No one is ever heavy with fire. That’s why they call the place Light for Light—just L4L on the sign, a small square squeezing itself. Flashing: three short blinks, one long one.
I came here without friends, to throw myself in. I just followed the trail of yellow teeth like they said, the cemetery of cigarettes. It was easy enough to find and not that far away.
You walk in and immediately see the distinction. The place is divided into two groups: the angels on the right and the salamanders on the left. I wonder if there are rules chiseled like commandments, on how and who to be. I think of gathering thunder, monoliths.
The angels seem to float on their feet and almost always come in pairs, all clustered so you wonder if there’s a hierarchy after all. The salamanders are less collected, with orange neon splintering across their faces and fire coming from their noses. My friends never believe this, but I don’t see myself as either. Feathers aren’t my fashion, and I didn’t come here to get a piece or take a ride. My study of sneakers and silhouettes pulls me forward instead of the shine.
I make myself the middle, waiting to be taken. Watching: those holding hands versus those holding sticks, those who like to share versus those who’d swallow it all in an instant and turn it to smoke, those who cling to the heat versus those who spit it.
There’s a thump on the back of my head and I turn around, ready to grab at some feathers.
“You’re too close,” an angel says, pulling me from the divide. Her hair is so blonde it’s almost white, her forehead a dome with a diamond. “You wouldn’t want to lose your wings before they’ve even grown.”
She whirls me around but we don’t linger close like the others. She hardly touches me, but there’s a presence to her perfume. She’s mist.
“Do you have any love on you?” she asks me.
“Not at the moment,” I say.
Her nod says it’s okay, just forget it.
The music swells and the salamanders start to thrash.
“Stick close,” the angel warns. “You don’t want to end up like them, self-publishing poetry books about every orifice!” She is shouting for them to hear, like she’s swearing. “Having to inject your own glow!”
A salamander begins to stare. He’s grinding against another of his kind, but his attention is on me.
I don't know whether it’s that stare or my curiosity that pulls me into his orbit, but I’ve already gone across the divide when the angel looks away. The salamander’s companion has vanished.
“I’ve had so many tastes I’ve lost count into the 40s,” the salamander tells me, and it’s hard to know how much is exaggeration. He flicks his tongue, long and pierced. “You don’t seem like you’ve had too many.”
“I don’t know where to go,” is all I can manage.
His jeans are too skinny and I imagine him wiggling his tattoos into them. Elaborate wings maybe, for irony.
“Stick with me,” he leans in, breath hot. “Those neuters don’t know a good time.”
But the angel has noticed. She calls me and I float.
“Don’t you want to find your soul?” she asks, turning towards her crowd. As if it were always ready for me, waiting to be picked up like a fast-food order.
I can’t answer. I’m already being pulled like a boomerang, back where I came from.
“You know what you want,” the salamander says. “Let’s just split this fire and spin on the edge of the line.”
He takes off his shirt and throws it around my waist, pulling me closer than before. We’re in the middle and the two sides are coming together. I can’t avoid all those eyes now. They’re everywhere, and losing myself may never be an option.
There are too many offshoots and not enough anchors here, a purgatory with no gate or guardian except for your own namelessness.
The salamander kisses me on the lips. He brings his hand up my shirt, like he doesn’t know how new I actually am.
“You would take all the innocence,” says the angel.
The kiss is the ignition and the mention of innocence the battle cry. It doesn’t take long for the kicks and shoves and pulls. The divide is gone. Feathers fly, smoke fills the air.
The bouncer comes to break it up, this giant with no need of assistance. Maybe he’s the monolith. The thunder had already arrived.
“You’d better leave,” he tells me. But I want to know what happens. My friends wouldn’t believe how this war was started with a kiss, how it was started by a nobody who stood the middle, a cherub who left with only pinched cheeks and not an ounce of romance or any other kind of drug.
I’m not comfortable with the angels’ eternal pacts or the salamanders’ loud sexuality, but my skin wants to make synonyms of both sides. My mind wants to start another riot. Without distinction, without the eyes crowding in, I could be the first chameleon.