I walked past her every morning on my way to work, as the sun came up. I passed by her every evening as I made my way back to my apartment. Her smile warmed me on those rare days when I felt down and frustrated with a world that just couldn't let me have what I wanted. She smiled with me when I felt good and that made me feel even better. Seeing her became the highlight of my day.
Her spot was on the corner of 21st and S Street, a prime location, lots of traffic down 21st. It was unusual for a billboard to be positioned so low, so close to the sidewalk but day after day she remained free of graffiti, a sign that I was not the only one who knew that she was something special. Even the hearts of our town's prolific vandals were not immune to the sweet stare, that lovely full smile.
Icon-Cola, a relative newcomer to the carbonated beverage market were to thank for brightening our town. The little market just a block from her corner sold Icon-Cola and judging by the three rows of shelf space given I'd say they sold plenty. I myself got in the habit of grabbing at least one Icon-Cola each morning. It replaced my coffee. With increasing frequency I'd have an Icon-Cola in the evening as well. High Fructose Corn Syrup never tasted so good as it did when I thought of her shiny lip gloss.
I didn't know her name. I'd never spoken to her, until Cheryl walked out on me. I was caught completely off guard. I came home, sipping a 16 bottle of Icon-Cola and found her packing her bags. Her cousin Chad helped her load a dresser, and several boxes into the back of his truck. I wasn't surprised at his cold attitude toward me. Apparently he'd been informed that he no longer had to pretend to like me.
Cheryl wasn't angry, and that's what let me know this was for real. She looked at me sadly and explained, "I'm sorry. For the last year I've just been going through the motions, trying to recapture the feelings I once had, but they just aren't there anymore. You aren't the man I fell in love with."
What could I say? I couldn't argue. She was right. I wasn't that man, nor did I want to be. I'd become content, as boring as that may be. I had a warm apartment, a job that was close enough to walk to and plenty of time to read. I also had a wonderful woman to wrap around each night. What terrible irony; Now that she was gone, I would be hungry again. I would have some of that drive and passion that attracted her to me to begin with. Or would I? Even as I watched her pack and drive away I just didn't feel any need to pursue her. I didn't cry or beg or make demands. I even helped her pack up the computer. She never was good at dealing with all the plugs and cables. And then she was gone.
She'd taken the bed, but left the couch. I curled up on it and closed my eyes. An hour later, having given up on falling asleep I decided to take a walk. The little market was still open and without thinking I grabbed a bottle of Icon-Cola, ice cold comfort. Even the way the bottle felt in my hand was soothing, the bubbles in my stomach doubly so. Before I realized what I was doing, I'd made my way to her. I stood there at 21st and S, looking at her, drinking my Icon-Cola and then I just started to talk. For the better part of an hour I shared every frustration, every little victory, concern or annoyance I'd felt over the past months. It felt so good to let it all out, every boring, minute detail. And when I was done talking I just stood there and looked at her smile and drank my Icon-Cola. I slept soundly that night and I smiled a private smile when I walked past her again the next morning. She was there for the whole town, but we now had something special between us.
Over the next month I took to visiting her regularly. I didn't miss Cheryl much at all. I felt more relaxed actually now that she was gone. So what if I was content? So what if life was mildly pleasing to me? I would be ashamed no longer. I put on a few pounds, let my beard grow and got up to three Icon-Colas a day. They came out with a new 22 ounce bottle and I drank quite a few of these as I stood on her corner, late at night.
It was foggy that morning. I wore my beanie and gloves and my large coat as the cold weather had arrived suddenly in the night. I was happy, as always, making my way toward 21st and S. By now her picture was everywhere; in magazine, on bus stop ads, but these were just pictures. Her soul resided at 21st and S. The corner had become a part of her and she a part of it. The fog was so thick I could see only a few feet and I was face to face with her before I saw it. The terror gripped me. Half of her billboard was gone. Not stripped completely clean, but being replaced, by an ad for Spreckle Toothpaste. Some grinning 9 year old was destroying the best thing in my life. I grabbed at the new image and tore, but underneath was only grey. Her image wouldn't stand up, was dead now under these new heavily glued strips of advertising.
I marched off to work, not able to even say goodbye. It was not a productive day. Making my way home again, I expected to see the job finished, to see her completely covered but the billboard folks had not been back. The vandals had and the smiling Spreckle Toothpaste now bore the words Choko painted across the white pearly teeth, one letter per tooth. My girl was still graffiti free. I felt a solidarity with Choko, I felt a sense of community and shared grief.
I did no better at sleeping than I had at filing, indexing and faxing. I tossed and turned all night. In the morning I got off of the couch, still wearing my clothes from the day before. I grabbed a bottle of Icon-Cola but I did not go by 21st and S. Work wasn't as bad as the day before and I actually welcomed the distraction. On my way home I decided to get it over with. I saw from a block away that she was still there. Was it possible that even the workers hired by whatever heartless entity owned this billboard were taken in by her beauty? Even it this were the case I knew it was a just a matter of time before she was gone for good. And I knew then what I had to do.
The universe it would seem, was smiling on me. Icon-Cola had released a new 32 ounce bottle and it reached stores that day. They had plenty of them in the new Icon-Cola cooler at the little market. I grabbed myself a cold one and made my way back to her corner.
I stood in the sunlight and stared into her eyes. My left hand pushed deep into my pocket as my right wrapped around my large plastic bottle. I felt myself grow hard behind my zipper. I stroked myself through my pocket. She smiled. I unzipped my pants. There was no shame or modesty as I pulled my cock out. All was good and right with the world. I stroked myself there on the corner. The wind felt great against my exposed skin. Her eyes were half closed in that "come hither" stare and I loved her.
I heard the sirens, and I let go of myself long enough to get the top of off my big bottle of Icon-Soda. I returned to stroking myself with one hand and raised the bottle to my lips with the other. Still she smiled. I drank deep. It tasted like her. I could taster her clean freshly shampooed hair. I could taste her lip gloss. I could even taste bit of Spreckle toothpaste as my eyes danced over her perfect white teeth. I heard the cops pull up. I didn't care. She filled my vision as my eyes focused only on her beauty. I was no longer aware that one of her ears was covered by an interloping ad for an obviously inferior product. I was aware of her staring at me and of her perfect skin, her enchanting smile.
"What the god-damn... You cut that out!" I heard from my right. The bottle was almost empty. I gulped. I stroked. Tears of joy, ecstasy and about a hundred other emotions streamed down my face. I felt a hand on my shoulder. The last drop of Icon-Cola slid down my throat and I came then, long and hard. The hand shot away from my shoulder. She kept smiling. I kept cumming.
"HOLY SHIT! You son of a bitch."
I was thown to the ground. I sobbed, but I didn't feel sad. I felt wonderful. I felt alive. They could take that billboard now. They could never take her from where she now resided, in my heart. I felt the handcuffs around my wrist and I closed my eyes.
I did my time. I'm on their little list. So what. I've known a love like no other. It really is better to have loved and lost, as the saying goes. They'll never understand. I feel sorry for them, I really do.
I'm down to one bottle of Icon-Cola a day.