Atonement With The Father 1

   They writhe, I realise. Me moving through this molasses of clothes I have on, they, these bodies, writhe upon me too, so slowly they might not be moving until the pressure they apply becomes apparent, squeezing tighter.
   I could slip under them like a blanket and hide. They’d slip down onto me and in the morning I’d wake, soaked.
   The inspector, for that is what he had been, is tidy in an open-necked shirt, a dark suit, and a thick overcoat he has yet to remove. “Are you the perfect man, Mister Bao?” he’d asked.
   I should have run. To run is always best.
   A cup appears at my shoulder, nearly tipped across my reclining form, but I collect it from beside the gun.
  “With true friends,” I’d said at the time, lifting my cup to the inspector, “even water is sweet enough.”
   They’d laughed and sent me here.
  “He who would sacrifice his conscience to ambition,” he’d said, “will burn a picture to obtain the ashes.” They’d said I had black fingers and could not stay in the capital.
   I should have run.
  “Drink up,” she says.
  “Holy shit,” I say. And I laugh. Floating in the air like swimming in a pool, pressed upon by raging victims of the plague who have no more speed than a tree, and poked and pressed by this girl who cannot possibly be a girl because in frame she is the only one of us with agency and power. And I’d forgotten a moment she was there in order to reflect on my own shortcomings.
   I ask her what she is. I might have used strained tones to do it too. And she just says eh? But not as a question. She wants to catch my attention.
  “Wo beautiful ma?”
   She is. Luminous and glistening like clear crystal in white stone, black hair swimming like reeds, that gold that was in her hair transferred to her clothing as spun silk and intricate diagram.
   A pair of underdressed men appear at the doors. Stumble forward. Behind them an old man. They fall in through the door.
   Inspector, I say.