There’s a sound behind me and I turn around sure it’s going to be the cops finally finally gonna take me in somewhere warm. But it’s not, just some girl arms crossed waiting at the bus stop. There’s something about girls at the bus stop. This one, her hair is so curly I can’t even believe it. If only I were small enough to slide down those curls like the black tubes I never got the courage to go on when I was little, the closed off ones at amusement parks that make you think this time you’re actually blind. Every time you go down. We had a park by my house, maybe not actually by my house but somewhere in that city. When I was big enough and strong enough and brave enough the bandana-headed men took over and they had guns and little plastic baggies and my mom said we shouldn’t go around there anymore, especially after dark.
The girl looks so cold and I feel sorry for her, wish I could tell her that it’s just a state of mind and if you don’t shiver you won’t feel it. But she knows, and she doesn’t like me. I don’t know if it’s my smell or my look but she doesn’t like me, I’m scary. I’m not wearing a bandana on my head but I might as well be. I’ve got those little plastic baggies in my pocket. She’s got to know.
The snow collects in her hair, hair like pockets. I bet she’s keeping some secrets in there, the secret pockets that no one knows about. Boyfriends, schoolwork, buses. The bus isn’t coming, I know that but because I can tell she doesn’t like me I’m not going to tell her.
I do some calculations in my head to pass the time while the headlights pass me. The revolutions of the sun around the earth whisk my intestines to frothy frenzy, but that period of time is much too long to rely on. Frostbite is fast, easy. Tips of the nose, fingers, little toe goes first. Depending on your system of layers. But no one ever talks about the whole body. It’s some percent water, some high percent that you’d never guess.
She was crazy about water. I thought it had to be some kind of mental thing, like the dog I had when I was little that we had to make sure to shut the toilet because he would just drink and drink until his stomach exploded. Or at least I always assumed that’s what would happen, that his stomach would exploded. It takes less than that for something to die, but that was always the big worry. She was just like that. Like a fish out of water, what an eloquent turn of phrase.
We met because she showed me the rubber silverblack metal smoke, she showed me the crystalline rocks cracked into powder just the right size of a nasal cavity. I always liked the nosebleeds but she hated blood. Funny that the way she went was so much of what she hated. But isn’t that everyone’s life, in the end? Running away, thinking you’ve made it, having it shoved cold metal into the roof of your mouth. Trigger bliss. Close the curtains, god, and fade to black.
So the body is this some percent water, you’d think it would freeze just like everything else. What I want to know is how long. What can you actually count on for true solidity. That’s a phase change but not one I’m interested in. I want to be more disorganized, more fluid, up higher in the atmosphere. Screw organized crystalline structures—except the one.
I worry about it, though, because without the gloves my fingers are whitening like bones in dry sun. Arizona sun, New Mexico sun. I threw the gloves away because I didn’t need them, they were holding the power of my sinew in.
Things start to become what they are not. I look back over my shoulder except now the girl at the bus stop is not a girl anymore. She’s smiling at me which is strange. I know she doesn’t like me so why should she smile. But she isn’t a she.
The pale bones gleam at me from their half block away. Old jaw creaks open and blood pours out, don’t know where from don’t know don’t know gotta get out of here is all I can think of, gotta get out. I try not to scream. The bones direct a razorblade finger my way and they’re saying you’re next, you’re next. Even though they don’t have lips.
I start to worry about that much blood, it makes me feel a little bit sick. I just want to know where it’s coming from.
It steams on the snow in front of the bus stop. There is too much of it, there is too much of it. But I can tell, it looks warm. And then a switch flips in my chest and I want it, I want to hold all of the red slushy snow in my hands and eat it because it will heat me up, intestines first. I know in some part of my swiss cheese brain that that isn’t the way things work, that first it’ll be my bone-white sun-dried fingertips, then my toes, and then up and up and up, closer and closer to the red wet engine at the very core of me. But my eyes are locked onto the steaming puddle. It’s getting closer and closer to me, now, inviting. Almost speaking to me.
Or maybe it’s me that’s moving closer, all of the sudden I’m at the bus stop. My sneakers are wet, but they aren’t stained red. I think about the weirdness of that—probably there is a quantum physics explanation. I know that I could solve it right off the pipe but I’m too far into the high to know or think much of anything. Other than the fact that I’m cold.
For a second I see her, there. Not the important her. The girl at the bus stop with her curly hair collecting snow like promises. Her mouth is pressed into a cold mean line and she wasn’t saying words to me. No one ever said words to me anymore. That’s what it felt like, at least, like they could see something ugly and rotten inside of my stomach that I couldn’t even see inside of myself.
