** this is a test run to see if I can just write without freaking out about it being public. it’s going to be a disaster and my immaturity in writing will most likely show …
“What are you doing?” came her soft whisper from the side of the room where their bed was. She heard the soft rustle of the bed sheet as her partner made her way to the corner where she was working.
It was four am and the time slipped by into the shadows of their room. Mere seconds ago it seemed she was being urged to come to bed and rest.
But she couldn’t rest.
A mess of detail was convoluting her sleep and urged to stay up and examine photos she was sent.
Photos she wasn’t supposed to see but that was sent to her at the office.
Gruesome details of a wood find the cops had come upon.
She closed the files that were open. Careless, she thought to herself and she shielded her partner from seeing the massacre in front of her: the ripped clothing, broken limbs, dried remains of decay, hair knotted looking like a dead rodent.
“Just finishing up some work for the morning. i didn’t realize it was already so late.” Gritting her teeth she feigned a false tiredness. Really she had an anxious knot in her.
“So late? It’s the next day.” She let a sigh escape as slender fingers wrapped around the back of her head. Turning, she rested her head against the soft belly of her partner and allowed her body to fall into synch with the rhythm of her breath. With the slow rise and fall of her stomach she closed her eyes. But she also couldn’t rid herself of the plagued thought that we all carried with us a nightmare and she was converging on the genesis to which they were created.
At least she thought she did but for now, Solace would be her sanctity for the next few hours of furtive sleep.
Her warmth pulled her back into a slumber and as she slipped off into the golden morning haze she felt her heart quicken as she remembered the details in the pictures she was looking at. There was something hidden in the photographs, something she was missing.
It comes like a bag over my head and I throw my memory back like a grenade but it still arrives.
I’m back in my basement room in Camrose, in the yellow duplex and I’m 7 or 8 at this time. My ‘room’ is a space cordoned off by walls Dad put up with pressed chip board and a flimsy door. The cold dark cement is covered with a light rug covering a large crack in the floor that spiders out to smaller ones like webbing from a spider. I always avoid touching any of the cracks. My belongings are neatly arranged. A Tiffany poster hangs on the wall next to my bed and a Guns n Roses fabric poster hangs as well. I took down the Iron Maiden one I had because the iconic skeleton scared me too much. At the foot of my bed is a wooden closet that is painted a sky blue to cover up the cheap, light wood underneath. It has one of those round, metal concave handles, the size of a twoonie I guess now, that could easily be twisted off and I tighten it every night just in case whatever is inside can get out during the night. Even having this memory today scares the living shit out of me.
My bookcase could easily topple over had I not shoved all of my books in it. My ghettoblaster, the same one my little brother got for Christmas (I think I got one so my parents wouldn’t think he was being favoured but I know that’s the real reason why) sits on my nightstand and this is the same time WHAM has their ‘Last Christmas’ hit on Power 92. I also remember the song ‘Call Me Alf’ and ‘Morning Driving’ on the radio. I religiously listen to my Joan Jett tape at this time, turning it over and over to hear all the lyrics. I take comfort in my few tapes because they were my friends and my company. My lighting is a bare bulb right over the weight set that’s kept in my room. Dad thought it was a good purchase for my older brother, who has since given up all healthy lifestyle and is currently living off of pizza and denotes any hint of depression. No one come down to use it except when my older brother was playing for the football team at the Camrose high school. I hated going to his football games. The crowds terrified me and so did my Dad. So much so that one day I wet myself in the back seat of the station wagon to my embarrassment right in front of my older brother’s friend. I was too scared to ask to use the bathroom because the boys were more important. Next to my bed, I have a metal, cone shaped desk lamp that I keep near just in case the middle of the night comes. It’s brown, cheap and has holes around the edges either for decoration or to let off heat. My immature brain thinks it’s for both and I remember when I burned my fingertips one night accidentally grabbing the wrong part to turn it off after reading. The middle of the night always comes.
I wake up sweating and I can hear myself silently gasping for air. I will myself by screaming in my head to shut up, to not make too much noise because on the other side of the wall is the stairs leading up to the rest of my adoptive family and I don’t want to wake up my dog who is on the same level as me. My dog Corky is in his dog pen which takes up half of the basement. Wooden stakes with wire, a simple lock and his dog dishes is what keeps him company. He’s viewed as much of a nuisance as I am and we make a great team. Sometimes he runs away in the middle of winter and I have to go chasing him in terror, worried that my only friend will desert me forever.
So I cry silently with my nightmare.
