Posts tagged thursday
Posts tagged thursday
She sat in her armchair, wringing the letter she’d written years ago into tight spirals, then loose round globes, then flat again. It was a letter she never gave him, because she knew it was dark and would hurt. But she’d kept it, hidden amongst her journals, for a reason she didn’t understand then but knew now.
His things were in the car, and he was grabbing one last box of clothes and towels. He’d wanted the good towels, and she gave them to him, because why did she need those towels anyway. They smelled like him. She had a lot of things she’d need to replace soon; why not a few towels. She wasn’t picky; she’d use the smaller, scratchier towels for a while that had been his anyway, but no one really wanted them now. She couldn’t decide if she’d donate them or burn them.
He looked at her expectantly, holding a large cardboard box with no markings, and she found herself irritated that he wasn’t using the handles. That’s what they were there for, to hold the box. Instead, he had it gripped from the base. What a waste. They both remained silent. She thought she should be crying, but her heart had already started to shrink. It would swell and burst soon enough; she’d accept the peace of the moment.
So, after five years, this is what it all came down to. Boxes of fabric and pages, some electronics to be divided and a house meant for two occupied by one. Their whole life together, put inside separate cardboard and shuffled between two strangers.
He started to speak, but words wouldn’t come. She was familiar enough with the pause to know that he had something to say, but it would take a few attempts, the world suspended around his lips, waiting for the success of his sentence. She decided not to wait for it. She stood up and placed the now-neatly-folded letter on the top of the box. She looked him square in the eye, and whispered something with the darkest menace her voice could muster. She turned her back on him and sat down in the armchair again, staring out the window, feeling her heart expand and swell into her throat, but she clamped down and refused to shed a tear in his presence.
He shut and locked the door, pushing the key through the mail slot as he left. She watched his car drive away before she got up and lit the fire. She’d made up her mind.
I have this snapshot in my mind of us, from a long time ago. Not that long ago in time, really, but in us. We’ve grown into new lives, completely new people from those sitting in that snapshot. And it’s not like it’s dear to me; it’s not something I miss. It’s just a summary, a single image of exactly what was wrong with us.
We were at a party, well, we called it a party. It wasn’t like a stereotypical party that filled and trashed the house with cheap disgusting beer and make outs in every corner. It was a party, by all accounts, you shouldn’t have actually attended. It was…lame. Anyway, we were at this party, on Amanda’s porch, all of us talking and some of us singing quietly to ourselves because we thought it made the moment matter. Then you and I sat on the bench while everyone else went upstairs or inside to play the piano, do something they hoped to be emotionally substantial and bonding.
We were so close we could have touched, but didn’t. I made sure there was space, so you could close it. We talked a little, were silent a lot. We stared into the night in front of us. And see, with any other person in the seat next to me, the space would have closed, the night been abandoned for my gaze, and something would have happened. Maybe not the something that I wanted at the time, but something. The moment would have meant something. It would have mattered.
But you didn’t move, so I didn’t move. I believed that you should have gone first, so I was open, receptive, waiting. I was ashamed, not as strong then as I am now. I had not learned the value of just saying what wasn’t being said; I still believed that keeping it unsaid made us mature and intellectual. I sat there, clutching this pillow like my life, tension stretched between you and me over that stupid space, while I sat screaming at you in my mind, please do something please do something please close the space please come close. You were frozen, a statue. You did nothing. And so I took that nothing as a something, as we both always did back then.
And looking at that snapshot, I know now that you knew then. You knew, you always knew. You fucking bastard, you knew, and still you waited for me to act, to see if I would, to watch me like an experiment unfolding before you. You let me cling to my life on the edge of a seat that you refused to share with me.
I have another snapshot, not of you and me, but me and him. It looks the same on the surface, on a porch, on a bench, with a space, staring into the night. The difference is, where you were a statue, he moved. He immediately placed his arm around my shoulders and pulled me into him. No bullshit, no games, just honesty. Openness. Saying what was unsaid but shouldn’t be.
I haven’t heard from you in six months. But now I don’t care. You can keep doing nothing, and I won’t give a shit. Nothing doesn’t have to mean something anymore.
