More Than Our Bodies

The headlights from the street slowly drifted across the closed curtains of Riley’s apartment with each car that passed. 

She lived far enough outside the city that there was little traffic this late. The only people on the road were bar hoppers and suburban kids driving around for something to do on a Saturday night.

“I just think we need to decide what we’re doing here,” Riley told me as I rubbed her back under her loose t-shirt.

She sat stiff and straight on my lap. As I pressed my palms against the curves of her toned traps, her eyes closed and her neck leaned backward until the crown of her head rested against my chest. I could feel myself get more tense as I felt every inch of her ass move on my thighs.

“Relax, Rie,” I said as calmly as possible. She was in one of her crises about the relationship. She had always been a neurotic person, but now her reservations and hang-ups about our future were becoming weekly.

Still massaging, I moved my hand up and over her slender shoulder. I rubbed the soft, exposed skin near her neck and kissed her shoulder. She sighed. Her muscles relaxed. With my hands under her shirt and up to her shoulders, the top was pulled up high enough to expose her soft, slender belly.

“I just don’t know where we’re going with all this. My law program is over at the end of May and you still haven’t even started looking for a new job,” she said. “You know the job market is a lot more competitive there – you’re not going to be able to just walk into a firm. You should have put feelers out weeks ago.”

Riley wanted to move to be near her family. She had been clear about that since we started dating almost a year ago.

I wasn’t against the idea, per se, but she was right – I hadn’t begun looking. I was happy in Philly. I was happy at Penn. I was happy with my job. I was happy with our relationship where it was.

I kissed her neck. My pants became tighter.

“Jake,” she whispered half-heartedly, “Stop. We need to talk about this.”

My hand moved back down her spine and around her waist, finally coming up to cup her breast.

“Jake, what the fuck,” she said suddenly, jumping to her feet and looking back at me.

“Come on, I’m just fooling around,” I complained. “You always calm down about this sort of stuff if we fuck. We can talk after”

Riley’s eyes went dour – her thin, red lips set in a pained line.

“I’m not your blow-up doll, Jake,” she spat at me. She started moving pillows and blankets, resetting the cushions and  furniture in the way women do when they’re angry.

“Rie, you were on my lap. You were leaning up against me and letting me feel you up, what was I –”

“All you ever want to do is fuck or grab my ass or pull at my clothes – I’m more than my body, you asshole,” she yelled, whipping a pillow at my head and knocking my glasses off.

I wandered out the door and into the Philadelphia  night.

I had planned to stay at Riley’s apartment, but with the sudden change of plans I was left wondering the best way to get back home. It was already going for 1:00am. I wouldn’t make it to the metro station before the trains stopped running. 

I smoked a cigarette and checked my ride app. The price was surging out of control at this time of night on a Saturday, even outside downtown. The bars were letting out. I usually saw taxis around the 7/11 half a mile from Riley’s, so I started walking.

Smoking a cigarette as I walked, I wondered if I would ever see Riley naked again. I would never admit it, but that was what I was worried most about losing at that moment. Riley was the best sex I ever had. I had told her as much. At the time, she loved to hear me say it. Now I was the villain for putting my hand on her tits.

Turning a corner, I flicked the cigarette butt into the street.

I stood less than a block away from the 7/11, waiting for a car to pass before I crossed the street. 

Just ahead, two drunk girls laughed hysterically on the sidewalk. They leaned against the concrete wall behind them. One rail thin and brunette in a skimpy dress, the other tall and more filled out with raven black hair that matched her trim leather jacket. They were cackling at a video playing on the blonde’s phone, which she held out in front for both of them to see. 

From behind, the tall one looked like Riley. Even her butt was round and tight like Riley. 

I wondered if she looked the same without clothes on.  

They glanced up at me for a millisecond  as I passed before returning to their video and bursting into another drunken fit of hysterics.

I kept walking. 

Approaching the 7/11, I saw three goons in Temple apparel climb into the only cab in the parking lot. Another one will arrive soon, I thought without worry.

I went inside. Browsing the coolers, I pulled out a bottle of Cherokee Red.

Cashing out, I couldn’t take my eyes off the cashier. 

For a split second, my brain had thought it was Riley. Her tan skin and silky black hair looked identical at a glance, and even her eyes were the same dull shade of blue. It took several seconds for me to start noticing the slight differences in the cheekbones and eyebrows. But her thin, red lips moved like Riley’s when we fucked.

“Sir?” the woman asked sternly. “Are you listening?”

I snapped to attention, “Oh, uh, I’m sorry. I blanked out for a second.”

“Your change,” she said flatly.

I walked out to the parking lot and a taxi sat idling in a space outside. I started to walk towards it but it backed out and pulled onto the street.

I sighed and sat down on the curb by the entrance. 

Just as I cracked open the plastic ring on the cap of my soda, the sound of crunching metal and smashing glass rang out through the neighborhood. 

Then – total silence.

Before I could think, I was on my feet and walking – then jogging – towards the cacophony. I saw it before I understood what was in front of me. The yellow vehicle was collapsed like an accordion against the concrete wall.

As I closed the gap between us, the details sharpened under the streetlights and I saw the Rorshachs of blood against the gray wall and on the yellow hood. 

I heard crying – then shouting, then screaming. My legs froze in place and I could do nothing but stare. A light turned on in an apartment nearby. Doors began to squeak open. I heard more shouting – then more screaming. 

My eyes spied the black hair splayed out on the sidewalk. I followed the strands up to the woman’s head, onto her neck, down her spine – the bottom of her torso was propped up in the air against the wheel well – leaned against the smoking carriage of the car. The shine of her hair melted into the torn and tattered leather jacket around her body

I could not see where her lower half had ended up.

I became aware of a crowd gathering. One man was yelling for the others to get back – “GET BACK, I SAID!” He had a cellphone in his hand and was yelling through the receiver for an ambulance. All the while, I could not take my eyes off the woman’s long black hair.

Stumbling forward and reaching out to turn her torso over, a heavyset man yanked me backward.

“Don’t, man,” the man told me. “She’s cut in half, dude. She’s dead. Don’t touch her.”

By the time I walked back to the convenience store, blue and red lights had fully illuminated the neighborhood. Sirens howled and people chattered frantically in all directions.

I planted myself in the same spot on the curb and stared into the empty parking lot. The bell of the store’s exit rang.

“Is that blood?”

I looked up and saw the store clerk – the same that checked me out. She pointed to my shirt. It was covered in red stains.

“Blood? I – Wait, I don’t –” I said, frantically feeling for a wound. Suddenly it dawned on me. “No. N-no, it’s not. I just spilled my soda when the crash happened.”

The woman nodded and brushed her shiny black hair behind her ear. She asked if I saw what happened – if anyone was hurt.

I told her that I saw one woman cut in half completely. 

She stared blankly down the street at the scene of the accident. Two paramedics were loading a body bag into the back of the ambulance. On the other side of the car, three more were knelt down doing something we could not see from the store. A blonde woman was on the ground.

“Her entire body was cut clean in two,” I said. “She was ripped apart.”

The clerk nodded.

“Well. At least we’re more than just our bodies, right?” she said and walked inside. 

Through the glass, my eyes watched her round ass swing from side to side.

I wondered if I should call Riley.

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