2 Stories — Rachel Luria
The woman sits at the bar. Next to her a man plays pool. She admires his flanks as he bends over the table. She’s trying to quit smoking so she’s sucking on a bendy straw. As he lines up his shot, she rolls the straw around in her mouth, pinches it between her teeth. It’s covered in her red lipstick and tastes waxy. When he sinks the ball, the woman crosses and uncrosses her legs.
She’s ordered a drink with three cherries and a flaming umbrella. When the bartender slides it down the bar, she catches it with one hand. Holding her bloody looking straw between her finger tips, she blows out the fire and swallows. The burn is instant and shoots into her thighs.
The man has started a fight. He lifts a guy by his shirt and bashes him into the ground. He pounds the guy’s face, kicks him. The bar tender hops the bar and creeps over. He holds his hands out and talks in soothing tones, like he’s calming a wild animal. The woman wriggles on her stool. Her cheeks are flushed. When she looks down at her blouse, it’s spattered with blood from the fight. Ruined, she thinks.
She calls out to the bar tender, “Tell him his next drink’s on me.”
The man has calmed. His meaty knuckles are raw. He looks at the woman for the first time, takes a step toward her. His head is low, his shoulders raised like a boxer’s. They say he’s killed a man in a fight, more than one, and the woman believes it. When she fucks him, she will be ruined. Her husband will never forgive her. When he looks at her, all he will see is her riding this beast, writhing like an animal.
Inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities
Each day our city collapses and each night we must decide what to do with the rubble. The collapse happens slowly at first; we almost don’t notice it happening around us, even though it happens every day. Every morning the bricks pull away from each other and one by one they fall like scales flaking off a dead fish. The decaying walls reveal stacks of white floors winding around a spiral staircase. We live on these floors. We work, make love, eat, and sleep on these floors. They feel stable beneath us. Though, were you to look, you would see us as insects crawling over bones.
By midday the skin of our city has nearly peeled itself to the ground, exposing spiral staircase spines to bleach in the sun. By dusk, even the floors begin to crumble. But in those in-between hours, the city lingers, clings to itself and we are able to continue about our lives. We are almost happy with the light on our shoulders, the breeze blowing cold our teeth. We can always move down, we say, burrow deeper where the decay has not yet reached.
At night, the city is dissolved. We stand waving our hands over the piles of rubble as if we are amazed. As if this hasn’t happened before. You may wonder why we would live in such a city. Isn’t it dangerous, you might ask. And certainly we have been hurt. We have stepped where there is no longer a step and fallen. We have looked away from the collapse and had it crash against us. But we love our city. What is there to do but love a city so fragile, so open, so in need of our care? What is there to do each night but pick up the pieces and rebuild?
Rachel Luria is an Associate Professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Wilkes Honors College. In June 2018, she was the Artist-in-Residence in Everglades, where she composed original fables inspired by the wilderness of the Florida Everglades. Her nonfiction was named a Notable Essay of 2015 by the editors of Best American Essays and her work has appeared in Craft, The Normal School, Harpur Palate, Dash Literary Journal, and others.