the busy street, odd but ordinary under the withdrawal of light. Together we cross the walk and hurry the stairs. A rusted rail groans but forgives my grasp.

Inside mirrors the out.

The Afghan Hash she bought finds the coffee table without hesitation, the contents spilling on the stained carpet, her oil-stained fingers moving with efficiency, casting greater doubt on my judgment. Within minutes of my third inhale, connection leaves my body, floating above the couch, above the house, above everything.

The sun is pounding on my neck when I wake. Arms, outstretched and numb, drape the sofa, a bird frozen in flight. Pants tangle my ankles; my cock is twisted and limp. And my mouth is dry and unforgiving. A bottle of Jim Beam stands sentinel between my feet. In the room, emptiness. Outside the shadows retreat under the mounting sun.

The drug induced fog disappears and reality surfaces. The stranger has left along with my wallet, keys, phone, and unconsumed hash. I force myself upright; a residual numbness muddles my legs without control and spastic. A door is near, and I stumble onto the street, stopping a stranger crossing the decaying sidewalk. The man reeks of emptiness, mouth halfcocked, dried saliva marking the corners of his pale, dry, clownish lips.

“What day?”

The stranger mutters something vague, brushing against me with annoyance and pity, his presence leaving a stain. The level of filth, something camouflaged by the darkness and anticipation, is shocking. What have I lost in this place?

The return to salvage my dignity took days, and I shuffle the faces of every stranger, a deck of cards in the street. Anxious and desperate, I search for something red. An hour into the hunt my body is grimy under the midday sun. There is little hope of finding her again.

Until I spot her and the familiar unfolds.

The hair drew him in, and the tight clothing drawn between clenched fingers exposing a slender, pale thigh.

The stranger is me; with eyes, quick to follow the lines of her dress.

In a blink, they drift from sight.

The crowd of humanity parts as I weave and sift through bodies, ending at the pay phone. I lift the receiver.

The phone is dead, the cord dangling free in the air.

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  1. Great story. I loved it. Nice tension, easy read and it moves. The ending is perfect.

  2. Noir. But somehow the writing seems like, well, writing, almost as if it is a sendup, designed to be read aloud. Either that, or I didn’t get it.

  3. Amen on that, Michael….!!

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