The Last Tuesday

January 22, 2010

[Photo courtesy of Ashley]

There was love here once.

There was a boy. And there was a girl. And they were happy.

There were breakfast dates with instant coffee and stale croissants – Poor Man Parisien. They would sit around a unbalanced bistro table for two. Passing the cream. Passing the jam. Passing the time.

They would read the paper together, side by side. Him with Arts & Life, her with World News. Smiles caught between pages; most articles left unfinished. She was his life – art in motion. He was her world – everything she needed to know.

Each day was Old Hollywood romance. They were the Grace Kelly and Cary Grant of One Mile Too Far Down The Abandoned Dirt Road. Their neighbours were theoretical at best and the last car they saw beyond their own was a burnt-orange home to field mice and dead bodies. Or at least that’s what they joked about as they walked by.

Their walks would always be leisurely and always pass through the nearby fields. He would always grab her. She would always squeal. They would always fall. Planned spontaneity? Perhaps…but he considered it their own daily dance for the dandelions in the fields that never gave rise to roses.

He would carry her out into the clearing, up to the near-dilapidated house, and set her down next to a single rotary phone that took residence in the wallpapered entryway. Unplugged.

She would dance lightly up the wooden steps that for whatever reason never creaked under her toes, and draw a warm bath to clean seedlings off her shoulders and dried leaves from her hair. She would always take one deep breath beforehand, savoring his smell on her skin.

He would sit below in the living room on the wobbling wooden frame of the single chair, staring out into the wilderness, listening to the waves of her movements and humming along with his own style of jazz.

Only one old man knew they existed, keeping his distance eight miles and four ‘are we going the right way?’s down.

“Don’t care for ’em,” he’d say on the third Tuesday of every month, watching their faded grey clunker drive by his house. “Ain’t right for two people to be that happy.”

Then he’d turn back inside, touch the love of his life’s cheek in a gilded frame, and forget about them until the next month.

It was just under a year before he was hunting in the woods nearby when he heard the whispers of a phone ringing in the distance – the first noise he had ever heard from that place.

Two rings.

Four rings.

Seven rings.

Then shouting. More shouting than he had ever heard two people wretch out. The shouting swelled into a symphony of rage. From what he could tell, words had stopped being exchanged entirely, leaving just the soundtrack to a dog fight crackling through the trees. All the while, the phone pierced through like an alarm, slowly shattering each pane of their existence.

Twelve rings.

Silence.

Frantically running back to the main road, his coveralls catching on the brush, the old man fell into the ditch in time to see a grey shadow fly past his house, two half-packed cardboard boxes almost falling from the bungee-corded trunk, a cloud of exhaust and the roar of fifth gear hanging in the air.

It was only the second Tuesday.

__________

Words by Ben

Everybody loves a winner.

January 21, 2010

[Photo courtesy of Ashley Forrette]

“You can be anything you want,” she said.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that.  Sometimes, when you’ve been gone for years, when you’re three thousand miles away from where you started with nothing to remind you of who you really are, when you melt into the pounded pavement, spread yourself thin amongst the cracks and your soul starts to seep into the underbelly of the city, you forget.

Everybody loves a winner.  That’s one thing you know for sure.

“You can always come home,” she said.

If coming home didn’t feel like quitting, if you could be sure what waited for you at the end of the airport terminal, if you could make your peace with life in that sleepy, salty little town, if you knew that all could be forgiven and life could go on and one day you could wake up in the morning, ease out of bed without waking him, cringe when your bare feet touched the freezing hardwood floor, step quietly over the sleeping dog, throw on his deliciously worn and warm sweatshirt, tiptoe down the hallway to the bathroom, look at yourself in the mirror and like what you saw, then maybe that statement could be true.

Everybody loves a winner.  But not everyone is willing to wait.

“You don’t need to worry about me,” she said.

