Her pillow had soaked up all of the water from her wet hair. The damp was cold and uncomfortable. The room was pitch black when she opened her eyes. She reached for her phone, and knocked it on the floor. She hung over the side of the bed, feeling around on the wooden planks, leaned too far over to check under the bed and fell onto the floor. Her naked breasts, belly and thighs were plastered to the floor. She rolled over and stared at the ceiling.
She smiled at the ridiculousness of her position. She swept her arm and hand under the bed, shaking off dust bunnies. Her fingers touched the glass case of her phone. She pulled it towards her, pressed her thumb to identify herself. It recognized her and flashed the time at her in bright blinding light.
Fifteen hours since she had collapsed into bed.
Banging on her front door startled her. She lay still, barely breathing. They’d go away whoever they were. They did. After two brief poundings. She was happy and sad at the speed with which they gave up. She really didn’t want to see or speak to anyone but she kind of wished someone cared enough about her to keep trying.
Her stomach moaned.
Rachel crawled up onto her knees, leveraged her hands on the mattress and struggled to stand. She hadn’t managed to die in her sleep. She was still alive.
Perhaps she should try to act like it.
She turned away from the bed. She desperately wanted to crawl back into it but her body insisted she feed it and she had no food in the house. Ketchup and olives wouldn’t cut it no matter how much she loved both. She threw on some sweats and ran her fingers through her tangled hair. She brushed her teeth without looking at the dirty sink. She might need to speak to the cashier at the grocery store and couldn’t bring herself to expel putrid breath. She didn’t care how she looked. She had no one to impress.
She cried in the bakery section. She didn’t have to buy Danish anymore and it broke her heart. Her tears leaked out from under her black sunglasses. A man looked at her.
He made eye contact. She ran to the bagged salad aisle, concentrated on finding the bag of butter lettuce with the longest sell by date. He was there beside her. He asked her if she thought one brand was better than another. Ingrained politeness made her answer with her favorite one. Then, she spun her cart and escaped to the cereal aisle, grabbed a box and snuck over to the checkout lines, hiding behind displays like some spy master evading the enemy.
As she loaded her cloth bags of supplies into the back of her van, she glanced up. He stood in the next lane over, near his car, his back to her. She watched him move. He had a nice ass.
Where the fuck did that come from?
He turned to put his empty cart in the kiosk. He saw her looking at him. He smiled, gave a little wave, got in his black SUV and drove off.
She changed the day and time she went to the grocery store the next time she went. She didn’t want to take any chances. But she did start wearing clothes. Just in case the universe had other plans.
It didn’t, of course.
Oh, well. She knew better.
She got a part-time job working a couple of hours each morning at the local convenience store so she had a reason to get out of bed and get out of the house. No pressures. No responsibilities, although she did have a hard time not organizing things. She had to remind herself that she had no business being in charge of anything since she couldn’t even manage to manage herself.
In the afternoons, she explored the town with her camera. She haunted the graveyards, examined the architecture and strolled the banks of the river. After a few hours of discovering the place she had lived in for more than twenty years, she’d treat herself to dinner at a local pub. She arrived at the odd hour of four. She managed to get the same table in a back corner because it wasn’t quite happy hour.
She’d spread out her notebook and her tablet, eat, write and watch the business people slowly arrive. She was old and quiet, so no one bothered her. She tipped well, so the waitress learned quickly to be efficient without disturbing her. Rachel never stayed past six.
Friday night and her dinner place was invaded by a hoard. They were numerous, loud and such a mix of unmatched people that she stared.
Must be work colleagues.
She watched the dynamics with fascination, guessing who the bosses were and who the worker bees were. She glanced towards the door when it opened because everyone seemed to move and make room for the newest occupant. They hadn’t bothered to move before.
Oh, God. It’s him.
She looked away quickly. She hunched down in her seat, turned the angle of her body away from the door. She opened the book she had with her and covered her face with it. She used it as a shield, peeking around its corners, trying to find a good time to escape.
He sat at the bar, facing her and right next to the door. He seemed to know the people in the large group. He spoke to people as they came up to him but the conversations were brief. He looked sad. Not frowning, or weepy, but not open, the way he had appeared in the grocery store. The corners of his lips rose occasionally but never wrinkled his eyes.