It always starts in a pitch black darkness. I’m in my room, I’m sleeping and it inevitably starts. A soft, rhythmic thumping and it increases getting louder and then it starts to bang. It sounds like an off weighted rinse cycle from the washing machine so I creep out of my bed, hesitant to place my feet on the ground for fear of the coldness and for fear of underneath the bed monster. But I go to check the appliances sitting across from my bedroom door. Adjacent to the creepy storage room, (where my Mother keeps this hideous plaster skull with red eyes; I hid it one day but know it’s there and I’m terrified of that too to this day) is the washer and dryer set that came with our rental. But it’s never the washer, if it was I could somehow rationalize the fear in my adult brain and calm the child in me. But it’s not that.
The sound keeps at me, invading my hearing and suddenly I start to feel like there’s some sort of rubber balloon getting bigger, but its not a balloon, not a ball … just a force that grows at me and makes a very high pitched squeaking, like the twisting of rubber, as it grows it starts to suffocate me and at this point my heart beat starts to pulse faster and feels like it’s going to blow up and I’m shaking … and I wake up.
I wake up to a pitch black darkness. I wake up to myself as a 7 or 8 year old having nightmares and I don’t tell anyone.
I don’t tell anyone because I’m isolated in my own skin.
I’m scared of the spider crack on my cold basement floor. I’m scared of the plaster skull with the red eyes in the storage room. I’m scared of burning myself with my lamp and I’m definitely terrified of going to sleep at night knowing that there’s a possibility of suffocation in the middle of the night.
The darker, green underbelly of a leaf provided shade from the solars above. It had a perfect, point annexed by broad, sweeping sides. And with this point it bowed down and thus, kissed the soil. The cool dirt, rich with traces of worm, bug, and root, wiggled it’s way between her toes and hilled up around her heels. Nourishment. As she edged closer to the pathway ahead she could feel the cool giving way to warmth upon her feet.
She raised the leaf up and let the rays sear her delicate film of skin and beat down into her soul. Her heart hurt knowing the creatures that had no protection or shelter from the elements. They didn’t have any way of being saved like she did.
Peering up she noticed the leaves stamping their patterns on the pathway below. Small, perfect splats of darkness lay before her feet and she hopped from one stamp mark to the next ensuring she didn’t touch any gold part of the pathway.
She knew the wise ones were watching her at play. They swayed their leaves a bit more to their merriment. Encouraging her to go faster and float lightly. She giggled for they were playful and always deep within their roots. She thought maybe they may have witnessed the first big sunrise and harvest moon. Fable or myth, It made her walk light knowing they would be there the next morning and always in the evening at her return.
He came running up to her grasping onto a handful of brightly yellowed dandelions and she smiled at his innocence. Already he knew that flowers were for girls and she sighed knowing that he had such a tender soul and the biggest brown eyes that matched. Both would weep she knew it as a mother, a woman, and as a human being.
“Are those for me?” She asked as she knelt down to receive the tenth carelessly picked bunch from his fist that summer.
“No Mum these aren’t for you!” He declared sounding a little more defiant than she had heard before. Her eyes widened a little and she put on her pouty face for him.
“Not for me? Than who are they for?” She was hesitant at this point and was hoping that he had indeed picked them for one of his sisters.
“They’re for her!” He turned around and pointed at the neighbor’s little girl who was standing with her hands held behind her back and smiling. That smile that was the first smile you ever gave a boy when you knew you liked them.
“Go give to them to her” She whispered in his ear and he turned to her.
“Don’t worry mum the next ones will be for you.” He ran off to the neighbor’s yard and clumsily thrust the flowers to the girl. She smiled at him and turned away not accepting the flowers but returned a small giggle instead. Confused he tilted his head to the side not understanding the game the little girl was playing. A minute later she went inside “to play” she told him.
Still kneeling she watched her son walk back to her side and saw his face which was once happy now crushed and his eyes cast downward.
“She didn’t want them. How come she didn’t want them?” She thought he might cry but he wasn’t and she breathed a sigh of relief. She tilted his face upward by his chin as all mothers do and looked at him in the eye.
“Sometimes you can’t always give a gift and expect what you want back. It’s really really nice of you to do that but sometimes the other person just doesn’t feel the same way you do. And it hurts but you move on.” She figured this was the easiest and most abrupt way to explain to him that the little girl just wasn’t interested or that she was probably playing cat and mouse with him.
“But they really ARE pretty flowers.” He declared and she took them from his hand as to make use of his gift and that they wouldn’t go unnoticed.
