When I awoke from a dream it was only to discover I was still inside one. I was standing in the sun, on the corner of a busy intersection. Behind me was the carbon copy of all gas stations, run down and constantly spitting out the oddest of charcters. If it wasn't middle schoolers stopping by after achool, it was adults holding six packs ready to day drink, or stoners holding swishers ready to empty out their insides. In and out, in and out cause everyone always has a need for something and it's not always the thing you're looking for. 

I know exactly where I am. I know that if I turn around and walk to my right I'll know the exact route to take in order to walk to my parents house within the next several hours. If I go left I'd be able to walk ten minutes before arriving at the walmart I've lost myself in more than a hundred times. Purposefully of course. Sometimes it's just nice to walk through aisles of shit you don't need. I wouldn't wouldn't be doing that though. Not today. 

The answer to my presence comes in the form of a generic looking Malibu, gray, and I know it's clean on the inside, and that the aux cord is connected to a smashed up ipod touch that looks like something I could pick up on the side of the road. 

The stop light turns red and I watch the car pull to a halt. I know what this is, and I don't approve. I watch the faded form of myself through the tinted windsheild sitting quietly, waiting for the coming moment to pass. I find myself annoyed with the fact that I can still remember every aspect of the memory unfolding in front of me. 

I can taste the mint of the gum rolling over my tongue and molding itself to my teeth. I can feel the air conditioning blowing against my face and the sweat condensing into the palm of my hand which is intertwined into the hand of the brute who is driving me. Thinking he has a chance at all at being something other than my plaything for the moment. 

I can hear the words he spoke to me echoing into my head as he does so in front of me. And the clique is like vomit in my mouth. "I've been waiting to do this since the moment I met you," and there it was over and done with before the light turns green.

My first kiss, fifteen minutes into my first date, tasted like mint, cigarettes, and skin. The absence of butterflies was apparent, and all I can think of is the radio and the fact that all of my favorite songs kept playing. At the time I pondered if it was a sign. Now I know it was Dean trying to make up for everything I was missing. 

I left that corner with a hot, bitter feeling eating away my stomach. After crossing the gas station's parking lot I pull open the dirty glass door and beeline for the coolers lining the back wall. Climbing inside the first one that I can grab. The place I walk into is cold, for obvious reasons, and dark. The tile floor stings my bare feet and the overwhelming smell of college boys and garbage burns the inside of my nose and again I know exactly where I am. 

To my left is a short, shadowed hallway leading past four doors all wearing the same shade of green. I know that even though I can't see them at the moment there's two doors on the left with a mirror and sink between them. Those are the bathrooms and I already know one of them doesn't work. I avoid the hallway and turn to the right. I can hear the tv in the living room, the undeniable sound of the sports channel filling in the silence. I think the room will be empty but I'm wrong. Sitting on the couch is Adam, slouched with his arms folded over his chest and staring at the tv lost in though, and looking like he's trying to make sense of something. As far as I know he doesn't see me and I make no move to change that. 

I cast my glance over to the sink full of dirty dishes and a shopping cart full of garbage bags sitting in the middle of the kitchen. If I had a choice I would turn around and leave right now and forget I ever came back here, but when I go to leave the door is locked and the word "fuck" falls out of my lips. I'm not surprised. 

An anxious feeling collects in the back of my throat and I know I'll have to walk to the end of the fucking hallway and open the fucking door and just deal with it or else it'll look like it matters. Which is doesn't.

My steps down the hall aren't slow but they feel like they are. Like it's all coming down to this moment where I'll find the answer to everything, but I know that's not the case with this one. I already know what's waiting for me and it's not happy, or sad, or angry, or anything even worth remembering. 

At the end of the hallway sitting next to the last closed door is Matthew, who also doesn't acknowledge me. He sits there with his back against the wall and his arms propped on his knees looking bored in the way a person waiting does. 

I stare at the door handle and piss about the fact that I'm here at all, because it doesn't fucking matter. It doesn't matter that when I open this door there's going to be the first guy that ever fucked me doing exactly that. Fucking me. It doesn't matter that if I reach down my pants right now and touched myself my fingertips would be smeared with blood. It doesn't matter that there was no love, no lust, no fulfillment. There wasn't supposed to be. There's just two people fucking and doing a horrible job of it. Sure, fine, I gave it all away. I gave away my first "I love you", I gave away my first kiss, I gave away my fucking virginity and I did it all for nothing. 

Screw it. I kick the door open and there we are. My legs hang over the side of the bed while I see the guy's cock slick with blood which he doesn't notice. 

The only thing I did not expect was Clyde standing near the desk and inspecting tissues smeared with blood and cum, and the only thing that makes it odd is the fact that those don't even exist yet in this moment. He doesn't say anything and I don't ask. 

Out the second story window I go and then smack dab in the middle of the same intersection I started in. Only now it's a ghost town, wearing away to dust within moments. I should have known I would end up here but to show my disapproval I sit cross legged right where I stand and wait. Maybe for a few moments or maybe as long as five minutes, but its enough time for me to notice the blood soaking through my jeans, and enough time to look up and back down to see Poco sitting fast asleep on my lap. Enough time for me to stroke the fur behind his ears gently, and twirl his tail between my fingers. When Grady arrives it's subtle, and Poco disappears so I find less of a point in sitting now. 

I stand, "I don't know why I'm here," I tell him a little too absently. He gives me a pointed look that says otherwise. "Fine, I know. But I've changed my mind. It doesn't matter," 

"Mija, you think you can trick me?" he says with a smile on his face which could very easily be interpreted as a warning. 

"No....I think I can avoid saying it out loud," I can feel a child inside me pouting about her pride. 

"If you wish it all for Not, it can be arranged," and for a moment I could see him in the distance. I slip into a feeling of dread and fall into a pool of numb, before getting spat back out to the buisness man's feet, shaking and covered in what feels like reminates of an amniotic sac. 

"God, no," I shudder, the chills taking their time in going away. Grady waits patiently with his hands behind his back. I fold my arms over my chest and look away from him. "I don't want my virginity back. Keep it. Give it to someone else for all I care," then down I go again into the belly of horror, and past the shadow of Not, to be birthed at Grady's feet for the second time. 

"Ok! Ok!" My breathing is heavy this time and I don't bother picking my knees up from the ground. "I wanted it back. I thought it could have been something special, but I threw it away alright, and now there's nothing there, because I refuse to let regret be the only thing that stands," I try to keep my voice from turning bitter, as tears spill down my already soaking face. 

There's a long drawl of silence, and I look up to him. He returns my gaze, his face void of emotion, and says, "That'll do," he reaches into his suit and from his inner pocket he pulls a glass mason jar and hands it to me. I take the jar gently, careful to not let the slime on my fingers smear the view of the inside.

A butterfly, small and delicate, is perched contently at the bottom of the jar. It's wings holding the steady loop of opening and closing and using the time between to change the pattern of its wings. From monach to painted lady to blue moon. The list is endless and beautiful and when I look back to Grady to ask him why he was giving me this he was already gone. But I could hear him in my head going on and on about balance, and suddenly I understood that I had been swindled. 

I look down at the note stuck to the top of the jar, it says: 

Apply to affected area. 

Directions: 
1. Place on tongue and wait. 

2. DO NOT SNEEZE. 

-Gradient

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