The morning sun broke through the window of Dina’s apartment like a thief weraring slippers.Her eyelids fluttered once ,then twice before she finally opened them . Aaron was long gone.He couldn’t stand vioalating booty call ettiquete. She pulled herself out of bed and padded to the bathroom .She climbed into the shower and began to wash the film of last night exertions off her body. She used the pink loofah her mohter had gotten her as a part of a multi-level house warming gift.She let the warm water flow ove her body with a soft tenderness that made her nipples erect.
“Hmm this water could teach Aaron a few things “she thought .
Ten minutes late she was pulling on a blue golf shirt with the words “TanTastic”stiched over the left pocket and pulling her tan khakis over her firm brown backside.Aaron never failed to tease her about being the only black girl he knew that worked at a tanning salon. She teased him about being the only black guy she knew that worked at an antique sotre. They would laugh and then pretend thyer were not feeling the the things that casual sex partners should’nt be feeling.
The cool spring air splashed across Dina’s face as she hit the sidewalk. She didn’t own a car so she started strolling toward the bus stop. She was passing the alley that was between her building and the bakery where she got her favorite bagels whend she noticed a figure in the alley. She did’nt slow her pace at all,just gave a quick glance down the alley. Her mind registered that it was a man ,skinny and dirty and most likely homeless. She moved quickly into the small plastic enclosure that the city had so graciously built for it non-driving citizens . She sat on the hard metal bench and pulled out her cell phone. She texted Aaron about his plans for lunch .She read the text before she pressed send.Dina decided it struck the right tone . Not desperate but not cold either. She had her head trying not to break a nail as her fingers navigated the impossibly small keypad when she felt a presence.
It was a weird unnatural feeling .Suddenly she noticed the sun was not touching her skin.The wind was not caressing her face. Dina looked up quickly and instantly knew the man standing in front of her was the same man she glanced at in the alley. Usually homeless people didn’t frighten her. She never gave them money nor was she hostile toward them. She did what most of the world didn and ignored them. Yet this spring morning a knot of unease began to tighten in her stomach. The man just stood silent in front of her staring down into her face.He was tall and ungainly .His dirty blond hair hung down to his waist.He was wearing a filthy army camo jackedt . His denim jeans were mottled with amoeba-like stains of various shades of brown and black. Dina looked back down at her phone and hoped against hope the man would just ask for some spare change and go on his way.
The man didn’t move or speak. It seemed like the only sound in the air was a low irritating humming noise. dina almost thought it was the man’s cell phone vibrating till she realized he didn’t have a house so he probably wasn’t paying a cell phone bill. He barely had shoes. His sneakers had once been white eons ago but were now a corn yellow. Dina looked to the left then the right then back at the man .She sucked her breath in hard.
The man was crawling with flies. They were in his hair,on his face. They were traveling from his eyelid to his nose and back again to his eyelid. They were crawling out of the cuffs of his jacket and down precariously hanging onto his fingernails. The humming was the sound of their collective wings and legs moving to a beat like a metronome. Black ones and green ones and yellow flies covered this man’s body. Dina felt her bile rise out of her stomach and try to claw it’s way up the back of her throat. There were so many flies on the man that it seemed as if his skin was moving and undulating . He slowly cocked his head to the side and licked his lips. His tongue was mottled like his pants.
“To whom does your heart belong?” he asked her. His voice was like nails on a chalkboard. Deep and raspy with a hint of southern twang. Dinal looked back down at her phone and tried to stare though it. The man cleared his throat.
“I said to whom does your heart belong?” His tone didn’t change. Slightly mannered but with a voice that was rough and guttaral. It almos hurt Dina’s ears to hear him speak. She considerd just getting up and standing outside the enclosure but suddenly she was terrifed the man would touch her. Right now the worst thing she could imagine was this man’s hands on her. It was irrational but it was a feeling that sat in the middle of her sould and would not be moved. The man sighed and straightened his head.
“You must know to whom your heart belongs.” he said in a voice that sounded sad. Dina glanced up and almost vomited on the sidewalk. The man had put the first two fingers of his left hand in his mouth . A hand that was covered with flies. He put the fingers all the way in his mouth all the way to the knuckle. It was a slow almost absent minded manuveur. Similar to a child sucking a lollipop. When he slowly removed his fingers the flies were gone.He looked at Dina and opened his mouth . He wagged his tongue. His mouth was full of flies.They were humming and fluttering in his mouth. Their wings sparkled in the morning sunlight. The stench from the maw was overpowering. It filled Dina’s nostrils and forced it’s way into her brain. His teeth were black stumps. Dina crossed her arms and leaned as far back on the bench as she could.
Suddenly she heard the asthmatic wheezing of the bus’s air brakes. Dina jumped up and ran to the bus. Once she was seated she put her head in her hands and took a deep breath. When she looked up and glanced out the window the man was waving at her .Dina rode the eight blocks to TanTastic in a daze. When the bus stopped in front of the salon she exited and walked straight into the building and directly to the break room in the back. Jessica and Karen ,two other employees of the salon were sitting at a tiny folding table and drinking iced coffees from stout paper cups. Dina put her purse down on a small shelf next to the four cubby holes that served as employee lockers .Jessica looked at Dina over the rim of her cup.
