Something To Believe

                She came up the front walk holding a pamphlet. A tan shoulder bag hung low. Reed peeked through the crack in the curtain and thought: She’s a babe. Good looking from head to shoes. Stylish and relaxed. The doorbell rang, and taking a long, cool breath, he opened the door.
                “Hi, I’m Astrid, and I’m wondering if you have a moment to talk about the state of the world, and to consider what religion has to say about this?”
                Reed looked her up and down. She was wearing a tight, zippered-front, sleeveless, light-green dress, which made her hazel eyes and long red hair pop. And she had curves that could make any man crawl the gauntlet, just to kiss her feet.
                “Uh, sure. Would you like to come in and have a seat?”
                She came in and sat on the couch. Reed sat next to her, close, but not encroaching. Astrid crossed her legs and her dress slid up––her thighs were like bronze trophies. She opened the pamphlet, threw her hair back, straightened her posture, and her small breasts shot upward, as if on command.
                Reed gasped and a tremor ran through his body.
                “Is everything alright?” she asked.
                “Yes, all is fine. Can I get you a drink: water, juice, bourbon?”
                The bourbon slipped out like a sin; he was embarrassed and blushing. Astrid smiled.
                Reed apologized.
                “I’m sorry. The bourbon is just a habit when asking …”
                She cut him off, “I’d love a bourbon. On the rocks. Thank you.”
                He couldn’t stop staring at her. She looked about twenty-eight, maybe thirty.
                “The drink?” she asked playfully.
                “Oh, right, excuse me.”

                In the kitchen, Reed paced excitedly, and his head was spinning. He then focused his thoughts on the drinks and returned to the couch. Astrid had removed her heels and was rubbing her feet. She wasn’t wearing nylons.
                “I hope you don’t mind. My feet are on fire, and they hurt.”
                Reed handed her the bourbon, and while trying to stop shaking he said, “That’s fine.”
                When he sat on the couch he had noticed that Astrid had slid over closer to where he was sitting.
                His head was spinning again, so he took a gulp of bourbon. Then Astrid took a gulp of hers, waited for it to hit bottom, gulped the rest of it, and with a smile said, “Wow! That’s damn good bourbon! How about another one, please?”
                But Reed was feeling the need to get back to the topic of what religion had to say about the world, or he was going to cross a seductive line.
                “Sure, I’ll get you another, but first, tell me, who are you representing? Which denomination?”
                She was sucking on ice cubes and raised her index finger, making the wait gesture, while she swallowed the water.
                “I’m with Light Of Christo. Well, I’m trying, that is. I’m not religious—not really. But I need something to believe in, and this door to door begging is exhausting. You’re my last call. Thank goodness!”
                Astrid fell backwards into the couch and unzipped the dress a few inches. Reed saw the lace of a green bra, and he shivered. She continued, “I’m thinking, a belief system may help me to focus on things other than myself.”
                Astrid’s legs were still crossed and her dress had slid up some more, revealing the upper part of her left thigh and a small maroon tattoo written in lowercase: i need passion. She handed him the empty glass. Reed answered dumbly, “Yes, to believe in something. Why not?”
                He was lost for words. A film teacher at the local college, and a script writer, and he was lost for words. There was a moment of silence, and Reed tried not to show his excitement. He started to perspire.
                Astrid continued, “I’m new to this cult game and the idea that I need to keep my head buried in virtuous thoughts, and that I need to drop my old friends in exchange for new friends from the congregation is, well, troubling. I’m not sure that this is the right choice. The drink, please.”

                In the kitchen, Reed was pacing again and thought: I need passion, I need passion. What the fuck does that mean? I’m sure she has a man. She must have a man. Look at her! What kind of passion? Is she lacking passion, or is she a nymph? Is she married, divorced? Did she lean back that far for me to see the tattoo? And what about pulling the zipper down … ? He threw back another shot of bourbon.
                “Hey …” she asked, “What’s going on in there? You’re awfully quiet for a man pouring drinks. Yeah?”

                Reed brought the bourbon to her. “Do you have a shirt I can wear?" she asked to Reed’s surprise. "This dress is suffocating me. I hope you don’t think it’s weird, but if we’re going to continue to drink and talk, well, you know what I mean. Yeah?”
                His hand shook while holding the glass, the ice cubes rattled. “Uh, no, no, uh, not weird, no, not at all.” He was thinking: I’m five-ten and she’s about five-five, my shirt will cover enough of her. Reed went into the bedroom and brought back a white button-down. She stood up, and he was staring at her again. “Um, the bathroom?” she inquired. “Yes, right, the bathroom, to the left, down the hall.” The way her shapely ass moved when leaving the room, and the arousing flow of her luscious hair, was a vision. Reed sat on the couch, downed his drink, and worked on calming his breath.

