BY JENNIFER HOLLIE BOWLES
As Simone poked the plastic cheek of a woman pimping make-up behind a mall counter, the woman’s smile fell but her blue eyes remained like glass without reflection. Simone studied the eyes, wondering if the woman was alive or a mannequin. She walked down rows of logos and manufactured tubes, rubbing the caked film from the woman’s face between her fingers, which she stopped to sniff. They smelled of singed flesh and squished beetles. What a foundation, she thought. Silvery lights, not moon-silver, but glaring metallic, pained her corneas. Simone touched the crispy hair of another saleswoman. The woman’s head moved away from Simone’s touch slowly, her smile fell, and her voice said in the perfect chord of C major, “May I help you with something?”
Simone considered the absurdity of the question, and her eyebrows cinched together. The woman came into focus. Simone laughed and said deadpan, her green eyes flashing with insight, “No.”
Simone couldn’t remember how or why she came to the mall. Her stomach churned uncomfortably, and she wondered whether or not she could hold her potato chips down another second, so she ran through the mall, gusting through people, past the shoe stores and futuristic ice-cream dots to a side exit for smokers and thieves. She flew open the dirty door and stepped past the smoke, holding her chips, until she reached a safe distance away.
“Oh my God, I have to puke too,” said a voice from behind. Simone turned around, wiping the film from her mouth. A guy with shaggy dark hair stood, thin white t-shirt lynching down, pelvic indentions staring at her like transfixed demigods. Simone became mesmerized with the piquant spaces, so she ran her finger along the left side valley. Danny smiled at her before he lurched to release his chips. “Plain, rippled,” he said.
They laughed. Simone realized that she had momentarily—or maybe much longer—forgotten who she was, what she looked like, and what she was wearing. She looked down at her body and saw khaki cargo pants and a green t-shirt with a Cheshire cat. Alice, she thought. No, I’m Simone. She felt pleased to have remembered her name.
“I’m Simone,” she said. “Ha-ha,” Danny replied, fumbling with the chain dangling from his pants. Without asking his name, Simone grabbed his chain and guided him across the parking lot. “I live over there,” he offered, pointing at a nearby apartment tower.
The apartment stairs went on for days, lip after lip. Danny’s apartment smelled like Nag Champa, and his brown couch looked scratchy. Simone took off Danny’s shirt. I guess he wants to see these, she thought, taking her shirt off too—no bra—and bounced her breasts up and down. Danny touched her right nipple, “boop,” he said. She rolled her eyes and scoffed at him, slipping his pants and boxers down. Her fingertips got lost in his valleys, and she shoved him onto the couch. “Oh,” he said as he realized what she wanted to do, “ha-ha.”
Simone removed her cargo pants and boy-short panties. She became wet from the idea, or the memory. Her mind still felt fuzzy, but something about wanting to fuck him seemed more natural to her than being in the mall touching silicone faces and crunchy hair. She straddled him, watched it slide in—it took a long time—and the feeling of fullness reached to her stomach with soft pain. She glided her hips up and watched her frame curl back down to hide his dick, steadier, until the drive of wanting more took hold of her, as he took hold of her ass. She pounded him into her until she came.
Simone waded across the hardwood floors and through the triangulated walls of his apartment to the bathroom. She sat down on the slick rim of the white porcelain basin, washing away the slime from her hole. Simone left the apartment without saying goodbye and walked across fields of black asphalt pores, feeling like a sparrow. She smelled grease, and her stomach growled. She went inside the neon place and ate half of her French fries, but then she stopped because the greasy faces she saw made her wonder if she were eating parts of faces, or if the face fluids had been used to fry potatoes.
When Simone got home, she noticed scratches on her knees. She went to class the next day, talked to people she remembered knowing, shifting back into her other reality, but she felt lost, as if she were still forgetting something, like that guy, or something else about herself connected to things. Some strange things or moments or spaces between things and moments, lost. Like a dream—must have been—but then, what was the difference?
Months later, she remembered his name was Danny and he had said, “You shut your chips!” And that had pissed her off. Simone went back to the mall to do whatever she had forgotten to do months before. Danny walked into the mall behind her with the same puzzled look on his face—and then they both remembered at the same time. Mushrooms and chips.
Danny and Simone fought through the drones, painted lips, and hollow eyes. They ran past consumer incantations to the dirty exit door. Simone swung open the door and saw Simone lying on the ground with gravel in her ear, surrounded by lurched chips. Simone touched her own cheek until it warmed to her touch, until the alabaster turned light pink. She crawled back inside herself and stood up, happy to be back inside her own face. Simone grabbed Danny’s hand and led him to his apartment by his dangling chain. She thought his face looked beautiful.
Jennifer Hollie Bowles lives in Knoxville, TN where she plays guitar with the ghost of her father, edits The Medulla Review, and writes to prolong breathing.
Her writing has been published in numerous venues, and she is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Fire and Honey (Flutter Press, 2010) and Guerrilla Love (Propaganda Press, 2011). Jennifer is addicted to the orgasmic bliss of verbal darkness.