by Ana Prundaru
The moment I debated if I had been set free, or filtered out of life was the beginning of questioning everything I knew about intuition. My two friends Jen and Christa and I celebrated the end of the semester with a night out at the usual pub. To my delight, the handsome bartender with a tribal tattoo on his biceps flirted with me throughout the night, even offering my girlfriends and me free shots. Since I had crushed on him for months, I wasn’t going to leave without taking his number. I pulled out my phone and was just about to ask him for his number when a tall guy I hadn’t seen before cut me off to order something and wrap the bartender in a conversation. Jerk, I thought. Or said. It is hard to remember.
I didn’t let that spoil the mood though. We danced through the fluorescence, edging somewhere between snaking seductively toward the bartender and giving each other crap for almost falling over. All this time I could feel his eyes on me. The tall guy who had interrupted me seemed to follow my every move and there was heaviness in the room that exceeded the merry atmosphere and raucous laughter.
The pub was closing and the bartender was nowhere to be seen, so somewhat disgruntled we caught the night bus, slipping through scattered lights. Jen and Christa each exited a few stops before me. Most passengers trickled down by the time the bus approached my stop. When I stood up, heading to the front door, I suddenly saw him and felt my stomach churning. The tall guy’s face leaped out of the back of the bus as the doors opened and I made a motion as if I was exiting, watching him exit on the other side of the bus. I backed up into the bus just before the doors closed, shaking while he was chasing the bus with wide eyes and mouth open. I got out at the next stop and fingered my handbag for a pack of cigarettes to calm my nerves on the way home.
In the time it took to light up a cigarette, I was lifted into the sky. My feet left the ground, a hand cupped my mouth and my body was folded tight onto someone’s back. I screamed. But the sound didn’t arrive anywhere. I kicked and he hit my head against a parking car.
Before he dragged me away, I saw my reflection in the passenger seat window. I saw blood running down from above my left eyebrow and the world abstracted to lines and stars. A part of me was there in void, while the other was about to fade to an afterthought. I noticed the arm that was dragging me had a tribal tattoo, but convinced myself that the large amount of drinks were stealing my dreams, giving me ultra-realistic nightmares. I closed my eyes, attempting to keep myself afloat, but I fell. I fell over as the arms tried to push me inside a trunk. The distance between dream and reality was exploding in my head. I fell again, when the grip around me floated away.
There I was, face pressing on a nameless corner, all my mediocre life events coming to focus and then bleeding out on the sidewalk. I turned inside, still adamant that it was a dream. Meanwhile tall guy from the pub turned out to be the difference between freedom and disappearance. He had ubered over to make sure I got home alright. As I would later learn, tall guy had been keeping an eye on me. He sensed a bad vibe from the bartender. In retrospect, my gut feeling nearly killed me.
Ana Prundaru is a Romanian-born writer, translator and artist, based in Zurich. Recent work is featured in the Bohemyth, Rum Punch Press, Severine Lit and Pretty Owl Review. Her chapbook Unstable Tales is available from Dancing Girl Press.