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Emmet Caravello Quinn

She dances her fingers up my arm in that tattoo that makes me want to throw her down right here on the pavement, and she asks, "Are you that good?"

We're somewhere in New York, and I hate New York so much it's all the same place to me. We've just popped up somewhere out of the subway to wander more concrete in this infernal vibrating city. Where is the grass? Give me some fields.

She looks back through the window glass and asks again, "Are you that good?" Maybe we're in SoHo. SoHo's a rich and trendy neighborhood, yes? I wouldn't be here except for her. If not for her, I'd be somewhere west of Nebraska, open on the back of a freight train, wind in my hair, anticipating mountains. But she dropped me a note that just said, "Girl, I'd like to see you again," and even when she calls me "girl", I still come running.

"Let's find out," I answer. "Which one do you want?"

She points. "I like that bottle." She points to the one in the back of the left hand display. It has more crisply? chiseled edges, seems somehow more defined than all the other perfume bottles. Yes, I think some would call that art. "I want that one," she says again. The store is just a tunnel with vaulted ceilings, a boutique. There's one woman in the back turned away from us, hair pulled up tight, anorexic clothes hanging off her. I know exactly what I have to do to steal this. How is never the question when we play these games. It's just the why, why, why.

"Okay." I shrug. "Let's take a walk first." I turn my boots west on the pavement and start walking. She's beside me almost immediately. "You know, that's probably animal tested," I tell her.

"But who's paying for it?"

I feel that slow power spreading. "No one," I answer, then smile a smile that is bigger on my face than any in the two days we've been together, "They are. Fuckers." I look up, up, up at the too tall buildings stacked against one another. I wish I were Spiderman. "You know, I'm allergic to that stuff. It's poison to me."

"I'll only wear it when you're not here. Something to remember you by."

I stop, pivot to her, and say, "You'd remember me with perfume?"

She turns to me with those too cool gray eyes that sometimes I can imagine are blue, throws me up against the brick wall without ever touching me and says, "Ah, should I remember you by smelling like you? Maybe you'd have me roll around on hot asphalt to remember you by?"

"Maybe we could roll around on hot asphalt together, and you could remember me that way."

"What, here?"

"Yeah, here. I can make the traffic stop. Do you believe I'm that good?"

She looks out to the artery of taxi cabs, pauses like she's almost considering it, shakes her head, and looks back. She ruffles my hair. I wish my shoulders could be as broad as hers. "No, I'd rather remember you for what you do for me," she caresses my cheek that is rougher than she wants and adds, "than for what you are. Let's walk."

She starts walking, and I stay pressed up against the brick wall bristling at the memory of what my big sister told me once. Never do anyone you wouldn't want to be. And then I watch her walking swinging her hips and sauntering those shoulders. The woman can have hips and shoulders at the same time. She's wearing these new short pants that evidently are trendy now. They remind me of how I used to cut off my blue jeans three quarter length in the summers when I wanted to hide the new curves of my legs. I watch her ankles, her hips, and her shoulders.

I catch her in four and a half strides.

There's a violin playing from a third floor window across the street. It's just a young player, not a musician yet, but there is a power behind those strokes. The player is just practicing scales, and I'm thankful for that. I hold on to those scales above the atonal din of car horns the way I want to hold Rachel's hand but won't yet.

I see the fruit stand approaching us as if it's the pavement moving not us. I scan it, a hoity, miniature excuse for a real fruit stand that might be in a neighborhood where real people live. Before it passes us, I have a ruby grapefruit in my palm and am shuddering a bit from the thrill.

The light turns green, and we cross the street. I feel that slow power spreading more. I take Rachel's hand. I lose the violin scales as we cross the street.

She takes me to what New Yorkers call a park and to what grass there is. I sit cross-legged in the grass and cradle the grapefruit in the space between my legs.

"I didn't even see you take that," she says and caresses just below my cheek. "You are good, so good," she says and kisses me. We roll back in the sparse Manhattan grass. I close my eyes. She is the only one I allow to command my hands. And she rarely has to command for the little things any more. I open my eyes for a moment and find hers. This moment, I can believe that they are blue. She pauses to caress my cheek again. "My beautiful, beautiful one." We both close our eyes.

