by Terese Svoboda
His hands, sticky from what's oozing from the carton, write Dear Valentine on its blood-smeared card. A wriggling girl in a tight-assed jumpsuit shoved the carton at him a minute ago. Where is she? All the girls wear jumpsuits pulled up at the back, showing bare asses like monkeys.
He cups the carton in his hand and follows Ponytail-on-Top. Is she the heartless one? The corridor in, dark too, and crowded with other Valentine-bringers, must be walked.
It could be a heart's ventricle, the corridor's so narrow.
He finds her down between vehicles, on her hands and knees, her buttocks valentining. The usual. He puts the carton on her bum and leans down—he shouldn't but he wants to see her face--and she bites him on the cheek.
He cannonballs back. It's like an accusation, right? she says, uprighting, catching the carton. The pig heart.
He's wondering about infection, what's wet on his face, but he passwords: Accused of what?
She sideasses the vehicle's door. Love, silly. The besotted you can't get by going to a
Whose heart is it supposed to be, mine or yours?
She smiles a big deep crack across her face. A virgin's. That's why it's so small.
He laughs. You need drugs.
Her smile shrinks, her free hand darts to her pouch, which she unzips and all spills out: red,
blue, pink—the works, strewn and rolling across the lot. Nice, he says, meaning they scare him.
He readies to slink off, but he's left his credit card back down the corridor, that's the deal, you can't get it back until you show PartyReality a token. This half-moon bite might work, but he has to walk that pulsing corridor again. He takes a pill of his own.
She points. The moon's there, she says.
It is, the perfectly round pill having rolled out from under the vehicle, the only pill you're not supposed to swallow. He retrieves it.
Mine's chipped, he says.
You won't need another. She places the blood-smeared container on the ground and leans toward him. To bite him again? She grabs at his fingers and pries away the pill. There's no refund for either of us, she says as she lips it down.
He hits her on the chest. She goes luminous fast but coughs it up. He catches the pill, but she tangle-fights it back.This time he hits her sternum harder from behind and there's nothing – a hollow sound. Her body in his arms.
He's only been as close as a girl's ass, he's a virgin too, and now she's throbbing her last. There's an altar for that on the left, says someone going for his vehicle.
He leaves the carton behind.
A Guggenheim fellow, Terese Svoboda is the author of 18 books. She has won the Bobst Prize in fiction, the Iowa Prize for poetry, an NEH grant for translation, the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize, a Jerome Foundation prize for video, the O. Henry award for the short story, a Bobst prize for the novel, and a Pushcart Prize for the essay. She is a three time winner of the New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, and has been awarded Headlands, James Merrill, Hawthornden, Yaddo, McDowell, and Bellagio residencies. Her opera WET premiered at L.A.'s Disney Hall in 2005.