Refuge Refuge

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance


Status: Finished

Genre: Romance


A woman finds what she needs to move on from a broken heart in the form of a young prostitute.


A woman finds what she needs to move on from a broken heart in the form of a young prostitute.


Submitted: May 23, 2017

A A A | A A A


Submitted: May 23, 2017



Refuge/Cigarettes and Snow

She was simply one moment in time for me: a place where I stopped for a while to gather myself and bandage the bruised parts of my soul.  During those days, my life was a stream of cigarettes and cheap whiskey.  It was late nights at a bar, sketching the passersby as I slowly got stoned.  It was walks through Central Park at all hours, sobering gradually and watching the cancerous smoke rise from my lips in dusty trails beneath the lamps.  I recall that I could never see the stars on those nights, for the lights that sputtered above my head put off a florescence too harsh to see beyond.  It was on one of those long and careless midnight walks during which she first saw me, and I piqued her interest.

It was February, early in the new-year, and I was lingering still in an abysmal remnant of December.  I was living those hard memories day-in and day-out.  I hardly ever found my bed at night, for somewhere within me I knew that I would awaken each morning looking at that place beside me, finding the sheets there as empty and numb as the space in my heart.  I could not lay in that bed alone.  I could not go there without my love beside me.

And so I went other places.  I drifted, a single battered and soggy leaf floating where the river would take me.  One cold night, it took me to her.

The first of February (only several minutes shy of the second) found me sitting on the snow-crusted pavement, filtering my intake of the world through a cigarette.  I did not hear her approach, for I was half-drunk and willfully unaware.  I noticed her only when she dropped to the ground beside me.  I watched her reach for my pack of Marlboros, which were lying on the pavement to my left, and help herself to one.  She borrowed my lighter and lit up with a sigh.

“Waiting for someone?  A boyfriend, maybe?”  She asked with a raised eyebrow, blowing a small puff of smoke into my face as she spoke.  She looked a bit boyish with a hood pulled up around her short black hair.  But her features were too delicate, too pretty, to ever be anything more masculine than wonderfully gamine.

“No.”  I inhaled the smoke absently.  She was looking off to her left, the cigarette glowing between her dainty fingers.  The nails were painted black, fresh and un-chipped.

“Girlfriend?” she asked.


“Well you should be careful.  You’re too cute to be baiting the lowlifes out here at this time of night.”  She smiled with her eyes, waiting for me to bite.

“You’re one to talk,” I dismissed.  “What are you doing here anyway?”

“Looking for you,” she said simply.

“Why?”  I stubbed out my cigarette and flicked the butt into the dirty snow.

“You look lonely.  I could help.”

Ah.  So there it was.  Money for sex was what she was after.  This delicate gamine doll was a prostitute.  I felt the last of myself snap at that moment, just like a toothpick.  I didn’t flinch, for there was no flood of pain.  Only a more complete detachment.  A gentle snow was beginning to fall, and I lit up another cigarette.

“I see you walking here a lot.”  She took a drag.

“Do you?”  I took a larger drag.

“Yes.”  She was studying me closely with sharp green eyes.  They were not predatory, but rather assertively prey-like.  Bidding me to be the predator.  Perhaps I would.

“Emery,” she gave me her name with an outstretched hand.  I shook it.  She did not ask my name and I did not offer it up.

“You’re lovely, Emery.  How much?” I asked.

“I like you.  So two hundred and fifty.”  She smiled sweetly.

“That’s a lot,” I raised an eyebrow.

“It is,” she agreed.

“Alright.  I need to stop at an ATM then.  Is my place ok?”  I rose and helped her up.  She nodded, flicking the ash from her cigarette.

We walked the several blocks to my apartment building hand-in-hand.  It was too cold to talk, and so we watched our breath ghost away from our bodies to dissipate amongst the falling snow.  It was that eerie time of night when everything seems a frostbitten dream.

We reached my apartment and I fumbled my keys with chilled fingers.  Inside, Emery tossed herself down upon my couch while I went to the kitchen and took a deep swig of vodka.  It was Popov and I knew I would regret it tomorrow.  When I reentered the living room, she was sitting up and smoking a half of a cigarette from my ashtray, a little smile on her lips.  “Waste not want not,” she stated simply.

I shrugged and watched her finish it.  She blew the last puff towards me playfully.  When she was done, she rose and glanced around. “Want me to shower?” She asked.

“If you want.  The bathroom is off of the bedroom,” I told her, pointing.

She nodded and disappeared into the other room.  When I heard the shower start up, I ventured in after her and sat down on my bed to wait.  Soon I felt the warmth of steam leaking out from underneath the bathroom door, and I briefly considered disrobing and joining her.  No.  My love and I had showered together almost every day for three years; I could not defile our tradition, even if it was now dead.

