Drawing © Dolorosa De La Cruz
Theresa drove down the street noticing how nondescript and common the main streets of most American towns were. Some touted their Main Street as a source of pride and ingenuity, a throwback to better times, but mostly they were relics of Americana. Her eyes scanned the signs on the doors hoping to find the familiar symbol she was looking for. It was a glyph that could be found everywhere in America –△.
Sometimes it had a circle around it sometimes it did not. It was an antiquated glyph, not as common as it once had been, but she could always find it when the need struck her.
Fifteen minutes of driving before she spotted one. Not too shabby for a hunt this late in the day, she thought to herself as she pulled the car to the curb. There were a few people gathered outside by the front door of the building. She knew the drill, knew they would be either friendly and welcoming or quiet and detached; however, they were not the guardians of the gate, and their reactions were ultimately irrelevant.
Once inside, she made her way to the coffee station, which was usually present. She never expected great coffee, and knew the quality of coffee in America was as varied as the economics and demographics of the area. She poured the steaming liquid into the Styrofoam cup and added generous helpings of the artery clogging powdered creamer and sugar. These two things always made bad coffee better.
Stale cigarette smoke wafted from behind, alerting her to the presence of another. One of the natives had made their way over to welcome the newcomer.
“Welcome friend, how are you this evening?” a male voice asked.
She turned to face the stranger, smiled kindly, and nodded.
“Not too bad, sir,” she said. “Needed to catch a meeting on my way cross-country.”
He nodded and smiled back.
“My name is Bob.” He motioned towards the circle of chairs. “Meeting starts in ten minutes.” He then walked away and went about greetings others.
Theresa wandered around the room, reading the various notices posted to the bulletin board. Employment opportunities, local business cards, and the schedule of other activities held in the building. She did not want to be the first one to take a seat, nor did she want to be the last. As the clock approached the top of the hour, the room began to fill and she found her way to a chair. She chose one opposite the room from the token zombie drunk. There was always one in every meeting. The one so badly damaged from alcohol that their diminished capacity served as a visual reminder to the group of the dangers alcohol and the precarious nature of sobriety and addiction.
The host stood and started the meeting. Theresa attended a lot of meetings, but never the same one twice, and never in the same city. She was always on the move, always travelling, trying her best to avoid seeking out the glyph. This evening’s host was a middle-aged Caucasian woman who was neatly dressed and spoke eloquently about her struggles. She nodded as the woman orated the horrors of her addiction, which Theresa could relate to. Addiction is a motherfucker, this she knew all too well. Trying to quell the screaming inside could be horrible if not managed correctly, which is why she always sought out the glyph.
She tried her best to not make eye contact with people, but when she did she smiled politely. No need to attempt to make connections because she would be gone by morning. She was here because of the need and nothing more. Once the host opened up the floor, she waited to tell her story, not wanting to seem too desperate or eager. Eventually she spoke up and rattled off the same story she always told. Child of two abusive alcoholics, family destroyed by her parents’ various addictions. She had spent time in and out of foster care and had eventually landed in state run facilities when she became a delinquent. Her story was as average as were her looks. Nothing memorable and Theresa liked it that way. She liked the anonymity. Drawing attention to herself was definitely a big no-no. As the meeting came to a close, she grabbed her bag and stood up. Scanning the room she noticed several small groups had formed, obviously those who were regulars catching up on recent events. She decided to refill her coffee before hitting the streets.
Once outside she decided to have a smoke, but because she did not regularly smoke, she did not have any cigarettes. She hesitantly approached the man from earlier, who just so happened to be smoking and asked him if she could bum a cigarette. He readily agreed and began making small talk with her. They chatted about nothing really. It was common to avoid discussing the details of their addictions, it was a topic better left for other times. At least that is what Theresa presumed. She had never formed any long-term relationships, but that is what she imagined happened between normal people. She certainly did not consider herself normal and did her best to keep it hidden from the outside world. She wanted to be as nondescript and as common as the Main Streets she wandered in search of the glyph.
