There’s something off-putting about someone placing a hand on a hip while they urinate. I am sitting in lukewarm bath water, soapy and scrubbed. And he turns from the vanity mirror, his fluffy bathrobe still open. He strolls his portly belly over to the toilet and, throwing back the half of robe nearest me and leaving his hand there on his tan-lined hip, begins pissing. His aim is weak, as is the stream which smells of asparagus. This is all easier to take in than his stubby sausage-fingers pressing and pulling on the loose leathery skin draped over his probably prosthetic hip. I stare. His phallus hangs discolored and veiny and he shakes the drippings from the tip. I bring my hands to my chest, aware in this moment of his gaze, feeling a brief instinct to hide. He lowers the toilet seat with a stretched grin and drops his fat ass on to it, the inevitable slap only muffled by the thick robe. I bring my gaze back up from the murky water, pausing between his knees. He’s now become devastatingly erect. And a look of muffled dismay must’ve snuck through my dark bangs, because he says, “I just want you to watch me, Bella.”
Of course that’s not all he wants, but at least I’m already in the bath and I can clean my face when he’s finished. I probably haven’t cleared all the mascara anyway.
His toes curl into the plush shower rug, and he sways up onto his wrinkly sinewy legs. He hunches over, his pale gorilla belly bunching up more than when he sat. And in my head, I feel like I’m in one of those movies where they’re on a mountain or something, and they keep saying, “Don’t look down.”
—DON’T LOOK AT HIS FACE—
But of course I do, and of course just then he shoots off, in spurts, and his second load lands all over my cheekbone and left ear.
—THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS—
Why do I do this? Is the money really that good?
I went to Rob’s for a party on Friday and bought some average yay from some kid from Walnut that Thomas was trying to fuck. Maybe flirting with in front of me to make me… Jealous? Went to bed with Thomas again. Went to a party at his house the next night where I met this tall, skinny white bitch, Juliette? Jean? Jane? Who was trying to fuck Marcus, who showed up late, but she started flirting with me after he sold all his drugs and left. She did a couple lines with me and then tried to sit on my lap and missed and landed on the floor, then her nose started bleeding all over Thomas’s carpet and she just stayed on the floor crying and laughing at the same time, not trying to stop the blood at all. The next day she FaceTimed me, then met me at the Hyde Park Plaza, and we walked to Ault Park, and she told me she hooked up with some dude the night before in his car, then her boyfriend broke up with her and called her a ho. I didn’t know what to say. I told her I hadn’t been to Ault Park since sophomore year when I got some friends to chip in for a couple grams and then left with all of it after only smoking one blunt. She said she shaved her legs earlier in the day. I didn’t say anything back. She put my hand on her thigh and pretty soon she was straddling me and grinding her bony hips into me. She sent me nudes in the Uber and, back in my room, gave me head for 45 minutes after I gave in and let her because she kept asking me to let her, but I felt bad. When she tried to fuck me, I pretended to fall asleep. Two hours later I woke up. She was still awake.
She reaches out to me, her hand shaking and blue, illuminated by the light from the small TV in the corner, the screen shining cobalt, the word STOP seeming to quiver in the top left corner. I get an urge to lash out at the bony fingers with the chipped black painted nails, slap the hand away, tell her to fuck off. Get away from me. Her hand lingers. Instead, I turn away and light another Marlboro. Hunching over, my pajama-clad knees against my bare breasts, I become acutely aware that the vertebrae in my spine are showing through the skin of my back. I take a deep breath and start coughing. The sound pierces the static white noise. I flick the cigarette at the already full ashtray next to the mattress which sits, sheet-less, in the middle of the room. Her hand drops, slapping slightly on the bare skin pulled tight over her ribs. I feel her staring at me. I can hear her eyes move, tracing my body. I want to scream, don’t look at me. Don’t fucking look at me. But I know she wouldn’t stop. She wouldn’t even hear me.
Her stare is louder than my voice.
