“So you had sex with her? Knowing she was a minor?”
“The legal age of consent is—”
“So now you’re a cop? You’re going to quote the law to me?”
“And you thought that was a risk you could take with a record like yours?”
“Look, I know it was stupid. I know. But the heart wants what the heart wants,” he finishes feebly.
Sergeant Godmen leans back in her chair. “Heh,” she chuckles. “The heart wants what the heart wants, huh?” She taps her pen on the table. “The way you tell this story, it’s like you had no choice. Like love is some sickness or mental illness that comes over you and you can’t control yourself.”
“Well…it sort of is, isn’t it?”
She shrugs. “One could say that love effects the brain like a mental illness. That’s how people get away with doing what you did. It’s what we call a crime of passion. Is that what this was? A crime of passion?”
“And that’s why she fed you that story about her step-father. She knew about your anger issues. Knew that you’d beat your father—”
“That has nothing to do with this!”
“Oh?” Sergeant Godmen flips open Langston’s file and turns it toward him so he can see the black and white pictures. Crime scene photos. He didn’t look at them. He couldn’t look at them.
“Looks like these circumstances are eerily similar, Langston.”
“You don’t know anything about those circumstances,” he mutters angrily.
“I know he was abusive to you and your mother.”
Langston tips his head back and laughs. “Abusive? He was trying to kill my mother—”
“That’s not what she said—”
“She’s a drug addict!” Langston grits his teeth and forces himself to relax. “You’re doing this on purpose. You want me to react. You want me to lose my shit so you can prove that I’m unstable.”
“Maybe. Is it working?”
Langston looks Sergeant Godmen in the eye. “I’m steady, Sergeant. I’m not that kid they put in juvenile detention for eight years. I’m not even the guy they released three years ago.”
“I disagree, Mr. Black. I think you’re still that scared, sad little boy.”
Langston didn’t want it to happen again. But it did. And when it did, it left him feeling dirty. And angry. Angry with her for wanting it to happen. Angry with himself for letting it happen. But worse than that, he found himself more in love with her than he was the moment before it even began.
He always told himself it wouldn’t happen again. But then she would smile that sweet smile that only belonged to Sonrisa. A smile that had taken on a whole new meaning now that she’d given herself to him. That smile across a booth at a diner or just as she stepped through the doors on the train made him quicken instantly. No matter how hard he tried to resist it, they always ended up in his bed or, worse yet, pressed against the wall in some inappropriate place—grinding against each other urgently as if they could fuck each other right through their clothes. It felt wrong. But the wrongness made it feel so much more intense. Every encounter bonded them together more closely.
He began to call her his little Lolita, but she had never read the Nabokov and didn’t understand the reference. A fact that only made it more poetic. Langston saw bits of himself in Humbert Humbert—a man seduced by a precocious young girl with soft brown eyes. But he was sickened by the thought. Sickened by his actions. Yet he didn’t know how to get out of it. When he was with her, all he could think about was her and when he wasn’t with her, all he could think about was when he would be with her again. Thoughts of her made it difficult to concentrate on much else and he didn’t know what to do about it. And worse yet, people were beginning to notice.
“You did it didn’t you?” Raimundo asked.
The two had just played a game of one on one where Langston basically chased Raimundo up and down the court and watched him score point after point.
“That girl. The one I told you to stay away from. You’re seeing her, aren’t you?”
His first inclination was to lie. No one was supposed to know. He should have lied. But somehow he found himself spilling the whole story to Raimundo. And Raimundo, grim faced and thoughtful, listened.
“So what do I do?” Langston asked.
“Do you really need me to tell you?”
He didn’t really need Raimundo to tell him. But he wanted him to. He needed to hear it out loud. “I need to hear you say it.”
“End it,” Raimundo tells him, without hesitation. “End it now and walk away clean. You don’t need that kind of trouble, Langston.”
“You’re right,” Langston whispered. “I’ll do it tonight.”
* * * *
Langston met Sonrisa at the coffee shop later that night. He was helping her with her homework. Her literature class was reading Taming of the Shrew and she was getting lost in all the Old English words. Langston had spent a lot of time reading when he was locked away and Shakespeare’s plays were among his favorites. He was happy to help her. It felt respectable—wholesome, even. He almost entertained the idea of ending their sexual relationship and remaining friends.
Then she licked her lips and he felt like a perfect letch. He wanted to kiss those lips. And when she nibbled on her pen cap he thought of having her mouth on him. He felt like a monster.
He had to end it. This girl was going to do him in.
When he’d successfully helped her understand what was happening in Act II, Scene I, they left the café and went down to Philly Pizza for a slice and a Coke. The task he had to complete weighed heavy on Langston’s mind and heart. He couldn’t eat. He felt nauseous. He couldn’t do it. But just as if she sensed it, Sonrisa turned to him with a sad smile on her face.
“You have something you want to tell me?” she asked softly.
Langston swallowed hard. “I think you know what it is.”
She nodded then sighed helplessly. “What if I just ran away from home and came to live with you?” she asked impetuously.
Langston dropped his head sorrowfully. It was a child’s wish. “You know I can’t let you do that.”
Sonrisa nodded and gave into her tears.
“I want you to promise me, if anything happens, if you need me for anything at all, you will call me.”
“Why would I call you, Langston?” she asked bitterly. “You don’t care enough to hang around. Why should I believe that you will care if something happens to me?”
“Don’t be that way. You know I care about you.”
“No you don’t.”
“You don’t care what happens to me.”
“Sonrisa, please.” He pulled her closer. Kissed her wet cheeks. “I care. You know I care. It’s just…this is getting too serious. I can’t keep seeing you and hiding it from everyone who knows me. It’s only a matter of time before people start asking questions.”
“Let them ask!” she whispered passionately.
“When you say things like that, you sound like you don’t care what happens to me.”
She quieted it down then and wiped her tears away. He could tell that she knew what he said made sense.
“I’m not doing this to hurt you, Sonrisa. But I’m afraid if this goes on much longer…” Langston’s thoughts trailed off. He didn’t want to think about all the things that could happen if anyone found out about them. And it frightened him that, even now in the midst of breaking up with her, he was still willing to risk his freedom just to kiss her and hold her in his arms.
She nodded her head to acknowledge that she understood what he meant. “It’s not fair,” she murmured. Then she sighed and pushed away from the table. “Walk me to the train?”
So Langston walked her to the train, but when the train came, he found he couldn’t watch her leave so he boarded with her. He didn’t know how to say goodbye to her and it was clear to him that Sonrisa didn’t either. So they held each other and kissed with abandon because they knew they wouldn’t be able to do it again.
When the doors opened at the Camden Transportation Center, they got off together. She waited with him for the train that would take him back to the other side of the Delaware River. The train platform was empty and quiet, save for the couple and they fell to kissing again. Sonrisa’s hands were inside his coat. It was clear in her touch that she was trying to change his mind. Langston felt desperate. He didn’t know how he would be able to make himself get on the train much less breathe without the prospect of seeing Sonrisa again.
Screeching brakes and a rush of wind announced the train’s arrival. Langston stood, but Sonrisa remained sitting, her shoulders hunched against the late autumn chill. When train doors opened, Langston took a lurching step toward it.
“Langston,” Sonrisa gasped and grabbed his hand.
He brought her cold fingers to his cold lips. Pressed a kiss against her knuckles. “Goodbye, Sonrisa,” he mumbled and boarded the train.