When the strongest person you know says those words, you don’t ask questions.  You come home.  You leave the city that never sleeps for the village of vicarious living.  You blow in like a bad storm on a codependent night, full of airplane vodka and regret.  You notice that the shutters are repaired and the walkway is tended, you know it was him but you pretend like you don’t care, and you see her tired face light up first with surprise and then bloom into thoughtfulness.

“You didn’t tell him you were coming, so I did,” she said.

Suddenly you’re running.  Back to the last place you thought you’d ever return, the edge of the ocean, the edge of the world, where time has stopped and the days are too long and the wind carries seagulls and swan songs.  And he’s there, just like always, like he was expecting you to show up and throw yourself into his arms and confess your multitude of sins, the least of which was leaving.  And suddenly you don’t remember why it was you wanted to get out, why you thought that you needed more than this, more than him.

Everybody loves a winner.  Especially when no one loses.

__________

Words by tia

Ruins

January 20, 2010

[Photo courtesy of Lauren]

It had been built in the 1850’s to contain those infected by smallpox – keeping them from infecting the rest of the city. It was meant to be a hospital, but it closed around people like a Gothic granite quarantine. It closed after 100 years and was left vacant and unprotected to time and the elements, becoming a shell of its former self, earning the distinction of “New York’s ‘only landmarked ruin.’”

I felt a special kinship with the hospital.

Except the city took pains to illuminate the structure at night in effort to raise funds to stabilize the building.

I lacked stabilization; felt as though I was going to break apart at any minute.

Like if I didn’t spend every moment of the day concentrating on keeping it together, my heart was going to explode out of my chest and flop around on the floor like a fish until it finally stopped from sheer exhaustion and pain.

Because that’s what happens when you’re ruined.

You’d told me that we were too different.
That my job was taking me nowhere.
That your job was making you travel too much.
That you were scared to move forward with me.
That I was too good for you.
That you’d loved me too much.
That you loved me but weren’t “in love” with me.

There were whole host of contrasting messages – none of them answered my question: “Why wasn’t I enough for you?”

When I closed my eyes I could almost feel your hands on me.
When I went to sleep, I slept “just so” and could feel your arms cradling me if I really tried.
When I was silent I could hear your breath in my ear.
I listened to old saved voicemails to hear your voice.
If left alone in the apartment I would have shared with you, I could hear your laugh echo down the hall.

You visited me once after you left.

It was three in the morning and we’d engaged in a lame text message back-and-forth about who should go to whose house. We both knew what we were getting into. We both knew it was just sex. And we both knew damn well that it was the worst thing we could do and it didn’t even make us pause.

We made awkward conversation – your voice heavier and more tired than I remembered. I offered to heat you a cup of day-old coffee, which you accepted – a fact I was glad for because it gave me something to do with my hands.

And while I was rummaging in the cabinets for a mug, I felt your hands on my hips. Your breath on the back of my neck. And your lips gently closing around my earlobe.

The coffee stayed cold.

And I spent the night focusing on the sound of your breathing and watching the rise and fall of your chest until I fell asleep.

You weren’t there when I woke up. The apartment was oddly silent, given how intently I’d been focusing on every sound you made.

There’d been another sound that night –
a softer one, that wasn’t yours –
that was like eggshells being crushed under a heavy cloth.

That was my heart breaking. I wondered if you’d heard it.

___________________

Words by Joy @ Big Time Fancy

Courtesan

January 19, 2010

[Photo courtesy of Rachel.]

I don’t have a fortune to pass down. I don’t have my own kingdom and I don’t have a husband. And Adam is definitely not a king; although he does act like a God on occasion. And he likes it on top; a king in his castle on a hill looking down at the peasant.

I will never give birth to his heir, I think to myself. 

Honestly, it’s not even about him.  After every orgasm I know I’m not pregnant. Adam wouldn’t allow it, his safety measures may be limited but he leads his men with the discipline of a single Spartan warrior. Even if one of his men dared disobey his orders and soldiered on into me, my body was unlikely to notice.

