Seeking A-Muse[ment] (Please Apply Within)

by Charlotte E. Wilde

“What’s a girl like you doing with self-esteem like that,” he laughed with a smile that fell off his face at the edges.

I couldn’t say. But here I was, and we both knew I was looking for something. We both were— sorry seekers inching quietly towards a handle closer to a handle on life when, despite whispers to the contrary, it seemed that fortune smiled on the weak and heartless. Two shadows huddled together in a dark corner of a still darker night where dim lighting lent itself to imaginations’ wild and our skyline yawned the toothy grin of her indifference. Through grit-fogged windows I thought I saw the city wink, prodding us astray as a sheep in wolf’s clothing, proffered approval appreciated but never sought. They say the ignorant sinner holds no fault, but I see it glimmer in his eye as he asks me again what I’m doing here.

“I lost something I thought I might find in someone else’s lonely, someone else’s reckless demise,” I faltered.

I didn’t attempt the real explanation of how sneaking thoughts not my own slunk into my mind in the very early morning or very late at night. Neither did I allude to attempted escape from that wavering space where my mind ebbs partialness, allowing another’s voice to fill me up as foreign epics crawl down my fingers and onto my page. Nor did I hint how this, here, was intended as step one in a sort of formal writ of eviction; he knew it all without a word.

Instead I smiled, touched his arm and called it our hallelujah.

“I think what I meant is you sound a lot like someone I once knew.”

“That’s funny,” he whispered, leaning in, “because I think we’ve met. Years ago, last time you let someone dismantle you, I think you came looking for me then.”

I nodded. He was right.

“Your skin’s so thin, I can feel you seething,” his silhouette whispered into mine and my neck tingled warning when I forgot to look away.

Instead I slid the safety off my silence right into the warm span of his open palms. Maybe we’d been waiting for each other, after all, a sinners salvation in a word, two broken phrases cobbled together into something new.

So I traced your memory on the tab and signed your name instead of mine— one copy left in the barkeep’s knowing hand and one kicked to the wind outside, a message in a bottle, a final goodbye. It fluttered from my grip as he pulled me to his side or when I turned, as a cheek to the sun, to see a neon sign blink “Losers;” subtext “I don’t usually do this, but ‘what prose, what prose, what prose.’”