She Meets He, by Ellie Opulent

escalator
She’s young, maybe 25, and pretty. Going home from work with a heavy purple backpack, her peacoat buttoned halfway up and her dark red hair in a messy bun. He stands just behind her, his dark eyes fixated on the monogram adorning her backpack: ”WMA,” it reads. “Wanda,” he thinks. “Whitney,” perhaps. He checks his watch. As they stare ahead, the escalator grinds to a halt. They look around; they’re alone. She looks ahead, wondering if this is just a thing, a passing thing, or if it’s more serious. He clears his throat just as her orange mittens float to the step in between them. Sensing the perfect opportunity, he hands them back.

“Here, I think these are yours.”

She smiles, and they talk. Her name is Wendy, Wendy Alyssa Mason. Alyssa is her mom’s name. He’s Mark—Mark Osborne, after his grandfather Marcus. She works at a local preschool, as a one-on-one for a child with autism. He does lighting, for pornos. “Lighting?” she asks. “Yes,” he responds, “I make sure there’s no glare. You know how on network TV, they have to make the noses not shiny with lighting and makeup?” Yes, she answers. “Well, I do that, but for penises.” She looks into his eyes and smiles. “That’s hot,” she says.

Time passes, and it’s getting darker out. The stars start to come out. “The stars. They look a little bit like assholes. Small ones, you know. They’re the same shape as your average asshole. Maybe, a better than average, more symmetrical asshole. But a fairly typical, run-of-the-mill asshole.” She gazes at him in wonder, her eyes asking the question. “I know, I know, assholes are the absence of space. But you get what I mean.” She muses to herself, “We think in tandem.”

Is he in touch with his parents? “Yes,” he says. Do they see each other often? “No,” he laughs, “they’re dead.” She’s confused, yet intrigued. She looks at her watch. They’ve been here two hours, stuck on the escalator steps. They look up together to see a tall man of color walking down the steps. “Hey,” he yells, “you two lost? You know, you can just walk up.” They wonder if this is God, if he’s coming for them yet. She hopes not. She’s scared, but doesn’t show it. In a survival situation, she’s not sure she could cope. He turns to her. “Are you menstruating?” “No,” she answers. “If it came down to it, the fact you’re not menstruating would kill us. The blood would feed us and keep us alive. You’re really very selfish, Wendy.” She’s drawn in by his ingenuity, and slowly thoughts of death fade from their minds.

“Where are you from?” she asks. “Florida. The part of Florida that’s near Canada,” responds the man. “I’m from New Jersey, so I guess we have a lot in common,” she says.

He’s not an actor, but he’s tried. He’s been to auditions, to be the Geico lizard, or Flo, from Progressive. He never heard back, and in the telling of the story becomes choked up. She pats his back, her hand becoming bloodied from all the spikes.

They’re becoming more comfortable with each other as the night wears on, so she tells him, quietly, she needs to poop. He doesn’t poop, ever, but he sympathizes. “No. Never. Not once.” It’s been nearly four hours, stuck on this escalator. One time, she slips, and thinks she might be a goner. She falls a step, and climbs back up. He helps her. She grabs onto his shiny head for traction.

They speak of siblings-his brother was killed piranha fishing, she’s got an older sister who’s about to have her first child. She breaks down, she wants to live to see her niece. He comforts her. “Don’t worry, darling, it might be born dead. Then you’d regret all this effort.” “Or,” he continues, “it could be biracial.”

The next week, the escalator is fixed. The stairs move up and up, until they dump something on the landing. The bones of the woman have been picked clean. The man is alive, though barely. The scent of human is on his breath.

Ellie Opulent lives in the capital of the heartland of freedom and is too young to legally drink. Her super cool Twitter is @therealjc.

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