I bit into my turkey sandwich, its insides spilling out over my lips as I glanced at the girls. I had finally learned their names. The brightly dressed one was named Chon and the other with the star tattoo was named Nova. Lime had somehow ended up sitting next to me and the other two were across the table that grew from the wall.
We were eating at a café that focused more on “good, home-made” food rather than quickness. The quality wasn’t what I was used to, but the other girls said it was their favorite spot to eat. They were actually nice, except for the attitude that Lime continued to give me for tripping her. I appeased her for the sake of hoping it counted as an apology.
"So you mean to tell me that you guys seriously ain't datin'?" Lime asked.
The mayonnaise on the corner of my mouth was erased by my arm. "Yep. Just friends."
"You're a liar," Nova shot. "I can totally tell. It's that sixth sense, you know?" Nova didn’t seem to be very smart. It didn’t matter, though, because I could tell that she had street intelligence, for what it was worth. She didn’t know how to divide numbers; she knew how to rob a cash register in broad daylight and get away with it.
"Well, then you need to get that shit checked. ’Cause it's fucked up." I snatched a handful of fried pickles out of the basket before throwing them in my mouth.
"Yeah, right. I'll believe you when you can kiss another guy in front of him."
I stopped chewing momentarily as I pictured the time Beau came to pick me up at my house. "I think I did…" Yes, I remembered now. Ritz had run out of the house naked and tackled me to the ground to keep me from leaving. Beau had taken his gun out in fear of the boy who was attacking me with kisses, pleading me not to leave him.
"Who was it?" Chon leaned in closer. I could tell that she enjoyed gossip. She was very extroverted and friendly, though there was a look deep within her eyes that spoke of pain. I could tell that she buried the pain within her and covered it with good feeling. I was glad that she was able to find a way to cope with it, and I wished that I could be like her.
"Um, my boyfriend? Well, ex-boyfriend," I corrected myself.
All three girls gasped in sadness, their faces etched with concern. "What happened?" Nova frowned.
"Nothing. Don’t worry.” I grabbed a bottle of ketchup and emptied its contents near my fries. “Does anyone want my French toast?”
Lime stifled a laugh. I think she was finally getting over our earlier disagreements. She was a lot easier to get along with and a lot less cocky than I had thought prior. "Damn, girl. Guess you need a new one, then."
"Boyfriend, stupid ass!" she shot.
"Oh. Nahh." In the process of shaking my head, I noticed a lone onion ring. "You gonna eat that?" Chon shook her head as well, more interested in the conversation than my question.
"Hey," Nova cut in as I downed some coke through a straw. "I think Blue's single."
The mentioning of his name caused the coke to go down my windpipe, and I began to cough violently. I beat on my chest with my palm as the pain seared through my throat. Lime smashed her fist into my back, way more force used than necessary. It hurt like Hell. I looked to her angrily as I finished coughing, and she shrugged honestly. "Sorry. Uh…Just his name makes me laugh.” I cleared my throat once more for good measure.
"Well, we've all got real names. These keep us away from trouble!" Nova explained what I already knew.
"Hey, Chon, what's Blue's name, again?" Lime asked.
"How am I supposed to know?"
"You're both from the same place! So you gotta know."
"I'm Korean! He's Japanese!"
I sipped more on my straw, a scratching sound born from its emptiness. I moved the straw around the ice to find any morsel of coke left. More scratching sounds followed after.
"It's something with an 'A'...Hmmm..." Nova tapped her chin.
Angry that I had run out of drink, I threw my arm in the air and shouted, “Bill, please!” Then turned back to the girls. “Hey, what’s Bach doing most of the time when he’s not at the warehouse?”
"Probably stayin' at his big 'ole mansion fuckin' some hoes." Lime sighed at the thought of it all. "While we slave away makin' him some money."
I ignored the want to ask her how much I was going to be paid. "Sounds bad. Does he ever go out to bars or some shit?"
"Nope. Bitch just stays locked up in house. And then gets these limos with tinted ass windows to drive him down here."
"What an ass,” I said.
"And what's worse: if you try to quit, he'll kill you."
The waitress dropped the bill off at our table. I didn’t notice it at first, so consumed by Lime’s words. These people really were slaves to him. At least with Rald, I could quit whenever I saw fit. These people were attached to Bach, completely indebted to him if they wanted their life. After paying the bill, I returned to the hotel to find Beau filling out our reports.