Bob suggested that Theresa join him for “some real home-cooking” before she hit the road. She had explained that she was travelling and would be leaving soon. It was a common scenario: strangers dropping in to catch a meeting because they needed to or wanted to. Either way, it was normal, and she appreciated that. She had dropped in on many of these meetings during her short time on this earth, and never left without feeling better than when she had arrived. “It really works,” she had told Bob before they headed to the all-night restaurant of his choice.
All-night dining options in America are strangely uniform in their decors, she noted as she entered through the door Bob held open for her. A waitress quickly seated them in a corner booth. It was apparent that Bob was a regular here and had established relationships with a few members of the staff. Theresa envied him for this slightly, but knew she herself would never have the luxury of such simple things. She pretended to scan the menu while making more small talk with Bob, but knew exactly what she would order because it never changed. A cup of coffee and two eggs- over easy with wheat toast- no butter, bacon, and hash browns. She did not like hash browns, but liked to see what each restaurant offered. Was it the shredded, traditional hash browns or was it country potatoes or the formed potato patties or something new? She would note it later in her diary.
During the meal Theresa made herself vulnerable because what did it really matter? She would be gone with the rising of the sun. Bob shared his story with her and she listened intently, all details she must put into her diary later. She looked up at the omnipresent clock above the window where the heat lamps kept the food warm until the servers could pick it up. It was getting late and Theresa didn’t want this to take any longer than it needed to. She began to make more direct eye contact with Bob, lowered her head slightly, cocking it to an odd angle, and touched her hair. Theresa had learned how to dilate her pupils at will and for good reason.
“Bob,” she said, “We could sit here all night and tell each other tales of yore until we are blue in the face, but I would like to ask you a question if you don’t mind?”
The man did not seem surprised or put-off by her sudden frankness, which was typical.” Absolutely, ask away” he said with a genuine smile on his face.
“Would you like to come back to my motel room and fuck” she asked?
Without any hesitation Bob agreed. He even offered to pay for their meals before she excused herself to the ladies room.
She had chosen a motel on the outskirts of town, an obvious No-Tell-Motel another staple of American cities. She often wondered if the owners knew what type of establishment it was going to be from the names given to the businesses. This one lauded its free cable TV and Internet access. Neither of which were of any use to Theresa. Bob had followed her to the motel in his own vehicle, which was fine. Easier than trying to retrieve cars later, she thought to herself as she sped up to ensure she could get into the room before him. Once inside Theresa put her bag upon the table and grabbed a bottle of water from the bathroom. She did not require a lot during her travels, but preferred drinking bottled water to tap water. Another of her quirks, she had a lot, but only she knew them. She had left the door open, which Bob closed behind him as he entered the room. Not one for formalities or pleasantries, Theresa immediately set about the task before her. She approached Bob, put her arms around his neck, and kissed him. He quickly picked up, placed her upon the bed, and took off her clothes. She lifted her hips slightly as he pulled down her pants, and cooed softly as he removed her panties and engulfed her with his mouth.
The sex had been adequate, perfunctory, with Bob making sure she came before allowing himself release. Theresa retrieved another bottle of water from the bathroom, and offered it to him. Once again they made small talk, the way humans tend to do when they are naked and sitting alone in a motel room. The awkward moment between two strangers who had just committed an act of intimacy. Not that it held any depth or true meaning for them, but it was a shared moment nonetheless. She knew he would soon begin to politely excuse himself, which was the norm of most males and she never mistook it as a personal attack or slight against her. She genuinely smiled as he made his excuse for having to work early the next day and listened intently as he expressed his appreciation of her and her talents. Glancing at the omnipresent clock upon the nightstand next to the bed, Theresa nodded in agreement and gave him one last kiss. He stood to begin the process of putting on his clothes, swayed slightly, and dropped unconscious upon the floor next to the bed.
“They always make such a loud thud,” she said aloud as she tiptoed over his body and went back into the bathroom.
