Thirty-two steps up to his apartment. Turning the key in the lock twice. Calming shaking hands and racing thoughts. Connor enters his sanctuary and pulls his boots off his feet. He puts them where they belong, in their spot by the door. Connor begins touching each finger on his hand with his thumb. Forward and backward. Forward and backward again. Until he feels that he calmed down enough to function again. Yes, that helped. Oh, the embarrassment of having been hit by a ball in the face in public, and falling off a bench like some lunatic who can’t sit upright on his own. The humiliation of seeing Thomas again in this situation. Connor often fantasizes about seeing his ex-lover again. But never in his wildest fantasies has he thought that he would look this weak. In his imagination, he faced Thomas as a made man. In a fancy suit and with his act together. And it is still Connor’s determination to become rich and famous, but he is not there yet. Thomas on the other hand – he looked just as handsome (and evil) as he has always looked. As if the events of the past have not left any dents on his soul and scratches in his mind. The world is a weird place to exist. There is a painting on Connor’s wall. Birds in the sky. Light as a feather, heavy as a cloud. These explosions of emotions leave him drained of energy. And he left his book behind. There is no way to distract himself. There is no way to stop repeating the events in his head. And he can’t start to read a new book. He hasn’t finished the other one. Connor’s face is throbbing and swelling on one side. He wishes that he could cry. But he can’t. There are no tears left in him. They were all cried for someone else. No more tears for himself.
There is a melody in Connor’s thoughts. There is poetry in his mind. Sitting on a bench in a park, he looks like a painting from a different era. Yes, Connor is art. His legs are stretched far from his body, his ankles crossed. A smile is tugging at his lips. From time to time, it is replaced with a frown. Deeply lost in the book, he doesn’t see the ball that is heading right his way. Lost in a world of giants that need to be defeated, and princes who, after slaying dragons, are allowed to marry the king’s daughter… BAM. The round leather collides with Connor’s head, he loses balance, and a laughable shriek escapes his mouth as the full impact of the ball pushes him off the bench. From up close, the grass that is now grazing his cheek has many different shades of green. An observation he stores away for further pondering at a later moment. Internally, Connor courses himself. People are gathering around him, some are pointing their phones in his direction. His cheeks heat with anger and embarrassment, but no tone leaves his lips. In his peripheral vision, he notices red shoes. Red is an angry color. Every color has an emotion for Connor.
“I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” a voice laced with regret and concern whispers. It is followed by a gentle touch on his shoulder. Connor follows the outstretched arm with his eyes, touching a tender spot on his face with his hand. There will be a bruise on his face. Violet and swollen. He gasps when he sees the face of his helper. “It’s not the first time you hurt me. Please, hurt me again.” Brown eyes widen as they connect with Connor’s blue ones and register the words that were said. “It is you.” People are whispering to each other. They are aware of the connection between the two humans in front of them, but how, or why, or when, remains a mystery. Attention spans are reaching an end. Phones are put away. Heads are shaken, and backs are turned. “Connor, I…” Connor lowers his gaze and takes a deep breath. He flinches at the realization that there is still a physical connection between him and his assailant. He tenses at the realization that there is still an emotional connection between him and Thomas. Thomas, who had left him black and bruised before. “No,” Connor whispers to no one in particular, gets his feet back under him and flees the park. He will not be able to ever come back to his favorite spot again. It is soiled with memories. It is soiled with embarrassment. His only regret is that he left his book behind.
