by C.C. Russell
If you could extrapolate this, you think, pull it out of your head in waves, convert it to digits, the 010101010101 of code, if you could translate all of what he is saying into the standard mathematics of one plus one always equals, always, maybe something he is saying would be challenging, interesting even, but his words are quick and on the verge of being unintelligible. His sentences are automatic, spiraling quickly off of his lips in a constant piston motion of pump, pump, pump, the mechanical friction of his mouth and its electromechanical sounds. His hair is slicked back, petroleum jelly run through from open palm to fingertips to follicles, one motion you're sure - he has done this enough, prepared himself for the speech, for the inescapable sales pitch of "me." He is petrochemical, on the verge of spontaneous combustion, but he does not know it. All the heat growing on the inside and emanating out so that he is oblivious to it, the temperature growing so gradually that his skin does not even register the gradations.
Connection. He is looking for some form of instant match to dry kindling through touch, some kind of psychosexual transmission straight from one head to another, from one bundle of neurons across the mahogany of the restaurant table to another, throbbing in time to the electrical spasms inside, a military meeting of minds, into love that second. He is not expecting it, only hoping that the corona is building on your skin too, that some incandescent blue is seconds away, any moment about to arc across the two of you, opposite of each other, so that you are both bathed in its quick reaction, two poles just waiting to touch.A blind date. Your younger sister, Jane, younger by two years but already married had set it up through one of her coworkers. Your older sister met him once at a Christmas party and thought it was a good idea, a good match. As if by taking vision away and unwrapping suddenly, the eyes would take this in as beauty, you think, looking at Irwin's mouth slick with spittle, telling you the small details of a life, his car salesman hair smoothed back into a glistening wall around his head - no halo, just a solid mass of something gelled permanently into position. You stare at his mouth moving so rapidly it is becoming the fast sparkle of immaculate oral hygiene and nothing else, the vocalized advertisement of pristine dentistry. Yes, you think, he does have nice teeth.
The waiter comes to your table in his smooth-pressed suit, asks if you would like another glass of wine, this place nothing like any restaurant you'd go to alone, Irwin's idea of the perfect way to impress and therefore, seduce you. Irwin nods and you just smile, your own imperfect teeth saying you don't necessarily need anymore, but what the hell. Irwin takes this smile as a symbol that his advances are making headway, starts to grin even more widely. Yes, he does have nice teeth. The waiter leaves and Irwin's tirade continues, a dull throb forming on the side of your temple. Migraine. You get them all of the time. And now Irwin as the waiter fills the glasses red with the holy blood, talking about nothing in particular. You wish the horsemen would come down now, one at a time blowing their horns, their vials of plague opening wide. You would not have to be rude to him, then. You would not have to pretend that the wine had made you tired, crept through your arteries and hit your brain like a Sominex. You would not have to tell him that you are due in to work early tomorrow morning so that you can get away from him and sneak up to your apartment and eat a tub of ice cream to get the taste of this horrid meal off of your tongue.
You sit thinking about the end of civilization as we know it, the basic prophecy of everything going to Hell in a blink. Irwin's perfect mouth is opening and closing in oblong circles. You catch yourself watching it as the waiter brings another glass of wine. You think you could probably eat for a week on the price of a bottle of it, maybe two. You watch Irwin's mouth go on about holdings, the museum he visited last week (an art museum from what you gather, though he says nothing of the art inside), his ex-wife (a bad choice if there ever was one, he says), the car he had just paid off, the house too. At least he's got something together. You watch his mouth and swill the wine around in yours. You down the glass in a long swallow, signal the waiter for another.
Hell, maybe if the apocalypse started now, right now, you think, you'd even fuck this guy. It's been a long time, you think, too many nights of flicking on the weather channel to see the local forecast and leaving it on for hours, watching the same green clouds move across the same electrical landscape. Maybe he wouldn't even be that bad. Maybe under those drab clothes he takes as good care of his body as he does of his teeth. You think of hair gel left on your pillowcase. Figure you could wash it off. Figure you could ignore his hair altogether. The waiter comes back with the wine bottle and you smile at him. Irwin smiles too, probably thinking that this is exactly what he needs.
If only you had the end of the world as an excuse (a perfect one if there ever was one). All fire and chaos outside while you feel skin again that actually wants yours. You look at your watch. The time is speeding up, becoming scattered. Irwin says something about a book you just finished reading. One thing in common. Is that all it should take? You actually smile at him, think of the ending to the story - how nothing could have been salvaged. Maybe Irwin was just lost, just as lonely as you are. Maybe he would change his hair. Maybe he would change.
Hell, maybe you should fuck him anyway, you think. You wonder if he'd shut up in bed or if he'd just thrust while quoting what went up and down on Wall Street today, how much money he'd lost, if he had a chance of recovering it. You take another swig from the long stemmed crystal and think maybe you should. Two less lonely people in the world, your head sings. He's got nice teeth. Why not?
The waiter plops the dessert menu neatly onto the table in front of you. You have a million choices in front of you, all in a language you have no ability to read.
About the author:
C.C. Russell was born in Ohio, spent most of his life (so far) in Wyoming and is currently living in New York. He is being held captive in retail management after having worked as Convenience store clerk, hotel desk clerk, and d.j. in a small bar among other occupations. His poetry and prose are in The New York Quarterly, Grasslimb, Xconnect, and Unwound, among others.