It was at a quiet café in the Haight that the two of them met for the first time. Marty sat with his latte and a copy of The Crying of Lot 49. He watched as the college kids, the semi-professionals and the gutter punks came and went. He was to meet her at 7:30 but he decided to show up early.
The rain started, everyone in the restaurant sighed at the same time. Some were wondering how they were going to get their laptops home with out getting them wet. Some were thinking that spending the night in the panhandle might not be the best option. Velma rushed in, and unaware of her surroundings, shook off the rain, coughed and looked around the room. She knew what Marty looked like and found him in the corner.
“Some storm huh?” It was a light drizzle but it seems everyone in the city is surprised when it starts to rain. He got up and shook her hand. He noticed that she was slightly heavier than her profile suggested with only headshots. But he liked her smile and her hair. There was a brief moment of indecisiveness. He had almost finished his drink but they were planning on eating at eight. He was also planning to walk there.
“How about a cab?” He told her to wait inside and he would hail a cab. She liked this but didn’t like when people tried to take care of her, so she waited outside with him. He thought she was impatient. The date was not starting off well.
The restaurant was crowded as usual, and they, again, had to wait in the rain. He asked where she was from as no one is originally from this city. She laughed, uncomfortably, when he said he lived in Alaska until he was sixteen. She could have never imagined living that far from civilization. He liked her smile. She couldn’t help noticing he bit his nails.
For the most part the two of them got along. There was an awkward moment when the first boot of beer came. Marty tried to drink and ended up spilling all over his shirt.
“Shit!” He screamed and this frightened Velma. He wasn’t that angry, he was just self-conscious. He smiled to smooth things over. That calmed her down but did make it into the bank of things she noticed about him that she didn’t like. She managed to forget about it by how casual he seemed. He was starting to feel a little drunk.
The rain stopped and the air was calm all around. Velma told Marty that it was times like this, when the weather was so calm, that earthquakes happen. He had heard this before; in fact it was on of the things he hated about his ex-girlfriend. She talked about how dogs can sense when things like that happen. He hoped that she didn’t have any pets. It seems those girls always have either dependency or abandonment issues. She didn’t mention either way.
They decided to continue their date at a nearby bar in Hayes Valley. It was a rustling Saturday night. There was a couch available. She downed her first drink and talked about her friends using the phrase girlfriends so much that when Marty was going to tell a similar story he used the word boyfriends. She didn’t let it slip by and still thinks about that line to this day. The mood was good and she even touched his arm, leg, shoulder, back and chest. She was drunk.
Marty was drunk too. He tripped while walking by the pool table on his way to the bathroom. She didn’t see. She was texting and trying to type. It turned one o’clock and there was just them dancing while the bartender was arguing with a lady, telling her she was too drunk to drive. He won and the lady left in a storm without her keys. Marty tenderly kissed Velma’s forehead. When the song ended, he took her arm and led her out the back.
She kissed him immediately upon exiting. He kissed her back. She didn’t mind that her Fendi bag just landed in a mud puddle. They kissed, he held her shoulders and she clawed at his jacket. She pinned him up against the wall. He pulled her hair back and latched on to her neck. She guided his hand up to her left breast. He sighed, she moaned. Then the rain ruined everything. With out notice the water poured and for the first few minutes they didn’t care. She thought it was romantic, he thought it was heroic.
“My place is a five minute cab ride away.” She whispered in his ear, he smiled and kissed her harder. Then they paused to catch their breath and she picked up her bag and asked if he could hold it while she went to the bathroom. He rubbed his face and tried to sober up. He lit a cigarette and felt the rain cool his lips. He shouted out an emphasized “HA” and coughed. He couldn’t stop smiling.
She was all smiles when she came back, but she saw him under the street lamp. He wanted to kiss her hard again and keep the momentum. She pushed him back into the view of the streetlight.