“Dam girl who pissed in your cornflakes this morning?”Jessica said. Dina laughed. It was a short harsh sound like a little dog’s bark.
“Just a rough morning.This homeless guy was pushing up on me.”Dina said. Karen giggled.
“Was he cute?”Karen asked. Dina felt a wave of nausea wash over her body. She shivered. Jessica sighed and looked at Karen.
“Was he cute? Karen I know you ain’t had any dick in a minute but come on ….”Jessica said. Karen shrugged her shoulders. “If he was cute he could do me like a postage stamp. Lick me ,stick me,and send me on my way….”
They all laughed but Dina still felt nauseaous.
Dina had three clients that day. Her first client was a teenage girl who was tanning and getting a pedicure.She came in almost every day. She told Dina that her boyfriend wanted her to get a deep dark tan like Ashely Lynn. When Dina asked her who that was the girl looked at her like she was a moron. “Only the most famous porn star in the world.” Dina didn’t know who was more damaged the girl or her boyfriend. Her next client was a woman that all the employees called”Leatherface.” She could’ve been between forty or eighty years old. Her skin had become so pebbled and creased it was hard to guess her age. Dina figured after she died she could donate her skin to Major Leauge baseball to make catchers mitts. She was doing the tan ,pedi ,mani and facial. Jessica told Dina don’t forget her saddle soap for the facial. Jessica had a way of making even the worst days bearable . After her second client Dina took a break in the back.
She slid her debit card through the slot on the drink machine and a can of semi-cold soda dropped down the chute. As she pulled the can out of the tray Jessica burst through the break room door.
“I fucking hate Mrs.Yoder.The bitch keeps telling me we need wider tanning tables. No you need to cut back to a fifty cookie breakfast ya fat bitch.”she said as she plopped down in a folding chair.Dina smiled.
“Don’t let her get to you .Shamoo wants a nice copper tan like everyone else.”she said laughing . Dina opened her soda . A swarm of black hairy flies exploded from the can. In instants the room was full of flies. They were like a living cloud of smoke. Jessica jumped up and swatted at her face as she ran for the door. Dina was waing her hands wildly and trying to feel her way to the door. Flies were on every inch of her body. Some were in her ear crawling toward her eardrum. Some were going up her nose and into her eyes. She blinked rapidly trying to dislodge them from her eyeballs. She shot out of the break room the swarm surrounding her. Mrs.Yoder was groaning as the swarm enveloped her in tanning bed no.2 She kicked her feet and twisted her shoulders like a bucking bronco. Bulbs shattered as she thrashed in the tanning bed. Without warning she rolled to her left and fell out of the bed onto the floor with a loud THWACK!
Dina ran from the shop smacking at her head . She heard someone screaming ,the was shocked to realize it was her. She ran and ran and didn’t stop until she couldn’t feel any more flies on her body. By that time she was six blocks away sweating and panting. The sun was at it’s apex in the sky and forced it’s heat down on her like an anvil laying on her chest. She felt so tired . There was a corner store across the street. She jaywalked without a second thought and ran into the store. It was a tiny space. Chips and candy bars were jammed into short aisle pressed up against air freshner and cheap DVD’s .There was a clanging noise that she sthought was probably a second hand air condtitioner trying to die. Dina went over to the counter. The clerk was a shot Asian man with a buzz cut. and a flat expressionless face.
“Can I use your phone ?” she asked
“No phone.”the man replied.
Dina gritted her teeth. She could see a cordless handset on the table behind the counter.
“Sir I’ve had a a real bad thing happen to me I don’t even know how to describe it. Can I please use your phone?”she aksed in a soft voice.
“No phone. Please buy or leave.”he replied stoically.
“MOTHEFUCKER GIVE ME THE GODDAMN PHONE!”Dina screamed . The man reached behind him and placed the hand set on the counter.
“Why you no have cell?” he said as he walked away muttering in a language Dina didn’t recognize. Tears slipped down her cheeks. She had a cell phone .It was back at the salon with her purse and the fly-filled soda can. What the hell was going on? Firs the guy at the bus station then the can with all those flies.Did the guy have something to do with it? But how could he know where she worked? How for that matter could he know she was going to buy and soda ?And how could he have gotten all those flies in a can ? Dina tried to block those thoughts out and call a cab. There was the clanging noise again. Dina looked up at the plate glass window behind the counter. It was the homeless man from the bus stop. He was banging against the window and licking it with his mottled tongue .His face was crawling with flies.
Dina dropped the phone and started screaming. And screaming .And screaming.
the store clerk hit the alarm button as soon as Dina started screaming. When the cops arrived she was sitting on the floor with her arms wrapped around her legs rocking back and forth.The cops questioned her for a moment then told ehr to get out of the store. She was leaning against a light post for thirty minutes when out of the corner of her eyes she saw Aaron’s brown jeep roll to a stop in front of her . He jumped out and came to her with his arms outstreched. She folded into him and hugged him tight. He stroked her hair softly.
