She came into the store wafting on a cloud of citrusy cannabis smoke and sandalwood perfume. She smelled expensive. Long black hair, and a milk white complexion. She seemed less like a human female than a gossamer mirage in the dessert.
I had a head full of coffee and cigarettes. Six hours into a twelve hour shift I felt wired and alert. Two cannabis lozenges were dissolving in my mouth and I felt the subtle giddy feeling you get from good Mary Jane. Things at the Automat were good. The robot cook made the soy burgers and Veggie Loaf while I cashiered and handled whatever inquires the customer had.
The place wasn't fancy, it bled accents from two decades past, the mop water needed to be changed and the kitchen hood wasn't cleaned very often, a slick grease grime coating it's metallic exterior. It was hardly ever busy and when she walked in, the women like a mirage, it was especially dead. I stood behind the counter and waited in a sort of haze as she perused the wall of tiny compartments where the food was stored. She chose a spicy soy "chicken" sandwich and a green tea and came up to the register. She with a hundred, it glowed with its refracting holographic image of Ben Franklin, a new safeguard against the rampant counterfeiting that has been happening recently. The bill felt crisp, almost warm from the ATM. I could've made a big deal about the bill being so large but I kept quiet. I was half dazed from the lozenges and half in awe of her spectral beauty. She had the type of eyes that haunt, a mouth drawn from some royal stock, a nose both haughty and demure. She exuded some sort of long lost regality, like long ago her people ruled over primeval thatch hut villages. I imagined her with a diadem of opal and gold upon her jet black curls. It was a shock to see such a creature in a fast food joint in the cut of suburban sprawl and endless blocks of apartment homes. I imagined women like her in movies and dreams, not in the flesh, eating a greasy sandwich and choking down green tea. I handed her change back and went to go change the mop water.
She finished her sandwich and pulled out a small laptop. She taped at the keys in a furious beat, her brow serious, her eyes lost in deep concentration of what she was writing. I changed the mop water for the robot that cleans the floor and turned it on. It sprung to life, emitting beeps and boops and gingerly blinking happy face emoticons it's L.E.D. display. I chose the appropriate settings and let the machine get to work. The women seemed distraught at her table, it was hard not to look. Should I console her? Or should I just mind my own business and let her sit there as tears streak her face? Her forehead roiled in consternation. Her makeup running. I decided to mind my own but keep an eye out on the situation. She closed her laptop angrily and put her face into her hands. Choked, frustrated sobs gurgled out of her. I felt bad and was about to check up on the poor angel when a man came bursting through the doors in a rush and flurry of arms and elbows. Whatever he was sprung on it was still surging through his ventricles. He sprung like a cobra toward the women and in a series of fluid, and very rapid movements took a seat next to her and began to wrap his spindly arms around her and stroke her lustrous hair as he whispered in a lubricated voice things to calm the angel down. I could barely hear what was being said, but promises were made, declarations of druggie love expressed. His hand went into his faded black jean pocket and pulled out something wrapped in a brown napkin. The angel, through her sobs, palmed the napkin from the table. She cheered up for a moment, managing a smile and tiny, unsure laugh. This was not the first drug transaction thats taken place during my shift. I work the night shift. I've seen everything. I've seen tricks with their prostitutes, cooing them softly and buying them food and beer. Ive seen pushers and addicts alike, skulking around the bathroom conducting all sorts of deals and blood pacts. It made sense now. The angel is probably some high baller drug freak coming down. The dude her dealer boyfriend.
Everything she wore looked expensive, tailored. She had the type of money not seen around here often. Maybe she was slumming and got into a nasty drug habit along the way, or maybe her high priced psych doc wasn't writing the scripts she needed and she had to come down here to score the pills to ease the pain of cosmic living. Those bouts of intense loneliness and loathing that can only be soothed pharmaceutically, when cannabis and booze aren't cutting it. She sought out the shadow kids and their merry lot of designer substances. Things to excite the brain, to arrest reality and send you into the kaleidoscopic fantastic state of pure existence, unencumbered by loss or anxiety, free to fly and soar among the cloud rimmed heights. The angelic aura around her began to dissipate, I began to see the angel in a mortal dance of death. I knew the type, just never seen one this beautiful before. The man caressed the angel's face, staring deep with brown eyes zooted on some stimulant. Manic, hungry eyes, the eyes of some crazed animal in search of it's prey. He looked like a depraved spider monkey. She fiddled with the packet, patted the zooted spider monkey's leg and trotted off the bathroom. She was going to use. She was turning off gravity for a while.
I made the decision to mind my own. Last thing I wanted is to get slashed up with a razor by the spider monkey. He scratched his head as he waited. When she came out the bathroom, she came out fluttering on butterfly wings. Whatever she did hit her fast, pills crushed up and snorted for a fast boost straight to the central nervous system. And like that the angel and the spider monkey were strutting toward the door, into the night, into the endless rows of single story ranch houses and apartments with rotten facades. Maybe I would see her on the street.
I stopped running with the shadow kids. Their bag of goodies became too much of a good thing, and I wasn't willing to make the sacrafices neccesary to have a successful drug career. So I gave it up for the most part. Only delving into the deep-end during my birthday and new years. I'm imbued with a healthy respect for the street pharmaceuticals and their mind warping properties.
The rest of my shift passed by slowly. My mind wandering and wondering what the angel was up to. Was she listening to tapes in a Ford Escort in an empty parking lot? Or holed up in a room with tapestries on the walls and holographic projectors shining fractal patterns on the ceiling? Or maybe just asleep, dreaming of Paradise City or the Elysian Fields?
When my replacement arrived I could tell he was drunk. The sun was just coming up and he smelled like acrid, cheap wine. His teeth and lips were stained purple red. He gave me a wobbly smile and went into the back room to hopefully splash some water on his face and sober up. I counted out the register. I was 34 cents over. Sleep beckoned from the other side of consciousness. I clocked out and left, walking to the tram station and still thinking about the angel and her imprint, the spider monkey and his thin, jacketed arms. I did something I hadn't done in a while and prayed. Not to the Judea-Islamic-Christian idea of God, but to the God sof mathematics, the Gods of probabilities and fates. I asked them to shuttle the angel through the valley, to protect her brain from poisons and maybe with their help, she could gather the will to break free and escape the Shadow Boys and their pills. It's a bad cycle. Who knows what type of deal she'll strike when her money runs dry? Her diamond rings pawned? Her clothing on consignment? I didnt want to see the angel wallow in the gutters.
I got to the tram station and took hits from my cannabis pen. The lack of sleep, the veins throbbing with caffeine, and the cannabis had me in a zombie state. The tram approached, pigeons fluttered into the dead sunshine, and then like a loaded shadow something sprung from the corner of my eyes and on to the rails, right in the path of the rapidly approaching tram. The tram slammed into the angel, her body getting caught up underneath the steel wheels, bones cracking, blood smearing the front of the tram. I heard a guttural primate voice utter, "Stupid rich bitch" and saw the Spider Monkey run off into the winding streets. She was dead. Over a deal, over pills, that bastard monkey pushed her into the oncoming train. Splattering her insides, bending her legs, leaving the angel a mangled mess. Her hair pasted in blood on her vacant face, her eyes steady and calm staring wide into the burgeoning day.