The Park

Men approached. Hannah instinctively guarded -- thinking they’d snatch her bag -- when she should know by now that they’d prefer to bag her snatch.

 

“Do you have a light?” double tattoo sleeves asked. It looked like he’d done both arms himself, and he was right handed -- the inked design on his left was well executed, the one on his right, crap.

 

“Sorry, I don’t smoke.”

 

Hannah was just the right amount of pretty -- enough that shy, young men (with non-negligible egos) would ask for a light, stare for too long in her eyes, continue to thank her, long after she’d looked away; or old, ugly guys -- confident, but way past it -- would sit down on the bench next to her, trying it on, talking directly to her athletic body, their pupils dilating, filling their dark holes with her large breasts.

 

“I don’t believe you.” He sat down next to her, twisted, leaned his left arm on the section of the bench between them.

 

The face let her down from the pretty boys (thankfully, or she’d never be left alone), though there wasn’t much she could do about that, anyway. She only had control over her body, and she did her best to keep trim.

 

Looking in the other direction, she breathed out a sigh that he’d hear -- exaggerating the compression of her chest -- looked back round at him, right in the eye so there was no misunderstanding: you are not wanted here. “Oh yeah? And why don’t you believe me?”

 

“Look at the state of your teeth, your fingernails. Bitch like you smokes a lot, I reckon.”

 

She looked at him for a time, blinking, before replying with a firm, “Fuck you.”

 

“Don’t get me wrong, darlin’; I like a woman who smokes.”

 

“And I suppose you like bitches, too?” She could see his eyes tracing her body; was suddenly very aware of her tight mini-shorts, ripped fishnets and white vest top.

 

“Nah, not really. Not real ones ... but, then, you’re not a real bitch.”

 

“I am if it means you won’t be interested -- I’m bad news. Evil.”

 

“I don’t believe that for a second.”

 

“You know nothing about me.”

 

“I know what I see. I know that women who are actually bad news don’t tell people they’re bad news.”

 

He had a point.

 

“Yeah, well, I’m waiting for someone.”

 

“Is that your sleeping bag?” he pointed to the bag next to her -- her home for the past few nights -- and she tried to push it back, stuffing it through the gaps in the bench. “I mean, Jesus, how long have you been waiting for this dude?”

 

“Funny.”

 

“I don’t think he’s coming.”

 

“He’s coming.”

 

“You don’t need him though -- you can sleep at my place, any time.”

 

“Do you have a piano?”

 

“A piano? No, I -- ”

 

“I’ll pass, then, thanks.”

 

“You prefer to sleep in the park?” He moved his hand with all the finesse of a musical conductor, motioning to the trees interlocked in green and brown -- leaves touching, weaving into a canopy free from colour-discrimination -- above. It was a world we had yet to accomplish on ground level.

 

“I prefer to sleep under a piano.”

 

“Nice.” He looked her up and down again, reassessing with new information. “I like a girl with class.”

 

“Class? Pfft.” She looked into the distance, wanting Marco to arrive sooner.

 

“Do you do beds, or just pianos?”

 

“They call me The Starfish.”

 

“Why’s that?”

 

“I sleep with my arms and legs splayed, taking up all the bed.”

 

“I don’t mind you taking up my bed, girl.” He inched closer.

 

“You do those yourself?” She nodded towards his arms.

 

“Yeah, you like ‘em?”

 

“Not really.” She looked away again, emphasising disinterest.

 

“Too bad. Still, I like a woman who knows what she likes, says what she means.”

 

“And one who smokes.”

 

“Sure doesn’t hurt.”

 

“Well, you’re shit out of luck, friend, ‘cause I don’t have a light and you don’t have a piano.”

 

He took his arm off the bench, pointed at the ground. “The fuck are all these candles, then?”

 

She ignored him -- she only had two matches left, was never going to waste them on this prick – and, instead, returned her gaze to the distance, the other side of him.

 

“Come one dude, let’s go,” his friend said. Hannah had all but forgotten about him, standing over both of them, watching theatrics unfold.

 

The guy got up, and Hannah thought she was in the clear, but he grabbed her arm – pinching her around the elbow -- shoved his face into hers so she could feel his disgusting heat, his breath, his saliva. It felt like he had had somehow found his way inside her. “No one is waiting for you, slut.”

 

He released his grip, and left, leaving her with an arm, burning in the crook of the elbow – it was all she could think about for a second, before she relaxed completely, slumping back down into the bench, with a torpidity, nigh-on comatose.