She is a thing of beauty. As I cradle her head in my hands, her blond hair lies in waves on the pristine white pillow that supports her. He eyes are closed and the long lashes are kissing her rosy cheeks. Her lips are parted slightly and I feel her moan against my neck rather than hearing it. Gooseflesh adorns her pale skin. Sweat leads a trail down to the center of her breasts. I kiss those fleshy orbs, tease the dark nipples, just to illicit one more of those wanton moans out of her throat. What a beauty she is. One of a kind. A real thing of beauty. I kiss her neck, bite her playfully just behind her ear and lick that same spot with my flattened tongue. Her legs sneak around my hips. I know what she wants. She is close. I can feel the pulsing of her blood. I am buried inside her heat. Oh the agonizing joy. It’s torturing to bring her so much joy. She pulls me down to her and our lips meet for a kiss. Her eyes are wide open, seemingly searching for something in mine. Is she searching for the truth? The one that I am not accepting? I can’t deal with these thoughts. Not now. Go away. I don’t want you. Not moments before I fall off the cliff. I am not sure for how long I can hold back with her. It is in her moans and in her scent. It is in the way she feels around me and the way she tastes. It is overwhelming. She is overwhelming. And I am losing control. Everything inside me is becoming tense. I should stop. I should pull out. But I can’t. I carry death inside of me. There is a real chance that I am sharing it with her if I don’t stop. “Don’t stop! Don’t ever stop!” Her words are slurred. Drunk with lust. Her breathing changes. Her moans are more constant. “Let me cum inside of you,” I beg. I don’t know why I asked, but she consents. And I give in. I release myself into her quivering body. Jet after jet of my poison is now coating her insides. I marked her for life. I made her mine. I shouldn’t feel this ecstatic, but I do. “You’re mine now,” I growl. She giggles. “Forever,” I add and pull out. I feel naked without her skin covering me. “You’re mine now,” she echoes my words. I can’t help but smile. If she only knew.
He’s perfect for me. If he only knew that I marked him for life. His lust, my lust. I couldn’t let him stop. It has been such a long time since a man touched me the way he did. He is mine now. Maybe he will hate me once he’ll find out. Maybe he’ll love me even more. “Forever,” I add with a smile. I am going to do everything I can to keep him in my life. But, if he only knew.
“I had these ideas about you. None of them are true…”
“Well… You’re a smoker.”
“Been one for 30 years. What else?”
“You’re smaller than I expected”
*He groans, rolls his eyes and puts his cigarette out with the heel of his sneaker. She’s embarrassed and nervous, trying to find words to say that aren’t offending or insulting in this awkward situation.
“You are much more handsome than on your pictures.”
*He smiles. She’s back on track.
“I said “no” when you asked about being intimate on our first date. I meant “yes”.”
*The admission leaves her timid and waiting for rejection. She puts a lock of hair behind her ear. It jumps right back to where it was. He stands straighter, anticipating what will be happening next.
“I can’t see how this has anything to do with the way you imagined me to be”
“I judged you. I don’t know you.”
*It’s almost an apology. Almost.
“We spoke on the phone for two years.”
“You know exactly who I am. Maybe not my mannerisms or my daily habits. You know the deeper me. You know me better than anyone else.”
*It’s flattering to hear these words, but she is sceptical. Does he really tell the truth or is this his way of getting what he wants? It doesn’t matter. Who cares? She gives in. No reason to fight the feelings she doesn’t want to fight.
“You had me with that smile, moments before you said hello.”
“Two years ago I told you that I would never fall in love with you and that I only want sex from you. I lied.”
*She blushes and smiles at his feet. She still doesn’t know what he sees in her; she is short and overweight; and he could have every girl he wants.
“Come here… We don’t have a lot of time. Let’s make the best of it.”
*She nods. Their eyes are locked and their breaths mingle, moments before their lips touch. Her heart races and her knees feel weak. Electricity. He tastes of cold smoke and she can feel his smile on her lips. His hands find an immediate way under her shirt. The heat of his skin on her back leaves imprints on her soul that she can never wash off. She needs more of him. All of him. As much as he is willing to give. If he lets her in, she will submit to him, surrender to his needs. She will become his everything. With an urgency, they find the bed behind them. Clothes are quickly disposed of. There is no time to waste. Not even to appreciate the nakedness of the other. He used to ask her to tell him that she loves him. For the first time, these words leave her lips without being a lie, just as he enters her and fills her in a way she hasn’t felt in years. Completion. This encounter is more than she ever expected it to be. It is less too. Two lonely humans giving in to their primal urges after building up to this moment for more than two years. Everything they ever said, everything they ever wrote; every picture they ever shared – everything led to this moment. The moment when two become one. And although everything that is happening right there is ordinary, nothing about it is, in fact, ordinary. Moans, sweat, the scent of sex, the creaking of the bed. Two people who stopped thinking. Only existing. Become one.
