The youth exists to be punctured and tickled by variously-sized needles. They are but feathers and make him strong as tides. He is untroubled by being someone else’s portfolio.
Look at his stride. He is powerful, yet places his feet with economy and grace. The tread wear of his shoes is quite even. Our city’s wet streets bend the lurid night, as depicted in every TV crime show ever viewed. The youth aims for that which he desires, and he must not be late.
Three blocks away, a lifetime as most downtowns go, the girl stands just so. If there were reviews for the art of loitering, her talents would be hailed as perfection. Her blouse and short-shorts are inside out with their hot-pinkness. Hair interwoven with colors not found in nature. Eyelashes such as this girl’s are cages from which no butterfly could hope to escape.
She waits. The youth approaches.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hey,” the girl replies, frowning at her phone.
Her fingers are a spider ballet staged on the device’s glass face. The girl doesn’t look at the youth — she prefers the way he appears in her mind. He is the latest gadget. There is much for her to learn until the newness wears away. She once disassembled a clock; not to find out how it worked but simply because she hates time. No one would ever want to walk barefoot over the pieces of that or any other clock.
“You look nice,” the youth says.
“I’m not nice.”
“Do you want some dinner?”
“I hate the way food feels in my mouth.”
“I like to chew. A body’s muscles are always set in opposing pairs, or nothing would work.”
He covets the girl, admiring the precision with which her hair is parted.
“How easy it would be,” he says, “if you could remove and reattach your own scalp in the interest of better grooming.”
“I hope you’ll write down your good idea if you ever have one,”
The youth shrugs. “It’s about symmetry.” He understands the word’s definition in regard to mirrors but is unmindful that it doesn’t end there.
“Did you know,” he asks, “most animals’ brains contain enough chemical material to tan and preserve that animal’s own hide?”
She doesn’t raise her eyes, but the spiders pause. Her face is pale in the screen’s moonglow.
“Is that true?” she whispers to the phone, her boots, the sidewalk. Her voice sounds like centuries.
“I don’t think so. I doubt it. But it would be efficient.”
Looking up, the girl studies his piercings and tattoos. He is a mobile graphic novel. She imagines wearing his skin as if it were a rain slicker. Staring directly at him, she does not see his face at all. The youth is unaware he could save himself if he spoke his own name.
“Take me someplace dangerous,” she says, slipping her phone into an unusually supple leather handbag.
Michael Grant Smith wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing has appeared in elimae, Ghost Parachute, Longshot Island, The Airgonaut, formercactus, Riggwelter, and elsewhere. He is an editor at Longshot Press. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati. To learn too much about Michael, please visit michaelgrantsmith.com and @MGSatMGScom.
Image: Lucas Lenzi