That Something

He started to breathe normally, hanging on to the light post, his nose red and his hair sort of flying about his head in a weird halo. 

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It was his birthday.  Of all days, right?  When I see people out and about now after I met him, I want to tell them don’t be so happy, don’t have so much fun on your birthday.

Minutes before his birthday is when I met him.  He seemed sad, and his body jerked about in an unhinged manner; his walk seemed in control as he hitched along and into the coffee shop.

Though I’m alone in this world I’m careful.  I’m not one of those nut jobs who despair and do crazy things to herself.  My little job and a little apartment in a dingy part of Indianapolis keep me busy and for the most part content. Indianapolis better than Chicago where I grew up.  Though I live in a dingy, cheap, part of Indy, the city is a bright place where people live, rather than parade around.

The birthday man, he staggered into the little coffee shop I was working at and he said he spilled bourbon on his trousers.  He used the word trousers, and I tried not to laugh.  His eyes were big and blue and his fading red hair looked blond.  I was certain that all the bourbon he had that night had gone into him and not on his “trousers.”

It was 30 minutes until closing and I glanced over at Joe.  Correct, at the coffee shop, my boss’ name is Joe.  His actual name is Herbert Lloyd, but he likes Joe.  Joe shrugged at me and that was my signal to turn the “open,” sign off and pour this guy a deep, dark, cup of black coffee.  Joe swept the floor and clattered the dishes in the steel sink in the back.

“Listen,” I said to the guy who used the word trousers for the word pants, “listen, you are drunk and this is downtown Indianapolis.  You will get put away for public intoxication if you go out there again.”

“I realize that,” his voice sounded sort of choppy.  He was broad-shouldered, and he spread his arms across the black round table, lowering his chin almost to the table top.  “I came in here because I was afraid of just that.  I’m not from around here and I’ve heard of American jails.”

“Finish your coffee,” I said.

Joe rolled his eyes at me when I stepped behind the counter and washed the dishes.  “What are you going to do with the guy?  You gonna take him home?  He’ll puke all over the bus, you know he will.  The guy smells like a Kentucky brewery.”

“Do you think he’s from Kentucky?  He sounds funny.”

“You’re hopeless.  He’s not from the US, okay.”

That fascinated me more.  An actual foreigner.  I finished cleaning the kitchen, and I swept the floor again because Joe doesn’t always do a good job.  Joe and I placed the chairs on the tables all around the man who smelled like bourbon.  I thought when I was getting my purse from under the counter that the man in trousers looked as if he was in jail; all the chair legs serving as bars.

“Come on.  I’ll get you to where you need to be.”

“My hotel is somewhere around here, I’m sure.  I’m feeling better. “He stood and his reddish, thin, eyebrows wrinkled into a worried look.

We walked toward the center of town and he faltered just beyond a well-lit parking lot, coughed and then heaved coffee and bourbon all over a good portion of Indianapolis.  He hung on to a lamp post and it seemed he tried to stretch his neck out to avoid splattering his suit.  I didn’t blame him.  That suit looked expensive.

After launching out what bothered him he breathed in a steady manner but still clung to the light post, his nose red and his hair sort of flying about his head in a weird halo.

“What time is it?

“12:30 AM,”

“Today is my birthday.”

“Happy Birthday.”

“I’m 60 today.”

I didn’t know what to say.  He seemed way too old to be vomiting bourbon and coffee in a foreign city but I didn’t want to seem rude.

“I wanted to come to an out of the way city, buy a prostitute, have incredible sex and get drunk.”

“Well, you seem to have done well.”

“No, I’ve only got sick drunk.”

“I’m not a prostitute.”

He looked at me with steady bright blue eyes.  “I am aware of that.  I would not take you for a prostitute.”  I felt better about him.  He took a deep breath “I guess I’m not one either.” He frowned, leaned over, gripping the street light pole and puked again.

“Listen, it’s late but people are still around.  This is Indianapolis and they will call the police.”

“People in Indianapolis don’t like drunks?”

“No.”

“Good.” He pushed himself off the lamp post and staggered backward.  I grabbed his arm and kept him steady.

“Is that your hotel?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“It’s the best one down here.”

“Oh, I see. That obvious am I?”

