“You just looked so peaceful,” I remark to the docile man wrapped under the blankets as I slip my dress on. I don’t mind waking up next to a stranger if I can leave before they wake.
He groans while rubbing his head, grumbling at me. “How are you not hungover?”
Not getting a hangover is one of the many perks of being a Titan. Though, there is something mildly charming about being slapped in the face with your humanity when you take things too far. That moment when a mortal dances too close to the line of fire, throwing their physiology so off-balance their body needs to jolt them to their senses. The intense dehydration and annihilation of electrolytes serves as a wake-up call that they’re a human being.
I’ve played in the danger zone a few times myself, though in a different way. Humans are gifted with their mortality. They don’t do it often, but it is possible to find peace in the short amount of time they spend on Earth. They don’t carry the weight of endless wars, famine, and death. For mortals, one day, every cruel facet of reality does come to an end. For some, it’s through death. Most find that stillness through careers, family, or even just themselves if they try hard enough. They settle down with someone special while their humanity swallows them whole, but they do it together until the bitter end.
Gods and Titans, more often than not, get bored. What’s love when there is eternity? What’s companionship when you have an infinite amount of time? I’ve dabbled in the treacherous inferno trying to find this connection. Mortals are more willing, but they succumb to their humanity while I remain behind. When you stand too close to the fire, you get burnt. I’ve longed for the other side so often my being is a blackened piece of charcoal.
I look at this strange man with his pain and suffering. He is a raindrop in the ocean of my knowledge. He is but a blip in the timeline of the universe. But he has something at his core I will never know.
“There’s this bodega around the corner. They make a killer bacon, egg, and cheese. If you want to stick around a little longer,” he taunts me.
There is a splotchy mirror on his wall. I stare into it as I tussle my hair, ignoring him, hoping he gets it.
“It’s the best hangover cure in the city,” he says, rising from the covers. He meanders over to where I stand, grabbing one of my hands. He’s so young-looking and innocent.
“As you noticed, I’m not hungover,” I quip back at him.
“I…had a great time with you last night, Themis.” He brushes some hair out of my face gently, telling the truth. I can feel it. It’s not a feeling I get too often.
“I’m sorry. I need to get going.”
“Do you even remember my name?” He’s not upset. He’s actually laughing.
It’s not like I don’t remember because of alcohol-related nefarious reasons. The truth is, I can’t tell you why I don’t remember. I think it’s similar to why Holly Golightly never named her cat. I don’t want to belong to him, nor he to me. However, I find myself a little smitten. I can’t help myself with mortals.
“It’s Griffin,” he says, cutting me some slack before I have the chance to respond.
“How old are you?” I have to know.
“25.” 25! “How old are you?”
“I’m much, much older than you.”
I’m able to break away from his spell. I let go of his hands and grab my handbag, making a beeline for the door.
As I’m halfway out, I hear him yelling after me, “Can I see you again?”
My hands are wrapped around the glorious, toasty, melty goodness that is a breakfast sandwich. I take my first bite. The dripping yolk explodes in my mouth. I’m pretty sure the bubbling cheese and sizzling bacon would burn my mouth if I were able to feel it. He was right. It’s delicious.
Inside the bodega that Griffin raved about, I peruse the treasures of this mortal world, filled with the necessities they can’t live a day without. There are aisles of candy and snack foods, rows of cigarettes, and a nice selection of untouched newspapers.
The covers of nearly every paper are plastered with smiling pictures of the man Starling and I found last night. Except his body is not bloody and cut into, they are just normal images of him smiling, with some showing him wearing a judge’s robe.
In between bites, I’m able to learn about the man behind the gruesomeness. He’s a local judge who has been in the field for nearly three decades and is known for being rather harsh, apparently. He’s survived by a wife and a couple of adult children. They haven’t given a comment, but I don’t think anyone is expecting them to.
In the middle of my skimming, I notice an important fact. I can’t believe I didn’t see this when I first picked it up. The article was written by Starling.
I have my phone pressed to my ear, standing outside the bodega. The newspaper that Starling wrote is rolled up in my hands.
“Hello?” she answers.
“I’m reading your article,” I say, excited for her.
“This is very well written. Like, I’m not just saying that. Not that I doubted you or anything, but just…wow.” That’s all I can really muster.
“Thanks.” There’s some uneasiness in her voice. “I wrote it last night and sent it to my editor.”
“They must have loved it.”
“Uh, yeah. She was surprised, mostly,” she responds, sounding like she has a pit in her stomach.
“What’s wrong? Aren’t you happy?”
“I just…I don’t know if I should’ve done that. The regular crime reporter is pissed at me.”
“Well, they weren’t there last night.”
“I know, but I really should’ve discussed it with her first.”
“It’s not just that. I…I got some really cryptic messages sent to me this morning.”
Starling sounds like she’s about to cry. “Yeah, Themis, like I’m just kind of regretting this whole thing now.”
“Show them to me.”
“Like, right now?”
“Yeah. We can meet somewhere.”
My eyes look back at the bodega. “Do you like breakfast sandwiches?”