The world was melting, it seemed. Eli had no idea such heat could exist anywhere on earth, or that people could live in this heat. He looked at the others on the shit bus that was taking them from one village to the next, could not understand how they could bear it. They talked to one another, casually wiping some damp moisture from their brows, smiling and laughing. His window was as open as it could get, which is to say it was barely cracked, and he was clawing at his shirt as though all of his organs were bombs set to explode. He fanned himself with the thick notebook he had in his bag, took off and replaced his hat four times, and he waited for hell to swallow him.
The bus finally stopped in the town center, and he walked off into the same heat trapped inside. He didn’t realize it before, but he had placed so much hope on their being some relief outside of the giant moving metal tube. The sun was setting, and he begrudgingly set his rucksack on his shoulders, pressing his warm and sweat-stained shirt closer to his back. Why the hell had he decided to come here in the summer, he wondered as he became smaller in the oppressive, inescapable heat.
That night, he lay naked in bed beneath a mosquito net and a fan that made more noise than air flow. He stared at it, trying to will it to produce more, to work harder, to make any damned difference. He couldn’t sleep in this heat, he knew it. He would spend weeks in this heat without sleep or relief. Somewhere around 2 am, he threw on shorts and walked out of his room barefoot. Eli felt delirious, as though with fever, but the fever was pressing into him instead of out of him, burning him from without instead of within. Nevertheless, this fever drove him out into the street. He wandered down abandoned roads, through alleyways where some last-call men were drinking and sitting next to a box fan, laughing as though they couldn’t feel it, the movement of hell creeping up their sweaty skin to strangle them.
He heard the sound of water moving, and he ran to it. A dirty, grimy fountain sat outside a third-rate hotel or brothel or something, tiny streams barely trickling from the cherub at the top. Heedlessly, without looking for guards or police, he jumped in. It was lukewarm, filthy, smelling of stagnant rainwater, but he didn’t care. He knew if he didn’t do something in that moment, he would burst into flame.
He stepped out, and a tiny breeze blew through. He grinned, starting laughing to himself, threw his hands in the air. Then he turned, and he saw her.
I walk in slowly, slipping into the warm Mediterranean. The water, smooth and clear, greets my skin like a new lover, caressing every inch as I wade against the push. Then it grabs me, the pull, drags me gently out and out, and I float along the horizon, along the line between heaven and earth. Facing the gods, naked and freed and bare, I sing to myself. Ears under water, the only sounds are my voice and the hum of the ocean. I am carried, alone and held, and I miss you.
You should be here, to catch me drifting in from sea, to pull me, to hold me, caress me, kiss me.
I walk out slowly, wishing the salty shadows on my lips were yours.
Jillian was four days into her vacation, and she swore she wouldn’t think about it. She had rented this house on the edge of the cove three months ago for the two of them, her and her boyfriend. She chose it because the pictures online showed a porch with a hammock overlooking the small bit of ocean that leaked into the secluded beach, and even though the rooms were small and service for any technology was poor, the porch and the hammock would be enough for a good vacation. She swore as she stared out the window each morning that she wouldn’t grow panicked, that she wouldn’t let paranoia creep into her thoughts as she started to sleep that night.
She knew he couldn’t go because the job of a lifetime had come up, and the company had sought him out from the recommendation of the artists who loved working with him. She knew, and she wouldn’t think about how he didn’t really seem sorry when he told her he couldn’t go. She knew he actually was sorry, that he wanted the vacation, but he wanted the job more, and that he would miss her. She knew that she could use the time to work on her novel, and she knew that even if she had stayed in the city, she couldn’t have toured with him. So she swore not to think about it.
She wasn’t going to think about all the parties that would happen every night after every show, and how he would be invited and treated and praised. She wouldn’t ponder on all the half-naked women parading themselves in front of him or the glamour of the artists as they coaxed him or tried to, away from his freelance and on to a contract with them. Or about the reasons why every expensive call only lasted five or six minutes before he had to run off to load something or get back on the road or join a poker game.
No, Jillian knew better than to take it to heart when he said enthusiastically “I’ve never been happier” or that he was sorry he forgot to call last night when he said he would. She wouldn’t think about the women who were staring into his eyes at 3am, drunk and telling him their life stories, wondering at this brilliant man who could understand and relate to them. She knew it should mean nothing that whenever he said “love you too” it was like pressing the play button on a tape recorder.
