I was stepping out of the Metro Store and sniveling to myself. Someone had jimmy’d my car door and stolen my $700 cell phone, which meant that I was forced to return to the Metro Store, and walk out with my aunt’s prehistoric flip-phone in my hand, and its brick-sized wall-charger. Not only that, but the valedictorians who jimmy’d my car had ruined the car door altogether, meaning that I was going to have to hop over the passenger seat again to drive, and pray to God that no one saw me. It had cost $7 to reactivate my new number and the moment that I flipped the phone open, prepared to eventually grumble and snap it closed again— it rang.
”. . Whose this?”
"What? You don’t recognize the voice of an absolute stranger?"
"Well, I can’t really say that we’re strangers actually. It’s recently come to my attention that you’ve been stalking me, Stephen."
"It’s Elliott, Stephen . ."
Suddenly the film jumped and sputtered off the reel, and my casual stroll became surreal and unfamiliar. In a single heartbeat, even the color around me had changed, and I felt like I was in a panel of a comic, a panel where all the extras in the scene were one flat color so only the main character could stand out . . but I was an extra.
The human heart is filled to the burst with moments like these, tiny moments in time where the air catches in your chest for a heartbeat, and my own heart felt like it was swiftly dropping into my diaphragm. It was somehow growing on the way down, and felt like a time bomb.
“Elliott . .”
"Look, some friends and I are meeting under the overpass. Save my number . . and come too."
I did more than just arrive. I wore my black wizard hat and my old leather jacket, the one I wore when the two of us would walk to the marshes, play with tarot cards, and pass pear-shaped bottles of champagne back and forth. I brought the tarot deck with me, a handful of frosted green buds, and my iPod, in case we decided to goose-foot on top of cars like we used to. We would always crank the volume on our radio until it exploded with the Digable Planets in those days, so that we could still hear the brass section over the car alarms. Such sweet times. Was I a fool to believe it could still be this way? I was, and that was okay, because all lovers are fools, and lovers never lose.
It was raining when I arrived stomping through puddles to the grasslands along the freeway, and the rainwater was curving over the overpass like a waterfall, making a shimmering iridescent curtain for the entrance below. The water drummed on my wizard hat as I ducked into the underpass, and I hugged a line of familiar faces, all of which were yelping and wearing wizard hats. And next to the parked car was Elliott, leaning against the dark Lexus with his sad dog eyes, smoking a cigarette.
His hair was in messy jet black swirls, and his smoky beard curled around the zippers of his leather jacket. But most important of all, he still had the scar, that beautiful incision that ran from his left eye, across his bee-sting lips, and disappeared beneath the right side of his chin. I pulled out my tarot deck from the back pocket of my jeans with a look of both cunning and innocence, and pulled out one card, smirking.
"The Magician," he smirked back, curling his pompous upper-lip.
It was The Magician, but I think he knew this, because he didn’t wait for me to answer. He just pulled out his own deck from his own back pocket (Oh Gosh!) and pulled out his own card. I became still and I knew.
He flipped the card over and it was indeed the Pope, also called the Hierophant, sitting with his sceptre. I wanted to cry, and intuiting this, Elliott hugged me deep. He smelled like cigarettes, Irish Spring, and old worn-out leather, and I curled my weak arms under him and clutched his shoulders.
"I wonder you . ."
" . . I wonder you," he replied.
Oh, the rhythmical way that we breath! Our hearts sang bird songs at two different tempos, but in an instant of being near each other, our heart rates had synchronized. Five years.
"I change my mind," he said. "I want to take you out. Where do you want to go, flower?"
"Anywhere," I said. "I don’t care! I don’t care!" I beamed child-like.
And as I crawled into his car and packed a bowl, I felt the hot street hum under the squelching tires, and I shot cunning side-glances at my beautiful companions, singing the Smiths and passing around gin in the back seat.
Even when Elliott is focused on the road, out of my periphery, I still feel like he’s watching me, staring at me gently with his sad old dog eyes. I used to think the same thing all those years ago, when we would drive in the same Lexus and go on our numerous adventures. And that’s when I knew. That’s when I knew that Elliott wouldn’t be leaving anywhere ever again without me. That’s when I knew that I would follow him, and struggle for him, dance for him, and look at ugliness for him, and be there for him, for the rest of my life, from that day forward.