Saturday, January 05, 2013


For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Tara Roberts gave me this prompt: "Like it never even happened." I gave Melissa this prompt: "So much of how we live consists of making meaning out of a bewildering jumble of images, of attempting to move as seamlessly as we can from one stage of life to the next." -Nick Hornby

"Do you want to stay in the car?," my mother said. Ever since I had told her, her features had been covered with this mask. No matter what she said or did, I could see the disappointment etched there, as clear as the nose she had passed on to me alongside my pasty features and large thighs. She denied it, tried to pass it off as no big deal, but the more I looked at her, the more I saw it. Something had happened, I had incurred a debt I could never pay back.

"Sure," I said. She turned the key long enough to roll down the passenger side window and then got out. The air was warm, slightly humid but with a gentle breeze. It felt pleasant, the reality of the outside air flooding in to replace the artificial cool of the air conditioning. I was actually chilly as we drove, but I didn't feel entitled to complain.

She disappeared from beside the window without another word. I could hear her shoes tap as she walked, echoing weirdly as she got farther from me. It was nice to finally be alone. Mom had picked me up in school, and since then she had been disturbingly close, hovering like I was a toddler again.

I understood why- she had always given me my space, understanding that I need privacy at times, which I appreciated. Since I had told her, there was none of that. She would open my door when I had closed it, quiz me about every phone call, and insist I account for every moment. I wasn't sure I would trust me, either, but it was stifling. It felt like I couldn't breathe without her there, silent, judging, watching.

I saw a girl and a guy walking by in front of the car. She was long and shapely, tossing long black hair away from her face as she laughed. He had tattoos on his shoulder and looked rough and a little mean. I could catch fragments of what they were saying, but I couldn't pick up the words. They seemed happy with each other, walking close enough that they seemed to be a couple. Or they wanted to be.

I watched her listen as he mumbled something only she could hear, and then she laughed again, too loud this time. I knew that laugh. It was a love me laugh, a pay attention to me laugh, a don't you think I'm so charming laugh. It was a laugh of want, a flirtatious laugh. "No," I wanted to yell to her. "Don't listen to him! It's all lies!"

I didn't know that. i didn't know him, and I didn't know her. He could be a sweet, gentle guy despite the scowl. He could be her cousin from out of town, or her brother's best friend. As many books as I read, as many things as I tried to understand, I had to remind myself that I didn't know everything. My experience wasn't universal, even though it felt that way to me.

My phone buzzed, and I took it out of my purse and looked at it. It was him. I stared at his name, the four simple letters. I didn't put a picture there, even though my phone lets you do that. The more I looked at him, the less I wanted to say no. And right now, although it's far too late to do any good, I'm going to learn to start saying no. His face was kind, thin and soft with a tiny cleft in his chin, and his eyes entranced me. I was pleased that he wanted to call, to check on me, but the thought of actually talking to him revolted me slightly.

He was sweet, but when I told him, it was like he was paralyzed. He seemed to have no feelings at all, just saying "OK," and "I agree", and "whatever you want". Which you would think would be fine, except you wanted some feeling. Some emotion, some fire, some energy of some sort that seemed appropriate for the event. Something had happened, and now it was over, and I felt strongly that it should be commemorated with something important. But nobody talked about it. But he, even he, the only other person who could possibly understand, he didn't give me that. He just kept saying, "OK."

It wasn't OK. I was glad he wasn't opposing me on this. But it wasn't OK.

My mother got back into the car, handing me a paper bag, stapled at the top.

"All the instructions are inside. Do you remember what the doctor said?"

"Yes," I said softly.

"Good," my mother said, sliding her bare foot out of her shoe and onto the brake pedal as she started the engine. "Are you in any pain?"

"Some," I said. It wasn't that bad, just sort of a gnawing discomfort. I knew to expect it, and it certainly wasn't pleasant, but it wasn't anything I had never experienced before. "Not that bad."

"OK," she said. "Pretty soon this will all be over, honey, and it will be like it never happened."

No, I thought. No it won't.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

SPE: "Tumbling Dice"

(For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Eric Storch gave me this prompt: "Cindy said that Mike was really a vampire, but I didn't believe her. Mike didn't sparkle.." I gave Julia Mae this prompt: "I'm on the edge".)

[Author's Note: I appear to be writing again. I guess art is the only defense against madness. Or maybe I'm just too dumb to know better.]

"I'm serious." Cindy said that a lot. It was dulled by her repeated usage, to the point where I nearly forgot what the words meant. She was looking at me now, her dark brown eyes wide and lined with glittering eyeshadow. I wasn't following her. It was a bad habit, not listening, but I couldn't help myself. She would repeat herself, she always did.

