People rush in and out of glass doors that proclaim extended holiday hours and enormous markdowns. Windows rimmed with real snow showcase the wares of a desperate economy ringed with fake cotton fluffs as if people need to be reminded of the bitter chill.
Everyone is awash in the gray and black of winter garb. Some festoon their drab appearances with dollar store Santa hats and gaudy rhinestone reindeer. Their thick mittened hands are full of potentially unappreciated gifts they will continue to pay for well into the New Year.
The diner door swings wide, the busy district swallowing the fabricated sounds of small town diner warmth and congenial conversation. Her black hair blasts back from her olive face. She pulls her scarf close and hesitates for a moment before turning to her companion.
His gray hair and gray jacket camouflages him well into the teeming mass of people. He holds her hand briefly, whispers in her ear, then falls in step with the passing current of humanity.
She is momentarily swallowed by the tide, her red jacket remaining emblazoned in the mind’s eye as her only beacon of existence. She is unsure of her steps, hesitating several times before dedicating to a course of action.
She walks through the people and stops on the curb, rushing cars blowing her hair and clothes away from her, threatening to leave her naked and shivering before me as she was before. She grips her neckline so tightly that I see her knuckles whiten from effort.
Her skin is the flawless perfection you come to expect from opulence. Her mouth is smooth enough that you question whether she has truly ever felt pain or happiness. Her pristine brow is flat, smooth, untouched by age and worry.
Her lips are parted and I feel her mechanical, rhythmic strokes. She’s kneeling on the ground in front of me, expensive mascara staining her perfect cheeks. I cup her chin, feeling the choked sobs waging a war in her throat. I press hard, allowing her whimpers and tears to release me.
Her hand raises slowly, fingers spread wide against the explosions of air from the busy street. I focus on the counterfeit perfection of her face.
Breathe. Relax. Aim. Squeeze. Surprise.
She falls forward as in a slow motion movie sequence. She teeters like she has lost her balance. The city masses continue to ebb and flow around her. She quickly passes the point of balance and topples into the front of a well-timed bus, her secrets spread like a lurid advertisement for the city’s judgment. The carcass of their keeper is ground deep into the pavement and flung onto the hood of a bright yellow taxi.
I hold the hot casing in my hand, feeling its redemptive power, and begin to unfasten the silencer.