Sweet Tooth

It wasn’t a crime.  It was almost a year after they received the same dick pic image and they swore off dating in order to avoid more abuse.  Sasha was the first to break.  She met a guy, a great guy named Robert.  A rich boy with a custom Porsche and a reservation in Beverly Hills for their first date.  Her best friends, who were also her housemates, teased Sasha and tried not to hate her too much.  Sasha felt guilty because she was the one who had proposed everyone go dry after the dick pic incident.  She forgot her guilt when her date rolled up in that Porsche.

Brown eyes with a shimmery iridescence, clean smile, and the right angles of symmetrical masculinity.  Her heart stuttered when he looked at her.  It had been doing that all night, but more so now that they were parked outside her house hours after he had picked her up.  It was time to give him an answer to the question he was too scared to ask, but she didn’t want to be a “whore” and ask herself.  She also felt sick, blaming the drinks she had but also thinking something else was wrong.  She couldn’t say what, but she knew she needed to slow down and think.  Sasha had all the trademark signs of tremendous love: heart skipping, dizzying shallow breath, and the warmth of her entire body blushing.  She couldn’t wait to tell her housemates.  Couldn’t wait to tell them how the world wasn’t as ugly and antagonistic as they had been lead to believe through experience.

She couldn’t wait, yet something was wrong.  They sat in silence.  Sasha felt sick, a soggy dread crept down her spine and languished in her gut for no reason at all.

Dating still had its perils.  Most of time Sasha and her housemates hadn’t been on dates to earn the hate they received.  Walking down the street was like walking through sniper fire in a toxic wasteland.  Almost a year ago The Timmy Incident happened when Sasha received a grainy penis photo from Timmy, a man who seemed like a good guy, and he even made several remarks about being a good guy between calling her a “slunt.”  Sasha had to give the boy props for the clever mashup of “slut” and “cunt,” but the motive behind the combination was violent.  Creativity sparked by malice was the trademark of a true psycho.  Almost a year to the day Timmy had contacted Sasha over a dating app and it started off well enough until she neglected to message back.  Forty-three-seconds later she got a dick pic for ignoring his last message.  After that it was nothing but rape and death threats.  Timmy had done the same thing to other women, including all of Sasha’s housemates on that night alone.  He was like a serial killer with a nervous twitch and a sledgehammer thinking he was a surgeon and all women were in his waiting room.

Timmy’s cock was nothing extraordinary except that the photo’s white balance was off, giving the sex organ a green sheen, like something found rotting beneath fresh produce.  Sasha had sent the picture (plus screenshots of words and phrases Timmy used) to everyone Timmy knew, including his female relatives.

“Let’s see how he likes it.”  Sasha said as her housemates watched her send the blackmail materials.  Twenty-four-hours later Timmy deleted his presence from the Internet and that’s when Sasha and her coven of bitches made a pact to forgo dating for an undecided amount of time.  Even though the shaming worked, validating its use was not worth the requisite mental anguish and social anxiety of being hunted by strangers.

In the meantime, they concentrated on school and their futures rather than on “carpe noctem” as the English master in their group liked to say before they pelted her with whatever was at hand.  Sasha never threw anything, at least the English master had achieved her goal whereas Sasha had tried to become a doctor and failed.  This was not her only failure, it was just one of many disappointing aftershocks ever since puberty.

Tonight was different.  The air tingled with delight.  Her date seemed like a good guy.  A beautiful gentleman made rarer by the money and manners he flaunted.  Her guard was almost down.  Laughter came easy, and he listened to her nervous banter.  She wanted to grab him by the ears – do not fuck this up, stay this course, you are man’s last hope!

She wished she had taken selfies with the Porsche.  The restaurant for their date was located in a five-star hotel in Beverly Hills.  Neon lights faded through impossible colors, million dollar sports cars sparkled.  He was dressed in bespoke Armani, she wore an old prom dress revitalized by an amateur costume designer on Etsy.

The food arrived in five courses.  A whirlwind of clinking glasses, red to white wine to crystal thimbles of exotic port.  The dishes shrank as the sexual tension grew.

“No desert, thank you.”  Robert said, dismissing the waiter with a smooth wave.  Robert asked if she was alright.  In retrospect this was when she started feeling ill.  It began with happiness.

“Yes.”  Sasha managed to say between missed heartbeats, with a purr, no less.  She wanted to scream it.  She was glad the atmosphere was dim otherwise Robert would have seen that she was tickled (literally) pink by the glamour and his chivalry.  Still, skipping desert indicated things were about to change.  He was getting confidant and it excited her.  At first she thought he had the foresight to get a room, but on their way out he steered her past the reception desk.

