Daniel M. Cruse
Celeste had violet eyes. She worked out of a boutique on Sunset selling moonlight in paper cups. The early April rain had cleared and the smell of wet asphalt still loitered in the air. I skipped over a puddle on the sidewalk, landing in the doorway of the boutique, unable to stop gawking. She leaned against the counter tracing invisible designs with her fingers in long languid motions. The morning brightened. I checked my reflection in a parked car’s window. Strong, bright beams of sunlight splintered off the brass door handle. I gripped it and pushed the door open. The bells hanging from the door rattled in an orange tintinnabulation. She cracked a half smile. Walking down the narrow aisles, my fingers brushed against the material of someone’s past. I thumbed through the ever changing shades of greyblackgreenkhaki. I only browsed long enough to kill suspicion. The hanger rattled against the counter as I placed a green t-shirt on it. She stared me in the eyes. Purple. Her t-shirt hung tightly to her thin stomach and stopped just below her navel. The tattered jeans that hugged her ass so beautifully stopped at the edge of her pelvis, her skin tan and creamy. I blushed and handed her the cash for the vintage.
“Glass of moonlight?” She asked casually. A strand of silver hair hiding her face.
I managed to mumble yes.
Reaching beneath the counter, she pulled up a dixie cup filled with a blueish luminescence that careened over the rim. Our eyes never broke contact as I gripped the thin paper cup, weightless and cool.
“Go ahead,” she made the motion of drinking, bringing her hand to her lips and tilting back an invisible glass.
I sucked it down. It tasted like nothing and something else entirely all at once and there’s no better way to describe it. My insides froze for a second and time—or for that matter the physical world—melded with everything; colors breathed, slow at first, then faster and faster until the tumultuous wind swept them away. Purple irises, I can remember them, focusing on me, intently, wholly, and I wondered if she knew. Light fluctuated inside me: I could see it pouring through like fire under a blanket, its flames licking my t-shirt. Storm clouds bursting within themselves. Myself stupophoric. Purple. Eyes. All that metaphysical deterioration and I focused on her eyes. Then like dawn the moon light vanished and the unsettling dullness of reality returned. We stared at each other, her lips slightly quivered. I told her I didn’t want a bag for the shirt and slung it over my shoulder.
Looking back at her once, I stumbled out the boutique. I made it four feet before I stepped back in.
“Can I take you out?”
She studied me over for a second.
“I get off work at ten.”
Sunset Boulevard bent at night. Everything does, but Sunset in particular took on a different persona. Street lights with flourescent bulbs, energy efficient bulbs, sepia bulbs, are interspersed down the boulevard like dusty diamonds. Homeless men and women and children no longer begged for change, instead they ruffled through garbage bins, hopped up on crystal meth, like rabid demons. Hipsters smoked cigarettes outside of bars, whose walls were covered with different lovers epitaphs.
I walked a few blocks from the bus stop and met Celeste as she locked up the store. She had a scarf wrapped around her neck; one she knitted from a strange array of colors, a first grader’s finger painting all swirled and bright. Her hair hung in strands that flipped back in the wind catching the street lamps. Softly, with a total sense of familiarity, she wrapped her arm inside mine. In a strange simultaneous movement we walked; our shadows blurred and stretched down the windy curves of Sunset. Slipping her hand into her purse, she pulled out a crooked joint and lit it. The smoke came off grey and pungent. She exhaled a thick fog that twisted around my head. I took my own big hit. The traffic obscured into one passing spectrum of dim colors, their exhaust choking the night. We didn't talk, but listened to the city, lost in silent conversation about the endless night. As we stepped down the sidewalk I had that feeling I’d been here a thousand times.
Ahead of us, as the road and sidewalk curved downwards, a large wall supported a row of houses atop a small bluff. Chaparral and jasmine hung over the top edges. Their green foliage black in the night yet the bright purple of the flowers glowed. The wall itself had become a mural of a thousand tags. Graffiti. The entire thing. She stopped towards the middle of wall and stared, bringing us to a sudden halt. Jerking me back, she faced the wall. The tags, each distinct and colorful, melded together to form one voice, a single cry for significance in a drowning world that ultimately left them vulnerable to constant judging.
Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a can of spray paint, and shook it a few times, the sounds of bones rattling. Uncapping it, she began blasting the wall. In quick, tenacious motions, she created her name: NightLight––a tag I’d seen a thousand times––in unworldly designed letters. She used a phosphorescent paint that glowed a bright neon orange. She tossed the bottle to me and smiled. I didn’t hesitate. Nervously, like losing my virginity, I wrote Frank. She laughed and took off running down the street.
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I graduated from the University of Southern California's Master of Professional Writing program. I like dinosaurs, thunderstorms and other things.
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