We Are Lions

by Marisa Crane

The line to get into the club is down the block. That’s how you know it’s poppin’. At least that’s what Tripp says, rubbing his hands together so quickly I’m afraid he may start a fire. He looks from you to me and back to you again, a gleam in his pretty, green eye. Pretty, but not enchanting like yours.

We’re on 2-CE—some synthetic shit your roommate gave us when the molly I got you for your birthday didn’t work. Twisting the capsule and emptying the powder onto the kitchen counter between beer and Gatorade bottles, you warn me not to blow your line away so in the midst of reminding myself not to blow your line away, I wind up blowing your line away. We both laugh, our sinuses burning. You dip your head in the sink and when you come up for air, you say, “I can’t go out like this.”

Inside, the club is like a maze and we quickly lose Tripp, but that’s okay, he never strays too far. You hold my hand as we navigate our way through the crowds of sweaty, drunken bodies, the beat of the house music taking over for our hearts. We find an open space by the bar and exhale the breaths we didn’t realize we’d been holding. I think of your energy and charm, the way you pull me outside of myself. You make me less terrified to let someone love me.

You dip your head in the sink and when you come up for air, you say, “I can’t go out like this.”

You lean closer and nuzzle my neck with your face, and together we are lions. Apart, we are something I don’t want to think about. But I don’t have to think about that just yet, because we are here and we are now and the club is separated into only two prides: Us and Them. In line for the bathroom, a man smiles at me then dumps his full beer on my head, and once you’re done laughing your ass off, you pull me outside and say, “That was the wrong universe,” and I agree.

Back at the dorm we kiss and fall asleep on the red beanbag chair in your living room. Such a tender and honest act. I’m used to sloppy drunk seductions and next-day doom. With you, I feel more alive than I’ve felt in years, which means that I can’t—won’t—throw it all in with you. Imagine the damage you could cause. Even in your sleep, you swallow my almosts whole.

Now the line is a different kind of long. It stretches outside the building and weaves around the corner and into your empty bed. “That’s how you know it’s poppin’,” Tripp says weakly, trying to induce a smile. I smoke a cigarette and shrug my shoulders up around my ears, the winter air biting my uncovered skin. Tripp bounces on his toes, rubs his hands together, and now I wish he’d start a fire so he could sic it on me. He looks at me, and there is no gleam in his eye. I catch him snort something when he thinks no one’s looking. For some reason, the drugs don’t take his body the way they took yours.

You look too beautiful to be in a casket. I kneel but don’t bow my head. Instead, I study your smooth, tan skin, your protruding cheekbones. The look on your face is the same one you used to make when you were trying to fight a smile, convinced you had to play it cool around me so I wouldn’t take off running. I wait for your smile to break through like a wave I watched build from afar, but it doesn’t come. I stand up to find your dad with his arms wide open, soft tears creeping down his face. His body shakes up and down as we hug. “He would have dropped everything and married you, baby,” he whispers. “I know,” I say. I know. Then I lean back, raise my head, and roar the saddest roar a lion has ever made.

Image: @keerathi / stock.adobe.com