“Yes they are but you can promise the moon to someone and if they’re not willing to accept it than what’s the use?” Her remark came out a little more caustic than usual and he looked up at her noticing the change of tone in her voice. She scrunched up her face at him to let him know she was okay.
“I hope the girl I marry is just as nice as you are. You took my flowers.” She smiled towards her son and stood up. He was still hers and she hoped that the lesson today would stay in his mind forever.
The old man sat there shaking his head slowly and she noticed tears fall from his eyes. They crawled their way down past his wrinkles and landed on his blue kerchieft making dark blue circles.
“No no no … I’m being a softy again.”
Her eyes started to sting as she willed herself not to cry. She turned her head away embarrassed and focused on the raven sitting on the branch outside his window. Raven’s black eyes stared coldly at her adding another level of emptiness alongside the tinny notes coming from the old record player playing in the corner.
She stared right into Raven’s eye and felt a sense of falling allowing the depth of color to draw her in. She defiantly met his gaze and didn’t bow to his powers. She felt her heart sinking and knew that somewhere in the near future a message was coming.
“Have I made you sad?” His voice cut off their chance meeting of souls and she looked away from Raven half out of relief half out of fear.
Looking back at the gentleman she focused on the crinkles around his eyes and the way the light glinted off his pupils. She preferred his eyes to that of the Raven. They were more kind and though they held pain, they were filled with history and memories that he shared with her. She understood his emotions and she didn’t know that she would ever understand that of Raven’s.
“No not at all … please continue your story. I’ll switch the record over and we can have another cup of Earl Grey.”
She smiled at him and rose from the table. As she poured boiling water from the kettle to the ceramic pot she felt an uneasy feeling thicken the atmosphere. Fearing that Raven was still spying on her she looked out the window to where he was perched and felt a protective urge to shoo him away. In helplessness she looked to her elderly companion and understood the origin of her fear.
Raising her gaze to Raven he smirked at her briefly and then proceeded to fly off into the grey afternoon.
Calmly she walked back to the table and placed the tea pot’s spout to her companion’s tea cup and poured him the warm burgundy liquid that brought them together. She measured out the sugar and poured a bit of cream, stirred the mixture with the spoon and watched as he brought the cup to his lips.
Casting her eyes downward she felt her own tears fall and create dark circles on her pants.
The Cassini Orbiter took me to the rings of Saturn where I wanted to witness the specular reflection of lakes from the planet itself. I wanted to witness the mysterious glow … the closest description being that of a cat’s eye when you shine a flashlight into it in the dark. I wanted to bear witness to colors I had never experienced before. I wanted something otherworldy, indeed I wanted something from Heaven. Who was it for me to take and was I being selfish? Yes I was.
In trust I led the Orbiter directly in between the Sun and Saturn allowing my bare and unprotected eyes to make their way across the colored mosaic of blues, greens, yellow-greens and finally deeper reds indicating thermal emissions from deep inside Saturn herself. My heart pounded and I became entranced on the rings themselves. My plain browned deep set eyes cast upon the sandy colors of the B ring and I noticed that the watered ice, of which Saturn’s rings are primarily made of, was contaminated with rock and other carbon compounds. The small ringlets were varied in their light scattered properties causing variation in their brightness. I was in shock and awe with the B ring herself.
My attention hence was distracted to Saturn’s A ring and it’s there that I saw him kneeling on the outer sharpened edges. I geared the orbiter closer to the Cassini division to take a better look at the being performing a near impossible task. It was at that moment that his eyes cast their gaze toward me and the craft. Frightened, as much as I was, he stood up in defence shielding his face and shrinking away from the hub of the Orbiter. I motioned friendly gestures but was sure he took them as gestures of malice and he started to make his way back towards the inner rings of Saturn. Desperate for contact I guided the Orbiter closer to the atmosphere hoping I could somehow attract his attention.
He was quicker than I and had already made his way to the innermost D ring of the planet. Eloquent as a dancer he hopped from ringlet to ringlet and I watched the colors of the rings brush past his sinewy legs and bottoms of his ankles as he skipped his way to the safety of the planet. It was a hurried kaleidoscope of colors on him and emotions within me. In my frenzied state I became unaware of my curiosity which was forcing me to push ahead full throttle and cause the Orbiter to move much more quickly than I had anticipated. I caught up to him and he fell onto the surface of a ringlet and was dangerously close to the many gaps surrounding him, the orbiter, and the D ring herself.