Another six week until we meet again. Am I allowed to admit that I am scared shitless? What if you don’t like me anymore? And what if we will not meet in the end? Gosh… We haven’t spoken in weeks. How are we supposed to be able to see each other face to face. With our past standing between us? I am not the woman you think I am. I need your encouragement to see this through. You’ll be 45 in two weeks. You are a man who saw the world and lived two lives. Me, I am 24 and inexperienced in most parts of life. I don’t want to blame my past, but if you grow up the way I did… Ha… Who cares? Not you. Yeah… Those words hurt. You should care. You really should. It’s me we’re talking about. The one you’ll let slip through your fingers. And you will regret it for the rest of your life. I don’t want your love. I just want you to see me, the way I see you. I see through your bullshit although I am not visible at the moment for you. It’s my own choice. Fear and hope. Please forget me. Please don’t ever forget me. Six weeks. I want to put my nose against your neck and feel your breath against my skin. Your eyes on me. Your words, just for me. We are cowards. We will stand in the same room, wondering if the other is there or if the other is thinking about us, but we will not get in touch. We will lose the opportunity. Maybe the only one we’ve got. One chance. And the way I know us, we will blow it. Or maybe that’s just me, yeah, maybe that’s just me.
Where are you now? I haven’t seen nor heard anything from you in such a long time. Please be okay. Please don’t disappear on me. Please don’t forget me.
As long as there is cum in my balls and a mind in my brain, I will never forget you.
Still the most romantic thing I was ever told. I wish it was true.
Dear stranger, six more weeks. Do something. Court me. I will be yours, there’s no doubt about it. You just have to want me again. Please want me.
Gosh… I am pathetic, pleading and begging…
I will never send this letter your way. Doesn’t mean that I am not thinking these things.
Oh and in case you were wondering. I am well. Thank you for asking.
Lots of love,
There sat a man on the stairs. His hair was hidden underneath a black hoodie, and his pale hands clutched a mobile phone. His jeans-clad legs were bent, and his knees were hugged by his arms. His head rested on his knees. He looked like a tired, sad man. His eyes were at once empty and overflowing with a raging storm. Maybe he was homeless. No one could tell for sure. Appearances can be deceiving in this day and age.
A busker stood next to a pillar. His fingers picked at the strings of his worn guitar, and his voice pronounced every word he sang with as many emotions as he could muster that day. His guitar case lay in front of him; opened wide, so that passersby would be tempted to toss in some of the loose change they kept in their pockets. So far not many coins were spread out on the black velvet. The romance of busking in the underground and being discovered accidentally by someone influential was wearing off. Sometimes he wished he hadn’t quit his day job because of a fluke. He had, though, and there was no turning back. And now, he played for people who hurried past him without seeing him and homeless drunks like the one on the stairs across from him.
I stood at the busker’s left and observed both men. Both had a similar aura. Tired of their situations. Not of their lives, like me. I felt a momentary connection with these strangers while I projected my own struggles on them. The man on the stairs looked lost in thoughts and mesmerised by the busker singing and interpreting songs we knew from the radio. And rightly so. He sang a beautiful version of Mad World. I hummed along.
The man on the stairs moved his lips in time with the lyrics too. Three strangers who had no connection whatsoever connected over a song. It was magic. I smiled at myself. It was a strange and foreign sensation for me. During this brief moment of contentment, the man on the stairs looked into my eyes. He nodded ever so slightly and, to me, it seemed as if his eyes were less tired then. A glimmer of hope was shining through his eyes and enveloped my own hopeless self.
The train arrived and the spell that had surrounded us dissipated and vanished with the throng of people invading this space that had been so magical mere seconds ago. The stranger was swallowed by the masses, and when the rushing brook of busy people had turned into a trickle, he was gone, and the busker was packing his guitar away. I turned to leave too. Without direction, without purpose. I had missed the train.