No one would ever suspect that a woman as small as she could be capable of lifting a man of Bob’s size. More importantly, no one would recall much about the woman Bob was seen dining with at the restaurant. Nor would the recall much about the stranger who had dropped into the meeting earlier because anonymity was part of the deal. Just as it was the basis for establishments like this motel to exist and operate. Servicing a clientele who wanted their privacy and identities protected. She had used zip ties to secure Bob’s hands to the showerhead above his head. Deadlifting 180-pounds was never an easy task and she was very good at judging the weight of a man by his size and frame. Bob was tall and lean, so it made the slack of his bodyweight less on the shower’s plumbing. Once Theresa was confident he was adequately bound, she left the shower and went back to the table where she had placed her bag. Inside she found the simple leather case that held the implement of her addiction. She held the case close to her bare chest and felt the warmth well up inside of her. She wished her addiction was as easy to feed as one for alcohol or drugs, but this was not to be. Hers required much more cunning than the garden-variety addiction and she was an addict as much as the rest.
She stood just outside the shower and opened the small case to reveal her great-grandfather’s mother-of-pearl handled, straight edge razor. The same one he had used to open his wrists with when the family fortunes had been lost in the Great Depression. It was a relic handed down to her by her own mother before she too had disappeared into the abyss of madness and addiction that plagued Theresa’s maternal lineage for generations. Gently she removed the implement from the case, opened the blade, and gazed at the reflection of her eyes; such an average shade of blue, nothing special or noteworthy, just blue. She heard Bob’s breathing, rhythmic and steady. The barbiturates she had laced the water with no longer had any effect on her, but they were quite useful on those who had not built up immunity to them. She had stockpiled a large quantity of drugs over the years, and was quite happy as the medications increased in potency the longer her treatments continued. The sound of the alarm on her phone brought her back to the moment. She stepped into the shower, pulled the cheap plastic curtain closed, and started to hum a tune.
Theresa reached up and gently pushed Bob’s hair behind his ear. She kissed his nose, and then his lips. Using her fingers she felt his neck and located the carotid artery. The razor plunged into the tissue and the blood sprayed onto Theresa’s body. She dropped the razor, opened her mouth, and bathed in the glorious warmth of Bob’s life. She celebrated him, slathered her body with him, took communion with him and satisfied the addiction she hid within her average appearance. For those precious few minutes, as the blood sprays freely, Theresa felt truly alive and human. In her head she repeated her most favorite word in the English language over-and-over, her mantra, exsanguination. Sadly, as is true with most addictions, the highs become shorter, and the desire to repeat the rush more frequent. Theresa sat down in the shower and looked up at Bob’s now lifeless body hanging prone from the showerhead. She was immediately angry he had not given her more, but acknowledged that what he had given her was something special. She said a silent prayer for him, stood up, turned on the shower, and rinsed the remnants of Bob from her body.
As Theresa prepared to leave the motel, she went back to the bathroom to complete the rituals of her addiction. She was adept at cleaning motel rooms and always carried supplies in her bag. She reached into a garbage bag that held the blood-soaked towels, and drew the glyph and a number on the back wall of the shower. This was her mark, her calling card, although she doubted anyone would seek to find her. There were countless others who were afflicted similar addictions, and at this exact moment, all of them operated within the same country. Completing their rituals, satisfying their own needs, in a world that has become a selfish place. One filled with too many horrors to ever acknowledge, let alone fix them all. A country without morals, America had been ethically cleansed. Theresa turned off all the lights before she made her way out into the night. In the safety of her car, she paused and gazed at how the lights from the motel’s neon signs danced across the hood. Curiously, the glyph appeared before her eyes, which she took a sign that her addiction was satisfied, for now. She knew that to the untrained eye the glyph that she left upon the wall would mean nothing, but some would immediately recognize it. The number, which was always the same, would possibly require more investigation, but was related. It was part of her compulsion, to leave these markings, and she hoped someone knew their meaning. Surely someone knew what △ and the number 13 meant as a whole.
Dolorosa De La Cruz