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Alone In A Crowd

We finally arrived at the LAX airport, which was an appalling journey in its own right due to the irreparably fucked nature of Los Angeles traffic. You could get out and walk, but despite all the footage you’ve seen of Los Angeles in TV and movies, I’m here to tell you that if you get out and walk on the LA freeway, you are going to die. It’s nothing but an asphalt desert that stretches on for miles, with cars stalled and belching pollutants into the atmosphere.

The amateur climate scientist serial killer in the car sure had an opinion on that, but I told him to shut the fuck up.

I left him to wait with the car while I went inside. I had a brief moment of worry since you can’t get through security anymore without a ticket. Then I remembered, as I sometimes tended to forget, that I could control minds, and suddenly getting past security was painfully easy.

TVs were blaring inside of the overpriced bars as I walked through the terminal. Minneapolis was all over the news. The media called them the “Blood Alley Murders”, and the crawl “Mindbender and Bloodstorm still at large” were both stickied to the bottom of the screen while the story ran.

Holy shit, I was on CNN! I was goddamned famous!

I didn’t linger too long, as I had discovered that Lana’s flight was delayed, but based on what I was hearing announced over the loudspeaker, they had finally started to board.

I scanned the people seated at her gate, but it was my mind that found her first. She was doing a crossword puzzle, but her thoughts were all about me. She had so many wonderful stories to tell! I could see them playing across her thoughts like a movie. Her grandmother overcome with emotion, collapsing to the ground while holding Lana in her arms, and they both cried together, and then the whole family coming, it seemed like hundreds of them, all going down to the ground, and putting their arms around her, and each other.

It put a lump in my throat, but I walked to the seat next to hers, which was empty, and sat down.

It took her a moment after glancing over to realize I was there.

“Oh my God!” she said, and grinned. “Lance!”

We hugged, and then she kissed me rather aggressively for us being in public. I got lost in it for a long time, and the pain that clenched around my heart at that moment was beyond unbearable.

I broke off the kiss, reached out and touched her face, and tried to memorize her features.

Yes, I controlled her mind, and pretty much decided she was going to be my girlfriend, giving her little choice in the matter. Yes, I’d lied about who I really was, about where my money came from.

But her feelings for me weren’t something I’d manipulated. She’d come up with them on her own. I’d thought about conditioning her mind early in our relationship, but once I realized that she genuinely liked me, it felt wrong to tamper with it.

I realized that the thing I would miss the most, and might never regain, were those simple moments when we were both on the couch together, and my arms were wrapped around her, and I was just smelling her scent, feeling her pressed against me contentedly, murring and nuzzling and letting out contented sighs.

Of course, those sessions often ended with me touching her breasts, but she didn’t seem to mind that much.

She actually liked me. She was happy to see me. But as far as facial expressions go, especially with her, I was a terrible liar.

“Oh Lance,” she said. “Why are you sad?”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said truthfully. “But I should say it anyway. For me, at least, even if it doesn’t matter to you.”

She reached out and took my hand, and uncertainty fell over her like a shroud. “Oh, baby,” she said. “Of course it matters to me.”

Of course she’d say that, but she didn’t know what I meant. I just started talking, and I can’t even remember all of my words at first. Mostly I was telling her how much she had meant to me…how no one used to look twice at me. How I’d never known what it felt like to be close to someone, and to feel at peace, and comfortable.

I told her that I loved her, and that I would always love her, and that I hated what I had to do. I told her that there were so many things she didn’t know about me, things she would never know.

I told her that I wished I’d gone to Seoul with her. I told her that as long as I lived, no one would ever compare to her.

She was one in a million. She was kind, and sweet, and actually cared. There wasn’t any trace of meanness in her, or cruelty towards other people. In this respect, she was a better person than I will ever be. She saw me as a special savior, someone who had come out of nowhere to enrich her life, and yes, give her nice things…but she wasn’t materialistic, either.

All she had ever wanted was love, and now that she had found it, she did not want anything else.

She saw my tears. “Lance, please baby…tell me what’s wrong,” she said. “You know I love you.”

“Yes,” I said, and I couldn’t even see her, she was a blur. The tears came so fast. “Believe me, baby…I know you do. I know more than you could possibly believe. It’s killing me.”

“What?” she said, and she leaned close, and I knew they were announcing the last call to board her flight, but neither of us cared.

I kissed her then. Hard, and desperate, and the touch of her lips brought back every memory of every time I’d ever kissed her. I put my arms around her, pulled her close to me, dragging her over the seat and into my lap, and we held each other, and kissed, and cried…she did not even really know why she was crying, just that I was sad.

The reciprocity of love is a real bitch. I was hurting her, which hurt me. She felt like she was hurting me, which hurt her.

It was sweet while it lasted. Her flight had long since left, and people were muttering and making comments, and I caught snatches of their judgmental vibes about our public display of affection, but I didn’t care.

When the kiss broke, I pulled away and stood up, leaving her in the seat we’d shared, and the tears began to dry. I glanced back, and she looked around without recognition, wiping the tears from her eyes, and wondering why she was crying.

She glanced right past me without seeing me, and my heart quivered, and died right in my chest.

Then I saw her lips move as she said the word “Shit” and realized she’d missed her flight, and wondered what she’d been doing, how lost in thought she must have been to miss her flight. She had to get back to her place at the Grand Hotel. Her place…which no longer held any memory of me.

I’d erased all traces of us from her memory of me during the kiss. I had to go deep…I was so interwoven with her thoughts and memories, her dreams and hopes…her fantasies of us having children together.

God…it was too much. This pain, I didn’t know how I’d ever survive it. If she’d hated me, and we’d broken up, I think I could have lived with that.

But I couldn’t live with this. I wanted to die, right there. It is a hard thing, my friends and fuckers, to see all the love someone has in their heart for you, and to tear it right out of them.

It was worse than rape. It was a violation beyond any I had words for. It was profane, perhaps the worst crime I could ever have committed. Take a thing as pure and beautiful as love, and strangle it to death, and then hide the body, as if it never existed.

If I could have removed my own memories of her, I would have.

I managed to pull myself together a little bit by the time I walked outside and found Mitch idling beside the curb. I told him to drive, and did not even care where he was going.

I felt my phone vibrate, and took a peek.


That was all it said. A sharp stabbing of rage pricked up, realizing that she had likely witnessed the entire thing, and I’d never invited Spider to be part of that moment.

“Fuck off,” I said to the phone.

She fucked right off for several hours, probably realizing I was in no mood.

I’d like to say I’m over her by now, ten years later, but that would be a lie. Some nights I wake up, and there’s a feeling in my chest, a longing and a reaching out for someone who is far distant. Someone who does not even remember my name.

I left her with one thing, and one thing only, because I could not bear the thought of taking it away from her.

I left her with the true knowledge that she was loved, deep inside, and that she always would be.

I like to think it helped her and gave her strength.

But I never saw Lana Wilder again.

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