Romita buzzed my doorbell at two in the morning. I was still up so I pushed the button. “Yeah? Who’s this?”
“Romita! Let me in!”
I buzzed her up.
Romita was a woman. I put on my pants.
My apartment (at the time) was a tiny sculpture of a children’s hospital. I rarely had visitors anymore and that was fine with me. I could hear Romita’s footsteps gaining on me. She entered my apartment, drunk, shedding forensic evidence all over the place. She coughed and pulled a pack of Newports out of her leather jacket, smacked it against her hand. I allow smoking in my apartment, I allow friends to drop in, and I allow Romita to exist.
“Hey Joe,” she said. Her eyes were blurred slits. “Kill anybody lately?”
“I’m working on it,” I told her.
“I bet,” she said and then gave me a snort of laughter. “You’re so fucked up.”
“What do you want, Romita?” Her father had named her after comic book artist John Romita (The Amazing Spiderman). It was homage to one of the greats. I knew this because I knew Romita. Better than almost anyone. She knew things about me too. It was a dangerous two-way street.
“I was just in the neighborhood, saw your light was on. Figured you were working.” She closed her eyes and—still standing—seemed to be asleep for a few seconds. She opened her eyes (sort of) swaying and said, “I want you to kill me.”
“Oh no. Not this again.”
“Come on. Just do me this one little favor…”
“I’m sorry Romita, I can’t.”
“How come?” She plugged a Newport into her lazy smile, clicked it to life with a blue Bic.
“I don’t kill people I know,” I told her. Again.
“Yeah I know. You only kill prostitutes. Hey, I could be a prostitute.”
“Don’t say that. You’re not a prostitute.”
She gave me a lopsided smile. “I know I’m not a prostitute. I’m saying I could BE a prostitute. Like as an ambition.”
“Uh-huh.” This was getting tedious already. I hated dealing with drunks. Romita was a miserable drunk. And her desire to be murdered was getting on my nerves. It wasn’t the first time she’d made the request. Romita and I used to work together at Sledgehammer Industrial. Bathtubs stained grimy with iron dust. Bathtubs full of blood and splintered bone.
“Why don’t you just take things into your own hands?” I asked.
“I can’t commit suicide.”
“Why not?” I asked but I already knew.
“Not allowed. It’s a sin.”
“Well, I’m sorry, Romita. I just can’t help you.”
“What if I blackmailed you?”
“Be careful, bitch.” I hated to get angry but Romita was pushing my buttons. It was a tactic she’d tried before.
“Or what? You’ll kill me?” She snorted out a laugh.
I laughed, relaxed.“Yeah, I guess that is pretty funny,” I admitted.
“Hey, you got any beer?” she said.
I did. We sat down and drank beer and Romita smoked, her mind drifting with the curls and clouds. Eventually, she left. On good, safe terms.
I went back into the bathroom to finish Helen.
From: Everything Dissolves