When I was in the tenth grade, I stayed after school one day to get help from my math teacher. Noticing how completely stumped I was, he asked me if I believed that intelligence was fixed. He asked if I thought some almighty god pointed his finger at each one of us and decided if we were smart. I laughed, not at the fact that the idea of fixed intelligence was ridiculous, though it is, but because there was no possible way for me to believe in such a theory. That would mean that I believed in a god. I didn’t. I don’t.
Because I, who is said to be a child of God, have danced with the flames of hell one too many times to even begin to imagine the chance of a pearly white gate to heaven. That’s why I’m confused as to how on this chilly October night with the rain pouring down through the darkness, I can see a tiny orange ring of light at the end of this alleyway and recognize it as an angel’s halo.
The clothes on my body are soaked as I run through puddle after puddle towards the faint orange. There are holes in my shoes and I can feel the water numbing my toes. I’d thrown my socks away at my last stop. I’d bled through them.
As I get closer I can see that my angel’s halo is the end of a lit cigarette. Behind it...an angel. His curly hair is damp, as if he’d made it out of the rain just in time, and his cheekbones are sharp, as he draws in a breath from his halo. My feet have stopped moving now. I’m underneath the same visor as him. He looks at me as he releases smoke through his nostrils and hands out his open carton of cigarettes. I shake my head no. He smirks.
“You’re not from ’round here.” It wasn’t a question. He looks out into the night and the rain seems to slow. “Probably gonna need a place to stay then, huh.” Again, it wasn’t a question. Angel wraps his arm over my shoulder as if we hadn’t just met only a moment ago, as if we’ve known each other for years, as if he’s picking up an old friend. He leads me out of the alley to a main road. The streets are deserted except for a single black car that’s stopped at a red light and I’m starting to wonder how late it really is. “So then, what’s you’re name?”
“I don’t know.” He stops walking and removes his arm from my shoulders to stand in front of me.
“You don’t know you’re name? Got amnesia or somethin’?”
“No, I lost it.”
“You lost your name? Now how’d you go ’nd do that?”
“It fell out my pocket on my way here.” He throws his head back in laughter putting his pretty white teeth on display. I’ve never seen straighter teeth. He catches his breath and once again puts his arm around my shoulder. We start to walk on the battered sidewalks but I’m not looking out at the road ahead of me, no, out of the corner of my eye I’m watching this Angel. I’m admiring his flawless tan skin and his vibrant green eyes. His beauty is exotic and I swear that if I look at him long enough this cracked sidewalk will become sand beneath my feet kissing the waves of an endless ocean.
He starts talking though I’m not completely sure what it is he is saying, something along the lines of us being nearby. I’m too distracted by the way his lips shape around his words and the way his tongue flicks against his teeth. But not too far from where we stand is a motel sign that burns red in the night. The bold letters contrast against the dark. It should spell out Oasis but the ‘s’ in the middle flickers on and off.
It’s a small building that stretches out to make a long two story rectangle. We walk through the parking lot and around to the back. The door we’re standing in front of is missing the plastic numbers that the other doors have screwed down but the number 24 can still be seen clearly in an outline of dirt. Angel removes his arm once again to search his pockets for what I think to be a key but pulls a long hairpin instead. He’s going to pick the lock.
He tells me that it’ll only take a second and not to worry. I wonder if it’s the expression on my face that made him say that because I am worried. At least, I was until he told me not to be. The door opens a few moments later and he flicks on a light to reveal the room. For the past two weeks on the road I had yet to resort to breaking in but he tells me picking a lock isn’t a big deal, he says it’s easy, he says he could teach me if I want.
The room is only fitting for the wasteland I’ve stumbled into. Dim lights and cheap furniture, stained carpet and moldy air that burns my nose. “I’ve been stayin’ here on and off for the past couple months. They don’t ever rent this room out, probably ’cause almost everything in this damn room is near broken,” but he’s standing in the center of the room and everything seems bright here. I wonder if this is how the planets feel as they orbit the sun, just floating in an endless darkness that can’t be acknowledged because there is this big ball of energy it front of them and everything seems bright so that endless darkness doesn’t seem so dark..
