What Love Isn’t

“C’mon up, Sugar.  I got some time for you, and somethin’ else – make you feel real good!”

The young man looked at the scantily clad woman posing in the doorway of a house that had not been updated in 30 years.  ‘I have to be sure,’ he thought to himself.  ‘No mistakes this time.’

He stopped and smiled.  “What kind of time do you have for me?”

She shrugged herself off the door and slinked closer to him.  “I got a good time for you, Sugar.  You jus’ c’mon up here and see.”

She leaned down a bit, using her body as a lure.  The man looked.  The woman smiled and backed toward the door, inviting him inside.  He followed her, and when he was close enough, she took his hand and led him down a hall to the third door on the right.  A single lamp, a bed and a chair were the extent of the furnishings.  Each item in the room was as dingy as the hallway, as lifeless as the flies on the painted-shut window sills.

“Right there, Sugar,” she said, pointing to the bed, “You don’t have to do a thing except show some financial appreciation.  The more you show, the better time you have.”  Her smile was meant to entice.

He knew he had the right woman.  The Voices agreed.

He reached into his wallet and pulled out some cash.  He knew exactly how much he had, but he made a show of counting it.  Her eyes grew big and that smile widened, changing from ‘enticing’ to ‘enticed’.  A lure of a different kind, but just as seductive.

He handed the bills to her and watched while she stashed them in her purse.  She said, “For that much appreciation, Sugar, you get your choice of entertainment.  What’s your pleasure?”

She waited, her smile fading as the young man hesitated.  He finally said, “Can we just talk for a little while?”

“Talk?”  The word came out like an accusation.  The woman remembered the wad of money now in her possession and said, “Yeah, Sugar.  We can talk.”

She patted the ragged coverlet on the bed.  “Sit with me and talk.”

The man sat, carefully choosing a position that let him face the door and the woman.  He asked, “Why do you do this?” and he spread his arms, indicating her current employment.

“Well, Sugar, a girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do to make a livin’!”

“That’s an easy answer.  Try again.”

The woman looked at the man and began to wonder if he was just lonely and wanted to talk, or crazy and was waiting to hear something that would set him off.  “It’s your dime, Sugar, what would you like me to say?  That I enjoy this?  That I’m just like an animal and can’t get enough?  That I’m weak and can’t escape?”

She paused and decided on another tactic.  She looked into his eyes and said, “Or that I’m on the look-out for truly lonely people so I can help them?”

The man blinked.  For a moment he had lost himself in her eyes, in the comfort and attention he found there.  He knew then that she saw him for what he really was.

He flew off the bed and reached into his coat and pulled out a gun.  His smile had flown from him and in its place was a scowl, an ugly scar across his face that was formed from ill conceived ideas and rhetoric spouted from many different pulpits, not all of them residing in churches.

His words rushed out – a wild, bellowing flow that was unstoppable.

The woman tried to scream, tried to hide, but the man followed and hounded her in the small room, always keeping himself between her and the door.

He finally wound down with the accusation, “This is not love!”  His judgment was in the gun pointed directly at the woman’s face.

She cried, nodding her head.  “I know, I know, I know.” She said it over and over, a mantra of understanding, of agreement, of brotherhood.

The man lowered his gun, all of the wind knocked out of him.  He couldn’t look at the woman.  He just stood there and sobbed.

She glanced at the man, trying to figure out his next move and her best course of action.  “Give me the gun, Sugar.  I’ll just hold you till you feel alright.”

She sounded so nice, and he needed someone to hold him close.  Just hold him till his demons grew bored and left him alone.  He looked at her…soft eyes and smile, hand outstretched, inviting…

No!  Not inviting!  Luring!  She is luring you into her web.  There is no love in that look, in that invitation!  Ha!  See her sneak a glance at the door?  See her look for an escape?  She is trying to get away from you, away from payment!  His mind screamed at him in Voices he had heard ever since he was a young boy.  Voices that told him of all of the evils that existed in this evil world.  The greatest one was the harlot; imitating love for pay.

He stood still, a battle raging inside him.  Years of forced morality painted themselves on a sterile landscape void of love, void of happiness.  Everywhere he looked in this little tableau in his head he could see the clenched fist with pointed finger singling out evil after evil after evil.  It was as if the world was composed of evil, and he and the Voices were the only beacons of truth.  There were so few real beacons, and no one he could really talk to.

On the other side of the struggle was the innate sense that he needed contact with people, even people that he had been taught to identify as evil.  The ones he had been taught to shun.  And that they were not any different than he was.  The struggle continued for some time, covering countless discussions, lessons, debates, lectures, years.  Each side held the balance for a moment before being pushed back by the other.

The woman watched the man as he swayed next to the bed.  His hand tightened and relaxed on the grip of the gun.  He murmured incomprehensible words.  She waited, hoping for a chance to escape.  Not seeing one, she grew desperate.  Finally, she could take no more.  Her ideas had run out.  She raced around the bed and pushed the man out of the way as she tried to grab the door handle.

The man fell back against the wall, jarring him out of his internal debate and back into the little room.  He saw the woman trying to escape, trying to run away from him.  He saw her eyes.  Once they were soft and enticing, now they were hard and accusing.  He grabbed her arm and squeezed, twisting just enough to make her stop reaching for the door.  “Don’t leave me.”

“You’re crazy!”  She screamed.  Then, “Help!  Somebody help me!”  And, “Get away from me!” at the top of her lungs.

The balance was tipped.  The battle won.  The gun came up and the man pointed it at her.  He squeezed the trigger as he let go of her arm.  “Sin no more.” he said, his voice flat and emotionless.  Her falling body was dead before it hit the floor.

The man reached into the dead woman’s purse and pulled out the wad of money he had just given her and carefully put it back into his wallet.  Then, he put the gun away, straightened his jacket, and left the house.

He turned to walk down the street.  Looking ahead, he saw a woman standing in the doorway of a run-down house in the next block.  Cocking his head, he listened to the Voices and walked toward her.

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