By Brook Bhagat
They sway in the night, clear in the cold sodium vapor, not leather but thick and hard like someone’s old skin, beast housing. Gold stitching laces the fly and the lines between stripes that you follow with your eyes, guilty, running in swirls around the hips, down the ass and out the Hendrix flares at the bottom: hot pink, cherry, tattoo blue. One belt loop is broken.
They aren’t meant for you. From the moment you see them, hanging stiff from the fire escape, you know they are for a different kind of person altogether. Keep walking, you tell yourself. They don’t look like your size, and you feel like a fraud, a tight-throated imposter in someone else’s dream as you hop the chain-link, step on the wooden crate and pull yourself up onto the rusting Dumpster. You’re not high enough, and you’ll have to jump to grab them. It’s going to be loud and it’s going to echo down the alley, waking up the neighborhood. Your heart is banging in your ears and you can’t think and you don’t know how you got here but you know you’ll have to run if you do it, and it’s not like you at all.
You’ve come this far. You start to see yourself in them, and you always wanted to be a different person, someone who wears fringe and Hendrix flares and laughs at danger. You take a deep breath and look around at the dark dirty windows, stretching like holes up to the furry sky. You smell your hands. Nasty.
You do it. You squat spring up jump and snatch them from the ladder, and when you land on the metal you revel in the live vibration for one slow motion second before the fear hits and you fall slide down to the gristle pavement and scramble up again, the scaly fabric clutched in your fist like a backwards salvation. Lights snap open square jaws in a flick flick flick yellow shades singing up flash flash flash Motherfucker took my pants!
You run for it, down the alley, left at the street, not looking back. Slap slapping feet pounding at your back Come back!
Down down around and up the block in and out turn and your knee is screaming, door and stairs and home shaking for the key and you’re in, bolt it, chain it, lock the door. Did you lose him? You’ve seen the movies and you should be thinking about a way out if the fist comes pounding through but instead your back slides down the wall and you finger them, turn them, smell them: sweat and some other sweetness. You should be thinking about a way out but you strip.
It’s not like you. You hate yourself and you love yourself as you pull them on, buttonhole and zip the zip. You stand up and run your hands tight on the thighs. They fit.
Brook Bhagat’s poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and humor have appeared in Empty Mirror Magazine, Little India, Dămfīno, Nowhere Poetry, Rat’s Ass Review, Peacock Journal, A Story in 100 Words, Anthem: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, and other journals and anthologies. She has completed a full-length poetry manuscript, is writing a novel, and is editor-in-chief of Blue Planet Journal. She holds an MFA from Lindenwood University and teaches creative writing at a community college. More at http://www.brook-bhagat.com/.