Responsibility

   Skinny and his new found friends are soon gone. I should have had their names. Their numbers too. I let them go instead. Honestly wanted them gone. But the key point here was supposed to be that she is dead.
  “Hello?” I say.
   It’s wrong as I say it. If she wants to lay there, that’ll be her prerogative. I’m proud enough that I bought her some time away from the prying of others and here I go prying as much? This will be complex. I take a step back down the road myself, sock squelching in my sodden boot. Start looking for some place to sit. The road is dry enough in places. I park myself and creaking slowly down, and almost immediately feel relieved. See a weirdly new perspective on the same old scene: the dry grasses stand firmer, taller; hefty clouds overhead show off how clear the horizon has become.
  “Wo beautiful ma?” she says. She’s lain her head over on the side to look across at me.
   Trick question?
  “Who are you?” I say.
  “Die wo,” she says. “Die wo hui qu Meiguo ba.”
   First thing anyone wants to know is where I come from. She asked that one already. But no one has yet asked me to take her back to America.
  “Okay,” I say.
   I should just go. Even now I’m not going to find out what she is. I haul off a boot. “We’ll go in a minute,” I say. Her eyes have glazed. She’s stopped moving. I try a last time. I’ll regret it if I don’t. “You’re not a prostitute,” I say. Might look the part, but doesn’t act it. I peel off the sock and haul my foot back up onto my thigh. It’s awkward but I’d rather not get dusty as well as wet. “So who are you?”
   No longer tracking my movement.
   I should just go.

Thinking Fast and Sinking Slow

  “Ni shi nar de ren?”
   I know what she said but I can’t breathe. She’s sat up and turned her head to look at me. But that isn’t even half the quick transition we just made into dreamscape. The lapping lake, usually so quick to fall off itself and go to ground, has… stopped. Has thickened to a stillness. She’s left a trough where she had lain. Absently she smears off the blanket of water she’s lifted up with herself. Fat broken hands. The mist sits like a shroud glued in place, patches of fucked up air so much more obvious now. The men have turned to wax. I can’t draw air.
  “You keep trying to breath,” she says. I do see her nod but I don’t see those busted lips move past the swollen tongue. “That better,” she says, nodding away.
   I clutch at my throat, overwhelmed. Do you know that sadness that comes on you under bouts of oppression, where you’ve just fucking had enough and if you could lie down everything would be okay but there isn’t time unless you just give up? I don’t usually get that in front of other people.
  “Don’t breathe,” she says.
   So fuck her, I’m already bent over, I do just let it go, close my eyes, and stop. And I wait like that for a while, wondering when the pressure will start back up, when heat will rise and my face will begin to thunder. I can see corrugations in the water, raised in unmoving ripples.
   I look at her. She’s still too. An awkward doll twisted further than she should be. My mouth moves. I want to.
  “You can,” she says, and I take that breath, a simple and slow intake, chill in my lungs and tickling in my throat. Calm.
   I watch this doll for a while. Long enough I begin to worry when this peace will end. I could skip her question if it did.
  “I’m from… I don’t know.”
  “Okay, “ she says.
   The sky falls in and everyone starts shouting.