“The bus isn’t coming,” I tell her. I’m just trying to be nice. I remember after the last word puffs out of my mouth like the crystal smoke I wish was in it that she doesn’t like me. That’s why her mouth looks so mean. I wonder why she’s not wearing a hat. Probably afraid it’ll mess with those pristine curls. I don’t blame her.
I’m looking at her, too close. But her face is doing things that I just can’t explain. It looks like it’s bubbling, waxy. Like chili on a slow rolling boil. Normally I would find things like this repulsive but I think now it’s almost interesting, like she’s trying to show me something.
But then it changes, her face changes, and it changes into something that I do not want to see.
There she is before me, pink-cheeked and alive. Not dead like I know she is. I know she’s dead. I know she’s dead. I was the one to find her in the bathroom, skull all different kinds of splattered. I thought at least it was nice she did it in there. There is nothing soft about the bathroom, nothing that stains. I thought that. I was wrong, wrong. Turns out that bathtubs don’t stay aggressive white like that unless you clean them. And how could I clean it?
I forget sometimes how beautiful she was. Before everything, I mean. When we stumbled into each other’s lives we were both so new and fresh to the icy blue world of crystals and pipes and more, always more. But now, at the bus stop, she came back to remind me. There she is with the little gap in her teeth and the gray green eyes and that smile.
But it’s changing again, her face. Bubbling, a rolling boil. Only now I don’t want it to. I want to go back to the angry girl at the bus stop, I want to see her, the important her, again before her teeth started to get brown and sick and fall out in the bathroom trash every morning. Because what’s coming is worse.
The thing looking at me only has half a head. The rest is a red mess. Now I know where the blood in the snow is coming from. It’s rising, a flood of red. My feet are wet, so wet, so red. I take a step back because it smells, all of the flesh in front of me. And that’s all it is is flesh, and it’s so warm. But it’s warm like hell, and I can’t look it in the face.
But it comes after me. The half head on top of a pulverized neck makes noises like stirring macaroni and cheese as it bobbles around there, making fun of me. That’s all this is—I bet bus stop girl is in on it, laughing somewhere at the horror that she’s putting me through. Just cause I had the nerve to be on the same street as her in the middle of the night when the snow was collecting in her curls like secrets she wouldn’t tell me.
“Stop it.” I decide that I’ll fight back, I’ll get in her face, in its face, and scare whatever she is away. I am high, I know that, crystal coursing through my veins, but I’m not superhuman—at least not now, it’s been too long since I’ve had a hit.
I see the girl again, the one from the bus stop, and she’s almost pretty. She would be pretty if she didn’t look so goddamn scared, eyes wider than car wheels in her pale face. Terrified that I’ve figured out her plan.
But then the flesh is back. I get a close look at the gore, even though I don’t want to. I can see the sharp line of her chin, and then right above it teeth hanging out, stained purplish. No lips. The arteries flop around in the air, giving off steam, like worms escaping from rainy mud. So warm. How can this thing be steaming while I’m here freezing my ass off, worrying about the frost bite that I know I already have because I threw away those gloves. In the moment it was the only choice to make, but now I see there were others.
I want to cover it up, I don’t want to look at it anymore. Spurts of blood leave through the arteries, almost like there were still a beating heart somewhere in there. But I know there’s not. This thing is dead, dead, dead, just like she is on the bathroom floor. Was. I have trouble when it comes to verb tenses when I’m talking about her.
So I cover it up. A cold hand over those exposed teeth, pretending to be their lips. It’s so warm it burns me, the blood. It burns me like benediction—there’s a word I used to know the meaning of.
It takes a long time for the image to go away, but what replaces it is worse. I can feel the crystals evaporating, and they leave me cold and weak.
There is no blood on the ground. My shoes are wet with snow and I can’t feel my toes anymore. Hands shoved in pockets, I wiggle my fingers, but the pinkies are missing.
I’m at the bus stop and it’s snowing, and the girl on the ground in front of me is so, so quiet. She is laying down under the bench, and I don’t know why. Her hair is half blinding white, and half black. It’s so curly. Now the divot between her nose and the corner of her eye is collecting snow, too. It doesn’t melt there. She must be very, very cold.
My head feels like a freight train, hurtling so fast along its tracks that I know I’ll never be able to stop.
She was pretty, the girl on the ground. Her nose was small and pointy, and I remember her eyes being some sort of blue. They are closed, now.
I take a deep breath and start to walk again. I’m cold, so cold, and it’s a long time until morning.