I peel the fruit for her, split it with my thumbs, and give her half. She wants to go back to her home town tonight -- something, somewhere on Long Island -- I don't even want to remember where. I'll come to the city for her, but not be trapped in suburban hell with my only escape being through this city. Not for her. Not for anyone. She knows I won't come with her. She always tries, but only when she's grown tired of me free-bird and wants to make me hers.

She looks around mischievously as we eat. Her eyes follow a woman who is still too straight-backed to be called an "old lady".

She nods. "Would you steal her purse for me?"

I only look back at Rachel.

"Yes, that would break a rule, wouldn't it?" she says. "Remind me again. What are 'the rules'."

I look down at the quarter of a grapefruit left in my palm. "Never hide anything. Never run. Only steal from those big enough, rich enough, and evil enough to deserve it. Never do harm to any person."

She raises an eyebrow in the sarcastic smile that almost makes me want to roll over for her and she says again, "Yes, that would break a rule, wouldn't it?"

"Yes," I answer and resist the urge to tack on 'Ma'am,' a curse where I come from.

She perches as close to me as she can. "Are you sure?" She doesn't wait for my answer but pushes me down again. I answer, "Yes," as she says , "Let me touch you." In front of everyone passing, on this patch of sparse Manhattan grass, she lays her hand between my thighs and grinds in. We have fought about this a dozen times. I will let her touch me but never cum from her, just her. At first she thought that I came with no one, but since she has discovered that I choose not to cum with her. And now it seems as if all she wants to do is reach up inside of me.

I growl, grit my teeth, and wrap my arms tighter around her. She kisses my neck. "Open your legs," she whispers.

"Only if we're on asphalt," I whisper back. She glares, and I smile as innocently as I can. "Let's get you your perfume, shall we?"

She pulls back and stands. I follow, leaving the quarter of a grapefruit.

Around the corner from the perfume boutique we pause. Now I give the commands. It's unnecessary, though. She knows the drill by now. "Cross the street. Watch me. Catch up to me." I turn the corner. My body grows hard in anticipation. I stop seeing anything and start knowing everything. Rachel crosses the street behind me and looks for a coffee shop. The violin player is trying to perfect the scales -- do, re, mi, fa -- do, re, mi, fa -- do, re, mi, fa-a-a, so?

I pass so many people with thousand-dollar handbags I want to burn them. Three storefronts left to the perfume boutique. Two. One.

I round the stoop and walk in without a pause. The stench is overwhelming. The clerk is two thirds of the way back, ringing out the only customer in the store. I turn immediately to the open back of the display window. The clerk's eyes are on me now. I pick up Rachel's bottle and the bottle next to it. I hear that cargo and army pants are "in" now, but this work shirt is too real for a trend. I study the two bottles of vile amber poison in my palms as if comparing them . I hear the final roll of a credit card machine, the shuffle of paper, the opening and shut of a register. The customer stalks past me on her way to the door.

As soon as the door is swishing shut, I hear the clerk behind me, "Sir, can I help you?" I start forcing my body into softness. She is halfway across to me now and closing quickly. "Sir, can I -- "

My body is as soft as it will get. I put on my best farm kid wide eyes and turn swinging my hips the way Rachel would. I pitch my voice high. "Yes?" I can feel Rachel's eyes across the street on me. This is what she has been waiting for.

"I'm so sorry -- I -- Miss -- "

I meet her eyes unblinking and carry on as if nothing has happened. Uncorrected errors in etiquette will fester. "Can you help me, Ma'am?" I speak slowly. I am not from New York. But I am certain not to give her room to slip in her confession. "I'm looking for some perfume for my mom, and I don't know much about this." I nod to the counter behind her.

She sputters an answer, brings me to the sample counter, and steps behind it. I keep smiling, my eyes wide, big city innocent, and set down the bottles on the counter. I feel Rachel's eyes hooking into me.

The woman turns to me, "What scent does your mother wear?"

"I'm not really sure," I blink, "but I know she really likes lilacs."

"Lilacs -- " The woman grimaces. I've said something wrong. Perfect. The woman turns behind her and comes back with a strip of paper dipped in perfume. "Try this," she says and waves it beneath my nose. This is as much as my allergies can take, and my eyes begin watering.

