"Better," he says as he buttons the fly on his pre-faded jeans and stares at the vertical
blinds covering my window, "there's no attachments this way. No jealousy, none of that
He makes eye contact briefly and I smile mysteriously and focus my gaze on the tattoo on his
upper right arm. It's a dao with flames above it and ice below, but the green and blue
crystals of ice resemble a wing in the half-light; briefly I fantasize about flying away. He
pulls me towards him and kisses me, hard and sudden. I pull away and gasp for air and turn my
"You're going to be late," I say, looking down at the little moons at the base of my
fingernails. He grunts something and fumbles around, looking for his shirt.
He tousles my hair, a gesture I find somehow condescending, as he rises from my bed and walks
towards my door. He does not look back. "Better," I whisper at his shadow.
I decide to go out. I stare at my own reflection in the mirror and take stock: unruly black
hair, skin the brown of spanish onions, dark eyes. There is a purpling bruise on the place
where my neck meets my shoulder. There are teethmarks near my nipple. For someone who values
no attachment and no jealousies, he is entirely too fond of leaving marks. He marks his
territory. My eyes have a cruel cast to them. I need a shave.
Showered and shaved, love bites hidden beneath a collared shirt, I hit the streets. I am
looking for the opposite of the friendly neighborhood bar. Someplace dark and quiet and
smoky. Someplace where I can be lost. It's three in the afternoon. A good time to find bars
that cater to serious drinking and not entertaining. I find a dive next to a paint store. It
looks like the right kind of place. No windows, a neon sign above the door in old-fashioned
looping letters. I imagine the lurid red glow of the sign at night, I imagine that the 'C'
does not light up. I push open the front door. The walls are panelled in wood, there's a
circular firepit and a dour, grey-haired woman at the bar with meaty arms. She nods at me as I approach. The barstool I sit on has had its seat patched over several times with electrical tape, the original burgundy color almost hidden beneath gummy silver. I think I should order
something ballsy and masculine like a double scotch on the rocks, but instead ask for a cuba libre. She nods, and splashes rum into a glass without measuring, spritzes in coke from the
tap and adds a lime and two swizzle sticks. She hands it to me on a slightly damp napkin.
The drink is surprisingly strong and I knock it back quickly, feeling the warmth in my chest.
There are packets of airline peanuts in a small wooden bowl on the bar, their foil wrappers
gone slightly dusty with neglect. I take one. While attempting to open them I pull too hard
and spill peanuts and honey-roast salt over the counter. I trace his name in the salt before
sweeping the salt and the nuts away with my slightly damp napkin. The bartender hasn't said a
word to me and I find this comforting. No comments on my drinking this early in the day,
nothing about my eyes looking sad. Her face is blank, a wall of cinderblock I feel free to
decorate with mental graffitti. I order another drink. Scanning the room I see an old
fashioned cigarette vending machine, the kind with the knobs and levers. Perversely, I think
about buying a pack and lighting up. I don't smoke. Instead, I finish my second drink, pay my
bill and leave.
I go for a walk. There's a summer wind, gritty and humid, and the jacaranda trees that jut up
from the sidewalk sway and shower me with blossoms. On the horizon, there's the threat of a
thunderstorm. The blue blossoms that carpet the pavement bleed into purple as they're crushed
beneath my feet. Both aimless and restless I walk along the street, staring into storefronts.
I pass a little pentecostal church that was a Used Bookstore six months before. I can hear
the rattle of a tambourine, the low moan of an electric organ. I stare into the window and
see a heavy middle-aged woman dressed in white dancing, twirling with wild abandon, a paper
fan in her hand. There is a savage joy on her face. She closes her eyes against the world as
she twirls. The other people in the tiny church raise their hands above their heads and
shout, "glory! Hallelujah!". Weary and poor, they reach towards salvation and perfect love.
The minister singsongs something I can barely hear and the heavy woman appears to faint. For
a long time, I stand and watch through the window until the first heavy drops of rain fall.
No one sees me staring, no one invites me in out of the rain. I do not own an umbrella and
decide to go home.
The clouds have turned my house comfortably dark, and the rain beats against my windows. I
turn on music and look through my bookshelves for something to read. It's Thursday. His art
class is three hours, more than two have passed. He likes to come over again on Thursday
evenings. The afternoon quickie will have only whet his singular appetite and he will arrive
after class ends and fall upon me with kisses and bites as if I were an expensive morsel of dark
chocolate. Maybe I shouldn't be at home when he returns. No attachments means that I, too,
can be unavailable. Perhaps I will go out, and meet someone new. Someone who will read Neruda
to me, and whose puppylike devotion I will eventually despise. Perhaps I will just lie here
in the darkness and pretend I am gone when he returns. "Better," I say to myself.
But when the knock at my front door comes, I get up and open it and let him in.