“If you wanna wash up there are rags in the drawer beneath the sink. Toss your backpack in the tub when you’re finished changin’. They got a lady that comes ’round and cleans the room every now and then so you gotta hide your stuff. She never goes in the tub.”
Before I can close the door of the closet spaced bathroom Angel calls out that he is going to get food and will be back shortly. The rags are where he said they’d be. As I open the yellow floral patterned shower curtain I try to remember the last time I took a proper shower or even a bath.
The night I left home, that was the last time. Since then I’ve been washing up in fast food joints and sneaking into trucker showers in gas stations I find along the way.
Behind the shower curtains is a tub stained with yellow and brown scum that covered the porcelain. Above the rusty handle that turned on the pipe is a note duct taped to the wall, it reads “OUT OF SERVICE” in bold letters. The note must have gotten wet at some point because the text in red marker has bled leaving a trail pink that leads to the end of the jagged paper. Sure enough there is a single black duffle bag in the center of the tub. It’s open and there are clothes spilling out that threaten to make contact with the dirty porcelain. For some reason this angers me. Possessions belonging to someone as beautiful as Angel should not be dirtied by an old bathtub. The thought of it seemed impure, unholy.
Still, I refrain from touching his bag for two reasons: 1. I don’t want Angel to be upset with me for touching his things without his blessing and 2. I myself am no cleaner than this bathtub. So I close the shower curtains and run the water from the sink to wet my rag.
When he walks through the door he’s empty handed but I do notice that his sweatshirt is unnaturally lumpy. With my legs crisscross I watch as he slowly he removes items from his sweatshirt and places them before me on the mattress. “I think you forgot your receipt.”
“Wasn’t plannin’ on returnin’ anything, love,” he says smirking. I know how this food was obtained but that doesn’t stop my stomach from growling at the sight of it. “When was the last time you ate anyway?” 2 days ago, and even then I had only eaten half of a soggy sandwich. My stomach growls louder and this time he can hear it. He sits down next to me “The store clerk never pays attention, he’s always watchin’ old time movies- you know, the ones in black and white. This’s only gonna teach ’im a lesson.” He unwraps a sandwich and leans in close to place it in front of my mouth, just barely touching my lips. “Come on, take a bite.”
I wonder what would have happened to Angel if he had been caught taking this food, I wonder if using this velvet tone of voice he is using now could have gotten him out of trouble. When I hear a crunch, I don’t have to wonder anymore. Lost in the viridity of his eyes I had opened my mouth without even realizing it and now I have a mouth full of bread, lettuce, tomatoes, and ham. His bow lips tug into a smirk and I know for certain that Angel would not have had any trouble at all.
It shouldn’t taste nearly as good as it does and I can’t decide if it’s because I haven’t eaten in so long or if it’s the fact the food is being held in the hands of an Angel, though it’s probably the latter.
When all that’s left of the food is plastic wrappers that litter the comforter I open my mouth in attempt to start conversation but no words come so he speaks first. “Just realized I never told you m’name. I’m-”
“Huh?” confusion seems to be his response to any words that fall from my tongue.
“C-Can I call you Angel,” he silently looks at me for a moment before his laughs fill the room.
“You can call me anything you’d like, love.”
It’s been 11 days since we’ve met. During the day we stay away from the motel, venturing out and about on our own, but once the sun sets we meet up under the visor I found him under 10 nights ago and walk to the motel room together.
Sitting here crisscrossed on the stained carpet floor, Angel’s eyes are trained on me and my eyes are fixed on the small pile of white powder on the nightstand between us. I’ve seen him use it when he thinks I’m not looking. It flicks on the light in his eyes. This white powder, this dust that had fallen from his wings on his flight down to Earth, gives him the strength to stay here. Today he saw me watching. Today I asked him to lend me his strength..
He takes his turn first and then guides me through mine. It tickles my nose until the tickle beings to feel like a burn. I think I might sneeze, which I must have said out loud because he’s laughing and he’s got a goofy look on his face. “Let’s go for a walk.”
