First date (repost)

She looked at her phone again. His last message read: Looking forward to tonight. Mailed you the address of the restaurant. x
The words hadn’t changed since the last time she had read them. They wouldn’t change, but the clock was ticking, and she was running out of time. She needed the stress to get ready for a date. Loved it even.

With a towel around her head, she walked naked from the bathroom to her bedroom. In front of the floor length mirror, she stopped and put her hands on her hips. She was just an ordinary girl. Maybe a little curvier than others, but she didn’t mind. Her hourglass figure was an asset to her. Turning left and turning right, she looked at herself. She felt sexy. A good sign for a first date with a man she had never met before. But she liked him from his emails and their calls. She opened her wardrobe and pulled out a pair of black jeans and a blouse. She threw both items on the bed and opened her underwear drawer. It was the right occasion to pull out the lace lingerie, but the question was which colour. Would wearing red underwear send the wrong signals? What if he wouldn’t see it, then she would feel attractive, and it would be her secret? What about the gray or the purple set? Or even the black? She decided to postpone the decision and pulled out bright green socks. It was a quirk, but she liked her colourful socks. She put them on her feet and moved back to the mirror. She hadn’t changed. Still naked, apart from her feet. She wriggled her toes and smiled.

A short look at the alarm clock on her bedside table told her that she had twenty minutes to get dressed, dry her hair, and put on some make-up before she had to go. She opened the other door of her wardrobe and took out a black dress. It had a deep cleavage but wasn’t too slutty. She liked it a lot. Nodding, she pulled out the red set of lingerie and a purple pantyhose. She pulled the socks off her feet again and threw them on the floor. There was no time for being tidy anymore. She wrestled herself inside the delicate pantyhose hoping not to rip it, pulled up the zipper at the back of the dress with many acrobatics and cussing, and took a final look in the mirror. With a content look, she thought: Yes, this is it.

Behind her on her shelf, she grabbed for the Hugo Deep Red and put some of it on her neck and wrists. She loved that fragrance; it was, without a doubt, her favourite. She put her bracelets on her wrist and her necklace with the star around her neck. It was said to keep evil spirits away, and although she didn’t believe in things like that, good spirits were always welcome, and she had no intention challenging the bad ones that day. Next, she debated which watch to wear, but then she grabbed the yellow G-Shock she wore daily. It was an eye catcher, and if the conversation would slow down, she could always bring up the fact that Chris Martin from Coldplay wears the same watch occasionally.

She shook her head, and the towel came loose. She let it drop to the floor and walked to the bathroom. She left the moist towel on the hardwood floor and she didn’t care if it left stains or not.
After spraying herself with deodorant, the next decision was due. Keeping the hair curly or straightening it? Thirteen minutes left and another curse-word. She put a product in her hair and began blow drying it with a brush. It took seven minutes to get it the way she wanted it. It wasn’t perfect, but she was running out of time. She put on a little bit of foundation, rimmed her eyes with black eyeliner and applied some dark brown mascara. Nude lipstick topped her looks. One last stroke of the brush through her hair and she was done, with one minute to spare. And she needed it.

She smoothed her dress against her thighs and sighed. She felt uncomfortable, and her hair and the dress didn’t look good together, and maybe she was overdressed for a casual first date anyway? She went to her bedroom again, and in a frenzy, she undressed, threw the dress and the pantyhose on the overfilled chair in the corner by the window and slipped into the black jeans and blouse she had planned on wearing all along. She couldn’t find her second sock in her haste and took a new pair out of the drawer. When she bent down to put them on her feet, she realised that her pants were too loose and she needed a belt. But where was her belt? I’m going to be late. I hate being late!! Frantically, she searched for the accessory that was supposed to keep her pants up where they belonged, and she finally found it on the pair of jeans at the bottom of the pile of clothes on her chair. Pulling hard, most of the clothes hit the floor, but she had what she needed. Her bedroom looked as if a bomb filled with clothes had exploded. She didn’t have time to tidy up or waste a thought about it.

Running down the stairs while pulling the belt through the loops, she didn’t waste time to find a matching pair of shoes. She slipped her feet into her cognac coloured boots and buckled the belt then bent down to pull the zipper from her boots. She put on her faux-leather jacket, the long scarf with the stars and grabbed the white tote bag with the red handles. Keys, phone, and off she went. She looked just like any other day, but she felt very different.

In the car, she put on her favourite song and hoped that her deodorant would keep her safe. She was stressed. Excited. And it was hot, which made her sweat. She put the music a little louder and concentrated on the road ahead.