"Hmm -- " I can not meet her eyes for awhile now.

"Not quite?" she asks. "Let's try another." She turns behind her and comes back with two more strips of paper . She passes then under my nose one at a time. My head is swimming from the perfume now.

I look down and distant. "That second one, can I try it again?" She shows me. "Yes, I think she would like that." I gesture to the bottle that is not Rachel's. "How much for a bottle like this?"

The woman freezes for a moment."These are quite expensive."

"Well, then maybe a smaller one." I reach for my wallet. "I have forty dollars -- " I flash my eyes at her too quickly for her to see that they are brimming with perfume induced tears.

"Where are you from?"

"Wisconsin -- .Do you have a smaller bottle?"

"Honey, that bottle is $259. Why don't you go to Macy's."

Rachel's bottle is half again as large. I meet the woman's eyes now and let her see the tears. "$259?"

She purses her lips, smiles faintly, and nods. Empathetic folds appear around her eyes.

"Um," I keep holding her eyes with my too wide open ones, "where's Macy's?"

"Just go out and hail a taxi. They'll know."

"Okay. I'll put this back." I gesture vaguely to the bottle that is not Rachel's. The woman barely nods. I incline my head slightly, pick up the two bottles, and turn to the display case and the door. Rachel's eyes are hot on me. The woman watches me for a moment. Then I hear the click of her heels to the back of the store. She is as humiliated as I should have been.

I set down the bottle that is not Rachel's and walk out the door.

I feel the breeze of the door swishing shut behind me. The hooks of Rachel's eyes are harder in my flesh. There are wires joining our bodies, but I am the one reeling her in. A storefront away, I hear the perfume boutique door click shut, and my body comes back hard, like I am coming back to myself, and I want to stop to rock the orgasm growing between my legs, but I keep walking, feeding it with every step. I am reeling Rachel in, dragging her behind me. I pass the corner fruit stand without pausing, and the traffic light is green for one last minute as I cross. The lines between Rachel and me stretch out across streams of taxi cabs, and I keep walking.

Across the street, I am lost in the crowd, save for the threads between Rachel and me. I am one man walking, feeding between my legs. I caress the crisp edges of the square perfume bottle the way Rachel caresses my face, and I want to shatter the bottle but don't. I just smirk and drop it in my pocket.

It's as if everyone I pass is touching me, walking through me, as if I am so much bigger than I am, and no one else is seeing this, feeling this, and they are all just walking through where my body should be. And now, after a theft, after a walk in and take, all in plain view, hide nothing, walk in and take what I can and will, after this, is the only time this is okay. And it's beyond okay. It's brilliant, fierce, aching in the ache hungry, alive way that makes your heart beat faster and only want that heart -- your heart -- to be faster and stronger even if it means someday it's going to pop, but it's today not someday and let's just go faster, harder, stronger. Part of me wants to be there when that woman finds out what I've taken. I want to see the horror on her face, want her to choke on how blind she can be, how she can see only what she wants even when everything's in plain sight, and all of me wants that woman to be Rachel at that moment. See her face pop. The explosion of everything she's seen catching her blind. And my heart goes faster. Rachel, yes, Rachel. Burn. And she's somewhere behind my bigger than seen body, closing. And I am aching, yes, aching, but I can still keep my strides even, deft and control. Catch me. Rachel.

I know how close she is by the time I turn into the alley, so close I can hear her breathing in the muck of the street, so close she has to keep herself from reaching out to touch the body she can see. We pass one dumpster, then a second. This is my choice of place, and Rachel knows better than to recoil at the smell now. The stench of the asphalt and dumpsters collects in the space between my seen and unseen body. I keep walking. Catch me, Rachel. Catch me.

She is walking at my shoulder, falling into my rhythm when she tries to take my hand. I spin and throw her up against the brick wall. I don't even try to play her games of how far can I push without touching. I throw, balling her fists up in mine against her shoulders, and I throw. Hard.

She sucks in but doesn't cry out the way she normally would. I laugh, grind my hips into her, and lean in to smell her as closely as I can.

"Did you get it?" she hisses.

