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FICTION / My Night of Horror with Maria / Joe Hughes

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The snap on buttons of my favorite plaid striped shirt popped off like popcorn kernels in a microwave, bouncing around the floor of her car. Maria grabbed the collar of my shirt with such force, I could feel a brush burn form immediately against the side of my neck. She opened her mouth, her cherry red lip gloss sparkled in the dark car. It happened so fast. I couldn’t react If I tried.  She tilted her head slightly and opened wide, small specs of her lip gloss glistened on her front teeth. It looked like her jaw unhinged. I wasn’t sure if she was trying to kiss me or swallow my head hole.

The night started inconspicuously enough. I explained how I love coffee and how it was really just a vehicle for the cream and sugar. And that anyone who says they like black coffee is a liar. And how if you asked them to prove otherwise, they’d drink the bitter shit with a smile just to spite you. I left out that I thought blind dates were like black coffee because I think they’re bland, pretentious and devoid of any enjoyment. I only agreed to this blind date to do a solid and offer some companionship. I wasn’t looking to be mauled.

I didn’t feel the same way for Maria that she felt for me. I would’ve been content sitting in her jeep, listening to 90’s pop songs and watching packs of laughing and yelling teens coming and going, getting their late-night caffeine buzz. But she wanted more. At first, I only assumed so. When her mouth transformed into a gaping, black hole, blasting out a tractor beam like a UFO, drawing me up into a spaceship, I was assured. I thought this must’ve been how Quint in Jaws felt when the shark ate the side of the boat and he was left screaming, sliding, slipping, helplessly into its massive mouth.

I should’ve known better.  Anytime someone tells you they have just the girl for you- or worse yet-  tell you they’re doing you a favor and introducing you to your future wife, shouting red flags should sprout up yelling, “No! Run! Get out while you can!” Especially when it comes from my sister, a self-proclaimed matchmaker.  And especially when they’ve also told this future wife of yours they’ve got just the right guy to raise her spirits after the heart-breaking end to her engagement. 

I was less concerned with the worry of whether my breath was fresh or not. I was more concerned that if she truly intended to find out what the base of my throat tasted like, hopefully for her sake the over-the-counter Acid Reflux medication was doing its job.

“Get over here,” she said, playing tug-of-war with my shirt. I didn’t stand a chance.

I don’t have a type; but if I did, Maria probably didn’t fit the bill. She was fine enough, but she reeked of “trying too hard.” I didn’t care for her bangs. Or how their highlights made them way lighter than the rest of her hair.  What she thought was trendy, or worse, ironic, I found flaccid. Devoid of real individuality.  I can’t say I blame her for putting on this façade. When you find out your fiancé is leaving you three months before your wedding for a trendy, flashy girl seven years your junior, who has your dream job without your expensive degree and rolls out of bed looking the way you slave to look, your confidence is shattered. It makes sense she’d start wearing patterned leggings and crooked shirts a size too big, that barely hung onto her shoulders. 

Maria’s aggressive nature was likely the result of her wanting to hop back up on that horse quick and who am I to blame her. Somewhere I envision one of her best friends telling her how the best way to get over someone, is to get under someone. And the two of them laughing and drinking giant glasses of red wine. Well, she was dead set to get under me. She didn’t just fall off the horse, she got launched. Only my luck would have her more like Red Pollard than Christopher Reeves. 

When Maria leaned in and kissed me, she wasn’t eating my face.  Although, that might’ve been more enjoyable. She squeezed me tight, really tight. The way Mary Jane would squeeze Spider-Man while being lowered to safety, out of the Green Goblin’s reach. My kidneys and ribs crushed off against each other, jockeying for position like well-dressed businessmen in a tight elevator. It doesn’t feel great. Neither does having your chest compressed by your shoulders. But neither was nearly as painful as her moaning. I could handle the discomfort to a point. But Maria didn’t know her own strength.

Before she started having her way with me, squeezing and crushing me like her favorite childhood teddy bear, I was kind of enjoying myself.  She told self-deprecating jokes. She laughed about how her ex fiancé traded her in for a younger model and that she hoped he brushed up on his Kardashians trivia. She was witty and quirky and did half-baked impressions. We talked about our favorite bands and movies and debated over what holiday was the definitive holiday.

