This Kid I Knew
This kid I knew for an hour and a half last week introduced himself by trip-hopping down the street and flicking the back of my head. When I caught up with him, I shoulder bombed him with a smirk (shoulder bomb is a term I just made up, and it means that I won), then went straight to the bathroom to think about the mirror. When I figured it out, I crawled out, and ran into the dumbest pair of boots I’ve ever seen. The kid was staring at me with vacant street danger, and his bones moved under his skin like some James Dean apparition. Beer fell from his can in elite, action-movie slow mo, and my mouth opened in a statue gape, as though this thirst/thrust had been rehearsed. As I stood up, revealing unexpected height and maybe a knife somewhere, he balked, and tried for the bathroom. He had clearly never poured beer on a chick before (amateur).
I forward-rolled into the men’s room, which was gross in a crusty-pee kind of way. A brief exchange; words, mostly. Then I guess we must’ve really gotten into it, because there was beer under my shirt and blood pooling in that little dip between his nose and his upper lip. As we stood panting, drained of our retorts and punches, he pulled out a lighter and waved it around my left eye. It was hard to see without pocket fire.
“Your eyes are green.”
“They’re blue, jerkwad.”
As he held the flame up to my eyeball, I could feel my lacquered lashes smoking, and my cornea perking up with curiosity. Aqueous fluid followed suit, and soon the indeterminate color of my iris was melting into my increasingly yellow conjunctiva. The warm goo slid reluctantly down my cheek, and I tried to blink the rest of it out. Blinking is easier without an eye, but the disproportionate feeling of sight on one side and a gaping hole on the other unnerved me. He treated my right eye to the flame (which at this point was all sorts of funny colors). As the last of the thick, milky brew came plopping out, I wondered if we should put a sign on the door out of courtesy so the next fellow didn’t burn himself on the steaming pile of my right eye.
I could feel his movements around me in blackened clarity, and I heard his thoughts rise and fall and burrow into my pockets. I asked his name (now acutely grateful for my other senses, I wanted to use my voice, which I discovered was soft and shiny).
He took my hand and led me out of the bathroom, (a sturdy “what the fuck” was shouted after us), out of the bar, and into the poison-flower night. As the sidewalk seemed to vanish under our feet, and we began pounding the air with our dirty sneakers, he washed me in a golden thought: I’ve found you at last.
Even though the clouds were fluffed like Sunday morning, Mark knew it was Tuesday. It was the seventeenth, of which month it didn’t matter because all he could think was what he could smell, which was soon. The soon was written in the grass.
Tuesday was Mark’s favorite day of the week. It was the day he got to work at the school, picking up trash. He was almost always left alone by his supervisor, who preferred not working to working anyway. Mark even got paid. Tuesday was a day when he could forget about his own age, and the trouble he caused last year that everyone insisted on remembering. Tuesday was the grass and the clouds and his own exquisite agony.
Mark waited, fingering the gift in his pocket, some appreciable mischief locked in his grin. At 2:30, he began to empty the trashcans, looking over his shoulder.
As the last bell rang, the children came charging across the field, preceded by battle cries of anticipation for their video games, play dates, and swim lessons. Annabelle did not run. She never ran at recess either, when she would twirl by herself in the field, alive with her imaginary ponies.
Today, Annabelle was talking with the mean blonde girl, the one who laughed at Mark and gave him the nickname that the other kids whispered just loud enough for him to hear. He hated the girl, she wasn’t like Annabelle, and she didn’t belong in this day, this Tuesday. Finally, she ran off, and Annabelle looked up at him smiling, as though she had expected his eyes to be ready for hers.
She strutted across the field, gingerly avoiding the goose poop. She approached him with her lip tucked under her teeth, and her thumbs clenched in her fists. Mark could tell she was cold.
He bent down to her level, and pulled the little present out of his pocket. She opened her dry palms. Her eyes ignited, and their usual gray fevered into a dark green. Then she was upon him, in his arms, stark and pale and real. He lifted her up, bathing in her soprano thank yous.
And just as soon as he was filled with her hot magic, she was gone, running colt like away from him. He watched with fox pricked interest as she was arranged neatly in her mother’s SUV. The clouds seemed to gather with greater thickness than earlier, and Mark was filled with a poisonous gratitude.
He knew she would wear it at night, hidden, a secret for herself and a torment for him. Only at night, but she would wear it, and sigh.
Virginia Petrucci is a freelance writer, artist, and actor. She has written for the LA Post-Examiner, and has had work featured in Best New Writing 2014 (Runner Up for the Gover Prize in Flash Fiction), Snow Monkey, AITIA:Philosophy-Humanities ,and Spectrum Magazine. She also has her poem forthcoming in Another Chicago Magazine. She lives in Los Angeles with her son.
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