Hollow

She knew that going wasn’t necessarily allowed.

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She could not stand another moment in her small apartment – not with the carnival going on.  The carnival had been in town for three days – tonight would be its last.  She thought, with regret, of the workers waking up on a Sunday as she walked to church, silently unhinging their mechanical rides and sweeping up the small pieces of litter that escaped the trash receptacles.  She did not want to hear the squeak and rub of peopleless rides before she had a chance to enjoy a Saturday night at the carnival.

The town welcomed the carnival every year but she could never attend – the carnival was too worldly for her family – still was, but her family need not know she found the lights, the noise, the smells so fascinating. Besides she was on her own – she needed to make decisions on her own. She would be up early in the morning and get to church early, but tonight she had to know what the carnival was all about

She hesitated at the gate, five dollars was a lot of money to walk around a carnival.

“Half price, half price now until we close down.”

A sign she felt and so put her money down.

She would simply be careful with her milk and eggs – they could last the entire week.

She ducked her head shyly as a gust of wind pulled and fluttered the canopy at the entrance and the ticket taker gave her, what she thought was a wicked grin.

She hurried along the carnival grounds and listened to the sounds of young children shouting with delight as the mechanical rides twirled black against the red-orange sunset sky.  A small family of four walked ahead of her laughing and sharing pink cotton candy. She smiled at their compact and secret ways of knowing each other; the dip and sway of the candy making its way to sticky fingers all, in turn, the smiles upon each face.

She was careful to stay away from the rides but watched the Ferris-Wheel glided several times around against the then darkened sky.  The last of the summer warmth curled about her in a soft breeze that lifted her hair in a gently swaying lift that seemed to keep rhythm with the music being played.

“Do you want to ride?”

His voice was deep and directly behind her. She jumped and turned, then stepped back.  He was tall and slender and she was sure he had some sort of makeup on his face. His eyes were startling brown, golden flecked and when he smiled at her and tilted his head she thought for a moment that they turned red.

“You’ve been watching that wheel for some time. I own this little place – I’ll make sure you have a ride.”

“No thank-you.”

“Why not? This is our last night.  We’ve done very well – I don’t think we will miss the price of one Ferris-Wheel ticket.”

He glided her past smiling and paying customers and walked her up the back stairs, where weary workers, not much older than she, dressed in black and white shirts, stepped aside as they walked by. “She’s next,” and she went inside a small cage seat that swung precariously back and forth and she was lifted up into the summer night sky.

She came back down and he was still there and laughing at her frightened face. “Look straight out, not down, child.”

So she did and gasped at the sight.  Her small town was all alight. She saw the church steeple, the town square and felt she was level with the flag on the courthouse tundra. She twisted around carefully not wanting the seat on which she sat to swing too precariously – yes, just there but barely, the small farm where she was sure her family sat upon the screened in porch.

She swung down and felt her heart lift, she was sure that she could fly forward to whatever direction she chose.

He was standing there again, now smiling and she was lifted away gazing at his countenance.  This time she stopped at the very top.  She tried not to think of the small summer breeze slowly pushing the wheel backward and forward.  She closed her eyes the rest of the ride until she felt herself arrive within the well-lit exit.  A tired young man opened the gate and allowed her to step away unaided.

He was at the bottom of the steps. “Are you glad you went?”

“Yes,” she gasped and felt herself turn red to the tips of her ears and down her neck.

“Come I’ll buy you some cotton candy, looks like you could use some.”

“No, no please, I don’t really care for it. We had a cotton candy machine at church and I thought the stuff too sweet.”

He laughed aloud and she jumped, then smiled not comfortable but liking his laugh all the while.

“What’s your name,” he asked.

“Laurel,” she whispered feeling ashamed – this was no proper introduction.

“Well, Laurel, would you like to see the two-headed chickens or the trapeze act in the big top?”

She looked down and whispered no thank you and hoped he would believe her.

“Well then,” he said soft and low, “why don’t you let me make sure no one follows you home.”

She looked up into his face, somehow kind, somehow not.  He seemed without age and her heart pounded in her ears and her hands clenched around her waist.  She liked his stare and was very afraid.

“But you would be following me home.”

His face softened in the green, then yellow, then red glowing lights.  Touching his fingertip to her soft cheek, she felt a shiver deep down. He had found a hollow place within her brief existence.  She knew he would take and keep it.