But I wasn’t attracted to her. Maria’s recent past painted her as fragile and I certainly didn’t want to be the one to break her. I don’t need that on my conscious. Still, we started down a path and I feared where it might lead. I wrapped my arms around her the way I would hug my old, smelly great-Aunt at Christmas time when I was a kid. I kept myself at what distance I could, trying to avoid any mixed signals past the making out. I figured this was no big deal. Most the other cars in the parking lot were stricken with fogged out windows from make-out sessions. But that was my high limit. I didn’t want to give her a green light to take this any further.

Still, she swung her tongue around in my mouth, intent on inspecting every region. For all my years of smoking, if I had an oral cancer tumor, I’m positive she would have let me know. So, in that regard, I can breathe a sigh of relief. Yet, with the intensifying squeezing, I could barely take in the minimum amount of oxygen necessary to stay conscious.

My tongue doesn’t leave my mouth. And why would it have to. Her entire mouth is inside mine. If anyone were to look through the fogged-up windows of her jeep, they would have gotten a front row view to a reimagining of a scene from Alien. And the moaning. Jesus Christ. The moaning. 

“Mmmm,” followed by, “huhhh” followed by a quiet, flirty chuckle. I’m trapped in this jeep and I’m more like a man who just fell twenty stories to his death than a make-out partner. Motionless, cold. My eyes opened wide, staring into the glowing tunnel of the afterlife. When I tried backing away, she bit my bottom lip. When I slid my hands from her shoulders to her lower back, she shifted up, shaking her bottom and chuckling as to say, “Go ahead... squeeze it.”

If I didn’t take a breath soon, I would pass out. And God only knows what she would do to me if I was unconscious. Just look at what she’s doing while I’m awake. I shifted slightly, trying to ever so gently slide out of her death grip. I told her I needed a second and unclipped my seatbelt to get some relief. Only when I did, the worst possible thing happened. All the compressed air stacked up in my lungs from her bearhugging the shit out of me came out as, “Mmmm.” 

For the love. What have I done? I realized immediately my mistake. This was worse than the time I drank out of the glass my grandmother’s dentures were soaking in. She mistook my breath for a moan. For Maria, this was the green light. All aboard. To her, that moan was the audible equivalent of a one-way ticket to fuck-town

“I could just eat you up,” she said.

I just grimaced. I smiled like a victim of Bells-Palsy and said, “uh huh.”  My face said it all but with the dim lighting and the blinding light of passion in her eyes, she probably thought I was doing a killer Dick Clark impression. And she loved New Year’s Eve!

The whites of her eyes were replaced with giant, spinning pinwheels zipping around in her filthy mind.Her wheels were turning alright. She pounced me. Hopping over the center console, squeezing me tighter than before. I started to see little stars, the kind you would see when engaged in a breath-holding contest. The kind I’d see when I was a kid and I’d hold my breath when driving under a tunnel. A tunnel where you’d make a wish. I heard a pop and was convinced one of my lungs collapsed. 

I wished I was in one of those tunnels right now, holding my breath making a wish.  I’d wish I never agreed to this date. I’d wish I hadn’t lied and just said I wasn’t looking to meet someone. Hell- I’d wish I just told her I was gay. Most of all, I wish that this Acid Reflux medication wasn’t so god damn efficient.

Your brain can only be Oxygen deprived for so long. I felt like those helpless victims in Jaws. What would be worse? Getting ripped apart by that giant sea monster or not being able to get to the surface for a breath? One time in high school a jock had cold-cocked me upside the head for calling his sister a tramp. Afterwards I couldn’t stand straight or stop the ringing in my ears. This was no different, although that was a smidge more enjoyable.

I came to grips with the very real possibility I was going to pass out. I was going to walk up, naked, tied to a bed, delirious and crying with her on top of me. I could just pull away. I could wrestle like an insane person out of a strait jacket and tell her to stop. Tell her this isn’t good; for either of us. That she needs time to recover from her heartbreak. Ah, but what the hell’s the point? She’d start crying, maybe using those bleached bangs to wipe her eyes. She’d call me a tease and make me walk home. She’d go to work Monday and tell my sister, the matchmaker, what a dick I am.  My family has more than enough ammo to lecture me on. Do I really need them chastising me over my personal life, too?

