Whatever I’m doing later, it’ll be too late.
I’m sure there’ll be a boy without a name and the stale promise of bed sheets. I’m sure the city will tease me like it always does. I have the answer, it says, I know how to fix you. The city will smile around the river and puncture the sky with concrete fingers. I’ll be captivated. I’ll let it take my soul just one more time.
I get ready when the sun disappears. I paint my face on and I’m not sure who the canvas is anymore. I wonder if she was ever pretty or if it’s just the paint. It doesn’t matter; I’m only as deep as my skin. Only as deep as a politician’s smile. Only as deep as the newsreader who tells me that the size of my waist is news.
I walk to the train station at ten and take a seat by the window. The train is a refuge for the melting pot. Like rats running from water, we all avoid the thought of where we’re from and where we’re going. With little white cords the students deafen themselves into forgetfulness, while erotic fantasies play out on anonymous e-readers and businessmen feign importance with their gadgets. In the distance, the fuzzy city invites you in by glowing in a way that only a city can glow.
The train stops with a metallic yawn and I can smell the gritty world open for business. I’ve never liked the smell of urine but my feet always seem to take me there.
The music starts in the big dark room and I hear nothing but I feel the vibrations. It’s not music, it’s noise. My mother used to love saying that. I don’t know why I’m thinking of her now. As the boys move close with their cigarette breath and stale bodies, I think of my mother. Another drink and maybe she’ll go home.
A boy moves in closer than the other ones, his smile as sweet as Coca-Cola on a summer’s day. The vibrant mass sway in and out of my periphery and I can finally forget. The noise morphs into something aggressive. The animals mount each other in a rage that I don’t belong in. The boy’s smile sinks in closer, his eyes too hopeful to belong in this cage.
“Do you like this song?” the boy yells, his breath rattling against my eardrums.
I shrug because I don’t know the answer.
The boy leans in again, this time interrupted by a battalion of groggy girls. He waves them off like summer flies but they’re persistent little soldiers. One of them looks like an orange. In a few years her children will look back at her pictures and laugh at her tanned camouflage.
I watch the sequin-clad soldiers lurk away and the boy lights up. I feel like oil catching the flame. His hope finds mine and I catch my breath. It’s too much. I fracture from the crowd and find a passage out into the cold. My skin freezes over and the air burns my throat but it’s better than the heavy smog inside. The alleyway spins like a scratched record picking up all the wrong notes. I’m alone but I can feel the world pulsating around me.
The boy follows me out. “Are you okay?”
“I’m cold,” I mutter.
The boy reaches for my hand but I recoil. The soldiers follow us out. They slither up like germs latching onto a dirty surface.
“Are you coming?” the orange one asks, her face now turning red.
The boy shakes his head and the soldiers whine. They scatter, their eyes killing me as they cross the alley.
“I don’t have any friends,” I mutter.
The boy frowns and invites silence. “I don’t like any of mine,” he finally says. “I guess that’s the same thing, isn’t it?”
It’s midnight, which means the new day will begin with neon signs, ugly noise and the scent of vomit. The taxis roll past, each holding promise and demise. The night holds too many emotions for me to decipher. If it were another night, I would find that promise in the arms of a boy who smells like rotting cheese and old beer. The boy looking across at me doesn’t smell like demise. I like him.
“Do you like noodles?”
“Who doesn’t?” the boy says, reaching for my hand again. I don’t recoil this time.
I notice the little things as we begin to walk. The aged cracks in the cement, the dead eyes of a homeless man, the decaying corpse of a half-smoked cigarette. Somewhere out there my old literature teacher is rolling his eyes. He knows this tale too.
Every night, a girl crawls into the city looking to rewrite her story. The ink spills out but it never seems to form any words. Some nights though, she thinks it comes close.
Jamie Scott recently graduated from the University of Melbourne with a BA in Creative Writing. When she’s not watching reruns of 90’s sitcoms she’s working on numerous short stories and her first novel.