Slow Ascension

Good as grits…


“What? Why?” Sussex’s voice reveals his disposition to do anything related to running is about none.

“Come on. I bet we can make it across before the next train comes … or you afraid to get hit?”

“Mmm. I don’t think so.” He buzzkills again! But Riette’s prepared a hot fuel to bond inside his belly, firing up his heart. She goes for the tracks first.

“Come on down, ya sissy!” she screams at Sussex as he remains stuck on the platform. He stares around him, utterly mortified. While pulling herself down on the railway, Riette suddenly spots the little red object from earlier now encroaching on her hand. “Look, babe! It’s the ladybug.”

“Girl, people starting to look at us. Hurry up. Ah, let’s just go back …”

“What people, lil’ baby?”

“I’o’know. Your people!” Frustrated, Riette performs a massive flick on the little red bug and sends it flying splat onto Sussex’s jacket. Nosey people watch them, unsettled. Sussex grabs hold of the little red victim; his loud gulps can be heard over the ambient chatter.

“What is it?” says Riette. He raises it between his fingers for her to see. Its violent color appears on one side as scarlet nail polish — the other is crusted with a woman’s blood.

It’s — it’s a fucking nail!

Startled by her yells, Sussex tosses the object off into the breeze. Through a chain reaction of instinct, he accidentally smacks some woman beside the ear, making her fall.

“What the hell are you doing?!” A man, maybe the woman’s son or nephew, runs up in her defense.

“Nothing, sir. I’m so sorry. Ma’am…”

“This man just hit me!”

“Hey, you’re with that nice young lady over there, aren’t ya? I been watching you. Seems like you ain’t been properly introduced to my town, son.” Saying this, the son/nephew launches a fist at Sussex’s face. He is struck again by the memory of hanging upside down with piss drizzling down his cheeks. Not this shit again! he goes. To ignite the matter, their squabble instantly calls the attention of a bunch of spectators. “Get that boy!” they instigate together, chanting like it’s a pep rally. Soon the whole train-station of people is grabbing furiously at our out-of-towner.

After being slapped up and kicked around, Sussex eventually gets a final boot onto the train tracks next to his girl. A robot voice announces: The train is now arriving. The angry mobsters closest to the edge of the platform stare pitifully down at them, creating a barrier so they can’t climb up. Riette, though, is already climbing up the other side.

“Come on, lil’ baby, time to cross. Train’s coming.” He picks out his lady’s voice calling over the hammering shouts. Sussex turns from their seething mouths to find her safe and well, standing high on the opposite platform.

“I don’t know why you call me ‘lil’ baby,’ ‘cuz I ain’t little. Once we get to the hotel you’ll see it’s quite the opposite.”

“Hotel? With you?!” she yells over the noise. “Never. I couldn’t sleep with a baboon from Whoville.”

“Really? I think you’re running out of primates now. And what in the world is Whoville?”

“Oh, never mind, lemur. I forgot you people don’t read.” Suddenly, a rumble lifts from deep within the earth. A monster is on its way, and it’s coming straight for him.

“So, you trying to make out before or after this train runs us over?” Headlights beam into Sussex’s face. He looks back at the angry crowd two inches from ripping his face apart. In a sudden Tarzan-y cry, he beats his chest, grimaces in pain (or constipation, who knows), and lunges aside to the vacant tracks.

“Come to me if you wanna live, gibbon!”

“Okay, that does— ”


Before he can say another word, the train screams past him, sucking the air right from his mouth. He stops long enough on the adjacent set of tracks to catch the headlights of another train beaming at him, rumbling from the other direction. Sussex suddenly grabs his knee in agony and thinks; All of this for a girl? I knew my ass woulda been better off on Tinder.

His system pumps his every vein with flight signals and adrenaline. In one last gargantuan effort, he hauls himself onto Riette’s reigning ground upon the platform. His chest undulating with the rush of excitement, he breathes, finally able to calm his senses. A strange maniacal laughter then ensues from Riette’s mouth. Sussex hadn’t noticed, but he looks up to find himself clinging to her arms for dear life.

“Goddamnit, you did it! See, I’m not racist. I was just trying to motivate you!” Her voice is full of pride.

“Yeah, you’re so inspiring. Anyway, that’s exactly what the racists say.”

“You are my man, yes you are!”

“And you’re a hoe, you know that?” he says, rubbing his knee. Riette twitches her neck, quick.

“Oh! I take it back. You’re a hoe too. Equal rights.”

Sussex crouches over, gasping with his tongue rolled out. The crowd across from them is struck by their glowing existence in society. The couple peck on the lips just before getting pummeled by more passersby. The city lives on.

“God. Lord. We made it.”

“I’m just glad that horrible pee smell finally dissipated off your face. I might actually be able to give you a real smooch.” Sussex coughs sarcastically, almost at ease.

“Hey, let’s get him! You ain’t escaped yet, new boy!”

“What’s with these fools?” says Sussex. The angry group of city folk comes now more broiled up than ever. They direct themselves towards an overpass to cross above the tracks. Riette is then touched by a vicious idea.

