He writes love letters on an accountant's ledger. He has the reddest, tastiest blood. She could draw it, but does not. This she carries with her like an awful secret.
Mister Smoke and Mirrors answered questions with questions. She couldn't have had him as a lover but a partner in crime. He could have been Mister Hey Look Over There had she chosen to go out stealing wallets with him. He could have created a distraction. But she had not wanted a distraction. She had wanted a lover.
Had. The new one is all kinds of questions she cannot answer. Or, she has two opposing answers, both of them true, neither of them flattering. She cannot balance a checkbook. She writes fortunes on scraps of wax paper and gives them to strangers.
Because, for one thing, even the worst buildings are lovely. When she was younger she found an abandoned factory, and walked the conveyor belt like a balance beam, arms behind her back, unflinching. When I have a lover, she said, alone and echoing against the factory walls, I will take him to this place, and he can inhabit it.
Is it living by default or merely growing up that she takes both boys to the factory and they make panicky, squamishy faces, and she does not immediately order them home. Smoke and Mirrors bears in mind his asthma and his fear of ghosts. Mister Red Blood says Look out broken glass and Don't come here anymore, you could get raped. I know I know I know. He'll read bedtime stories from The Wall Street Journal to his kids, which in a flash she knows she will not bear. The other will die before there's time.
As if these were the only two options, and the not the most recent and most interesting contrast. Which they are. The imaginary boyfriend, who inhabits the empty factory, will neither lie nor bore her. He will neither talk down nor up. If he exists. He knows he should propose with a railroad gear and not a diamond ring. That the only thing better than flowers is rubble. That the only thing more beautiful than the city lights at night is a city, burning down, two long naked bodies covered with ash.
I done stole the title from Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body. Please don't tell no one. K?