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No future, no past.
       Just that animal now. All the fears and doubts and memories are gone and there's nothing left but me and the single moment that flows around me.
       I don't find peace in some ashram or on a therapist's couch. It's here in this gun and this car, and through that glass door. It's inside the gas station as I burst through the door. It's pouring like tears from the terrified eyes of the clerk. It's inside that cash register. It's under the counter as the scared man's hands go out of view. It's in that moment when maybe it's money he's going for or maybe it's a shotgun to silly string my guts on the chip rack behind me. I tell you that moment lasts forever and blinks by like it's nothing.
       It's money. He fills a plastic bag with shaking hands.
       My ears fill with blood so that the Muzak turns itself down and all I can hear is my heartbeat and the click of the hammer as I thumb it back to show the man I mean business. I hear the jagged hiss of his breath and he's right here in the moment with me. He's not thinking of next month's rent or the way he thought life would be when he was back in high school. No. He is here with me, and only me. I tell him to throw in a carton of Camel Wides.
       In front of the gas station comes a honk, Mark telling me the clock is running. Time is still passing after all, the honk says, so move along little lady. I scoop up the cash and the cartons of Camels and I run to the car. Mark's got the passenger side door waiting open for me and I slide in and the back tires spit gravel until they sink their teeth into the asphalt beneath and we rocket out onto the road.
       Mark likes that loud deep heavy metal as his getaway music so that's what pours through the speakers as we head down the road. The wind whips his hair—it grows like the rain forest, and I can't keep my hands out of it—and that devil's smile splits his face and I know now how he looks so animal and alive. He's found the magic elixir: armed robbery.
       I crash back into myself like one of those old-timey trick divers who'd jump off a roof into a kiddie pool. Time isn't timeless anymore, the world isn't infinite. It's 1994 and we're someplace in the middle of Missouri, on some curvy old road that used to be Route 66.
       "How'd we do?" he asks me.
       I show him fistfuls of money and dump the carton of smokes in the backseat. There's four other cartons back there already. They're sort of like the scalps we've been taking all night. But that fifth one was the first one for me, the first one with the gun in my hands instead of his.
       "Oh my god," I say. I can feel the strings of my flesh all individual rubbing against each other inside me.
       "I toldja," he says.
       "I want to do another one," I say.

My mom pierced my ears when I was four years old. She took an ice cube from the freezer and cracked it in two with her molar. She made a sandwich of them with my left lobe as the meat. She held the ice there until the lobe froze into numbness and a dull ache. Then she took a sewing needle in her right hand and the heel of a potato in the other. She held the potato behind my ear. She pushed the needle through my frozen lobe and into the potato backstop. And I screamed as the needle found the center of the lobe where the nerves weren't dead and pain pushed through the cold.
       The day I meet Mark I am seventeen and just as full of nothing but cold ache and numbness. And Mark—twenty-one and on parole, with a car bought on credit from a stupid man—is the needle through the heart of me.
       "Where are you going?" he asks me.
       "You tell me," I say.
       And he smiles. Sometimes it really is that easy.

We drive for days. We drive across the state. We eat road burgers and sausage biscuits. We fuck in the front seat and sleep in the back. We buy cassettes in small-town record stores and gas stations. We listen to doo-wop, gangsta rap, drug-fueled weirdness. We crank it all up loud. We blow the speakers three days in. We blow all our money in four.
       Mark won't let me fret. He points out people driving next to us. He tells me that most of them—most everybody—is screaming almost all of the time.
       "They're just screaming real quiet," he says. "It's true, you know. Look around at the faces on the bus. Look at the guy taking your order and pushing the plastic tray, the plastic-wrapped burgerwith plastic cheese, look at the face he's wearing under the smile. You listen and tell me he's not screaming.
       "It's part of the human condition," Mark says. "Humans went and built their own cages, and they didn't fucking build a door. We are the result of unnaturalness. You ever see a dog chew up his own leg? I mean chew it until it bled, just out of plain worry?"
       I nod.
       "No animal out in the wild ever chewed its own leg into hamburger for no reason. No, it's only cages, real or in the mind, that make an animal chew at itself."
       He takes my hand in his—the touch causes my heart to double-time—and turns it so I can see my own fingers. The nail tips arc out just over the tips of my fingers. They aren't chewed ragged the way I'd kept them since I was ten years old.
       "You stopped chewing at your leg. You feeling free?"
       I answer without words. My hand in the crotch of his jeans finds him half hard already. I feel his devil's smile on my own face as I fish his cock out into the night air.
       "Drive straight," I say. "Drive slow. You crash into something or slam on the brakes, I won't be responsible for my reactions." I click my teeth so he gets the picture. And then I swallow him all the way down. He drives straight, but not slow. The wind whips and roars around us as he pushes his foot down on the gas and his hand down on my head. I can feel what I'm doing to him in the throbbing hardness in my mouth and the jerks of his stomach muscles. As his hips buck and he shoots down my throat I realize both his hands hold my head, not the wheel, and the car roars pilotless down the road as I drink him in.
       We start our spree an hour later.

