Art by John Turck at http://johnturck.tumblr.com/
Jeff checked the note in the palm of his hand. He thought the rain and his sweat might have smudged the ink on the page, and sure enough the right half had already started to bleed. His khakis stuck to his leg, and he could barely fit his knuckles into his front pocket. Drops smacked against his balding head, and he wiped the salty glaze from the corners of his eyes and off his mustache, while he searched each brownstone for an address.
It had been overcast all day, and the sun was going to set. More than rain, there was the humidity and body heat and noise of millions of Manhattanites pressed together onto blocks that rose upward and intercepted any breeze that tried to sweep over the Hudson. The apartment numbers were all hidden. Faded gold and black decals that were plainly stuck on the front door windows, but somehow failed to catch the eye. Jeff squinted and sometimes took a few steps up a stoop to get a better look from his lower vantage. He was halfway between 9th and 10th Ave at the north end of Hell’s Kitchen, and had been walking around after work, not ready to go home.
Steven had told him about Casey a few years ago, though Jeff thought he’d been telling a joke. But he swore she was the real deal. A woman who gets to your core. If she isn’t a real psychic, he said, she’s tapped in enough to tell you what’s best. Jeff always laughed and said he never knew Steven had a core. And now he was looking back at 9th Ave, wondering if he’d overshot the address. He could turn around and take the train home, but walked a few more steps west toward 10th, just to say he tried. And sure enough he saw it. A string of pink lights on the left, curled around the first floor window of a white brick walkup. The note said to hit the button for 1C five times quick. He did as he was told, and the door unlocked with a buzz.
Jeff walked past the mailboxes and around the stone floored staircase that led to the apartments above. The door to the apartment opened as soon as he knocked. A pasty fat man with a beard greeted him, and waved him in without saying a word.
It wasn’t a lobby. Just a living room. There was a couch and an entertainment stand, and a sense of décor that flowed and wasn’t just thrown together to hide a business in a residential area. The fat man was already seated down and staring at his phone. The rainwater and snot on the top of Jeff’s mouth that had woven underneath his mustache.
“I don’t know how this works.”
The fat man didn’t look up. “She’ll be with you in 20 minutes.”
Jeff kept his arms tucked inside and tried not to lean back with a wet shirt while he sat on the couch. He wanted to say something, but more than that wanted to seem cool, or at least better than awkward enough to be told to leave. So instead he stayed quiet and listened to the music, and wondered if he might have heard one of the songs in a commercial somewhere, before giving up and looking at his phone.
Ten minutes later a man who looked to be 10 years younger than Jeff walked out the door and finger combed his dirty blonde hair. He left without saying a word in a stunted walk that made it seem as if he didn’t know where he was going. Ten minutes after that Casey appeared. She had the hair of a pin up model from the forties. Red strands that rolled up in a wave in the front, and then poured down around her shoulders in small curls. She was still in her twenties, but looked immortal, as if 70 years ago she might have rode along the side of a bomber plane, ready to drop the hammer of god on some Nazi German town. But the rest of her just looked like some kid. She wore a Smurf’s t-shirt, and a set of sweat pants that hung low around her hips. “C’mon in,” she spoke with a French accent.
Jeff followed behind and tried to look at something other than the word “CHERRY” written on the butt of her sweatpants. The door behind him was heavy. Soundproof, as he discovered when the music from the living room disappeared behind the wall. The low tungsten lit room burned with earth toned tapestries and charms. The smell of sandalwood drifted from the corner, and he walked over to the edge of the bed where Casey sat and poured a cup of tea. Though it was hot outside, inside Jeff felt the cool whisper of air conditioning and watched the steam rise off the surface of her tea.
“It’s $500 an hour.”
Casey walked over, letting her hips swing. She curled her arm around the underside of his head, and let her fingernails dance along the top of his scalp. Her eye contact washed away everything but the widening of her pupils, which made him laugh and then feel stupid for laughing. Her pushed out lips didn’t have to pout. Small but thick, they bumped slowly against his one time, and then opened enough to let his lower lip in between. Her kiss had weight, and he was slowly bent to her gravitational pull. Her hands slid down along his arms until she caught up to his wrists, which she placed around her waist. Jeff worried that her shirt would get her wet, but she pushed her slender and soft body into his until he could feel her breath before it left her chest.
He looked at her closed eyes while she left his hands around her ass and pulled him into an even closer embrace. He closed his eyes as well, but felt the miniscule clues of her mouth telling him that she was wrapping their first kiss up. He savored the extra seconds when the suction in her lips let go and she slowly pulled her face away.
He opened his eyes and for a moment had forgotten where he was. He could still taste the residue of the tea in her mouth.
“I sense a loss, no?”
Jeff stood and stared into her eyes. Without knowing whether he should, he nodded, embarrassed to admit it to another woman. She was right of course, but so what? He imagined a great deal of her clients missed somebody.
“And she’s never coming back.”
