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Truly Alive

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You sat at a corner table at the greasy spoon, blending into the walls. I saw you maybe three minutes before I fell into your lap with a pistol in my purse.

I wrapped my arms around you.
Kissed your cheek.
And gave the behemoth next to us a saucy grin.

Not fake, none of it fake, no matter what he might say, no matter what he might think of me. If the façade goes all the way through, it’s not really a façade any more. Cracked bones all the way through. I fall apart when I want to fall apart, and it’s not up to anyone else.

Oh, he wasn’t so bad, I suppose. Not perfect, with a slice of violence that undercut his kindness like salt at the bottom of a glass, but not so bad. It was for his own good, him with his flannel shirt and his three dollar deodorant. Push, push, push, until you push them away, right?

He clenched his fists, and I threw him a rolled up envelope from my purse, wondering if you might throw me off at any moment. He caught it, and scowled. Exposing teeth like sidewalk chalk.

I guess you probably didn’t expect this, when you walked into this red-checked place this morning. All mousy hair and mousy eyes, slim hips and shy little smile. You look like an accountant. And I’m not sure if it was the not-accountant part of you who liked the way I fit on your lap, or the accountant part of you that weighed up the potential profit and loss, that made you slide an arm around my waist and kiss me back. Was I something for you? Or just the idea of something?

I grinned, challenging, at the behemoth.

Of the two of us, I was the one with the ocean in my eyes. I could have reached out and drowned him, and he knew it, but it was your expression that made him give up.

Push, push, push, until it explodes in your face. . .

“Taylor.”

“Tom.”

We side-stepped shiny pennies on our way out, and ducked the drones as they swarmed past.

You wore my name on you before we’d even robbed the next place.

* * *

I counted the cash and gave you a third, then shaved my legs in the cracked hotel bath. I painted my toenails blue. There was no crack in the mirror in the bathroom. I left a tiny heart in the corner, in lipstick.

Your hands were hot on me, and I let you have me for a time. Then I wrapped your tie around your hands behind you, and I gave you yourself. I gave you your hisses, your whimpers, your slivers of pleasure/pain from my teeth in the side of your throat. I gave you your shuddering climax inside me, and I took my own pleasure when you were done.

We left in the morning, as the sun rose hazily to glint in my eyes. We dodged a policeman at the front desk and ducked out through the back alley. There was a scent of old fish in the trash cans, but nothing could touch us.

There was a cop outside, too. Yawning as he sipped his coffee. He was cute, in a blurred way. Nice cheekbones, dark eyes. You know how some people just aren’t finished yet? Like someone’s putting together the jigsaw and started from the middle. He doesn’t have his edges yet. Maybe in a few years after he’s been through heartbreak, he’ll have his sharp little edges, he’ll be able to work his way through the world without cutting himself to ribbons. I grinned at him as we strolled past, hand in hand. You giggled as you jumped into the car. He was scrolling his phone. I heard him gasp at his screen as you started the engine, but it might’ve been a photo of us, and it might’ve been a video of a cat.

Blue Chevy this time. The glovebox didn’t close, and the bottle of Jack didn’t fit in it. So you laughed at me while you drove, and I pouted in mock-annoyance, and then I drank.

* * *

You were wild and free as you ran towards me, sweat dampening your forehead. But there was panic, too. I stepped past you, adrenaline thrilling through me, and swung the crowbar. I screamed, “Go go go!” as I ran after you.

You hated the bloodstains on my dress far more than I did. (There’ll be more dresses.) He’ll live. I made sure of that. He doesn’t need all of his blood, and we needed to get out of that alleyway more, even if he hates me for taking most of his money. I was never enough for him, and now nothing is.

I made you coffee. Just the way I told you that you like it. You caught my hand in yours as I cupped your cheek, and you smiled up at me so tenderly from the worn red hotel chair. I tucked your hair back from your forehead, taking my time, smoothing each individual adorably mousy strand into place. You tried to make me a promise, but I stopped your mouth with mine. You tasted of Jack and cigarettes, of sunlight and numbers. It’s easier when you don’t think. It’s easier with my body on yours.

We slept solid that night, in the creaky bed with the dip in the middle. Your face in my shoulder. On top of each other like children, like ink spattering on a wish.

* * *

And now you’re tied up on the bed, with a sock stuffed in your mouth. There’s panic in your face, and I cup your cheek again, I smooth your hair again. For the hundredth time and the last time.

The police will come for you eventually, once I make the call from the payphone down the street. You probably won’t like it, but you’ll be safe enough. Safer than you’d be with me.

Push, push, push, until I have what I need. The violence and the exquisite tears, the crying and the dying and the goodbyes. Because this story is not about you. It’s always been about me.

I don’t give a damn if I’m safe on this wondrous and brutal path. So I’m walking away, to my getaway car, with the money and the chinks in my armour.