One two three four five gas stations and liquor stores before 4 A.M.
       After I take down my first one, I want one more. He thinks it over, nods. "One more and we steer the ship to Florida," he said. "I heard the coffee in Miami is stronger than the coke. I say let's have them both and give it the old Pepsi challenge."
       We find a gas station that meets our needs. Close to a highway junction, empty of customers, in good enough repair to suggest the robbery will be worth our time. We park in front of it, a few spots down from the door so the clerk won't be able to see our car.
       "Can I go again?" I ask him, taking the revolver from the glove box.
       "Fortune favors the bold," he says back. Then he steals a kiss and the pistol from my hand.
       "But you're not yet bold enough."
       He yanks the ski mask down. He heads into the gas station and I shift over to the driver's seat just as the cop car pulls in next to me. The world turns down the volume again. There's two of them. The cop sitting shotgun gets out carrying a plastic mug with a logo of the gas station on it, like he always comes here for refills. My hand inches up to the horn, to give two short blasts like we planned, to let Mark know to come out shooting.
       But I don't do it.
       My hand drifts over to the gearshift and I put the car in reverse. That's about the moment Mark comes out the door of the gas station with a bag full of cash in one hand and the pistol in the other. He sees the cop and the cop sees him and the plastic cup drops out of view as the cop goes for his gun and Mark pulls the trigger and then the cop drops from sight as well. The other cop dumps out the door and takes cover behind his car and draws down. And Mark looks to me for a split second and his eyes say everything: Put it in drive. Slam on the gas. Smoosh this motherfucker like the mosquito he is. And we'll ride this moment on out till it ends, and maybe we'll die but we'll live every moment until we do. And I understand it all in that split second.
       But I don't do it.
       I turn the wheel the other way. I pull out toward the highway. I can still see his eyes in the rearview as the cop comes up shooting and Mark fires back, five times, putting that-cop down on the gravel. When I read about it in the papers later, the coroner says said Mark must have pulled the trigger those last few times on some animal instinct, cause the cop's first and only shot went through Mark's skull and cleaned his brainpan straight out.
       I drive and drive and although once I hear sirens that make me freeze like a rabbit in the desert they fade away after a while and I keep driving. I leave the car up in North St. Louis with the keys sitting on the driver's seat. I leave everything but enough money to get me home.
After that there's not much to tell you. My life has gone the way it was supposed to go. I work in an office. I married a good enough man with a job and scared eyes and we never went bust and we never went boom. Yesterday I watched my mother, hollowed out, with tubes jammed in her and thousand-dollar pills that could keep her on just this side of the shadow for another week, and on the ride home my husband and I held hands and I told him don't you ever let that be me. And he lied to me andtold me he wouldn't and I lied to him and told him the same.
       Sometimes I hear Mark laugh, and some days in the car the right song will come on the satellite radio and I'll feel him there tingling like a phantom limb. Like he's sitting there next to me in the dark. But I know that's not so. And I know that when you die there's not even darkness, and I know Mark and me won't meet on some cloud or in some pit of fire. And I guess that's a good thing. I couldn't take those eyes seeing what's become of me, those eyes looking down at my hands and my chewed-up ragged nails.

© Jordan Harper2015

 This electronic version of “Prove It All Night” appears in The Barcelona Review with kind permission of the author. It appears in the collection Love and Other Wounds by Jordan Harper, published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2015. Book ordering available through and

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Author Bio
Jordan HarperJordan Harper was born and educated in Missouri. He has been a music journalist, film critic, and TV writer, currently a writer-producer for Gotham. His debut short story collection Love and Other Wounds has met with both popular and critical praise. Harper lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Elizabeth.