He goes into the food and drug store while I keep watch outside. It is important that we not be stupid. This is a city we don’t own, which we have never visited before in our lives. The time since our last bath has made us smell completely wanton, like we’re bad apples. That is why I am not allowed to faint, no matter how hungry I get. If I swoon, there won’t be help. My body will not be held in arms until it can be laid gently among the reeds. Rather, my skull will split against, and brains will spill great fountains on the sidewalk. The crowd will continue, too busy to observe the tableau by their feet. If anyone hears my splash, they’ll see the dark sky and be convinced that it’s somehow got to do with rain.
Glancing at the road, I’m caught by the waxy sheen of cars that slip in and out of sight, threads sewn in the direction of home. We don’t know much about that. My empty gut says he’s in the soaps aisle. Detergent prices admonish him right now in red italics, scribbled on glossy stubs like toenails. He crouches, trying his best to compare and save. I have warned him not to do this, that his spine will soon graduate into a clothes hook. He can be so choosy, but never about what’s serious. Weather, for example. It has been awful all week. Clouds fuss, huge tomes of crystal surging in heavens adjacent to a nose.
I wonder if this hitchhiking, in its loneliness, makes him think about the girls. When we were younger, his bathroom erupted with them. I never got introduced. He scolded me and demanded I should hurry to bed, to read the next chapter of Creepy Mysteries or find my own method to be well-behaved. My answer was to glue myself to the shadows of closets, pantries, sheds, and basements, behind their backs and skirting the bounds of his attention.
One night from my darkness I saw the girls change shape. Panic rose in my chest and convinced me briefly that they were monsters. They got smaller and smaller, shedding layers and fitting into strange new clothes and drawing on their faces and pressing lips together so that I was sure the lips would disappear.
The transformation was complete. I could not believe what I had witnessed, that people could look so different from the way they’d started out. Stiff legs marched across the carpet, and a girl let out a sound, a sigh that outfitted a prayer. I watched as the object she uttered drifted towards the window, cracked open slightly to let more breath in. Outside, it glowed red and spun away. Meanwhile, girls approached the den, ducking beneath its entrance. They could no longer be seen from my hideout, as they had become themselves hidden behind a set of clouds, like the ones I see now. But as I remember, they were brown.
Licking my top lip, I attempt to guess where the weather is going. He says the horizon is the only safe bet.