 

There was an empty bottle of chocolate Frijj and a packet of ten custard doughnuts by the bench -- the drugs of the young. Opposite, needles. Between the benches, an empty soda can quivered in the breeze, and Hannah imagined insects inside, trying to make a home in the perceived earthquake.  

 

Then, Marco. Steam pouring off his shirtless body, riding his BMX, heaving one breath after the next, away from the skaters -- stacking it between grinds, ollies, kickflips -- and heading towards her.

 

She wished she was one of them – the riders of the street, the gymnasts, acrobats, artists of two wheels -- but she’d long since developed the fear. One fall too many, she guessed, plus women never seemed to have the same amount of balls that men did when it came to physical things like that.

 

The park, she’d always thought, was a place of firsts. The first drunken experience; the first piece of graffiti; the first run-in with the law; the first home away from home -- running over fences, away from dogs and wardens; the first place to break virgins – the spot of conception of most teenage pregnancies (conceive always sounded like an odd word to Hannah, as though there was ever the thought -- the idea -- to create a child). It was the same place you probably kicked your first football, threw your first basketball, ate your first picnic. It was your first swing, slide, grazed knee. Seemingly the venue of firsts, for all ages, maybe it was also the first place that old people realised they were old and did whatever it is old people do -- chess, or bingo, or some shit.

 

It was certainly the first for Marco and her. First fuck, first hit. She remembered his reasoning.

 

“If we take heroin then we can’t have orgasms anymore,” he’d said.

 

“That sounds shit.”

 

“You know what that means though? We can fuck for hours.”

 

“Hmm. Go on ...”

 

“Imagine it. The brown will make us relaxed, numb but heightened, and we can go on and on …” His hand was making its way up her thigh. “… and on.”

 

“Sounds nice.”

 

“Nice? It’ll be like kissing the fucking creator.”

 

“As long as I get to kiss you, that’s all that matters to me.” She snuggled into him.

 

So they started smoking it, at first, and were discussing injection sites within a few months. That’s the thing with heroin -- you build up a tolerance quickly, need to continually up the dose to even feel anything anymore (or -- rather – to not feel), to even be in the same room as the creator, let alone kiss him. Then there’s the purity level. There’s no MHRA or FDA for street drugs. If your new batch is gold, then you’ll fucking OD if you inject the same amount as the padded-out bullshit you’re used to.

 

Marco sat down on the bench and Hannah noticed a melange of weed and Oxo cubes, olfactory-wise.

 

“Marco, I was thinking, what if we don’t get high just yet? You know, like fuck with the system. Try it once without -- ”

 

“You don’t want to get high?”

 

“I do, but, I’m also thinking that’s what they want us to do.”

 

“They?”

 

“Yeah, that’s what’s expected of us.”

 

“Baby, you’re paranoid.” He stroked her hair, from the top of her head, all down the length. “A bit of smack will help that. Set you straight.”

 

“Please, Marco, fuck me, just once, without. We can shoot right after.”

 

“You’re asking me to fuck you. Babe, you won’t need to ask twice.“

 

“You have to catch me first.”

 

She got up, spun in circles on a patch of concrete -- arms wide, getting dizzy, waiting for him to grab her around the waist, make her feel thin, sexy. He leaned her back onto a rock, thrusted up against her. She talked about the colours in the sky -- the dispersion through the clouds -- didn’t care what anyone else thought as they watched him shove his tongue down her throat. Every time she looked up, the sky was a different shade of pink, and his tongue went deeper, like a needle -- a drug she couldn’t get enough of -- shooting, jacking, slamming into her blood.

 

But, no. Wait. No ... She started screaming in pain.  She was lying on the bench, reality settling back in, making itself comfortable where it wasn’t fucking welcome. The feeling had come back to her arm. It was purple, red, black, infected. Her eyes watered. Shit really hurt.

 

She wondered how many hours had passed, but guessed it didn’t matter anymore. She’d long since kissed the creator – full on fucked him, the first time she’d injected. And she knew she’d spend the rest of her life trying to get that feeling back, because she needed it, like she needed Marco.

 

She moved a limp arm over the lip of the bench, down to the ground. Tossed a needle into a bush for some kid to find.

 

One match left. She lit a tea-light candle, opened up the baggy Marco had tried – the newest batch that she hadn’t touched -- dumped it all on the spoon, extracted. She hunched over herself. Did she push the plunger? She could’ve sworn she did, but why was it still …

 

She felt someone brush her hair back, off her face.

 

“Marco?”

 

“Shhh, just sleep, baby.”

 

“Is that you, my love?”

 

She could feel his presence, next to her.

 

“I’ll be your piano.” His voice moved the fine hairs on the skin around her ear.

 

"Marco?”

 

She looked up, but there was no one.