When he entered the room, she was naked. She sat stripped of her mythology and the bare curves of her hips made his hands shake. He hid them in his pockets like seizures in winter and told himself it was just the morning coffee.
"Jesus Christ..." His jaw slacked and tightened and he waited for a response; something witty like, odd time to pray or not quite, but maybe his cousin or oh, honey, he moved out years ago, but we still get his mail.
But soon waiting gave way to waiting, as waiting is wont to, and things became uncomfortable. Her deadbolt eyes. She blinked in slow motion, no lash out of place, and he felt foolish.
See, he never expected her to be a woman, and he almost said as much, had the look on her face not shut him up beautifully. Besides, at this point he was pretty certain that cities definitely don't speak--not English anyway--and even then, his concrete dialect was, at best, as atrocious as cracked pavement. He lisped with too much wind and not enough asphalt.
He looked around for somewhere to sit but the only chair wasn't even really a chair, it was a stool with a questionable third leg that sat over-turned and tucked in the far corner and he found himself at an impasse. Retrieving it would not only involve taking his hands from their linen hideaways, but she hadn't even offered him a seat and he didn't want to be rude; he being a man of manners with the cotillion lessons to prove it. On the other hand, there was a more-than-decent chance that his knees would buckle at any moment. He cleared his throat.
"May I?" he motioned and crept around her with a weird, dainty tip-toe. He would later reflect on and regret this odd step choice because it was undeniably ladylike, unlike this lady whose face seemed carved from marble and gave nothing away; she just cast her eyes slightly downward. He uprighted the chair that wasn't really a chair and checked the sturdiness of the questionable leg and shrugged in questionable approval and dragged it back to where he was and returned his hands to where they were and felt, aside from the girly walk, that went surprisingly well.
So it was in silence that he was left to sit. Sit and think. Think about small things, trivial ****. He thought about the small stain on his pants and hoped to God it was toothpaste. He thought about the itch in the dead center of his back where he can never scratch without looking like he has a severe case of cerebral palsy. He thought about his pockets, full of trembling leaves that fluttered with spare change winds and hung delicately from his autumn tree arms. He thought about bigger things too, like how if two people on exact opposite ends of the earth simultaneously each dropped a piece of bread, for a brief moment the whole world was just a really big sandwich. But mostly he thought about the difference between hard and mean.
Hard is the bottomless tumblers of American dream fathers, breathing scotch like fire and promises that were only ever half-way held true. But mean... Mean is a different kind of machine entirely. Mean, he realized, is one solid kick in the nuts past hard. Hard is when your ice cream drops mid-lick and falls in the cinematic drama of a-hundred-and-twenty frames per second to the unforgiving pavement, and even though there is a split seconds chance to reach out and catch it, you don't because, let's face it, sticky hands are gross. But mean is the little junior sonofabitch dog that comes a-waddling on in, laps up your deliciously sweet sidewalk treat and stares you right in the face while he does it. Mean makes you realize the sticky fingers would have been worth it. And before he could decide which category this Angel City would fit in, she stood, with a slight smile curling at the corner of her mouth and one hand behind her back. She slinked over to him with snake ankles and reached out and ran her fingers along his jawline and hooked his chin upward and kissed him.
It wasn't the delicate, thin-lipped kiss of embarrassed virgins and ex-stripper-turned-born-again-Christians. It also wasn't the Californication kiss filled with carnal tongue that he might have expected had the idea that she was going to do anything but intimidate the utter **** out of him even crossed his mind. It was somewhere between the two. Between shelter and apocalypse. Viperous with a tinge of motherly protection (which, actually, gave him some confusing feelings). When she pulled away he felt the slight clink of metal against his teeth.
A bullet. Round and smooth, he rolled it between his thumb and forefinger and watched his fingerprint peel off and mark the lead skin with little, oily mazes. He looked up to her, unsure of what to say or what to make of whatever the hell just went down. She stared silently because, you know, that's her thing and he felt he had to say something because, you know, manners.
"I thought we said no gifts." He laughed. She didn't. He felt like an idiot immediately. Then, like the other half heart of a best friend necklace, she drew from her back a snub-nosed revolver. Her thumb flicked with outlaw elegance and the empty chamber rolled open.
"Let's play a game."
It was all she said. He didn't pay attention to whether she spoke in impeccable English or if the words were lit in the electric neon of Sunset Boulevard. It didn't matter and he didn't care. He didn't even notice when he took the gun and slid the round in until after he spun the chamber and slung it shut. When she lifted his arm without touching him and he felt like he was her marionette. When the snub nose found it's way to his mouth, he was certain of it. The feeling of the metal barrel against his bare teeth made his skin crawl and his stomach turn, yet even still he grinned.
He grinned because he saw his hand and his hand grinned because it wasn't shaking, not anymore.
He grinned and cocked the hammer back.