No matter how long I stare at it, the ceiling doesn’t change. This must be what it’s like to be a corpse.
* * *
There are too many people in this apartment and no one knows anyone else, but that’s the way it goes when the club empties out and someone announces to no one in particular,
Hey, I’ve got synthemesc back at my place.
Not even sure whose place it is, if it’s anyone’s, if the proper tennant is out of town or asleep in another room or cut to pieces in a bag in the fridge. Probably not the fridge thing. That’s where they kept the wine, and you’ve seen the wine. You’ve seen the synthemesc too, but you opt for the wine because it’s one thing to be in a strange environment, surrounded by unknown quantities, intoxicated to the edge of reason, but if you popped the pills and your eyes rolled back and you started seeing funny little green ghouls, too? Well, shit, that’s just reckless.
And besides, that’s not why you came here anyway.
You came here because she came here. You came here because you’d been dancing together. One in the morning on a Tuesday night, not exactly a sensible hour to be out. Folks got work in the morning. Kids got school. People got girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives they ought to get home to.
But not you. And not her.
She takes a pull of wine and stands up and announces she has to go to the bathroom. No one pays her any mind, occupied by other things or other realities, but you hear her and you watch her and she’s watching you. Her statement was both an admission and an invitation. She’s making eye contact when she turns. You give her a few minutes to take care of whatever she’s got to take care of, and then you go exploring. The bathroom door is unlocked. The bathroom door is ajar. The light is off.
She’s sitting on the counter, a cigarette in her hand, her eyes staring out the open window. Outside, the city murmurs, tossing and turning in its sleep. You close the distance, put your hand over hers, your fingers on the cigarette.
I’ve got more.
But I want this one.
The cigarette carries her lipstick with it. Iris. You can’t tell if you taste it or if you smell it, but it’s there. It’s her. She’s there. Ten minutes later, the bathroom door securely locked, her lipstick smeared, your hands on your belt, she tells you,
The words don’t even make sense to you. They don’t resolve into anything meaningful in your brain. She might as well have told you that purple is the cubic root of eleventy-spleen.
What to do with this information. How to process it. You have no answers. Your hands fall limp at your side, your belt still buckled. You have no answers, but you have questions.
Are you happy?
Yes. No. I don’t know.
Where is he? Or she? Or whatever?
He. Business trip. Out of the state.
What are you doing here?
I don’t know!
There are tears in her eyes. You’ve been in the bathroom far too long. Even if no one’s curious about where you went or suspicious about your absence, sooner or later, someone’s going to need to use the facilities. And if she starts moaning, if she starts sobbing, there’s going to be suspicion.
So what are you going to do?
I don’t know. What do you want to do?
It’s a Hell of a question, you think. But then, you know there’s a difference between desire and reality.
I don’t know either. How are you getting home?
I don’t know. I went to the Salarian with friends, but they went home. I could call a cab. Or call them.
Too far to walk?
I live in San Solano.
You laugh. Oh, yeah. Way too fucking far for her to walk.
Well. I’m going to leave.
Why? Why would I stay?