The leaves billowed from the heavens, a roasted brown or Sunkist yellow. Mixed into the mess is the liter of the ages; a pattern, a rhythm, a song of color against dismal grey concrete. I pass the man with the tenderized face, jeans with holes and a twisted limp. But he smiles, teeth like termites. And though he smiles, later he won’t. And though he greets me with a kind face now, later he won’t. We know this, we know the binary of the demons and the angels. It remains unacknowledged, but the distance is respected.
They cycled through their small plethora.
Prescriptions to Oxycontin, Xanax, Ritalin.
Smoking pills, swallowing pills.
Burning the finish off potential that some claim to be “God given.”
He stumbled, gathering pieces of himself.
It was twelve blocks to Samantha’s flat.
He could endure.
With his hand in his pocket, he pinched himself.
“Sober up dammit”
the taste of wine becoming sour in his dry mouth.
Cars passed on the left,
but he climbed the hill, looking forward.
They were all looking for an excuse.
They’d sell you down the river if it meant validation of an invalid existence.
They stared. Faces change.
couldn’t be trusted.
Sometimes soft faces shroud hard interiors.
He thought of Samantha’s refined curves.
The lace leaving just enough to the imagination.
The smooth familiarity,
and the taut skin of a conscious body.
Eight more blocks.
The people passing looked at him like he wasn’t so much of a man,
but the dangerous biproduct of man
stuck to the bottom of their shoes.
They peered down at him,
scraping him off with a twig, dropping him to the street to decompose.
Demeanors expressed a conflicted mixture of cautionary disgust.
Samantha was the escape he could depend on.
No tolerance, no nausea, no overdose.
The ideal heroin high
The euphoria without the pain.
Torbin found, like most of the best things in his life,
the dependency could kill.
The way she touched him.
The way she could love him when, in comparison,
everything else was brittle Styrofoam ready to crumble the moment any pressure was applied.
Five more blocks.
A car horn blared.
Torbin shifted to the street side.
Maybe he’d serve society better as a pancake.
Torbin thought of just how good he would be as a pancake.
He saw her as the last green blade of grass on a yellow lawn.
He no longer sat as an island in a sea of flammable turpentine.
In his mind,
and solely in his mind,
he thought of Samantha and him as one.
Forever he would walk as “we.”
But she walked alone
The chase excited him, destroyed him
He loved her AND the idea of her
She represented the pursuit
Because he knew she would be
Three more to go.
He hid the rejection under used blunt wraps, the ashes from meth ad any number of other drugs
Under it all he intended to bury himself
He would be regretful to have Samantha coiled around him
In his grave, set aside
He was succeeding
So the paranoia set in.
He imagined her sleeping with man after man, the sweat tainting her supple skin,
and most of the time he was right.
He had trouble determining the difference in profiting for survival and love.
Was he just another customer paying with whatever he could?
In a way,
he was certain he was,
though he paid the tab with a breaking heart.
In memory, sandpaper didn’t seem so coarse.
His image of her was galvanized in a thick layer of gold.
He arrived outside her apartment.
He hesitated, swaying,
in a current.
The stairs were long,
each a different spectrum of color.
Some called it street art, but graffiti,
vandalism was more appropriate.
nothing but slurs and hate speech.
Walking into the room the air was thick.
The bare walls
The long mourning windows
The crumbs even the rats wouldn’t eat
The interior was like it’s residents
Void of colors
Ghosts of where once was
A feeling being
He heard the rhythm.
a cinderblock dropping repetitiously on the wood floor.
Torbin approached slowly as the clashing grew louder.
The desk lamp dimly lighting the flat had been stripped of its shade and flipped to its side.
A murmuring feminine sob, followed by short bursts of screaming psychosis.
Her shadow, contorted and massive against the brick wall.
He could tell by the silhouette, her hair had a mind of its own, sporadic mood ring,
Highlighting her failing state of mind and the paranoia pulsing through her body,
Her terminal disease.
She sat legs crossed, slouching over,
the metallic head of the ball peen hammer facing her.
and the blood dripping down her jaw.
When she noticed him she smiled,
A flap of gum and strands of socket hanging out of the craters in her gum line
where her two front teeth were before.
“I have to get them out. They’re not mine. I didn’t put them there. I just needed–.”
brushing the knotted shrub of hair from her face with a soft,
Her knuckles white from squeezing the wooden shaft of the hammer.
She spread her lips like a wolf, growling, intimidating.
He imagined her teeth rolling across the floor,
Torbin dove, knocking the hammer out of her hands.
Under the thick coat of blood, he barely recognized her once defined features.
“It’s in my head.” Her eyes large, searching vacantly.
“They’re coming for me Torbin. They’re on their way. I know they are. They can find me.
and Samantha tapped a brown sticky index finger on what remained of her broken canines.
“What the fuck Samantha!
There is no “they.”
They is another figment.”
Torbin paced from one wall to the next
before he threw the hammer into some unknown puddle in the corner.
Samantha drooled into her lap.
Torbin sat, curled
with his face in his forearms.
“We can’t do this anymore.
How can you do this shit?
How can you do this to me?”
Torbin’s tone was unconvincing broken legged puppy.
He used his sleeve to wipe the bloody spittle from her chin.
“No. No, they’re coming for us. You’ll see.
but it’ll be too late.”
“Samantha. It’s you.
It’s always been you.
It may already be
He crawled away to the mattress in the corner.
She wrapped herself around him like a velvet robe.
She sobbed into his back,
smelling him on the shirt he’d worn for the last three days.
Her voice reminded him of rodents squeaking in the crawlspace.
“I can be a whore, an addict, a roach,
but I can’t stand the idea of being your lost cause.”