ever have someone tell you to stand up straight? look you in the eye when they're talking?

Relapse in 26 Lines

A thick creamy plume of smoke rises up into the stale air of the hotel room. Back at it again. Canʼt believe it. Damn. Eloi, eloi lama sabbacthani and all that shit. Fucking truth of the matter, though, is that Godʼs off the hook on this one. Gacked myself up, as usual.

Hereʼs how it happened:

I was running late after the movie. Just seemed faster to cut down to Mission and catch a taxi there. Killing the feeling that this might not be a good idea, I hurried on. Lots of people go to 16th and Mission without any trouble. Man, Iʼve been to 16th & Mission lots of times since getting back without any trouble.

Nothing to it- get to the corner, raise my hand, flag down a cab and be out of there in a minute flat. Of course I didnʼt think through what would happen if taxis went sparse for a while. Problem two came when I scanned the doorway near the corner. Questioning with my eyes the short man standing there with the requisite backpack and alert calculating fiduciary gaze. Rounding about on my heels and going back to Valencia was still an option. Shit, I told myself, calm down. There was no way I was going to do anything.

Unless he said something to me.

Visions of how quickly I could complete the transaction and get a low-rent hotel nearby filled my head. Waiting for the universe to make my non-choice for me, I stood rooted to the spot. X-ray eyes scanned my face, seeing through to the hungry ghost inside.

“You looking for something, papi?” he asked, as three, two, one seconds counted down to make room for my decision. Zero, game over.

Chris West has been published in the journals Kitchen Sink and Morbid Curiosity, in several online venues including a current stint with LEGENDMag, and has participated in the Mortified on-stage reading series. While working for a nonprofit in San Francisco, Chris is also at work seeking to publish his first novel.

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