A parking space was easy to find, but calming down her racing heart was another issue. She sat in the car. Two minutes to spare. She looked into the mirror to make sure that her hair looked good. Out of habit, she brushed the lipstick from her lips and wiped the corners of her eyes to get rid of black smudges. Her breath came in erratic pants. She felt like driving home again. But she was also excited to finally meet the man who had promised pasta and the best chocolate mousse in town. She rechecked her phone. No new messages. Which she took as a good sign. She closed her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths through her nose and released them through pursed lips. You’ve got this. She told herself when she opened her eyes again. Rubbing her sweaty palms and her thighs, she was finally ready. Go! She whispered when she got out of the car.

She got closer to the restaurant and kept her eyes on the floor. The heels of her boots made a lot of noise on the gravel. Maybe it was just in her head, though, amplified by her nervousness. She raised her head, and there he was. He was biting his thumbnail, looking every bit as nervous as she felt. He looked in the other direction, but it was unmistakably him. She slowed down. How was she supposed to greet him? She readjusted her blouse and ran her hand through the lengths of her hair. Her throat felt dry, and her entire body was trembling. He was taller than she had imagined him to be.

He let his thumb fall from his lips and in slow motion, or so it seemed to her, he turned his head. A bright smile erupted on her face, and he mirrored it. She took a couple more steps towards him, and he joined her. Both their smiles hadn’t faltered. And her nervousness was gone. All she wanted was to be in the presence of this man. Hear his voice, smell him and maybe, even touch him.

They stopped in front of each other. Close. Closer than strangers. She looked up to meet his eyes.
“Hello,” he said. His voice was hoarse.
“Hi,” she answered and felt her cheeks blush. He bent down to kiss her cheek, at that exact moment she turned her head, and his lips landed on her lips. Her eyes went wide, and her heart rate sped up again. His pale cheeks were tinged with a red colour too. He shrugged with a smile. She smiled back. He had nice lips. Smooth. For a while, they stood making small talk about the drive to the restaurant and the weather before he suggested to get inside. He took the lead, and she liked that. A lot. He held the door for her, and she lowered her head.
No one had ever held the door for her. It was cheesy and incredibly cute. It also showed that he was born in a different generation. Ten years of age gap was already making a difference. They walked close to each other, and when they waited to be seated, their arms almost touched. But not quite. They didn’t talk. They just smiled awkwardly.

At their table, he waited until she sat down, and when the waitress suggested an aperitif, she ordered a glass of white wine. He ordered a Perrier, and she blushed again. Right, he had mentioned briefly that he didn’t drink anymore. Not the best start for the evening. She opened the menu and scanned it without seeing the words she read. Under the table, their feet touched. Their eyes met briefly over their menus, but both of them lowered their gazes again. Awkward!

They sat with their menus on the plates, and she began to chuckle.

She: this is surreal, sorry.
He: yes, it is.

He laughed too. There were deep lines around his eyes, telling her that he was no stranger to happiness.

He: It’s hot in here.

He shuffled out of his suit jacket to reveal a pristine white button-down shirt when he put it on the back of his chair. She liked his look a lot. It was casual and not. With his button-down and the black suit-jacket, he wore dark jeans and black Converse shoes. His hair was tied back with a hairband, and only one lock fell on his forehead. He reached for his water, and she noticed his long slender fingers and the blue veins on the back of his pale hands. He took a couple of small sips. It was weird and cute. Under the table, their feet were still touching. Not moving, just resting against each other.
In her usual habit, she put her glasses to her left, and when the waitress came to take their order, she ordered a San Pellegrino and let the wine go back. He rose an eyebrow, but her mind was set.

She: you don’t drink. I don’t need it either.

He nodded with a smile. Apparently, he liked her thoughtfulness.

He: are you left-handed then?

He waved in the general direction of her rearranged cutlery and his watch and her right wrist.

She: Oh, no. That’s just an old habit. I move my hands a lot when I speak. Just precaution.

She blushed, admitting her clumsiness. He smiled at her.

He: I move my hands a lot too.

He took another couple of small sips of his water.

He: I have a dry throat and sweaty palms. Nervous.

It surprised her. She had no clue why an ordinary girl like her could make a man like him nervous.

She: don’t be. I’m just me.

He: exactly, and you look beautiful tonight. Gorgeous.

For a moment, she forgot how to breathe and how to think. Her eyes met his, searching for the joke in this, but all she found was honesty and sincerity. She had to lower her head to hide her embarrassed. She didn’t take compliments well.

