“Do you ever think about suicide? About ending it all? Just vanishing? Being gone? Not existing at all?” he asked, avoiding making eye-contact. He took a sip of his coffee and looked at the people on the other side of the street. She didn’t answer. She didn’t know how. “I do,” he continued. “I think about it. All the time. Not about death itself, but how to make it easier for those around. And I wonder what they will say and who will miss me.” Their eyes briefly met, before he averted his gaze and looked at the clouds in his coffee. “I would miss you,” she croaked, cleared her throat and repeated the same words in a steadier voice. “Why?” he whispered. “Why” was a question that often made his life unnecessarily hard. That three-letter word made him dread and anticipate answers, all at once. “Because the thought of not having you close to me breaks me inside. The void you would leave would swallow me.” Tears welled up in his eyes. He didn’t want to make a scene, but she had a thing with words; always finding the words that forced his emotions to explode. “If you were gone, I would probably follow you. There is nothing keeping me here. If it wasn’t for you, I would not be here,” she whispered sadly. He didn’t know how to react and how to respond. He just covered her hand with his trembling one. She looked at their hands, then she lifted her head to look into his face – into his eyes. “Please don’t leave me behind,” she begged. “Never,” he replied. “I love you too much.” She nodded, wiping the corner of her eye. A tear was threatening to ruin her makeup. Lately, she had thought about taking her own life a lot. She led a happy life, but something dark was clawing at her thoughts. Something devastating was fraying the edges of her fragile soul. Holding on was much more exhausting than she would have ever thought. Why was living and staying alive so easy for most people? Why was it so hard for her? And him too. “Let’s promise each other to stay alive together for as long as we can. There are reasons to stay alive, right? If I remind you of them, and you me, we will be okay.” On the other side of the street, a toddler was crying in his stroller. From her point of view, it looked as if he didn’t like being strapped tightly in the stroller without any means to break free. “Freedom is just an illusion. A creation of the mind. The emotional cage we are living in is a creation of the mind too. It either helps us to stay sane, or we will break and grow insane.” He tilted his head to the side and took a sip of his coffee. It was as if he was seeing her for the first time. He had been too busy with his own thoughts, missing that she was not alright either. “Depression is a selfish bastard,” he thought out loud, taking his hand back. “We should go,” she ignored his statement, got up from her chair and put her bag over her shoulder. He stood next to her, kissed her forehead and let his hand find hers. She looked up at him. The affection in her eyes made his heart race. “I love you,” he blurted out. He had never said the words before, but they had never been this true and important to share either. A genuine beaming smile appeared on her face. She didn’t reciprocate his words. She didn’t have to; he felt her love wafting off her skin. Being alive wasn’t so bad, if he was allowed to do it with her.
It’s cold and I wrap my cardigan closer around my shivering form. Still, I don’t want to turn around and walk back home. I enjoy the peaceful quiet and loneliness that surrounds me. The wind blows, almost cutting my skin. I feel the cold sand sticking to the soles of my bare feet.
Nobody is at the beach. The sky looks grey, almost black and I know, that in a few minutes, it will open up and soak me in cold rain. I stop and turn to look out over the vast ocean. The waves are nothing more than white lines that crash eventually. The ocean looks threateningly big and violent, and once again, I feel small. Very small. Insignificant. Around me, everything seem to be big and meaningful. Me, I am a grain of sand. Not important at all. The realization hits me hard, making my eyes sting with unshed tears. I pretend, that it is the chilly air, but I know that I am lying to myself. It is not the first time that I am doing this.
He is back again. His voice in my head is back. Torturing me. Making my life hell.
There are days, when everything seems pointless to me. Every battle is lost, and I feel obsolete.
The lines between reality and the torment in my head blur, and I wonder how it would feel to drown. Not that I have any intention to walk towards the freezing swallowing ocean, but I wonder.
There are days, when I long to feel the serenity some people find at the beach. Finding inner peace and being able to keep that feeling inside, and letting go of everything else seems easy for many people. But not me. No, not for me. Nothing else matters anymore.
There are days, when it would be so much easier to simply give up. Listening to the voices in my head, obeying them, and fading away from the face of earth. Who would care anyway?
