Psychic

A friend she hadn’t seen in years sat down on the bus, across the aisle. Claire knew that if they made eye contact, they would speak to each other, and she knew exactly how the conversation would go.

“Claire, is that you?”

“Mary Ann? I can’t believe it! How’ve you been?”

And so on. Just as they started to reveal anything real about where their lives had gone, one of them would arrive at whatever destination, and they would mean and fail to call each other for the next few years once again.

She stood up and sat beside her friend.

“Are you okay?” she asked, grabbing onto Mary Ann’s shoulder. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Mary Ann said nothing at first. The sudden invasion had shocked her and made her forget where she was. Claire could tell. When she spoke, she said simply, “I’m fine.”

Claire knew she was lying, but as she considered the possibilities of their next three minutes together, she saw that she would never be able to coax her friend into dropping her guard.

“I can see that you’re troubled. I found out that I have heightened perception, and I can tell that you’re unhappy, deep inside. You don’t have to tell me what’s wrong, but I’m going to balance your chakras.”

Mary Ann squinted and took a sweeping look around her. In a deep breath, she asked, “I’m sorry, but do I know you?”

Claire waved her hands. “Not yet,” she said, staring through her friend. “Not yet, but you will.”

#friends, #powers, #pretense, #pretention, #psychic, #self-awareness, #self-fulfilling-prophecy

Best Friends

The concert was sold out, but Charlie got the last two tickets. The box office shut down right behind him.

“Great,” Steve said when Charlie told him the news. He hated country music, and he hated Charlie, but he knew where he was spending Friday night.

“I know a little place where we can get good, cheap lap dances, if you’re interested,” Charlie mentioned on the drive over. Steve found the prospect disgusting and sad. “I don’t think we have the time for it,” he said.

When Charlie pulled into the parking lot to The Bube Toob, Steve considered not being polite, but Charlie was so sensitive. “Maybe I’ll just wait in the car,” he said.

The frustrated anxiety on Charlie’s face made him reconsider. Steve followed behind, making sure to look reluctant. He wasn’t sure whom he was impressing. They sat in a booth, and were quickly approached by a pair of dancers.

Charlie slipped the taller, darker one a five dollar bill and whispered something to her, gesturing toward Steve. Steve shuddered as the woman moved on top of him, moving her body without moving her face.

She was working hard. Her eyes were closed in focus, and her mouth drooped as much as the rest of her. That wasn’t fair. Steve regretted the thought. “I’m sorry, I’m going to need to be a lot drunker for this,” he said, pulling himself out from under her.

Charlie had to assure the staff that everything was cool. On the way to the concert, he lectured Steve, saying, “You really embarrassed me back there. You’re lucky I was around to bail you out.”

Steve apologized, and was forgiven. He felt wrong.

The concert was loud and twangy, but at least they didn’t have to talk.

#awkward, #friends, #man-on-man-action, #microfiction, #politeness, #strippers, #what-people-do

Winner

Though he was early, he leered at his watch. He was only a little early, just enough to make sure he was there first. He liked to be first.

Around the cafe, he saw people, though he couldn’t focus on their faces. None of them were her, and that was all he cared about right now. Everyone else seemed dumb. He heard excerpts of conversation, “You look good for someone on death row.” Half-hearted jokes just to break up the monotony of their one-note lives.

“You’ll be fine, just tell them you’re mentally disabled.”

“Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I don’t respect a good boobie.”

He tried to stop listening, but every word of inane banter grabbed him by the scruff and smacked him around. It was unavoidable. People speak loudly in public because everyone else speaks loudly. He couldn’t help but hear people talk about themselves, saying whatever they assumed their friends wanted to hear. Probably quotes from some movie they’d seen together. All they did was validate each other. One by one, they laughed, turn by turn, though no one ever said anything worth acknowledging.

She arrived right on time, and he assured her he hadn’t been waiting long. Points for magnanimity, he reckoned. As she told him about traffic, he listened attentively. She wasn’t interesting, but she loved to talk. Each nod of his head added a tally to his implicit superiority. The less he spoke, the smarter he seemed, and she began to love him, he could tell. Her face was made of love, and it was all directed at him. Sweet, merciful, stupid love. Something within him moved, but no one could tell.

He came first. He always came first. He loved to be first.

#dates, #friends, #gross, #idiot, #microfiction, #premature, #small-talk, #socially-awkward

Outing

The air in the room was stuffy. Whoever had stayed here last had been a smoker, and contemptuous of signs.

“We can ask for another room if you want,” Jeremy suggested, but Joel shook his head. The mountain air was too cold, and he was too tired to go back outside.

Joel had asthma. He never complained about it, as though he believed by ignoring it, it would go away. Knowing this made Jeremy all the more careful. Not that the man’s health was his responsibility, but Joel’s body was too heavy to comfortably drag to the hospital. Especially as far away as the hospital was.

He wheezed in his sleep all night. Jeremy listened closely to the breathing, making sure it didn’t stop. Sharing the room had been a mistake. Mere snoring would have kept Jeremy awake, but Joel’s hollow whimpers sounded desperate and alien. Jeremy couldn’t have ignored them, even with earplugs, yet there was nothing he could do to help. He had to remind himself.

“There’s nothing I can do,” and he went to sleep.

They rode the gondola together, and as the air thinned with altitude, Jeremy listened closer. Joel was taking deep, deliberate breaths. He was fighting not to pass out, Jeremy could tell.

“Are you feeling okay?” Joel asked him.

“Yeah, I’m great.” He wanted to ask the same question back, but the moment had passed. He continued listening. Joel’s breathing got heavier as they ascended, and he breathed with more of his body. He held air in his arms, in his hips, all the way down his legs. He knew how to compensate.

“Hey, I’m sorry,” Joel said, “but you’re sitting a little close. Could you scoot over just a bit?”

Jeremy swallowed. “My bad.”

He looked down at the snow and coughed.

#friends, #microfiction, #no-homo, #skiing, #vacation