You have not always been a stranger in my life. You used to be a part of it. Of me. You could still be a part of it (of me) if you wanted to be. My arms are still open. As it is, you became a stranger. When we pass each other on an open road, we lower our heads and wish we could turn back time, but there are no visible signs that we were once lovers. Sinners. Nobody knows our secret.
You’ve been gone for six months now. Things happened, life moved on and I let go of you and of the feelings I felt for you. But once in a while, like this weekend, the feelings come back. And I wonder. Do you ever wonder? What could have been? What would have been? Do you sometimes wish to not lower your head when our paths cross but to acknowledge what we had and who we were? I guess you don’t. I guess these are silly thoughts of a woman who cannot let go. I should though. And I know it. But as much as I hated what we were, I loved it too. And I would do it all again. In a heartbeat and without regrets. A year is a long time. I changed during the year we spent together. I became a woman who was able to see her qualities. I accepted myself for who I was. Because you told me how beautiful I am and you told me how beautiful my mind is. With you gone, that affirmation is gone too. And I am invisible to my own eyes again. I know, it shouldn’t be this way, but it is. It is my truth. If only I could reach you again. If only I could touch you again. But it will not happen. And I will keep wondering if your thoughts drift to me before you fall asleep, and if you compose messages for me that you never send.
There are no words that are meaningful enough to tell you how much you mean to me and how much you meant to me. And while I write these words, I keep thinking that I am not in love. I am not in love. I am just in need. I am in need of the person who seemed to be a soul mate to me. I miss the understanding and the way that nothing was complicated between us, unless we let the world complicate it. I miss your gentle voice in my ear and the way you said my name. The voice is fading. I should have kept a record of it. But I didn’t. I don’t have anything physical that reminds me of our time. No evidence at all. Just the memories in my head. And I am afraid that they will change from what really was into what I wished it would have been.
The door is still wide open. The hole you left gaping wide is waiting for your presence to fill it again. And I am afraid that the hole will get bigger and bigger until I vanish inside of it. And I will be gone. It was easy to cope with your loss, at first. I was strong and too many things were changing in my life, I didn’t have the time to let my emotions rule me. But now that I fell and walked back into the dark, I am reminded of how much you are missed. I shouldn’t miss you. I shouldn’t write to you when I am not well. I should show you how well I am and how much success I have now. Fuck it. You saw me at my best and at my worst and you handled it well. Or I like to pretend that you did. I mean, there are reasons why you left when you did. I am sure that I drove you away. I sucked the light out of you and was too demanding. The novelty of me had worn off too. And, you couldn’t deal with the fact that I understood. I saw you for who you were and my arms and my heart were still open for you. I wasn’t scared or appalled. No, I was there. And I will always be there for you. Whenever you choose to come back, I will be there.
Ah dear stranger. Wouldn’t it be nice to not be strangers anymore? Wouldn’t it be nice to be lovers again? Two lovers in the morning sun. Overwhelmed with lust. And connecting on every possible level. The romantic in me tries to resurface. The realist wants me to say goodbye with this letter.
One last goodbye. But the memories… They are too meaningful to forget. Too important to hide in a closet. They are everything.
We will meet again, Sweetie. Ja? Say my name and I will be yours again.
