PRETTY GIRLS NEVER FELT THIS WAY
She wakes to the sounds of lust through thin apartment walls. Enthralled and enraged, she listens while trying to block out the hateful yet enticing noises. Almost unconsciously, her hands play along her body, expertly finding the secret special places of pleasure. She doesn’t stop them.
Afterwards, body stated, spirit starving, she rises to meet the coming day. As she does every morning, she gazes level-eyed into the mirror, searching, hoping, desperate for something different, certain the heated, half-remembered dreams of the night before will have worked their magic on her face, her life. The mirror gives back nothing; it merely tells her the truth. Her fine limp hair, shiny enough when clean, peers back at her, listless and lank. Her eyes, down-turned at the corners through a genetic joke, give her a look of perpetual exhaustion at her most energetic. Thin lipped mouth, grim. Greyishgreenishbrownish eyes, dull. Nose not big; this pleases her, but not small enough to be “cute”. Hair-colored hair, skin-colored skin, eye-colored eyes. Who would want such anonymity?
She thinks: I could be a successful international spy. No one would remember me.
She thinks: I could shoplift fine jewelry from Tiffany’s and no one would notice me.
She thinks: I could walk butt-naked through the lobby of the Parker House Hotel and no one would see me.
Her days and nights pass in a seamless routine of work and apathy, broken only by the noises next door that haunt and tease her.
After the third murder, she begins to buy the newspaper. The details intrigue her, these poor, plain, nameless girls; their stories splashed across the newsprint just as vividly as their blood was splashed across the blank walls of abandoned buildings in the city.
She thinks: How does it feel to be wanted like that?
She thinks: How does it feel to be seen?
On Friday, after a particularly trying week, she indulges in an after-work drink at the corner bar. She sits nursing the whipped cream atop her Irish coffee, musing about the bar’s other customers. She imagines eyes on her, seeking eyes, eyes with a mission, a blood lust. In her mind, she sees the eyes widen in surprise and recognition upon glimpsing her nondescript face. Her. Yes. That one. Her. Me. Heart pounding, fingers slippery on the coffee mug, she allows herself a bold look around the room. No one notices. Mortified, she flees home, to her small, empty bed, loud with other people’s rutting. Her futile fingers bring no release; she can only listen, only ache.
She thinks: When will someone look at me?
She begins to frequent those places near the murder sites, thinking, he must be comfortable here, surely he’ll come back, surely… She doesn’t dress up; for once her plainness is her prize, her hope. She sits at the bars, alone, in work clothes, listening to the laughing chatter roll and recede around her, sunk in an ocean of voices and glances, waiting for the one who will know her on sight.
She thinks: I’ll feel it when he looks at me.
She thinks: The back of my neck will tingle when he looks at me.
She thinks: I’m in love.
Another murder. She calls in sick, weeping till her swollen eyes can make no more water. Not me, she rocks and moans in the middle of her lonely bed, echoing the noises from the neighbors, empty in futile passion. Not me, again. She buys all the papers, devouring each detail with growing jealousy, with rage. How dare he? She is the one he wants. She will be his triumph, the anonymous turned instantly infamous. The gift of her self will cure him.
She can’t wait for Friday. It’s Wednesday, a new place, but no different from all the others, loud, cheap, and no decent Irish whiskey for the coffee. Still the whipped cream is good. She licks a bit off her straw, glancing into the mirror over the bar. The back of her neck tingles, tiny hair rising with the force of the gaze from over her shoulder. Eyes, wide with surprise and recognition, catch hers in the reflecting glass.
She thinks: I know you.
She thinks: At last.
She thinks: He’s as plain as me.
No words disturb their instant knowing. He sits on the stool next to her, glancing from the corner of his eye and in the mirror; a direct gaze would ignite them. She smiles, eyes downcast, demure. She feels her pulse must be audible above the throbbing bass from the speakers. He must surely hear it, see it, her life force beating through her in rhythm to the primal noise they call music in this hollow place.
His hand on her waist urges her off the stool. Hot fingers twine in hers, burning her with his need. She gasps, the sound lost in the cacophony. Narrow, dark corridor beyond the kitchen and rest room leads through an invisible door to an alley. Weak legs won’t carry her, and she leans against the wall, feeling the pounding of the beat within. He is in front of her, pinning her against the wall with his weight, he must have her now; she must give to him now.
Dimly she becomes aware of the sound of ripping fabric, of cool air and rough brick on her body. So much better this, she thinks, than her own fingers and a lonely bed. Thin lines of pain begin to scream along her arms, breasts, legs. Something shines silver in his hand, moving quick, too quick to see, who needs to see? She feels the wetness running hot down her arms, her fingers, her sides, hears the loud drops like rain on green leaves. She sees the red on his face, oh, how he wants her, needs her. His desire rips her apart.
She thinks: I have so much to give.
She thinks: Because of you, I’m beautiful.
She thinks: I’m dying and I don’t care.
Hand in her hair, he pulls her head back, slowly, exposing her neck. She sees a narrow strip of sky between the shabby buildings; sees stars dimming and brightening, sees the silver scythe above her face, ready to love her. It hesitates. No, she thinks, don’t stop, you can’t stop, I am meant for this.
She looks up at him. Their eyes meet for one blinding, uniting moment, and he sees her finally, not reflected, not invisible, but her, at last and only, her.
She whispers, “I love you.”
The razor flashes down.