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We walked the streets of Inverness, strolling along the River Ness. A light rain fell from the darkened sky above. This should have been romantic, magical, but both of us were separated by a shared misery: colds. We didn't hold hands while we walked, I was still angry with you for getting sick, then passing it on to me. I didn't tell you I was angry, I just pulled away from you. Passing under a streetlight I cast a sideways glance at you and your forlorn expression melted my anger. Inverness is where I forgot then remembered I love you.
We're both broken, and you know it. Our ideals are twisted and warped. What do we know about love? About relationships? We fought tonight then had angry, bitter sex. We kissed and tasted blood, left hand shaped bruises and long thin scratches. Spent, we snuggled together, anger evaporated, bitterness hidden away for another day. Maybe this is all we know of love, all we can show and share. And maybe this is all it ever is for anyone. But I have to believe it can be different, that we can change. Why is hatred so much a part of love?
They ran swiftly through the undergrowth of the forest, rapidly closing the distance between them and their unsuspecting prey. Through one last patch of brambles they finally spotted her and lunged. The beasts brayed loudly as their prey went down. Spittle sprayed from their jaws as they snapped at her with needle sharp teeth, their breath hot and fetid. Their raking claws left behind thin red lines and the scent of her blood pushed at them, made them want to rip and rend her flesh. But they did not. Even in their frenzied state, they knew they waited for him...
"Cease." It was just one whispered word that the beasts barely heard but hear it they did. Hackles raised, they tucked their barbed tails between their legs and slowly backed away from their cowering prey. The beasts whined as the air shimmered and their desired feast slowly vanished from their view. And from the shadows he emerged. Kneeling where the beasts had brought her down, he stroked the grass and came away with blood on his hand. Hand to mouth, he tasted that crimson wine and smiled. Not a mean smile, not a nice smile, but a smile of promise....
The beasts, upon seeing this smile, ran away yipping, chased only by his laugh... When his laughter died away and he could no longer hear the retreating beasts, he slowly stood, the smile fading from his face. Tonight the veils between the worlds would be thin and something like him, a creature made more from shadows than flesh could easily slip through. No matter what world she had gone too, he had her taste, and could track her anywhere. He slipped back into the shadows and waited. Waited for the sullen moon to rise and for the hunt to begin...
Last night I fell in love with the moon again. I didn't mean to, we haven't spoken to each other since I mentioned I thought it a little less than sacred with man's footprints all over it. I even told it I thought I liked the sun better. The moon ignored those fickle words, and hung around every night hoping for me to catch a glimpse and realize the error of my ways. Which I did when the moon, waning, but still nearly full, gently reminded me that I too have known men. Was I any less sacred for this?
You scare me. And I don't know why. I'm usually good at reading people, but I can't get anything out of you. I think what you portray and what you really are can be miles apart. Or maybe that's me, I can't tell. Maybe you remind me of me and that's what's freaking me out. And please, the next time you see me, please ignore me. Every time you look at me something breaks down inside. I think you know things there is no way you can know. Or maybe you're just good with sleight of mind. You scare me.
'Wait for me.' He said. So she did, but she soon got tired of waiting. She finally moved on and wandered down ways she never thought she would have known. Time passed and one day she found herself thinking of him. She wondered if she had waited if her life would have still been filled with tacky bars and too many sweaty bodies pressed against hers in cheap hotel rooms. She took a deep drag on her cigarette and felt her lungs protest, but not loudly enough to make her quit. Sometimes she still dreams about knights in shining armor.
'I'll wait for you.' She said. But he tarried too long at his tasks and she slipped away. He grieved, became furious, and grieved some more. The next woman wasn't asked to wait; he married her immediately. As time passed, he found himself thinking about her endlessly. His wife became bitter from trying to live up to his image of her and failing every time. He finished off another beer and stared bleary-eyed at the faded photograph in his hand while his wife cried silently in the other room. His wife knew he was no knight in shining armor.
Sometimes I still think about Leroy and Jerry. Leroy's story is a sad story. Jerry's is sadder. Leroy got messed up with drugs and ended up owing a mean someone a lot of money. One day he called his mother and asked her to make spaghetti for dinner. She had planned on something else, but for him, changed her mind. Then he picked up the phone and called his brother Jerry. While talking to Jerry, he shot himself. After four hours in surgery, Leroy died. In a way, Jerry did too. They say he's never getting out of that asylum.
Memorial day, nineteen eighty-one. Stacy went fishing at the river, but didn't catch any fish. He was twelve, I was eleven. His favorite pastime was teasing me, making my life hell, but always with a certain amount of tenderness. I think we both knew we would one day be lovers. Months before, he had begun to avidly watch my body slowly start to change. Develop into something other than the tomboy he was used to. At twelve, he was already taller, bigger than all of the other boys. Yep, we would have been lovers. But the river got him first.
