Cinnamon

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

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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.

 

Her Need

When he discovered that she didn’t have a rough patch of skin, smelled like spring-time rain, and that falling into her was something between physical bliss and realizing he had been half a person all of his life, he became sullen and angry afterward. He didn’t understand why.

He had never been with a woman before; he had never felt the need.  He didn’t care much for their voices and he certainly didn’t trust their intentions.  Some men thought the wiles of women were what gave meaning to life.  He didn’t.

She was red headed, freckled and had green eyes.  Most men shuddered when they walked by her.  What struck him was that she was tall, straight, had large hands for a woman, and her figure, though thin, was well proportioned.  So he shrugged at other men’s judgment.  What he didn’t confess to, until late at night, in his own bunk, was that he thought her the most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes upon.

When he discovered that she didn’t have a rough patch of skin, smelled like spring-time rain, and that falling into her was something between physical bliss and realizing he had been half a person all of his life, he became sullen and angry afterward.  He didn’t understand why.

He forgot about his anger when she woke up, when she wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled him in as easily as a man pulls in a sack of potatoes to hoist to his shoulders.  Again he became aware of who he was, how brief his life would be, how strange it was to feel himself surge into her and remain. 

He never questioned why he took so long to find her, but why he never thought of searching for her at the beginning of his life, to complete what seemed to him now a sort of destiny. 

He dreamed in her arms that he had returned to the forest.  He saw everything in pairs; the birds, the fish, the deer, the elk, the mountain lion, the bear.  Two.  He didn’t miss her or mourn her presence, he was simply aware of a second idea, a second sound, a second scent, a second tread upon the earth. 

He was aware that she didn’t want to keep him, wasn’t interested in his ability to provide for her and was sure that she had used him.  

Other men longed to be taken up the pea patch, to complain loudly at the bar that his wife was demanding, exacting and insatiable in her drive for things, he sensed that her ambition had nothing to do with conquest or avarice just need and in turn her need was his. 

When he heard her door close behind him, the shivering, knife’s edge feeling that went up his back and across his shoulders told him not to turn around.  He stood for a moment, looking at the sun rising, the leaves of the trees translucent, in their spring-time green.

Don’t turn around man, don’t be a fool. 

He took a step forward and felt a loosening around his waist and the idea that he might survive his night.  He turned without so much as a thought, or even with the conscious idea that he had turned about upon his heel. 

Her web encased him in frigid threads and his voice was the first thing she drain from him, the last was his dread.  

Her Need / Lydia Ink by SK Woodiwiss

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

 

Into the Asylum

Nobody questions why a homeless schizoid dies alone – they just pack them off to cold storage.

There are days I simply wish it were over.  I don’t want to know who I am and I don’t want to face another night.  It’s different when the sun goes down.  I know and they know and the world just goes on.

When I was a kid I would read every fantasy novel I could get my hands on.  I was the skinny kid saving his pennies for the dictionaries on Middle Earth and I was the kid alone on the playground acting out the last epic battle of good versus evil.

Teachers would pull my mother aside and tell her that I made other children uncomfortable.  That the reason I was picked on and ridiculed was because I was allowed to stay in my fantasy world.  I’ll give my mother this, as tired and over worked as she was, she stood up for me.

Every once in a while she would pick me up early from school, sign me out and we would have ice cream in the full light of day.  I know that she felt it was us against them but at that time I didn’t know how many battles fronts she was fighting.

She didn’t come home one night.  They found her remains three months later down by Navy Pier.  She didn’t die there.  The police still call it an open case.  The cops that investigated her murder even came around to check on me in foster care.  Of course that told me she didn’t die easy, it wasn’t quick.

I was thirteen when she died and foster care was one of the worst things that could have happened to me.  You see when they tapped on my window and I cried for help, my foster parents didn’t believe me.  At one point I was institutionalized for schizophrenic behavior.   That was worse because then the bastards could walk right in – the loons invited them in all the time.  Nobody questions why a homeless schizoid dies alone – they just pack them off to cold storage.

Strange, the loons never turned.  Never.

I would have been lost if my screams hadn’t been heard by a weary old priest.  He didn’t believe me that they could crawl along the ceiling and hide in shadows but he did give me a golden crucifix that has never left me.

You don’t know how desperate and crazy you can sound when a white clad orderly is standing in the doorway with a straight jacket for you and one of the cursed ones is smiling at you from the ceiling; they would crawl around like flies.   I think many of the inmates went crazy after they arrived.

I sleep in the basement of the church now.  I do odd jobs so they let me.  I sleep well there despite the unbelief of the old priest who saved me.

I miss my mother.

I work hard to avenge her.  That’s what she did, worked hard.  Maybe it will all end with me.

Some how.

Lydia Ink / Into the Asylum by SK Woodiwiss

The Strength to Choose

“Jonathan, nothing is certain. You must believe me. I’ve seen hell and nothing is worse than that, please help me.”

I, of course, didn’t believe her.  I told her I did but I didn’t.  She smiled at me in a half-hearted or perhaps a whimsical sort of way and said ‘thank-you.’  She whispered the two words to me and looked away.  Her soft hair, straw colored and wavy, veiled the side of her face in a cascading shine of brilliance as she looked down at her hands.

I felt a surge of male adrenaline.  Was she that damsel in distress or that Victorian lady, even the mad Ophelia who was sitting across from me?

My friend, this is the 21st century and maybe my Baby-boomer father would have succumbed to her soft strength, I did not.  I pocketed my anxiety about her, along with my surge of Freudian awareness, paid the bill and walked away.

She was found dead the next day – her neck was broken.  I was questioned by the police and it was determined that I was the last to see her alive – outside of her murderer.

I did not kill her.

I did not.

I was at a party that night, celebrating my best friend’s engagement to a wonderful woman; strong, an attorney and not beyond child bearing years despite the time it took for them to fall in love between their accomplishments.

Does that sound cynical?

The cynicism is for me alone and anyone who might read this and ponder their long nights working not for the money necessarily but for the security of being the best.

She told me that nothing was secure.  She told me just before she died.

“Jonathan, nothing is certain.  You must believe me.  I’ve seen hell and nothing is worse than that, please help me.”

“I believe you.”  I think I even reached forward and squeezed her delicate hands.  They were warm to my touch but only, I think, because they had held the coffee I had bought for her.  She had looked almost anemic, frail, suffering.

No, perhaps now that she is in a pauper’s grave, by the grace of the state of New York, I see her differently.  My memory, no doubt, is romanticizing her last moments.

Don’t think me a total brute, please.  I would have taken her with me, fed her, introduced her back into the fold of our mutual friends but she said no.  She had to face her reality.  Odd now that I rethink our last meeting, odd that she said reality and not destiny.  Writing this all down, to whom or really why I don’t know, it strikes me that I didn’t pick up on that.  Perhaps I was too busy being pragmatic and telling myself it was for her sake.

For you see, I did believe she believed what she told me.  Now I believe her and it will no doubt be the death of me.

I won’t suffer as she did, the long nights, the endless pursuit of truth.  I’ll fight the monster as long as I can and hope I have the strength to choose death in the end.

 

 

Lydia Ink / The Strength to Choose 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