He was beautiful. His eyes were wide and bright. His face was that of a strong, sharp-cheeked African prince. He spoke with an accent and every word sounds like music. He loved to see her smile, so his jokes are always well timed and smart. He wit was charming, observational and good-natured. When she was with him she laughed a lot. A bawdy, hearty laugh. She smiles as his image crosses her mind. It just seemed so random as it happened. A man on the buss offers his seat and it starts a two and a half hour conversation about history. He was so smart, so disarming. Instantly, she knew it. They exchanged numbers. He wrote his digits on a scrap of paper. She wrote hers on his palms.
He promised not to forget it. Home was four blocks southward. It was desolate at this time at night. Buildings were shaded and dark. Shops had laid down their metal faces over the windows, leaving only their neon light on. It was cold but she was not bothered by it. Her skin was always warm. A cat strutted out of an alleyway and looked up at her. She smiled as it got up on its’ hunches. It lout a throaty hiss and stalked off across the street. The only sound she heard was the licking of her shoes on the concrete.
She wondered what he was doing now (He is thinking of her distantly, staring at his cell phone as the bus turns the corner). She wonders if it’s too soon to call and her cheeks flush with blood (He is being silly, he says to himself. He should call first). She looked at the number on the paper (He decides that he’ll wait until he’s gotten something to eat first).
“ Mark “ She said. “ Short for Marcus “
(“ I wonder if she likes Jazz “ He mutters)
Her apartment looms, a short squat box in mud-colored brownstone. Its’ ugliness pierced her mood but she would not be deflated by it. She took in a breath and reached for the door. She hated her building, he druggie infested dump, but tonight she would ignore it. She would ignore the crude graffiti and the smell of piss coming from the stairs and the broken elevator. She would ignore the pimps and dealers who stood outside and watched her like vultures watching a corpse. She would ignore the crushing flickering lights and the smell of weed that proliferated the air. She will go upstairs and run a cool bath, she told herself. She will watch some T.V, snuggle into her bathrobe and make herself something to eat. She will call him on the stroke of midnight. They will talk until she fell asleep or the sun came up. She smiled and in silence stepped int.
She seems him standing in the living room by the window. His face is dark and somber. She closed her eyes and sighs.
“ Could you please close the window? “ She asked.
He nodded his head and obliged.
“ You might want to sit down. “ She said but he shook his head. “ Okay. I’ll stand too. “
He remained still.
“ All I did was love. “ She said. “ I mean, yeah it was wrong. I mean, I knew it wouldn’t end well. I knew she would go back to him, but it was love. I gave her my heart. I promised her that she would be my only one and I kept it. There weren’t any others after. It was only her. I was faithful. Even when she said I seduced her, even when they hung me, I was faithful. “ She said it again. “ I was faithful. “
She blinked back the tears. She would not let herself cry now.
“ What kind of God punishes people for being in love? “
She fell to her knees then. He stood over her, silent and grim. He brought the gun to her left eye.
“ I’m sorry. “ He said. He fired once and the force sent her sprawling on her back. The scrap of paper falls out of her pocket.
“ Tell him. “ She said. Something like pity crosses his face.
“ No. “
He rode the bus alones for days. He tried calling a few times, but all he got was the machine. Each day, his heart sunk deeper, but each day he lost a little more of her. Tonight, it would be what she smelled like. Yesterday, it was her laugh. Tomorrow, it will be her name. Then he will hardly remember being in love at all.