He motioned for the bartender, leaned into him to speak over the TV and music. His eyes caught hers. He narrowed them. Frowned. He seemed quite upset at seeing her. He stood, handed the bartender his card. He turned his back, leaning his elbow on the brass rail. He leaned into the bartender again when he brought the sales receipt for him to sign. The bartender glanced at her, nodded. Said, yes.
He said something to the man in the suit next to him, handed him his credit card. The suit held onto his denim shirt sleeve. He firmly dislocated the man’s grasp. By some invisible signal, the crowd yelled, “Thanks, Sean.”
He waved and darted out the door.
Rachel waited five minutes. She called over the waitress, asked for her check. She gathered her things together and piled them into her multi-colored peace sign bag. She was standing by the time the waitress came back. She needed to get home before she bawled like a baby. This really was too much.
Weepy old bitch.
She got through the crowd and out into the parking lot.
He had that nice ass of his propped against her silver van. He pushed off of the vehicle when she jerked to a stop in front of him.
“I just wanted you to know that I won’t ever come here again, so you don’t have to stop coming here to avoid me.”
“Don’t even,” he said. “I was just trying to be nice. You looked so sad. And you treat me like some sort of perverted, stalker, crazy person.” He wasn’t yelling but he was intense. Full of emotion. He was insulted.
She stood there, mouth hanging open, unable to say anything. Her brain had ground to a halt. She shook her head.
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t understand,” she said and she didn’t. No one had shown her this much emotion in years. It scared her to death.
They stood less than three feet away from each other. He was looking at her. No, he was staring at her with such hunger, she envisioned a wolf stalking her. She shivered.
The door opened next to them and bar noise broke whatever spell they had been under.
He took a deep breath, visibly calming down. The door closed. The exiting patrons got in their car, slamming the doors. They drove off. Rachel and Sean watched them until they were out of the parking lot.
They turned back to one another.
“If I asked you to join me for coffee, in broad daylight, in a very busy diner, would you show up?”
“I don’t know.”
“Please join me at the diner at eleven tomorrow for coffee,” he said.
“Because you have to make up for making me feel like a criminal.” He smiled. “Yes, I’m manipulating you with guilt. I saw you thinking it.”
She had been thinking that. She looked away so he wouldn’t see that she found him amusing. She didn’t want to be amused by him.
“Don’t be a chicken,” he said. He squawked.
She guffawed. A dare.
“What are you, like two years old?”
“There’s something wrong with you,” she said.
“There are many things wrong with me, but have coffee with me anyway.”
“Fine,” she said.
“OK,” she said.
“Promise,” he said.
“I promise,” she said.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Friday, February 17, 2017
Rachel brushed her teeth. She spit. White foam tinged with pink swirled down the drain. The sink needed cleaning. A glob of neon green toothpaste clung to the rim. Congealed liquid soap pooled around the facet. She moved her eyes away from the mess and captured her own gaze in the medicine cabinet mirror. The shock of seeing herself brought tears to her eyes.
She couldn’t even remember the last time she had looked at herself. This wasn’t her. The image in the silvered glass did not match the picture of herself she had in her head. She tried to look away, but stared at the person in the mirror the way you stared at an auto accident.
Her eyes were puffy, with deep dark slashes under the pocket as of fluid. There weren’t many wrinkles, but gullies went from the corners of her nostrils and down beside her mouth. Her eyes, nose and lips were swallowed by corpulent flesh with the notorious wobbly turkey neck hanging below her chins.
If she had looked at herself more often would she have been so shocked? Would she have been able to prevent the horror that stared back at her? How was it possible that anyone else could stand to look at her?
She cried great gulping sobs. Sounds escaped her mouth, louder than the water running from the faucet. She had forgotten to turn off the water. She cried harder thinking of the water she wasted, lost down the drain, never to be recovered. She sucked in her breath, held it, smashed her lips together and covered her mouth with both hands. When stars flitted in her vision, she allowed herself to breathe once more.
The empty house didn’t care how much noise she made or how loud she was. It wouldn’t even echo back at her despite its size. She was alone after decades of caring for others and the house was not a solace. The house now belonged to her alone but it had never been her home and was not her home now. She did not belong here. She never did. She did not belong to anyone, anymore. It wasn’t likely that she ever would again.
She slammed the lid of the toilet down. The cold plastic shocked her naked ass. She leaned her elbows on her knees, placed her chin on her fists and closed her eyes. The tingling of cut off nerves in her thighs woke her up. She stood, steadied herself with the sink and forced herself to look at herself again. She stuck out her tongue.
