She was falling to her death like the earth into the sun, slowly and relative to nothing that mattered anymore. So she accepted the stranger’s offer to buy her a drink without bothering to turn and see who this new Patron Saint of Alcohol was. The offer had been conveyed to her by the bartender in a language of gestures she understood. A Bloody Mary was placed next to the half-emptied one in her hand and she closed her eyes. She caressed the darkness and felt the presence of a man taking the seat beside her at the bar. She turned to see who it was – and saw the penetrating eyes, the long hair, beard, and gaunt face. She blinked and exclaimed – Jesus – to herself with a laugh. The man toasted her with his drink. A Screw Driver. Apparently the favored breakfast cocktail of our Lord, she assessed with a clink of her glass to his. Her easygoing smile and beauty, albeit fading, concealed a cynicism coupled with a shrewdness for discerning another rejection forthcoming. It would come, as always, with a naked expression of surprise at her ugly croak of a voice and the realization she was a deaf mute. She had calloused herself to the unavoidable grimaces, the blatant looks of disgust, and even the pitiful smiles from the well-intentioned hapless souls. She decided to be coy and deceive her current suitor, at least for one more free drink. He was inquiring about her name.  She dipped a finger into her drink, raised it to her lips and sucked it seductively. She challenged him with a quizzical gaze. Someone had placed coins in a jukebox and vibrations were pumping the room. Mary, he guessed, as in Magdalene? She applauded him softly with the rehearsed act of a consummate mime. He pointed to himself, indicating it was her turn. She spread her arms to form a crucifixion, her head slumped sideways, mocking his resemblance to the renowned savior. He laughed and nodded sheepishly – as if to lie was inconceivable – and bowed his head humbly. He was now playing mind games with her. She dropped her arms and narrowed her eyes, playfully drunk, amused by her opponent. She signaled like a traffic cop with her hand for him to stop and wait while she dumped the contents of her purse onto the counter. She found her driver’s license, indicating the photograph as proof of her identity, tapping a fingernail on the name typed beside it. Smiling triumphantly, she chalked a point for herself on an invisible scoreboard. She took a sip of her drink and gestured for him to produce the same credentials. He emptied the items from his pockets – some coins, crumpled bills, and a few ordinary rocks. He clutched an imaginary steering wheel, rotated it wildly, then shrugged. He did not drive. But, as if to provide alternative proof of his identity, he took a coin off the bar.  With a theatrical flourish – palm closing then opening – he transformed the silver into a gold ring held between his fingers. She yawned, unimpressed. He waved the bartender over, asking for a glass of water in a wine glass. She frowned and glanced at the distracting shaft of light pouring in from the open doorway. Hovering there like an alien beaming down to Earth and trying to take form. Dust motes were swirling hypnotically in the radiant glow. She had to readjust her vision to the dark confines of the saloon. Late morning and  the place was empty except for the two of them and the regular drunks she knew. She pursed her lips and returned to where she was – as if in the middle of a chess match and not willing to be outdone by some gypsy charlatan. Which was what she surmised him to be. She narrowed her eyes and made a cross with her index fingers as a curt denouncement about matters of the heart, Heaven and Hell, God and the Devil—and him! Angry at his parody. His offering her the ring as though proposing marriage and playing the groom. She suspected some jokester in the bar had orchestrated this sick joke. She offered back her middle finger and rose to leave but was stopped by his hand placed upon hers. She was overtaken by a jolt of warmth that gushed through her body. The sensation caused her to gasp. No one had touched her like that before, not since her father or mother, not since she was a child. The sky was in his eyes, this unwavering unfathomable blue. She let her fingers be kissed, transforming her into something strange and beautiful. She was clearly under his spell, drawn to the power of his gentle smile, his eyes leading hers to focus on his hand held before her face, to an open palm, into its center. The instant she realized what he was showing her – a blood-stained scar, the circumference of a spike – he tapped her forehead with a force that knocked her off the barstool. She heard laughter as she came to her senses. She rose off the floor screaming. But he was gone. Everyone in the room was staring at her. The shaft of light was receding from the doorway. She then realized what it was, what it was that had happened. She was hearing the sound of her own voice, and she fell to her knees and wept.

Excerpt from Light-Years in the Dark: StoryPoems (see more)

photo-art design by todd crawshaw