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.)

 

Cinnamon

I look about, realizing suddenly that I am thinking of nothing.

As I wait for my coffee to come forth through the combination of stagnate hot water and the forced push of said water through the compact coffee grounds within the stylized plastic cup, (naturally decaffeinated for my overly taxed nerves which are affected by extra stimuli), this cup of coffee is,of course, from hand-picked beans, fairly traded, well packaged, and, no doubt, still sold with ample profit to the middle man.  I look about, realizing suddenly that I am thinking of nothing. In a rush I begin thinking of those nimble fingers picking the perfectly ripened coffee bean and keeping hearth and home together so that my brief reprieve at work could be enjoyed. To avoid consumerism guilt let me put a face to the nameless.

Oh the wonderful aroma of 21st century coffee!  The perfectly brewed one cupper coffee pots that have taken away the traditions of percolators and the drudgery of almost religious fervor in preparing that perfect pot of coffee, so that I am able to scurry back to the desk, the telephone, the computer and the mass of humanity who can’t understand why health insurance doesn’t pay for the world’s woes.  This keeps my “hearth and home” together, dodging such questions.  The coffee bean planter, cultivator, and picker meet clandestinely, within the tall, glass and steel buildings of the mid-American insurance industry via me.

The insurance industry and the business of coffee production demands my abject compliance.  The women and men, the day laborers whom the western world believes extinct, as well as the insurance industry pegs who, through constant, at-you-fingertips mopery, stiffen their joints and bow their back during their life’s labors at the front line of claims payment; are at the beck and call of those in charge and those who simply don’t believe in death.

I stand before the coffee pot waiting for the heap of brown to puddle into the well thought out coffee-mug-of-a-gift that my son had chosen for me two Christmases ago.

Glancing around to distract myself from my own depression, I notice on the shelf above the coffee machine that my conglomerate employer provides, a tubular jar of cinnamon.  Vietnamese cinnamon.

The vast cultures and the global economy are meeting here at my job.

Dress and trappings are everything, so I’m told – and so it seems that is true as I watch my fellow workers shake daintily and with fervor the cinnamon into their gratis coffee – gratis except for the cup.  The cups are carefully given by our children from the allowances we can afford to give them.

I too reach for the cinnamon and with a heavy shake cover the top of my coffee with the stuff to the wide-eyed amazement of my fellow employees; too much their expressions say but they turn from me and say nothing.

Before the mixture sinks, I sip the hot liquid from the cup my son thought worthy of me, the taste is surprisingly sweet in aroma but when it touches my mouth something like dirt, sandpapers my tongue and grits between my teeth.

Yes, yes, so brief we pause in our consumption and so long we work to take a sip.

 

We Lose and We Win

I was coming down off a serious high and the police brought me into the drunk tank, found out after I had been raped by the local female gorilla (yes women rape other women), that I was underage and with all abject apology tucked me into an upper scale dry-out clinic.

“Where you go, I shall go also.  Your God shall be my God.”  The book of Ruth.

That’s a paraphrase I’m afraid.  I know being a child of the 21st century this may sound either condescending or an out and out lie but I prefer the King James Version the best.  There is something about the King James version of the Bible that is more poetic, more believable.

She wasn’t my mother-in-law but she was widowed when I met her.  I was coming down off a serious high and the police brought me into the drunk tank, found out after I had been raped by the local female gorilla (yes women rape other women), that I was underage and with all abject apology tucked me into an upper scale dry-out clinic.

I met her there she was a volunteer mentor to under advantaged girls like me.  Now her idea of upper scale and my idea were two different things and at first I just didn’t like her.  She was an old widowed Jew who, I felt, was there just to see how the outer echelon lived outside her pampered world.

“What was your mother’s name?”

“Why was?  My Mom’s name is Kathy.  Some call her Kate.  She wanted to be called Kate but she decided that way too late in life, it never stuck.”

“Why isn’t Kate here?”

“Why should she be?”

“Because she is your mother,” she said quietly.  To her the fact that Kate was my mother obligated her to come and see about me.

“Kate never cared about me, she never will and that, is they say is that.  Where’s your mother?” I asked. She was old as dirt and I knew her mother was dead but decided to be cruel our first meeting so she wouldn’t come back.”

“With God,” she replied

“Does she like it better there?”

