Fiction by Wayne H.W Wolfson  •  Art by Patricia Wallace Jones

Piled on top of all the other garbage, two now empty wine bottles. Over the lip of the barrel only the necks protrude, giving it two green glass antennae, both of which mutely point to opposite corners of the kitchen.

I need to clean up or get out, but I won’t.

Our secret language;

“Remember when you fought the bull?”

Or maybe she said “rode”. The biopsy on my lung, a taste of my own mortality, a close call which for a few weeks after made all the little inconveniences and phobias now bathed in this new light, absurd.

She called forth the memory of this close call now to beat back my usual reluctance to meet new people.

I still had a bandage but it was smaller and did not bunch my shirt. I want to be bad.

“OK, do they like j-a-z-z?”

Deep down, I knew that she already won this round. She closes her eyes, leaning forward, vague lines of desire creasing her face.

Her lips are warm, soft and pliable. I am drowning under waves of sensuality.

Her lips always seek me out, she has hunted, there is no escape, nor would I longer want one, they wash over me.

We stop.

“I put out a clean shirt for you.”

She did not want me to tense up from an overcrowded train ride, so we took a cab. Faust’s. It was Chinese New Year. Overly excited tourists and weary locals prowled the streets.

Paper dragons zag down the street, tiny explosions fall upon my shoes as children bite into sweet cakes.

I set myself on my favorite perch and now we wait. They are not too long in coming. Theresa moves two stools down opening up to my right. I always like keeping the one stool to my left open for the potential of an interesting stranger. With them stacked up on my right, if it got too dull, I also had the safety of at least once during the evening saying “Why don’t you two switch up."

We shook hands; with worry he looked at the bottles standing at attention behind the bar. We talked, he had nothing to say. He knew the names of all my heroes, but one had the sense that he had just spent the past week memorizing lists with which to gain an “in."

I gather up drinks and wait to go home. Someone now sat to my left. Two drinks and I wish sad music would play, but it would chase the dragons away. My left, she tells me her name which I instantly forget – it is that way with everyone for me.

To my right, a country I have left.

Leaning towards me, she sings “How Long Has This Been Going On." Sliding it towards me on a gentle breeze of whiskey.

Now we are sharing drinks, she softly sings something else. Lonesome lips seek a bottle to accompany the night in a duet of saturnine desires.

Often for me, it is just the possibilities which are enough. I don’t want to fuck her, just know that I can. Tonight vows will be broken within one song, the blues with which to accompany midnight.

Drink in hand, my eyes drift out the window. Clasped hands, couples run through shimmering curtains of sparklers accompanied by the percussive pops of firecrackers. All of Chinatown appears, a festive war.

They finally leave; handshakes all around. Theresa leans close, lips touching lobe.

“You really impressed him.”

Now I can go home. I lean to the left and say good night. She says my name, we kiss goodnight, the myth which dissolved upon her tongue.

We get home, I am already undressing in the stairwell as she unlocks the door. I almost forget to wash up.

She is doing something in the other room, trying to be quiet, but not overly so.

Lying in bed, the ceiling a cracked plaster spider web.

From down the street, I can faintly hear the noise from a club. A trumpet cries like a broken heart. For now she will have to weep without me.

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