“Wern, are you sure you want to resign?”
The sound of my manager’s voice made me look up from the front desk. I had been idle for a while since no one had come in for hours.
“Yes—” I said, pausing. “Why are you asking?”
My manager gave me a soft smile as he rested her weight on the desk. “You’ve been so good here,” she said as her smile dimmed and her eyes took on a concerned expression. “Also, I’m worried about how Haruto would fare without you.”
My stomach stirred. Just hearing his name was enough to get me giddy.
It annoyed me.
“Oh...” I trailed, not knowing what to say in response.
I had sent in my resignation letter a few days ago and was hoping to be free from this place in the next few weeks. I might also have eaten something I wasn’t supposed to—
I winced, thinking of the poor international student that had been a volunteer here. I hadn’t been feeling very good after my interaction with Haruto that day and had gone for the first person I could think of. Luckily for me, someone thousands of miles away from home, and not in a situation where they would be checked on by schoolteachers or friends had bought me enough time to figure out a trajectory from my mistake. I had used her phone to send a message claiming that she was taking a brief break to buy myself some time to leave as naturally as possible. A week after that, I put in my resignation letter and immediately started looking for a new place to work. Which led me to the dog pound I was eyeing.
Sometimes, dogs had to be put down, and that meant no one would be bothered about their disappearances. Dogs didn’t live long enough lives to accumulate a lot of trauma, but the ones in pounds, often being abused or neglected canines, had enough to keep me going for a few days at a time.
My manager sighed before giving me a weak smile. “You know, he only ever wants to talk to you. He keeps asking where you are. I’m not sure he’ll feel comfortable if you’re away—”
“Haruto will be fine,” I muttered, looking away from her. It was probably better that I wouldn’t have a reason to see Haruto anymore. Maybe the fascination would wear off along with its unique ability to worsen my starvation. Sure, as of now I didn’t want to eat him, but I wasn’t sure how much more I could trust myself around him. If I don’t eat him, I’ll end up eating other people like my coworker. That was the thing, after eating I felt disgusted with myself for an extended period. The fact that I had ambushed my coworker in the alleyway that was accessible through the back door, also didn’t help. Her soul lingered next to the dumpster, and my heart rate would go up anytime I went outside to do away with the trash.
“I hope so,” my manager said, stepping away from the front desk before walking away with a defeated sigh. She seemed upset that I was leaving, even though I hadn’t gotten a general impression that people liked me here. My eyes softened as a sigh left my lips. I felt glad to be working at the food bank, and I hated that I had done something stupid to ruining my eight-month employment here.
I didn’t favor the place because of my coworkers or the clients, I did so more for the “feel.” Food insecurity was a big and traumatizing issue, but generally, people sucked up a lot of those feelings and the outward display of pain would never match the extremes of what I had faced when I worked in domestic violence shelters or when I worked with prisons and patrol officers. It was one thing to see people’s memories and emotions on their sleeves, it was another thing to see it paired with the fresh reactions and distress.
I let the thought sit in my head for a bit before I decided to take my break and head to the back room. There weren’t a lot of people that needed to pick up food rations today, and it was closing in towards the end of the month. People got paid and were less desperate, so the doors barely presented new faces that wanted temporary help.
At the end of the day, I packed up my things and left. I was going to branch at Vincent’s spot first.
Vincent was... something.
I had met him a few years ago when he was new to the area. You see, as a lust vampire, your best bet was to become a sex worker, or you used dating apps. That way, your meals came straight to you.
Vincent was a sex worker. Being friends with him led me to food—terrible food—but still food. Human sex workers were often marginalized, and there was a lot of trauma that was embedded if you were one that worked out in the red lights. Prostitution was still a crime in New York, so sex workers tended to take their abuse from clients in silence.
The weather was nice today. The wind felt cool on my skin as I walked through the streets. It was about seven in the evening now. It was cloudy so it was darker than usual for this time of day. I looked down at my feet when I walked, observing the little traces of memories that must have dripped or broken off from people. They looked like bits of chewing gum that had been spat out. Ugly. Glossy. Unpleasant to the eyes.
“Wern!” A voice called out to me when I got into the busy section of town. I looked up, grinning when I saw my friend in the distance. His auburn brown hair looked orangish under the red light from the streetlamp. He was wearing tight skinny jeans and a loose transparent shirt that showed off the tattoos he had on his chest. He smiled at me from his position amid other similarly dressed men smoking on blunts or sniffing a powder from a line of paper occasionally.
Once upon a time, I would flinch at the sight of obvious drug addicts. Their memories were always jaded—disjointedly formed due to the influence of drugs. They tasted bitter and gave me a headache, but I grew used to their presence and the taste of their memories since I fed on them out of desperation when need be.
“Come on, let’s go get me something to eat,” Vincent whispered into my ear when I had walked close enough to be at arm’s length. He threw a hand over my shoulder, and he went on to talk about his day as he led me to his ‘spot’ for work.