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๐—›๐—ฒ๐—น๐—ฝ ๐— ๐—ฒ ๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ด๐—ต ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ก๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ต๐˜

๐˜ฃ๐˜บ ๐˜”๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฌ ๐˜ˆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜บ ๐˜™๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ด๐˜ช



I told myself for years that solitude was good for my writing. I told myself the increased amounts of sex I sought out was a relief mechanism for post-stress. I told myself networking, and expense accounts were suitable for my military fieldwork.


Yet none of it was worth a wooden nickel when I needed a friend because I had no friends. Because I had only secrets. I had only air force subordinates. I had only girls offering their bodies like pagan rituals in the forest. You cannot have friends and secrets. So, I had to make a choice.


Secrets, sex, Salem cigarettes, and silver label bottles of farmerโ€™s medicine are what I chose. Nearly everything I did I called medicine to ward off mental illness. Even the violence against suspects. Even the violence against men abusing women in a public setting. Even the violence against neo-Nazis and communists.


I told myself I was in complete control. Brass knuckles and bare fists were counted as a measure of restraint versus using my gun. I convinced myself righteous anger was permissible to protect my military family. I whispered to myself periodic HIV tests were because I forgot to wear condoms, not because I had blood routinely splashed in my face from beating up people.


I told myself the things necessary to put on that uniform, pledge allegiance to the flag and run into a fight, never fearing it could be my last day. I had no friends by choice. I had no love by choice. I only had my muse and recurring bad dreams of a pregnant woman murdered for the aim of living free. Freedom being the holiest cause a human can pledge their lives to defend, I mentioned this to myself and other things I wonโ€™t repeat.


I wish I had a friend. But I had a drink instead. The loneliness was bothersome like a heel spur. I discovered you couldnโ€™t turn a lover into a friend, to my profound disappointment. You have a better chance of putting toothpaste back into the tube. One naked girl after another after another after another, and my bedroom still felt empty. I watched them sleep on my king-sized bed and wondered what women dream at night?


I always got up early, made breakfast, and ran the shower. Then, I woke the girl up and waited in the kitchen. They always looked fantastic in the luxury robe I had stolen from a Spanish hotel. It never occurred to any girl they were not the first to wear it. I had to suffer through giggles and jokes when breakfast was interpreted as a rouse for morning sex in a bit of karmic revenge.


The truth was indeed far stranger than fiction. I lacked the words to express that I truly wanted the company. Sometimes even more than the sex. I kept that part to myself, but few women were willing to stay longer. Most thought it was just fake talk to sound sensitive and laughed at the invitation.


Sex as cartography is a map to nowhere. No one is there when you arrive. Some say the journey is more important than the destination, like the people who read too much Rumi and only get laid on birthdays. If you are cursed with this condition but blessed with women, you use flowers to cure cancer. Itโ€™s a fragrant delight, but highly likely you will die in pain someplace alone.


Some say there is strength in solitude and view dependence as a version of weakness. I reject this type of thinking since it fails to consider our reliance on water and food, making us human and healthy. Ignoring these vital requirements is dumb, dangerous, and ultimately disastrous.

I say people with respect issues propagate loneliness as a form of romanticism. None of their sorry excuses are instructive or instinctive. They prejudge people based on projection while they are guilty of poor people skills. It doesnโ€™t take a rude person to see rude people. But it does take a moron to see the entire world as moronic.


And then we had an uber-male global culture that subliminally suggests non-romantic conversations with women are fruitless ventures. Only variations on flirting or seduction are considered talk-worthy; otherwise, the conduct is considered essentially โ€œfeminineโ€ in nature. So, according to these hyper-masculine terms, what I was doing was deemed virtual castration. Now at the risk of sounding macho, I might have been friendless or clueless in social girl scenarios, but I was not dickless by any stretch of that word.


The only girl who ever took me up on the offer to stay after breakfast stayed for the weekend, and we began a most unusual relationship. I use the word relationship loosely because it wasnโ€™t precisely an arrangement; more like a regular connection. Whenever I got back from an assignment, I would call her house. Her stepmother would get her the message. She lived at home with her disgruntled stepmother because her college dormitory space was limited, and she was on a waiting list.

I met her at a college pickup bar I frequented a few times a month. It was filled with college girls seeking a good time. I had seen her there in months past but never gave her a second glance. She was an attractive girl with the body language of someone that didnโ€™t want to be there. One night that all changed.


I seldom walk into a bar with my gun unless itโ€™s official duty. That night I drove up with things on my mind. Itโ€™s my code for feeling boxed in from post-stress. The timing upset me because driving under this pressure is not safe. It narrows your vision, similar to intoxication while driving. A practice I religiously refrained from doing. I should have gone home first then taken a taxi to the bar. My usual plan was sidetracked.


Somehow, I entered the bar with my gun in a shoulder holster and parked outside. Two things I usually leave home seemed to be following me around. After ordering a drink and I see her again. The third time was a charm as I waved her over. Why? I have no godly idea. I donโ€™t wave. Itโ€™s like something else was operating my body. My sincere hope is I only lost the top half of my body.


At the moment, Iโ€™m on a traumatic fringe that borders on an out-of-body experience. Alcohol only exasperates the effect. This is a bar, not a coffee shop, and I have appearances to uphold. Sheโ€™s smiling as she walks over to my stool. She looked terrific, like she had a makeover or something. Even the body language was different. I wondered if this was the same girl Iโ€™d seen two months ago.


After we exchanged greetings, I noticed the way she tilted her head. It was the same girl. Her curious stare at my jacket told me she was used to being in the presence of guns, which is odd. Guns are a rarity in Germany. Less than ten percent of the country legally possesses a firearm.


