She was looking for answers and the pharmacist didn’t blink when she bought eight boxes of condoms with a sandwich bag full of change. He counted the coins patiently while the huffing line behind the girl grew.
“Do you want a bag?” he said.
“You going to carry all these? I think you should have a bag.”
“Okay,” she said. “Plastic then.” And the pharmacist placed them into the crinkling white bag with the receipt. She thanked him. At the exit, the doors opened automatically and she felt like a queen.
She had a man in mind. She saw him most days when her dad drove her to school. He slept under the overpass with the other men and women, but the way he slept, curled into a little ball, oblivious to the trains that rumbled pass and the biting flies, he seemed to have a secret and she wanted to know what it was.
To sleep well, that was her wish.
She dreamt about him most nights, long before she ever saw him, and then began daydreaming through algebra lessons, feeling her clitoris swell, her tap drip. She excused herself to the restroom often. Rumors were she was pregnant. Alone in the restroom stall, her moaning breaths bouncing of the tile, she pushed her button over and over. Oh that man. He slept so well.
“What is your secret?” she would say as she came. “What is it?” And should a different girl be in the next stall, or at the mirror, that other girl would flush and tamp down the things no one else knew.
She returned to class glowing, focused on the lesson, but now a distraction to the boys who could, unknowingly, smell the sex on her. The lesson became a scattered, distracted thing as the chalk scraped the board, squeaking and leaving stray white marks like the raised hairs on the necks of all who lived that scene. And the girls saw the attention she drew, from the boys, from the teacher, and those girls hated her, hated her for asking them about their secrets.
After dinner she lay on her bed in great anticipation. She showered to pass time and avoided touching herself, avoided the thought of the man and his peaceful sleep. Hair wet, she typed a paper for English class. It was inspired.
She rode her bike in the darkness, passing sleeping houses, the plastic bag crinkling as she peddled. She sweat away her shower and peddled on, breathing heavy, just peddling. She would sleep tonight. Sleep without dreaming, blackness.
She dropped her bike to the ground and approached with caution as not to step on the sleeping forms scattered atop the dirt. She realized that all of them were sleeping well and she could probably step on each of them without stirring them at all. She pushed away the thought that any one of them would do.
She found him sleeping, curled up and breathing with a congested rattle. She reached out her hand, let it hover over his shoulder, feeling reservation for the first time, not reservation over the act itself, but that it may not work for her in the way she hoped, the way she planned. The man started awake and she jumped back. He sat up, looked at her, his eyes adjusting to the dark.
“Are you real?” he asked. He coughed until he retrieved the stubborn mass. He spit without force of breath and the phlegm stuck to his chin.
She couldn’t answer him. She held out the bag and he took it.
He looked inside. “Rubbers? You wanna get fucked? Is that what?”
She nodded and he looked her over. He looked in the bag again. “I got a latex allergy,” he said. “I put one of those on and I’ll itch for days.”
She forced herself to speak. “I thought about that,” she said. “There’s some latex free in there. Some flavored, big ones, not so big ones.”
He looked at her some more. He pulled the greasy stub of a cigarette from behind his ear and lit it. “This isn’t going to help you,” he said. “You ain’t the first wants my secret.”
She bit her lip, held back tears.
“I know what you want.” He said. “You want your daddy to come looking for you. You want him to creep into that pink bedroom of yours and find you gone. You want to see him driving that German car on by here, looking for his baby girl. You think he’s going to look on over and see you sleeping so well, it just couldn’t be his girl curled up alongside a man like me and dreaming of all the things that’ll never happen to her again.
You think that’s what he’s going to see?” he asked.
She breathed deep, smelling his filth and decay. “I think,” she said. “that I have to try. I dream about you nights, even before I saw you. I dreamed of you every night. Don’t you dream about me?”
The man sighed, flicked the cigarette away and reached into the plastic bag. “Every night,” he said. “Every day.”
And she wept as he took her into his hard arms. Face pressed into his chest, she felt the crowd of men and women move around them, closing in, not curious, but duty bound.
CS DeWildt is a liar. He wants to hurt you.
Street art by Dain (top) and RAE (bottom).
Photo by Adam Lawrence.
Uh Bones is a young Chicago-based band with a passion for 60's pop and shaking butts.