Julio X. Palomino

The January Editor's Pick Writer is Julio X. Palomino

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by Julio X. Palomino

I was hoping to see her, my Lexa. I looked at my watch and it read: 10:22am.

Between the blinds, my lonesome eyeball scanned left and right. I was staring at the flocks of people walking toward the parade. I breathed. I listened. I sighed.

Brown hair. Green hair. Mohawk. No mohawk. Colorful clothes. Barely any clothes. Etcetera, etcetera.

I had a dog once. His name was Max. Cliché name, I know, but all the while perfect. I loved him. Just two days after I rescued him from the pound, he died. He just flopped over one night while I was watching another episode of the same old show I always watch. I am sure anybody could recite the lines, I bet anybody my age at least. Friends. That nostalgic sitcom from the nineties. What happened to like-minded people? What happened to socializing in public?

Now people hide behind their screens and stare, continuously, all day everyday because others would do the same. If I caught others looking at me, and I wasn’t staring at my own screen like a “normal” person, I’d be cast out. I’d be considered a creep, something I, probably, wouldn’t deny.

I’d be too scared to talk to people, because I’d rather stare at them walking down the sidewalk from the comfort of my room.

I’m the annoying guy inviting you to play games on Facebook, getting deleted because I messaged my friends too much—getting deleted because I kept inviting people to play games.

I bite my fingernails when I am anxious. I’ve been at it for a while now. There is a little pile of fingernails settling on the windowsill. My hand was an ear of corn, and I was nibbling away at the delicious calcium.

Just two more minutes, and she’ll show.

I waited and bit. I had no more fingernails left to chew. I was all out. It was so hot in my apartment I hadn’t realized how sweaty I’d gotten. Sweat was dripping and sliding from my armpits like slow-moving waterfalls.

There! She’s right there!

“Lexa,” I whispered. She was standing, shouldering and re-shouldering her green knapsack with all the pins and patches. Some of them I remembered. One of them was that Rx symbol and another one was an upside-down cross.

I smiled. And I cried. I missed her so much.

She was looking at her cellphone.

I felt coldness in my heart. I hoped and dreamed she wouldn’t become one of those people. The people of the screens! The brainwashed. The…

Oh, shut the hell up. You have a Facebook too, and you got a cellphone! a voice in my head said.

I pulled my head back from in between the blinds. One blind joined the others, flipping and flapping, back and forth. The sunlight flickered in to my room, on the brown carpet, gaining my attention now. I stared at the swaying shadows.

A few seconds later, there was a knock on my door.

It was her—blonde, wavy, shoulder-length hair that glistened under the sun—it really was Lexa! She wore sunglasses, hiding the eyes that I had dreamed of for the last three months. Her jean shorts were hiked up to her waist. She spun around at the site of me.

“I haven’t seen you in a long time,” I said, noticing that she was wearing a tan Beatles shirt with no bra underneath.

“Hi, you, I see you miss smiling, don’t ya?” She asked, smiling herself, her porcelain, picture-perfect teeth at full display. She wore golden loop earrings with crescent moons dangling from their hooks.

“Well, are ya going to let me in, big boy?” She asked while re-shouldering her green knapsack. She was jumping up and down, her white sneakers thumping up and down on the carpeted balcony.

“Okay,” was all I could say. She walked past me, jumping like a little girl, and set her knapsack down near the sofa.

I closed the door behind me and turned the deadbolt to lock it.

She took her sunglasses off. She knew I loved her eyes. That was why she always liked to keep them hidden from me.

“How does it feel to smile?” She asked again. She knew it pained me to answer that question.

“I don’t know,” I replied, looking down at my fingernails, contemplating whether or not to go at my hangnails. They did look like they needed a solid trimming, and they looked tasty. “I don’t know anything anymore. I forget what day it is. I forget…if I even I’m supposed to work today, but they would’ve called me.”

“That’s not good.” She replied. She wasn’t smiling anymore. She was taking off her shoes. Her socks. She planted them on my lap and asked me if I liked the color of her toenails. They were blue.

My favorite color. She knows this.

I nodded and asked, “Why, why haven’t you come by… Why has it been so long?”

“I come by when you need me,” she said, looking at her fingernails and then—to my surprise—biting them and spitting out the slivers. The pieces of her fingernails landed on top of my circular dining table, most of them just a few inches away from a dirty plate smeared with pasta sauce. “I am proud of you.”

“Why…why would you be proud of…me?” I was massaging her feet. We were in my small dining room, sitting on plastic lawn chairs. I just wanted more of what she could give me. That feeling I’ve missed so much. She had always been a true representation of all that I’ve ever wanted. I loved her as much as anybody could love anything regardless of the consequences.

“Don’t be sad,” she said suddenly. She wasn’t looking up at me, because she knew that I didn’t deserve to look at her eyes just yet. If I deserved it, she’d let me look into them later.

“I am not sad,” I quickly replied.

