The words over at Three Word Wednesday are damp, incensed and skid.
Mrs. Delacroix In Mourning
Rosaria Delacroix rested her ample ass on the cracked steps that led into her building, chain-smoking his shitty filterless cigarettes. She couldn’t find her Indian Spirits and there was no way she was going back into their fourth-floor walkup, not now.
The damp had re-animated that yellow-and-white tomcat’s musky piss and she found herself taking gulps of air and smoke and holding them together for as long as she could possibly hold out.
It being spring, the clouds had rolled in, and a fine mist coated everything. Her hair had suffered the most, its inky-black richness reduced to a spring-loaded kinetic sculpture of tangled curls.
Yesterday’s mascara bled from her eyes, the present wetness of the weather having reactivated the tears that spilled it in the first place. She had a look of quiet desperation, or a punch-drunk sinister clown, depending on the reaction of her lips in certain positions.
Rosaria blew out another cloud of smoke, shook a fresh cigarette out of the crinkled pack, and lit the new with the old. She flicked the butt and watched it skid across the wet concrete, lit by a single street light, off the curb and into the gutter, where it floated off into the darkness. Her mind drifted after it.
She took to thumbing the dollop-sized, rusty stain on her faded jeans. Again. Like if she rubbed it enough, it would simply go away.
“Fat fucking chance,” she said through a stream of smoke.
Neil Delacroix was slumped next to his tan microfiber easy chair, the very one that was not yet paid for, quietly cooling, a cheap stainless kitchen blade wedged between his fifth and sixth rib. In all, there were 17 three-inch slash marks – now heavily crusted with drying blood – dotting his light-blue work shirt, the one with Neil neatly stitched above the left breast pocket.
For as much of a weak fight he put up – let’s face it, he was 6-foot, 5-inches and more than a little overweight – Rosaria had floated like a butterfly, stung like a bee. All 5-foot, 2-inches of her. He had fallen hard, and in the end, curled up like a question mark.
His face wore a mask of questions and pain, of course. Some genuine surprise in there, too.
The fight didn’t last long, but it had elevated quickly. Same old, same old. His needs for Rosaria to be get a goddamn job and help pay the bills. Her wants for him to shut the fuck up and get off her back.
She’d been hacking up a chicken for the stew pot and Neil sorta just ran into the first thrust. Rosaria kinda kept going once the bloody foam started to form across his lips, where he kept repeating “Cunt” in various tones, like he was searching for the perfect lyrical balance.
She hated the word, it incensed her, his crude use of it. She tired early of his backwater ways, the jumble of sayings she just never got. Raised in rural Louisiana, Neil came to the city after Katrina washed so many lives away. Rosaria was a child of the streets, went to public school and managed to graduate without getting pregnant and needing to wear a nursing bra under her gown.
She had plans, but the city can suck on you, suck the juiciness out, so she stayed in the neighborhood, learned how to do hair, and watched helplessly as she grew older and rounder, while those in her chair got younger, more supple.
Rosaria’s brother, Miguel, had introduced Neil to her during the Cinco de Mayo. The boys were porters at the same Upper West Side condo, where rich white folks had a way of looking right though a person until Christmas, where they made a big splash at giving out cards to the help, stuffed with cash. It was like their one big chance at being magnanimous, which pissed Rosaria off plenty.
Neil and Miguel, hell, they were just happy to have the sudden influx of income, which meant maybe a few more beers for Miguel and a day’s fishing for sunfish and perch in Harlem Meer for Neil, with a spiffy new rod and maybe a few new lures.
Rosaria seethed at the gifts, churned silently at the fakeness of it all. Even when Neil bought her something nice with the influx, like her antique-white canopy queen-sized bed, or the matching microfiber chairs, part of this year’s recession-depleted largess, which accounted for the six months, no-interest deal they’d been forced to strike with the discount furniture place.
She was now thinking of the chairs, while picking pieces of tobacco off her lips, and how she was going to pay for them, rotting her ass off in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women.
“Fuck that,” she said.
Rosaria fished her mobile out of the back pocket of her jeans, flipped it open with her thumbnail that was painted with several layers of red lacquer and sprayed with silver glitter.
She hoped he’d answer. No, Rosaria silently prayed that he still had the number operational, since Caesar Lopez had a habit of shifting cell numbers frequently. Part of his business plan. It’s best, when you’re dealing smoke to the niggers over in Harlem, to be open to new and cheap cellular devices and various plans that you can pay for by the month, or with a rechargeable card.
Caesar was Rosaria’s high school flame, the one boy she did let stuff a sticky, sweaty hand down her pants during a showing of Forrest Gump at the Loews. From those first few fingers in her, the relationship had burst into a passionate bickering that usually cooled whenever one or the other started in with fists over some minor disagreement.
Yet Caesar and Rosaria were drawn inevitably back together, now to the backseat of his Lexus or her new queen-sized bed when Neil was out bowing to the white folk, then their sparks lead to fire, then flames, then to more fists and bruises and an end of hostilities and a general retreat.
Rosaria relied on him to keep her life real. She liked his cash, too, the way he earned it. Caesar bragged that he liked having her in his hip-pocket for the easy piece of ass, but he secretly wished theirs could be a love story with lasting ability, even though she hit hard and she was really easy to piss off most times.
Rosaria dialed, chewing on her bottom lip as the rings added up past a dozen, and breathed a sigh of relief and smoke when he picked up.
“Hello lover,” she said. “I finally did something about that big, dumb nigger. Yeah, for real. I’m going to need help cleaning it up, though. Yeah, it’s a mess. Ok, I’ll see you.”
She flicked the phone shut, stuffed it back into her jeans, lit another cigarette.
“I think Neil just missed Louisiana,” she said, practicing. “I got home from work and he was gone, no note or nuthin.”