Everything hurt, just as I recalled. She lay abandoned on the sidewalk, slumped beside a vestibule and beneath a defunct neon sign that read FREE AIR like a cruel joke. I laughed when I heard the terrier barking. The faint morning sun lit the bruises on her throat and caught in her hair. It dried her tear streaks and reflected the depth of her eyes. Â That heavy gauge wire, once invisibly wrapped around her limbs, now lay discarded underneath her on the grimy pavement. It was thicker than Iâ€™d imagined.
As I recalled, she lay split open, gaping, undone. From my seat I watched Mark deconstruct her. He laid her out piece by piece, beginning with the delicate fabric of her ripped dress and her long-forgotten bag, a trove of its own, continuing with her deceptively thin limbs, her bloody fingernails, her recursive scratches, her oddly unharmed breasts, until she shrank to a mere collection of items, no longer a person at all. He gently arranged her parts on the sidewalk beneath the unlit neon sign.
As I took stock of her hurts my own body ached.
Mark laid aside her dress, baring her still swollen and dripping vagina, and shot me a sidelong look. â€œYou okay?â€ he offered by way of condolence. I nodded, once, silently making an inventory of her pain.
He sipped his beer thoughtfully and broke the tension by splicing in an unsuspecting dog walker, that yapping terrier in tow. I couldnâ€™t help giggling when the dog licked her face. Without so much as a look at the gore in front of him, the dog walker gave one last yank on the terrierâ€™s leash and fled the scene, oblivious.
â€œNice,â€ I mouthed.
Mark looked over, gave me a half smile, and kept going. Her body lay skeletal on the sidewalk, its pretenses strewn across the pavement, and for a moment I finally understood her. Gradually Mark began piecing her back together with the combination of a surgeonâ€™s skill and an artistâ€™s eye. He consulted my art book lying open on the table between us and replaced her bruises and scrapes artfully now. He wrapped the wires to accentuate her curves; he draped her dress from her jutting left hip and left just a trace of her wounded vagina showing at the edge of the hem. He arranged her tendrils around her unblinking eyes.
I watched as he brought up the sunlight, streaming it from the narrow gaps of sky above, drawing beams of it down to her, and I sucked in my breath when I saw what it did to her parts. Her hair, her silver eyes, her exposed skin all shone, yet her fingernails turned dirty, each scrape sank deeper, and the newly arranged wires cast dark shadows on her skin. The sun made sense of her pain. It brought her to life.
â€œEasy there,â€ he warned, sensing my tension. I watched, silent, and realized what I already knew. She was me. I filed that thought away for later and chugged some beer. Mark lit the neon sign and FREE AIR flashed fluorescent red above the beautifully gruesome scene.
â€œPerfect,â€ I grinned. On the screen, she lifted her head and smiled as if of her own free will.
Imagine this piece near the end of a complicated and surreal story. Soon it will be there.