Her glossy, red lipstick fish-hooked the corner of my eye. Although her blond tresses were neatly restrained by a hairpin and a ponytail, a single lock dislodged itself free, as she looked into her journal, burrowing her BIC deep in the page as if maneuvering a honey dipper. What was she writing about? Something about the way she crossed her legs to form a desk, and seesawed her dangling, black Chuck Taylor told me that— in a sea of metal buffed chrome and dark windows tagged and cleaned to a blur— her eyes could be sky blue before sunset. The odors shed by people dead tired, and dying loomed heavy on the silent wrinkles forming on her brow and nose, accenting her thin eyebrows and dimples on her cheeks. Her serene concentration pinched my nose, and slapped its other hand hard on my mouth. I couldn’t breathe, but the longer I thought about it, the less I needed to.
My gamble paid in full as their icy light pierced through my foggy drowse, accompanied with a blush; reddest on her ears, tip of the nose and chin. She held me in its warmth as I clenched my teeth, and begged my neck to choke my spine and never look away. A closed-lip smile was all I could do. My mother had taught me the art of smiling without letting people in. We both had gapped teeth. Shockwaves of when she pinched my baby fat waiting in line for Kindergarten picture day still radiated above my right elbow.
I scratched it and she smiled back. The Red Line stopped at Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue, as did the one formed by her lips. She got off: nobody else got on. As the subway rushed to its next stop, I blinked, disguising the stranger as memory. By the time I arrived to Sunset and Vermont, it was dark and cloudy, and I couldn’t remember her lips. Just the red.
Jose Luis Oseguera’s writing has been featured in Meat for Tea, Sky Island Journal, The Esthetic Apostle, The McNeese Review, and The Main Street Rag. He has also been nominated for the ‘Best of the Net’ award and the ‘Pushcart Prize.’ joseoseguera.com – @strpsrchLA