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This is where the story ends. At the beginning. That's something you continuously fail to realize, the start of every tale is always the ending. But that doesn't mean the finish is always a beginning. Sometimes the end is just that, the end. So this, our first occurrence, is it also our final thought? Or will we see it through and move on from there?
He moves closer, the look in his eyes unreadable. And I can't tell what he wants. Or maybe he wants nothing, maybe...
But then he says "This is where the story ends and we begin."
Find me. I think you're the only one who can. I'm tired of being where and who and what I am. When I retreated I left a trail to find my way back, a bright red line. But somehow, in my years of solitude I became color-blind and lost.
But you, you have tasted me and you know my scent almost as well as you know your own. You're the only one who has ever really looked at me, who knows the smallest details of my face. The only one I would trust to bring me out of the darkness.
Oh, all of the omens were there, yes they were. But she ignored them. Even the big ones, like every time she started thinking about him, she got an electrical shock, or a paper cut, or stubbed her toe, and once, the brakes in her car stopped working… Instead she concentrated on the signs… like the first time she saw him, he was eating a granola bar, and while she didn't usually like granola bars, she did have one, once, that she really liked… Surely a sign like that has to mean something, doesn't it? She knew it had to.
It's a brush of heat in regions not often explored. He's an adventurer and he's ready to go.
"But we're talking uncharted territory now, the kind of places old mapmakers marked ‘Here there be monsters' and left alone." I give him fair warning, however, adventurers are a cocky sort and pay no mind to warnings.
"Just a touch, a taste, a lingering glimpse… that's all I ask for. I promise, I won't go any deeper than you want me to." He who won't heed warnings hastens to reassure. And that brush of heat quickly becomes a fire out of control.
It's not so much that my life is unbelievable. It's not, not really. But rest of my family's life plays that role and due to our common blood, association taints me. Here, let me give you an example: my brother, who is thirty-four, is engaged to a woman, who is forty-eight, whose ex-husband was a hit man, and unless he retired, still is. This kind of thing only happens in newspapers, in novels and in Hollywood. And that's only the first layer of a many-layered cake. I would tell you more, but you wouldn't believe me. No one ever does.
He offers his opinion like a nostrum, thinking this will take care of everything that ails us. I picture him, black top hat and cape, hawking his words to the gathering crowd, his scarlet colored wagon with gold lettering forming the perfect backdrop for his show.
The crowd starts to mutter, backing away slightly as their attention starts to wane. I, the ever-present shill, step forward as I make proclamations of his honesty, his sincerity. And the escaping crowd is eagerly sucked back in, begging and pleading for more.
Isn't it funny how easily they believe in two over one?
Is he real or a figment of my imagination, this raggedy man with his raggedy clothes and his wild, messy hair and bushy gray beard covering all but two angry eyes as he stood on the side of the road glowering out at the busy traffic?
My family has a history of being haunted by such a raggedy man. My great-great-grandmother found him hiding under her bed. He popped up from the middle of the creek as my great-uncle fished. In my mother's reoccurring nightmare, he chased her every night. "I am a man!" he hollered hoarsely, shaking his fist.
, he said. She shook her head no. She is anything but that. She never made him any promises. They never spoke any vows.
It was implied
, he insisted. No, no, no, she swears there were no implications from her. To cheat is to deceive or deprive by means of trickery. Did he see her perform any tricks? And what is he missing that she deprived him of?
Your tricks are your words
, he maintained. She shrugged, she knew her words meant only what they meant. Perhaps he's the cheater; perhaps he fooled himself on the meanings of her words.
It's not fair that I can't have you. Sometimes the unfairness of it all makes me want to stomp my feet and pull my hair and throw the biggest tantrum anyone has ever seen. But I'm an adult, and I learned a long time ago that life isn't fair, and no amount of bad behavior is going to change that. So I bite my tongue, swallow my anger, and try to ignore my concupiscence as best I can. Which is hard, because then I see you again, and you smile, and I'm left wanting to stomp my feet once more.
They say you can't really sing the blues unless you've lived the blues. And if she's ever lived anything, it's been the blues… gritty, bitter, biting blues. She knows there's a song in her life, a wrenching low-timbered thrumming, but she doesn't want to sing it, singing about it will only pluck at the scabs on the half healed wounds crisscrossing her heart.
And she remembers a time when she reveled in those unhealed wounds, the pain of reopening being the only thing that reminded her she was still alive.
"Let the world sing its own blues, leave mine alone."
This is the day the stars fell. Beautiful stars, burning to the ground. Instant replay, so every one can see the tragedy.
