“Man, cheer up, London. You're killing my buzz!”
I shrugged and knocked back another shot. “Sorry.”
“You've been real shady lately, you bastard,” Seth told me. “Ever since I helped you move into that apartment your all emo.”
“Don't compare me to teenagers,” I replied.
“So what have you been up to? This is only like the third time I’ve seen you since May.”
“I call bullshit.”
“Call it what you want, I’m just not into getting so inebriated I can't think strait.”
“Buzzkill,” Seth accused. The waitress came by and cleared our empty glasses, then asked if we would like anything else. I declined. Seth ordered another shot of tequila. “So what, you got a girlfriend or a boyfriend something?”
“No, not really.”
“Do you even have a life when I’m not around?” Seth laughed.
“Can't say I do.” I rose to leave after I paid my tab.
“Hey, where are you going?”
“Home. It's late.”
“Good lord, it's only nine o'clock!”
“See you later,” I told him, and left. I wonder if it was truly just chance that I was getting irritated with one of my only friends and ducked out. Still raining. Maybe I was depressed or something, but dealing with death every week or so was taxing to my psyche. I found myself wondering what would happen if I just stopped doing it.
I wonder a lot of things.
“Don't be this way, baby.”
“Get lost, you creep!”
“I said beat it! I broke up with you because you just don't listen. We're THROUGH, got it?”
“Get your hands off of me, asshole!”
That made me stop and glance over to behind the bar. Call me chivalrous, but I had real beef with anyone that would lay their hands on someone weaker. It just triggers a nasty reaction in me.
I walked up behind the jerk and yanked him off of his victim. Whoever he was, he was drunk and swinging at me. I ducked and laid a hard punch into his gut, which stopped him dead in his tracks. He dropped, moaning in pain. I held my hand out to Airian, who seemed too shocked to really register what just happened.
“Let's get out of here,” I told her. “Before he decides to get up.” I nudged him with my foot. “Which won't be any time soon, but still...”
Airian smiled. I thought I would die in that instant. She was a heavy set woman, but looking at her face made me conclude that if she were skinny she wouldn't be as pretty. Her blue eyes were captivating, and though her hair was wet with rain, it perfectly framed her face.
“Okay,” was all she said as she took my hand.
We made our way down Main Street, and then the questions started.
“What's your name?” Airian asked, looking up to me. I was tall and lanky, so her seeing me drop someone who weighed about a hundred pounds more than me might have been a surprise.
“London,” I answered.
“Pleased to meet you, Airian.”
“The pleasure is all mine.” She smiled again. God she was hot when she smiled.
“Should I walk you home?” I asked, concerned for her safety. Honest.
Airian frowned. It wasn't as pretty as her smile, but she still had a magic about her that I could not deny. “I don't … want to go home yet.”
“That's okay. Let's enjoy the rain,” I told her with a smile. As I thought, she smiled again. I could go on all night and day about that smile. And when I was the reason for it I felt giddy. “What are you doing in this crappy little college town?”
“I'm a student,” she said as we walked. “I study art.”
“I'm a big fan of Andy Warhol, so it's pretty broad,” Airian sighed. “I like photography mostly, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this degree.”
“Why do you say that?”
She gave me a look. Oh, that look. “Come on, who hires an artist? Very few of us miserable artists can make a real living off of what our passion is. I’ll probably be on register for the rest of my life.”
“That's so sad.”
“No, I mean that you have to compromise on your passion for your job.” I turned us up Court Street, not really caring where we ended up, though I was headed home by habit. “Nothing you do should be a waste.”
She looked inquisitive, but didn't continue the topic. “So what do you do?” she asked.
“I escort the dead to their fate,” I said bluntly. I don't know why I was honest, but I wasn't told that it was supposed to be a big secret or anything. I looked down at her to gauge her reaction.
“I don't know what that means,” she finally said.
“To be honest, neither do I,” I laughed. She laughed with me. Golden music, that. “It's just something I have to do I guess.”
“We all have to do things that we don't want to,” Airian said quietly, stopping.
“Are you alright?”
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“I dunno, I was headed home and wouldn't mind the company.”
Airian squinted. “No funny stuff, I have mace.”
I laughed again. “No way! You're definitely my type, but that would just be rude!”
She blushed. Ah, her expressions! Her lips hinted upwards, like she was trying not to smile. A tragedy in my opinion. “Just keep your hands to yourself and I’d be happy to join you.”
“I'm serious, no hanky panky or I will mace your eyeballs right out of your skull!”
“You have my word. Unless you initiate, my hands remain innocent.”
We stopped at the top of the hill so Airian could catch her breath. I was used to the trek, but waited patiently. She had taken off her heels, as it had been too steep for her to walk in them, so there she was, barefoot in the rain, a vision of beauty.
I don't think I even swooned this much with my first girlfriend.
We got to know each other a little, but the last few blocks were quiet. I paused and she bumped into me. “What's wrong?”
“We're here,” I said, looking past my house to the graveyard fence not twenty feet away. My one bedroom upstairs piece of crap dwelling was dark and lonely upon entry. It made me uneasy, so I turned on the light. Airian took off her coat. “Put it on the couch,” I instructed, taking off my own drenched hoodie and hanging it up on the bathroom door.
“I could never live so close to a graveyard,” she commented as she looked out one of the windows facing the hill.
“Part of the job description,” I told her. I still wasn't sure if she believed me or not.
I’m not sure what happened next, but the order of the evening meant little. I was fucking her before I knew it. I don't know, maybe I found her confidence in her body image attractive. Most bigger women are always griping out their weight. Airian never did. If she was insecure about it, she hid it well. Every inch of her skin was quivering to my touch, and I worshiped her figure with my lust. It couldn't have been more perfect.
We exchanged numbers in the morning and she went on her way. Watching her leave, I caught sight of a hurse. No rest for the wicked I suppose. I located my dry longcoat and found the mask, tracing over the lines painted on it with my fingers for a while before donning it. I couldn't get my mind off of her though.
I was struck dumb in love without even noticing it.