“I would think so,” she said evenly and looking me directly in the eye.  I got the feeling that the interrogation was all on my side but I was feel less and less in control.

“Right, like she has a choice.  God said that’s it and she had to go.”

“So you believe in God?”

“Sure, He’s a male, on the male side of everything and He created women so He and all his male buddies could be made to feel superior.”

She laughed out loud.  She laughed with real mirth and her eyes went from a slate gray to a brilliant blue and all the wrinkles in her face softened and crinkled to her forehead.  I was feeling like I had been kicked several times (I knew how that felt) and my mouth was dry and I knew my breath was rank from not eating but I had to laugh at her laughing at me.

It was the first time I felt as if I didn’t know it all and that fact was okay.  It was the first time I felt that I could put all my observed ideas before someone who wouldn’t tell me I was wrong but tell me how to see my observations from another view point.

I was incarcerated for three years in a juvenile detention center and for three years I had no choice but to dry out.  She came every Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evening.

“What’s it like being a Jew?  Did you go through the Holocaust?”

“What’s it like being a Christian?  Did you go through the Inquisition?”

She was good with things like that.  She taught me that I couldn’t have the same feelings as her and she couldn’t have the same feelings as me – we could compare notes and meet on mutual ground, sometimes we couldn’t even do that.

“Do you think I’d make a good Jew?”

“No.”

It was the first time I laughed out loud at her and she smiled and I could tell almost cried.  I don’t know what happened but at that moment, beyond the book recommends, the letters we wrote, the drug rehab and the mourning we shared, it was the first time we were miles apart culturally and never closer spiritually.

“Women need women,” she said.

I suddenly began to talk of my rape, why I ended up in a better place than all of my other drug induced cohorts.  She frowned slightly and leaned forward listening, intently – interrupting only to bring my language up when I felt the power of hopelessness overcome me.  “Genitles,” for “cunt.” “Penetration,” for “fucked,” and so on.  I was sweaty and chilled when I finished telling her of my night in lock up.

“My husband came from a long line of Jews – as you call me.  Some of his family wore the traditional garb.  He was more liberated and though he celebrated the holidays and the Sabbath, his diet wasn’t kosher, nor was his ideas strictly that of his more conservative family members.  Our marriage was arranged.  Yes, even in this country.  It was many, many years ago.  I came from a very wealthy family and my dowry was large.  I did not have to marry him; I could have refused but I wanted to feel a part of my ancient heritage.  I was young and thought doing rather than thinking was the way I should go.  He was brutal.  He could only come to a sexual climax by cruelty.  My children, I have three who lived, were begot in horrific ways.  It was not their fault.”

“What happened?  How did you survive?”

“I had him murdered.  I could not stand one more rape.  I had begged for a divorce and I had run away with the children but he would fine me.  You must understand that many men of all races and cultures are like this.”

“Is that why you laughed at me when I described God to you?”

“Perhaps.  I simply saw a young, hurt woman lashing out upon a Being you had no concept of; your anger was against your circumstance and you had placed God as a sort of surrogate of that circumstance.  Not surprising as you are a Christian and your Church teaches that Christ has paid the price for your sins.  Not a bad plan but it does have its repercussions on the human mind. I think Christians are the front runners for blaming God for everything.”

“But what happened?  How are you here?”

“I got away with it dear.  I paid for his demise and no one is the wiser, except now for you.”

I stared at this white haired old lady, her bright blue eyes shining.  I was dumbfounded.

“Dear girl, I only tell you because you have grown tremendously in the three years we have known each other.  Let this be our parting gift to each other – bad happens, we lose and we win but through it all God grants a chance at human connection that make the bad bearable and the good a humbling experience; not all take advantage or cherish that connection.”

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He Wore a Silk Tie

She thought back to her teenage years while on her 10-minute breaks; those new awkward years when boys looked tantalizing and something to be driven or broken.

She wanted to cry and tell him that she loved him and that he meant the world to her.  Then she would immediately want an Egg McMuffin from McDonalds.  Hot.  She wanted it hot, wrapped in a grease soaked paper with black coffee and a room full of strangers ignoring her eating it.

That’s love she supposed – thwarted by food.

She had no idea why she loved him – he was older, past his prime and looked oh so comfortable.  She was older just past her prime and oh so uptight.

