Soulless

The woman’s face wrinkled in confusion, and I walked down the narrow and shadowed hallway that lead to the rather spacious bath and three tiny bedrooms. Each bed made without a wrinkle, each closet open to show it’s well cared for linen, clothes and seasonal bric-a-brac.

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Do you ever wonder about the life of the inside of…anything? I do not believe in soulless objects…people perhaps.

Think about it, the empty inside of a pristine-upon-the surface oil tanker. Think of the viscosity pour or pump of that liquid gunk rising within that tanker. The very weight and wetness pushing up and off the flakes of rust and paint so that it floated upon the surface of refined and refined and refined again flammable liquid that had stayed hidden in the earth for so long.

Now hidden in ribs of rusting buoyance.

For my part, I wonder about the inside of houses. Any house, the bright, well lit, well-manicured house and the tumble down, slowly overgrown lumber rot of a house are equally compelling. The most interesting are the estate sale homes. Small, demure little signs with bold black letters “estate sale,” that denotes its lost occupant.

I wander in, and there are usually two types of people within; the embarrassed or the angry. The angry follow me around and complain about those who have bullied in before me “thinking that I’m here to barter with them.” I nod and frown and keep on wandering. The embarrassed hardly say a thing and are usually related to the ghosts that expose themselves in the used books, used utensils, used furniture and used clothing.

Flakes of paint and rust that float to the surface of pumped or poured in money that seems embarrassed to be exchanged for moments of history.

It was a little ranch style, slab house with a picture window looking out upon a postage stamp front yard. There was a small, stone walkway that started midpoint of the single lane driveway which tried to wend its way to the front door but only managed to curve slightly and stop. The evergreen bushes, trimmed into square, squat, little sentries and stood in decorative service to the bright white front door.

I made my way along the small street gutter and up the driveway and over the stone pavers to the front door. An embarrassed person met me and smiled down upon the floor. Though the smell of eucalyptus and spearmint was prevalent, I could sense the smell of old, forgotten and wonder. Wonder, from the walls, the dustless furniture, and the minimalist counter tops, if God had forgotten her.

Her, this I knew because the embarrassed person who met me was female and sad and either a daughter or granddaughter of now an estate sale house.

“The antique clock that was over the fireplace was that sold?”
“Yesterday.”

“You didn’t want it?”

The embarrassed woman eyes widened, she opened her lips to ask me a question, hesitated and then simply shook her head. I turned away and looked around the small living room with the small fireplace which opened into a kitchen-dining room, that in its turn lead to the outside and a small fenced yard.

“What happened to the dog?”

“On a waiting list for adoption.”

“Yes, but where is he?”

“With a small animal rescue family.”

“Funny, she didn’t have his future provided for – she loved that dog.”

“Did you know my grandmother?” The answer was angry, so I understood that she was to have taken the dog.

“No.”

The woman’s face wrinkled in confusion, and I walked down the narrow and shadowed hallway that lead to the rather spacious bath and three tiny bedrooms. Each bed made without a wrinkle, each closet open to show it’s well cared for linen, clothes and seasonal bric-a-brac.

“Hello?” I heard the woman’s footsteps hesitantly walk down the hall. I heard her hesitant step at each door and then her rapid retreat. I heard the front door open, and I thought of meeting her there but suddenly felt too tired to do so.

“Someone’s here. I told you I didn’t want to be here alone.” Her voice whined into her phone. Silence. “She knows about the dog.” More silence. “No, she walked into this house and down the hall and disappeared. I’m telling you, she disappeared, there was no way she could have gotten by me.

 

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.

 

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.