She asks if I have any coke.
Rob sits across from me at the Panera we met up at after I dropped Julie-whatever-the-hell off in Hyde Park. He’s wolfing down a sandwich. Thomas sits next to him. Marcus is to my left, across from Thomas. I bought a baggie of coke from Rob just before Thomas and Marcus came in. I’ve excused myself twice to take it in the bathroom. Thomas and Marcus have carried an argument in from the car. A Hispanic friend of Marcus’s was told that his mediocre ACT score, a 21, was, “good for a minority,” which is clearly racist. Thomas refuses to contend that it is in fact racist, but Marcus is putting up a well-articulated defense for it being so. I leave the discussion with my eyes. Scan slowly around the room. Workout jackets, yoga pants, running shorts, gym shoes, blonde hair, sunglasses, see-through smiles… “What do you think, Bella?”
My gaze is forcibly snapped back to the table, “Uh… it’s pretty racist, Thomas.”
This gets them going enough for me to continue people-watching. I land on Rob. His eyes are bloodshot, his hair wild. His only focus seems to be finishing his sandwich as quickly and violently as possible. All of his movements are jittery, fast. Someone said something about the pride parade. My eyes wonder, more slowly this time, over to Thomas, “What?”
“I was just saying I saw a photo of your friend, Kevin, from the pride parade yesterday.”
My mind on other things, I absently offer, “Oh yeah… we went together… it was cool.”
“Kevin’s… pretty gay, huh?”
I furrow my brow and stare hard at Thomas, “Oh yeah?”
He just gazes back for a second and changes the subject, “You know what pisses me off?”
I turn back to Rob. Marcus looks up from his phone, “What’s that?”
“You know the girl I’ve been hooking up with?”
Rob is twitching a bit. Marcus raises his eyebrows, “Your girlfriend?”
Thomas tilts his head. I look over at him after a few seconds of him not answering. He responds finally, “I mean… yeah. That’s kind of what’s been pissing me off actually. She keeps, like, tryna get me to say we’re dating. Like, the other day, she was like, ‘I don’t want to waste your time; if you don’t want a real relationship with me, you might want to find someone else.’ I mean, what the fuck is that shit?”
Marcus turns to me and raises his eyebrows sarcastically. I smile briefly and go back to people-watching. Marcus clears his throat, “How long have you been going… uh, like, hooking up?”
Thomas thinks for a second, “Since, I don’t know, April?”
“It’s October, dude.”
I turn to Thomas, “It’s been over six months, dude.”
Marcus stares at Thomas incredulously, “So, she probably feels like you’re using her, dude.”
“Nah, man, no way. I’m pretty sure she just wants to hook up, dude.” He’s been sure of that from the beginning. As I understand it, they started fucking after her and her boyfriend—of almost a year—broke up. Which, I guess, was grounds to convince Thomas she just wanted dick.
Marcus stares blankly. He looks at me, then back at Thomas, “I’d say you should either ask her for a relationship or stop talking to her.”
Thomas jolts his head back and looks at Marcus like he’s crazy, “Dude, why?”
I get up to do more coke in the bathroom with Rob. Sometimes I wonder why I do this shit—get high, bullshit with these losers, waste my time—but it’s easier not to think about, so most times I don’t. After I do a couple lines, I say my goodbyes and get in my car.
The traffic on I-71 is so slow I feel like I’m in a parking lot. I’m listening to a Travis Scott album all the way though for the third time, and, almost to the Montgomery Road Exit, I start to push harder on the gas. Why am I moving so slow? My peripherals fill with flashing lights. There’s a pile-up under the Euclid Road Bridge.
Whose car is that?
I swerve to the side as quick as I can. That’s not the fucking car. I almost hit the guardrail.
I’m out of the car running. That can’t be his fucking car. I’m screaming. I’m deaf. Screaming. No. It can’t be his car.
I’m screaming, “No, no, no, fuck!”