Jeff didn’t bother to move or react. He forgot about his wet shirt when she started to kiss his pudgy face, and chewed on his earlobe. “Now what do you want to know?” The words filled his ears like smoke and heated the parts of his brain that told him to press forward. He had the numb adrenaline of a madman, and looked down at his shaking hands.
“I want to know…um.” His own voice sounded clumsy. An erection squeezed against the tightening wet khakis, but he had to finish his thought.
She moved her lips in front of his, just inches away and laid the palm of her hand against the rising beat of his heart. “Go ahead.”
“Is Tori at peace?”
She leaned in and kissed him again, and gently drank the breath from his lungs. “I sense that she is. She had felt love. But that’s not why you’re here, is it?” She pecked him twice more and spun her waist around as if there was music that only she could hear.
“It isn’t?” The words came out involuntarily, and he knew she’d shake her head.
“Death is just for the living to deal survive.” She pulled the Smurf t-shirt over her head, and showed him her pale and freckled breasts. He looked at her nipples, and looked away even though he knew she saw him do it. She cradled his face with the palms of her hands and led him toward her breasts. And in between her deep breaths she told him “I feel your tamed passion. You are domesticated.” She pulled his face down to her navel, and pressed his nose against the elastic band of her sweatpants. “You’re worried that you’re not sexually desirable anymore. Even now, you’re worried that you’ll never get another woman without paying for her first. And you’re worried that you’re going to die and you’re life won’t be remembered by anybody who matters.”
Jeff felt her pubic hairs brush against his nose, and knew to keep pushing until the waistband gave way and pulled the pants just enough to slide down her small hips. “Because you know that you won’t.” Jeff had opened his mouth and was about to eat her out, but had to look up, and make eye contact in that small window between her breasts. “You won’t.”
“That’s… kind of mean.”
She shrugged. “You paid for the truth, yes?.” She had green eyes, and Jeff wondered what he was doing here. “You can kiss my pussy. It’s okay.”
He did, and her calling it her pussy only made him want it more. Because that’s what it was. Not some whore’s snatch, but a small, delicate pussy that smelled sour and seemed to gently open up the closer he got.
She shivered when he kissed her gently. “You think it’s something bad when I tell you that you’re nothing, but you don’t understand.” Her breathing sped up, even faster than his had a second ago. Her small, powerful fingers gripped at what was left of his hair. “You’re free. To know your life is meaningless. You can try whatever you like. Because nobody. Is ever going to remember what you did, when you failed.” She was grinding against his face, rocking back and forth until his drool started to run out the side of his mouth. “It doesn’t matter.”
She pulled herself away from him and picked up from off his knees. And without missing a beat, she kissed his wet mouth.
“You feel guilty, don’t you?”
He nodded and tried to catch his breath.
“Not for this. For outliving her. And you wonder when you’re alone if she knew how much you loved her, even though you fought all the time. Sometimes you wonder if you really did love her, or if you were just comfortable and lazy. Don’t you?”
Jeff took his hand and wiped the side of his mouth. “Yeah, probably. I mean, yes. Yes.”
She walked from him so he could see her small pink ass, with the red marks from his fingers burned into the side. She looked over her shoulder, freezing him in place and opened the top dresser in an antique nightstand. Her hand held up a condom wrapped in gold foil.
“Sometimes you wonder about all the girls you touched yourself over. The ones you looked at on the street, or in the elevator. The girls who laughed at the office, who did not want you, but you thought about anyway as if they might, if everything lined up just right.”
Her eyes were glazed over. Jeff sighed when she opened the condom wrapper, while he was still standing, fully clothed and feeling disgusting. “You say ‘what if?’ But you know you would do nothing.”
The green condom was out of the wrapper, and held up in her hand, where it just caught some of the candlelight from behind.
“You kissed one of these girls, once. Maybe at a bar, or someplace where you could blame it on the mood if the chance ever came. And you tell yourself that it was only a kiss, but you wonder if something else might have happened. Would you have done the thing? But so much can happen between kissing and fucking. And you’d blow it anyway. You’d make some joke to kill the moment. You’d tell her that you didn’t want to get caught. And you’d blame yourself, and hate yourself for not being bold enough to cheat. Not being cool enough. But deep down, you know if you did it to her one in your life, Tori could do it to you five times in a week.”
She put the green condom in her mouth and kneeled down. All Jeff could do was stare at her pushed out jawline, as she undid his belt and pants. It was too late to care what she might have thought about his penis or his beer belly. All he could think about was her small mouth, and the way she felt on his tongue when he ate her out a few minutes ago. And then she rolled the condom on him with her mouth, which felt warm. It was different than anything he’d ever done with his wife. Her mouth was smaller. Younger. He looked at his old, grey pubic hair against her fresh face and pink lip-gloss. She rolled the bottom of the condom down with her fingers, and gently held his dick an inch away from her face.
“Now do you want to know what’s gonna happen?”
Casey stood back up and kissed him again, this time with the sour apple residue from the condom on her tongue. Jeff pulled back for a second, and then moved back in. She slid her tongue out of his mouth and blew a loose hair from her lips.