He walks lightly as if he is weightless, as if he is on a cloud. That’s where he belongs and he seems to know it too because he keeps raising his arms in the air and reaching towards the sky. “The name Angel seems to suite you more and more each day,” this causing him to throw his head back in laughter, much like that night we first met. He tells me the sky was his first love. He tells me that he used to blow out his birthday candles and wish to kiss her. He says she’s foreign, always out of reach, but in way so familiar that she’s home because no matter what town, city, or state he wanders into she’ll always be there never wanting anything in return. He admires her. She has a way of showing every different side of her in the span of only a day, different shades of colors. He told me the only color he’d ever been allowed to show had faded into white years ago.
Angel is walking on the edge of this beat up sidewalk with his hands straight out on each side to balance himself but he’s wobbling and threatens to trip over his own feet. Suddenly he stops. “I’m ’n angel, aren’t I?” I nod. “Then if I were to say that I wanted to go home to her you’d understand right?” I nod. “But my wings are broken…”
“My father use to tell me that there isn’t a wound a bandage can’t heal,” those were the last words my father said to me before I left. It was a lie. I’d used bandages day after day to heal my wounds when all they did was cover my bruises, all they did was hide my scars. And a bandage couldn’t heal my dislocated shoulder when he slammed me against our kitchen wall last summer. But I can’t tell that to Angel because for the first time since I’ve met him he’s looking at me like he needs me just as much as I need him.
“So you’ll help me- get back home, I mean,” hiding my confusion isn’t a skill of mine, “If bandages is what I need then we’ll have to buy them. You’ll help me get the money won’t you?” he asks as if I can say no.
“Anything for you,” I owe him in ways that he probably can’t even understand, ways that my head still has a hard time wrapping around.
“Go ahead to the motel, I’ll meet up with you later. I’ve got a plan,” he kisses my cheek as he slips something into my pocket and smiles at me.
Walking in the direction of our Oasis I reach into my pocket to feel a hairpin. As I pick the lock of room 24 I think about him smiling at me only minutes ago. Had that tooth always been out of place?
It’s been 4 hours and the clock reads 2:46 am but I wouldn’t be surprised if this clock was broken just like everything else in this wasteland. I haven’t ever been in this room alone. Somehow the it feels smaller in here and every little aspect of the room seems to bother me. It’s making me uneasy. For days I’ve been lying in this filth, how could I have ever looked past that?
But he stumbles in not a moment later and I remind myself of his resemblance to the sun, that was the reason I could look past it. Today, he isn’t shining so bright.
Before I can even open my mouth 2 other men stumble in behind him, one of them looking like he’s about to burst into laughter and the other looks angry. I’ve decided that I don’t like man #2. His expression reminds me of my father. Then again, anger never did look good on anyone.
“It’s about time I get out of this dump, don’t you think? Get up, love, I’m goin’ home,” I don’t remember his voice being this hard. The light is flickering on and off and I can see that pieces of his hair are sticking up on the top of his head, curling upward they kind of resemble… He walks over to me and places his hand on my cheek. “I told you I got a plan and these fine gentlemen over there,” he uses his other hand to point man #1 and #2, “They’re gonna help us.” His hands are cold which could just be from outside but his eyes are cold too as they seem to look past me and I can’t blame that on the weather.
I’m hesitating, he can see it. I feel his grip on my face tighten. “You weren’t lying when you said you’d help me, right? I gave you this place to stay, remember? I fed you when you were hungry,” His voice keeps getting louder. I can’t stand to see him get mad at me. So I nod. “See, I knew I could count on you. Knew from the moment I met you.” As he grips my arm and guides me out of the room the light stops flickering. It just completely turns off. And the room is dark.
In the parking lot a black car is waiting for us with man #1 in the passenger seat and man #2 in the back. Angel takes the wheel and I find myself seated next to man #2. I’ve found another reason not to like him. He smells like my father too. They both reek of booze as if it was etched into their skin, as if it was the very sweat that escaped their pores.
The drive is loud. The radio must be on its highest setting and man #1 and #2 are singing along as loud as they can. I’m having a hard time deciding if the whole car is vibrating because of the bass or it’s just my heart beating that fast. But the drive isn’t long.
