Hau Tree Green

The lights were off. I sat in the dark, feet on the desk, with a glass of bourbon balanced on my chest. I wasn’t doing much about drinking it. My gun waited patiently on the blotter beside my shoes, in case we had company. I leaned back in the chair and looked out my office window.

The rain poured down. The storm had gotten hopelessly lost out at sea and come ashore to crash against the Santa Teresa mountains. There had been brief thunder and lightning, and then deluge as night came in. I leaned forward and snapped on the lamp. Annie Kahlo looked at me from across the desk. I pointed at the bottle.

“Change your mind?”

She shook her head and I turned the light back out.

“When will they come?” she asked.

“I don’t know. We have to wait. Bad things don’t make you wait long, as a rule.”

“I like storms,” she said. “The rain makes me safe… invisible. I open things when it’s windy.”

Outside the glass, the city was washed shiny black, and the wet streets reflected neon blues and pinks. Across the street, the Schooner Inn bar was lit up, but I figured it was mostly empty. Desert people didn’t know what to do in weather like this, and they stayed out of sight.

“You think I’m crazy, don’t you?” Her voice was soft. “Everyone does.”

I sipped a little bourbon and thought about it.

“People wear masks,” I said. “Me, too. We put on a different mask, depending on the time of day and the situation and who we’re talking to. We slip them on and off, easy as pie. Everyone is hiding, and they don’t even know they are. It makes me… lonely.”

I sipped my whiskey. I could see the shine of her eyes in the dark.

“The masks remind me that everyone is going to die alone,” I said. “Especially me. You don’t have a mask, though. You don’t own one, or even know how they work. I see you, and you have no idea what that does to me.”

The rain wasn’t letting up at all. Tomorrow the air would be impossibly clean and blue, and the desert would come alive for a little while. The ocean would sparkle; the orange and avocado groves would glisten, and it would all smell like perfume. Tonight, though, everything was as wet and dark as the end of the world.

“I see you,” she said. “I see you, too.”

My eyes felt funny, like the start of tears. It was probably just the booze. I took a breath and blew them away.

“I know you do,” I said. “And if you see me... how could you be crazy? How could I think you’re crazy?”

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