‘One potato, two potato, three potato, four…' Given a chance, would you relive your childhood? ‘If that train should jump the track, do you want your money back…' Even knowing what you know now? ‘If he hollers, let him go…' Would you be willing to face the horror of being vulnerable again? ‘What color was the blood…' Or not knowing what you know now? ‘And you are not it.' Would you desire the innocence that you will never again have? ‘Five potato, six potato, seven potato, ore…' Given a chance, would you want to relive your childhood? ‘N…O spells no…'
Now is the time. No one is paying attention, so you slip off on your own. The woods invite you to partake of their splendor so you follow a well-worn path deeper into them. The path eventually leads you to a small stagnant pond. As you approach the pond a Great Blue Heron takes to wing and you stare, amazed to have been so close to such a beautiful creature. For a long time you sit on the dock, listening to the serenade of unseen birds, insects and frogs. You are sad when you have to leave this peaceful place.
Queen of cups, you are lovely like a statue, cold and still. Yet passion flows along with ice in your veins and while outwardly frozen, fires burn fiercely in your soul. Card of sadness, you've know sorrow, but iron-hearted, you've passed it all. Queen of hearts, you deny them. If you can't control them, they might as well not exist at all. If you control them, they'll think they know you, never realizing they're only familiar with your mask. Card of beauty, trust untrusting, pretend to be empty, don't be surprised if one day you find you are human yet.
'It's not really magic, you know.' He always wanted me to face reality. He couldn't stand the thought that I might see dragons where he only saw clouds. He was older and wiser, so how could he be wrong? So he became my anchor. And the part of me he loved the most was lost to him forever. But only to him. I kept my innocence and gullibility secret. When he wasn't looking, I made wishes on shooting stars and daydreamed about dragons. He wondered why our love had changed, never realizing that love is magic in it's purest form.
…Roger walked in. She quickly hid her bleeding hand behind her back. 'Aren't you brats finished yet?' He walked over to the cupboard pulled out a bottle of whiskey and a glass. He poured himself a glass and drank it straight down before filling the glass a second time and putting the bottle away. He fixed his bloodshot eyes on them again. They shrunk as far back from him as they could, waiting for him to strike. He didn't. Instead he turned and walked away, muttering as he left. 'Why your mother didn't kill you at birth, I'll never know.'
'Hey, Joe. I hope you don't mind me talking to you here, my car's still not repaired. Anyhow, I picked one with your name on it. I hope you don't mind.' She waited a moment before continuing. 'I know I haven't visited you in three and a half months, it's just been so strange. Oh, Joe, it's bad this time. You and him and her, I can't keep you all out of my head.' The clouds made good their threat and snow again began to fall. Huddled in front of the gravestone, Jane poured her heart out to her brother.
They told them Bigfoot lived in the woods behind our apartment. They stood on their balcony and called his name out as loud as they could for hours. Someone below them, tired of hearing three young kids screeching out shrilly 'Bigfoot... Biiiiggggfooooot!' finally answered. 'What!?!' came the deep booming reply. A second passed and three kids tried to get through the same door at once. Two weeks passed and three kids still wouldn't go outside. A frustrated mother had to take them outside and walk them through the woods. No Bigfoot. But what about the Wolfman from down the lane?
Somewhere, he waits. He thinks if he sits still enough, time will slow down. He knows he needs more time to do all of the things he so wants to do. But he doesn't realize how much time he wastes while waiting for more time. He looks at his watch, shakes his head, and consults a calendar. He's not getting any younger and has left a quarter of his life unlived. Never learned that time is meant to be spent, it cannot be hoarded. So he waits and wastes and waits and wastes. And time quickly passes him by. Again.
I remember Arizona. I remember the open sewer in front of all of the trailers. And I remember trying to jump across the sewer and falling in and seeing a dead cow ten feet away. I remember the two-mile hike to the abandoned shopping center whose sign you could see from twenty miles away. I remember the railroad bridge and the speeding train that almost became my end because I was too afraid to jump. And I remember the arms that pulled me down to safety. Even though, I was only four, I remember Arizona like it was only yesterday.