I told him everything I had learned, which was not much. We felt for the others and realized that we had to end this for them, whether we got our money or not. It was no easy task, that was for sure. We spent two months undercover with them. I had almost gotten used to the lifestyle and the dirtiness of it all. The tight-knit family that they had reminded me of the gangs I had been in when I was younger. Bach was like a father figure to us all. He gave us whatever we needed when we needed it, and we did the same for him in return. The power this guy had was insane.
Once when I was robbing a car for him, the police had caught up to me and I was arrested. My bail was posted almost immediately, and Bach told me not to worry about it. I never heard anything else about a court date or being charged. It was dropped as if it had never happened. Sometimes other rival groups would start shit with us. We’d beat the shit out of them and Bach would find out. He’d tell us not to worry, like he always did, and they’d be gone within a week. We’d learned the ins and outs of this lifestyle, every warehouse, group, and detail associated with it. Finally, an opening to murder him appeared.
Beau and I had been doing good enough that he wanted to give us a big “mission”. We were to meet him in his parking lot in two days, at five in the morning like usual. Neither of us was sure of what the mission would entail, but we figured it would have something to do with stealing a large amount of cars in a small amount of time, possibly from one source. We were going to attack him then, when he would most likely be alone or within the confines of a small amount of people. Knowing that our job would soon come to an end, I left the hotel the day before to telephone Ritz’s mother to let her know what I intended to do with the money.
It was raining heavily. It was supposed to be dusk, but it was so hard to tell with the rain making the sky such a blue color. When I rushed out of the hotel door, I pulled the hood of my jacket over my head. I grasped each side of the hood close to my face to keep from getting wet. The streets were only a tad bit emptier than they had been earlier in the day. There were executives returning from work with the daily newspaper over their head. Though they were running, it was futile. They were still getting wet, same as me.
After crossing the street, I hopped onto the sidewalk and entered an empty telephone booth. I pulled my hood down and shook my head clean of water. I dug through the pockets of my jacket for change. Inserting the coins into the slit, my heart began to feel heavy. I didn’t want to think of what she would say to me, or how angry she would probably be for what I did to Ritz. As I entered her phone number on the buttons, I hoped that she would at least listen to what I had to say. I began to shiver from the coldness of the rain and my anxieties.
The ringing was a punishment like no other. Part of me wished that she wouldn’t pick up or that it would go through to the answering machine. I could just explain it there without anything else having to be said. But at last, it came. The sound that indicated someone had picked up.
“Hey, Momma Ritz, this is Mylo—“
“M-Mylo…?” the tone of her voice was something awful. It made me sick to my stomach. Why would she say my name in such a manner?
“Yeah, me, Mylo. Listen, I’m going to send you a check in the mail, okay? I want you to put it in Ritz’s acc—“
She made a wretched noise, like a cry. It stopped me dead in my tracks; I forgot about the money. I began to panic. “M-Momma Ritz? What’s wrong?”
Another wail escaped her. “Mylo…” She paused and released another more settled cry before saying, “Ronald is dead.”
My world shattered. I fell against the glass as my heart swelled so hard that I felt like it was going to explode inside of me. I denied it at first, thought of every single possibility for it not to be true. But then she said, “They ruled it a suicidal overdose.” The pain in every part of my body was more unbearable than anything I had ever experienced. My skin burned, my joints ached, my organs deflated, even my hair follicles throbbed in agony.
“I’m so sorry you had to hear it like this.” Her crying was enough to make my eyes water. I would’ve been able to handle it, maybe, if not for her making the situation a reality. “Thank you for everything you did for him. You’ve been through so much, child. God bless your soul.”
I couldn’t listen to here anymore, not like this. “I…I…I’ve gotta go…” I clicked the phone back onto its hanger before sliding against the corner of the phone booth. Why, why, why, why, why? Why me? Why him, of all the people that I wanted to protect? I was so confused. I had done what I needed to do to save him. I hurt us both for his benefit, how did my toxicity reach him from here? Should I have left the city, the country, the world? What did I have to do to save him? It was too late to be thinking about this now, though, wasn’t it? It was too late. I had fucked up; he was gone. It was my fault.
I kicked the glass with all my might, and it cracked. Good. I wanted it to break more. I wanted to watch it fall apart. Maybe it’d fall apart on top me, and I would fall with it. The pieces would cut me open, and all of my burning insides would come pouring out and try to survive without me. They’d start to grow legs and struggle to get away from me, but they’d be bound by strings. Then they’d just die there, in front of me. Everything always dies.