He: look at me!

It was an order, firm but gentle. He knew exactly what she needed and how she needed to be handled. They had talked about it multiple times. She looked up.

He: just telling it as it is.

She: Thank you.

She wished for the food to be served to have something to do. This wasn’t going well. Or maybe it was, and she was too busy thinking herself down to let it happen. She sighed and gave herself an internal pep talk. All the time, his eyes were on her.

She: for how long will you stay in town?

He: depends…

He smiled, and she was saved from more awkwardness when the waitress brought their food. His pasta looked delicious. Hers did too.

He: Bon appetit.

She turned her plate 180°, another quirk and took her fork. His eyes were still on her when he took the cheese and sprinkled his pasta with it.

He: cheese?

She shook her head.

She: no thanks. Maybe later.

He put a big bite in his mouth, and his eyes closed. She almost expected him to moan. His mouth was still full when he spoke.

He: this is so good. Wow. How’s yours?

She had been busy watching the sensual way he was eating and felt caught in the act. Her food was good, but nowhere near as fascinating as her company for the evening. She felt bold when she loaded her fork and offered it to him. She had never done this before, but it felt like the right thing to do. He smiled, opened his mouth, and let her feed him. Again he closed his eyes, savouring the different flavours on his tongue.

He: spicy. Very good. Now you.

And he did the same she had done. Red sauce dripped off his fork and into her water glass. She chuckled, he shrugged. She opened her mouth, and her heart began to race. A tingle spread inside her. He took care of her, and she liked it. He tilted his head, awaiting her verdict.

Perfect, she said,

because the evening announced itself to be a success. After this, the conversation became more comfortable. And he had been right; he moved his hands a lot when he spoke. They discussed their beliefs and their faiths, and although she knew she was eccentric in that regard, she didn’t feel judged. In fact, they shared many views. Absentmindedly, she played with her left ring finger. There used to be a ring, but the man she had loved for so many years had never been as close to her mind as the one across the table. Smirking, she realised that this was the first date she had as a grown-up and independent woman. She smiled at him, and their conversation jumped from topic to topic naturally. The more they revealed of themselves, the faster her heart beat in a good way.

She was full. Half of her food was left on her plate, but as much as she didn’t want to waste the food, she couldn’t eat anymore. Her stomach was in knots anyway. Their conversation was filled with laughter but also with serious topics. It was effortless to talk to this man. She felt appreciated and attractive and completely forgot to be self-conscious. He made her feel as if she could be herself without the need to pretend to be more or less than she actually was. It was nice to lower her guards, and inwardly, she felt proud to do all of this without liquid courage clouding her brain. This was all real — her perception of reality anyway. The waitress came to clear the table, and with a simple look into each other’s eyes, they decided to wait before they ordered dessert. Conversation without words was such an intimate thing and rare too, but it was right for them. With the plates out of the way, the table looked large, and they had space for their hands. His pale hand reached out for hers. And there was the familiar embarrassment again. While his hands were pale and hairless, hers were rough and dusted with dark hair. She wasn’t the kind of woman to wear nail polish or to have long nails. She clipped them and kept them neat, but that was all she did to pamper her hands. She wanted to pull back, but he wouldn’t let her.

She: I don’t have beautiful hands. They are too manly.

He took her hands and inspected them, turning them this way and that.

He: they are beautiful. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

He ran a finger along the indentation her wedding band had left behind.

How long have you been divorced?

She: two months. He nodded and kept running his fingers over hers.

He: I have a child. Did I ever tell you about that?

It was her time to nod. There was nothing to say, just to listen as his eyes grew distant. He loved his child, it was written on his face, and she was learning to read him like an open book.

“Her mom moved them to Cyprus. I don’t see her often. I’m afraid to become the strange uncle at some point in her life. I only visit twice a year”. He took a deep breath and smiled. “But we Skype and I send her letters and little presents. I was never married.”

She opened her mouth to say something, but the waitress’s timing was awful. He let go of her hands and ordered dessert for her.

He: I told you we’d have chocolate mousse for dessert. It’s my favourite.

She didn’t object. She wasn’t too fond of chocolate, but the way he smiled left her silent. The smile faltered on her face. There. At that exact moment, she realised that she was slipping on a mask again, to be who he wanted her to be. She couldn’t let that happen, not after the kind of evening they had spent together.

She: I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

He: You’ll like it. I promise.

