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Third Place: "Jesus Stalks"

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"Stop," he says through clenched teeth. "You're making a scene."

"I'm fine," I say. "I just need a cab."

Jesus holds up his hands. "It doesn't have to be like this," he says.

One time Jesus and I went to a bonfire. We sat around singing songs, mostly ones slightly tinged with religion. When someone launches into "Losing My Religion," everyone looks at Jesus and he laughs in a kind of awkward way until someone points the guy with the guitar in the ribs and elbow points at Jesus.

"Oh, sorry," the guy with the guitar says. "I didn't know"

There is an awkward moment of silence until Jesus tells a joke about his father, Mohammed and Buddha in a raft and this breaks the tension and everyone laughs. These were the moments I loved with Jesus, the way he made everyone feel at ease. The way he made me feel calm, relaxed and happy. But those times never lasted.

"Look," Jesus says when he phones the next morning. "I wish you wouldn't go out and get plastered like that."

I get defensive. "It was my birthday, and what do you care, anyway?"

"Look, Alia," Jesus says gently. "I have friends everywhere. And you make me look bad when you do things like that. Everyone knows we're going through a rough spell right now. Don't make it worse than it is."

"It's not a rough spell, Jesus," I say. "We're done. I've moved on and I think you should, too."

"I don't want to move on. I'm really into you, and what's everyone going to say if we split up? That Jesus can't go the distance, that he's not really committed?"

"That's your problem," I say, wiping eye makeup off as I hang the phone up.

It's been months. At least three since I've seen Jesus. Friends tell me they've seen him around town. There is of course a new girl. I've moved away from my roommate who was constantly pestering me about Jesus. I have a sinking suspicion that she's the new girlfriend.

In my new Jesus-free life, everything will be perfect, from the bath mat to the three candles that adorn my new nightstand. I reveled in the newness of my recently acquired possessions, stroking their veneers and their shiny surfaces. I enjoy the symmetry of the colorfully painted reds, blue, red, purple.

Sometimes in the morning when it's misty, I go out into the yard with the dogs and sit on the front steps. I light a cigarette and feel the smoke fill my lungs in a way that is stinging and pleasing all at once. I hear my cell phone ringing in the house. It will be him. He will be apologetic, wanting to smell me, a combination of cotton candy and Listerine, but I'm not ready to talk to him ... yet.

Dionne Irving's work had appeared in the Missouri Review, the Crab Orchard Review and Carve Magazine. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in creative writing at Georgia State University.






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