I shake my head, trying to make these thoughts stop from building toxic roots in my mind. Getting rid of that awful voice that is trying to pull me under proves to be impossible. I don’t want this. But it is stronger than me. He is stronger. A hole I fall in from time to time, orchestrated by his words. Manipulating me like a puppet on a string. Sometimes, it is so deep that there is almost no way to get out of the dark and lonely place again. Sometimes it’s not deep at all and the right scent, the right words, and the right notes can make me see the light again.
I struggle. An inner war is raging inside of me, when all I want to do is to strive for inner peace. It looks so easy for some. For me it’s a constant struggle.
The rain starts to fall. In a matter of minutes, I am soaked to the bone and frozen to the core of myself. I know, that I should move and go home. I know that I should put on my socks and shoes. But I can’t. I cannot move. Paralyzed. Something is holding me back. My hands fall down at my sides and I feel my shoulders slump. My head bends down and I fall down to my knees. My soaked cardigan is heavy on my skin. Pulling me down with an invisible, yet invincible weight on my shoulders. I bury my face in my hands. Accepting my defeat. Shivering in the cold, with my long wet hair pasted to my face. I cannot go on. I cannot keep fighting myself. I have to give in. I cave.
I give up.
For the first time in a long while, I am willing to give up and give in.
“Take me with you!” I yell into the cold and empty space. It is the last surge of energy before my inner self combusts. My heart burns with the emptiness inside. Ashes, are all that will be left within when all this is done.
I cower on the beach. Lonely and alone. Painfully aware of all of my flaws. Painfully aware, of the hole that is swallowing me. Too tired to fight. And why should I fight anyway? He doesn’t let me fight.
What is there left fighting for anyway?
This place holds no shelter for me anymore. I want to fade away and vanish. Too jaded to go on. Too hollow.
It’s like I am in a trance.
I hear a noise and startle. Thunder and lightening are keeping me company. I wake up from my trance, and see where I am; realize what I am doing. I’m trembling from the cold, and from the shock of my train of thoughts. A heavy smile creeps up on my face. She is here to save me.
It’s always like that.
Two personalities are residing inside of me. Fighting to get the reigns over me. One of them is overly optimistic, always positive and supportive. Always honest and chatty. The other one is a suicidal pessimist. One day, he is going to win. One day, she will not be there and win the internal battle at the last minute. I know it. It scares me. I know that he is stronger.
I get up and the sky clears up too. No more rain. The wind calms down. I am dripping wet. Sand is sticking to my clothes. But I survived the storm.
Finally, I move. I move towards home. Wherever that is.
“Home is were you hang yourself…
…some pictures on the wall”
I enter my home. It’s empty. Almost no furniture. No voices. Nothing. I can’t stand the quiet and so, my first move is to turn on the music. Loud. To drown out the last of his thoughts. The hardwood floor is wet from my clothes and I shed them. Struggling to get the wet cloths from my freezing skin.
I take a shower to wash away the morning and the cold. But his voice is persisting today. He wants to see me perished.
In the back, I hear her voice. She’s screaming loudly.
“This too shall pass.” I nod my head. She is right. Maybe. I sigh into the foggy steamed bathroom mirror. It’s going to be a long week. It’s going to be a daily fight. I wish I could hibernate. Let them fight it out and whoever wins can take over my body. Whoever wins gets to do whatever they want with me.
“Fight. You’re strong. Don’t let that bastard get to you.” Some days, I am a fighter.
“Give up. You can’t win anyway. I am stronger and you know it.” Some days, I submit and lose the battle in my head.
(Originally written in May 2014, slightly edited today.)
(Unedited… I will get to that later…)
Easy. Nothing is ever easy for Connor, and nothing will ever be. Easy is wrong. Or so it seems. And so, Connor continues to live his life the way he is used to do it. He goes about his usual routines. He goes to counseling twice a week. He goes to work every day. He takes his medication daily at the same time. He arranges his food by colour, and his socks too. He counts steps from one distance to the next, and he counts the minutes until Thomas will be back sitting on his couch. As much as his head wants to deny it, his heart knows that Thomas is the only one he will ever let in. Thomas is the only one who makes him feel safe when he is breaching his personal space. He doesn’t need to feel embarrassed or ashamed in front of Thomas. Never. Because Thomas always seems to understand.
