She did bad things before Adam knew her. He had heard stories from mutual friends, of a girl destroying herself and burning a hole in her mind, and dismissed them all. They were fabricated, they had to be. Everyone wanted her purity, her light in their own darkness, and they opted for slander when they found it unattainable. It was all taken out of jealousy. It always was.
On the night they met, the bar was packed with glow sticks and jail bait. Bodies bumped against Adam and left greasy stains on his clothes. Human odor clung to everything, and he tried to sweeten it with cigarettes. There was no feeling, no life behind any of it. Then there was her.
A glimmer of bright, obnoxious color hit Adam’s peripheral. Among the beer-soaked loners sat the magenta-haired ringleader of the rave babies, alight in the dark. He asked her something he could barely hear.
“What is that shit on your head?”
“It just started coming in pink one day.” She said.
“Why’ve you got all that glitter on your face?”
“I’m naturally luminescent.”
“Well, I’m naturally shit-faced.”
“It is. I wake up drunk as hell and head right to a bar to fix it.”
“Fascinating.” She was gone then, but still there, her eyes sending golden sparks to someone across the room.
“What’s your name?” Adam said.
“Red dye #5.” She sighed.
“Your hair is more hot pink than red, Luka.”
“At least I have hair.”
He grunted and pushed the brim of his ball cap down the bridge of his nose.
“Why aren’t you here with anyone?” He asked.
“How do you know I’m not?”
“You wouldn’t be talking to me.”
She left again, while sitting, to marvel over the patrons’ varying shades of human.
“Where did you go?”
“I’ve been here the whole time.” She said.
“You’re a liar.”
“You’re a jerk.”
Luka cocked her head, perplexed. She tasted like baby powder and smoke.
He could not remember leaving. All that existed was the rose and coconut scent of her, his blanket, enveloping him on clean linen.
“This is nice.”
His fingers tangled through the artificial mess on her head. It smelled of perfume reserved for the too-shiny waves of hair on a Barbie doll. A flick of the wrist and the wig was on the floor. Luka tensed.
“Why did you go and do that?” She said.
“I like this better.”
He drowned in her softness, unable to think of anything except warm, warm release as they dissolved into night.
Adam woke in the dark without her beside him. Down the hall was a thump, like a body thrown to the floor, followed by a faint cry.
Walls blurred in his post-sleep haze. Two thumps now, the same body slam and a clang of metal. Soon he was in the kitchen and she was on the ground, a gaunt bundle of limbs fastened by a nightdress, surrounded by books and cooking ware.
“Sorry. I had a bad trip.” She pressed a fist to her mouth.
“On a pot?”
She twisted from manic laughter to terror. Adam had barely touched her before she was crying.
“I’m fine.” She hissed through sobs. “I’ll go back to bed in a minute.”
His fingers grazed her back, and she became a tense wire. He kissed her cool shoulder. Gradually her crying subsided, and Adam was mystified with his accomplishment.
“Go back to bed.” She whispered. “I’m sorry I woke you up.”
He lifted Luka, a disheveled fae weighing nothing in his arms. She kicked once, in a dream. He laid her on the bed and stroked her, mesmerized by the soft rhythm of live lung beneath white linen, and by her hair, real and soft. It was brown.
Adam tried to coax her awake that morning with the smell of food. He was like a hunter, tantalizing his prey in order to catch it, and waiting for hours on end to do so. Luka arrived a moment before the eggs would have turned to cinder, with a sheepish smile and a tilted wig.
“I don’t eat eggs.”
“Of course you don’t.”
He dumped them onto a plate, and pulled a tray of biscuits from the oven.
“Got you covered anyway.”
“I’m sorry about last night.”
He smiled with a twinge of melancholy. “Sit down and eat.”
Luka slumped into a chair, next to the books and pots, evidence of her nocturnal tyranny. He put a steaming plate of bread in front of her.
“I wish I could say that was the first time that’s happened.” She said.
“It’s fine.” Adam scooped a heap of yellow into his mouth. “It could have been worse.”
“You might be too good for me.” She said.
“Unlikely.” He laughed. “I’m a bit of an asshole.”
“At least you make a good biscuit.” Crumbs sprayed through Luka’s teeth.