“Marty, what happened? You’re bleeding.” It took too long for him to understand immediately so he asked her to repeat herself. “You’re bleeding, wait I can’t really see it. Stand over here.” She took his hand, less alarmed for his personal safety, just trying to grasp the situation. Marty looked down and saw blood on his stomach. Alarmed, he ripped off his shirt, still managing to suck in, and didn’t see any blood other than that which soaked through his shirt.
“I’m fine. “ He looked at the Fendi bag in his arms and saw it was stained red. He looked around the few steps closer to the door they had been. It wasn’t a mud puddle. Then he saw the hand. It was just peaking out of the shadows. “Step back.” He ordered and she did so without thinking. She didn’t try to stop him. She was just as curious.
There was a tarp or a blanket covering the body. He flung it open and shot back. There was a body, and a head, but separate. It was a fully dressed middle-aged man. Marty ran off to throw up as Velma inched closer. She still couldn’t make out the image. The smell hadn’t arrived, so there wasn’t really anything to alarm her.
“Marty, it’s a dead body. It’s a dead body. It’s a fucking dead body.” She just kept repeating variations of the same idea. She didn’t throw up, but started seeing through tears. The rain was the last thing from their minds. She tried to run back in the bar but it was locked, closed for the night.
Marty got up the courage, half sober now, to take another peak. He let Velma sit on the curb as he took out his cell phone to call the police. This time slowly he lifted back the tarp and uncovered the whole body. It struck him as fascinating. The man looked almost three hundred pounds. Marty was careful not to touch anything, but slipped while he was peering over the body. He landed with his face square on the man’s ear.
He jumped up and shrieked.
“What happened, did he move?” Velma came rushing to his aid. She might have had a slight fear of zombies. Marty composed himself after forgetting he was not alone and reassured her it was alright that he just slipped and fell on the body. He forgot about calling the police. They both did. He sat her back down on the curb. They sat in silence trying to soak up what had happened.
Ten minutes ago they were just two people starting a relationship. Now they will be bound forever. If nothing else than a story they will never forget. A tale about the worst first date, or for Marty, the time he saw a dead guy. He rubbed her back and tried to understand if this was truly happening. She was thinking about a way out.
They sat there for a while until a passing crowd awoke them to the reality that was facing them. They will both looked back, and after their initial outbursts, be proud of how calm they had handled the situation. They knew the man was dead. He wasn’t going anywhere, there was nothing the police or ambulances could do, but then another thought entered her mind.
What if the killer was still around? What if they startled him as the tumbled out of the bar? What if he was watching them right now? Without a word, she straightened up, looked around, cleared her throat and took off in a sprint. Marty took his head out of his hands quickly, felt a pain in his frontal lobes and shouted after her.
As he was running thunder cracked the sky. He caught up with her a block away and grabbed her arm. As she saw it was him, she fell into his arms.
“What happened?” She told him her theory and he could see her reason, but his curiosity was stronger. He turned to go back and she held his coat trying to steer him the other direction. Slowly, they walked back to the body.
As they peered down the alley, they could see movement. She turned but then they both heard the cry.
“PHIL!” They stayed within earshot and Marty slowly walked closer to see a man wearing three layers of clothing shaking the body. He reassured Velma that it wasn’t the killer. She still held her keys between her fingers as she was told in an hour long self defense class.
A gnarled finger was pointed at them. “Was it you? Did you kill my Phil?” Marty said no, and decided against using sir, as it may sound patronizing. “Then who did? They tore off his fucking head. I loved him.”
Marty explained and without getting too close, offered his sympathy. The man sobbed and lied on the body, shouting “Animals, animals.” The he picked up the head and looked straight into its eyes and kissed it. Marty had to turn away. Then the man dropped the head and fell to his knees. The head hit the ground with a thud and rolled into the light. It stared straight at Velma and she screamed and ran back around the corner.
“What are you screaming at missy? That is a beautiful man. We were going to go to Paris in the summer, and sit on the Les Champs-Élysées. See the Pyramids and gondolas.“
“Sir, what was his name?”
“Name? I don’t know, we just met.” Marty was confused, but this question seemed to break the man out of whatever state he was is. He mumbled something as he walked away. He scuttled past the two of them and just walked away.