Jasmine & Burnt Hot Dogs by Nathaniel McKowen

That insatiable beast within me—that has no name except emptiness, or need, or perhaps longing, since that sounds more romantic—feasted on my guts and cannibalized what was left of my will as I parked my busted Pontiac in front of Amy’s house. Her parents’ house, really. Amy’s mom thought it best if we didn’t see each other for a while. That’s why I had to keep my car hidden, tucked behind a green lattice of paloverde branches and aloe spears.

As the engine cooled my car ticked, marking the small eternities until she finally slipped through her front door. When she got in the passenger side, she didn’t look at me. My car continued to tick.

“I’m glad you came over. I missed you,” she said.

“I missed you, too. How are you…” My eyes slid to the side to see her. Then back. “…doing?”

“Good.”

“You look better.”

“I am.”

“I’m glad,” I said and finally mustered the courage to turn my head toward her. Even at her worst, she made my insides churn. She radiated a celestial beauty, breathtaking like a starry night away from the city, but distant. Even sitting next to me, she was out of reach.

Her eyes stayed pinned on the rolling desert in front of my car. “I am better.”

“I heard you the first time.” After a moment, I added, “I heard it before.”

“It’s different this time.”

“Is it?”

Her eyes cut across the dash and sliced me in half. “Yeah. For one, my parents know.”

I looked down in my lap for something. Nothing but my car key there. “I’m sorry, Amy, for what happened. I didn’t…”

“You told them. You ratted me out.”

“I didn’t know what else to do. I thought you were going to end up killing yourself.”

“That’s bullshit, and you know it.”

I did.

My car stopped ticking, but I wish it hadn’t. Any noise was better than this silence.

“They want to send me away, you know.”

“That’s…maybe it’s for the best.”

“Fuck you.”

“Amy— “

“You would like that, wouldn’t you? Finally be free to go fuck some other bitches.”

“I don’t want other…” I took a deep breath. “We just want to help you.”

She laughed. Cold, hard periods. She dug her phone from her purse. “Maybe it is for the best. Maybe I’ll meet some hot guys there. Someone who understands me.”

“Why would you say that?”

She shrugged, eyes glued to her phone, fingers working a Morse code on the buttons

“Maybe I should just go.” I picked up the key from my lap and stuck it in the ignition.

“You’re just going to leave?” The raw desperation in her voice made me stop. I looked at her. Beads of moisture clung to the edges of her lower eyelids, and her eyes sparkled like starlight.

“I dunno.”

She tried to wipe the tears away, but one broke free and fell to her shirt, staining the white cotton a leaden grey. The little dot sat above her left breast like some sort of badge. Or campaign pin. Or bullet hole.

Her hand found mine. “Come inside with me, just for a little bit. My mom’s not home.”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“For five minutes,” she said. “As friends.”

Her eyes searched mine. My stomach churned, eating itself. Deep down, I craved her in ways I didn’t understand.

“Ok. Five minutes. Then I gotta go.”

Her posture straightened and she swept her hair behind her ear. “K, five minutes.”

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