"I wouldn't do that if I were you," she told me the first time we met.

"Do what?" he replied.

"Make me fall for you. I told you before when we met at the bar," she said "that I could use a man like you."

"So why in the hell," he asked "did you lie to me?"

"To protect you," she quipped "from going off half cocked and going to jail. You know how your temper is?"

When you argue with the 'Mother of All Lies', knowing the truth helps a lot. Why? Because if its gone, all else sounds dangerously plausible. He was sick to his stomach at the idea that he'd just proposed marriage to Pam. Still, there remained those beady eyes that always glared at you as if evil was their hobby. Oh how they pierced his soul in a fleeting manner not unlike the way jackals approached the fallen carcass of a run-off pride of lions' kill.

Beneath a vile veneer, there always seemed to be the admirable essence of a brazen scalawag. Pam was always one who remained fearless in the face of any incriminating charge he might fling her way.

Her voice trailed off, withering away like rising smoke from a fading fire. It was as if some one had accidentally turned down the soundtrack from 'Conan-kill them all flick.' And as always, he did. She wasn't quite sure whether or not he'd buy into her ploy. She had words a sucker like him wanted to hear.

He recalled when the sun arose on that bright and cold wintry morning last December. The sensation of icy winds blowing under the door scraped at his toes as they slammed onto the tawdry motel room floor. The stench of old pizza filled the darkened room. He felt a choking feeling as he a carefully fired a well-aimed gym-shoe at the beckoning alarm clock. It was half past eleven and time for work.

Need to make another weeks rent-still tortured by shame-my days are numbered.

.

Quietly, he looked at his woman lying seductively next to him. She was curled up like a small kitten, entranced with the selfish joy of its own existence. Things had not gone well. Not since he hurriedly moved in with her several weeks ago, out of that flea-infested motel. Like a man who overstayed his welcome, the party seemed to be over and he had nowhere else to go.

With the eastern Ohio sun glaring thru his window, Pam continued to tell him of her life. She spoke reverently of her past loves and all that she hoped for in the future. Her voice was raspy in a sultry way. She spoke of how hard it was to find a decent dating companion who shared her love for film, quiet evenings at home and good conversation.

Damn those acid-tongued, male-bashing chicks. All those dames took great joy in displaying their skills at verbally abusing any man. Especially the clowns like me. Fools stupid enough to be drawn to the flames.

Now, his hands shook and his head ached but still his eyes could not tear themselves away from her. She turned and threw his mail into his face without a word. Her lips pursed and her eyes gleamed.

"What was that for," he shouted. "You aint' got no reason for treating me that way."

"If you don't like, then leave butt-hole."

"And go where? I gave up everything I had to be with you. All my bridges have been burned to a crisp and ya' know it. I thought you loved me; why do you treat me that way?"

"You get treated just the way you deserve," she jokingly sneered. "What makes you think you should get anything better."

"What are you talking about?" he hollered.

"If your ignorant butt" she icily retorted "hadn't decided to play cat-daddy to that two-bit piece of trailer trash and her crumb-snatching brood, ya' might've been gettin' a better cup of tea here. Instead, your gonna get yourself killed just bein' stuck on stupid"

"So, now," he said "your telling me that bringing her home from the station to live with us wasn't your idea too? You kept pushing me away; kept on harping and complaining anytime I wanted to get some lovin' from you. What the hell did you expect?"

"You damned fool. I expected more than you'll ever know and I'm gonna' get it."

He watched as she kept fondling the plain white envelope within her hands. It was stamped but had no address on it.

"What's in that letter? My insurance papers or something?"

Slowly, with a dryness exceeded only in the wasteland of desolate deserts, she smirked. Picking up the TV remote lying between her long black legs on the tattered bedspread, she changed channels and chuckled under her breath. The two of them lay together in bed, separated by blankets and comforters that she had placed between them like the Great Wall of China.

The light of day filtered through the bed sheets covering the windows in place of drapes. He reached his knee over towards her thigh in an effort to both feel her naked flesh and to signal her he was ready. Responding, she turned away while using her hand to push his leg off.

He saw the front door; it served both as entrance into and exit out of a thing. This awful thing that he was in. Their agreement struck not with words but with their tolerance and struggle to share an existence with its own naked truths.

"I need you Baby," he said. " We can make this thing work between us."

"That's what I'm afraid of. You do need me and it just might work. I'm not trying to change your mind and you can't change mine."

