Sunshine broke through the dusty blanket serving as a makeshift curtain and roused Saffron from sleep. Kohl eye smudges and smeared scarlet lips were faint reminders of last night.
“Ratty curtains I don’t recognize...check,” she muttered. “Lost chunks of time…check. Someone next to me that I don’t know…check. Nobody caring where I am…check.”
Saffron usually used the subway ride to piece together the previous night. The fact that nobody knew her darkness inside normally didn’t matter. Instead of spilling useless buckets of salt over her pain, Saffron self-medicated with whatever was around. Drugs, men, she wasn’t picky as long as she felt numb. She took comfort in false “I love yous”. She knew those sentiments were as fake as her inky black hair, but any respite from her hurting heart would suffice. The temporary reprieves she granted herself weren’t enough anymore.
Finally home, Saffron was surprised to see the light on her machine. “Great,” she groaned to herself and the rodents sharing her apartment. “All I need is to hear from another bill collector.”
“I hope I have the right person,” said a slightly familiar voice. “This is Kyle Franks. I’m looking for Saffron. I hope you remember me.”
Saffron began mentally sorting through the faces of the litany of men she knew. She never committed brain space to putting names with faces. There wasn’t a point since she never saw them again. Did she give out her number? Without warning, the room began to swirl. She knew what this was. Bad news. The worst news. She knew this would eventually happen. Saffron expected to die from HIV or drugs, but never this soon.
As the walls began to calm, she realized Kyle was still speaking. “If you’d like to talk, call me. There’s something you really need to know. Get back to me soon, ok?”
Resolving to face mortality, Saffron decided to get her death sentence in person. If he felt bad, at least she could absolve his guilt. In truth, she welcomed death to escape life.
The bright café wasn’t her style, but it was the closest place. Saffron was surprised to recognize Kyle and taken aback at the hug he attempted to give her as she joined him
“I’m glad you could see me,” said Kyle. “I was worried you might not remember.”
Saffron exhaled smoke into his smiling face. “Can we just get his over with,” she snapped.
Kyle’s smile faltered, but he resumed. “I know we don’t really know each other, but I need to talk to you about something important. I’m not sure how to say this. Saffron, I want you to know Jesus loves you.”
Despite being an expert smoker, Saffron coughed. “What?” she sputtered.
“He loves you. Before Him, I wanted to die. He can heal you too. I don’t know the source of your hurt, but He can...”
Her rage was instant. “How dare you! You think because you’re some Bible thumper now that you can pass judgment? You don’t know the first thing about what’s inside me.”
Clearly Kyle touched a nerve. He knew she was hurting and Jesus was her answer. “I’m not passing judgment,” he said softly. “I’m the last person who should be doing that. I just wanted you to know that if you need someone to talk...”
“Save it,” she interrupted. “The last thing I need is some holy roller telling me how to live. I don’t need the soul police.”
As she stalked away, Kyle prayed. “You love Saffron and sent me to talk to her. Show me the right way to reach her. She is hurting like I was.”
“Who does he think he is,” Saffron exclaimed aloud. “Why am I so bothered by it,” she whispered to herself. The realization that she was disappointed she hadn’t been given the expected death sentence washed over her. A single tear threatened to melt the shell carefully crafted around her heart. “NO! I won’t be vulnerable again. I’m fine alone.”
Saffron’s heart betrayed her. It gave the tiniest leap when she saw the light on her machine. Had he called to check on her?
“Um..yeah. I’m looking for Saffra or something?” said the gravely voice. “I think we met umm, once. You might want to get to a doctor …”
“Figures,” she said coldly. She didn’t stay to hear the end of the message and in turn missed the next one.
“It’s Kyle. I wanted to make sure you got home. If you need me…”
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