She had fantasies about him while she was alone in her apartment.  They were wonderful visions actually that helped her sleep at night but had the most evil tendency to crop up in her mind while on the phone at work or during a committee meeting.  The imagined groan of ecstasy or the most uninhibited scenes she contrived in her mind would make the tips of her ears glow red.  Male coworkers would look away confused, female coworkers would cluck at her afterwards “isn’t the change awful,” or “those hot flashes, my mother went through that, just terrible.”  None of them assumed she was blushing – just old.

She wanted to cackle at times, turn green and rub her crystal ball, but she just bent her head and prayed for mundane concentration.

She thought back to her teenage years while on her 10-minute breaks; those new awkward years when boys looked tantalizing and something to be driven or broken.  She was a quiet and shy girl who never participated because she discovered too late that she was normal.  She never played out her fantasies then and it looked as if she would not now.

Which was fine.  In her more sane moments, which happened to be when he was in the room oddly enough, she often thought that her fantasies were more rewarding than probable reality.

But why the fast food craving at her lowest ebbs was beyond her.

What was to become of her?  Those low flowing moments when her own life weighed down upon her; being alone, budgeting for ripe old age, thinking of cats and knitting as hobbies all made her shudder with despondency and long for a lover

She imagined him not able to speak English and the two of them explaining what shirt, panties, bra meant in their respective languages.  She almost choked on her coffee next morning during a sales team meeting.

He asked her once to make copies for him and dictate a letter; he was the old-fashioned type but she could accommodate.  His black suit was double breasted and hung perfectly across his wide shoulders.  He wore a silk tie, a shade of blue she couldn’t name, but the idea of him wearing black and blue made her shiver and smile.

“You must be having a good day,” his voice deep and relaxed.

“Yes,” she said barely raising her head and imagining a missed fleck of shaving cream just behind his left ear.

He Wore a Silk Tie / Lydia Ink by SK Woodiwiss

 

This Is An Escape

I have faith that I can live without you and your lack of vocabulary and your lack of effort. I can live better without, than sitting here with you in doubt

I often wonder if suppression is not my bailiwick. 

I hate the vague, I hate the words that hide that feeling you simply cannot find the word to describe.  Find the damn words. 

Don’t drift off into meditation damn it, get a dictionary, a thesaurus, pay for the subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary and sort it from the 19th century on down.  Surprise me. 

Please.  I won’t beg, I swear I will walk away.  Of course that means I’ve already walked away.  Here I stand out in the middle of Lake Michigan, realizing that it doesn’t bother me to walk on water. 

No I’m no Saint, I have faith and that’s all it takes. 

I have faith that I can live without you and your lack of vocabulary and your lack of effort.  I can live better without, than sitting here with you in doubt. 

You look beautiful by the way, the way your hair catches the sunset and the steady breathing you maintain in the middle of this muddle.  I love the sheen of your day old beard and I love the thought of you carefully shaving it all away.   Yes, I too can love.  Yes, I too can push it away. 

Not everyone is able to grab the right word, not everyone can understand the effort, not everyone can stand the cold dunk of water that searching for meaning takes. 

I’m not for everyone, isn’t that amazing. 

I’m not for anyone, I understand.

Guess I’ll walk north to Lake Superior and stay. 

There is an island up there, nice sized that boarders on Canada and sports still the stars and bars.  Have no idea why.  Maybe I’ll give it a try. 

I’m not much for crowds and I’m certainly not much for love.  I feel you dissolve before I can mourn the loss.  Was that encounter just now or one hundred years ago?

I long for the northern wind who whistles down with no mercy to meet me.  I have shunned him more than once asking for a reprieve; his love is too demanding, he exposes me.  Think of yourself totally naked, no lust, no love but up for examination.  His critical eye assessing, measuring my age, my height, my skin.  Curl under.  Go ahead and curl under and the northern wind will thunder.  So I stand straight and feel my skin tighten and my breast squeeze painfully in the freeze and I am humiliated.  That’s loving the north, that’s loving the north wind. 

What else can I do?  I too can love and I become too demanding. (Find the word but you won’t will you) I too can love but you won’t allow it – this must be a one sided thing with me grateful and you always fulfilling.  We could have it the way you want it my egotistical despair, if you could just find your heart in all the preparations you’ve made to love me.

No I am not rejecting you – this is an escape. 

 

Lydia Ink / This is an Escape by SK Woodiwiss