She wanted to leave the bar with me. I didnโ€™t feel up to driving and asked if she didnโ€™t mind driving us to my house. So far, this night was beyond unusual. Nothing fit my routine. A girl I met twenty minutes ago was driving my car to my house. I didnโ€™t sense any danger until she put her hand on my crotch halfway through the trip. She chuckled and said she was just โ€œtrying to keep me up.โ€ I wryly replied, โ€œyeah, that will do it.โ€


We finally arrived at my house, and for the first time, I felt off my game. I walked to the living room and asked her to sit on the sofa. I excused myself, went to the bedroom, took off my jacket, and removed my shoulder apparatus. I placed it out of sight in the closet. And walked back to the living room. She was sitting on the sofa quietly, smoking a cigarette.


I sat down next to her. And started talking about my trip to Spain last year. She seemed nervous. I got up and turned on the CD player. It played Sade in a low volume. I reached for her hand and pulled her to the middle of the room. We slow-danced, and I felt the tension in her body. When I looked into her eyes, I could tell it wasnโ€™t me that caused her worry. I said to myself, โ€œmaybe this will go away,โ€ and I kissed her forehead.

She reached up and kissed me like the world was ending tomorrow. And then she grabbed my hand, and I immediately expected we were handing it back to the sofa. Instead, she stood at the living room door and took off her blouse. I got up off the couch and picked up her blouse, and saw her standing in front of my bedroom door. She took off her bra and dropped it on the floor. I walked over to pick it up, and she was taking off her remaining clothes in front of my king-sized bed. I closed the door behind me with my right foot.


Her nude body pressed against mine chased away the troubles challenging her heart. This was the first time I was with a woman who made the interaction feel more than gymnastics. Like it counted for something beyond the physical. I donโ€™t dare call it to love since we barely knew each other. But I couldnโ€™t label it sex without cheapening the experience. I have no category for a frame of reference. And as I watched her sleeping the sleep of angels on my pillow, I thought about showing her the new paintings I got from Denmark.


I felt like a child making this girl breakfast, and I was prepared if she didnโ€™t want to stay. None of the others did. Their giggles turned into an audible version of losing face. But I was ready to carve out a measure of normalcy while pursuing companionship. Despite appearances, I wasnโ€™t a boy-toy, playboy, gigolo, womanizer, misogynist, or any other hateful term. I was a man and just wanted something real.


She was as natural as someone could get in my circumstances. I altered my routine to suit her needs. She wanted to talk for hours and sleep with me without sex some nights. On other nights, she tried to tear off my clothes before I unlocked the front door. I accepted all of this because I could count on her to be around. Neither one of us was exclusive. She might be with someone else when I was gone on assignment. And I, the same. Maybe she was a female version of me. Perhaps I never became jealous because I only cared when she was with me. I donโ€™t have any real answers. She was the only woman I could sleep with (whether we had sex or not) and feel satisfied. Like maybe I mattered. And I sincerely attempted to bring her some peace and joy.


My last night with her was my last night with her. While away, her stepmother died, and the family decided to evict her and put the house up for sale. With her policeman father dead for years, I guess she never really belonged anywhere. We had that in common. By the time I got back into town, she had vanished. Even dropped out of college. My police friends found her a few months later in another college town. They got her a message for me. She wrote me back a letter. It amounted to โ€œWe had Landstuhl.โ€


Maybe she found some peace there. Perhaps she found another guy like me there. Maybe I cared more than I should. I was hurt and couldnโ€™t admit it. I sought a violent confrontation and found it at my favorite pickup bar. In the middle of beating this fool with a pool stick, I stopped and kicked him in the face. I gave the bartender a $100 bill for the damage and walked out. I never had a drink. I never had a flashback. Just angry. A wave of anger that took weeks to get over. A fit of rage made me pull my gun out on assignment. Anger that made me want to smash my car, your face, this hand, into a concrete wall. No jog. No bottle. No amount of angry sex reduced its fury. I went up to the castle to scream when the jets flew by. And I cried and called until my ribs started to hurt. Until all the hurt transformed into a ball of hate, I could cast down the mountain.


I started back on the road leading out of the mountain area, drenched in sweat, nearly limping from exhaustion. I saw an attractive older woman leaning against a giant boulder on a side road. She waved. I didnโ€™t wave back. Instead, I walked over to her. She had a tight purple wrap around her waist. Nice legs and comfortable loafers. These were not mountain clothes. I must be hallucinating. I turned around and walked away until she spoke, โ€œI hate who broke my heart too.โ€ I stopped in my tracks. Raced back to her and said, โ€œunless youโ€™re a sex addict suffering from post-stress and allowed to carry a gunโ€”Iโ€™d suggest you shut the fuck up!โ€


I walked away, and she started laughing. I could hear the laughter as I began my journey down the side of the highway. Maybe it was a demon. Perhaps an evil spirit. Maybe my mind told me something I found hard to acceptโ€”I missed her, but she didnโ€™t miss me. I drank heavily that night to force sleep. I remember dreaming about her as if she were still in my life. I never heard from her again. And I felt lonelier than before I met her. โœฆ




Mark Antony Rossi is a writer and host of the literary podcast โ€œStrength To Be Humanโ€ (https://strengthtobehuman.podbean.com). His work has been recently published or forthcoming in Ariel Chart, Big Windows Review, Granfalloon (Canada), Indian Periodical (India). Philadelphia Stories, Underwood Press, and Zin Daily (Croatia).



Speculative fiction & POETRY ZINE
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