“I don’t want to keep you out late.”  He said with a shy smile.  Like an idiot she had talked non-stop about her job.  She was a pharmacist just down the street from the hotel, in fact.  She had bitched about her early shifts.  Somehow she had stopped from telling him her life was a big disappointment, did I mention I could have been a doctor if I wasn’t so easily steered?  I’m not saying I’m easy… here’s an unrelated question, What’s your policy for carry-on baggage?  Is this normal to feel sick when I am oh so happy?  

She worked at five in the morning, and Robert was such a gentleman that he wasn’t going to impose.  Oh, no, please, do!  She wanted to say, but instead she wobbled on the wines and port to deliver a kiss that she hoped would destroy the gentleman inside him.  Robert dodged the kiss and caught her in his strong arms.  Robert embraced her so warmly that Sasha fell back into the chaste fairytale he had constructed.

He drove her home.  Somehow Robert knew where she lived.  Sasha started to disbelieve her good fortune.  It’s too perfect.  Of course I drank too much.  I fuck everything (let me finish!) up.

“Sasha?”  He said, a waver in his voice that killed the dead air and her inner turmoil.  Sasha blinked slow, drunk on hormones and alcohol, and something else in her blood, a sick anxiety pounding in her ribs that made it hard to breathe and her heart race.  She had always been nervous around boys.  Nervous not only because she had bad encounters before, but because she had been raised to be a good girl, which was as full of contradictions as the Bible.  She felt her mouth filling with spit.

“Yeah?”  she gasped.

“I had fun.  I hope you did, too?”  He said.  Sasha fumbled for the door latch, the Porsche opened suicide-style.

“Yeah.”  She choked. Not here, not now!  Sasha willed the vomit down.  She gulped and belched silently out her nose.  How does he not see I’m sick?

“I’ll walk you.”  He said as if to a dog.  Sasha staggered ahead, too sick to tell him to go home.  She wanted a goodnight kiss at her door.  A kiss from him.  She wished she wasn’t so sick.  Sasha decided to puke in the hedge row before staggering upstairs to her room.  Robert did not hold her hair.  He crept backwards to avoid the sludge streaming from her throat.

“Let’s get you inside.”  Robert shoved Sasha with such ferocity that she hit the front door and slid to the FUCK OFF mat, a clever housewarming gift from her mother.

Sasha’s lungs filled with air, but nothing happened.  It was as if her lungs weren’t connected to anything.  Her body pulsed and throbbed, muddy blood in heavy veins, her heart shook instead of beat.  Her lips felt cool and swollen and when she touched them her fingers came back slick with black bubbles.  Robert lifted her purse and rifled for her keys.  He unlocked her home and lifted her up.  Another shove and she landed in the foyer.  She heard him lock the door and with a voice tinged with nerves and anger he shouted.

“Hello?  Anyone home?  Your friend is sick!”  Robert sat on the stairs beside her, yet he didn’t help her or look at her.  He was waiting for something.  Sasha’s housemates were out on the town having fun staying single.  Sasha had declined last minute for the date she hoped would be her last.  Sasha hadn’t expected it to be so final.

They were alone, and now he knew that, too.

“You slunts are all the same.  No wonder serial killers developed alongside feminism.”  He said, his face cupped in his hands like horse blinders.  He didn’t want to watch.  Robert was scared, but it was too late to turn back, so he had to muster apathy and prejudice.  Sasha got up, the sudden shift from romance to horror granted her a second wind.

“Apologize for what you did.”  Robert said, looking up, his eyes stung red from fighting tears.

The love Sasha was feeling was some kind of poisoning.  Her lungs were not transferring oxygen, her heart shuddered as if it had been watching snuff films all night, and she had to lean over to expel black sludge frothing from her belly.  She felt red.  Cyanide poisoning.  She remembered this from medical school before she was coerced into easier pharmaceutical studies so she could keep her weak scholarships.  The professors used extreme cases to keep class interest.  No one would ever see these cases in real life, let alone see a Ph.D. in Sasha’s case.  Sasha was forever torn between immediate fun and future stability.  She had been conditioned by an invisible force to choose easy over difficult all her life.  Now, this force was telling her it was easier to die than to live.

Fuck that.  In her discarded purse Sasha found a lint-covered stick of gum.  She slipped it into her mouth.  Robert chuckled, a nervous titter to relieve his tension.

“You’re one ugly girl.  You would’ve been lucky to have him.”  Robert said.  Sasha felt lightheaded as the sugar worked its magic.  She could breathe in slight gasps that wheezed inside her head.