My own eyes widened to their largest possible diameters and I motioned for him to stay. He shook in fear and I could tell that he had never witnessed anything like me before … I was as alien to him as he was alien to me. Deep inside I felt a huge amount of regret and guilt build up. Who was I to force myself on to a being that wasn’t wanting to welcome me? Who was I, a plain human, too much of a bully to other species to admit that we in fact shared the same Universe. Too much of a pushover to admit that I, being a selfish human, was responsible for the debris and the toxins released. Too ashamed to admit that I was probably the lowest being in the Universe.
I cast my eyes in the direction of the cowering figure and sensed a feeling of imprisonment come from him. I veered the Orbiter away from the D ring, edged it past back to the Cassini division of the A and B rings in a motion of universal space and then I watched as the figure hopped onto the other ringlets and disappear into the depths of Saturn herself.
Honey jeweled eyes pled a song of sorrow to the reflection below him. I watched as he traced the rim of his snifter with the tips of his fingers and with caught breath I awaited for the tiny melody to match the tone of his mood. A slow melancholy was emitted and I heard a heavy sigh escape his mouth.
I pretended to mind my own business that night but could not help but notice that the gentleman was a perfectly coiffed mess with what seemed the weight of the universe on his back. I bent my head toward my wine glass and listened to the hollowed sounds of music wafting throughout the room. It’s notes melded with ones made from the gentleman and his glass made me feel empty inside. It was a feeling I would often run from because no one likes the feeling of emptiness, of unworthiness, of pure loneliness.
His bitterness seemed to permeate the air and caused a thickness that made the air stifling. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and couldn’t understand why a perfect stranger would make other patrons in the lounge so uncomfortable. Glancing at the other faces that were visiting that evening, there weren’t many, it seemed that I wasn’t the only one who noticed his anguish. I took a sip of the German white I had ordered and tried my best to savour it. It didn’t help … I thought perhaps it was because I couldn’t enjoy anything if I knew another soul was in trouble and I tried to ignore the more humane part of me.
He sniffed a little louder than he expected, at least that’s what I assumed, and I looked over at his slumped over figure and saw his face turning a darker shade of pink. Quickly I cast my eyes toward the barkeep who was also keeping an eye on him. Our eyes met and we understood in silent comaradery that the gentleman would be taken care of. I nodded my head and the barkeep prepped another snifter of the warm, silkened, cognac. I took another swallow from my glass and felt a temporary ease wash over my conscious.
Who would interfere and ask questions as to why a grown man would be in a bar, by himself, dressed every bit a proper man, and sulking over a glass of fine cognac? Not me. Being a woman there are some things one just doesn’t do. Not even to your best friend, your brother, your lover, least of all your own father, never mind a stranger. Moments of privacy are respected even in public. These are not to be intruded on. Yet, I was compelled as was the barkeep to keep a comfort going for him. There are souls that don’t need to say a word for the rest of the world to know they are in trouble. As with every action, reaction … there are souls that notice and will take hold the other up if in need. It’s a law of the universe I’ve yet to figure out. Somehow it’s just a sensation, a feeling, a knowing.
The barkeep gently placed the glass in front of the gentleman. Startled, he immediately reached for his wallet and the barkeep shook his head in friendly form quietly informing him that it was already paid for by the misses at the bar. He looked over and I half tilted my head in friendly manner. Not every encounter between man and woman had to do with procreation. True the universe would not be the same if this were not true. But in the decency of humanity, sometimes it was just better knowing that the other half of the population understood the pain and angst one was going through. That’s all it is.
Almost immediately the heaviness in the air seemed to dissipate. His head was still bent over his glass and his face still seemed to gravitate to the darker side of life but it seemed at least now he was breathing. His eyebrows weren’t furrowed so deep and his shoulders weren’t as sloped as they were before. I looked at the barkeep once more and gave a half smile. He did the same. Getting up I put on my light coat and walked out.
Heading down the cobbled path towards my apartment I couldn’t help but think that if people weren’t as selfish, more understanding and willing to accept that people have bad days and don’t always want company; if we just left each other alone for a bit of time; if we just gave each other space to breathe; if we just listened to our instincts … maybe we wouldn’t be so sad and angry all the time. Maybe if we just allowed people comfort from a distance things would be more calm.
I don’t know what happened to the gentleman, don’t know where he is, what the story was nor do I want to know. All I really know is that 8.50 was an alright amount to pay for an hour of thinking time for someone. I’d be willing to give that to a complete stranger and for those nearest to me … I’d do anything. Including leaving them alone forever if need be.