The Gutter And The Stars
By S.T. Shimi

But who are you? Why are you still livin' and breathin' and ridin' in this car? Oh that's right. You're here 'cause I love you. Ain't that sweet? "Meet the Dupes"


The world tilts crazily as she lies on her back, breathing. The sky tips stars towards her, teasing her with what may never be. The sickly sweet smell of rotting food and the skitter of little paws takes her back. One gutter is very much like another.

The joint is stained with the lipstick of the one she had to leave behind. She sucks fiercely on it, one hand moving frantically and sadly below, hoping to take in some remnant of what was once true and tender between them.

She wants to remember the fleeting moments between the sharp spiky words and fierce, bruising grasps. She wants to remember words that were never said and never will be. They leak out of her onto the dirt and she is a soft shell again, made for purposes beyond her understanding and desires.

The stars are cold and moving too fast for her as she lies on her back and sucks on the embers of a false memory.

One gutter is very much like another.



Her back presses against the cheap, crackly pleather as the universe speeds past her and careens over potholes towards the tiny town. She sees herself in the rearview mirror; herself and yet not herself, a mask, a mirror in a mirror, a beautiful distortion. A mistake made right in fire and smoke.

Swirling breath on her lips below echo the sweet hot swirl of smoke on her lips above and she sinks back into her nest of plots and power plays. She doesn't look down to mark her fistful of peacock locks as they feather her lap. She never looks down, ever.

The shock of a cool metal stud in a warm, tender tongue slides across her hot flesh. She tightens her muscles and the grasp of her fingers with exacting cruelty. She never looks down.

If there is a mew of protest she ignores it.

Nothing happens without the crook of her finger bidding it.

She has made and unmade worlds with her desires.

What is one gentle, bleeding heart compared to that?



They are cupped together, moist and naked, on the peeling and stained couch set askew amongst blasted beer bottles. The other two are comatose and still, incubating in the detritus of their underground palace. The rumble of trains shake the ceiling, like incoming asteroids.

"What happened today?" she asks, small cold hand tracing lazy circles around aureoles as wide and mysterious as the hostile sky, seldom seen. Her lover's face has yet to settle into hard kohl-rimmed lines that she has come to fear. Now is the stretch of seconds between, when kisses seem tender and real and she can transcribe sweet responses onto their shimmering silence.

She pushes her off roughly and hunts for the papers under the pulpy grey-ish green oranges, stolen from the fruit-stand to the left of up above. She rolls the joint efficiently, trying not to look at the one who wants to keep her honest; who doesn't understand or care about the future that blinks faintly and furiously like oncoming traffic. She lights it with a flick of her finger and inhales fiercely.

"Things are gonna change," she says, passing it," Things are gonna get better."

They sit still as the smoke rises around them, shaking out the lines of the room, soft as stars freefalling into supernova silence.

"You- talked to them? What did they say?"

She turns and looks at the gently blurring face next to hers. Something sharp and cold is rising up within her and she can feel the time between seconds rush away. Soon it will be over, soon it will start, soon the stars behind her eyes will be in the palm of her hand.

Her mouth fills with sweet smoke, overwhelming the musky salt that had danced on her tongue eons of seconds before. It goes down smooth, no chaser. She wishes she could wave her hand and make the ceiling disappear, make presents of unknown planets to the one she loves. Before she takes them, unasked, for herself.

" Are we going to the stars?" she asks her.

She reaches and runs her fingers through the brilliant green hair. She can feel the coiled tension running like electrolytes under her lover's scalp. She knows she put it there. She wants to be sorry but she can't remember how. She tries to memorise the galaxies that rise and fall in the blue skies of eyes that gaze sweetly at her. She twines an emerald lock tightly around her be-ringed finger and changes it to a tender lilac because she can. She looks up at the stained ceiling and sees it peeling away to reveal-what? The joint sputters to a standstill and is lost in the sea of trash that sloshes gently around them.

"Yeah, baby,"she says," We're going to the stars".


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