Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dare We Dream Now, of Strip Malls and Bars?

A short work of fiction, based on a writing prompt, with thanks to the contributor.

"Let's blow this joint," you said. "I can't look at pale green and yellow another minute." We were juvenile as spit balls coming out of the foreign land of our own nursery. Driving down Highway 41 with no place in mind, your swan-like hands folded over the baby inside. Minutes turned into hours, until I noticed you had grown quiet for a long, long time. "You OK?" I said.

You laughed. "Well, I gotta pee."

"Like you're-going-to-wet-yourself pee?"

"No, but  --  well it sort of hurts right now." You wrinkled your nose.

We crested the hill and there it was: the gargantuan sign that said Girls Girls Girls! My foot came off the pedal. "Here? It's almost empty." You bit your lip and thought. "Let's go a few more miles. If that doesn't work I'll pee on the side of the road." I sniggered  --  like you're going to squat in your condition?  -- and you punched me.

Moments later:  the strip mall, seething with ant-people. We fought the clot of SUVs and found ourselves on the wrong side of the parking lot. You waddled to the building. That look of pain on your face  --  I opened the door that said "Administration only" and pushed you through. The concrete corridor smelled of vomit, and you looked like you might be sick, too. A moment later we were in the executive offices, and after that, you were in the executive toilet. The executive secretary looked dead behind bug-eye sunglasses, maybe seizing in the electric pulse of fluorescent light. I went in with you. You washed your hands afterward, held them up dripping, a surgeon preparing for clean cuts. Finally you saw the towels on a chair, laundered, folded, and stacked on the seat. A wet butt-print in the rough of the cloth. Instead of drying your hands you took thumb and forefinger like chopsticks and opened the lidded basket beside the chair. And there they were, just as you had known they would be: soft rubbery sex toys of every shape and color. "Hmm," you said  --  "Cherry Red. Come-In-Me Pearl White. Relieve-Your-Balls Berry Blue"  --  and dropped the lid askew.

We had to pass a group of mall rats smoking a joint as we left, stoned-blind to the security camera over their heads. "Ooo what's this?" some dumb shit said, Harley Davidson wings tattooed where his eyebrows were supposed to be. He stepped toward you, and for once I didn't let you handle yourself. I stepped between you and him, and he shrank away like the worm that he was.

"I want a drink," I said without thinking.

"I want you to have it," you said.

We looked back at the strip mall, wondering, but then walked on to the car. I turned for the strip club.

"Crown and coke," I said.

"Water," you said.

The waitress did not ask if that was a basketball under your shirt. The two of us curled together into the booth. You slept for a few minutes in that place devoid of judgment, in the crook of my shoulder. In that strange walking dream that was between then and now. The Girls Girls Girls! made disinterested love to their poles for no one.

I studied what the baby gave you even as it seemed to be displacing you, and us, from the inside out. The fall of glorious curls that framed your face. Softest sighs, comfort like music in the night. Swellings at your breasts and thighs, that whispered come hither to some part of me the present surroundings could not touch.