The cab ride is short, and for that she is grateful. She already knows how this ends.
At the party, he is loud and large and present in a way that is both exhilarating and inevitable. Sharp smiles, white teeth. Laughter, a hand on her waist. But here in the cab he is silent. Raindrops smear the streetlight across his face. She feels his hand on her thigh, his breath hot and salty on her neck.
Her head swims.
They pull up to the curb, to a cluster of silver buildings that rise up against the skyline like spines. The man at the front desk is quiet. Flat and anonymous, but crisp. The lobby itself is cold and meticulous, with a few ficus scattered between gray couches, a triptych of a cairn the only attempt at art. She palms one of the ferns on her way past. Real, but waxy.
The apartment itself is too clean, too bright, like noontime sun reflecting off the waves, the sand too hot. She hates scotch, but he pours her one anyway. She swallows and squeezes her eyes tight and when she recovers she sees him watching her. She swallows again, pushes down the burning in her throat, stares back. She knows what she is to look at. Let him look.
She blinks and his mouth is on hers. He tastes like clay. She feels his hunger and despite herself she rises to it like a tide. He crashes over her. It feels good to be swallowed up, to feel small, delicate, adrift. He finds her hair and snakes his fingers through it and pulls her to him.
Then he carves out her insides and swallows them whole.
Suddenly she is nine again. The waves here are too big. She sees her sisters, small in the distance. The sea is taunting her. She runs towards the shore, but it holds her, presses into her. She breathes in the water and watches from a distance as she drowns again. A phone is flashing somewhere but it’s silent here under the waves.
Afterwards, the washed out fluorescent light of the bathroom mirror shows her a woman she no longer knows. It will be her undoing.
I want to disappear, she gasps to no one, to everyone, to anyone who will listen. I want to turn to stone. I will turn them all to stone.
The steady buzz of the clippers run over her scalp and lick it clean until the mirror shows her more of herself. Or, if not herself, something she can bear to look at. Clumps of hair float to the ground like foam and a downy puddle accumulates on the bathmat.
The stubble that grows back will be full of forked tongues.