“I called the salon to tell you where we could have lunch. Jessica told me bout the bug shit. Ive been looking for you for an hour. ”
“Just take me home please”she moaned into his chest.
They arrived at Dina’s building .Aaron parked and got out and surveyed the area.”Boo ,no dirty fly men anywhere around.”he said.
Dina got out of the jeep. “It’s not funny …that guy is stalking me. “she said. She rubbed her arms and looked around with darting eyes like a rabbit.
“Come on I’ll walk you upstairs. “Aaron said. He put his arm around her and walked into Dina’s building.
“You sure you don’t want me to stay the night ?”Aaron asked once they were in her apartment.
“Isn’t that against the rules?”Dina askes as she plopped down on the couch.
“Hey fuck the booty call rules shit for a minute ok? I care about you and i can tell this shit done freaked you out.So once again I’m asking ..do you want me to stay?” A part of Dina’ wanted to say YES to scream it and hold him tight all night. But anothe part,a dark and bitter part of her vetoed that idea. It spoke to her .
“Your not his girlfriend,isn’t that what he always says? You let him stay tonight and you know he is going to want to fuck and then run away like the scared little boy he is. Then he is going to think he’s got you because your weak and you needed him .Yeah he is talking sweet but he will go right back to that booty call shit in a heartbeat.Woman up and tell him to go.”
“Thank you for the ride Aaron but I will be fine. I just need to rest. For real I’m good.”she said as she scooted to the far end of the couch.
Aaron looked down at her with his hands on his hips
“Okay hard ass….but you know where I am if you need me.”He bent over and kissed her forehead.
“Sure “Dina said . She watched him walk out the door.Then she stood and locked it. She leaned her head against the door and closed her eyes.
It was the buzzing that woke her .She was laying in bed in shorts and a t-shirt when the buzzing sound filled her ears. She was awake instantly and looked at the clock on her nightstand. It said 3:00a.m. The little red numbers blinked at her throught the darkness.Dina pulled back the covers and sat on the side of the bed. Her heart was pounding like a jackhammer. Sweat had broken out all over her body. Her stomach felt hollow . The buzzing was omnipresent. It was coming from everywhere.Under the bed ,from the bathrroom ,down from the ceiling.She jumped up with her hands over her ears and ran from the bedroom She hit a wall on her way out and almost fell to the floor. She stumbled into the living room .Tears were streaming down her face. The buzzing was getting louder. it seemed like she could hear it in her mind. She couldn’t think,just cry. She stood in the middle of the room with her hands over her ears crying and panting.
Someone started banging on her door. She knew who it was without looking through the peep hole. She knew it in her bones. A voice like barbed wire called from the otherside of the door.
“To whom does your heart belong.?” it asked Dina fell to her knees.
She looked at the door. There were flies pouring into her apartment from under the bottom of the door. Big black hairy flies that sounded like a flock of chainsaws. Dina couldnt stop staring.Monstrous flies the size of moths were barreling into her apartment. Dina watched with her mouth agape . The cloud of flies was floating in front her .It was rippling like a flag in the wind. She watched,her eyes as wide as saucers ,as the cloud began to darken and coalesce.black swirling masses of flies solidified into long narrow fingers.into crude approximations of feet ,then shoes. Where once stood a cloud was now a shadow. then the shadow began to change and lighten . its form fluttered and rippled once more until there was a tall dirty homeless man standing in her living room. Flies swirled around his head and flew into his hair,then became his hair.
“Your heart belongs to me. You chose me”he whispered.
Dina had no screams left.
Aaron banged on the door as hard as he could .”Dina open the dam door!” he yelled but got no response.
It had been three days since he had left ehr laone in her place and a fat monkey named guilt was glued to his back. He should have insisted he stay. Not for pussy but because he really did care about her. Aaron looked right then left. He did’nt see anyone in the hallway.
“Fuck it .”he whispered .Then he planted his size 11 timberland boot in the center of the door. The flimsy lock gave away with almost no resistance. The apartment was cold and still. The air was musty like old clothes in a chest. Aaron called out to Dina as he slowly made his way through the apartment. He headed toward her bedroom. Suddenly he slowed down. Something inside of him didn’t want to enter that room. Something in his dormant animal instincts told him not to go in that room But the higher level of his brain ,where love lives,drove him forward.
Dina was on the bed. She was wearing the blue boy shorts that he thought were so sexy and a little white t-shirt. Her arms were crossed over her chest .A chest that was not rising or falling.
Aaron’s breath was ragged .His heart was hurting.
He approached the bed. He stretched out a trembling hand
He touched Dina’s foot.Just a slight poke with his index finger. He barely put any force behind it.
Her body exploded into a whirling mass of flies. They buzzed and swirled around his body then past him and burst through her bedroom window. Aaron turned and watched their transluscent wings sparkle in the morning sun……..