Sometimes when I put my hands around her ribs, I feel like I might break her. At times it’s because she’s so small — my hands almost fit all the way around her, meeting each other over her stomach. Other times it’s because I really think I might do it. She would erupt in laughter and suddenly I wanted to break her floating ribs completely off. Let them snap. One. By one. I’d move both my index fingers up and down each side counting the bones, giving a light tap on each. If I merely drew my fists back and slammed them in: crack.
But would she even notice? Half the time I felt she was empty, the other I worried that if I made a noise everything inside of her would spill out and drown me. My ball and chain. The condensation from her beer dripped onto her boot, and I noticed a tiny bit of mud make its way to the floor.
“I’m going out for a smoke,” I whispered to her before passing through the crowd. I caught eyes with the bartender and nodded towards the back door. He gave me the go ahead, and as I passed behind the bar top he slipped a fifth of bourbon in my hands. I clutched the bottle in my fist, took a gulp, and set it back into its place in the well.
Outside the cars all had drops of rain perfectly spaced out — as if the cloud had synchronized each fall. I always enjoy a cigarette after a storm, something about the smoke cutting through the crisp air, purity meeting sin. It reminded me of her. Late at night, after the bars and before our heads sunk into the pillows, she would look right at me. But, really at me. None of the eye rolls or glances she was infamous for. No, this look shook you. It made you feel cold, so cold you were suddenly warm. “It was always you” she would whisper into my ear right before she turned over and arched her back so that it was impossible to hold her. I relished those three seconds. I could hear her lips part, her tongue reach up and touch the top of her mouth, right before it found its way back down. “It. Was. Always. You.” Each tap of her tongue shook me. My toes copying the movement of her lips: up and down, up and down. Time stopped in those moments, I figured that every fight, every one of her scowls was worth those four words.
I inhaled the smoke and let it sit in my mouth, my teeth soaking up the chemicals. The other smokers were further down, laughing about their night; ironic who you end up beside when you are killing yourself. If it weren’t her, or the whiskey, it would be the Marlboros. Because every cowboy goes out with a blow, and every girl will get knocked off the horse eventually. Or so my dad used to say.
This girl. She’s not the first mistake that I’ve made, but I may be her last. I can’t help but daydream what it would be like to take a blade to the small freckle below her left clavicle. The mark I once told her made me weak. I would tip the knife in at the mark of my Achilles, the blood would start thin, and slowly it would roll down her chest. I’d drop the knife and wipe the blood with my forefingers, the most beautiful canvas. I could grab hold of her neck with one palm, and her hair with the other. Nothing we haven’t done before, only this time I would know it would be the last. Peeling away the pain with every last gasp she was able to manage. But god knows, as soon as she was gone, I’d want her back for just one more look. Those green eyes had me, and she knew it.
If I hadn’t blacked out on our first date, I may have been smart enough not to take the second. Except, even sober its impossible to say no to her. I couldn’t even muster the words the first time I met her.
Her black boot peered out from the crowded line, the swarm of six am-ers, telling themselves they need the coffee to perk up, yet have sufficient energy to be rude and condescending. America’s finest. What’s the hurry to be the biggest douche-bag? Isn’t the caffeine rush enough? Except after drinking it everyday I doubt any of them can even feel it. This dash is the new addiction, the caffeine hasn’t worked in years, and yet they go on sucking it down. No mother to take the bottle away. Leave the people to their vices, and well, at some point they will have to create new ones. And once the rush doesn’t rush anymore, which flash flood trend will sweep us out to sea?
The boot was black; and the amount of dirt and grub on it must have actually taken work: this was no accident. Jumping in puddles, trenching through mud, and sweeping the sand wouldn’t have caused such destruction. But, there was some sort of catatonic beauty in it. Like this boot had seen more than a Vietnam veteran — that was child’s play compared to that boot. That boot. It was the left one, ever so slightly straying from the crowd of feet, looking for meaning beyond the rush. The rush. That’s what it was. I saw the boot and I felt a rush, my new caffeine? If only I had known.
“Hey! You! I asked for soy, and this is not soy.” The idea that any of us can taste the difference between soy and milk is entire bullshit. I looked up. And saw the glare that was attached to that boot. That glare: ice pellets shooting right at your eye, killing any idea that what you have to say or think is worthy, making you afraid that even a breath might affect the flight path of said glare. And I swear, it was the most beautiful, inflaming eye motion I had ever seen.
Fighting for words was no use, I threw my hand back out, and ripped the cup from her hand. That glare. That boot. I remade the drink with caution; if it wasn’t perfect I may never see her again. This coffee had to make her want to come back. I had to say something, something to this dreadfully beautiful girl who was uppity enough to think she could taste the difference. But what? A joke? An apology? I grabbed the felt tip pen and dived in to another great rush: trying to pick up the girl. What I wrote I am neither proud of, nor ashamed, though I do still shutter: “I soy need to see you again.”
She took the cup, and returned it hours later with her number on it. The first date we both drank heavily. And by the second I was the only one drunk. She had me. She says I have her too. But all I really have is a growing urge to strangle her tiny neck, and crack her perfect ribs.
I flicked the cigarette into the nearest puddle, and trudged back into what could only be the scene of one of our many deaths. My lungs matched the blackness of her boot, we were both doomed. I knew the bourbon in my blood would lead to our demise. I didn’t care. I wanted her gone. I wanted her dead. I wanted her in my arms telling me it was always me. I know there is no such thing as ghosts, but I have seen the demon host.