1

Thin streams of fume loft
from burning candles, the
pungent smell of sugared cherries
making sweet eyes water.

Hair soggy and frizzed, it rests
along boney shoulders and settles
past breasts to resemble
a disheveled mermaid. The
apartment is a vast
bedroom, an open window
inviting the sound of heavy
rain. The patter competes
with an old record player,
it skipping with static. Wet
cobblestones glow under
orange streetlights far below,
tires driving through rain
interrupting the sight.

Tarnished gold, the woman
slips stockings on lotioned
legs and slides a crimson
stick across full lips. Perfume
lingers, masking an oily
musk she can still feel invade
her pores and make residence
inside her bones. Movement strikes,
and candle flames swirl with
tiny halos of dust. She pours
herself a scarlet glass of wine,
since here she has a heart,
a charm; she is not just a body
that helps pay the rent. She
lies upon a bed of rich satins
and silks, lipstick-stained cigarette
butts lining a glass ashtray on the
sweetheart bed. The music
conquers the slowing rain
outside, lifting up and mixing
with air thick of incense and
amber. The woman plucks
jewelry from a pile of pearl
necklaces, scoops a handful
of white pills on the accent table,
takes another swallow of wine on
the Davenport. It is routine,
near ritual.

She readies herself to leave
the plush world of luxuriant
pillows and polyester blankets,
a strong reserve serving as armor.
The stroll out into the dark is a
swipe of a timecard. A biting
breeze nips at her nose and sweeps
up her thick jacket. With the
vibrant wine-red umbrella,
she meanders down a path often
traveled. Wet bullets hit the shield
and others less fortunate fall pass
the red nylon, absorbing a potent
scent of wine and cherries to flavor
puddles. The weather attempts a
cleansing, but the woman tightens
the jacket and sinks her umbrella closer.
The dim burn of street lights
advertising for her, a consistent
spotlight as she walks on
wet cobblestones.

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