Vending Machine.

The basin fills with cold water, his fingers taut against the tap. The water ripples and shutters as the flow is stopped.  Turning his hands into a basin themselves he splashes water onto his face, he breathes in and stares at his reflection in the mirror. A guttural noise leaks out, he ponders its origin, at what place deep inside it came. He splashes the water on his face again, touching his skin, it feels soft under his fingers, he reminds himself in the back of his head that it’s his skin he feels, and his fingers that feel it. He shakes the thought off, as droplets of water run from his face finding the quickest route away. He finishes the drink he calls his third, but it is the fifth. A time traveler takes the little bit of steel and chips from his pocket and makes the room disappear.

The street is filthy, the future is and will be a dirty place. When he is tired and drunk the world glows, it can be good or bad, but relativity something. His feet walk the distance to the bright pink neon. The light hurts his eyes, so he watches the steps that lead him inside.

He loosens his tie as the videos on the machine play in loops. He touches one of the screens and the video starts over again, her voice comes out clearly from the tiny speaker embedded in the machine. She’s Asian, most of them were. He felt nervous, checking every which way down the halls. She begins to list off her skills. She expands on her proficiency of performing oral sex. This was in her favor, as her breath would smell minty and clean. He hates bad breath. His tie dangles around his sweaty collar as he undoes the knot. He presses her screen again, the video starts over.  She was confident in her abilities, though she was barely above 22. His card slides in, the selection is made and his room number given. He repeats the number over and over as the card drops into the little slot on the side with a light tap.

The metal of the door handle is cool and foreign to his palm. A push down and away and the door opens. The room smells like cheap cleaning supplies. He staggers his way to the bed. He hates the fact that he comes here, or to these, a potvaliant decision that only later succumbs to sober mourning. Lying in the bed he plays with his tie. The hidden door slides up and she walks in. The room adapts to her appeal as he watches her struggle with her high heels on the padded carpet. Turning away from her he plays with his tie some more. Finally, with the distress of the effort of walking across the floor she begins to remove her shoes, she tries to remain concupiscent, though her clumsiness overtakes. He stares blankly at the ceiling no longer entertained by his loose tie, he listens to her struggles. There’s a soft thump on the floor, she sits trying to undo the top belt for the shoe, a leather band tightly fastened sinking deeply into her skin turning her ankle red with chafe. He slides off the bed and crawls drunkenly to her side. She doesn’t notice his approach until his cool fingers touch hers. He looks intently at the buckle as her hand slides away. About to speak, about to say these shoes weren’t hers, how they’re borrowed when the imitation leather shoe slides free from her foot. She curls her toes into the soft carpet that once impeded, now comforted. He lifts himself slowly and gently to his feet and walks back to the bed her eyes follow him, unsure of what she was seeing.

With closed eyes, he hums softly to himself and to everyone as she slips on top of him, a kindly put hand on his chest, his heart races, hers too. She carefully and practiced places her hand on his belt, the hum continues as her head floats above his lips to connect. He smells the mint and the humming stops. His fingers wrap around her thin wrist stopping the undoing of the first button of his pants. He opens his eyes and with a broken tone he asks “Want to get a drink?”

Some unknown button is pushed,  the sliding door opens, and she walks through the black curtain. Another button is pressed and the door closes again. He cleans himself up with the mirror in the vanity. Brush and a swipe, his tries are thwarted as the hair wants or needs to remain a mess. Giving up he sets himself on the bed to wait.  On the other side of the wall, she tosses the clothes to find something decent to wear out there. The muffled moans and orgasmic shouts echo from the room adjacent to the small changing closet. She finds the clothes and changes, the pants tighter than she would like. She steadies herself by placing her hand on the wall, carefully and practiced. Pressing the switch and the door slides open again. She wears black flats with her tight jeans and a shirt cut too short. He gives a smile and she returns the gesture. The door slides closed again.

They stroll along the streets, exchanging only the slightest of glances. He is unsure where to go, and so was she. In impeccable timing they both turn to each other, about to ask the only question needed where, when he spots the bar behind her. He pulls the door open for her and they walk into a culturally confused bar. Elvis starts to play over the speakers, the time traveler tries to guess how many years have passed since the man singing died. 254. They pick a booth in the middle of the bar, a small Irish looking man comes to the table. He has his own problems, but we won’t go into them. The Irish man half heartily wipes the table down while he asks for their orders. The time traveler orders for the prostitute, but she stops him and gets a “Bloody Mare” instead.  Nervously he taps his hands on the table with the beat of the song. She watches him, unsure on how to even get the conversation going. The drinks are brought, her bloody mare served in a cup made of a single stock of celery, twisted and morphed in order to hold liquid. His cheap whiskey comes in a plain glass. They lift their glasses and drink, she sips, he drowns. With a cough, then another he asks what he’s been wanting to ask. “Why do you do this, like sell yourself?” She takes another drink, this time, a gulp, and nibbles a little on the celery before she answers. “The same reason anyone does anything, to stay afloat.” The time traveler scoffs at her answer, that’s when she notices the one thing she saw before, he’s sinking. Another empty glass on the table and that drunken bravery return. “I could save you, take you somewhere…” The drunk time traveler pauses to breathe. She’s heard this story before, a promise never kept. He tries to catch-up to where he left off, her voice drowns out his. “Look, I don’t need saving. Never had and never will. I’m having a nice time, and you’re paid for the entire night, let’s try and enjoy ourselves.” The lady takes the drunk time traveler’s hand when she finishes.  It takes him a second to process what she said. The time traveler and the lady order another round. The world turns a shade brighter for the both of them. Patsy Cline begins to play over the speakers. 268.

The lady and the time traveler stumble their way back to the pink hotel with the bright neon and the soft moans. The summer air is moist and warm, he loves the air, and for the first time in a long time, she does as well. The high-speed train zips over their heads on the suspended rails with the slightest of whistles. He watches it go, amazed by the sheer machinery. She watches his amazement. And someone watches them from their poorly lit studio apartment, but they’re not important.

She slides her card into the door, with sort of a clumsy effort they find themselves on the bed. They undo the tangled mess of their bodies and lay next to each other, his back to her. She places her hand onto his cock, it is soft and drunk like him. She carefully and practiced begins to move her hand back and forth over the zipper of his pants. He hazily and untrained takes her hand with his and moves it above his waste. The lady pulls her body closer to the time traveler’s. The counterfeit city lights pour from the false windows. She can hear the moans and cries from the other rooms, the sounds she didn’t want to hear. Tucking her face behind his neck she listens to the air come in and out of him. She thinks of all the promises, the wishful thinking, how all she ever wanted was this, an intimacy never quite felt before.

The fake sun shines through the windows, onto their clothed bodies. She brushes the hair from around his ear as he sleeps. Turning over she taps the lamp next to the bed three times, and the sun goes away. The time traveler stirs from his sleep and turns to face her. She pulls him over herself, embracing what little time left of this moment was to be had. His breath smells of whiskey and mint.

Once again the sunshine comes and she pulls herself from him. She smiles at him when his eyes open and he returns the gesture. The lady shakes her arm as it fell asleep under the weight of his head. Her fingers tingle, but she enjoys the sensation. The time traveler stands next to her, she can see the sober mourning in his eye, on her tippy toes, she pecks his forehead, unsure if she’ll see him again. With one last look back she carefully and practiced taps her hand on the small table. The sliding door opens and the lady walks through the black curtains to be a prostitute once more. He watches her disappear as the sliding door closes. Putting his room key on the nightstand the time traveler pulls out the bits of steel and chips, the time traveler leaves through time and space to be just a drunk once more.