Step outside into the first snow and it is impossible not to gasp and think of only good. During this inevitable naivety, I happen upon a man also standing on his stoop. I say, Isn’t it beautiful? Gesture at the herd of tiny white, stampeding sideways, rushing towards something.
A flake lands on the summit of the man’s baseball cap, upon which is stitched a large and foreboding skull, and I laugh and my joy is visible for a moment before the steam becomes air.
I say, I like your hat, and this time I speak to the man’s face, and upon doing so I notice that the man is a very dangerous man.
I say, You are a very dangerous man, and he nods and says, It’s true. I am.
I say, Only you can’t be that dangerous, because you wear that cap. And you have eyeliner dripping down your face like black tears and your jeans are so ripped it looks as if your legs are sharp. And if you were a dangerous man, you would attempt to look less dangerous, in order to better do dangerous things.
The ring in the man’s eyebrow twitches and he says, Yes, well, I am dangerous, but I think it is best to warn people of my danger. I am dangerous, but I am polite.
I am dangerous, but I am polite.
I say, Would you like to come in for some cocoa? and he says, No, thank you, and you shouldn’t invite strangers, especially dangerous strangers, over to your house like that.
And I say, Well, perhaps I’ll come over to your house for cocoa. Let me get my coat. And I pull my coat tight around me like a new, better skin.
I don’t have any cocoa, says the dangerous man, whose voice sounds the way he looks, which must be some new version of onomatopoeia. So I collect my own tin and walk next door, each footprint breaking new snow, and I wish to be weightless. I would love to make no mark on something so clean.
I would love to make no mark on something so clean.
I knock on the dangerous man’s door, try to peer through his peephole, but I can only see a convex version of my face in there.
Hello? calls his voice.
It’s me! I call back to the dangerous man. It’s me, the one from next door who is coming over for cocoa.
The door opens and I blink into dark. I should have imagined that his house would be dark, because that is where dangerous things happen.
My body finds something that might be a couch and I sit and he says, Would you like me to turn the lights on? I say, Only if it wouldn’t be an imposition. And he says, No, it’s fine, but the place might be messy because I choose to exist in the dark.
Light happens, and, firstly, I am delighted to find that I am sitting upon a couch, one so old that the cushions sag in the middle like a smile. Secondly, there is a small collection of knives on the coffee table, switchblades all with their sharp extended like loyal watchdogs with their hackles up, a warning. Thirdly, there is a real dog, whose breed I do not recognise, beagle-like but entirely black, curled up on the floor. Fourthly, the dangerous man is standing directly behind me, and when I tilt my head straight back his face is my ceiling, and, from this angle, he could either kiss me or headbutt me very effectively. Fifthly, he is holding a rope, hands tangled in its ends, pulled taut in the middle. Sixthly, the room’s perimeter is lined with chest freezers, all bolted shut with heavy padlocks. Seventhly, the carpet is littered with dangerous objects: guns, bullets, spikes, lighters decorating the floor like a bad little garden.
I say, So, tell me about some of the bad things you do.
But he will not. He says, I will not.
I say, Did you graduate high school? And he says, Absolutely not. And I say, Have you ever killed anyone? And he says, What do you think I keep in those freezers? And I say, Sausages? And he says, Sometimes.
I take my shirt off because I have decided to have sex with this dangerous man but also because it is very hot in his small, bad house. Then I stand and turn to face the man and peel my jeans down my legs like I am a fruit. The dangerous man watches. I say, Can you put that rope down, please, unless you plan on using it on me in some interesting and pleasurable way?
He uncoils the rope from around his fists and says, Turn around, and I say Do you have body image issues? as I turn and then the rope is around my neck, not in a dangerous way, instead in a jewelry way. The dangerous man ties the ends of the rope into a necklace and I feel adorned and adored. I tell him, Thank you so much.
Then dangerous man is naked except dressed entirely in tattoos. I tell him, You are predictable. And he says, That was rude. And I say, I like that one, and I point to his bicep, where a dragon is smoking a cigarette and holding an elaborate sword. The dangerous man says, Thank you, I got it for my grandmother, and I nod and say, So, what kind of dog is that?
I tell him, You are predictable. And he says, That was rude.
A beagle, he says. I painted him black so he would look dangerous.
And I tell the dangerous man, It seems unfair to impose your aesthetic upon your dog, and the dangerous man looks hurt and says, He bites. I painted him black so people would stop petting him, because he bites.
Then I climb over the couch and press my body against the dangerous man, whose skin is soft despite the tattoos, whose lips are wet and slippery as fish, but I love seafood and I love this man, and, between pecks of his scaly mouth, I ask him, Have you got protection?
The dangerous man does a wait-right-here finger and bends to trail his fingers through his sea of bad objects, and he retrieves a tiny dagger and he says, Protection. And we laugh together, the dangerous man and I.
I am truly disappointed when the dangerous man touches my body, drifts hesitant fingertips over my skin, merely tickles the parts of me asking to be scratched. His lovemaking feels like an imminent sneeze, probing sinuses, teasing nostrils, taunting, tantalising, and then the sneeze doesn’t come. And I certainly don’t.
After he is finished gentling my body, I feel pathetic and pink and the dangerous man lies beside me and moves his limbs in sweeping arcs and then he stands and the dangerous objects that litter his floor have parted in the shape of his body. A weapon angel. I realize that this dangerous man is a pathetic child.
As I leave the dangerous man’s house, I stomp on skewers and blades and razors and needles. Their sharpness pierces and punctures my skin, and I feel my blood, warm, wet, flowing from my feet.
Diana Clarke is a New Zealander. Her work has appeared in DIAGRAM, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.
Illustrated by Jeremy Anderson.