White Leggings by Maria Anderson
I did not connect the head on the sidewalk with the noise, not at first. Limbs and torsos moved between us, walkers solo or grouped in twos and threes. A light changed. There was the body attached to the head, the noise attached to the body! On her back with bent knees spread wide. Eyes shut. I could not look away. Most astonishing: her thin white leggings. Such white against dark ankle.
Believe me when I say the cling of the fabric to her thighs was such that if her knee had not been blocking my view I could have seen everything. I shifted and then I could see everything, and the white fabric, cotton was it, the Fabric of Our Lives? began to go transparent at the crotch. With the transparency began the brown, the brown spreading and creating a weight, a volume, where before there was only the cling. My bowels twinged. Are yours doing the same? What about now that I have suggested this twinge? When very stoned I sometimes feel as if, in one of those quick bodily decisions you barely make, I may commit to total expulsion. This is normally a shameful feeling but today it acquired a sublime potential.
I was late to meet a guy for coffee with whom I’d had sex the night before on a fire escape. It was was one of those things that if I were ten or twenty minutes late he might not wait. I did not want to help this woman, not that I knew of, but still I could not move. The potential required only that I witness the spectacle of her, my curiosity aroused by the transparency and its spreading territories, by what could have been pain or pleasure or something else. Helping her might mean touching her, and I did not want to touch her. Would you have touched her? Would she have felt it, splayed as she was, unmoving? I felt rather than saw the light change, a glow on the sidewalk that expanded. Between us walked men and women who appeared to have no problem preparing adequately for a day in the workforce. I have problems preparing and end up throwing most clothing away, hoping to lose a little weight and look good in what remains. Last night I wore my shirt that shows part of my back–I read somewhere showing the arc of your back reminds men of something–so getting the right look that said we’re meeting up for coffee and maybe to finish the gritty miracle of interrupted fire escape sex? required borrowing my roommate’s tights without asking. I could not keep walking. The designated Starbucks was a block away–if he left he might see me standing here or he might not, but this was someone’s hair on the ground.
A stroller blocked the pusher’s view–young, different skin color than baby’s–nanny or mom or adoptive mom? and she swerved to avoid collision with the white leggings. I moved close and could make out an unraveling armpit on her grey sweater. The pilling. Her chest did not rise, her hands did not move. Her eyes were still under her lids, as far as I could tell. People expel everything as they die, or was it after? If I touched her would her skin be cold? Were drugs what made her this way? Black-tar heroin, crack maybe? If she were not black, would I assume this to be a heart attack, a stroke, the aftermath of a seizure? What is it called, the aura? Did someone already call this in? The woman’s knees swayed. She moaned. Maybe I’m inventing the moan. What I did not invent is this: transfixed as I was, I could catch no one looking at her. I don’t think I wanted them to see her, to help her. Maybe I wanted them to notice me seeing her.
The urge, to be noticed noticing a sublime moment, reminds me of a website I found once. It’s called That Guy’s On Heroin. People post images or video. Someone who passed out while rooting through a trashcan, his head inside the hole. Someone in a tipped wheelchair with his dick out. Someone walking woozily backward toward a highway, the caption voicing astonishment at this man’s not backing into oncoming traffic. You get the idea. Most of the someones are black. In none of the videos does anyone try to help.
The light changed and crowds moved through. The woman’s pilled sweater looked so soft. Expensive, even. Her shoes, leather, Birkenstock-types. This time, a moan with steps in it, as might occur in a parched throat. No purse, no pockets. If she were white, would I have found a plastic bracelet on her arm or ankle with the name of a pertinent medical condition? Was she middle-class martini or Moscow Mule-drunk or $5 beer-and-shot drunk, her purse ringing in some bar’s dented stall? Why the tendency to say if she were white?
She moaned once and her legs clapped together and were still again. One man possibly took a photo of her with his phone and looked quickly away and tucked it into his pants. The squelch again. Her skin looked so dry. The sweater, the shoes could have been found in the street. The spreading wetness. There is another smell now, the essence of her, I imagine, dusky, strange, like other peoples’ houses, or that smell in the air after you sneeze–do you know what I mean? I could almost make out the marks inside her elbow, caked blood between two swollen toes. Okay, here it is: I’m standing there sick to my stomach dreading the moment when I cling open the door, with that green mermaid and her tail split and up by where her ears would be, when I’ll sweep through all the faces. When I’ll not connect a stranger’s face to last night but recognize him at the same time, and remember his bad breath, how he had to mash his soft dick up inside me. And I’ll stand there and a dumb face will stand up and make its folds and move its wet mouth and I’ll feel so ashamed and repulsed, remembering the cold metal bar against my bare stomach, my roommate’s skirt shoved up around me. It’s like this every time, when I get drunk looking for someone to love again, and it’s never even as good as the white leggings. I want to lie down on the ground with her. I’m near a garbage can and the constant flow of people has no way of knowing I am not waiting for either light to change.
Maria Anderson is from Montana. Her writing has appeared in NYArts, the Fiddleback, Whitehot Magazine, The Prism Review, and others. She went to Brown University and lives in Brooklyn. You can find her online at mariaanderson.net.
© 2013, Metazen.