Before every orgasm the ritual is the same. Every night, he removes his Hugo Boss suit so carefully that you would think he was undressing a baby. He drapes it over a chair mechanically–shirt first, trousers last. Then with no warning he throws me savagely onto our bed of trash and tosses all my clothes carelessly onto the floor. While having me, his eyes dart back and forth to his suit.  Maybe it is creases–with their soundless cries–that keep him up at night.

After every orgasm the ritual is the same too.  I’m not pregnant and this invasion was a war of convenience; not necessity.  He walks naked to my bathroom not once looking back from where he came. He jumps into the shower and scrubs himself coarse. He always brushes his teeth. He cautiously places his suit back onto his body. It’s a perfect fit and the stitching is impeccable.  And when he leaves I don’t know who I know better; him or that damn suit.

He would balk if he knew that the heir I want is not about him.  It’s about me.

Lovers leave and kings are not faithful to one mistress; even the one they call their wife. And I want assurances. I want to know that on my death bed there will be a soul that will miss me. A soul that could confirm I had indeed existed.  Without him, I will be a red lipstick imprint smudged on the rim of a cracked tea cup. This will be no different to what I am now. To him, I am just a figure lying motionless on spent sheets; a stranger in a photograph. To me, I am a shadow lost in another shadow. My structure is unclear and my lines have no definition.

And still I let him fuck me.

I don’t blame him. I don’t have the right to stand in a courtroom and point a finger and declare,

‘Your Honour, he is the man. He is the man that can’t love me.’  Let the record show that the defendant is pointing to the accused.

Of course men are innocent until proven guilty. And there are always mitigating circumstances to crimes. Did you know that if there is evidence that a woman dressed or behaved provocatively her rapist could be set free?  Would Adam be acquitted because on our first date I acted aloof and uninterested? There are all sorts of justifications, intentions, motivations that juries consider before issuing their verdict.

Would my heir condemn me for my selfish intention? Would he hate me when he discovered the reason for his conception? Would I be tried and hanged for my act of self preservation? Would he convict me to a life of loneliness when he found another? When he comes out of me, cheeks flushed red, a pulsating muffled scream, is he punishing me?

Probably. He is my ruler; the man that contains me.

And I am his reminder that life is easy when you’re a king.

It’s easy except when it come to love. Love is the place where royals and peasants, where landowners and serfs, were princesses and frogs become faceless. Love doesn’t care for titles. But His Highness can still have whoever he wants.

This reminds me.  I met a gypsy the other day. She could have been a gypsy. She may have been homeless. She was definitely a drinker. She told me the story of the Princess of Corona. She told me that this story had been passed down from gypsy to gypsy on dirty sidewalks inside dark alleys for centuries.  Just go with it, I thought , and politely nodded.

The story went something like this. Apparently, there was the Princess of Corona who stood to inherit a large ancestral land. She was pretty and young as all princesses are in stories. The Princess of Corona was pursued by a man for exactly seven days and seven nights before she gave herself to him. On the first day–after he had left her quarters–she tried to unscrew a bottle of shampoo to wash her hair. She couldn’t and according to gypsy folklore she said,

‘I can’t do it. I’m not strong enough.’

On the second day—after another rough and sweaty encounter with this man—she needed to wash her hair again.  But the cap still wouldn’t budge. On this night she said,

‘I can’t do it but I think there must be something wrong with this bottle.’

On the third day, on her third failed attempt, she whispered,

‘This is the reason a princess needs a prince’. (To unscrew apparently.)

It was at this very moment that her knight returned. No one really knows the reason.  He knocked on her bedroom door and when she opened and saw his face she couldn’t maks her excitement.

‘This must be love.’ she cried.

‘He was never seen or heard of again.’ the gypsy had informed me in an underground whisper.

Adam would be appalled to know that I speak to gypsies. He would be appalled to know that every day when he storms inside me I am thinking I love you. He would be appalled if he knew that each time his fingers curl around my skull and he pulls my hair I am thinking I love you.