And she believed him. She liked him. She trusted him too. There was just something about him, maybe it was his eyes or maybe the way he talked, maybe it was just his charming ways, but he made her feel good about herself. It was the second time that evening she realised that small fact, and while she was aware that the end of their date was nearing as the waitress set their chocolate mousses in front of them, she didn’t want to see the evening end. He waited for her to taste the sweet dish, and she scooped up a little of the brown mousse. She looked anywhere, but at him, the way he watched her was unsettling. The chocolate on her tongue melted, and he had been right. She moaned and blushed at the prominent display of pleasure.

She: Wow.

He smiled victoriously and dug in too.

He: told you so.

The light ribbing had become part of their conversation, and the way their sense of humor clicked was another indication that she was falling slowly for the man across the table. Despite having eaten entirely too much, she emptied the dessert, and he hummed in appreciation.

He: you have something on your lip.

She blushed and wanted to reach for her napkin. Moments before it had been on her lap, but now it lay on the floor. He reached across the table and with his thumb, he wiped the chocolate from her lip. She didn’t overthink it and sucked his thumb clean. He chuckled, and she ran her tongue over the pad of his thumb. His eyes widened, and she could only assume the effect this little not so innocent gesture had on him. She smirked when she released him, but she kept his eyes fixed on his.

She: delicious.

He coughed when the waitress appeared out of nowhere again.

She: I’ll have an espresso, please and for the gentleman, a mint tea, please.

He looked shocked but didn’t argue.

He: do I have bad breath?

He breathed in his palm and tried to determine why she had ordered a mint tea.

She shrugged: payback for ordering for me.

He laughed out loud, and more curls fell from his hairband. He put them behind his ears, but they sprang right back up.

He: right. I’ll remember that and for the record, don’t make me drink that herbal brew, please. I need coffee, too — even more after dinner.

Without missing a beat, she waved the waitress over and changed the order from tea to coffee. The waitress rolled her eyes but scurried away again.

She: she thinks that I can’t make up my mind. I swear I am not that complicated.

She shook her head, smiling and put her hair over her left shoulder.

“Well, maybe I am very complicated, but she doesn’t know that.”

He laughed out loud again, and she loved the sound. She really didn’t want the evening to end. But when the coffee arrived, he asked for the check. She wondered if she should offer to pay or assume he would pay or maybe she should just pay her half but wasn’t that too fussy? She sighed and watched his delicate fingers as they stirred sugar into his coffee. As always, she drank hers black.

“So,” he said her name and the way he spoke it made the butterflies in her stomach do somersaults. A warmth spread from her heart all the way down to her most intimate place. She was surprised by the impact his voice had on her, but there was no denying. And it was hot in the restaurant.

“I had a great evening.”

He played with her fingers again. An electrical surge went through her. She inhaled shakily. She couldn’t rationalise where the sudden need came from, but at that moment, she would have done everything he could ask of her. And the mood shifted. It became loaded with promises and longing. Want and need were showing in dilated irises. He licked his lips, and she mimicked him. A kiss hung between them. The atmosphere was crackling. Until the waitress interrupted the moment, they had. They broke apart and chuckled like teenagers. He reached for his wallet, and when she wanted to do the same, he glared at her.

He: what kind of gentleman would I be if I would let you pay for our dinner or even half of it? Next time it’s your turn. Maybe.

She didn’t argue, but her annoying brain was back. What did ‘maybe’ mean? That there was maybe a chance to a second date? Or he would let her pay, maybe?

He: stop overanalyzing.

He chuckled, and she felt caught again.

She: that’s just part of me.

He: we’ll work on that together.

He put his credit card on the tray with the receipt. And once again, she believed him. There was just something about him that made her feel cared for. It was like coming home. But instead of being bored by the known, he excited and aroused her with his sheer presence.

“So,” he said again. “What are your plans for tonight?”

A panoply of possible answers came to her mind, but she wasn’t bold enough to ask him to go home with her, and she wasn’t daring enough to ask him to go for a walk. She worried her lower lip and was lost for words. “Just say it,” he smiled. On his face was something like hope.

She: I don’t want the evening to end.

A bright smile appeared on his face.

He: Okay. I don’t want it to end either. We could go for a walk. You could show me your city by night?

She beamed at him.

She: I would like that very much.

The inevitable end was pushed back further into the night. He paid and added a generous tip for the waitress. It was just another piece of the puzzle that made this man her perfect match.

He: are you ready to go?

Instead of answering, she shrugged into her jacket and put her scarf around her neck. He waited for her and held out his hand. She looked at it and took it. He walked in front of her, and she followed, looking at their joined hands. And maybe at the curve where his back met his behind.

