Chewing Gum

Posted on: August 27, 2015

The cold rain fell in sheets of vellum paper—thin and transparent enough to see the shapes and colors of the life it was trying to protect. We ran, like ink on a page, dripping sweat and pain and ecstasy. She had just finished working and I had just finished watching. She said she was tired and wanted to go home. I wanted to be anywhere but home. Home reminded me of my wife.

The sun had long set and slow jazz spilled from the speakers of the End Street Depot as we waited. She cried. Or maybe it was the rain, I couldn’t be sure. I hugged her close, smelling her hair—a mixture of lemon, rosemary, and artificiality. I liked it.

The train pulled into the station, slowly coming to a halt a few feet away from where we stood beneath the overhang. We held newspapers over our heads and ran into the safety of barren seats and chewed gum left to die on the metallic floor of the nearly empty car. She sat next to a window, avoiding me. I sat across the aisle, staring at her from behind the steel pole that stretched between floor and ceiling. Her sleek black hair now soft with damp waves. Her red lipstick smeared across her face—and mine.

“It’s not enough for me,” she said, watching the blurred landscape as the train sped out of the station.

“I’m sorry,” I replied, not knowing what else to say. I could feel unfamiliar eyes staring me down from a few rows up.

It started as sex. No strings. An escape from my life. She stayed with me for the money, the gifts, the things she couldn’t have as a stripper. I was fine with that.

“I can’t give you more.”

She turned to face me, her freckled nose crinkling in frustration. She was fucking beautiful.

“It’s not enough,” she repeated.

I sat up, as though correct posture might make this conversation easier. I turned to face her, my legs blocking the aisle. I no longer cared about who heard us. “Elana, I don’t know what else you want from me. This was the deal. A good fuck and a nice new dress…nothing’s changed.”

Everything has changed,” she said turning to face me, her eyes bloodshot. “I want--”

“I already told you—there’s nothing left to keep us apart. She’s gone!”

“I know what you said,” she snapped, turning back to the window.

I thought about the day I first met her. Stubb’s Hall. She lit up the stage with her black glittered heels and wicked smile. I thought about the slow burn of the whiskey as I watched her undress to the wail of the low saxophone behind her. I knew my wife would have killed me if she knew where I had been, but the whiskey had already convinced me that I didn’t care.

Sinking back into the hard seat, I let my hands fall helplessly to my sides. “I just need more time.”

“For what?” she yelled. “I’ve given you nothing but time!”

I told Elana I would leave my wife, but I didn’t mean it. In the same breath, I promised my wife that it was over, that I was through with Elana—she was just a toy, a plaything. Something to keep in my back pocket for the days I got bored—like chewing gum. She would ask why I got bored, but I never could seem to answer that question. The sicker she got, the more I clung to Elana—coming home with glitter stuck to my groin—and the less I tried to hide it.

“I just…I don’t know. It’s complicated. My God, she hasn’t been dead a month.”

The night my wife died, my heart broke. I buried it with her and I knew I would never get it back. I didn’t deserve it back. Fuck Cancer, I thought. Fuck me for being such an asshole.

The train jarred us both as it pulled into the next station. The rain kept a steady beat on the car’s metallic roof, falling harder. The soft shapes of the world outside now hid completely behind opaque sheets.

“You’ve had enough time, Shawn,” Elana said as she stood, steadying herself on the steel pole that stood between them. “I can’t wait another six months for you to decide what you want.”

I watched her tears fall in a stream of sparkling black. There was no mistaking them for rain this time. I shoved my hands in my pockets and made no attempt to go after her. The train jerked forward to the next station. I thought about my wife. Her innocent smile. The paper skin around her gray eyes. How I chewed her up and spat her out just like I did Elana. I hated myself.

The beckoning lights of Stubb’s Hall flashed pink through the window. I hadn’t realized that the rain had stopped, once again revealing the world around me. Bracing myself for the next station, I stood and took hold of the pole. The cold stung my hand. When the car had come to a complete standstill, I made my way to the exit. Apparently, this was where I got off. Stepping from the platform to the ground, I stopped as my foot caught on something. Inspecting the underside of my shoe, I couldn’t help but laugh. A wad of gum. Freshly chewed and strung along between the bottom of my foot and the hard metal floor.

Written by: Amber E. Box
Photograph by: Matthew Wiebe

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