He would be appalled to know that right now as I hear him leave—the soft shhh of his creaseless suit tracing my wall with its straight edges, I am thinking of heirs. Don’t look up. I’m not an idiot like Princess Corona.

I confess my silent sins to empty rooms.

I love you.

———-

Words by Hope

Waiting for it

January 18, 2010

[Photo courtesy of Jen.]

The apartment building would have been something in its day.  Granted it’s day was pre-WWI.

He had been there for five years.  He found his rent-controlled apartment three days after he moved to the city.

People hate that story.

He loves to tell it.

The two things are not completely unrelated.

It really is quite a building.

It is.

And she never, ever expected to visit it again.

She leans against the door.  She thinks about how it looks like it belongs on the vault of a bank in an old western movie.

Then she wonders if she’s ever seen an old western movie.

She sees the hand knocking on the flaking black paint.  A little too hard.

She knows the hand is hers, but has no recollection of giving the command.

She considers bolting as she tries to make sure her little black dress is looking good…  if a bit much.   He always loved how she made curves classy.  She hopes she’s doing it again.

The door opens.

It’s him.

Him.

Messy hair.  Unshaven.

He looks even more handsome than he did a month earlier.

The day she broke his heart.

Completely.

He looks equally as shocked.

“Hi,” she says.  Hesitantly.

“What are you doing here?”

“That is a good question…  Very good question.”

“Are you drunk?” he asks.

“Nooo.  Are YOU drunk?”

“No.  It’s three in the afternoon.”

“It is?”

“Yeah.”

“I may be…  just…  I may be a little bit drunk.”

“You don’t say.”

“I do.”

“Why are you here?” he asks.

“We broke up.”

“See, that’s more of an answer for ”Why aren’t you here?” he replies.

“Bad day…” she manages to get it out before the tears.  Or maybe it was a tie.

She falls into his arms.  He holds her up.  He holds her away.

But then he hesitantly hugs back.

“I lost my shoe,” she sobs.

“I see that, sweetie.”

She senses that he hates himself a little for using a term of affection.

She doesn’t care. And quickly forgets.

‘I… don’t want to be broken up… just for tonight,” she whispers.

“That’s not fair.”

“I know.”

“You can’t just… do that…”

“I know,” she whispers as she put her hands on the back of his neck and pulls his face to hers.

“You… can’t…”

She pushes him into the apartment, as he closes the door behind them.

She takes him by the hand and leads him to the couch.

He exhales.  Loudly.  The way you do it when you know that you should stop what you are doing.  And also know that there is no fucking way in the world that you are going to.

“I’m lop-sided,” she says sadly.

He kneels down in front of her.

He ever so lightly slides his hand down her smooth leg.

He takes her foot in his hand.  He gently removes the shoe.  He continues to hold her foot.  He gives her a kiss just above her bent knee.

She puts her hands in his hair.  He puts her foot down.  She guides him back up to his feet.

She lies down on the couch, and pulls him down on top of her.

She kisses his lips.

He doesn’t move.

“Will you ever forgive me?”

“I don’t know,” he answers, staring intently into her blue eyes.

“Will you ever forget?”

“No.  Never.”

“But I lo–” she begins, before he kisses her quiet.

A passionate kiss.  Angry, even.

She is taken aback for a moment, before matching his intensity.

With her spaghetti straps having already fallen off of her shoulders, he grabs the front of her dress and pulls it down with a sudden yank.

She gasps.

He kisses down her neck.

She begins to speak, but he covers her mouth with his left hand.

He kisses her chest. With some aggression.

With a hunger.

But then he feels it.

Her tears sliding down her face are reaching his hand covering her mouth.

He removes his hand.

He keeps kissing.

Much more softly.

“Will we still be broken up tomorrow?” she whispers to the top of his head.

He pauses and rests his face against the middle of her chest.

“I don’t know, sweetie.”

———-

Words by Peter DeWolf