They knew when they dared to fly, they risked the fall. But still they thought it was worth it. And I think if you could ask them, they would say it was. We think of stars as forever. Now we know how quickly they can fall.
As children, we are taught to make wishes on shooting stars. I know now, whenever I see a shooting star, I will think of them, and wish it will never happen again.
And what if, when I touch you, you groan? Other than exhale of a heavy breath, he makes no sound when my means justify his ends. But you, I think you would be different. I think if I placed my hand there and then moved it a little lower, you would close your eyes and a low, almost pained, growl would escape your lips. And if we moved together...
Would I be able to handle this? Always before, everything has been done in silence. A quiet motion. Comforting. Calm. Safe.
And you say, "Isn't it time you broke the silence?"
I used to take whatever came along because I didn't want to be lonely. But it was never enough and I was still lonely. So I filled my life with books, with words, sweet and bitter, harsh yet inviting… words filled my mind and soothed the desperation that threatened to grow wild there.
"Is that why you'll always love words more than another living soul?" He asked.
"When did I say I loved them?" I looked at him then looked away. I couldn't find the words to explain how I had come to loath the very thing that saved me.
Heart attack. The whole drive over there yesterday, I wanted to do nothing but cry. I could feel my eyes fill with tears, but fought them back. In the hospital, seeing him, half of a mirror image of me, pale, frightened, hooked up to every kind of machine you can imagine, I wanted to cry, but this time I didn't even allow my eyes to fill. My mother, the other half of the mirror that makes up me, looked like she could break at any second, and I knew a single tear from me would cause that dam to go.
I would say no use crying over spilt milk, but we're not talking about milk here. No, what's being spilt is a crimson tide. Another life not taken. And you think you're doing a good thing, not bringing another into this wretched, miserable world. But your body is telling you something different. It's cramping up in protest as the walls break down. It's finished whispering and now it's shouting, telling you you're still an animal and an animal's main goal in life is to reproduce, which you aren't doing, as your crimson tide points out.
Motrin should quiet that voice.
He watched as she applied moisturizer to her hands. "Freesia Fantasy Lotion Spray" read the label on the bottle she held. She hit the nozzle again and it malfunctioned, sending lotion across her face, into her hair. They both laughed as she wiped the lotion from her lips and hair. But inside he groaned and thought, "that could be me on her" and the images that followed made his pants tight in the crotch. If she noticed, she didn't say anything, but she patted his shoulder as she passed him. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. Freesia fantasy indeed...
See, I told you. It was never your actuality that impressed me. It was my own delusions that did me in. You were the best character I've ever created, the most intense fantasy I've ever dreamt up. But fantasies and daydreams are not supposed to consume your life, so it's time I said goodbye.
"Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute… I'm not a character, I'm real!" He said grabbing my arm to prove his point. "See!"
And I did see. But still you don't understand. The fantasy is all I can have. It's all I ever wanted.
It's bad enough he always cuts his nose off to spite his face. But then he has to wear the raw and gaping wound as a reminder of what you've made him do. And you know what happens to open wounds, don't you? They rot. So there he is, pushing his gangrenous face into yours, berating you for actions only he had control over, leaving you reeling from the stench of something gone wrong. Is there a moral here? A lesson to be learned? I don't know. But I do know no one is worth the putrefaction of your soul.
He's magic. Is that pure and simple or tainted and complicated? I can't decide. Maybe a little bit of both if that's possible.
"He scares me." I overheard someone say, and I thought, me too, but that doesn't stop me from being drawn to him.
Drawn to him. Is it like a bee to a flower's nectar, or a moth to a flame's bright glow? Will I bask in his essence or burn myself out on his light?
"He's just a man." Someone whispered to me, and I thought: Oh no, did you see his eyes? Those wild, fey eyes?
The clouds are dark again and thunder's growling in the distance. But the air isn't moving and the leaves on the trees remain absolutely still. And then… a soft trickle of wind stirs the leaves. A raindrop falls… then another and another until they fall faster than can be counted. Unloosened, the wind now runs amok, ripping and tearing at anything it touches. Thunder, done with muttering, bellows deep and threatening as lightening slashes through the sky. Just when it seems the world is going to be torn apart, the thunder goes back to growling and raindrops again become countable.
When she heard the news, she tried to smile but all her mouth formed was a gaping rictus. Which was acceptable, because the news wasn't really a smiling matter. Smiling serenely, acceptingly, was her usual way of dealing with bad news. With her mouth open, her lips drawn back from her teeth, she almost resembled a snarling dog, a dog that had been kicked and was fighting for survival. With obvious effort, she was able to close her mouth and fold her hands calmly on her lap. But she could not bring herself to smile. Not with news like that.