So she sat in the hammock, her toes dipping and dangling into the sand off the edge of the porch, swinging gently and internalizing the rhythm of the waves, matching her swings to it. She walked in the surf, walked into the water as though to the gallows, stretching her arms parallel to the horizon with eyes closed and whispering, “I will not worry. I will not worry. I will not worry.”
I started writing letters to myself when I was nine. I enjoyed the feeling of putting my cursive-learning to good use, of scrolling gently across fine stationery and folding the finished article into even pieces and tucking it in a thick, cream envelope. I soon realized that this was tantamount to keeping a journal, so I transitioned from loose sheets of expensive paper that I begged my parents to purchase to leather-bound, lightly-lined books that would certainly look impressive and smell ancient by the time I was thirty, or so I thought at nine.
Throughout adolescence, I continued to write to my future self. Once enough time had passed between a volume and me, I would reread it, make comments to my past self in the margin, write another note to my future self in the back, and return it to my growing collection. It was my history, a study of my coming-of-age and whatever came after that. Anyone I found important, even for a day, made an appearance, though I grew worse and worse at providing proper entrances. I never lay an exit for them; they would walk out in their own words, in their own time.
Then, gradually, it changed, something changed, so slowly I barely noticed until I awoke one day in London alone on my birthday. I wanted less and less to write to my future self and instead write to you, present you and future you and every version of you. The problem was that anything I would write I would say to you that day or the next. I couldn’t hold onto any word or phrase but would splay them out in front of you without poise or structure or script, with my own babbling and informal, rambling speech. And of course, the letters I tried to write began with cliché statements about love and our future, phrases so mushy I sank in them. I tore those letters into confetti and decorated my room, smiling at the handmade snow.
These days, I write to you in my mind, small sentences or statements that could come together to make a letter or a lifestyle or a long, long afternoon talk. I walk alone along the avenues, apart from you, and think, I want us to cross Manhattan on foot, Let’s spend a month alone in the mountains writing, You are the only one I want to stay up all night listening to old songs with. I will always think you are the cutest person alive. We should never live apart again. Let’s learn how to waltz. Teach me the guitar; I’ll teach you how to sing. I want you to wake me up.
It was just a cup of coffee, he said. Just a cup or two, a bit of conversation, surely we can do that after all this time, he said. She knew better than to take him at his word, but she was curious, and was feeling good in her new slim body and form fitting dress, so she didn’t mind if it was going to be more than just coffee. Will had this way of turning a sentence over his smooth tongue, between his teeth, that still rattled her bones in a good way, or a bad way, she couldn’t decide. She never could.
The local café had changed its interior design in the four years she’d been gone. The warm, hand-picked hodge podge seating had dissolved into less stained but less comfortable armchairs in coordinating colors. What had been someone’s house expanded to take in everyone was now a commercialized, earth-toned business designed to draw in the young and the busy and the hipsters who secretly enjoyed a good color-coordinated room. Amelia decided that even though this look was better, she sorely missed the comfort of the home it had been. She ordered her usual, adjusted her glasses, and smiled at the barista. He seemed to smile and blush and stumble, and this pleased her. She’d gotten better.
She sat down in what had been her favorite spot, but felt wrong now. Still, the angles and placement of the chair and table were more or less the same, so she felt protected in the corner and ready as she stared out the window looking for him. He sauntered, still the same uneven swish she remembered, as he exited his BMW. For 30, he must be doing pretty well, she thought to herself. He caught her watching him through the window, and he winked. The game began.
They sat across from one another, in the guarded openness of character that always caressed the edges of their time together. They talked about how their 30th birthdays had and hadn’t quite shaken or scared them. They talked about their jobs. She talked about her pending divorce, he talked about his string of lovers across the globe. They moved effortlessly between shallow topics of films and deeper topics of depression, playing the chess they always played. She brandished her wit with aloofness; he sliced through it with a gaze of desperate seduction. They finished their drinks and stared, intently, smirks sliding across one face, then another. Finally, Will sighed and shook his head. He held her gaze once more, his dark eyes like those of a predator. She didn’t mind. “Let’s go to my place. Now.” Amelia grinned broadly. “You look too good in that dress,” he added. “It’s sinful.”
“Well, this is new. Direct, un-ironic flattery?”
“Don’t get used to it.” He grinned.
The game over, she took his hand, hurried him out to his car, and kissed him hard, violently, with a need she didn’t know she had. She then shoved him into the driver’s seat. He laughed as she climbed in over him. “Drive. Go.”
