"What's wrong with me?!" she screamed. "Why don't you want to be with me anymore?"
"Ah geez, Jenny, come on," I pleaded. She was making a scene.
"You've found another girl, haven't you? Haven't you?!" Tears were streaming down her face, drawing my gaze towards her neck. I shivered and looked away. Other people in the plaza were stopping and looking at us, giving me angry glances that seemed to asked, What did you do to her, you bastard?
"No, no I haven't," I said quietly.
"Really? What is it then, tell me." She wiped her face with the back of her hand, taking away a smear of mascara.
"It's the scroff," I said.
"What?" she asked in a blunt burst of sound, pointing at the growth on neck.
"Yeah," I said. "Look, can we go somewhere private, and maybe discuss it there?"
"No, Brad, we can't!" she yelled. "Because you know what? Ninety percent of the people here have it too. Just because you think you're immune, and you're not by the way, you think you're better than me! Well guess what, Brad, you're not!" She swung her purse towards my groin and I stepped back and into the ample belly of a large man.
"You're breaking up with her because of scroff?" he asked in voce tenor. I turned around and saw his own advanced growth of scroff that extended from the top of his bald head and down into the V of his polo shirt, in vast waves of thick slimy orange tendrils. This close it exuded a faintly minty/salty odor. I almost gagged.
"You don't understand--"
"Are you some kind of bigot?" he asked, stepping forward into my personal space, bending over slightly. My eyes were level with his slime soaked collar.
"No, no. Jenny, tell him." I turned back towards her. Her arms were akimbo, purse clutched ready to strike again. By comparison with the large aggressive man behind me, her infestation of scroff, in its infancy, yellow and scaled and merely moist, curling from her ear to her thyroid in a sickly second smile, was downright cute.
"Are you a bigot Brad?" she asked snarkily.
"Come on Jenny, can't I just be shallow?" I looked from her to the large man and back again. "When did things have to get so extreme that you just call a bloke a bigot for a little thing like that?" I waved towards her scroff. I was backpedaling badly and they both knew it. The man behind me snorted.
"Bastard," she said slowly, shaking her head.
"Okay, okay!" I said, glancing down at my feet for maximum empathy inducing effect. "There is another girl."
"I knew it! I knew it all along! I thought there was somebody. It's that whore at the sub shop you always tip, isn't it?"
"Who? Oh, yeah." I honestly had no idea who she meant. "Yeah her. Yup. Shagged her yesterday," I said, nodding my head in slightly exaggerated oscillations. Jenny didn't look too convinced. Then I felt a meaty warm hand on my shoulder. I instinctively twitched.
"I think you're lying," said the large man. Other people were starting to form a crowd. They were representative of all stages of scroff. Some had scaly white nubbins, others tender yellow protrusions, the orange tendrils, angry swollen cords, knots of greenish withered hairs gone to seed, then the healed-over scabs from when the scroff finally died and fell off. The whole life cycle took about five years and a regrowth could appear at any time after than from the dormant roots that curled around and fused into the jugular, making surgery nearly impossible.
"No," I said. "I've been seeing her for the last month."
"Really?" asked Jenny, unconvinced. "You're just saying that."
"No," I said. "I just didn't want to lie to you anymore, you know?"
"What's her name?" asked the large man, pushing down on my shoulder.
"Yeah, what's her name, Brad. Cause you know I know her name." Jenny lifted an eyebrow.
"Uh, I call her 'kitten'," I said. No one looked confinced. Fingernails ground into my shoulder. The crowd started yelling out nasty epithets.
"Nice one Brad," spat Jenny. "And you know the worst thing about it? I chose you. I thought you were a nice guy."
"I am a nice guy! Except for the cheating thing. You know." Jenny slammed the purse into the side of my head.
"I'd rather date a cheater than a bigot!" Her wet face contorted. A roll of neck flesh interacted with the roll of scroff, lubricated by a sheen of tears. My fingers contracted to fists. "I can't believe you Brad!" More swipes and swings with that purse, its buckle bruising my arms and thighs.
"Hey, enough okay? It's not a crime, is it?"
"It should be," said the large man, an inch from my ear, his hot breath condensing to itchiness. He rubbed his scroff against my cheek. I screamed. That was it. That was the limit for me. I wrenched free, and ran through an opening in the crowd. I split down the plaza, a line of angry infected scroffers followed me with their invective. At the end of the plaza I found an underground entrance. I ran down the stairs, then a set of escalators. I passed tons of scroffers, and hoped they just thought I was a thief or something. I ducked into a very dirty bathroom and into a stall, which didn't have a lock. I stood with one foot on the wet toilet seat, and wedged the other against door to keep it closed.
I waited. There was a commotion outside, but it passed. Somehow, I had eluded them. Then I heard a sloshing in the toilet bowl. I looked down just as a scroff seedling writhed towards my ankle and bit down. I suppressed a scream as it deposited its genetic material into my bloodstream. Then the analgesic in seedling's mouth kicked in and I relaxed and slumped to the dirty floor crying.