                At forty, Reed’s life had crumbled when his wife of ten years, Zara, left him for a younger man that she had met at a mindfulness retreat. That was two years ago. He then bought this Los Angeles bungalow six months back and had been working on keeping his head emotionally above water. It was challenging, depressing, and lonely. He was losing sleep, pacing the house at night, hearing Zara’s voice, or standing at the window watching the darkness for hours. This anxiousness had caused him to have two breakdowns.
                His therapist prescribed sleeping pills, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, and painkillers for his headaches. He had advised Reed to cut out the boozing alone, and to get out and socialize.
                Teaching film was the only time he really got out. Sometimes his neighbor, Benny, would come over for drinks, and occasionally he’d go to cafés to work on his script. He sat alone. Depressed.
                That was about it for socializing.
                Sitting on the couch Reed’s mind rushed with thoughts: What the fuck is going on here? Who is she? What does she want? He was nervous with anticipation. Astrid made him hunger for what he hadn’t had in years: Passion. And he seriously needed to piss.

                Astrid returned looking like a 40’s film star: wavy hair, seductive eyes, full lips. Bacall came to mind. “I hope I haven’t overstepped your hospitality by leaving my dress in the bathroom. I can bring it out here if you want.”
                He told her it was fine, and then rushed to the toilet to free his raging piss. The first thing Reed noticed is that the bathroom smelled of woman: a persuasive, sexual odor. His dick smelled it, too. Washing his hands, he looked in the mirror and saw Astrid’s dress hanging on a hook behind him, and then her green bra and panties on the floor. He nearly stopped breathing. The booze had knocked out some brain cells, and his clarity was fogged. He was thinking: What the fuck is this, a setup? Am I going to walk out and a thug boyfriend will be there? It must be a setup, right? I’m going to be robbed. But I have nothing of value––he was paranoid. There was a knock on the door. “Yes!?” he sounded anxious. Then, a gentle tone, “Are you sick? Do you need help?”
                When Reed opened the door, Astrid was standing there naked. Evening had rolled in; the house was dark. But the streetlight coming through was enough for him to see her spirited nipples, her fire-red pubis. She came to him, slipped his shirt off, then his pants. She knelt down, and Reed felt her mouth take him in, and then rising up for a kiss, she tasted of whiskey and sex. He picked her up, and while he carried her to the bedroom, she whispered, “I need something to believe in.”
                They fell on the bed.

                Morning came like a pounding fist. Lying on his stomach, Reed’s head was splitting, and his mouth was a ball of dried cotton. Feeling as heavy as mud, he groaned and rolled over. His gluey eyes peeled open. The shirt that Astrid had worn last night was on a hanger. A note stuck out of the pocket, and getting up and walking, one wobbly step at a time, was like doing physical therapy. Reed reached for the note with a trembling hand. It read: "A moment of hallucination is all that it takes. Call me. We should talk."

                Benny knocked on the door and knocked again. No answer. He walked around looking into the living room. Nothing. He went to the backdoor and knocked harder. Still no answer. He went to the side of the house and peered into the bedroom. Reed was lying prone on the bed. His head was turned towards the window. His eyes were open but with a stone-cold stare. An empty fifth of whiskey and an opioid container were on the floor. There was a piece of paper in his hand that hung over the bed. Benny knocked on the window. No response. He knocked harder. Reed was motionless. He dialed 911.

                When Detective Jewels came out of the house, Benny was waiting on the lawn with his wife and kids. Benny’s wife was crying. The usually quiet Toluca Lake neighborhood was crowded with policemen and gawkers. Jewels walked over to Benny and said, “It’s a shame. A real shame. The note is from his psychiatrist. I’ve called the doc. Says he slid it under the front door yesterday after he had knocked and nobody answered. Reed missed his last two sessions. The doc was concerned. It’s a real shame. My condolences.” Detective Jewels motioned to the paramedics, and they rolled the body bag out of the house. Benny then said to Jewels, “All Reed wanted was something to believe in.”

DAH is a multiple Pushcart and Best Of The Net nominee, and the lead editor for the poetry critique group, The Lounge. The author of nine books of poetry, DAH lives in Berkeley, California, and has been teaching yoga to children in public and private schools, since 2005. He is working on his tenth poetry book, which will be coming out from Clare Songbirds Press.

visit: www.dahlusion.wordpress.com
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