Something clicked recently. And the realisation that they fit profoundly is etched into Connor’s mind now. And this makes Connor’s thoughts a little less dark and a little lighter. It is a phase and he knows it. But he also knows that he needs to savour it. He needs to savour it or it will be over too soon. Right now, Connor’s mind is light as a feather. Soon it will be dark as a cloud again, but he chooses not to think about it. Running on his treadmill, his black curls bounce up and down with every step he makes. His blue eyes are focused on the filing of his music collection, and in his mind he is counting. He is counting the steps he makes. He is counting his heartbeats. He is making the moment count. Connor runs and runs, but it doesn’t feel like running away for once. It is just exercise. Nothing more. Just exhausting his mind and his body. Easy. He slows down, rubbing his face with his towel, catching his breath. He feels a presence before he sees it. It makes him smile.
“What’s that?” Thomas enters Connor’s fitness room. He has leaned against the door jamb watching the shirtless young man. If he weren’t as tormented. If things were just a little easier. But they aren’t, and he learned to take what Connor is offering.
“Thirty-thousand-two-hundred-seventy-eight seconds since you last touched me.”
Thomas gulps. “You counted?”
Connor smiles. “No, I am not that mental. I did the maths,” he chuckles and reaches for a shirt that is folded in a neat square. Thomas puts his hand over Connor’s. “You are having a good day today.” Connor just nods at Thomas’s statement.
“I am a bird today. Not a cloud,” Connor mumbles. But Thomas understands. He most often does. Living a life between clouds and feathers can be a challenge for Connor and for everyone around him. But today, Connor isn’t afraid. And Thomas isn’t either, because today Connor is a feather and that is all that matters.
A couple of days ago, I decided that it was time for me to write again. A novel, something I haven’t written in years. I had a story and characters in my head. I had an outline that was partly based on true events and then, out of the blue, I got sidetracked by a different story. One that is a surprise even for me while I write it. Everything is new, even the narrative voice. It is unexpected but not unwelcome. This short story that demands to be written on the spot is not elaborated, it has no structure and the chapters are so short that the story can’t even be considered to be a short story, and yet, there is something appealing in it. At least I think so. It is posted on my Wattpad account. Life Between Clouds and Feathers But I am wondering if I should share it here too. What do you think? Should I post links to the entire chapters or crosspost the chapters here?
About the title:
Life between clouds and feather came to my mind when I was scrolling through my pictures on my phone. I had a couple of pictures of birds that flew in the sky. In one particular photo, the sky was grey and full of clouds. And somehow, in my mind, a connection between thoughts dark as clouds and thoughts light as feathers was made. My mind works in mysterious ways. That picture was used (and heavily edited) to be the cover of my book. I am quite excited about this. I am not sure if it shows 😉
Thank you for your attention… now I just need to hear your thoughts about the above question: share links or share chapters?
“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.
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…
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 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.
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.
Red. He can taste the colour. It’s the favourite shade of his favourite colour. Nothing can stop him from craving it. Men, women, children, even animals; they all have it and he wants it. Red. All he wants to taste is red. Feast on weak and limp bodies until every nuance of red has left them to take up residence in his veins. He sees a woman with a red coat and a red umbrella. In the grey neighbourhood on this grey day, she stands out. As if she is calling his name. And maybe that is what the rain is singing when it thumbs down on the ground. It wants him to see her. Red. It’s all he wants. He stops her to ask for the time. An easy smile plays around her lips and they quirk up. Around her eyes small lines are visible. She is beautiful. But his want doesn’t understand beauty. It doesn’t care about esthetics. He wishes that he could play with her. Like a cat plays with a mouse before the feast. He can’t. Tortured red doesn’t taste good. It’s the adrenaline that makes a good meal go to waste. He is a gourmet, he doesn’t want to spoil a delicious dinner.
