second meeting ˑ an urban quietude ˑ remember this
I found Willow for the second time overdosing outside of Maverick’s bar. She wasn’t dying – not yet, anyway – and for a lot of people, they probably would have walked by, not thinking to check on the way her eyes were moving, the twitches that shook her arms, the sweat running down her forehead even in the middle of a cold early-April night.
Most people would have ignored it. But from the smallest of tendrils, the fastest glimpse of the book of her mind, I could already tell that she was in trouble. MDMA is one of those drugs that promises bliss, and it delivers, but it’s far too easy to try prolong it past the lifetime that it offers.
Willow’s mind was a mess. Half-blissed out, half-panic, ranting about angels and demons and martyrdom, and laced through all of it, do I want to die or not I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know.
I put my unlit cigarette away. I’d been here dropping off a fare – pure chance, really – and recognized the striking blonde of her hair. Poor thing. I’d pulled enough (discreetly, and with no shortage of guilt) from her head the last time we’d run into each other for me to know exactly who she was.
I squatted down in front of her. “Hey. Can you hear me?”
“I’ll take that as a yes. Do you remember me?”
“Mm. S-sorta.” Then she looked up at me, and wrinkled her nose. “Oh. Anglerfish boy.”
“Not a boy.” Beat. “Anglerfish?”
She just shook her head, lost in something that I couldn’t see. “…Thirsty.”
I touched her arm. She was burning up. “Yeah, looks like you’ve ODed.”
“Fuck. Again. Alright.”
Again? I sighed, trying not to feel frustrated that my attempted intervention last time had just ended up back here. People took… patience.
No, not that simple, or that trite. Trauma took patience. One of the upsides of our powers – the one that Will and I shared, among others – was that I knew, immediately, that she had been through hell. What kind of hell, only the newspaper stories and the lightning-fast images scrolling through her brain could tell me.
Still, I wasn’t really anybody. I was a dumbass twenty-five year old with a taxi and powers that I’d only started learning to accept.
“C’mon. Up, you.” If she hadn’t been a trans girl, or on drugs, I probably would have called the paramedics. Instead, I was gonna have to get creative.
“My name’s Willow.”
“I know, dear.” I managed to get one of her arms around her shoulder; the other hung by her side, fingers tensing and relaxing. “I’ve got a bottle of water in the car. C’mon.”
She grinned, eyes hazy over the bags underneath. “If you’re try’na fuck me there are easier ways.”
“Haha. Afraid not.”
Once I got her into my car, though, I slumped over the steering wheel, trying to decide where I was going to take her.
Ixchel was never going to let me hear the end of it.
The drive was quiet, especially here in the dead of the night. I loved Ottawa at night. It was a strange, silent place; like most government towns, it shuts down at ten pm, and it was well past two in the morning. In cities like Toronto or my old home Montreal, the lights would be on all through the night. Here, the tall statues of downtown, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the monuments and centurion buildings loomed over the empty streets, unchanging faces watching over those few who weren’t in bed where they belonged. Grant talked about liminal spaces a lot; the crossing-places from one state or world to another. Ottawa felt like a whole metropolis built on top of their intersections. A place to raise a family. A place to grow up. And somewhere in the middle, people like me.
I glanced over at Willow. The water had helped, although when she’d begged for more, I’d had to say no. It was way too easy to overdo it – more people died from overdrinking than they did anything else with ecstasy, really. She wasn’t totally unconscious; I knew that much from the way her finger was tapping along to The Creatures.
This is not the type of music I expected you to listen to.
I couldn’t help but smile as her voice appeared in my head. I’d wondered if she was going to use that trick. From the sounds of what I could pick up, she was a ridiculously strong Sulfur; the type of mindreader who can’t avoid listening to the heads of others. I’ve always considered myself lucky to be less sensitive than that. Still, strength in one area doesn’t always mean strength in another. Why do you say that?
I don’t know. Beat. Actually, scratch that, I think that was a dumb response.
I fought another – exasperated – laugh, and stopped myself from saying, with no shortage of sarcasm, that plenty of Black people liked goth music. But a moment later, I saw the embarrassed flush on her face. She really was powerful.
I just think it’s neat. I like music that does something interesting with the tenets of the genre, you know? Goth rock and goth metal pull in elements from everywhere – folk instruments, operatic vocals, punk riffs. And the Creatures are one of the foundational groups for goth rock, whether you believe me or not.
Willow rolled her eyes, then pushed her head against the seat of the chair, turning her head towards me. “Great,” she rasped. “You’re a fucking nerd.”
“Proudly. How are you feeling?”
“Like God put me through a paper shredder.”
I snorted. “Well, I’m glad you’re speaking. I’m taking you to get looked at.”
Willow paled, and I took one hand off the steering wheel to put what I hoped was a comforting hand on her arm. “Not the hospital. I promise.”
“…You know who I am. Don’t you.”
“Within reasonable doubt, yes.”
She went quiet, her throat apparently giving up on her as she switched back to mental communication. Please don’t tell anyone.
“I won’t. I don’t particularly think it’s relevant beyond you preferring to stay away from hospitals and police stations. And I’m not stupid enough to show up at the police’s front door.”
She cracked a smile at that one. Some white people don’t understand. Some have more of an idea than others. Thanks.
“It’s no problem.” When I didn’t get a response, I realized she’d fallen asleep. I pressed my fingers gently to her wrist – her pulse was still a little too fast, but starting to come down.
Sometimes it just works out that way. A single bottle of water bringing somebody just down to this side of survival. Drugs wearing off faster than they’re supposed to. No matter what, though, I was glad.