"Do you even need to ask?" I taste the sweat on her neck. She begins to moan, then cuts back trying not to give me too much too soon. I nip her earlobe. "Tell me how good I am."

"I think you're pretty good." I pull back just enough to let her see me looking at her and freeze. "I said, I think you're pretty good."

I stretch her arms as far up and out as they will go and dive back into her neck. "Is that all? You just think?" I bite. "Just 'pretty good'?" Then I start playing her force without touch game, taking my hands away, leaning my torso back, just pinning her with my hips. She drops her arms to her sides, but then stays still. I reach into my pocket. "Tell me how good I am."

"You're good."

"Tell me how good I am."

"You're good."

I pull out the perfume bottle and hold it in both hands behind my back. "What will you do for it?"

She winks and shrugs her shoulders. "I'll roll around on hot asphalt with you."

I bring the square bottle of vile amber poison in front of me and hold it between parallel palms on my chest. "Tell me how good I am."

"You're good, so good." She reaches for it.

I lean back farther and she will not, can not, come closer for it. "Tell me how good I am."

"You are so good, so good, so good, so good -- " She keeps speaking until I have grown so giant, aching and weak-kneed, that I have to lean harder and harder against her to keep from falling. Until I want to anchor myself inside of her just to keep standing.

Until I sling-shot myself forward, thrust the bottle with all its sharp edges into her chest, and sink my teeth into her neck harder than I am allowed. I want to drop her right now, drag her through all the filth of the alleyway, roll her in the half-decomposed shit, burn the asphalt into her back.

"Hurt me," she says as I cradle her to the ground. I wish I were carrying my knife. I grab a fistful of hair and wrench it back so I can watch her Adam's apple bob and gluck as I open her pants. I don't let her go as I push into her, hard and fast the way she knows I like it, so that she is spinning, flipping, wrapping tighter around me, rubbing filth in her hair as she thrashes in that let-me-go-but-always-keep-pushing-me-tighterway. And I want dust to settle on me as I do this. As if dust could settle through convulsions like this. As if we could keep stirring so long that our motion becomes as constant as silence is alleged to be, and dust could settle on us as we fuck. And when I think like this, she always cums quickly and often. And then, I suppose, we are spent. But while it lasts, I want to make her a sliver between myself and the asphalt, want to hold her, that bit that keeps me from rolling on dead pavement forever, and drive home every way I hate her.

She chokes a moment, and I give her back her hair. She moans my name, and I try to pull away. And then, and then she does something. She reaches up inside of me and grabs hold, she reaches up inside of me and frees the orgasm I have been feeding, building, saving for when I am alone, free of her. And she should have to have me pinned against the wall, strapped down, tied up and fighting to take something like that from me, but she just reaches in. She just reaches inside and takes me. And I will never tell her that she has done this. I am arched above her screaming. And God, Rachel, God, push me harder.

And then she is done.

I help her stand, brush her off, give her back her pants, and try to keep from touching her. Then I embrace her. I kiss her one last time, soft and wet, the way I will only kiss someone after making love. Rachel's eyes are blue in this light, and there are strands of hair sweated to her face. She is still holding the perfume bottle.

"Come home with me tonight," she whispers.

I look down and step back.

"Please?" I shuffle my feet and force myself to shake my head. She sighs, "You're leaving then."

I nod.

She looks around for somewhere to put her perfume bottle, but she is not carrying a purse, and her pockets are too small. That mischievous grin spreads across her face. She pushes the bottle into the front of her pants, adjusts it, and squares her hands around it. She looks up and winks at me

"How do you like my package?" She laughs. I let the corners of my mouth turn up but drop my eyes. "When will I see you again?"

I do not answer.

"I'll drop you another note."

Without thinking, I step forward, pin her shoulder, and reach into her pants. I pull out the perfume bottle and hold it in front of her. "Smash this and send me the shards. Then I'll come."

She is shocked for a moment but smirks through it and takes back the bottle. "I doubt you would recognize this bottle. I could just send you a bag of broken glass, and you'd still come running."

I smile back and run my fingers along one edge of the bottle. "No," I answer, "I remember lines like this." I take away my hands. "Smash the bottle and mail me the shards. Then I'll come."

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