By Jack Avani
“You know I’m a leopard, right?” She whispers this into his ear, and he grins a dumb grin because he’s at that point of drunk where he’ll go with the flow even if it means having his own twitching neck assuaged by fangs.
“Doesn’t matter to me,” he says, feigning compliance when he’s really only accepting the predation because he feels that he should. Normally a thing like this would never happen; he’d have enough sense to keep a blood-thirsty animal at least an arm’s length away. His friends around the booth all nervously pretend not to notice the cat snarling at his neck, tepidly sipping their drinks and trying to act drunker than they actually are in an attempt to stave off the impending massacre.
Later, he’ll wonder why he let things go so long. He’ll know it was a mistake by the next morning, hazily recalling the violent night. Yet, he’ll hang out with her five or six more times, continuing to entertain the idea that maybe he just has to let more things happen to him, rather than fighting back all the time.
The worst part will be when he looks her in the slit-like irises and tells her that her claws never really drew any blood, and neither did her fangs ever really taste it.
It will be after he begrudgingly accepts to go on a bike ride, her running on all fours beside his spokes while he’ll be thinking about how to end the ride as soon as possible. They’ll stop on a bench and talk for awhile about summer plans, about living situations in the next year of school. All the while, he’ll only be fractionally present, and she’ll think his placid demeanor belies some kind of philosophical, deep-seated need to be eaten alive, when really all he’ll be thinking about is going home and smoking weed with his roommates and playing Nintendo 64. But this won’t be when he bluntly tells her that he never intended to sleep with a leopard, that he only did it because he was drunk enough to subdue his normal tendencies of self-control.
He’ll go out to dinner with her, just for pizza, and fend off questions about his behavior at the party the night before—where he barely spoke to her and left without saying goodbye. He’ll display increasing indifference, making sure not to pay for her food, and then make some lame excuse to go home afterward, even though they know they’ll see each other at the campus bar that evening—the meek retreat of which she’ll somehow further confuse for some kind of mutual growth and connection.
That night, among his friends, he’ll exude an even more detached demeanor. An hour before the bar closes, she’ll ask whether they should go to her place or his, he’ll simply say, “I think I’m just gonna go home, sorry.” To which she’ll respond with a deep snarl, whisking her tail in unmistakable anger. When he turns around and walks away, she’ll pounce onto the back of his neck, like big cats are wont to do, and with the nerve-endings in her fangs, drive the concentrated force of her powerful jaw between his upper vertebrae—and even then he’ll apologize weakly.