“I hope you’re enjoying the view,” he chuckled, and she blushed. He hadn’t caught her starring, he was just teasing, but since he was right in his assumption, the embarrassment was back in red spots on her cheeks.

She: very much so, thank you.

He held the door for her again.

He: likewise.

He didn’t even conceal the fact that he checked her out from head to toes. There was a gleam in his eyes. They walked on for a couple of paces when he stopped abruptly. She almost stumbled. He took both of her hands in his.

He: I’m glad we finally met in person, and I would really like to kiss you if that is okay.

It was more than okay; it was desired. She stood on tiptoes and let the moment happen. The magic of a first kiss. He pulled her closer and lowered his head. She felt his breath on her skin and his heat coming closer and closer still. His lips were dry and smooth. The kiss was gentle but persistent, and when his hand pulled her closer, she licked his lips. It was just a quick touch of their tongues before their kiss was over. She opened her eyes and looked straight into his. He was smiling again. He put his arms around her and pulled her against him. She fitted his body perfectly. She wrapped her arms around him underneath his jacket and squeezed tightly. He put a kiss on her hair, and they broke apart. It was the natural thing to do. Hand in hand, they strolled through the illuminated streets. They showed each other interesting looking things, and once in a while, they stopped to kiss again. The bells of the cathedral announced midnight in the distance, and she yawned.

“Wouldn’t it be great if this date didn’t need to end?” She mused out loud.

He: it doesn’t have to end. You could come home with me.

As much as she wanted to say yes, she declined his offer. It was too much too soon. The mood shifted to one of regret. A missed opportunity created a distance between them as they walked back to their cars. Inwardly, she scolded herself. She had ruined a perfect date, or that was what her brain was trying to tell her. In front of her car, he turned her in his arms again.

He: Thank you for this perfect evening.

And he kissed her again. They said goodbye, promising to get in touch as soon as they were home. She got in her car and watched him turn away. She cursed and exhaled deeply in the sanctuary of her car. She started the engine, and when she was next to him, with his hunched shoulders and lowered head, she stopped.

She: the night doesn’t have to end like this. Would you like to go on a second date?

He turned to face her.

He: yes. When?

She: Now. Get in; I’ll take you on our second date.

He: are you sure?

She: yes.

Her heart beat too fast again, but she couldn’t stop the smile on her face. The second date with this man who was buckling his seat belt next to her was about to happen. She drove them to her house and saw him blink.

“Home,” she explained, and he grinned. “Are you coming?”

He: not yet, but I am sure I’ll be there in no time.

The suggestiveness of his words made her smile, but it had been exactly what she had wanted to hear — a perfect first date. And the second date would be successful too, she was sure.

Fifteen months

(Repost from September 16th, 2016)

And then it happened, and her demons won. Just like that and without a fair warning. They didn’t play fair. For fifteen months she had fought them off, and now she had lost the battle with her self-harming demons. Just two small cuts. Usually, she only made one deep incision. But cutting along existing scars proved challenging. And fascinating. The way the skin stretched without breaking. The way she realised that the pain from cutting her skin stopped the moment it began to bleed.

But something wasn’t right. Something was not like she remembered it. She didn’t feel the usual calm settle down over her like a relaxing fog. This time, she stayed agitated. Unsettled. Two cuts. Very small, yet there. They hadn’t opened the valve that allowed her skin to expand and give her more room to breathe. Not this time. This time, the cuts were a testimony to her failure as an adult. She was broken beyond repair. They were affirming her failure. Affirming that she was just a freak. Nothing more.

She grew restless. She was determined to punish herself and her body for all the things that weren’t right – mostly her mind.

Transfixed, she watched the drops of blood sliding down her wrist. Had it ever bled this much? Had she cut too deep? Was she done, or was there more cutting to do to ease her troubled soul? She started shaking violently. She cleaned the box cutter in a hurry, before returning it to its place on the shelf. She couldn’t stand its sight anymore.

She ran her arm under the sink and still reeling, she lit a cigarette. She claimed to be a non-smoker but once in a while; she liked the taste of her Luckies. This time, it was different – not calming her nerves, and still shaking all over, she felt so nauseous from the smoke that she put the cigarette out.

She considered drinking a shot of vodka, but she had promised to herself to be abstinent from alcohol and carbohydrates for at least two weeks. She had no intention of breaking that vow. Even under these circumstances. Or was it despite them? She had to stick to something.