I wasn’t sure what obvious meant, but I pulled him forward and we walked into the side of the hotel where I knew someone would help us.

“There you are, you bastard.”

She was beautiful.  She wore black and high heels and her hair was long and shiny.  “And with a prostitute too.  You pathetic bastard.”

Hotel management gathered around us and asked the lady with the same choppy voice as the man who said “trousers,” to be quiet.

“Ha, I’ll be quiet.  After I take him for all he’s worth.”

“You can’t Mabel (Mable? I’m still shocked at such a name) you signed a prenuptial.”  He laughed into Mabel’s face.  She turned a little green.

“You pig, you smell awful.”

I backed away, but he grabbed my arm.  “Call this young girl a cab, she saved me from jail tonight.”

A small crowd of onlookers pooled in the far corner of the marble lobby gazing at us.

I looked at Mabel, frightened, I wanted no one to think I was a prostitute.

“This young lady works at the coffee shop down the road and she saved me from the prying eyes of Indianapolis,” said the birthday man in a loud strident voice.

I felt my heart drop, no one would believe I wasn’t a prostitute now. “Please fetch her a cab.”

I pulled my arm free from his grasp and he staggered and fell.  I reached out for him as did the night porter.  In helping him up, he looked at me, his eyes bleary and bloodshot.  “I’m so sorry, please forgive me, Mabel, but it’s my birthday, and I wanted, I wanted something.  I don’t know.”

Pulling myself away I left him to the porter and hotel management and Mabel.  He’d never find it, that “something,” I was certain of that.

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash</p>

 

She Still Loves You, Sir Walter Scott

“The only thing I’m saying is that if you want a good example, for your class, of what an oxymoron is, use ‘nice guy.’” She felt that sinking, suffocating sensation that she always felt when around him and wondered why she wasn’t home reading.

He was seven years younger than her; tall, slender, with large amber brown eyes, and a wooly but trimmed beard. They were employed together by the Jefferson County School System. She taught freshman English as a way and means to write literary prose on her fall, winter, and summer breaks (when she was in elementary school those breaks had titles such as Halloween, Christmas and thanked God, it’s summer vacation). He taught fourth-grade with a concentration in Mathematics. They were aware of each other or rather she was aware of him because he always sat in the front row of the Teacher’s Union meetings. She sat in the back and graded papers that lead her to seek professional help.

That’s where they met. He was walking out of his therapy session with Dr. Monroe while she was walking in, deep in thought and wanting to purge the sick feeling of guilt she felt for reading Ivanhoe for the fourth time in three years. She was startled by the fourth-grade teacher’s appearance, and he smiled at her.

“Do I know you?”

She blinked and felt her nose begin to itch and the inevitable wetness that sidetracks all social discourse. Frantically she looked in her purse for a tissue, “Um no, sorry,” she sniffed. He took a tissue from the box on the receptionist desk and handed it to her. She took it gratefully and spoke over the fourth-grade teacher’s shoulder, to the receptionist. “Sorry I’m late, will she still see me?”

“Yes, Ms. Miller.”

She turned back to him who had stayed and was apparently looking her up and down. “You know,” he said, “I think you look familiar.”

“I teach at Jefferson High. Freshman English. I’ve noticed you at the Teacher’s Union Meetings.”

“Ahh, because I sit up front.” He smiled and adjusted his backpack across his shoulders. “Will you be at the freshman basketball game tonight?” She looked at him as if he had grown three heads, “No. I don’t care for basketball.” She turned around and walked toward the Doctor’s office door.

“Wait one minute Ms. Miller; Doctor is not quite ready.” She huffed at the strident demand of the receptionist. She turned, the fourth-grade teacher was still standing there. She wondered if the ‘Doctor,’ wasn’t recouping from some wild tryst with the young man in front of her.

“I teach fourth grade, with a concentration in mathematics.”

“Yes, you’ve mentioned that in the meetings.”

“And you’ve remembered.”

She felt herself reddening slightly. She wasn’t sure if he was referring to her age and therefore her weakening faculty of mind or if he thought that he had made an impression on her. So, she only smiled without meaning it and said, ‘yes,’ in a long drawn out breath.

Her rudeness didn’t seem to cause any self-examination regarding his manners. “Well, we should have coffee together sometime and compare notes.”

