In the morning, we often passed each other on the street. I’d see him walking down the sidewalk, catch his eye as he departed for the city train. He’d nod, and give me a crooked smile. That was the way he acknowledged me.

His eyes always did something to me.  I could feel his gaze on my flesh. Something sweet and sensual and very knowing about that look.

I know his flat well. It ’s barely a block from mine, and as fate would have it, I followed him there one rainy afternoon. I took the steps two at a time, and sneaked in before the door to the hallway shut. I stood in the shadows, waiting, hands shoved in pockets. My watch said it was an hour or more, but it was hard for me to believe that. Time always moves differently when I am waiting for him.

Finally, his steps sounded on the hall above me. From my spot beneath the staircase, I watched him exit the building.

I hurried up the stairs.

When I was younger, I lived on the streets.

In those days, I learned to live without boundaries. There is no such thing as morals when your stomach is empty. One of the things I learned was how to pick a lock.

I walked past the living room with its over sized television and complicated stereo system. I did notice the stack of books on his table. Yeats, Shakespeare, Dante. He taught English at the University. I remember that from a brief chat at the coffee shop. He was afraid he was going to be late while the customers in front of us fussed over half decaf and soy milk lattes.

The bedroom was crowded with an unmade bed and a battered dresser.

I took my clothes off, and went through his things. I found a t-shirt that felt fine on my skin, still holding a clean, aftershave smell.

In his kitchen, I made coffee. I poured my cup and carried it back into the bedroom. I carried the dog-eared copy of Dante to bed, and began to read. I started in the middle, having read it before. My fingertips found his scrawled notes along the margins and traced the faded ink. The shapes came from his pen, but the thoughts came from his mind.

It was an intimate thing to have his words in my head.

I read. I marveled over his notions of torture, his thoughts on the motivations behind characters.  I shrugged. I didn’t really agree with his ideas, but that was okay. I am more familiar with all the different levels of hell than he could fathom.

I didn’t hear him come in. I don’t remember what my darling said when he saw me there.

I can only guess now that he screamed at me. Everything turned red.

I know that things got violent, and at some point, the butcher knife was laid into the fine curve of his throat.

My t-shirt is stained with his blood. We lay together on the bed, and I am holding him.  He’s too weak to fight, but he does tremble some. He’s not gone yet, but his body is already cooling.

“Why?” his lips move, but he can’t speak. Yet, I understand. There’s nothing about my man that I don’t understand.

“Because,” I say against his ear, comforting him as his eyes begin to cloud. “I love you.”

©2010 Lori Titus


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