The only last-ditch effort I can think of is to make myself cry. But even then, she might think the music is making me emotional and “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” can be our songand somehow, we can hire the Backstreet Boys to play at our wedding. Or worse, this crazy chick might think the tears are some kind of lube and then go ahead and squeeze it might become go ahead and f.... then suddenly-

CRACK!

She finally stopped performing extreme mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on me and I can breathe. I’m gasping and panting like one of those divers lucky enough to have gotten away from Jawsand made it to the surface; safe and unscathed. Sweet Release!

A group of teens come running over from the coffee shop to see what’s happened. I wonder if they saw the reimagining of Alien? Did they see Maria try to swallow me hole just like Jaws? Whatever the case, they saw something, and said something. I thought they rescued me.

Maria leapt out of the car. She quickly pulled her crooked shirt back down over her chest. She must’ve slid it up at some point. I hadn’t noticed. The stars and floaties from my Oxygen deprived state blinded me to her attempts to smother me with her giant chest. If I had gotten crammed in between those, I would’ve surely been rendered me catatonic.  I jumped out of my door, sliding on the gravel, struggling to get my footing. My stomach is heavy and queasy, like I just ate an ounce or two of cherry red lip gloss.

“What happened?” one girl asked. 

“Oh my god,” Maria said. The crazy look in her eyes drowning in an oncoming sea of tears. “Oh my god. I’m so sorry.”

When she leapt over the center console like a linebacker on third and long, and pinned me against the door, she knocked the shift into Neutral. One group of teens said they watched the car roll backwards, slowly, thirty or more feet, to the far end of the parking lot, crushing in the front of a jet-black Mustang. She was so lost in the throes of her passion, she didn’t even notice. She probably thought that was what falling in love feels like.

The owner of the Mustang yelled and breaded us. He paced back and forth. At one point he took his Mets hat off and threw it on the ground and kicked it, like a manager arguing balls and strikes. He kept pointing to the front end of his car and telling us to look at her.He ranted about how irresponsible we were. How someone could’ve been hurt or worse killed. But most importantly that he just bought this car, his dream car a week ago and we’d literally crushed his dreams.

 I wanted to tell him this chick almost ate me. I wanted to say, “Sorry about the bumper on your car but she was going to eat my face! How would that have looked? A grease-monkey will fix your car back up but there’s no repair shop to fix an eaten face. It’s not like I chose the Uninsured Face Eater option on my insurance. I wanted to tell him he could still drive the car and that for it’s a Chevy for Christ’s sake, not a Lexus or Audi.”   I wanted to tell him what my life would be like with parents shuttering their children’s eyes when I came walking by, saving them from the horror of seeing a thirty-something whose face looks like a raw piece of meat two starving pit bulls fought to the death over. I wanted to get face to face with him and tell him how none of it even mattered because once I passed out, she’d probably chain me to a poll in her god damn basement like some sort of freak who only gets to come up for air when mama needs a feeding.  

I didn’t. I just took his verbal assault. Why Bother I thought. I walked towards the shop, needing my own fix of caffeine. 

“I need a coffee,” I grunted.

“Can you grab me one?” she asked. “Black?

 Can you believe this? Black coffee? Who the hell does she think she is?

When I got back to the parking lot, she was in the jeep, waiting for me.  Against my better judgement I got in. How else was I going to get home? Plus, I still wasn’t convinced I didn’t have permanent brain damage.  I looked over at Maria and she smiled. Big. Red specs of lip gloss still firmly planted on her front teeth. 

“Hey,” she said. “Everything’s good with that guy. Why don’t we go back to my place? We could put a movie on and not watch it... maybe Jaws.”


A self proclaimed music, Batman and NBA fanatic, Joe Hughes can often be found with a guitar in one hand and a coffee in the other. Joe's work as a music journalist can be seen at Alternativenation.net. Check him out on Twitter and Instagram, @blackmask606