A cop or something grabs at me. I sprint through him. They’re putting someone on a stretcher. I’m screaming. There’s steam pouring from a red sedan. It’s half ramped up on the guardrail, the car that can’t be his half pinned behind it.
It just can’t be.
It’s facing me, the car a brand new Mercedes E-Class he bought himself after his wife left him. He was going the wrong way on the freeway. The front of it is pretty much folded underneath, there’s blood covering the half windshield that’s left.
I fall to my knees. My pants rip against the concrete. His broken corpse lays in the stretcher, his stomach lifting it like a snowy hill. My knuckles pound into the shattered glass that sprayed from the windshield. I collapse face first. My cheek slaps straight into the glass. Blood pools. I’m going to be sick.
I hear them before I feel them. They grab at me and I fall limp. They sit me down against the guardrail, and I’m going to be sick. My shirt is stained with blood from my face. I’m going to need stitches. That’s what the EMT said, “You’re going to need some stitches for that cut on your face, honey, but you’ll be okay, don’t worry.”
The EMT walks back to the ambulance, I watch.
I stare at it as it leaves with his body on the stretcher in the back and lean my head back and light a cigarette. My hands shake and it takes me a couple tries before the flame doesn’t blow out. I force my sunglasses on to try and cover the cut. At the bottom of my vision, I can see an orange light flashing. I slowly bring my eyes down and focus through my tears on the final mockery emblazoned in flashing orange lights.
—WATCH YOUR SPEED. 998 TRAFFIC DEATHS THIS YEAR. UP 15%—
I’m going to be sick.
I’m lying on a lawn chair by the pool in my backyard. My right hand rests on the neck of a half-empty bottle of Chardonnay. I light another match and throw it at the pool and miss as the last light of the sunset is disappearing behind the roofs of houses to my left that all look the same. Houses that have become nothing but jagged black shapes against the washed-out oranges and purples of the sky. The colors reflect off the sunglasses that sit lopsided on my face. My house looms huge and rigid to my left, and out of the corner of my eye, I see a pale yellow glow coming from one of the windows. The light sits still on the glasslike pool-water past my feet. Nothing moves, there’s no sound. Everything sits solid, unmoved, unaffected. I stare, blank-faced, at the sky. Over my left shoulder, the moon hangs, yellow, huge and sickening. My body is filled with hollow. With sick. And, sitting right here, I can feel my shirt absorbing water off the damp cushion that lays between me and the metal chair.
I am here, right here. And right here I am so absent. Absent of any inkling of what to do next. I don’t want to wade through the muggy air into the cool air-conditioned house, pushing fake air and chills down my spine; I don’t want to see a phone screen, lists of ideas, bad jokes, text messages, getting in touch, reminders, what time it is, how far I’ve walked today, new music, news, Tweets, photos, art, videos on YouTube, missed calls; I don’t want to move. I don’t want to feel the plastic fake leather of my car’s steering wheel, turn out of my driveway, see streetlights, signs, shop windows, neon, the road, gas stations, gas prices, think about inflation, options, food, drink, smoke; I don’t want to look at faces, mouths, eyes, smiles, laughter, concern, emotion, tears, pain; I don’t want to say words, I don’t want to hear them either, I don’t love you, I don’t hate you, I don’t miss you, I don’t want to know what’s up, I don’t want to know how you are, I don’t want to talk about art, or music, or movies, shows, money, jobs, gossip, shopping, I don’t want to know how much you don’t care.
I don’t want you to know how much I do.
Maximus Adarvé is a Colombian-American artist and writer currently living in Chicago with roots and ties to Florida, Ohio, Spain, and Peru. Maximus has developed his present artistic aesthetic through a life marked by frequent movement and change in his living situations and habitats. His work includes pieces in video, photo, performance, writing, and drawing. His writing has been published or is forthcoming in 34th Parallel Magazine, New World Writing, Pretty Owl Poetry, and Maudlin House.
Photography by Alyssa Yankwitt