I think you're looking for a reason, but you don't really want to find one. You want to just credit this to insanity. Well, insanity could work for a bit, I'll accept it as an excuse for now. But sooner or later you're going to have to open your eyes and accept that you're human and these things happen to humans. That's your reason. But accepting it will not make it any easier to live with. You'll be wishing for that blissful state of insanity once again.
Come, play with me. I'll take you to worlds you've never dreamed of.
Me? I'm not used to love like this. If love isn't bought and bargained for, it is infused with suffering and sacrifice, the long drawn out sigh that says ‘I still love you, even though you've ripped my heart out and stomped it into the ground'. That's what I've learned. I've also learned the conditions of unconditional love are rarely met so love is usually lost. But now here you come, saying your love is pure bliss, absolutely guilt-free… waiting for me to respond… waiting for me to love you back… but me, I'm not used to love like this…
He believed his intentions were true, what he meant to do was right. He couldn't see the harm his actions would cause because he was so wrapped up in his self-righteousness. At first, I tried dropping little hints, whispers in his ear pointing out flaws. When that didn't work I tried waving a red flag in front of him, got into his face and screamed as loud as I could, but he only shrugged and looked over my shoulder.
There's a saying about hell and good intentions… and now I can only wave as he walks down that well-worn road.
She leans her head against the cool glass of the sliding door. She can barely see the trees through the darkness, but it isn't the trees she is looking for anyhow. Where are you? She traces his name in the mist her warm breath leaves behind. When did this happen? She closes her eyes and tries to remember when he came to mean so much to her, so much that it left her wondering what he was doing at any given moment. What are you? But inside she can feel him smile and she knows that answer, oh she knows.
"Even if he had a clue, he wouldn't know what to do with it." I blew softly on my Chai tea before taking a tentative sip.
"I don't know. I think you're being naïve in assuming that." She broke her biscotti in half and used part to stir her peppermint cappuccino. The coffee house wasn't busy today, so we spoke in hushed voices.
"Maybe so, but he still can't prove anything. Not with just one clue." I looked past her shoulder, out the window at the falling snow and was startled to see him looking back at me. Smiling intently.
She's like a dust storm. She'll blow into your life and obscure your vision, leaving you reeling and fumbling. Your mouth will become dry and you will beg for water, for anything wet to take away that horrible parched feeling. She'll hold out her hands, offering you herself, telling you to take what you need… and you want to do it, you know she's not anything but worry and trouble, but her outstretched hands will be so inviting...
But like a squall, she leaves as suddenly as she arrived and you're left standing there, all alone, rubbing your gritty eyes.
He doesn't say anything to me about it, but I bet he's not aware of what his body is saying. Oh, he's subtle, no one else would probably notice, but I've always been good at reading body language. It's the way his eyes linger when he looks at me, and the way he shifts when I catch that lingering glance. And when he's next to me, I can feel his body tense… the closer he leans, the tenser he gets… with that funny half-smile on his face…
But the body is a foreign language, and maybe I'm translating it wrong.
Switching it from hand to hand didn't help much. His fingers still got scorched. For a little while, he put it down so he could tend to his blistering palms. But there it waited; tempting… tempting… and soon he picked it up again. His friends gathered and winced at the wreckage of his hands. All their pleadings, all their warnings about playing with fire ignored with a single-minded intensity and a crooked grin.
"Doesn't it hurt?" His friends asked while he did his juggling routine.
"Indeed it does." He answered. He closed his eyes and thought of her. "Exquisitely so."
How in the world did it all become so frangible? You think you've built something strong, something to weather the coming storms, but as the first drop of rain falls, you notice a crack in the barriers you've built. You know one little crack isn't going to destroy you, but still you're shaken. You were so sure this one was it, safe and secure… invulnerable and impervious to all. Your mind races as you try to figure out how to fix that fracture, never realizing that which lets in the rain is the only thing that lets in the sun.
This is where our affair played out, here, between the lines… within the words and all the spaces in between… Here all our longings and desires came to life, textual satisfaction with the climax of each line. Phrases came undone and statements unraveled with hidden meanings and double entendres…
In person, we were stoic, blank faced and mute and no one ever guessed at the passion burning at our fingertips. Our tongues couldn't bring to life what our hands put to paper. But maybe some things are better in black and white, like you and me and everything in between.
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