We stop in the parking lot of a convenience store and gas station. Angel turns off the radio which causes man #1 to groan and man #2 to complain. He tells them to shut up and explains to everyone this is the first stop. He tells me that this is up to me, and all I had to was go inside and buy some food for the rest of the trip. He says it’s the only thing I have to do. He says he counting on me. He hands me a 10 dollar bill and at this angle the light from the lamppost is hitting his jaw and reveals scars that trail down to his neck that makes his skin look rough.
“Well, go on now,” man #2 rushes me out of the car and I can hear man #1 laugh just before the door is closed behind me.
I look down at my worn out shoes until I get inside the building. Walking down the first aisle I realize that I don’t have a single clue as to what I should buy so I go around and look for the food that Angel usually brings to the motel room. The store is quiet and as I walk to the up to the cashier I notice that I’m the only one in here aside from the store clerk who has his back to me and seems to have all his attention on a small television playing a movie in black and whi-
My eyes widen and my mouth falls open. I drop everything in my hands and all the bottles of soda break open when they hit the floor the same time three men in masks walk into the store. The store clerks quickly turns around, if not for the broken bottles then for the glass door being violently kicked open.
“Hands up, it’s a stick up,” it’s man #1 yelling and swinging around a gun and then he starts laughing. “Man, I’ve always wanted to say that.”
Sure enough man #2 also has a gun, “How ’bout you stay focused and watch where you point that.”
But the third man, the man that I know has to be Angel, wastes no time walking over to the clerk. “Open the register! Do it now!” The clerk is terrified and his hands are shaking but he puts on a brave face and refuses to open the register. “I don’t know if you noticed, but there’s a pretty young lady over there watchin’. Wouldn’t want her to go home tonight knowin’ she watched you die, right?” He pulls out a gun and holds it in one hand and a bag in the other. Angel puts the gun to the clerk’s head. The clerk releases a shaky breath from his nose and opens the register. My already speeding heart picks up pace as he puts the money in the bag. “Pleasure doin’ business with ya,”the other two start laughing. The 3 men go to take their leave. “You comin’, love?”
I don’t even realize my feet are moving until I hear a bang from behind me. It hits me all at once. I hold my stomach and feel the warmth of realization all over my hand. I never thought it would be so red.
Not a moment later there’s another bang. I turn my head back as far as I could. The store clerk is sprawled out on the floor but I can only see his legs from behind the counter. There’s realization pouring out of him too, he lying in a pool of it. I don’t think he’ll ever get the chance to notice, though. He isn’t moving.
“Shit! Why’d you shoot?”
“What the hell do you mean? He shot first!” Man #1 and #2 are yelling, I know they are, but everything sounds muffled as if I’m under water. It hurts. It hurts so bad.
“We need to get out of here!” the two of them are fumbling over their own feet and pushing one another to get out of the doorway. But Angel, he’s standing here staring at me unmoving. Maybe he’s shot too?
But his smirk says otherwise.
It’s the hope that I can pretend for just a little while long that he was sent to me, sent to be my guardian angel that makes me reach out to him. It’s starting to feel cold and black dots are clouding my vision. It’s when my I feel my knees start to give out that I call to him, “Help.”
I sink to the floor.
He pulls out a carton of cigarettes and puts one between his teeth.
He hands out his open carton to me.
Fingers laced with the truth, I took one.
He lit mine first and watches me take a drag as he blows smoke out through his nostrils.
Man #1 sticks his head back into the shop, “What the hell are you sitting around for, we need to get the hell out of here! Let’s go, Gabriel!”
He nods his head in acknowledgement and walks over to me, but everything is slow. I can’t remember if there are 60 seconds in a minute or if it’s the other way around. He’s stops in front of me and leans in real close. I can feel his hot breath on my ear as he whispers softly, “Give her a kiss for me, won’t you?”
When I was in the tenth grade, a girl in my english class with a passion for words shared a poem that she had written. It told a tale of war that had plagued her homeland and spoke of the cruel acts that were made against her people. She told us that the lines that wrapped around our wrists were halos that belong hung above our heads. I wanted to ask her where my set of matching wings were. She told us that when God created man He had used a chisel so sharp that he’d cut himself but gods can’t bleed so He made people do it for Him. I wish I’d asked her if He’d thought to give me enough blood to bleed for the both of us.
Because in this moment, I just want to bleed for me.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, TeonaWrite a Review