The Heap

It's Thursday and you're at a party, sipping poison from a little red cup because this makes you feel better. It's been a long week and the demands of your schedule are such that you pound the first serving of poison and order another. Down inside your guts, a vast furnace made of acid mashes the poison apart into little flakes and runs it through your bloodstream.

You're smiling and chatting with a guy and he's drinking poison too.

The party is in a refurbished little house on frat row. Not quite condemned. Not entirely safe either. Dust and dirt and smaller, more living things have been stirred up by the movements of bodies on the dance floor, and in between poisonings you take some of that aerosolated mixture into your lungs. Tiny automated mouths chew it away where it gets inside you. For the moment, those mouths are fast enough to keep up with it.

Your conversation is going well.

So well, in fact, that you have a desire not to be here any more. Not in the terminal-indefinite sense, the way you sometimes hope for late at night when the chattering of neurons in your head is keeping you from sleep, but in the very specific not-in-this-house meaning of the phrase. You step onto the back porch and the night air is cool and feels good on the bare skin of your arms.

A single late-autumn mosquito whines its way past, then lands on your shoulder where you don't notice it. It dips a mouth like a tattoo artist's equipment into your bloodstream and pushes a brief spurt of debris in with the red before it starts to drink.

More of your little hungry mouths respond.

If they did not, you would be dead inside of a week.

The guy you are chatting with says something witty enough and you laugh. You swat the mosquito and shift closer. His face is as broad and luminous as the moon and you push up into it to kiss him.

Past the contact of your lips is the sky; a different kind of skin. It filters out some of the little x-ray trickles from the universe at large. Others get through. One glances off of your hipbone and glides through a kidney, changing genetics where it passes. You do not notice.

You are flushed and hungry and your own breath smells to you of vodka and cranberry. You pull back for a second but the guy does not seem to have minded.

There is not a shooting star overhead. That would be pointless and melodramatic and childish besides. Flickers of hard, burning stone should not fall from the heavens at every casual contact between bodies.

But just in case, you kiss him again.

Time passes, contracted by slow conversation and synchronized breathing. The poison is still orbiting your veins. Wearing at your liver by minute degrees. Your skin – the parts that can be seen, at least – is aging and dead. So is the guy's, but you don't think about him wrapped in cemeteries. He leans in and asks in your ear if you want to go.

Anywhere else.

Just not here.

You agree, and he takes you to his car. There is vodka on his breath too, but not enough that it matters. He thumbs the ignition and the lights go up and rubber turns and you're amongst pavement and headlights and then the flicker of passing trees.

An animal runs from the brush on the right side of the road, reconsidering its trajectory at the last possible moment. You do not hit it. Bumps in the road slap against the tires, but they do not send you off course and into the woods. You are not reduced to a tangle of wreckage and limbs.

You stop at the guy's house. It is well-lit, bordered on both sides by others that are lit, and the nervous chatter in your head quiets a little at this. You wish you had another cup of poison. He invites you in for stimulants instead.

On the way up, you stumble on the stairs. It's just a tiny thing, but your fur-rimmed boots clomp down too hard and then your shin bangs against the ledge of the next step ahead and now you're swearing and red in the face and hoping impossibly that he didn't notice either of these things.

In your shin, cells respond to the trauma by multiplying. You will not be quite the same as you were before the collision, but they will shore up the gaps.

These things always happen to me, you think as the guy helps you up.

And then you think no more of it as you go inside.

The stark truth, however, is that you are right. In the last couple hours you have been poisoned, infected, irradiated, and contused.

At what point should you have realized that you were under attack?