I pulled my hood back up over my head. “FUCK!” I screamed as I threw my foot into the wall again. It broke through the glass and made a hole that I ripped my leg back through. I lifted an eyebrow at the blood seeping from my ankle. It didn’t hurt, nothing like the pain inside me. I wouldn’t die. I haven’t died – despite the number of years I’d been trying to kill myself. Ever since I was put into that orphanage, I’d been trying to kill myself the best way I could without actual suicide. Everyone said that was the coward’s way out. I wasn’t going to be a coward. Yet the only thing I’ve done is put other people that I love in danger. Maybe I was a coward. Maybe everyone was wrong. Maybe suicide was a brave thing to do, for the people that you love.
Nothing made sense anymore. Then again, it never really did, I suppose. Here I was again: letting life smack me like some little bitch. And I’d get up off the ground and pretend it didn’t hurt, put a fake smile on my face until it felt like knocking me down again. I’d always get back up with the same amount of perseverance, but I’d never really do anything about it, though. It was more like ignoring the problem. But I had it all wrong, didn’t I? Life wasn’t the problem, I was. My existence was the problem.
I thought about Luke, my brother. Did he, as my twin, go through the same as me? We were one in the same. Did our deadliness intertwine? Was it in our DNA, our genes? My mood made me remember the time that after getting in a fight, he looked over to me and said, “Have you ever seen a devil?” I thought about it every time I thought of him, which was very seldom. My mind turned the phrase over and over, processing every possible meaning that could relate to my life.
My thoughts were interrupted when the telephone booth opened. “Demo?”
I lifted my head up from my knees to glare at the person that called me such.
“What the hell are you doing?”
I stood up with the help of the wall. “I got bored,” I said. It was easy for me to ignore my ankle, but not for him. He offered me space under his umbrella as he peered down shocked at my bleeding ankle.
I had learned that Blue was eighteen, two years younger than I was. I had stopped flirting with him after at least a week of working together. Our friendship that had developed mostly consisted of us being rude in a joking manner with no offenses taken. He never spoke much about his life before Bach, and I never pressed at the issue that prevented itself as a wound. He was a very bitter person, though. He had a hard time trusting anyone and rarely gave his approval on anything. I could tell, however, underneath it all was a boy that just wanted to help people. A boy that cared about the people that did become close to him. His shell was callous but his insides were tender.
“You got bored, so you cut your ankle open? Are you, like, mentally unsound?” he asked.
“Shut the fuck up. Walk me across the street to my hotel,” I demanded as I reached into my jacket pocket to put my sunglasses on.
Blue had already commented so many times on me wearing sunglasses in unnecessary weathers, so he didn’t say anything about it now. “Okay, sassy.” He rolled his eyes at my attitude as he accompanied me across the street with his umbrella. “Doesn’t that hurt?”
I laughed sorely. Pain? What did this child know about pain of any kind? “Gimme one of your cigarettes,” I said. The nauseating feeling in the pit of my stomach began to resurface. I’d coat it with a pretty layer of badass girl with a cigarette and no feelings. That’d fix it. It always did. The blood from my ankle washed down my foot with the rain, where it died in the gutter.
When we reached the canopy of the hotel, he reached in his pocket with his free hand to pull out the box. He threw the top back, tugged out one for himself with his lips, and let me grab one for myself. Then he put the box away before patting around all of his pockets to find the lighter. After finding it, he lit himself up first before lending it to me. We smoked in silence.
The smoke polluted my pained lungs, covered up every surface with its tar. I felt my body go numb. It was a foreign feeling to me: numbness. Nothing hurt anymore, not when I covered it up with all of the ugliness in the world. People died, right? Every day. This cigarette would die, Blue would die, I would die. We were all going to die, even the rain at my feet.
“What’s wrong, Demo?” he asked at last.
“Ran out of change in the booth,” I lied. I lifted up my heel and rubbed my ankle off on the back of my capris.
“That’s a shit lie.” The apathetic gaze in his eyes was the same as when we first met. It was hard to tell if he actually cared or not. This was the shell I spoke of. I assumed that he did care but was incapable of showing it.
The pressure from all of the numbness made me blurt, “My boyfriend—” Then I stopped. The pressure was gone now, and all that remained was embarrassment. I didn’t want to finish it, to talk anymore about it. I sunk back within myself and detached my mind from it all.
“Your boyfriend broke up with you, so you threw your foot through a telephone booth?” his tone expressed disbelief.