“That I do.”
Eye met eye in a silent morning.
“I want to take you out tonight.”
She giggled and pulled her knees to her chest.
“Yeah,” He flinched with embarrassment. “Yeah, I do.”
Luka bit her finger and grinned.
“You said you were an asshole.”
“I still am. But..” He winced at how cheesy what he wanted to say was. “But I’ll work on being better. For you. Now for God’s sake let me take you out to dinner.”
She cocked her head to the side, eyes warm.
“But what will I wear?”
When uncomfortable, Adam tended to use words that could barely be tolerated by human ears. But this was a nice, clean restaurant, and an angel was across the table from him. If he opened his mouth, he would obliterate the fragile date-world they had created. So the stream of curses pulsed through his brain rather than his mouth. It was directed at the waiter with judging eyes, the pathetic businessman eating in the corner by himself, at the family three feet away who could not shut their kid up. This sick stupid bunch of pathetic coc-
“What are you thinking about?”
The word that he was thinking spilled out of his mouth, and Luka exploded into laughter.
“Does my boyfriend have Tourette’s?”
There it was; that word, that toxic composition of letters that struck fear into men’s most stalwart hearts. Adam glared, and Luka laughed so hard her wig almost fell off.
“Wearing Cher hair to a bistro isn’t exactly appropriate.” He said.
“Neither is swearing at your girlfriend.”
His face grew hot, and the silent stream of obscenities rifled again through his brain. Luka beamed, clearly reveling in his torment.
“Girlfriend! Girlfriend! I’m your girlfriend!”
Another giggle fit hit her when the garcon arrived.
“The lady and I will have the steak.”
“Except the lady doesn’t eat meat.”
Shit. I knew this.
The profane torrent pulsed again.
“Just give me the biggest salad you can make.” She said.
Adam wanted to put his fist through the table. Instead, he excused himself to the men’s room, which he assumed would be clean in a bistro. Toilet paper was strewn everywhere, and a child was urinating in the sink, his father oblivious. The boy yelped when Adam slammed the door to a stall.
Outside she was probably gazing at the wall, waiting for her plate of roughage, a rose-scented dream, while he was in hell.
The father finally woke up and screamed at his son, yanking him outside so someone else could take care of baby Satan’s mess. Once they left, the room became cold and dead again.
Adam washed his hands (in another sink) and groaned. There was a sharp knock on the door. Beat. Another. Beat. Another again.
“What the hell do you want?”
Adam threw the door open and Luka shoved him against the wall, choking him with her mouth.
She looked beautiful that night on the balcony, stretching her arms as far as they could go.
“I am illuminated.” She cried. “Flying, flying, flying!”
Luka peered down at the street. Her smile made him ache.
“Look at all of them,” She said, “Milling with steady calculated tension through the streets and subways. If only you would look up and see me floating above you. Glowing and swelling and weeping with joyful loving rain. Maybe then you might know that everything is alright.”
Adam stroked Luka’s hand. Her face dropped.
“No one’s looking up here.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He said. “People are idiots.”
Adam watched tiny ants coming in and out of cars and buildings as Luka cried. Her hand slipped from his and her footsteps sprinted inside. A door slammed.
The bathroom door muffled her sobs. Adam knocked.
“Luka. Let me in.”
He fumbled with the knob as her crying grew louder.
“Let me in!”
With all his weight behind it, the door exploded open. Luka was on the floor, hand on her abdomen with knuckles freshly torn, weeping like a child.
“The room is bleeding again.” She said.
At his feet lay a plastic bag holding pink, powdery disks with the shape of a spade carved into them. Adam’s heart sank as he twisted it between his fingers.
“The rip hole is getting bigger.” Words fired out of her mouth. “It’s eating the floor and sucking everything away. Get out now.”
“What is a rip hole?”
“It wants to devour me. If it gets me I’ll die. The room is expanding and contracting like a ventricle. Don’t you see the black blood? Get out now!”
Adam grabbed her shoulders.
“Nothing is bleeding. Everything is fine. Everything will be fine.”
There was no way she could have heard him through her thrashing and shrieking. Though wild, Luka was weak enough that he could carry her to the bed and withstand her pummels.
“I’m condemned.” She moaned. “Condemned, condemned, condemned.”