But what was she supposed to do? All alone. She called her best friend, but she was busy. It was the usual scenario: she needed someone, but the world was too busy to care. She never pretended to be the centre of the universe, but she gave all the time, and when she needed a shoulder, some support, nobody was there.

On a whim, she messaged her ex-affair. It would have been their first anniversary. Did he know? He didn’t, but it was okay. The moment she heard his voice, she had to swallow down a wave of tears. She hadn’t believed that he would pick up the phone, but he had. He had always been a good listener. And even now, after months of silence between them, he did the same – he listened. Giving gentle advice, never judging. He held his narcissistic self under control while she confessed and confided in him what she had never confessed or admitted to anyone. She had harmed herself. Now she felt ashamed and exhausted. The tension hadn’t left. But his voice was reassuring, comforting. She never wanted to show him his weaknesses, but now she had done it anyway. He knew. She was naked, soul-stripped in front of him. He stirred the conversation in a different direction. And she let him, fully aware that he was asking for something in return. Nothing was for free.

On a path to self-destruction phone sex with him was just another step towards her final demise. Was she his prostitute? For him, she was. She was allowed to unload her emotional crap as long as she paid her debts with her body. She hated herself either way. This didn’t change a thing. And yet, she felt proud when she heard his moans and his erratic breathing. She didn’t feel dirty or ashamed that he had made her cum twice too. It was just words. A fantasy. Orders she bs followed. But sometimes, it was more. It had released the rest of the tension that had kept her on edge for so long, and when he told her so, knowing exactly how she felt, she had laughed out loud — a genuine s.
The earlier thoughts were forgotten. Not really forgotten, just pushed aside. She was still shaking all over. But there had been someone who had caught her, and it meant a lot to her. On a day, when she had hinted so many times, in front of so many people about all the things that weren’t right, and nobody asked if she was okay or needed help; on a day when she felt invisible and unseen, one person had seen her. And he had loved her. For how long it would last didn’t matter. He had been there when she had needed him. And it had indeed changed her day. Her demons were still hiding in the shadows. Bloodhounds. She wasn’t sure if she could keep them at bay, for she would try — fifteen months or longer.

I shared this piece of fiction because I stumbled across it today, and I liked that comment so much. The music I had added was Help Me by Maximilian Hecker

Upside Down – who is Giuseppe

At the other end of town, a middle-aged man was pacing the length of his office. Every once in a while, he looked across the room at two burly men who didn’t dare to look at him. They tried to be as small as they could, given their sizes and the confining space of the leather chairs they sat in. Giuseppe’s rage made a large vein on his forehead appear. It looked intimidating and as if it would pop every moment now.
“One thing. Just one thing,” Giuseppe seethed, pointing a meaty finger at his minions. “That stupid little…, how could you lose her?” The boss was not amused, and the look of his lackeys did nothing to soothe him. “I want my money, and I want the girl. Bring me both. If not, your future is sealed. Now get out of my sight. And don’t come back without Mildred.” Giuseppe rubbed the bridge of his nose to fend off an impending headache he felt.
“Yes Sir,” Tonio and Richard answered in unison and left Giuseppe’s office.
Exhausted, Giuseppe dropped down into his chair, massaging his temples. He looked left and right, making sure that no prying eyes were watching him, and then, out of a folder, he pulled a picture. On it, a younger version of Giuseppe was leaning against a tree. Next to him, another man stood with a little girl on his shoulder. Looking closely, one could see the men holding hands. Lovingly, he traced the other man’s face with one finger, wishing he would be able to touch more than just a fading picture. He remembered the day the photo was taken vividly.
Giuseppe and Connor had taken their daughter on a picnic in the park. They had played ball and fed the ducks; they had played catch and eaten fresh sandwiches Connor had prepared for them. And later in the afternoon, when the girl had been tired, the little family had found this large tree that offered shade for them all. A timer had helped to take this family picture, and minutes later, little Milly had fallen asleep in Giuseppe’s arms.
That time was long gone. Twenty years later, all Giuseppe wanted was revenge. Milly had stolen from him. Not only had she stolen Connor’s heart, but she had taken money that wasn’t hers.
Giuseppe slipped the picture in the folder, hiding it again. He had sought revenge for such a long time; he didn’t know how to stop anymore. If he let Milly go, he would appear soft to the other mobsters around, and his reputation would be damaged beyond repair. Silently and secretly, Giuseppe only wanted peace of mind. He wanted his family back, and he wanted to spend the remaining years of his life in the presence of his little girl and the love of his life. Neither was at his side for now, and as long as he was chasing Milly, she would not be back without a fight. Giuseppe sighed and cursed. Life was complicated. He just hoped Tonio and Richard would not kill Milly when they found her. “Where are you, you silly girl?” Giuseppe asked into the empty room. The question echoed off the walls without a reply.