“Ms. Miller, the Doctor is ready for you.”

“Sure, we should do that.”

She didn’t realize that she had committed herself. On the afternoon, just before the long winter break (that would be spent preparing, for the principal and three vice principals another plan for teaching freshman English and a dissertation on why grades were so low), she looked up to see him standing at her classroom door.

“Hi!”

“Hello.”

Did you receive my emails?”

She thought for a moment that she would feign complete ignorance and check her spam, but she was too tired and only said: “Yes, I did.” Annoyed at having to confess her remissness she thought wildly of asking him why he didn’t ask for her kerchief or go gallantly out in her name to right wrongs.

“Didn’t want to answer me huh?” He looked a bit crestfallen, and guilt crept along her neck and wisped about her ankles in a cold little chill.

“No, I didn’t. I’ve been kind of busy.”

“Yeah, the rumor is that you really do try and teach Freshman English. That must be burdensome. Why don’t you let me buy you a cup of coffee? We can go to the teacher’s lounge…”

“No.” her disdain was evident in one word, and she rose from her desk as if she was rising to command Nelson’s ship Victory.

“Excellent then let’s go over to a nice little coffee shop I know.”

She looked outside, the clouds were low, and it had begun to snow in earnest. She felt tired and longed for her little apartment uptown above the yoga center. The landlord had made a deal with her on the rent three years ago, because of the late hours and the weird music that came up from the old furnace vents. She didn’t mind because she kept her classical music plugged in and the heat low – it helped her write.

“Why don’t you come to my apartment and I’ll make us coffee.” She was hoping he would refuse, but he readily agreed.

They had coffee. He left in time for her to order a medium plain pizza with cheese in which she ate three-quarters and then made herself sick. Something she hadn’t done since she was a teenager and had fallen in love with Sir Walter Scott of Waverly fame. She tested transcendentalism in hopes of eventually uniting with her writing icon which sent her parents running back to their Catholic faith.

She was looking at him now wondering what and who a ‘nice guy,’ really was and if he had married someone else and was tripping over kids and wondering what happened to her.

“Do you think we should start a relationship?” he asked.

“What?” She shook her head; she wondered if she had been falling asleep.

“I spoke to Dr. Monroe about the two of us, and he said an older woman (not too much older, mind you) might be a good experience for me.”

“An experience.” She said, deadpan and weary.

“You never know,” he said shyly and smiled, “it might last.”

She took a deep breath, letting herself for a moment breathe in his perceived freedom and open minded aura and felt within her throat and lungs the sharp pain deception.

“’Nice guy,’ young man, is not an oxymoron. I’m too old to be your girlfriend is not an oxymoron, and I’m not going back to that shrink who agrees with you that everyone on has a commodity status…”

“No, that’s not what I mean. I didn’t…”

“You didn’t ask me out for a cup of coffee so that you could lose your virginity, I know. You are so predictable you know, despite being told all your life that you are unique.

“So is Sir Walter Scott,” he said hotly.

“No, we just haven’t come up with anything original since. We’ve only managed to redefine words, concepts, and morals to appease our insecurities. We’ve done it until we’ve come up with a human like you, who believes there is no such thing as an oxymoron. You don’t, you know, you don’t even know enough to be honestly self-deprecating.”

He sat and stared at her for a moment. She could see he was struggling. He stood, “Well, I’ll just take care of this bill and when you feel like you can speak to me with some respect, let me know.”

She gave him no reply while he hesitated and then left. She ordered another strong coffee and felt cold. Perhaps a priest would understand her love for a dead novelist and poet better than a psychologist. Sipping her coffee and watching the fourth-grade teacher walk away.

 

Dear Tuesday

Dear Tuesday,

You’re awful.

Dear Tuesday,

You’re awful.

I do not hold you responsible for my attitude (I am adult enough to own my attitude) nor do I sling out my sentiment to cause pain, resentment or embarrassment…perhaps.

Aside from that, I feel that you are the way you are (awful) simply because you hide behind Monday.  The accusation of hiding, in some estimations, may prove to be more cause for resentment (on your part) and insult (again on your part) than being just plain awful,(which you are) I understand.  I myself have been accused of hiding and that accusation stings and nettles me – I’m sure it does the same to you.  However, to keep to the truth I am sure, beyond doubt, that the reason for my feeling resentment toward you is that you hide behind Monday.