God, she hated being pathetic.
She was free to do whatever she wanted. She walked around the house naked: through the kitchen and into the basement. She laid on the beds in all four bedrooms. She went into the backyard daring the neighbors to peak over the fences. The Spring breeze raised bumps on her skin. She went back into the house, crawled into her unmade bed and slept for the next three days.
Her cell phone rang several times. She texted brief responses back to her daughter and her sister to let them know she was still alive but unwilling to chat. She had to maintain some contact or they’d be on her doorstep. Seeing her relatives at the funeral had exhausted her.
The next time she looked at herself her hair was greasy and stuck out at odd angles. She stank. Her cheeks smelled from where she drooled and hadn’t brushed her teeth. Now, she really looked hideous, as bad as she felt. Her stomach grumbled. There was no food in the house and she was hungry. She looked and smelled so bad that she couldn’t even considered going to a fast food drive-through.
She forced herself into the shower. As soon as the water hit her face, she cried, nearly drowning in the hot spray. She sat down, her legs unable to hold her up in her hysteria. The sadness was so profound. Her heart was breaking. She pressed on her chest trying to stop the pain she felt there. She wrapped her arms around her knees and rested her cheek there. The water ran cold.
She rose, shaking. Turned the faucets off. Walked wet into her bedroom, grabbed her big, white terry robe, wrapped in it and crawled under the blankets. She’d eat later.
Friday, February 10, 2017
I walked into the dark bedroom, closed the door. I flicked the light switch.
“Turn off the light.”
I paused, my back to the room. My pulse rate increased.
“You know how this works.”
I obeyed. A soft grayness tinted my vision. I breathed deep, air caught in my constricting chest. I waited.
Time stood still, its weight pressed in on me. I imagined that I heard his breathing, but it was just my mind yearning for contact. My ears ached. My cheeks burned as my need grew. I wanted. My skin tingled. My breasts tightened. My nipples throbbed. My legs weakened and trembled.
“Unbutton your blouse.”
I looked down at my shaking fingers as I slipped the top button from its hole.
“Keep your eyes on me.”
“I can’t undo my shirt without watching what I’m doing,” I said.
“I didn’t give you permission to speak.” His voice was calm and quiet.
Adrenaline surged through me.
“Take your time and do the best you can. Just keep your eyes up. You may respond.”
“Yes, Sir,” I said.
I pushed the second button loose. I watched the dark corner from where his voice emanated. I glimpsed a large chair, a body positioned as if on a throne, elbows and hands resting on the arms, feet planted on the floor. The only light in the room came from behind the chair, soft, velvety and aimed at me over his head.
My fingers slid over my shirt, searching for the next button. Not looking down was a real challenge, but I knew, from before, that not following directions would lead to punishments. Since he was very creative and thus, unpredictable, no two chastisements were the same. Each pushed me to a new place, unchartered territory. I wanted to step into the unknown. I craved new experiences. I yearned to be free of responsibilities. I dreaded what I had not yet done. I warred within myself over the fear of what he might tell me to do and the desire to release all of myself to what he would require of me.
But it was too soon to give in to my itch to disobey.
I kept my head up, my eyes focused on his invisible eyes, my mouth slightly open, panting.
“Very good,” he said. I thought I could hear a smile in his voice. I revelled in his approval.
The fourth button popped out of its tight prison. I slipped my fingers along my exposed skin, parting my blouse until my hands reached the junction of the fifth and final button. I grasped the material on either side and pulled the two halves of my shirt apart, a small violence in the motion. The button caught, held and I pulled harder. The fabric ripped. The button popped off and pinged on the floor.
I looked down, watching it roll across the hardwood. It came to rest on the edge of the plush area rug.
“I told you not to look away,” he said.
Saturday, February 04, 2017
When you lay face down in the bathroom sink and your tears and drool are circle down the drain with the escaping water, your eyes see a semi-colon. Your arms tremble and go numb with the strain of holding yourself upright. The tooth brush drops from your tingling fingers and you think, “All you have to do is rinse out your mouth and you can go on.” Eons pass as you try to convince yourself you have a reason to go on, yet no good excuse seems to come to you. The white sink, the clear water, the lit room all seem thick and black. Reality has no bearing on what your brain sees. Whining, like the bird call of a wild fox echoes and drones on in painful stabs inside your ears. You feel phantom blood worm its way over cartilage, down the column of your neck and over your collar bones, drip and stain the porcelain bowl.