Adam laid his angel, caked in white sin, onto the bed. They were right. They were all right. He had known too, of course. She was destroying herself, but at least she made him feel. Adam held her down as she kicked and bellowed, until she fell limp, in a dream again.
He decided he would go running, to get rid of the lethargy that clung like a brigade of tiny ants to his legs and forearms. He shot through street and suburb until all was a blur, and soon he was on his hands and knees, blinded by hatred and sweat.
It was not enough, never enough. He had to run past the state, the country, the world, in a furious haze. The second he rested, Adam’s body taunted him again.
Lazy. Fucking. Ass.
It was still not enough, so he ran, ran, ran, into the woods. He hollered, and succumbed to his knees again. All that existed was roaring anger and the emblazoned memory of electric hair.
She was not enough either; so beautiful sweet, but never satisfying. When he returned he wanted to devour her, but there would only be more tears and babbling. Adam incinerated without her. He smothered his face in a pillow to muffle his roar.
It will never be enough.
“I’m going out,” Luka said when she awoke, “and if you come with me it might pull the stick out of your ass.”
“You can’t even stand up.”
“Watch me.” She clambered to her feet. “I know you’re judging me, but I am goddamn sick of you not saying anything. If this pisses you off, you should tell me.”
“I would pay for the pills if they would keep you here longer.” He whispered.
He grabbed her face.
“But it wouldn’t. So just go.”
The air in the club was probably thick with smoke as she glided in, superficial silver-pink curls hiding a scared face. No one would know she was afraid. If anyone spoke, she would sigh, deliver a soft, magic reply, and then someone else would love her. Someone would always love her, while someone else cradled her truth between his fingers.
A strong man would scream, fight, and forbid. He would hurl away the pills, and endure the wrath of her fists against his chest. A weaker man would feel the horror of her rip hole, and do nothing. He would love her in twisted desperation, and give her those pills that fed her terror, if only to keep her from seeking it elsewhere.
She was probably dancing with dreamy eyes. The world was seduced by her, while Adam sat in that vile bathroom, the weak man, trading her bag for a razor blade.
There was blood on the floor when Luka opened the door; specks, not torrents. The razor traipsed between Adam’s fingers while his vapid eyes fixated on the red raindrops hitting the floor.
“Why did you come back?” He murmured.
“What the hell are yo-”
“If this pisses you off, you should tell me.”
He flicked the razor. A drop, red like bitten lips, swelled from his pale fingertip and fell to the floor.
“Stop it.” She said.
He wiped the inflamed hand on his jeans, and dropped the razor to the floor. Luka took him in her arms, and pressed her cheek to his neck, warm and alive.
“You’re scaring me.” She whispered.
Adam laughed bitterly. Hand met wig and threw it away. He jerked her head back and met her mouth, drawing blood.
“Go to bed.” He said.
Morning light woke Luka with a brilliant red flash. She sat up on an unmade bed, head throbbing, without his hat, cigarettes, or smell. A brick dropped in her stomach.
By the foot of the bed lay the rip hole, tearing the floor like it were paper, but now it was sewn shut like the mouth of a rag doll. It had slaked its morbid hunger on someone else, who had stumbled down in her place.
She collapsed to her knees. Adam must have fallen, tripped upon the pills and fallen, and lost himself in the eternal night. Luka was the sole ironic survivor in a battle of her own vices. She wept as though it was all she was built for, to be a vessel bent in half, spewing innards from her eyes onto the floor.
Adam emptied the rest of the pills into the toilet and flushed. The water swirled with pink and vanished. He hurled the bag into the trash, able to hear her sobbing from behind the door. Preoccupied by tears, Luka did not acknowledge Adam when he left the bathroom.
“He’s gone.” She wheezed. “He’s gone. The rip hole has devoured him and he is lost forever. Why did it have to take him?”
Turning a deaf ear to her nonsense was impossible, but Adam tried. When his hand was on the doorknob, he passed a final glance to the crumpled mess of a human being that he loved. Adam ached to think that this would not be the strongest image he would remember of her.
“Oh my freedom, oh my freedom,” Luka chanted in delirium as he left, “Oh my poisonous freedom, how sweet and terrible you are.”