He tried to explain the pain of disenchantment to her.
She had her hands cupped over her ears.
The billowing stench of sewage smoke coming from the metal grates protruding unevenly on the sidewalk. The ear-chafing cacophony of traffic honking into her ears. This was not the perfect place to talk.
He was breaking up with her. She knew this. The sex the night before was staged, unlike the other times that left her in a near vertiginous state of euphoria.
“Love is supposed to be magic,” he said. “And we both know there ain’t no such thing as magic.”
Stop that. Biting her lower lip only reminded her how overly plump it was, captured in uneven smiles in pictures.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” she said. Her sandals vibrated. She looked past him to see the scrawny construction worker twenty yards away wrestling with the paint-chipped jackhammer upon crumbled asphalt. Her legs hummed, and she waited curiously for the sensation to rise up to her thighs. Perhaps even higher. What a lovely distraction.
“You don’t understand,” he yelled over the thrum of the jackhammer. Over the prattle of the city. “There’s no such thing as magic. There’s no such thing as us. You. Me. This.” He thumped his chest. “There’s nothing in here but meat, blood and bones. Just like there.” He pointed at the spot below her where her legs joined.
A warm raindrop pelted the raw crown of her scalp. She smiled because it was the only thing that made sense right now.
She said, “I get it.”
He shook his head. “No. You really don’t. You –“
A woman’s hand upraised has many powers. Magical powers. He stood there silent, staring at her smirking face.
She took a deep breath, breathing in the atoms of those long dead, perhaps seeping from the white steam fuming through the metal grates. She looked down at his feet and saw that he stood dead center upon one of the grates. How long of a drop before he’d lay crumpled and broken after a fall? She stomped the metal grate and felt it jar hard against her heels, unyielding. She laughed.
“I know what magic is,” she said. “It’s the only thing making me not want to kill you right now. See that policeman over there?” She pointed through the space to his right.
He turned to see the man garbed in dark blue at the intersection behind him. She stepped in closer and breathed into her ex-lover’s ear.
“I’m going to sleep with him tonight,” she whispered. “I’ve never fired a gun before, but I’m sure I could learn. And I’m sure he could teach me. How’s that for magic?”
She walked past him and headed toward the policeman. The rain pattered between them, the drops warm and sulfuric.
She turned and gave her ex the finger as the magic ritual of breaking up demanded. He licked his lips and then ran toward her. Past her.
Toward the policeman.