4. The demons swallowed treasures, replaced hymns with evil deeds scribed in chicken scratch compositions in the black halls beneath this filthy city laced with shit. This love affair. All black hearts and tragic heights keep on listening to our sanguine symphony. We'll keep conducting the color of midnight. When the muse whispers, her forked tongue lulls me to sleep. You must be mistaken, my darling. This is not the prelude to a kiss. This is obsession, void of aesthetics, lacking compassion. A disclaimer to the self.

Circle Takes the Square

"Disclaimer to the Self"

Alone in your room, you think of everything you were ever taught and of everything you ever wanted, and you realize that if you had listened to half of the stories your parents had ever told you, you probably wouldn't have made half the mistakes that you ever had.

Michael Benjamin was lying on his bed staring up at his ceiling.

He had two pictures in his head, of two different girls, or two different women. Two different people. Totally different. And he was beginning to think that he had made a big mistake.

Say that he had made a mistake. There was pretty much no way to remedy it now. Annie looked at him in the hallway as if he were almost vermin, when she bothered to look at him at all. Her friends looked at him as if he were even worse than that. He'd surrounded himself with people, friends he hadn't spoken to in a while, just so Annie would see him with people, with other girls. He didn't know why. It made him feel better when Annie saw him with other girls.

He then realized that he hadn't spoken to Chris, or James, or even Will about breaking up with Annie before he had done it. And they hadn't really spoken to him about it since it had happened. But they had liked her, they had liked her a lot. They were her friends too, now. And he saw the looks they gave her, the looks that shouted across the room how could he be so stupid?

But over and done with is over and done, and it was over. Done with, not so sure. Maybe.

The space on the bed next to him was still warm from that other one, that other woman. No matter how many lies he had ever told, the space on the bed next to him was still warm and he had done what he had done.

He turned over onto his side and wondered about what he would do to pass the time. Watch porn? How could be so hungry for pleasure when Jenna had just left?

Mike pressed the palms of his hands against his eyes. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Why couldn't it work out the way he had wanted it to?

He knew that even now Jenna wasn't thinking about him. She'd be driving home in her car, with her sunglasses on even though it was still night. She'd be listening to music. He didn't even know what kind of music she listened to.

Staring at the ceiling, lying on your bed, passing the time. He couldn't call Jenna because they had nothing to talk about. He and Annie used to talk for hours.

Mike got out of bed and pulled on pants over his boxers. He got out a shirt and a jacket and walked downstairs, pulling on his clothes as he went. He wasn't sure if his mom was home and he didn't care too much if she was.

The garage door clattered open and he stepped out into the night. He unlocked his car, got in and backed out of the driveway. Street signs loomed up at him out of the night. He'd driven down dark roads before but he'd never come this way. The trees above him loomed dark and threatening. He went faster.

He managed to pull into the driveway right after she had. Her car door slammed shut and she looked at him as he got out of the car.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey," she said.

"Is it all right if I come in?"

She bit her lip, then shrugged. "Yeah. Sure. My parents are home, though."

"Do you care?"


Mike approached Jenna, looked down at her. She was so different from Annie. Annie had this wild, long curly hair that was this dark brown color, but she had really bright green eyes. Jenna's eyes were gray. Her hair was brown and straight.

Sometimes Annie would wear the same sweatshirt for weeks straight without washing it. Jenna never did.

Mike smiled at her. "If you don't care, then I don't care."

Jenna grinned too. "Then come on in."

Annie smelled like fruit and Jenna smelled like perfume. Annie tasted like mint and Jenna tasted like bubblegum. Annie had been open to him touching her in places like her stomach, or her thigh, just when they were alone and watching a movie, and he had never tried to just sit and watch a movie with Jenna.

Jenna led him upstairs.

Annie was a double-sided coin and although he and Jenna didn't really talk about anything of importance, Mike felt like he knew everything about her.

Jenna shut the door.

Sometimes Annie would fling her arms around his neck in the hallway when they were talking and kiss him. It showed in her eyes when she was happy.

Jenna peeled her shirt off and sat down on the bed to undo his belt buckle. When he had met Jenna, they had both been virgins. They had given their virginity to each other, traded hers for his.

"You ok?"

He got down beside her.

"Yeah… I'm cool."

When Mike got home later that night, his mother demanded to know where he had been. He replied that he had been busy bombing the neighbor's houses and freeing all the tigers from the zoo.

"That's not the truth, Michael!"

"No shit."

He went upstairs, turned off his lights, and fell asleep on the bed fully clothed.