I have these moments, or episodes, as Lorraine calls them. Flash of light, head goes numb, and I’m on the floor or sliding down the stairs in a fetal curl, and my thoughts light up like a stage and I’m seeing shit I have no context for. That’s the frustrating part, the realness brushing up against the un-realness until I have no idea what’s what.
What is what? I wonder as I lift a highball glass from the dark oak veneer table where the woman in the leather jacket sat. I can still see her lips pressed to the glass, the liquid angling up, falling into her, going down. An image flashes--me naked on my knees, her behind me holding my pigtails like motorcycle handles--and I can almost feel the thrust of her hips, the strap-on sliding into me, pushing. Almost feel, because it’s just a fantasy, not a moment.
I set the glass onto my tray, take the rag into my hand, and lean into the table. It feels good, the edge pushing into me.
“What were you two talking about?” I say to no one. Why would a together woman like Leather-Jacket invite that beanpole wannabe reporter chick to a booth with her, why would they share a drink? I wipe through the adjoining rings made by their glasses, an ill-formed Olympics symbol of sisterhood. “What am I not getting?” Because I hit on Leather-Jacket first, and she was receptive. I was only waiting for her to finish her newspaper. It should be me going home with her, not you.
Beanpole had no manners, no style, no breasts to speak of, a face for radio. Orange hair? Is that it? “‘cause dye is cheap, m’lady.” I lift the tumbler to eye level and angle it toward the light fixture.
There, the smudge of Leather-Jacket’s lovely lips. I align that mark to my own mouth and drink her dregs. Ice-melt dulls the rum’s sweetness, but I savor the taste anyway, as if I had just poured the drink, splash of beer blossoming within the darker rum. Dark ‘n Stormy. Sweet, bitter, all mixed up. I imagine Lorraine’s pudgy face breaking into smile. What you are describing, Tina, is life.
I feel an overwhelming urge to masturbate, but I’m in the middle of my shift. Oh, the dilemmas of a working girl.
“Fuck it.” The bar is nearly empty, just Kiss-Me-Mary nodding off at her usual table, a tip jar holding a single dollar bill from that trucker who asked for directions earlier. Boy did he take a wrong turn.
I walk to the register, take the drawer key, and pound my palm on the counter. Mary’s face turns up. She gives me a suspicious blink from across the room.
“Anyone comes in,” I say, “tell ’em I’m taking my break.”
Mary’s shoulders pull back. Her boobs hang beneath a threadbare tee-shirt. Talk about a mood killer.
“Din’ you just take a break?”
I stare. You don’t know what fucking day it is, and you remember that?
“I’m taking another one,” I say, drawing a beer from the tap. Suds foam over my fingers, down my palm. A series of sloppy splats sounds from the floor. I push the tap lever home and slide the mug onto the counter. “You got a problem with that, Mary?”
I leave before she answers, but hear her zombie shuffle as I push through the swinging door to the kitchen.
Rubbing my palms down my thighs, I head for Glory’s office, imagining Leather-Jacket’s messy bun cupped between my hands, those luscious full lips pressed to my skin, Bambi-doe eyes peeking up. Tingling floods my stomach. I reach the door, turn the knob, push inside, and flop onto Glory’s leather seat like the wet rag I am. The door swings closed.
I’m almost there when the knob turns again.
Click! The sound’s like a bucket of ice water splashed over my bowels. Fucking Glory came in early and my ass is fired. I’m yanking my panties up when it hits.
And I’m sliding sideways, the chair turning out from under me, spotlights splashing through my head.
Beanpole hangs naked from a ceiling hook. Her head droops down behind a veil of dull, dirty hair, her ribs protrude like washboards, a ragged patch of pubic hair grows between hips wider than I recall. Everything else is thin.
Not my type, I think even as lust surges. My mouth wets, floods. I want her more than anything.
Her face lifts as I approach, a flash of fearful recognition. Her left eye is crusted with blood, and the bridge of her nose is swollen, but she seems otherwise intact.
“Don’t kill me,” she says. “Please, don’t.”
I hear myself speak, only it’s a man’s voice. “Why would I kill you? I love you.” A hand reaches forward, broad and short-fingered, the opposite of mine. It caresses Beanpole’s ribcage, down toward her navel, like silk across my fingertips. I shiver, she shivers. I find the juicy spot between her legs. Her lips part. Her eyes tear up. I lean in, lick the bulge of her stomach, all the while massaging her mound, wanting.
“You’re not like her,” and it’s not my voice but his, the monster, the man staring from the newspaper page. Lightning Killer. I can’t see his face, but it must be him. And it’s his arm that lifts, not mine, his finger that points. Another woman hangs from a hook closer to a glass block window. This is a basement. It’s dark outside. I know immediately who the woman is even though I see no details. Jane, the missing victim.
“I hate her... now.” And our fingers push into that oh-so-sweet flesh, and our free hand lifts to Beanpole’s breast, squeezes hard, draws a grunt.
Music. A pulsing throb. I am in a basement. It’s night outside. The beat is familiar. The smell of urine is strong, feces too, but there’s a whiff of Greek as well: lamb char, sautéed peppers and onions and mushrooms, flat bread sheened with olive oil. The contradiction in smells is like the contradiction of this body. I place one hand on either hip, and bury my face in Beanpole’s midsection.
Don’t kill me, I love you.
Another flash, and it’s done. I’m on the floor, flaccid as a bodybuilder’s dick, and someone is patting my cheek. My head is on someone’s lap. Glory. A jolt shoots through me. I sit up, overalls wadded around my legs, bra pulled down. A chill slicks my thighs. I am so fired.
Only it’s not Glory’s stern ebony face staring down, not those business-loving eyes. Relief washes over me, morphs into disappointment. It’s Lorraine looking after me, matronly, kind Lorraine, my wife of seven months. A part of me hoped it would be Leather-Jacket, I guess.
“Thank you,” I whisper, and lean away. “I--”
“An episode,” she says with a knowing nod. “I get that, but the rest of this shit--” and she gazes down my half-naked body “--is so wrong. What is it with you lately, Tina? You got an unemployment wish? You know we need the both of us working to--”
“Yeah, I know.” I give her a sheepish grin and she backs down. She’s already straightening my clothes, eyes probing mine. She wants to kiss me, but I angle my face away.
“I saw something,” I say.
“You always do,” Lorraine says. She pushes a lock of hair from my forehead.
“It’s about the woman,” I say. “That one they’re trying to find.” The music, the smells. It has to be near that Greek club up in Astoria.
“The Lightning Killer?” A frown lines her forehead.
I think of Beanpole hanging like a slab of meat, Leather-Jacket gazing into her eyes, the Dark ‘n Stormy swirling between them. It couldn’t be real, what I saw. The police have the Lightning Killer in custody. No way could Beanpole be his next victim. No way could my vision be real in any sense. What if he escapes? What if it wasn’t him at all? Beanpole could be slated for a slow death. And what about the other woman, Jane?
Lorraine lifts my chin. “What did you see, Tina?”
“Nothing,” I say. “It was just a... an episode.”
“It was nothing,” I snap. “Stop mothering me.” I pull the overall straps over my shoulders and stand. “I have a shift to finish.”
“You’re lucky Glory didn’t come in.” Lorraine takes my elbow. I shake her off.
“Yeah, that’s me.” I start toward the door. “Lucky.”
This story follows on from Torchy Thomas, Cub Reporter - #4
This story continues with On the Inside - #6
published 4 April 2015