I’m with Alyssa a lot lately, but I’m not the only one. There’s one guy who shadows her like her brother, he isn’t, but we let him hang around because he works at the bar and he likes her, so we get free shots and beers. I don’t know if she fucks anyone else, but relationships can be like that, with one person giving more and the other taking; it just takes more on one side or the other to balance things sometimes. I walk over to her house, certain that she isn’t alone today.
I’m in love with her, and even though she says it’s reciprocated, she’s really in love with her ex, a man so far away that they barely talk once a month. He stops by once or twice a week to fuck her, though. I see him walking by my window some nights.
I knock on her door, but Busy answers, her hair tied back and rubber gloves dripping above her wrists. She lets me in, and warns me no tot slip. “Careful,” she tosses a sponge, hidden by the yellow of her gloves, “I just scrubbed the kitchen.”
“Has Lyssa got you working for her now?” I drop to the sofa.
Busy smiles, “Ziro kicked me out again, so Alyssa’s letting me stay. I figure the least I can do is clean a little in payment.”
“Is she in?” I kick my shoes off and motion towards her bedroom.
Busy nods and snatches a rag from the counter. “But she’s entertaining right now.” She sprays it down with a blue liquid and leans against the wall. She sees the look on my face and interjects, “Not that kind of entertaining.”
“Good,” I stand, “I thought maybe Mick was here.”
Busy laughs, “Naw, he only pops up at night, and it’s never that quite when he’s here.” She lines up the dishes like in a shooting gallery, stacking them up flat in straight lines, plates, bowls, saucers and cups. She stacks them in the cabinets, but Alyssa knocks them back by morning, putting a little food onto one and then changing her mind and using another.
“Why do that?” Walking over to the kitchen, I pull down a cup and fill it with water, “She’s so messy, nothing you do will last more than a day.”
“What does?” she asks, “What lasts any amount of time anymore?”
“You and Ziro,” I answer, “you’ve been together for 20 years. Jesus, you were together when I was an infant.”
She laughs, “And he kicks me out twice a month. Our love doesn’t last, and neither does our anger.”
The last three nights she’s let me sleep in her bed, our backs to one another, and she flinches whenever we touch. The apartment is hers, but there’s a steady stream of men and women staying over, pretty much like everyone I know, communal living and loving. Alyssa doesn’t make noise when we have sex, and it’s not just me, she’s always quiet except with Mick. When Mick comes over, she makes noises like a wounded rabbit, chitters and yowls, noises of dying in a trap. She’s alive for him, but for the rest of us, she’s just a part of the bed, soft and moving underneath, waves in motion with our rhythm.
Except for that one guy, he never says anything when she comes out of the room with me or someone else in tow, our heads hung and her naked except for an oversized shirt, peeled from whoever captures her each night. He only offers her a drink and waits for her to be alone, or at least sit near him, and then he talks in smiles. He smiles as a question and an answer, but at night he never goes into her room and never comes out. I stand next to him now, as he emerges from her restroom. He opens her door, and I see Alyssa inside with Harry and Smokes. I follow the guy in, and she looks up.
“Wayne,” she starts, and then smiles. “Oh, hey Filb, when did you get here?”
Filb smiles back and takes a seat on her bed, right next to her.
I sit on the floor, down by the a.c., with my legs spread apart. Harry hands me a bottle, and I open it. Tossing the cap into a bucket across the room, I look at Alyssa. She’s short and slim, maybe weighing less than when we first met, she can’t be over 100 pounds. Her hair color changes weekly and I have no idea neither what color she was born with, or what her teeth look like without braces. In her apartment she wears mostly panties with those stolen sex shirts covering her to the legs, and those are her best feature. She has pony legs, built for groping, and that’s where men’s’ hands stray to first.
“Why are you here, Wayne?” She looks up from her sketch pad, the skritching of the paper and pencil is the only noise besides the hum of the air. She continues to scribble, her nose slanting towards me, “I didn’t call you.”
“I know, but I wanted to come over, we need to talk.”
Harry laughs and grabs Smokes by the arm, dragging him out the living room, “Good call, Wayne-o; looks like that’s our exit cue.”
Alyssa throws down her pad and pencil, “Fuck. Look what you did, I wanted them here.” She reaches over and slams the door while sitting on the bed, “And I don’t remember inviting you.”
“I’ll stick around,” Filb says, the first words I’ve ever heard out of him outside of the bar. Even Alyssa looks shocked, turning her head to look at him.
“Yeah, there’s that,” she snaps.
“It’s payday,” I pull the little bank envelope from my jacket, “It won’t last, but I figured we could go somewhere new tonight.”
Alyssa smiles, suddenly moving to the floor next to me, and crosses her legs over mine. She takes the beer from my hand and licks the rim of the bottle, “that’s a great idea, Dos is getting a little played out.”
“But,” Filb starts.
She cuts him off, “We don’t need free beer tonight, babe.” She coos at him, “we’re just going somewhere different tonight; I’ll be back tomorrow night.”
Filb gets up, wordless, and leaves. He closes each door with a careful quiet, and his footsteps, usually audible from the street-side window, never sound out. Alyssa laughs and kisses my neck. Standing, she pulls me over to her bed. “I love you,” she says, and that’s the last noise she makes until we leave for the bar.
The day ends like every other in Georgia, with the purple of night and red of dusk bleeding against each other, merging in a visible battle that the day always loses. The cars along the road use their high-beams, even though this is a city, and we flinch with every pass. The lights search the bar patio, but whatever they seek is never found, because they come over and over. Alyssa never squints when the lights wash her.
I down four shots, and I’m sitting, even as I circle the bar, and make my way back out to Alyssa, I feel that familiar relaxation of reclining. She hands me a beer, and I hand her the last of my paycheck.
“How do you like this bar?” I ask.
She shrugs and blows a cloud of smoke that joins the haze hovering above the patio, thick like the London fog that stalked Dickens’ novels; a sticky layer that builds and builds before sinking down to our level. No one but me coughs as the smoke thickens; the rest of the bar breathes the demon air, their lungs used to the heat. Alyssa is the most comfortable, licking her lips every few puffs, and tasting the air like a reptile.
“You about done?” I ask, “I wanna get back to your house.”
“Not yet,” she says, and ducks inside. I wait for half an hour, but she doesn’t emerge from the porch. She instead bursts from the front, my money still in her pocket, and merges with Mick, who is walking along side the road, passing the bar. I hear her squeal, and he doesn’t even look up. They just walk side by side, her arms against him, and his at his side, hands hidden in his pockets.
“Where’s Alyssa?” Busy steps out onto the porch, two beers in her hands, “She said you guys where broke, so I got her a beer.”
I point to the shrinking couple, one small and living minute to minute, and the other just slightly bigger and living somewhere none of us could imagine. Some place where sex is the only shuttle to this world, the only point where people can connect. Like two animals, they’ll trap themselves and yowl for help, screaming in fear and fury at the helplessness they feel every day. “Alyssa and Mick,” I say to Busy, “feel no love for each other, but she likes saying it and he never notices.”
Busy shrugs and hands me the extra beer, “Ziro never says it to me.”
“Are you going home tonight?”
She nods, “He just called me and apologized.”
“But,” I look down the road, where Alyssa is no longer visible, “he didn’t say ‘I love you?’”
“He never does,” she replys.
And he never needs to. Sometimes the things we say most are what we mean the least. I’ll wake up tomorrow, alone, walk to Alyssa’s house, and she’ll tell me she loves me. But when we fuck she doesn’t even make any noise.