“It’s not all about sex, you know?”
Casey lifted one leg, and then the other and until she was off the floor, clinging around Jeff’s torso. She leaned back and Jeff crashed onto the top of the mattress. “You’re going to get two chances. Well, technically three, but you won’t be ready for the first. You might as well think of that as practice.”
“No. In your life. With other women. You’re going to meet a woman your own age, and you’re going to go on a date. It won’t work.”
Jeff was inside her in one motion, while Casey wrapped her ankles on top of each other around his back. Jeff rolled forward and tried not to look her directly in the eye.
“Because she’s not your wife. You can’t talk without saying her name. She’ll disappear, and that’s a good thing.”
He was amazed with the way she’d led him every way. Every move started as a subtle suggestion, and grew like a river’s current, until the undertow grabbed him and took him another direction. Everything flowed as if they had rehearsed it. Jeff looked at Casey with her eyes closed, and then opened with her lids hanging low.
“Then there will be another. Unlike your wife in every way. Tall. Thin. About as pretty, but in ways you never knew you liked.”
The words entered Jeff’s ears like a hypnotic suggestion. He could only think about them on the distracted level while Casey pushed in.
“But you’ll have to ask yourself if you love her, or if it’s the fear of dying alone.”
Jeff leaned in and grabbed his hands around her hips. “And it won’t work?”
“I don’t know. It’s up to you. But if it doesn’t there will be a third. I don’t know what she’ll be like. I don’t know how you’ll feel when she is in the room. But deep down, if you get to her, you’ll know that’s it. And if you don’t choose her, you choose solitude.”
He felt the words ‘together’ and ‘solitude’ and he tempered his breathing, then realized that she had stopped talking a few minutes ago. It was one of the few moments where he was able to pull his attention from the quiver of her lip and the occasional flare of her nostrils. He licked his lips for a second and thought about talking. How it would sound when it came out.
Casey bent her leg back around, and in-between his chest and hers. She twisted around and he saw her pink ass rising up.
“What else is there that you want to know about?”
Jeff grabbed onto her hips from behind. He wouldn’t say a word until she turned her head to the side against the mattress and flashed him at least one green eye. “Well?”
“Do I ever do anything?”
She doesn’t react to his question. There’s a moment where he wonders if she’s going to ask his question, or just keep continuing on with the important thing; the thing she should probably be teaching him to focus on, as if this was some lesson and not a supernatural exercise.
“I don’t know… Have a house and a family. Do I ever move on to another job? Not legacy, but… do I die with unfinished business?”
“What business?” She didn’t sound angry or disgusted, or even curious as she answered him. “You don’t care about any of that stuff. You don’t have outside interests. You’re not passionate in enough to leave unfinished business, so long as you don’t lie to yourself and say you always wished you’d done more.”
Jeff looked past her hair, to the back wall. He saw his wife at their wedding. He pushed inward and thought of every girlfriend he’d ever had, and how it must have really felt at the time, when he wasn’t just reminiscing, hungry for something else. And for a second he understood exactly he’d broken up with Sandra for the way she’d start fights, or for Joslyn who he never really wanted to deal with. How every time he moved away from some station in life he was given a new set of memories that he’d grown accustomed to having. He saw the fourth dimensional trail that cut through the decades across the country and settled with him living in a Brooklyn apartment he couldn’t keep after his wife beat him to the grave.
And then he looked down and saw an ass. A young ass bucking, attached to a girl who was achieving a level of pleasure that he didn’t know he’d been capable of delivering. In that moment he more or less knew his destiny, that it didn’t matter, and that he could only embrace the smell of incense. He was dancing with Casey.
“Is there anything else you want to know before we finish?”
Jeff looked at the red hair and wanted to pull it from behind. He tugged and watched her chin move up in the air. “I don’t suppose I should ask you how I die?”
“If you keep it up… colorectal cancer.”
Her hair fell through his fingers. For a second he thought about stopping and looking back at his ass in a mirror, but her hips continued to squeeze further into his pelvis.
“Is that set in stone?”
Casey moaned into the mattress, and her hand was tucked below, manipulating herself into a frenzy. “Try to…get some vitamin D.” She squeezed harder and he watched her gasping face contort against the bed. She was purple and he was close.
He pushed harder. Everything slowed down. Everything was coming to the end.
“And.” Casey didn’t finish the thought. She wouldn’t be able to get it out before Jeff came, and slowly slid down so that he was laying against her back, with his hands gripped around her waist. “That’s your future.”
He wasn’t supposed to cuddle the kissing psychic. He got up from the bed while she pulled a sheet over her body and worked herself into the fetal position. Jeff put his dried khakis back on and felt around to make sure that he had already left the money on the dresser.
Before he knew what happened he was back on the street. He couldn’t say if there had been anybody waiting in the lobby, watching him as he watched the blond man. The creeping warmth of humidity rolled over his shoulders, but the sun had gone down and he didn’t think he would get too sweaty. He felt like he could spend all night walking home to Brooklyn, before he went to bed and everything became another memory.