Editor’s note: The following was originally read at “Salonathon:Rebirth” on January 20, 2014.
She is sitting on the bed in nothing but a towel, one of those luxe, velutinous towels as white as thrice-cut cocaine, which she stole from some hotel in Albuquerque or Vegas or Miami, and even though it is the middle of summer and so hot outside the very air wavers with exhaustion, and old people wither and die and are turned to leather clutches by the time someone checks in on them, it is freezing upstairs, so cold you can almost see our breath, and she’s still wet, her body turning the Egyptian cotton from baby powder to bone in an ever expanding amoeba, little droplets glistening on her caramel skin, her hair heavy, the thick wet curls looking like someone spilled a bottle of ink onto her head; everything is white and being relentlessly hammered by sunlight through the window, three white walls with one accent blushing crimson, and she looks at me with her eyes, massive kohl eyes with quotation mark eyelashes, and they speak before she does.
She tells me he raped her; she had just gotten out of the shower, and he was waiting there—right here—and she was in a towel, like right now, and he threw her on the bed, right there, and she closes those eyes, which startles me because it is like someone putting a lid on the world and she cinches her towel up around her breasts, which has the unfortunate side effect of letting loose her legs, and when her thighs hit the frigid air she cringes, crumpling the lid on the world, one single tear squeezing out before, I swear to fucking God, freezing atop her soft zygoma. She can’t keep it, she says, she just can’t, and I tell her she doesn’t have to and I love her and she chokes out that she’s sold the gold crucifix her grandfather gave her to pay for it already, and with this admission she finally loses it, sobbing, reaching out to me, and I stand at the foot of the bed holding her tight to me, her tears running down abs painstakingly carved for just this kind of situation, for soft flesh of the face and pristine natural nails and saliva and saline to fill in, run down the grooves like slaughterhouse gutters, and I run my hands through the thick wet tangle of her hair, and it’s like I’m being molested by an onyx cuttlefish, and I whisper “I’m going to fucking kill him,” to her, over and over, “I’m going to fucking kill him …”
A few days later and the street is still a convection oven, and the sky outside the sliding glass door is berating us, everything bright and relentless punishing azure, but in her basement I can feel my blood turning to slush; she is sitting next to me on the couch, my arm across her shoulders, her hand embracing mine, in a one piece black swimsuit and dark Havana Yves St. Laurent sunglasses and lipstick the color of soaked red roses, and her stomach hurts, and we devour a half dozen Xanax bars and Pall Malls before I reach into my pocket and present to her a little white box; she opens it, and her lips spread apart, blooming briefly, then the petals press together and quiver, and she squeezes little jaundiced divots into my hand before letting go to fashion the chain around her neck, and aurelian Christ hangs suspended there in the black void, her fingers lace through mine, and from behind her sunglasses she softly weeps.
-B. David Zarley