Blood and Berries
From Chalk, winner of the 38th Annual International 3-Day Novel Contest. Published by Anvil Press in 2016. Diaczuk is a writer and journalist. He lives in Thunder Bay.
You spend your nights driving around the city, parking in front of homeless shelters and soup kitchens, smoking cigarettes on the sidewalk and offering ones to the men and women who ask politely. You hang around men’s rooms at bus stations and watch fifteen-minute segments of TV shows on the coin-fed sets attached to armrests. You leave messages for L in chalk on sidewalks and on buildings. You tell her to go home and that her mother misses her. You tell her that you’re all right and that the best thing that ever could have happened to you has finally happened. You brush the dust from your hands on your pants and think that she’s probably not even in the city anymore, and every time you think it your heart breaks a little. You never really knew what your intentions
were and why you wanted to leave. It might have been the same reason that L gave her foster parents, maybe you’re just bored. Or maybe, just like L, you’re searching for something, something that doesn’t even exist.
You try to imagine what you would look like as a woman and how it would feel not knowing who you are. Do you even know now? In a bar, you follow a woman into the bathroom and she screams and tells you to get the hell out.
Can you do me a favour? you ask. I said get out of here, you creep. Please.
She storms past you, smacking your arm with her handbag, and you can hear her shouting on the other side of the door. You look at yourself in the mirror, at your eyes, trying not to blink, and they look like they have been buried under ice for hundreds of years. Another woman enters and freezes by the door. She wears brightred lipstick and her hair is tied back in a high ponytail. She sees that you are crying.
Is everything okay? she asks.
Can you help me?
She moves closer to you, like a wild animal approaching an outstretched hand.
With what? she asks. You point at the mirror and ask her to kiss the glass.
I want to see what I would look like as a woman. The woman catches your arm as you fall over. She helps you back up and you brace yourself against the counter. She takes out a tube of red lipstick and applies a fresh coat to her lips. She leans over the sink and presses her lips to the glass and holds them there for a long time, then pulls away. You take her place in front of the mirror, the red kiss