“Shush, don’t lie, you know lying is bad. And I am not here for no reason. You were looking outside, again, weren’t you? You know you don’t deserve to be out there with them. You’re not like them and you don’t want to be like them—”

“But I do! I do want to be like them! They are always happy! They don’t go up and down like we do.”

“Going up and down is something we always love. That is us. Why do you think I am here? It’s almost over. We’re at the top, honey-bun, and it’s almost time to go down low, where we remember what being together really means.”

Watching her giggle after saying that made me feel sad. She knew it hurt me. This was all a reminder that temporary happiness comes with a price: the bottom. A place I avoid by drinking coffee. A place I avoid by binge drinking. A place I avoid by avoiding. A place where I hide from everything, anything that could give me a chance to make me permanently happy—which is the one thing I’ve always wanted, but could never have, because it was unattainable, it was impossible.

“You know it’s not impossible, honey-bun, it’s just not meant for us,” she said. Again, she giggled, lifting a foot. With her big toe, Lexa caressed my stubbly cheek.

I leaned against it, because I loved her. “Why can’t I live without you?”

“Because I can’t live without you.” She responded.


With her hand in mine, leading me towards my bedroom, she stopped and asked, “Are you ready for me?”

I smiled. “I am always ready, and I don’t ever want you to go.”

“I am always with you.” She said, placing her cold hand against my cheek. Her back was to the bed, the lamps on both sides of the room were on, and she retreated a step back and undressed. She sat at the foot of the bed and beckoned me over.

I was undressing myself and it was quick and easy since all I wore were shorts and a t-shirt. When I was on top of her she placed a finger on my lips to remind me that I could never kiss her, and to remember what happens if I did.

The truth was…I never remembered what happened if I did. But I listened and said I wouldn’t.

I entered her, and she felt warm inside even though her skin felt cold to the touch. With one hand, I lifted her legs on top of my shoulders, and I penetrated her deeper. She moaned with ecstasy; with fervor, she clasped my face in her hands and scratched.

She tilted her head back and moaned again. Her voice was tangible. Her voice was sweet. Her voice was the sound of my own dreams, coming back to me full throttle.

I closed my eyes and saw a field of tall grass. I was alone with her. She pulled me by the hand, leading me down a ravine. The sun was glowing orange. She was leading me to the place I knew would make me happy for the rest of my life. I knew I wanted to be there, because this is the place where Lexa and I were born as lovers. Born as one.

I opened my eyes and I was back inside my bedroom, I turned her around to face me.

I screamed with horror. “But I never kissed you! I never kissed you!” I screamed.

I was shaking her up and down up and down, but she remained entrapped. Her eyes were gone!

I couldn’t help myself. “Please talk to me!” I begged.

“You closed your eyes,”she whispered.

“No! I was with you, my love! I was only with you!” I screamed. I couldn’t help myself. It’s impossible to not dream whenever I was with her. It’s hard for me to imagine a world without Lexa. “Please! Talk to me!”

Her eyes had become blue splotches, reminding me of watercolor paintings.

A drop of my sweat fell on her forehead, and what followed was Lexa’s piercing scream.

“No!” I yelled. The droplet made its way down one side of her face erasing skin as if it were makeup. Underneath, the red tendril of flesh bulged and pulsed.

Lexa continued to scream.

“Please, baby, I still need you to make me smile! Please!” I placed a hand on one of her cheeks, but she screamed. My hand had been sweaty. I pulled it off. By doing so, I ripped some more flesh off of her face. The palm of my hand had been glued onto the skin of her cheek.

I panicked. My eyes were wide open, scanning the room, trying find an answer, anywhere. Then I thought of something and leaned over, “I’m sorry,” and got inches away from her lips. “I love you.”

When my lips touched her blue ones, Lexa began to disintegrate.


Wake up. Wake up! The voice. That one that tells you what to do even if it’s a bad idea? Yeah, mine is usually telling me things I ought to do. And finally, after tossing and turning, I cooperate.

The blinds are closed, but the sunlight creeping in through the cracks fed the room with enough light. I sit up, rub at my bloodshot eyes, and yawn. You need to go to the doctor, Alex, it’s time, the voice inside my head said.

I ignore the voice and plant my feet on the carpet. I am sitting on the edge of the bed with my head lowered, staring at the carpet. Great, I’m on a low, a bad one too, I think to myself, hating myself like I usually do, and hating everything there is about life and everything there is about being me.

I have to go to work, and I don’t want to. I have to try to get up, walk over to the bathroom, piss, drink some water, take my meds—Shit, gotta take that right now, right now!

I swear, you never listen to me, Alex, the voice said.

I rush over to the bathroom, flip the lights on, and slip on the tile floor, but I catch myself by placing my hands on the sink. I open the cupboard and search for my Lexa.

The bottle is empty.

Julio X. Palomino was born in Miami, Florida, and now lives in Everett, Washington state. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Western Washington University and is currently working on a new novel.