Tuesday, hiding is a despicable practice and never have you come forward and tried in any way to defend Monday.  Never have you reasoned with us, (slaves to the paycheck), that the reason we hate Monday is that you yourself Tuesday show no mercy in longevity nor do have you open-handedly proffered us hope.  You are a repeat of Monday with the added rancor of making us all feel trapped without a Friday in sight.  Tuesday you even paint poor old Wednesday with a drear and deadly gray that makes sorrow seem interminable and Thursday so very far away.

I do want you to know that I have settled down to write this letter to you on a Wednesday.  While I suffered through your hours yesterday forming my accusations I thought it would only be sporting of me if I gave you the full day – to see if you redeemed yourself at all.

You did not.  My home was quiet, dull and sullen with the Tuesday doldrums when I walked through the door.  All the inhabitants therein, right down to the cat, looked at me with the idea that perhaps I should do something – anything, which would give relief.  I failed and being that it was Tuesday I felt that perhaps my failure was helped along.

Know too, that I pause in my other letter writing (one to U.S. Literary critics that has been confounding me for some time, another to audiobooks in general and another to Corrie – I just found her physical address again and the most adorable owl cards that are just dying to be sent) so that I may further analyze my feelings and express to you my dismay.  I realize too that there is nothing I can do – you are.  Nor do I want to argue the fact that you are third in the week or second in the week according to ISO standards (drop dead).  Nor do I want to want to delve into your ancestry to some Norse god – you are more than that, you are more than a name – you are a 24-hour eternity.  You’re awful.

With Regret,

 

Me

 

Talking Pens, Traitor Pencils

Don’t stop trying

and then the pens all laugh in unison as the papers dishevel themselves.

I know very little discipline and animated, inanimate, man-made animals.

I pray that the pencils will speak to a wily and sneaky snake but I feel they have already fallen from grace since they are man-made.

I lay out my clothes at night and try not to think of wolves at the door and being late.

Always, always I fear the light, the heat,

the roof will disappear as my parents certainly taught me. It will happen if I did not assert myself.

Thinking of writing,
I’ll be honest there are times I think I cannot tap the keyboard and watch the letters bounce into the dullness of gray weather and me wonder where the Countess Olenska has gone.

Where has the Bohemian gone?  The ones who could afford to be poor and fail so admirably?

Oh, the deep cut wit of a slower world and the upper world of who knows what.  Certainly, their fountain pens did not talk, their pencils did not lie.

No, of course not.

 

What Matters?

What matters?

The stone or the throw?

What matters?

The stone or the throw?

No, I’m not being political I’m pondering the idea of literature and what we think that lilting, lovely, lofty, lulling language is – literature.  Nobody likes a conspiracy theorist on the opposite side of a solid answer.

Literature is a story turned into a symbol by those who cannot stand a story.  The stake that pierces the heart turns into a phallic symbol.  That interpretation gives pause; what sort of mind is able to turn violence (for good or evil) into a symbol?

I love particularly the critiques comment that a long-dead author wrote in a surprisingly modern style.  I think of a reader who sits within the comforts of a dusty, winged-back chair and chuckles over such language  — knowing full well that the “modern,” writing means culture has found stagnation.

I wander the streets of Chicago at night because I can.  I am a god (notice the little g please) among the masses that light this city and pave its roads and destroy its beauty into another sort of beauty.  All the while, writers of literature ponder symbols and rhymes that only they and a select few understand.

I don’t try to write, I don’t need to write.  I simply walk and when I’ve had my fill, I sit and read the rags that feel glossy and shine under the electric lights.  I don’t need to read the stories but read the critical reviews and feel fine in the hiding I do in the plain sight of darkness.  I’m allowed to for now.

There is a problem.  The masses are catching on in a fashion.  There was a time I could pull the life out of a person and not no one would turn around to watch the ecstasy of my fatal kiss.  There would be those who would yearn for me but none who would interfere – but a few are starting to raise their crosses again.

You think I mock?  Or do you think I jest?  The ones with the power of the pen often do at the end.  No one realizes that the audience is gone.  Don’t be confused, there is no victory in the pendulum tick and tock of the world.  Go ahead and mock the superstitious they will pray for you.