I put tulips under all the pillows, and then I set fire to the house. I watched from a safe distance and listened to the wails of the approaching sirens. I was convinced that the house was haunted and the only way to get rid of the evil spirits was to burn it down. I sound crazy, and maybe I am, but what’s done is done. The flames ate at the house, and the clear blue sky turned to a dusty gray. It was hot, and I jumped back when the first windowpanes exploded. A crowd had gathered to look at the spectacle. My neighbor looked on in shock. I heard the voice of his ex-wife and saw her with the kid on her arm. She looked more annoyed and less alarmed. I didn’t like her. I should have burned her too. Evil witch. I turned to go, but my neighbor held me back. “I am so glad you made it out of there alive,” he pulled me into a hug. I froze on the spot. Why did he care about my well-being? No one cared about crazy old me. I didn’t move, and I didn’t return the hug. I pushed him away and made my way through the gawking crowd. I passed the firefighters who were laughing and joking. It was just another day at work for them. One of them was showing his cell-phone around. “I cheated on my spouse. And it wasn’t the first time.” He laughed out loud, and his colleagues clapped his shoulder as if they admired him for deceiving his spouse. For the second time in a short time, I froze. I knew I had to kill him too. He was a sinner. There is no place for sinners in this world. I moved closer to the firefighter. His scent reminded me of the smell of the T-shirt from a B-52’s concert I had bought in the 80s. A strange association, perhaps only made because their song “Rock Lobster” was blaring from the stereo. Rude. These firefighters were rude. I remembered the time Leslie called me a leech. It was time to spring into action and get closer to the firefighter. “I was in that house,” I announced, feigning breathlessness. I saw his eyes blaze. He clearly loved to be a hero. “Let’s get you to a paramedic then,” he had his arm around my shoulders, and I took the opportunity to play the weak victim. I melted against him, and he straightened his shoulders to catch me. “I feel so weak in your arms,” I breathed against his neck. I felt his breathing change, and I smiled to myself when I dropped my arm to brush it against his hard bulge. He was an easy one. In no time I would have him where I wanted him to be. “Take me away from here, please. Take me somewhere private.” He just nodded and snapped his fingers in the direction of another firefighter. “I’ma gonna take this fellow somewhere safe. Got it? Cover for me.” The other man’s smile spoke louder than words as the hero escorted me off the premises of the burning house. I stirred him to a hotel down the block. I insisted on checking us in, and he agreed without putting up a fight. The room was tiny. A typical cheap hotel room. It was perfect to finish this hero’s life. Above the bed hung a picture with a man wearing a plate on his head. It was odd, but the vivid colors made it something special. For a long time, I looked at it. The man pushed his body against mine, and I let him. He kissed my neck, and I let him. We undressed clumsily. He was in a bigger haste than I was. I ordered him to lay down on the bed, and he did. This was going to be so easy. He was beautiful to look at. I straddled him and kissed his lips. It was the last kiss he would ever taste. The kiss of death. The only one this sinner deserved. He struggled a lot. But I was stronger than he was. I was stronger and possessed by the voice in my head. I needed to end his life. And I did.
After I got dressed again, I picked a tulip out of the floral arrangement on the small table and placed it on his lifeless body. I stepped out on the street. The smell of fire clouded the road. I took a deep breath and exhaled with a satisfied sigh before I turned to walk down the pavement; never looking back to where I was coming from.
I had this system for getting exactly what I wanted out of people. I needed help. That much was clear. I needed money to pay the bus ride from this forsaken town to go to the big city. Such a cliché, but I had dreams and aspirations. I looked up and down the street and back at the bus driver, trying to understand his gestures and thinking about how to use my skill for my benefit. I was good at reading people. Amazing even. I lowered the zipper of my parka and climbed the steps. “Excuse me, Sir?” My voice was higher than usual and laced with sweetness too. He looked up at me grumbling something that I didn’t catch, but he waited for whatever I had to say. “I really need to take this bus, Sir.” He scratched his forehead, and I could see irritation form on his face. Before he could say something or kick me out, I leaned in closer to him. “The thing is, I got mugged tonight, and my money was stolen and,” I kicked it up a notch by trying to fake tears “Please. I will do anything you ask, just let me take a seat on your bus.” I whispered and waited in anticipation. To my right, I heard a chuckle. The man scrutinized the driver and me with a knowing look. I wasn’t above begging