“No…” Smoke swam away from my lips and disappeared into the wet atmosphere. “He died.” Saying it like that, out there in the open, made the pain reappear. I swallowed the lump in my throat hard.
“Oh…” He looked down at his feet. “Hm.”
“What?” I asked sharply.
“Dunno, just…most girls would burst into tears if their boyfriend died.” He picked up his umbrella that he had set against the building earlier. Giving it a twirl, he flicked the butt of his cigarette away.
I, too, threw my cigarette into the ground before killing it with my shoe. “Maybe I am, but you just can’t see it.” I turned around with a tiny wave of my hand and went to open the door to the hotel.
I was stopped by Blue calling out, “Hey!” I looked back at him through the dark tint of my sunglasses. Then he said, “I’m sorry.” Yet again, the expressions on his face conveyed that he wasn’t, even though he truly was. I mumbled a confirmation before entering the hotel.
Beau was on his bed, in the same position as when I had left. He jerked at my arrival, coming out of his lazy daydreams with a yawn. “So? How’d it go?” He stretched his spine like an animal and reached behind his head as his toes curled. The brunette blinked when I failed to respond. “Hm…? You okay?”
As my partner, he’d seen me cry before. Some of my worst injuries were when I first started working for WSCA. I lost a finger once, which was thankfully sewn back on. I cried then. When I had been stabbed through my abdomen by some freak with a sword, I thought I was going to die and there was blood everywhere, everywhere. I cried then. We had both been water boarded before. He cried more than I did about that, but still, I cried then.
He’d never seen me cry about my emotional pains. Yet here I was, falling into myself. “Mylo!?” He jumped out of bed immediately to comfort me. His body was warm, but not comforting. I heard his heart beating. It was nothing like Ritz’s. No one’s would ever be like his, not as shallow or as welcoming. I could search for an eternity, I was sure, and never would I find another like him. The coldness from my tears made me feel sick. I thought how I had to be strong, the promise I had made to myself. Fuck it, though, what did I have to be strong for anymore? Myself? No, I had nothing.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered softly.
“I ran out of change in the booth,” I replied.
He pulled me in closer. When he did, he noticed the blood on my leg. “Mylo…” He let go and ushered me to the bed, where I curled into myself. I rested my head on the pillow as he told me that he was going to get a towel to clean it up. I didn’t understand why. What was the point? God, I was broken, wasn’t I? I’d gone past the point of no return.
Beau returned with a lukewarm towel. He gingerly erased the blood. I said nothing. I found it difficult to blink, difficult to think, difficult to want to breathe. Everything in life now was difficult. “So, are you going to tell me what actually happened?” he asked. “Because you’re not even hurt. There’re no wounds. Did you attack someone?”
There were no wounds? My mind didn’t believe him, but at the same instance, it didn’t care, either. After all, I was past the point of no return, right? All kinds of crazy shit could happen to me. I could walk out the door right now and there could be unicorns, I could fly, and maybe even Ritz could be there. I had inflicted wounds on myself but they were no longer there. Yes, that sounded like the world I was now in. “Ritz is dead,” I said. The lone tear on my cheek that had escaped the lens of my sunglasses let him know that I was not kidding.
“It’s not your fault,” he said. What a lie. If I hadn’t been such a stubborn bitch all the time, he’d be here. But no, I had to be this “strong” person that made all the hardest decisions without emotion, right? If I’m not “strong” then my world crumbles, right? Never give up, never bleed and hate it, never cry, never exhibit weakness, no matter what. No, Beau, it was my fault.
Ritz. The only human in this world that I had ever loved that returned it. The only person. The person that sang to me every day that I was unconscious in the hospital, the person that made my meals, the person that kissed me on the cheek when he noticed any glint of depression in my eyes, the person that cured all of my ailments with just a smile, and the person that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. That person, he was gone forever. Home had no definition to me. It was just a location with no feeling. I had no home, not a single place on this Earth.
Such was life.
Once born, death's our destination.
As the sun sends time a-flying
none survive in all creation.
End of laughter, end of sighing,
wit and witty comment vying,
famous family crests allying,
- shade in sunlight! wind-torn vapors!
We were fellow mortals: capers
like your own, carousing, weeping,
dusty relics of cremation.
All the one same destination.
We had eyes once, clear and merry,
deepset in the skull, a-glowing,
hollow grots now, black and scary
- such the rubble time comes towing.