He floored it out of the parking lot and west, out of town.
I am a girl. Not a woman, despite my body. You can see in my face that I am a girl. I don’t paint my face up to look any different than it is; I don’t pluck unwanted hair above my eyes or put anything across my cracked lips. My smile is a little asymmetrical. I have some freckles the sun only makes worse. My eyes don’t pop, they sit just like they were when I was born—unmarked. Unremarkable, I’d say.
I am ridiculous. A child in adult’s clothing. I scamper, I skip. I dance to music I hear in my head. Giggles shudder and ripple from my center out into everything. I used to think that made me special, a female Peter Pan. What everyone secretly wants, just because that’s what I wanted. Someone who never grows up, not completely. Mischievous. It does not make me special. It makes me “immature.”
I look normal. I look plain, though statistically my mental capacity might be above average, depending who you ask and who does the asking. I behave poorly, I miss social cues, overstep propriety to ask impolite things as soon as they pop into my head. And things pop into my head all the time. I dress all wrong, I look wrong. I could look older. I could put on all the right colors, avoid the jeans and Converse for something more appropriate to a “young professional woman.” But I am none of those things, not really. Just the “young” part.
I am a rock among rocks. I am a skinny branch among the trees. I close my eyes and I could be anyone; I open them and am frozen.
I found this little chunk of prose tucked away from January. Thought I’d post it.
It’s the fear of the call, more than anything else, that keeps her up waiting for him to return. She knows what would happen once he did stumble through the door, defeated and drunk, the bruises of doubt fingerpainting his face and shoulders and back. Sometimes she’d yell and thrash, put on a show of disgust for what he had become, try to get a rise out of him, to get anything out of him. He would sigh, nod, say he was sorry without a drop of sincerity. He never lays a finger on her, but she wishes he would, sometimes. She wishes he would do anything.
But every night, she lies in bed and invents a ringing phone screaming at her that tonight was his last trip to the pub. Tonight he jumped in front of a train, or he just stopped driving in the middle of the motorway. She sits down, in these inventions, to write the obituary and struggles whether to call him a pastor or former pastor, to tell the truth of how he left the faith or make up a pretty lie about being ‘between jobs’. She cries—in these inventions and at these inventions—more and more these days.
So she waits up and tries to hide her machinations as he stumbles in. But he sees them, and he sighs. Says he’s sorry. Goes to bed. Has no dreams. Leaves her to the nightmares.
I have rarely wanted to be like my mother. Overall, she is a snapshot of what I see as the worst I could become—defensive, deeply religious (the kind that makes her close-minded and bigoted), short-tempered, overbooked and always late. She is more than just these vices and bad habits, though; I don’t want to paint her unfairly. She is a loving mother who spends much of her energy and money taking care of her kids’ wants and needs. And though her cooking may not be the greatest, she always knew what my favorite meal was, and she made it for me anytime I came home from a long time away. But she always tries too hard, grasps for more responsibility than she can handle, fights to be involved in (read as ‘to control’) many of the family’s decisions and duties. And she has a short temper, one that snaps whenever she takes offense (which is often).
All of these qualities sit within me, boiling forth unbid at one time or another, and all of them have been commented on by friends and loved ones. So, I know that I am beginning the path towards my mother. And most of the time, I hate it. I hate growing angry at my mom and realizing that in a few short years I’ll be angering others the same way. I hang on to the one advantage I have over my mother—self-awareness. I have a level of self-awareness, while she has none; she believes she is many things that she is not, by any stretch of the imagination (she is not quiet, one who enjoys solitude, non-social, self-conscious). With that self-awareness, I am constantly in mending, purging the bad and practicing the opposite.
There is one thing, though. One thing I love that stands out in my mind any time I think about Mom. Once, when we were arguing intensely in the car, waiting for my father to come out of the office and join us, she stopped mid-sentence as she looked towards the door to the tiny building we were parked in front of. A smile crept across her lips as my dad walked leisurely towards the car. “He’s so handsome,” Mom muttered, mostly to herself. Then she turned to me. “Isn’t your father the cutest Dad in the whole world?” Her eyes were shining, and suddenly she was a teenager in love again. After 25 years, she still gets giddy.
If I could have that, I thought, if I could be like that, I’d be happy.