Had You Been a Believer, You'd Have Known You Were Headed for Hell
by Jessi Lee Gaylord
In the beginning there was Monday. And Adam sayeth, “Hit the fucking snooze, for Christ’s sake.” So I do. I’ve been unemployed for the last eleven months. All my mail now comes in red envelopes. All my hangovers are now famous.
Adam rolls over, sticks a sweaty hand on my crotch, and mutters, “Had you been a believer, you’d have known you were headed for hell.” Whatever that means.
And into the ball-breaking daylight we go. It’s rush hour at the bus stop. I am on the way to my five millionth job interview. If I had to define hell, I might say it’s a lot like having to answer the question “Are you a team player?” five million times.
I think of all the possible honest answers for “Are you a team player?”
Are you being ironic?
Are you fucking kidding me?
I ask Adam what his definition of hell is. “Chicago Public Schools,” he sayeth.
“Chicago Public Schools,” he sayeth.
We shove our way to the back of the bus where there is room to stand without involuntarily dry humping some nerd snickering into his Redeye. A United Demolition sign rolls by outside the window like a lexicon of the world ruining itself in its own image. I scan the headlines of the Onion: Bar Skanks Announce Plans to Kiss. So it’s come down to this. Bar skanks announce plans to kiss. Who doesn’t want to be born again, and again, and again?
“You know you want it,” Adam says.
“Want what?” I eye the garden for something wantable. In this case, the garden is a bus at rush hour, packed full of people in varying states of pissed off and exhausted.
“A bite of my apple.” He tosses it up and down, up and down. “Red Delicious,” he chants. “So red and delicious.”
At the intersection, a pack of naked cyclists parade across the street. The naked cyclists are popular in Chicago. They have gone green. Adam is mesmerized by breasts and bush. Blond bush. Bush on a bike. But it isn’t the bush that catches fire; it’s Adam, his face flaming like a Missed Connection, red and delicious as sin, the old wanted wind.
A woman in a Jesus Loves You t-shirt gets on the bus and shoves her way through the sea of bodies and though I am not a fatalist, I know what is coming. Adam, who is part-kitten, nonetheless likes to pick fights with women who could’ve been linebackers. “Move to the back,” she hollers into the side of Adam’s head with a voice that wears a beard.
“There’s no room,” Adam says. She shoves Adam into me, his chin hits my shoulder, his tooth chips against my temple, his foot squashes my ankle, I bite my tongue, my eyes sting like a bully threw salt into them and then kicked me in this shin. I consider getting so angry that I foam at the mouth, I consider ordering Adam to stick his tongue so and then biting it, hard with my super sharp eyetooth, but I’ve had an orgasm this morning and I am, therefore, fucking invincible.
Adam looks like his head might explode. And though he too, has had an orgasm this morning, Adam keeps swallowing something like defiance, regret, and the unfortunate violence that is a sad part of every man’s inner history. “Jesus does not love you,” he hisses at the woman in the Jesus Loves You t-shirt. I am under the impression the woman in the Jesus Loves You t-shirt is upset by this. Maybe it’s the way she stabs her finger into Adam’s chest, and repeats the word “motherfucka” over and over with spit flying off the tips of her teeth.
I decide to start laughing (orgasm, Adam’s face) and then, unfortunately, I cannot stop laughing to save my life, even as the woman cocks her hand back and aims it at Adam’s throat. She swings. Adam ducks. And the most enormous fist I’ve ever seen in my entire life comes careening toward my nose.
I don’t feel the blow, not until my head snaps back on my neck and bounces off the steel pole behind me. I can’t see through the whiplash. I stagger sideways, get my nose tangled in a tall man’s armpit, then stagger the other way, crash into the back doors of the bus, and fall through them. I manage to get one foot on the curb outside and take a couple of weird hops to the side before thudding to the asphalt. Blood is coursing out of my nose.
I feel pretty much like someone who just got punched in the face by a linebacker wearing a Jesus Loves You t-shirt. The bus speeds away, farting exhaust, taking Adam with it. The clouds sit stock still in the sky like something has shocked the shit out of them. The birds are trying to out sing each other in the trees. Tweet, fucking, tweet, tweet. Blood is smeared down the front of my shirt. The bus has pulled over. Adam pushes his way out the back doors, his mouth chomping open and closed again, like
he was once a fish.
And not so suddenly, I find myself feeling very friendly toward the smashed Styrofoam cup lying in the gutter because it too, once held something hot to the touch, before it was consumed.
JESSI LEE GAYLORD is a writer and instructor in Chicago. Her work has appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Knee-Jerk magazine, the Denver Syntax, the Battered Suitcase, and other publications.