It matters little to me other than the mundane existence I lead.  I walk a god amongst those who feel no need for good or evil, I will fight the war that is coming when the deceived become a mob.  It always happens.

I frankly don’t give a damn either way.  It is not my business to find a winner outside of myself and the continual movement of deception.  I applaud the striving for self-actualization that everyone feels should be universal.  Breathe deeply and find the hum of the universe, a moment of ecstasy that will pull you along until another moment alone.

I’ll read all your old stories verbatim and laugh.

 

 

That Something

It was his birthday. Of all days, right? When I see people out and about now, after I met him, I want to tell them don’t be so happy, don’t have so much fun on your birthday.

It was his birthday.  Of all days, right?  When I see people out and about now, after I met him, I want to tell them don’t be so happy, don’t have so much fun on your birthday.

I met him the day before his birthday and he seemed really sad.

I want you to know that though I’m alone in this world I’m careful.  I’m not one of those nut jobs who simply despairs and does crazy things to herself.  I have a little job and a little apartment in a dingy part of Indianapolis.  I like Indy, better than Chicago, where I grew up.  I might live in a dingy, cheap, part of Indianapolis but for the most part, the city is a bright place where people actually live, rather than parade around.

This guy, he staggered into the little coffee shop I was working at and he said he spilled some bourbon on his trousers.  He actually used the word trousers and I tried not to laugh.  His eyes were big and blue and his fading red hair looked blond.  I was certain that all the bourbon he had that night had gone in him and not on his “trousers.”

It was 30 minutes until closing and I glanced over at Joe.  Really, at the coffee shop, my boss’ name is Joe.  His actual name is Herbert Floyd but he likes Joe.  Joe shrugged at me and that was my signal to turn the “open,” sign off and pour this guy a deep, dark, cup of black coffee.  Joe began to sweep the floor and clatter the dishes in the steel sink in the back.

“Listen,” I said to the guy who used the word trousers for the word pants, “listen, you are drunk and this is downtown Indianapolis.  You will get put away for public intoxication if you go out there again.”

“I realize that,” his voice sounded sort of choppy.  He was broad-shouldered and he spread his arms across the black round table he was seated at, “I came in here because I was afraid of just that.  I’m not from around here and I’ve heard of American jails.”

“Finish your coffee,” I said.

Joe rolled his eyes at me when I started washing the dishes.  “What are you going to do with the guy?  You gonna take him home?  He’ll puke all over the bus, you know he will.  The guy smells like a Kentucky brewery.”

“Do you think that is where he’s from?  Kentucky?  He sounds funny.”

“You’re hopeless.  He’s not from the US, okay.”

That, of course, fascinated me more.  An actual foreigner.  I finished cleaning the kitchen and I swept the floor again because Joe doesn’t always do a good job.  Joe and I placed the chairs on the tables all around the man who smelled like bourbon.  I thought when I was getting my purse from under the counter, that the man in trousers looked as if he was in jail; all the chair legs serving as bars.

“Come on.  I’ll get you to where you need to be.”

“My hotel is somewhere around here.  I’m pretty sure.  I’m feeling better. “He stood and his reddish, thin, eyebrows wrinkled into a worried look.

We walked toward the center of town and he faltered just beyond a well-lit parking lot, coughed and then heaved coffee and bourbon all over a good portion of Indianapolis.  He hung on to a lamp post and it seemed to me he tried to stretch his neck out to avoid splattering his suit.  I didn’t blame him.  That suit looked expensive.

He started to breathe normally, hanging on to the light post, his nose red and his hair sort of flying about his head in a weird halo.

“What time is it?

“12:30 AM”

“Today is my birthday.”

“Happy Birthday.”

“I’m 60 today.”

I didn’t know what to say.  He seemed way too old to be vomiting bourbon and coffee in a foreign city but I didn’t want to seem rude.

“I wanted to come to some out of the way city, buy a prostitute, have incredible sex and get drunk.”

“Well, you seem to have done well.”

“No, I’ve only managed to get sick drunk.”

“I’m not a prostitute.”

“I guess I’m not one either.”  He leaned over, gripping the street light pole and puked again.