“Let’s go to the top. You know, of the station. Come on, I know a secret way. They won’t catch us.”

“Us? Who do you think they’re after?”

Riette extends her hand and neck way out. “You coming or not? Those guys look like a freaking lynch mob, I’m just saying.” Her face shines with a reflective mix of bodily oils and artificial lights. The one lip stud casts a shadow over her pink chin. No one, not even Sussex, can deny such a level of spontaneity.

“Sure, I’ll go with you … Just real slowly.” They stumble past two curves in the main hall into a side door then up, Riette before her “lil’ baby.” Sussex drags along, lightheaded, sucking his lips and trying not to cry. On their steady rise, the walls of the stairwell start to glimmer with specks of starlight. The air is stuffed and hot, giving the place the effect of a jewel mine dug miles below the ground. They could pick each gem from the walls, green ones, red and silver, whispering voiceless lyrics of some earthy song. The power of these lights gives the moment a solemn spirituality. A wind flowing inside the vents pulls them upward one floor after another.

“I see it,” Sussex says now, relieved as they reach the roof. He prepares for total collapse, yet before he can touch the floor, Sussex receives a sudden blast in the face by the iciest gust of air he’ll ever feel. He inhales so quickly that it aches in his lungs and in between his ribs. He tip-toes back towards the door but gets caught.

“Come over here, Sussy. Stay and gaze with me.” Riette’s words drip from her tongue like little wet dreams. Okay, maybe not those, but you get it. Her voice is interrupted by the noise of hard exhales. “Your knee okay?”

“My knee’s fine, sh — Girl. Just gonna need a surgery and some life support tomorrow.” He then notices the skyline. “Man, it is nice up here. Kinda like, peaceful, am I right?” At this point, Riette begins to pace restlessly back and forth. “Chill, bro. What’s up with you?”

“Those bastards! I can’t believe they would do something like that. And they know you‘re not from out here.”

“Ah, it’s fine, babe. Don’t sweat. I figured things’d be different from home since I was coming to your city.” It’s not her city, though he means … Whatever.

“No, you don’t get it. That’s … Just, it’s … It’s not the way you hope your family will treat your new boyfriend. Those fucking idiots!” Sussex’s face morphs into a big oozing Oooh of understanding. “Let’s just say they don’t see many ‘island boys’ around here. They ignorant, like me, I guess {she laughs}. But they can’t help it.”

“Well, it’s gonna be an adjustment for us all. Your family’s pretty f’d up, though.”

Riette slides behind her consort slowly, stepping carefully over some loose cables and equipment. She walks like a sacrifice to the edge of the station roof, maybe five stories above the pavement. Fidgeting and stark anger transform before Sussex’s eyes. She squints and all the world’s secrets become apparent. She takes in all the fumes and noise, the sex, the violence, and all the grimy sanctity — all of it!— of that ghetto she calls a home.

“Sussy,” she says with no real emotional thread. “I’m going to jump.”

Sussex’s arms shoot straight into the air, nearly dislocating the shoulders from the sockets. “I knew she was gonna kill herself when she met me. Goddamn, man! Why’s this hafta — ? Shit, I might as well jump myself right along with you.”

“Baby!” He pauses his sulking and holds on for her next words. “You can’t take everything so serious … Gotcha!” She catches him with the dumbest look known to man (so lucky to have witnessed it!) spread over his dark face. “How many is that? I lost count.”

He chuckles, embarrassed once again. “Yeah, that’s halfway fair. Guess I’m the dummy again.”

“Nah … To be honest, I like that you blindly trust what I say. It’s good to be with someone who cares.”

“Is, isn’t it?” She gives a wink, then peers over her dangling shoes down at the distant street, feeling like some powerless version of a Superwoman.

“You know … What if I was to jump, lil’ baby? Would I just fall fast on my ass? Or, would you catch me?”

Sussex can’t conjure any worthy answer to such questions. Instead, he brushes up to Riette, considers for a second, and nudges her off the roof. Riette slides and her feet slip, but at the point of falling to her demise, he yanks her strongly, confidently into his arms for the first time since they’d met. He grabs her, making sure she’s secured, and they kiss, finally, for real. No one is watching. No eyes are judging. No one’s offering them food they don’t even like. Neck bones? What?! They just kiss like they want to, and that’s all. She gasps, hardly, but lets out a blissful moan as Sussex’s tongue eases her jaw. His conquering flag is now set, and he can relax. Almost.

A thousand flashes of paradise smear across the neon night. He finds joy in believing it’s a moment neither will forget in their lives.

A sense of peace relieves them of the thoughts of angry crowds tomorrow, of tourist-hunting gangs and ignorant storekeepers — family members. Tonight, only four sparkling eyes stare off into the yellow, blue and black windows. She peeks over her shoulder at him and the two visible stars. One might be an airplane.

“Yo Riette. You good?” he asks.

“Huh? … Yeah, lil’ baby. Good as grits.”


5 stories



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No Expert But Of Himself — aka Trystn Waller. Just writing what I know, a bit of what I think I know, hopefully I help others know a bit more than they knew.