New York is where he put the steak knife into my hand. Twenty-seven years later, and you can still see the scar between my index and pointer finger. New York is where he potty-trained my brother by dragging him bare butt through the snow every time he had an accident. Twenty-seven years later, and no one can see the scars left from that one, however, he still knows they're there. Sometimes I think memories are nothing but scars. And sometimes I think all I'm made of is memories. Which are scars. Big, ugly scars. New Jersey is where he beat…
Breakdown. Burnout. Crackup. Gone South. She sings lyrics to songs that don't even exist. Everyday she sits in front of the mirror and pretends to brush her matted hair. Her morning tea is just a mug full of impossibilities. Her breakfast a slice of promise smothered in absurdities. She spends hours standing by the window watching people walk by. She's allowed no one to touch her in seven years, yet at night all she dreams about is the sensation of skin sliding against skin. She wakes still hearing its gentle silken whisper. Looney. Lost her marbles. Broken. Well, isn't she?
What do you do, Brooklyn Sue? You pick up men and spread your legs. And with the money they give you, you get high, high, high. It's the only way you touch the sky. What did they do, Brooklyn Sue? Men pick you up and spread your legs. And with the money they give you they buy a little more of your soul. It's an expensive toll. What do you do, Brooklyn Sue? You pick up men and spread your legs. And for the money they give you, you give something in return. They don't know you're dying of AIDS.
Deadeye was another one who died of AIDS. He was a small time dealer supporting a big time habit. Breaking and entering was another means of currency for him. Long stringy black hair framed a pale, hollow cheeked face while long sleeve shirts covered needle-scarred arms. I remember the last time I saw Deadeye. It was late one night and he was hauling his emaciated self down the street, waving his cane in the air screaming 'I am a man! A man! And my name is John, not Deadeye!' Two weeks later he was dead at the age of twenty-two.
I think I'm going to cry. He wants to grow a beard. It's a stupid thing to cry about, I know. But it's change. And I don't like change. The advantage of him growing a beard is a little agreement we made six years ago: he doesn't grow a beard, and I don't dye my hair. All relationships are full of agreements like this. And now he's breaking it. So tomorrow night, I will go to the store and pick out a nice shade of red hair dye. And I'll cry, because it seems like the beginning of the end.
Sleep. A strange concept for an insomniac. Sometimes, late at night, when I don't know if I'm dreaming or wide-awake, my only notion is of you. On some sleepless nights, I sit on my balcony and watch the wind gently rock the trees in the woods out back. On warm summer nights, this coupled with the rustling leaves and the crickets' serenade lull me into an unexpected slumber. Birdsong and other morning sounds slip into my dreams and eventually entice into wakefulness. And in that split second between sleep and waking, dreaming and reality, my only notion is of you.
Fickle creature. Why can't you be happy with what you have? You think of happiness on too grand of a scale. Happiness is a moment, fragile and fleeting like a butterfly, impossible to hold on to. You have to learn to enjoy the moments when they come. And stop mourning them when they're gone. Remember, just because someone isn't perpetually happy, it doesn't mean they are unhappy. Happiness is an emotion, not a character trait. And scale down what you think of happiness, and you may find you have a lot more moments. Appreciate these moments, you fickle creature you.
Old man, shriveled and bent, stands at the window watching the children play in the street below. On the table behind him sits an empty can of soup and a slice of buttered bread. If it wasn't for electric can openers, he would have just had buttered bread for dinner tonight. As it was, he ate his soup straight from the can, his arthritic fingers refusing to turn the knobs on the stove. Soup stains the front of his shirt and he silently curses his trembling hands. Outside, the children continue to laugh and play. He sighs and turns away.
The old man shuffles slowly into the living room, worn slippers on his feet. With a grunt he lowers himself onto the couch and reaches for the remote. The T.V. flares to life, the sound blaring loudly. Once, a neighbor had started to complain about the sound, but upon seeing his age, changed her mind. There is nothing wrong with his hearing, but the loud volume comforted him. Made him feel like he wasn't alone. In the past two months he had even started talking back to the television. And it had amazed him how old his voice had become.
In bed, the old man closed his eyes and thought of his wife. Even though she had been dead for eight years, he still slept on the same side he had slept on through their forty-six years of marriage. Sometimes when he thought of her, he could almost smell her faint lilac sent. And if he squinted he could still pretend she slept beside him. He started to reach towards her pillow to stroke her head but let his hand fall back to his chest instead. No matter how much he pretended, in his heart, he knew she was gone.
There once was a little ghost who wasn't very good at haunting. He tried his best, he wandered abandoned houses rattling chains and moaning; he darted among the tombstones at the local cemetery; he even stood at the end of the beds of small children and screamed 'Boo!' But only when nobody was around. You see, this wee little ghosty, this poor sad spirit was afraid of the living. So, if you're ever in an abandoned house that seems to be ghostless, it's probably haunted by the little ghost who is more afraid of you than you are of him.
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