“Listen, it’s late but people are still around.  This is Indianapolis and they will call the police.”

“People in Indianapolis don’t like drunks?”

“No.”

“Good.” He pushed himself off the lamp post and staggered backward.  I grabbed his arm and kept him steady.

“Is that your hotel?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“It’s the best one down here.”

“Oh, I see. That obvious am I?”

I wasn’t sure what obvious meant but I pulled him forward and we walked into the side of the hotel, where I knew someone would help us.

“There you are, you bastard.”

She was beautiful.  She wore black and high heels and her hair was long and shiny.  “And with a prostitute too.  You pathetic bastard.”

Hotel management gathered around us and asked the lady with the same sort of choppy voice as the man who said “trousers,” to be quiet.

“Ha, I’ll be quiet.  After I take him for all he’s worth.”

“You can’t Mabel (I often wondered if I heard her name correctly) you signed a prenuptial.”  He laughed into Mabel’s face.  She turned a little green.

“You pig, you smell awful.”

I started to back away but he grabbed my arm.  “Call this young girl a cab, she saved me from jail tonight.”

A small crowd of onlookers was pooled in the far corner of the marble lobby gazing at us.

I looked at Mabel, frightened, I didn’t want anyone to think I was a prostitute.

“This young lady works at the coffee shop down the road and she saved me from the prying eyes of Indianapolis.”

I felt my heart drop, no one would believe I wasn’t a prostitute now.

“Please fetch her a cab.”

I pulled my arm free from his grasp and he staggered and fell.  I reached out for him as did the night porter.  In helping him up, he looked at me, his eyes bleary and bloodshot.  “I’m so sorry, please forgive me, Mabel, but it’s my birthday and I wanted, I wanted something.  I don’t know.”

I pulled myself away again and left him to the porter.  He’d never find it, that “something,” I was certain of that.

 

Summoning Winter

I must chide myself more often in that I miss my dog more than my ex-husband.

There is a strong diabolic side to me; I recognize it, and in my calmer moments salute that entity with all the respect one soldier can give to another.

I want to lead my life wondering about consequences not living them, so my sense of fair play must be brief and I must have faith and act within the confines of what I claim is my God given guilt.  However, I’ve notice guilt has begun to slip.

I must chide myself more often in that I miss my dog more than my ex-husband. I grapple with the idea that I look at men now with a sort of mercenary attraction and above all I fight the urge to summon winter in all but one season of the year.

Ah-ha!  A left turn in a right-handed world.  Who is behind such egotistical words?  Who or what could fathom herself able to summon winter?

I deal in death.  That’s how I earn my bread and butter.  I wallow in the financial implications and shuffle the sheaves of paper, both tactile and electronic, that rustle or static the real life certainty of not existing anymore.  I suppose that my diabolical side has grown from my life’s advance in this work and my thick armor of mental self-preservation has grown with the continual observation of someone else’s misery.  I work in an emotional freezer.

But why summon winter in say, July?  Because often times the armor that thickens around my mental processes will crack.   When there is a break down, there is also a will to wallow in whatever brings me momentary happiness; a flirtation that I know I won’t pursue, the question as to why my dog had to die, wine in a box, a German film (earth and water let’s talk mercenary!) or a drive to find some of the best ice cream in town.

(I feel that the pursuit of ice cream is actually me already summoning winter in a subconscious quasi Freudian manner.)

Alas, dear reader, if you’ve made it this far I know that I left you topside with the word “guilt.”  Oh that word has become vile in the 21st century.  Tax evasion, illegal immigration, anarchy, murder, rape, home invasion, perjury, all can be shrugged off because no one wants to condemn anyone.  Who are we that we might judge anyone?

Why separate my diabolical self from analytical, dare I say, faithful-to-God self?  Why should I feel guilt over a pornographic film, a brief encounter that boils down to using someone or summoning winter?  What line in the sand am I drawing?

To tell the truth, I’m not sure I know any longer.  I’m older and more muddled.  My strength has waned and really what problems would there be to freezing summer, burying spring and demolishing autumn?  Why fight at all the freeze?

I salute you, oh self-motivated and diabolical one, and pray to God the strength to stop.

(Yet I’m grateful Creator for the 30-degree drop.)