Once the guilt of twenty-eight minutes of wasted water seeps into your brain, you stand, look at your puffy eyes in the mirror. The red mark on your forehead and your red nose also make a semi-colon.
This might not be you, but it is me.
It’s funny the things that keep me going.
I need to shut off the water running into the drain.
I can’t leave the car with an empty tank of gas when the temperature drops below 20 degrees.
No dying in old underwear.
My password list isn’t up-to-date.
The upstairs closet is full of twenty year old papers.
There’s one vanilla cupcake left.
The darkness recedes.
I rub my forehead, look into my eyes. I never seem to remember that they are green.
I pull worn black jeans over my worn, cotton panties. A soft, gray t-shirt goes over my two year-old bra, the long sleeves cover my scarred wrists down to the knuckles of my fingers. Black socks and black storm trooper boots go on my feet. A deadly-sharp switch blade and my wand go in the left back pocket of my pants, in easy reach of my dominate hand.
I check on my stash of heroine in the medicine cabinet. Still there, just in cases.
I brush my blonde hair and gather it into a black scrunchy. I won’t pay it any attention again until tomorrow morning. One green and two clear crystal studs go in my ear lobes. Four stack rings go on the ring finger of my right hand. I read the words on each as a morning mantra as I slip them on my finger: live – one – more – day. I slather balm on my chapped lips. I take a deep breath, watch the silver pendant stamped with a semi-colon rise on my chest. I hold the air in my lungs for the count of seven and let it out to the count of nine. Rites, routine and ritual and I’m ready for my day.
It’s time to go out and kill something.
Friday, January 27, 2017
Storm clouds hung in the sky, dark, thick and heavy. The trees held them back, branches out like arms extended in supplication, leaves palm-up, their lighter undersides shaded by the angry black of swollen cumulous. They leaned into the wind, straining against the buffeting air, gaining strength in resistance. They dug their roots into the ground like toes curled into the dirt. They communicated with one another in a language secret to themselves, born of shared water and oxygen and earth.
Just hold on. Stand tall. Stand strong. Bend. Don’t resist. Move with the onslaught.
Sharp, frozen water, condensed and solidified into knives of moisture shooting down, cutting bark, causing sap to flow like amber blood. Timber groaned and cried out in pain, creaking and cracking along the grains within old and new wood. Limbs broke off and fell on ancient turf. Thunder growled, vibrating the air. Lighting struck out, attacking with electrical precision. Fire engulfed the defenders, their silent screams swallowed by crackling heat.
A mere hour later, the battle field smoldered under a clear, blue sky. Ashes and soot floated where a once majestic forest stood, devastated now by magic driven weather. Death lay upon the world.
Theobald walked among the dead trees, a small smile raising one corner of his lips. This destruction required so little of his power to accomplish. These remains would fertilize a new generation of plants that would know only his domination and influence, producing poisons he would use to take over other beings or used to kill them, if they, too, tried to resist him. He stretched into his satisfied feelings, the joy of his exertions humming along the hairs of his body. He strolled through the wasteland as if he were on a leisurely morning constitutional.
The cuffs of his white wool slacks turned gray. The burnt cells of the trees crawled under the cloth and clung to the skin of his shins. Angry chemicals burrowed their way into the wizard’s DNA, making changes to his most basic being as they went.
Theobald’s skin tingled with tiny needle-like pin pricks, that feeling one got when blood rushed back into a sleeping limb. He stomped his feet, willing the sensation to go away. And it did. His feet grew warm and went numb. His knees trembled and vanished. He looked down to see if they had, in fact, disappeared. Pain stabbed his belly which had blown up like a bloated corpse. He doubled over, retching vile acid, the spittle stretching from his overly moist mouth to the blackened ground. A high-pitched squeal pieced his eardrums, coming from inside his head, causing him to lose his balance. He fell face first into the cinders..
The trees, not extinct in essence, but merely changed in form, rolled Theobald over on his back, crawled along the edges of his body that had contact with the land, engulfed him, covered him like a sarcophagus sealing a mummy for burial in a tomb. He wailed but the sound got lost in the newly sprouting trees from his eyes, throat, lungs, stomach, groin and calves.