Cindy answered our phones, and she didn't even do that very well. Her main qualification seemed to be wearing tight clothes. Her blouse glowed faintly purple in the half light of the bar. Nick's was the closest place to work to get a drink or something that approximated food. It was a hole, but it felt like home. She talks, and I half listen, until she finds the part of the conversation I really need to hear, and she doubles back to it. I had known her for years, and it was always the same routine.

"He's a vampire," she said. That's what I thought she had said, but I assumed I hadn't heard her correctly. That was a strange sentence, even by her relaxed standards. Cindy was always certain, but rarely correct. Somewhere in the background, I could hear a Rolling Stones song.

"You're not serious," I said. "Vampires aren't real, Cin."

"I am serious," she insisted. "He's a vampire. My boyfriend Jake said he is."

I sighed, watching her earnest face. She was sweet, always meant well, but she wasn't the brightest person. She swore, as I prepared to leave for the day, standing by her desk, trying to sneak a peek at her cleavage, that she had something very important to tell me, something she couldn't say in the office, so we adjourned to Nick's to discuss it. I needed a drink anyway, and she had the sort of body you didn't mind spending extra time in the vicinity of.

The bartender slid a pair of beer bottles in front of us. The barkeep was a redhead, tiny and mean in tight pants and a half unbuttoned blouse.  I watched her walk away, somehow displaying disdain in her stride.

"What makes you...what makes Jake think so?" I could hear Charlie Watts, holding down the center of the song. Quiet, unassuming, absolutely essential. Subtle. It floated at the edge of my awareness, barely audible. "Tumbling Dice," I thought.

"He always comes in late and leaves early."

"That's when he is scheduled," I said. I was fighting a chuckle.

"He's always pale," she added. She looked at me, her eyes full of life.

"He doesn't get sun, working at night." Something caught her eye, and she half turned, like she expected him to jump her from behind.

"He never eats."

"He's a private person. Some people don't like eating in front of other people," I said.

"He talks with that accent." I nearly choked on my beer.

"He's Rumanian. You'd talk with an accent too if you learned English as an adult."

"He sparkles." She took a long, lingering drink.

"He what?," I asked. She had said a lot of things, and that was pretty close to the top.

"He sparkles," she insisted. "Yesterday, he walked by my desk and he sparkled."

"He sparkled."

"Yeah," she said. "On his arm."

"On his arm," I said flatly. "The arm that was resting on your desk? Next to the birthday card with the glitter on it? Is it impossible that had something to do with it?"

I knew as soon as I said it she wouldn't follow that sentence.
"Yes!," she said, exasperated. "Why won't anyone believe me?"

"Well," I said, "because it's nonsense, that's why. Vampires aren't real." I couldn't believe I was having this conversation with an adult human.

"Why would Jake say that, then?," she asked.

"I think Jake was having a little fun at your expense, Cindy." I couldn't say that I blamed him.

"I hate that," she said, her face hardening into a frown. "I hate it when people think I'm dumb."

"I don't think you're dumb," I said. That turned her head. It was a lie, but I let it sit, like the piece of bread nobody wants.

"You do," she said, but there was a hint of a smile at the edge of her mouth.

"I don't. Just because you know about different things, that doesn't make you smarter or dumber. Just different." I felt the click of something in her eyes. I had to watch carefully, but the odds were in my favor.

"Thanks," she said. Her eyes shone at me a little. Our beers were empty.

"Do you want another?," I asked.

"No, I better not," she said. I paid for the drinks, and we walked through the maze of tables to Nick's front door. She still had her work clothes on, a trim, clingy knee length skirt and black tights with knee length leather boots. It was cold outside as we walked to our cars. I watched her walk carefully.

We were parked two cars apart. I wondered what was going to happen. She was as dumb as a box of hair, but I didn't plan on asking her about Proust. There was hesitation in her walk, like she was waiting for me to ask.

"Where are you going?," she asked.

"Home," I said.

"Me too," she said. "Jake has to stay late tonight."

She stared at me for a long moment. I held her gaze. I had rules about pens and company ink, and rules about women who can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality. I had rules, and the wind blew. Her skirt flapped once when a breeze hit it. I looked at her face, open and honest, with her lips the color of ripe plums. I couldn't, and I shouldn't, but it had been a long time since any voice but my own was heard in my apartment.

"See you tomorrow?," she said, half a statement and half a question.

"Sure," I agreed, and she got into her car.

"Damn rules," I said to myself, my breath fogging in front of my face.