“You won’t get away.”  Sasha wheezed from the back of her swelling throat.

“I will.  Timmy did this twice, poisoned girls.  One died, the other told the cops.  No one did anything.  I wanted Timmy to get you back, but he liked you.  You’ll make three and that’ll teach you all.”  Robert said.

Sasha swallowed the gum and got up on her knees, then to her feet.  She needed to get into her drug safe, her collection of stolen items from her pharmacy.  Sugar was a mere salve.  She couldn’t get past Robert on the stairs, so she stumbled for the kitchen.

She raided the cupboard holding their bakery items.  A jar of powdered sugar shattered at her feet, filling the air with sweetness.  Sasha shoveled it into her mouth and choked on white dunes and spat broken glass.  The world returned slow and vague.  Her lungs whistled with faint life.  She’d have the energy for the staircase, now.  Robert stood in the doorway watching her, putting on black leather driving gloves with holes exposing his knuckles.

“Apologize for Timmy.”  Robert said, trying to command, but his voice wavered.  “Apologize.”

Sasha rocked back on her knees and launched.  She flung her fist, opening at his face.  Sugar coated his eyes.  Her fingers were laced with broken glass and cut deep into his cheek.  With her other hand she crushed the tenderness between his legs, a feeling similar to squishing kumquats in a produce bag.  Robert fell, curling into a ball with his hands between his thighs.  Sasha could either finish him off and die, or try to get upstairs.  She lurched for the stairs.

The stairs to the second floor extended, twisted.  Her brain thought in red thumps and warping illusion, like fresh Polaroids spitting into open flame.  The cyanide was growing in potency.  She got on all fours and scrambled up the steps, then slithered.  Her flesh blazed cold and her clothes clung to her.  The stench of her perspiration kept her going.

Master bath, under the sink, the fireproof safe behind the towels.  Sasha flung the safe out and unlocked it with a tiny silver key she kept on her ring.  They all had one.  The house was home to an active tribe of five girls on the prowl for life and the drugs in this safe aided recovery from concerts, parties, exam prep, and jobs that began to early and ended too late.  And for the first time, saving life.  Sasha calmed down seeing her collection of uppers, downers, Ritalin, Plan B, joints, Vicodin, Seconal, and muscle relaxers.  Everything she stole working down the block from the richest people in L.A.

Sasha selected a B12 vitamin shot.  She injected the classic 1960’s prescription and felt the rush ignite her lungs and veins.  She had no idea how the cyanide got into her system. She could have eaten it, it could have dissolved in her wine, some forms would absorb right through skin.

Her date couldn’t help high amounts of sugar in the wines and port, glazes and sauces, but he had declined dessert.  He had driven her home so the hotel cameras would record them leaving, rather than recording them going to a room where he would be seen leaving alone.  Odd things came back to her, odd now that his chiseled jaw and jade eyes were no longer thirst triggering. He was attentive only to see if the poison was working.  He didn’t kiss her to avoid poisoning himself.

Robert had contacted her over Facebook, which was not as random as she had lead herself to believe.  Stalking in retrospect.  She had been blinded by beauty, charm, and money.  The poisoning was well-planned, but this guy was blinded by rage.  And he was doing it all for Timmy.  Timmy must be dead.

She vomited and felt better.  Now that she could think, the dick-pic-shaming from a year ago came back to her.  It was the only thing that warranted revenge.  If she did die the medical examiner would figure out that cyanide killed her just by looking at her blushing flesh.  Robert was sure he was beyond justice and Sasha believed it, too.

Robert screamed, that deep-throated roar that super heroes do to gather strength in the heat of battle.  She would’ve laughed at the machismo baloney, but she wasn’t in any theater and Robert was no half-naked Spartan.  His stomps echoed up to her, she felt his footsteps through the floor.  His steps stalled halfway up and she imagined he needed to pause to nurse his tenderized loins and “man up” for murder.  She knew she was right when he started yelling at her, mansplaining his intensions as if to justify his crimes to one of those patriarchal deities who protect weak men.  It takes one to know one.

“Timmy had no life after what you did to him.  He couldn’t go anywhere without some woman laughing at him or some guy pushing him around.”  Robert said through the door.

Sasha’s fear had been spent on the suffocating agony of cyanide, all she had left was rage.  She still felt sick, so she took an amyl nitrate tablet from the drug safe and chewed it.  She’d get the same treatment in a hospital; Dr. Feel Good shots and amyl nitrate tabs.  Poison countered by sweets and sweetness.  Euphoria made a good chaser for revenge, too.

“Timmy was a CEO.  He was very important and you ruined him and he was the best thing that could’ve happened to you!”

