Those were the same words I'd heard Darren use. Except this triggering of déja vu had been flawed: Tyler and Darren had each said it with a different intonation.

Darren's had been one of command and confidence, veiling carnal thoughts and caressless encounters. His place. The apartment his parents had kicked him out to; mattress, fridge and microwave, no headboard to bang against the wall.

Tyler was speaking out of something else, my instincts told me. No one in his shape would say something like Darren had said, at least not to me. There'd be a shower, laser scar removal and a correct anti-depressant before he could do what Darren does with his Friday nights.

"Another place," he repeated. There was a green smudge above his left ear. It was flaky.

I looked him in the eye with feigned indifference, and then gave a very intentional blink. I made a plan: I'd leave yesterday's short story with Kevin, and turn my tail on Tyler.

"Oh, excuse me," he blushed, returning life to that pale face, "that's not what I meant all. Dear me."

I laughed, "I'm not here for the reasons the others are."

He glanced at my bag, "Inspiration?" He paused as I nodded, "I'm an artist. I was referring to the abandoned general store down... near the tracks."

The train tracks. I'd have said it with the same emphasis he had. Life isn't easy, but cans of red paint would do the job with less grief. My morbid visual of a red-splattered transit train made me ask, "Is that paint on your head?"

He didn't stop to look in the mirror panel on the wall, "Yup."

I reached into my purse and held the can of pepper spray tightly, and then looked up into his eyes again.

They were sad and cold, still. He didn't look dangerous, but neither had the others. I told myself my guard was still up.

"Lead the way," I requested.

Those, too, were words I remembered. I'd been lying on linens. He hadn't been taking my advice. I wonder if I had known then that I was not being respected.

"Sure thing, babe."

His foreplay was more like whoreplay. Not enough lubricant, not enough love. All he was was lust. A mistake. His parents probably thought so too.

And that was before I wasn't raped.

I wasn't.

I swear, I wasn't.

Don't tell. Don't tell nothing. There's nothing to tell!

I wasn't.

"We've got head into the back door, so it doesn't look suspicious," Tyler whispered to me, beside me on the street corner.

I snapped out of my reverie, looking up at the boarded up building with its faded paint and front yard tree stump. I kept following. Darkness. Bushes. Groping branches, unseen.

Maybe his contrivance was out of nervousness? Every half-decent writer, poet or not, knows what a Haiku is, and just how long it is. Was it a nervous joke? Lame small talk?

The back door, broken glass and torn screen, creaked open on hinges that badly needed oil. As we entered, a cat glared at us. I saw merely  its silhouette and two yellow eyes. The building was dark.

Tyler passed me a flashlight that he'd turned on. Then, he called upstairs, "It's just me. Nothing to worry about."

A woman's voice came back to us, muffled and teasing, "Don't come up if you're bleeding again!"

I admit, I almost laughed.

Tyler moved into the moonlight that came in the window, exposing his face to me. He grinned broader than I fathomed he could, "Welcome to Elsewhere."



The End

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