now, and the desperation must have shown on my face. He shook his head and addressed the bus driver: “If you don’t take chances,” said the man in striped pajamas, “you might as well not be alive.” There was an insulting kind of wisdom in his words and the driver huffed. He shook his head, mumbling about not making him regret this and moved his head in a way that told me to move on and find my seat. I nodded my gratefulness at the man in the striped pajamas, who shook his head and turned to watch the people outside, not sparing me another glance. I hefted my backpack up over my head and sat down with a sigh. My great escape from my overbearing home. Ever since mom had met Herb, life had changed. She had always been nosy and wanted to know everything. I stopped writing my diary because she kept reading it. I hid everything that was revealing about my personality because I didn’t want her to snoop around. She kept cleaning my room and changing my sheets and fixing my clothes when they had a tear here or there. But when Herb moved in, things changed. I remembered the first evening he spent on the couch as if the house was his. His feet lay on the coffee table, his disgusting toes visible through the hole in his sock. He smelled bad, and I was surprised that there weren’t any flies around him. He scratched his belly and asked me to go fetch him a beer. Stunned, I had gone to the kitchen, found a beer, uncapped it, and I had walked back to the living room. He grinned at me reaching his hand out for the brown bottle, and I snapped. I didn’t want him there. In my home, with my mom. She deserved better than him. I turned the bottle upside down, and the foamy contents soaked his pants. The growl and the gnarl were fierce, and Herb jumped off the couch. He raised his hand, and I waited for the blow, but it didn’t come. Instead, I saw my mom standing next to the couch with her hands on her hips. “What happened here?” She demanded. I looked at the bottle and thought fast, “I tripped,” I lied. Herb growled again but didn’t argue. “I’m going to change my pants,” he said, and I turned away from my mom, relishing my victory. I was propelled back to the present when the bus began to move. I wasn’t interested in the passengers and didn’t care to look at those who moved past me. The seat next to me jerked, I did my best to hide my curiosity, but in the end, I turned to look at the stranger. He looked rough and raw as if he had spent the night on the streets. His lip was split, and his eyes were of an alluringly dark brown. There was a frown on his forehead as he rummaged in a bag on his knees. “Fuck,” he swore and let his head fall back. He must have sensed that I was observing him because he turned to me with a smile. He reached out a hand that was covered in fingerless gloves. “Hi. I’m Henry.” His breath smelled of fresh mint. “Sammy,” I offered, but I didn’t take his hand. I was rude on purpose. I didn’t like strangers, and I hated feeling physically attracted to someone I didn’t know. “Suit yourself,” he chuckled. “I’ve seen you before,” he continued speaking. I looked at him with an annoyed sigh. If I had seen him before, I was sure I would remember him. There was just something about him. Something magnetic. Magical. Rough but attracting. “I saw you standing at the bus shelter in the rain. It was pouring, wasn’t it? Good thing we didn’t get soaked.” I nodded. I still couldn’t remember him, but it was true that I had found shelter from the rain and there had been other people too. It was still pouring outside. I decided to ignore the stranger for the time being. The ride was long, and I needed a little bit of quiet to process these last days. I was exhausted. I put my head against the window. It was cold against my heated skin. I closed my eyes and drifted off watching landscapes drive by. I am not sure for how long I was gone, but I woke up to the sound of Henry crying. It had been a long time since I had seen a man cry and Henry wasn’t just crying, he was sobbing. Intrigued I turned to him. He was still clutching his bag with one hand, in the other hand, he held a faded picture. I tried to get a look, but the light didn’t allow me to see anything. “Are you okay?” I asked, and he shook his head, wiping his snotty nose with the back of his hand. Of course, he was not okay, if he had been okay, he wouldn’t be crying. Henry tilted the picture in my direction, clearing wanting to speak but not finding the words. Two young men in uniforms had their arms around each other. They were laughing, I could almost hear the sound escape from the picture. It was a happy memory and yet, here sat Henry, crying. “I sometimes can’t help it,” he hiccuped, “I cry. It’s the stress. He was torn apart by a mine. I lost my leg. I wish I had died that day and not him. He was the best man you’ll ever know.” I nodded, not sure what to say. Henry was a stranger after all and I was on this bus to find freedom. I put my head on my hand on watched the blur outside again. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was such a thing as freedom. We were all prisoners of our memories, trapped in this moving vessel.