Instead, I counted out her two hundred and fifty and laid it out on the nightstand.  Then I went back to the kitchen and took another swig of Popov.  It burned in just the right way, and I stood there before my kitchen window, head bowed and staring into the sink, feeling it work its way through me.  From far away, I could hear Emery humming in the shower.  It was a lovely, heartbreaking sound.  I raised my head, only to be met with my own face transposed over the filthy streets far below.  I was seeing through myself, and it took all my effort to bring my reflection into focus over the backdrop.

This person who looked back at me surely could not be myself!  She was haggard and far too old, adorned with dark-rimmed eyes and snow-lashed skin.  Yet it was.  The woman in the window with the sleepless streets and flickering lamps behind her head was I.  With growing horror, I watched as a figure fled across the street below, passing over the bridge of my nose, followed by several others who took even more haphazard paths as they scurried over my features.

I turned away.  I reached automatically for my cigarettes, but my fingers fumbled and dropped the pack.  I left them on the ground.  I heard the water shut off in the other room, and knew that Emery would be waiting for me.  I took several more moments to compose myself and chased them with another swig of Popov.

Sure enough, I found her sitting cross-legged on my rug, leaning against the bed.  She wore nothing but her panties and one of my flannel shirts.  I felt the blood rise up in my cheeks, and I looked away quickly.

“Aren’t you cold?” I asked nervously.

“Yes.  Warm me.” She replied without skipping a beat.  Hesitantly, I sat down beside her.  She leaned her head on my shoulder, snuggling against my side.  I made no move.

“Are you scared?”  She asked, playing with a lock of my long hair.

I thought for a moment before answering.  “Yes,” I said quietly.  And in an even lower voice, “but not of you.”

“What then?”

“I don’t know.” Myself.  Everything.

“Well what would you like me to do?”

“Just talk to me.  Please.  I don’t want to talk about myself.”  I kissed the top of her head.  Her hair was wet and smelled of the pomegranate shampoo that my love had left behind.  Emery’s fine, long thighs were folded up against me, and I resisted the urge to run my hands over them.

“What about then?  Politics, astrology… sex?”  She cuddled closer to me.

“Anything.” I replied, giving into the urge to put my arm around her.

“No,” she said.  “Just kiss me.”

I did.

I kissed her lips, softly.  It was the gentle kiss I had been saving for my love, to give to her in apology and reverence.  I gave it to Emery, passionately numb.  I brushed the flannel off her shoulders, running my hands across them.  I kissed her neck, sucking lightly at the pulse of life beneath her skin, until she shifted away and whispered, “No marks.”

“Alright,” I replied, and covered her mouth with my own once more, entwining my fingers in her short hair until my diamond ring was tangled in snares.  My other hand was lost somewhere beneath the flannel.

And then the kiss ended.  It had been sweet and hot, and it hurt my soul to have another’s lips upon my own.  I didn’t care.  Let it hurt.

She put her pretty mouth against mine, tugging me to stand up as she did so.  I let her draw me up and then push me down upon the bed.  The springs creaked jealously as she climbed atop me, abandoning the flannel in the process.  Her breasts were as pale and gamine as the rest of her.  She was slender, skinny as an adolescent boy, and radiated a seductive warmth that I did not want to resist.  I would do whatever necessary to forget myself.

I let her pin me down and explore me, my mind wandering from the heat of the moment to the girl who used to share my bed.  I felt myself shudder and knew that it had nothing to do with the woman on top of me.  Emery seemed to know also, and she brought my focus back to her with a sharp bite.  For the shortest second, I had seen her adorned in auburn curls.

And then the moment departed; I was in bed with a stranger once more.

To this day, I do not think that the play we staged that night was really about sex.  I think it was about refuge.  I needed refuge from my own mind and the places it was taking me; I don’t know what Emery needed sanctuary from.  Perhaps she just needed money.  I don’t think so, though.

Later, we lay tangled together in our fading passion.  My head was resting on her shoulder and the beat of her heart was lulling.  Never in my life have I been as tired as I was at that moment.

“Should I go now?”  She asked.

“No,” I replied absently.  “Stay.  If you want.”

She was not there when I awoke.  I was glad.

After that, I ceased my midnight wanderings.  I threw out the bottle of Popov.  It was not guilt or shame that made me do so; I regretted nothing.  Nothing at all.  I had found the thing I did not know I was looking for.  My life was in motion again after those stagnant months of misery.  I was by no means whole again, for there is no amount of booze and smoke and whoring about that can accomplish that, but I was started on the track.  I was going somewhere.  When the snow melted that spring, the numbness began to go with it.  Winter was fading slowly into a runny mess that could eventually be sculpted into something resembling my old life.  The thawing meant clearer thought and a resulting sharpened pain, but it was a pain I could handle.  It was tangible in comparison to that previous floating grief.

The refuge that I found that night was a crucial degeneracy.  I did not do a good thing, but it did me good.  And when summer came that year, I was almost ready to welcome it.

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