"That's just it. Nothing is ever going to change. We're fooling ourselves; living under a delusion that we're making life better for one another. I don't have time for that. I don't need you to change jack shit in my life."

For when shame and pain reared up to assault this thing they protected between them, only the truth of their feelings for one another prevailed and conquered. But, it was this singular realty of their emotions that remained their personal mountain to climb.

"You is more afraid of me leaving," He pondered "or that I might stay; which one is it?"

"Both of them."

He thought often about how she'd promised to try and get up in the morning. Instead she languished about in the afternoon from last nights latest episode of booze and weed. She told him she'd see about taking him to pick up his impounded car and out to get cigarettes and maybe a beer since he had been behaving so well lately. He knew she wanted him to go.

"It aint' fair that while I think you should become more open and receptive to help me; you feel the opposite way," she said.

She bolted upright in bed and folded her legs beneath her like a fake yogi dispensing ancient wisdom. Their values began to reveal themselves as not being so different by definition but alien by the method of how they would be expressed within their relations. Under the heat of battle one person will strike out while another flees. So it was with them.

"Time, aint' our friend," he replied.

She now spoke to him with the tone of a woman betrayed. As she reached out for his trust he jerked away; beleaguered by bouts of insecurity; fed by misunderstanding of her unspoken motives.

The effect took its toll upon their waning patience to let love have a decent chance. In their own way, they groped desperately for some means to cope with being responsible for the heart and sprit of the other.

The challenge remained. Looking to change neither knew how. The sound of a Sunday morning's rainstorm draped his ears like the shroud of Turin upon His corpse.

The rat-a-tat-tat of the grayish raindrops upon the small kitchen window seemed to fit his current mood. He watched with morbid fascination streaming roaches that marched across a table.

House belonged to us, not just her. Or does it? I didn't mind the vermin. Just an inconvenience...

The handwriting was on the wall. He could smell her irritation whenever they passed each other in the apartment. He hadn't been to work for over 10 days

Maybe I'll just conjure the passion inside my soul into her black heart. Man, I really just pray that a spark of love is still there.

Once more he asked her that question.

"Ya still love me baby?" he whispered.

She turned towards him, grinning from ear to ear. Pam's grin exuded a cunning slyness that made him shiver.

"The question is," she spoke with that strangely nasal, erratic tone "whether your love will last." It reminded him of a world-weary teacher trying to pound an innocuous lesson into a clueless student.

"Well do you love me?" she laughed.

It was as if her question superceded both the reality and the absence of a love that should have been there between them. Before he could go on any further, she performed her chilling overture.

"You had better love me."

Worse, he knew no matter what, this was as good as it would ever get. The paradoxes of love turning to hate, promise to sorrow and cognition to confusion became overwhelming. He'd approached what Carl Jung termed the conjunction of opposites; conscious mind versus subconscious Id. He couldn't live with his dishonor. So, he decided to end it all.. But the Lord had other plans for him.

A bright glimmer of cold and golden sunlight shone through the narrow kitchen window as she stood by the stove. To her left, the steady rush of water gushed forth from the twisted faucet of the sink. The smell of percolated tea permeated the room as she tossed a spoon onto the cracked porcelain of the counter. She turned towards him, moving her 5'6" svelte ebony frame gracefully, but her eyes quickly refused to settle upon his. It was morning and they had just gone through another night tossing and turning in an effort to avoid physical contact with one another in bed.

He sat on the metal card table chair next to the antique oak dining room table and stared at the cell phone that blinked its green on light. He knew yet another call, probably from a bill collector had come through. He had no answer for their questions. Nor had he a response to her question as to why he had been at the train station that morning before. But he remembered.

Yesterday's fiasco had begun for him at the Amtrak commuter station where he had gone to make his yearly pilgrimage. Every first day of March for close to three years he would get dressed up in his only suit which he never wore at any other time and go to the place where he had told his daughter to come and visit him. The two of them hadn't seen one another for seven years. When he had written her, he used the last known address that had been given to him by his son a few years before.

But never had there been a return call nor had his daughter, now grown and married with kids of her own, ever met him at that station. Yet, he always came.

