You on the Street
by Amanda Barusch
You on the street and me on the sidewalk, drifting along in the pedestrian flow while a morning sun warms my back. I’m nearly dozing when the smell of bacon raises the possibility of a café breakfast. I veer towards the tables to look for a seat.
That’s when I see you loping towards me with your head above the fray and a girl’s long neck in the crook of your elbow. You stop at the crosswalk and she twines an arm around your waist and bends towards you like a plant. Nuzzles your cheek.
I freeze. Someone behind me swears and nudges me into the cool shade of an awning.
She’s a skinny girl, almost tall as you; purple-black hair and a see-thru blouse. I glance down at my wrinkled lab coat and notice a coffee stain.
When I moved here no one noticed me but you. You watched me get lost in this flat city with no horizon. Your eyes narrowed as you took my measure. Your hand brushed my shoulder as you held open the door.
Remember when you took me to Macbeth? Free tickets from one of your mates. Your palm warmed the base of my spine as it guided me up the aisle and I sat by you in the hyper-awareness of a dark theater. The eye scene blew me away and later you said, “I could feel you recoil.”
“Some mad connection we got,” you said.
You noticed where I glanced, ran your fingers down my arm, teased me, poured my wine, brought me pretty leaves and things.
Later, in bed, your fingers on my lips.
Butterfly kisses and giggles.
“Close your eyes,” you breathed into my neck.
“Don’t move,” you said to my thighs.
Like no one ever.
Yes. Like that. Oh yes.
So then, we arrived together and people noticed. With you, I was somebody. New friends swooped in with warnings in their talons.
“You know, the woman he lived with tried to stab him.” He aimed a pencil at my gut.
“You know, he had a child with a girl up north.” She didn’t meet my eye.
“Heroin, you know.” The two of them nodded and knew.
I didn’t until that day we stood at the ATM and you asked for a loan. You found yourself “embarrassed.” Embarrassed, I drew the line at £50.
“There’s a limit,” I said.
You left for Amsterdam.
I didn’t want to go besides I had to work besides it was expensive besides I was . . . not invited. I drunk texted you all night. Text. Repeat. Stop. Text. Repeat. Stop. No full stop until I deleted the contact.
I can almost touch you from here. You and the new girl at the corner waiting for the signal to change. I can almost smell your cologne. Sweat trickles down my neck and the street noise subsides. In the sudden quiet I compose my face and think how far I’ve come. How good I am now. No. Great. Really great. Dodged a bullet. Learnt a lesson. All that glitters or thereabouts.
Yes. I’ll squeeze your forearm and smile. “I’m great. Really. Great. And you?” I won’t grin. That’s unattractive. Just a small polite smile. But not too small.
The signal changes. You pull her in for a short kiss. She walks away. You turn to go. You swipe your mouth with the back of your hand and cross the street the other way.
The matchbook with your number? It’s still in the drawer by my bed. Never know when you might need a match.
About the author
Amanda Barusch lives in the American west, where she spends as much time as possible on dirt paths. She has an abiding disdain for boundaries and adores ambiguity. Her work has appeared in Crack the Spine, Every Day Fiction, Stone Path Review and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter: @amandabarusch or on her website: http://www.amandabarusch.com.
Read more fiction on Flashes