Sasha hid the drugs under the towels.  She palmed an amyl nitrite popper and lay down beside the pool of black vomit.  She gagged and fumbled to attract him.

Her date opened the bathroom door.  He was so tense he was wooden, robotic.  Sasha would have prescribed marijuana or methocarbamol, both of which she had in the safe, but Robert was beyond the aid of medicine.  Sometimes death is the cure.

“He killed himself a month ago.”  Robert said.  Sasha gasped intelligibly.  He kneeled beside her.  Still too far away for what she needed to do.

“You could’ve just ignored him.  He would’ve gotten bored and he would’ve found some other girl who was cool. My best friend killed himself over your ugly stuck-up face, and now you’re gonna die and wherever you go you won’t be able to ignore him.  He’s waiting.”

Sasha whispered something he’d want to hear.  He leaned in close, his ear above her mouth.  His rank stench cut through his cologne, his breath had soured since their date.

“You think I’ll go to prison or worse, don’t you?  I’ll walk free because the world was made for me.  The only struggle in my life is reminding bitches like you.”  Robert said and Sasha stuffed the popper between his loose jaws.  The plastic vial exploded inside his mouth.  He sucked laughing gas.  The shock sent him flailing.  He dug a pocket knife from his jacket, but an unwanted grin cracked his lips.  He reeled and dropped the knife, then his legs gave out.  He ripped the shower curtain and it wrapped him up as he crashed into the tub.

Sasha pinned him under the curtain.  She had another popper and she cracked the vial over his screaming maw.  His screams flipped to insane laughter.  He couldn’t breathe with her hilarious weight on his chest.  A third popper sent him over the moon.  He died smiling.  He died laughing at her.

Sasha flipped the corner the of the shower curtain over his stupid face.  She felt like crying.  Not for him, but for what the night had done to her, the collection of decisions past and present that had been made for her and turned her into a killer and realist.  She had started the night out optimistic, excited, and had hoped for a fairy tale story to share with her housemates, but now she needed to make sure there was no story to tell.  At least not this story.

Sasha tended to her hands, cut by glass and scraped from falls.  She inspected her mouth and found no glass lurking from when she ate powdered sugar.  Her tongue was dry and stung, sick on sweet saturation.  She decided to worry later about whether or not she swallowed any glass.  She cleaned up the unused drugs and puke.  She left Robert in the tub with the spent poppers.  She placed the safe of drugs in the back corner of her bedroom closet.  The police would be snooping around in the bathroom.  She took out the trash, putting the trash bags in the neighbor’s bin on the street.  She walked back up to her driveway and called 911 from the kitchen.

Sasha pitied Robert.  He could have had her, he could have lived.  Robert did not realize that he had been a perfect man during their date.  Motives aside, he had been attentive and engaging, he had delivered what everyone ever wanted; Robert made Sasha feel alive, important, like she was more than just another mammal destined to eat, shit, and die for no reason.  Robert should have seen this reflected back at himself, that in making someone feel special he was special, too.

He was sweet.  Sasha thought.  Things are sweetest just before decay.  Sasha imagined Robert and Timmy impatiently searching through fallen apples, angered by fleeting and unsatisfying sustenance when everything they needed was over their heads.  They blamed anyone but themselves for eating the mealy fruit at hand, spitting out the worms at imagined enemies.

Red and blue flashing lights revolved through a window.  Sasha opened the front door.  The police car prowled up the road and pulled into the driveway.  Two officers climbed out and sized up the girl huddled in the doorway.  They knew there was a dead body upstairs.  They did not reach for their guns.  All the cops saw was a haunted girl who had found her date overdosed in her bathtub.  All the cops saw was a girl whose innocence had been shattered.  They didn’t realize that innocence breaks more than once.  The pieces get smaller and sharper, hurting at first, then you put it back together, and after the third or fourth break it’s just annoying.  Sasha imagined a vase filled with nothing, fragile and useless, glorified for no good reason.

Robert’s corpse was removed and they tried their best to feign shock and horror, but Sasha heard the cops and medics joke about Robert’s death-smile and the drugs he overdosed on.  Sasha tried not to laugh with them.  They all had a part to play.  They were in uniform and had a culture to represent, otherwise the world would end.

Sasha answered their questions with lies that fit their need to believe in innocence and then everyone left.

Back in the kitchen she found the spilled sugar covered by ants.  She got a dust pan and broom and swept away the sugar and glass.  She crushed lingering ants.  They were entering through a crack in the corner of a window pane.  She left a dead ant there at the mouth of the hole.  One ant came through, its antennae flicking about.  It lifted its dead comrade and marched back through the hole never to return.