He grabbed his chest just as the Amtrak commuter train rumbled over the sun-drenched horizon. The shriek of the train's whistle harkened feelings of a rising terror that began to swell in his throat and threatened to burst forth. The station's platform began to rumble beneath his well-worn black penny loafers. The dry, arid breeze blew hastily into his weather-etched face, forcing him to frown even further. His blood streaked, bleary eyes blinked rapidly as he sucked on his tongue, still tasting the stale remnants of yesterdays booze. Two black crows cawed as they drifted effortlessly overhead as if playing tag with the plumes of white clouds. He spat onto the old rickety wooden platform.

This time would be different, he thought.

He felt the one-way ticket he had bought in his shirt pocket and crumbled it between his tobacco stained fingers. Next to it, the single .45 caliber bullet remained. In back of him stood a young pregnant woman who looked to be about 23 or so. Beside her there were two toddlers who yanked incessantly on her black and gold heavy cotton dress as the cool breeze of late winter ruffled the garment like a flag causing it to unfold about her spindly legs which were the color of well creamed coffee. They were smooth and reminded him of buttered turkey meat for some reason. A tall, slender black conductor faced her, trying to explain how she could tell whether or not this was her train approaching. Each time he spoke, she kept on jerking her head as if looking over her shoulder.

She was in an awful hurry alright and she said so to the gum-smacking young conductor who kept bobbing his head to an unheard rap-beat that existed only to his own mind. She looked scared and her eyes were very wide as if anticipating danger around every corner. He noticed that the kids clothing looked to be thrown on them in a fit of disarray and haste. He caught her eye as she peered at him shyly. For a brief moment, they became fellow travelers. Both awaited an even more ominous future.

When the conductor left her, he moved towards the edge of the track and focused his attention of the train as it pulled into the station. His stomach began to hurt. He didn't know whether to go or to stay. On the other end of this line no one would be waiting. At this end no one was keeping him there either, he thought.

"I 'm sorry, Mister, but me and my kids don't have any money. Could I borrow train fare just to get up the road to the next town?"

"What was that you said," he replied.

"Well, I need your help Mister; just a few dollars so as I can feed my kids and get outta' this place." She looked at him with big bright eyes that reminded him of Candy, the mother of his kids.

She fidgeted while she waited for an answer but still; she moved closer to him and opened up her coat to reveal her hefty cleavage. The mission of an honorable death in another place on the way back to his baby girl dissolved in the flames of lust.

"Sure, lets go somewhere and talk up on it, O.K.?"

Again, he grasped at the lone bullet lodged in his shirt pocket. Instead, what he felt was two one hundred dollar bills. He pulled them out and she smiled coyly as she saw him remove them from his shirt pocket. The crows cawed three more times as they left the train station arm in arm. The toddlers now pulled at his beaten London Fog trench coat like birds of prey.

"Where is the car? Did ya geek it, again you idiot?"

Last night's binge hovered over him like the angel of death. He didn't answer.

"Look, I told you last night when I called you for the cab that…"

The doorbell interrupted them. She moved from the kitchen into the rear bedroom and threw a pillow violently at the hallway wall. He answered the door and before him stood the girl from the station.

"Come on baby, I found your car and I got the keys too. Lets go and finish the party we started, O.K."

There came a shrill command from the woman he had confessed his enduring love to.

"Gone ahead and do whatever it is you like to do. Don't let me stop your show. I got things I need to do."

He left. One trap was as good as the next. He reveled in being the prey. And so did she.

The call came around midnight just after she had finished her shift. She hadn't yet pulled her coat off and rushed towards the phone. The house was dark and empty. Beer cans littered the dining room table as roaches scurried for cover away from this invader.

"Hello, is this Ms. James?"

"Yes it is."

"This is the police department. Does a Mason Lee live at that address?"

"Yes, is he alright because I haven't seen him for a while?"

"I regret to inform you that he is dead. We found his body in a motel room on the Upper East Side. Apparently he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. We'll need for you to come downtown and make a statement after identifying the remains."

"Oh my God?."

"I'm sorry ma'am; are you going to be alright?"

"Yes officer, I'll be just fine now."

She hung up the phone and took off her coat. Opening the refrigerator door, she snatched out a 24-ounce beer and took a long slug. The doorbell startled her for a moment. She went to the door and opened it, returning to her seat at the table near her brew.

"Well come on in and put your things in the back. Just move his old stuff out of the way; he don't need it anymore. Your money is on the table."

She smirked as the girl and her toddlers came in. The envelope holding his insurance papers fell onto the table out of her coat pocket while she searched for her cigarette pack.