Life between clouds and feathers – Don’t be silent (10)

Every silence makes Connor aware of the screams building up inside of him. Every moment of numbness reminds him of the many moments of overflowing emotions he experiences on a daily basis. He isn’t leading a life that fits the norm. He can’t. Everything needs to be in a certain order. Filed by colours, or numbers, or memories. No one knows what triggers him. Least of all he himself. Life could be so easy. It really could be. But not for Connor. Few people try to understand Connor and his special needs. Thomas is one of the few. But Thomas himself is not an easy characters. Connor once knew how to handle the man who is currently sitting on his couch. But things happened; life happened, and what little trust that had built between these two was destroyed in the blink of an eye after too many fights. Both men can’t say what happened or when they fell out of love. The fights just got too many to ignore. And the words that were spoken in anger left deep wounds that didn’t heal. As it was, Thomas never gave up on Connor. He tried to let him go, but too many sleepless nights were spent thinking about the man who once owned his heart. In the meantime, Thomas had a girlfriend, but it wasn’t the same. He was not able to give her what Connor had gotten so willingly. After Connor had gone, there had been a void in his life no one could replace. The many routines Connor has and which have driven Thomas mad, were now missing from his life. And Connor; his heart has been bruised, and he recoiled into his own little impenetrable shell. The end of their relationship has been a huge failure for him personally. In his mind, his malfunctioning brain is to blame. It isn’t, Connor knows it rationally, but emotions rule his thinking. Thomas is still silent, sitting on the couch, flipping through the channels on the TV. He doesn’t say a word. It is unsettling. If he just said something. If he just insulted him for what had happened earlier. But no. Silence. Silence is louder than the loudest scream. Uncomfortable.
“Say something,” Connor dares to say at last.
“We should order some food,” Thomas replies. His eyes never leaving the silver screen.
“That is not what I meant, and you know that I can’t order takeout. I can’t eat the food someone else touched.” Connor looks at his naked feet. They feel good when he rubs them on the carpet.
“I am hungry. I am going to order some pizza.”
“Here?” Connor needs Thomas to say yes. He cannot be left on his own. But he also dreads the answer. He cannot have Thomas in his sanctuary. He will disrupt his routines, and he will take space Connor needs for himself.
“Of course. Don’t think that I will leave this place anytime soon after your little stunt.” Thomas sits up straight. Muting the TV, he looks at Connor. He knows better than to try and make eye contact.
“We are not a couple and you are here uninvited.” Connor tries to make a point, but it is as weak as it sounds, and he knows Thomas well enough to know that he won’t leave.
“I don’t give a flying fuck about whether I am invited to be here or not. I will not leave until I know that you are okay.”
“I didn’t mean to kill myself…”
“… And yet you tried,” Thomas cuts Connor off.
“Pizza, I am starving. I’ll sleep on the couch. And now, shut up I want to see this.” Thomas takes his phone out of his pocket and orders food, before he turns his focus back on the TV. “It is okay, you know. Just sit here with me for a while. The world can wait.”
Connor doubts the truth of those words, but somehow, he is willing to find out. Something is different. Something feels weird. He sits next to Thomas on the couch and without over-thinking it, he leans into the other man. He is comfortable feeling Thomas’s heat through their shirts. Safe. The thought scares him. He is too far out of his comfort zone to enjoy it. He is too exhausted to be able to find a way to make this easier for him.

Life between clouds and feathers – walking the wire (9)

