⭐ 📗 story_1
⭐ 📘 story_2

Future Pairing Process

I’m at the mall and there’s this thing called a kissing booth. I go into the lobby and this woman is ushering people inside. It looks like a movie theater, they must be renting the space. I’m not sure if she’s pairing people up or just seating people in preparation for a future pairing process. I’m nervous. I think a great deal about my lips in relation to kissing. I take great care with my hygiene, and the action posture of the masseter. But I suppose most people think of their own mouth as cleaner than it is, because they spend so much time with it. I don’t want to kiss a random mall person. There are kids and old people here. Although I suppose I am a kid to some of them. I just don’t want to interact with a random mall person that way. I don’t know what I was thinking. That’s right. I wasn’t thinking.

It’s my turn to be paired or seated in preparation for pairing and the woman leads me down the aisle. She is older than me, skinny, short hair, kind of a lesbo vibe, a bony everyday face. She makes a joke like, I should have you all to myself, something like that. I smile politely at her joke. But she leads me all the way around the front, then to the very back, sitting next to me instead of pairing me with someone. She presses heavily on me with bird talons, thick like a cartoon. I want to ask, are they real? But you should never ask a lady that. There are probably things you shouldn’t ask guys about reality either.

I feel warm. I realize I don’t mind it at all. Being close to someone is nice. Maybe that’s why I did it. I just wanted to be close to someone in this lonely world. But suddenly she stops. She says, oh god, what am I doing with my life? Something like that. She seems to realize the unprofessional nature of what we are doing back here. She gets up and I follow her. Strange to follow someone who just came on to me. Some people bounce so hard into you they bounce themselves off, with zero input from you, they manage the whole interaction, relationship, etc themselves. She seems like she’s having a breakdown, but not in a histrionic way. She’s just silent on the escalator, going down. Like she’s really thinking about her life. I stop at the top of the escalator, because I can tell she doesn’t want me to follow.

I have blue balls for the universe. Empty things between things wisp and hurl around me. Who’s running the movie theater now?

Sane and Focused

I need to ask a favor.

I go inside the prefab trailer. It’s on cinder blocks. Is it cinderblocks or cinder blocks? I used to call it cinderb locks. And I kept looking for keyholes. I thought the holes in the sides were for big keys, for big rewards. But I didn’t have any keys of any size so it didn’t matter.

I call for the woman who lives here. My parents used to know her. I think she babysat me as a kid. I’m still a kid though.

I see her on a chair in the next room. She is looking at the wall. She doesn’t respond, but I know she can hear me. Or hear something. She’s very afraid. But whatever happened to her happened a long time ago. And now all voices make her feel that way. She won’t go outside. She’s still stuck there.

I call for her again.

I go outside.

We can get food from supermarkets, I tell my dad. End of day food.

Let’s get your mother, he says.

My mother is on the other side of a wall. There’s a door but I don’t think she has a key. We live in the back of this building. I don’t know if we live here. We are here. But we’re hungry. There are walls and cinder blocks and small rooms.

She says she has to complete her film. She’s acting strange again.

She goes ahead of us. She’s taken her clothes off. She wanders like a deer down the street. She’s beautiful like an actress. She looks kind of like Caitlin Fitzgerald. One of the women here was telling me about actresses. She keeps a list in her mind. She says one day one of the names could be recycled and if she’s awake at the right time it could become her name. These are the names of power.

My dad wears clothes and stays next to me. He’s sane. He’s focused on the mission. Getting end of day food from the supermarket. I’m saner than both of them though. Because I’m young.

It’s evening. I know where the Salvadoran supermarket is. We cross the street. The commercial center has a wide parking lot, and the asphalt extends off it, unmarked, so much you can get dizzy if you lose a frame of reference. The ground is warm on my bare feet.

The front of the Salvadoran market is open like a hangar. The inside is gutted and the floor is covered in ash and grit. It’s empty. It’s like a supermarket cave. The air is hot. I walk back toward the street, to get to a place where I can go to another place. The asphalt is really wide and dark and warm in front of the place where the Salvadoran supermarket was. My legs feel really small.

I look for my parents.

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