We Met in Different Places

In Prose on April 27, 2012 at 6:52 pm

The chapped split in my lower lip pulsed dull to the drone of the television in the room next door where my neighbor had either underestimated the thin makings of our separation, else he just didn’t give a shit.

The Charlie Brown murmurings of the wall wouldn’t let me slip away into sleep, so I finally undid my brain from the notion of rest and pulled my feet to ground and tied some shoes onto them to go for a jog and blow off some of my frustration. This was all instead of knocking down the neighbor’s door, shooting off the bastard’s head (with a gun I didn’t have) and smashing the TV to a million bits; that’s what was in my heart, but I’m too passive for that kind of violence. So I went for a run.

It was that late time of night on a Saturday when the very last stragglers of parties and bars and underage drinking in the park are wandering back home on the uncertain dregs of being in between drunk and hung over. I passed a group of three so-disposed individuals, splayed out on a fringe of grass next to the sidewalk outside of this cheap student apartment complex at the end of my street. One of them looked dead, while the other two looked over the dead-seeming one in a useless stupor.

I planned to run on by them like a good stranger, but one of the not dead ones -a girl who looked a little older than me with short-cropped hair and a mild attractiveness that was made both worse and better by her disheveled state- she trotted after me as I ran by; I heard the panicked click-click-click of quick-stepping heels and figured she needed help with the dead one, the passed-out body on the fringe of grass. So I stopped. She caught up to me some dozen or so feet further down the sidewalk from her friends.

“Hi!”, She said out of breath, “I’m Anna.”

Hi Anna, what a casual introduction! As if your friend isn’t passed out ten paces behind you! I thought in my head sarcastically (I wasn’t in a conversational mood), while aloud I said, quite businesslike: “do you need a hand with your friend?”.

“What?”, she said in reply, obviously confused by my response. The gears turned perceptibly slow in her blurred brain as she belatedly threw a backwards glance towards her passed-out friend. “Oh, her? No, she’ll be alright”, she exclaimed with a lazy-drunk dismissive wave of a hand, before adding: “So, I didn’t actually get your name”.

What does she care about my name? I thought, but like the old telemarketer’s trick of “get ‘em talking and they’ll hear you out for the sake of politeness”, I had already stopped and hooked myself in to this unwanted exchange, so I told her my name. She continued to engage me a round of small-talk; in my mind, I tried to readjust the context of our entire interaction from one of her soliciting help on behalf of her friend to… what? I still didn’t get her angle.

She got blunt about it in that unique way that only drunkenness can elicit and asked me straight out: ”You know, I live right here, in this apartment building. Do you want to come up?”

“Why?”, I said -I actually said that- a second before my brain finally clicked in to her barely covered insinuation: she wanted to fuck; she wasn’t ready for the dissolving oblivion of her hard-partying evening to end; the desperate quickness in the click-click-click of her heels had simply been her chasing down her very last chance to keep the good times from winding down right there on that fringe of grass; I was that last-ditch opportunity at a one-nighter that could push back the closure of sleep for her until the daylight hours.

But I wasn’t chasing oblivion, I was chasing boring old sleep -literally trying to run myself tired in order to beat the wakefulness out of my system. I was blowing off the high tension of frustration while she was coming back up from the mellow of excess intoxication. We couldn’t have been in more different places, her and I.

She never answered my question, the “why?”, but I didn’t give her much of a chance, either. I just turned around and continued on with my run in no longer than it took me to meet her eyes and share both my recognition of her subtext and my rejection of it, and then to soften the blow with a quick instinctive smile saying “sorry” before leaving her high and dry.

I had forgotten about my split lower lip, and the stretching effect of the smile re-opened the just-healed scab; I could taste a bit of blood in my mouth as a I ran on and, as I spat a gob of red metallic-tasting spit onto the road, I realized it wasn’t disgust in her that I was running from; I’d been where she was many times before and likely many times to come. The thing that really made me turn and run was the knowledge that, despite the complete disjunction between where we both stood in that moment and the totally unnatural placement of her offer and the simple fact that I much more wanted to sleep than have sex with a drunk stranger, I knew that if I had stayed there long enough to open my mouth again, it would have been to say: “yes”. So I turned and ran before the words could leave my dry chapped lips.

  1. This is intriguing – at the end I am still not sure if I like the main character or not. Good work.

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