Connor is walking the wire. In his mind he is. On one side, Thomas is holding him, on the other is an abyss. Connor doesn’t dare to move. Neither perspective is one he is comfortable with. But he prefers to be on the safe side. For now. Frozen in place, his mind is blank, too. His mind and his body are vacant. Mechanically, he lifts his arms to be helped into a t-shirt, and other clothes. He barely registers his stomach pains and the urgency to empty its contents into the toilet bowl. Everything is numb. And it is scary. Connor is used to be dominated by thoughts and urges. This nothingness is scary. Every routine that is etched into his brain is followed with determined ease and showing his attention to detail. He moves around Thomas as if he were a piece of furniture. And Thomas doesn’t object. He just watches Connor doing his thing. Connor scrubs the kitchen with various cleaning products, fully focused on his task. In passing, he takes the note he left for Thomas to read, scrunches it up, and throws it into the trash as if it is a used tissue. The more he cleans and files and organises, the calmer he becomes. Following his daily rituals help too. The wire in his head becomes larger and easier to navigate. The abyss is not as deep anymore, and he doesn’t feel the need to be held anymore. However, the emptiness he now feels is new. The void that is spreading in him is a threat he has never felt before. His mind is racing. His heart is too. He feels a new wave of nausea hitting him and he runs to the bathroom. Dying by asphyxiation must be less painful and embarrassing than the stomach cramps he is experiencing after an overdose with different vitamins. Thomas is at his side, holding out a wet towel for Connor to clean his face. He avoids touching him more than absolutely necessary. Thomas stays stoic and silent. His presence is enough to keep Connor from disintegrating. His silence is welcome and comforting. And Connor continues to walk the wire. Slowly. Because the calm is not reassuring. It opens doors for new demons.

When two become one

“I had these ideas about you. None of them are true…”
“Like?”
“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.

“Go on…”
“You are much more handsome than on your pictures.”

*He smiles. She’s back on track.

“What else?”
“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.”
“I know.”
“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.

Dear stranger

Dear stranger,

It has been a while, hasn’t it? May was the last time we spoke. May 8th. Not that I am keeping track, but I remember the day. Since then, I deleted your number from my phone. Not because I despise you or don’t want us to be in touch, but you told me to wait for you and that’s what I am doing. Waiting has never been my strongest quality and I know that I am waiting in vain. This – this entire situation is harder on you than it is on me. I guess it should be the other way around, but I can’t change it. And I don’t regret it either. Sure, for you everything is different and I can’t pretend to understand you, your motives, your reasons, or your actions. I can’t and that’s a fact. Once, we agreed that we need to be friends and trust one another. Maybe we trust each other but I don’t think that we are friends. We never shared anything that really mattered. We never were in love. Just in lust from time to time. And with our lust, desire, passion, we broke limits and boundaries. Maybe a couple times too often? Yes, maybe. Certainly. Some of it was my fault. I enabled you and didn’t stop you when I should have said no. I gave you my control when I should have taken control. I let you be the dominant one when I should have been. I write this right now because I do miss you. For a week now, I wasn’t sleeping right and I blame it on you. Your presence in my mind. And I worry. Also, I want to know how you are. And selfishly, I also want you to remember me. You will never forget me. I know that for sure and yet… I want to touch you again. I like your social media posts just to make you see that I am still there. Maybe we will never speak again. Maybe we will be an active part of each other’s lives soon again – truth is, it doesn’t matter. We will always have our memories. You will be a memory. And in many years time when I can grandchildren, I will tell them all about you. (The censored version! But come to think about it, then there isn’t much to talk about.) I wish that my presence how ever short or intense left some sort of impact on your life. Preferably a good one. I will never know what you won’t tell me.

I am still there…

xx

a strange connection

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.

sinner

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.

next November

​What a difference a year makes, don’t you think. Last year, you spent two weeks in Australia for work. You called daily. Sometimes twice. I remember that one call, when you were crying because you missed your daughter. We talked a lot that night. About your kid and her mother and about my kids and the way I raise them. You said that you liked the way I talked about them and it was the first time you called me beautiful. Another time when we talked, it was my turn to cry. The past had caught up and an apology had been issued. It had meant so much that I teared up when I told you. And you listened patiently. It was also the time when I told you about my family dynamics. I remember those things clear as day. And I miss those talks. Quality talks. I was never someone to cry a lot in front of people. But I cried with you. Three times. Yes, I counted because crying is such an intimate and personal thing for me. I don’t mean the tears I shed last night after I watched that movie, but the real emotional tears that come straight from the sad and overwhelmed heart. Yes, that meant a lot. And you know, those tears, those explosions of emotions, they felt so good with you. It feels like a lifetime ago. Do you remember that time you called very early in the morning. My voice was thick with sleep, my brain not ready to translate the words we were saying to each other. We laughed so hard. That’s a sound I remember and miss too. Your laughter. It’s true, last November, we were so close. This November we couldn’t be farther away. You will probably be abroad for weeks, you mentioned the Netherlands to me the last time we spoke. I am not sure about your schedule and it is not my business anymore either. Just, yes. I had this thought that last year everything was different. Last November we were one. This year we are worlds apart. Next November life will be different yet again. And it is good.