It is inevitable, the crash that follows the high. Trip knows that, and yet, every time, she hopes to escape it. She spends the day after the job is finished burrowed under her covers, not moving from her futon except to eat, drink, and shit. If the black isn’t too heavily upon her, she reads, but that’s not always possible. She flips on the television so there is background noise, but she keeps the volume on low so it’s not overwhelming. All the energy and the adrenaline that fuels her while she’s performing dissipates once there’s no need for it to exist. Trip has long since accepted this stage of the job, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it. She is not a woman who is comfortable feeling weak, so for those specific days, she unplugs the phone and refuses to answer the door.
Her best friend, Mowgli—nee, Roberto Esteban—hasn’t stopped trying to jolt her out of her funk on these days, but has yet to succeed. She solves the problem of him dropping by on these days—he has a key—by simply not telling him when she’s finished a job until she’s functioning again. Then she has to suffer through him lecturing her on how friendship is a two-way street and how she shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that she needs to lean on someone once in a while. He towers over her at six-feet six, and was recruited by many prestigious schools to play football and basketball, but his true love was baseball which he excelled at. The few carefully-selected teammates who knew he was gay didn’t two shits about it as long as he never came on to them and he continued to produce—both edicts which Mowgli followed to the letter. He blew out his knee his third year in college and hasn’t played competitive sports since. He’s good-looking with dark skin because of his Filipino blood, dark eyes, and a wide, engaging smile. His tats and piercings, not to mention his swagger, don’t hurt, either. If he were anything but a hundred-percent gay, Trip would be all over him like flies on rice. Where did that horrid expression come from, anyway?
She calls him Mowgli because he loves animals. When he tried to protest, she said it was either that or Dr. Dolittle, so he chose the lesser of two evils. He is the only one of her friends who calls her Del because he can’t stand the name Trip. When he is angry with her, he calls her Delilah. When he’s pissed at her, he calls her Delilah Wire. When he calls her ‘Delilah Esther Wire’, then she knows she’s in big trouble. She met him on the streets one day when she propositioned him, not knowing he was gay. It was her first year in San Francisco, and her gaydar hadn’t been properly installed yet. He had taken one look at her and unofficially adopted her as his sister. She refused to live with him because of her pride, and he couldn’t convince her to go to a shelter, but he made sure her life on the streets was as easy as possible. He’d bring her food from time to time and gave her money when she’d accept it from him. He was the first to cheer when she rented her first apartment, and though he might not like what she did, he never judged. He works in the tech/gaming industry, but wants to write a book some day.
The second day following the job, the first thing Trip does is call Mowgli. While she wants nothing to do with humanity the day after a job, she craves it the second day, but Mowgli is the only person she can tolerate. She does not have a high opinion of society in general, especially of most women, so she doesn’t have a best girlfriend with whom she can giggle and gab. Not that she does either, but if so tempted, it would be with Mowgli who can dish with the best of them. After the obligatory half hour of grief about not calling him in her time of need, blah, blah, blah, he lets it go, and they have a righteous time. He brings over a pint of Mitchell’s mango ice cream because neither of them are big on chocolate, and they eat it in one sitting. Sometimes, he brings a pint of something else as well, whatever grabs his fancy, but the mango is a must.
“Girlfriend!” Mowgli leans forward and smacks Trip on the lips. “Here.” He thrusts the bag at her before shrugging off his coat. It’s four in the afternoon, but he’s dressed in a black dress-shirt, black dress pants and a silver tie.
“Got a hot date tonight?” Trip narrows her eyes as she checks him out head to toe. She’s wearing gray sweats and a red t-shirt with her hair pulled back as usual.
“Had to work,” Mowgli shrugs, slipping off his shoes. “Fucking hate it, but gotta do it if I want to keep my job. Some muckety-mucks were there, thus the monkey suit.” He works for a small gaming company that is struggling to stay afloat, and his job security is tenuous. “How’d it go?” They plop on Trip’s futon and dig into the ice cream. Mowgli listens avidly as Trip regales him with her latest adventure. By the end of the telling, they are both howling with laughter. Mowgli is so entertained by her story, he doesn’t even bother to scold her this time for not calling him. It still irks him that she’d rather spend time with a bunch of strangers immediately following a job than him, but he’s accepted it as one of her quirks.
“That’s righteous,” he gasps, wiping tears from his eyes. They’ve polished off the pint by the time Trip’s done with her story. “His cum. I can’t believe it.”
“The job is never boring; I’ll tell you that much.”
“I wish you’d carry,” Mowgli says, bringing up an old argument. Though he disapproves of her job, he’d rather she be prepared for the unexpected if she won’t quit.
“Nothing but my trusty knife,” Trip states firmly as she’s done a hundred times. “Look, Mowgli, how many times do I have to go over this? The vics I deal with aren’t dangerous, and even if they were, they’re never home. In all the jobs I’ve done, I haven’t been caught once.” In her five years working, she’s pulled around a hundred and fifty jobs without being caught. It’s a record she’s proud of, and one she’ll stand by.
“There’s always a first time,” Mowgli reminds her. “What about that guy when you were living on the streets? The psycho who—”
“Don’t,” Trip say sharply. “A small mistake, that’s all. I was in control.”
“In control?” Mowgli glares at Trip. “If that group of teenagers hadn’t gone down that alley, you would have been toast.” Trip remains silent because she doesn’t like thinking about that particular night. She hadn’t eaten in almost a week, and the guy had looked harmless. A hundred bucks for a blow job and for him copping a feel of her tits. What could possibly go wrong? That, too, was during Trip’s first year in the San Francisco when she was too green to know that the going rate for such activities was no more than fifty dollars, and that asshole had more than sex on his mind that night.
“Back off, Mowgli,” Trip says sharply, rising from the futon. She gathers the debris from the ice cream feast and strides to the kitchen to toss it in the trash. She takes a few deep breaths until her anger has subsided.
“I’m not trying to bust your chops, Del,” Mowgli says, suddenly standing behind Trip. He massages her shoulders until she’s more relaxed. “I just don’t want anything to happen to my favorite tough girl.”
“Your tough girl can take care of herself,” Trip says softly. “I’ve been on my own since I was sixteen. That’s seven years.”
“I’ve been on my own since I was sixteen, too,” Mowgli retorts. His parents threw him out of the house when they caught him kissing another boy. Fortunately, he had a talent for computers along with his athletic prowess which landed him scholarships galore. “That was ten years ago, and I have no illusions that I can take care of myself one-hundred percent of the time.”
“I know karate,” Trip says, not smiling. She’s taken classes since she was eight—yes, even in Bumfuck Iowa—and continues to take them when she feels like it. Yeah, she has a yellow belt, which is just enough to make her dangerous to herself. Many things fell by the wayside when she moved to SF, and her interest in karate was one of them.
“Karate means nothing against a gun,” Mowgli says sternly, folding his arms across his chest.
“Let’s get out of here,” Trip says, tossing on her jacket. “I need to breathe.”