He thanks her politely for the time and turns as if he wants to leave. But he doesn’t leave. With a seducing smile, he turns back around and he invites the woman for dinner. He knows she can’t resist his charms. No one can. She worries her lower lip before she accepts his offer with a bashful smile. She is perfect, he thinks, and she will be his.
He is perfect, she thinks, and he will be hers.
The shades of red on him are beautiful. She can taste them on her lips. He is handsome. Too bad he fell for her charms. As he fills her veins she feels sated for the night. She turns in an goes to find a peaceful sleep. Tomorrow, her hunt for different shades of her favourite colour will start again. Red. That’s all she has ever been craving. All she needs in her life is more red.
We sit together in silence. Our beers are left untouched, our words are left unspoken. My mouth is dry and my mind is in overdrive, but I can’t produce the words that clog my brain. Another one of our friends was buried today, and our circle is quickly diminishing. Once, we have been a clique of ten friends. We went to the clubs, and drank and danced the nights away. Some had been more than friends others had been platonic friends without the wish for more. Seven friends have passed away in ten years. The gay plague, that is what conservative newspapers had called it in the eighties and nineties. But we all know by now that it isn’t just a plague for gays. It is a plague for humans. How can it be that it still kills us? With all our knowledge and the access to condoms or meds. Are we really that naive and unconcerned? Do we ignore what we know for a moment of unbridled lust?
So, here I sit with Marcus and Will. We are the survivors of our clique, and I have no idea why. Why are some people infected and others are not? The three of us are not. Were we lucky or just careful, I don’t know? Who has decided to spare us this fate? And is it even fair that it is us? My life is not more privileged or liveable as Marvin’s, and yet, I am here, and he is not.
Marvin has taken his own life. He lived with the virus for two decades before everything changed for the worst. I am not sure what exactly changed. He never volunteered any information and I am not someone who pries. Like us, he saw the way our friends had wilted away. He had seen the agony, the pain, the humiliation. They faded in front of our eyes, and there was nothing we could do to stop it. Marvin, he refused to be a fading flower. He refused to live in pain and be in need of a carer. He lived a self-determined life and he wanted to end it that way too. Pills. He took sleeping pills that didn’t let him wake up again.
Earlier, at his funeral, I read a part of his farewell letter.
I want to thank you for mourning the loss of my human shell, but, remember: The show must go on. There were people before me and there will be people after me. And life goes on. All I can and will ask is that you don’t shed tears because I am gone, celebrate because I was here. And make the most out of your life. I enjoyed mine. Please do too. Goodbye.
People cried, of course. I did too. I can’t imagine my life without his wit and his snark. I don’t want to imagine nights out without him. But I must. Because, Marvin was right. The show must go on.
I push my beer away and get up. Marcus and Will look up as if they are trying to find words to say or the energy to move. They stay put, though, and they stay quiet. I hide my hands in my pockets and ponder what to say, but there are no words. I shrug my shoulders, lowering my head, before I nod in the direction of the pub’s door. They nod back and that’s my cue to leave. I don’t look back. I don’t want to see their grief.
The bright daylight blinds me as I step out of the dim pub and on the pavement. Nothing around me suggests that we just buried one of the best men to have ever wandered this earth. The world keeps spinning and people keep bustling around.
I drive home. I should be feeling more than I do and it almost makes me feel guilty. I am not numb, but I am not excessively sad either. I exist. That’s all, and it is not enough. At home, I put on some music and sit on the couch with my cell phone. I roam through my contacts until I find Marvin’s number. Delete. My contact list becomes emptier still. And out of the stereo, Freddie sings: The show must go on.
A friend requested a story for World Aids Day. It’s important to keep awarness alive… This was my submission.
And so it began. Her reflection in the mirror faded with every time she dared to look. Her skin became grey and her eyes had lost the living spark. Color was a distant memory she only vaguely remembered. Grief had taken over the moment he had passed on. She rubbed her face with bony wrinkled hands, trying to find the person she once was. But she was gone. He had taken everything with him, and he had left her with an old and worn shell.
She shuffled to the bedroom and closed the windows. The evening breeze was crisp; winter was lurking around a corner. She shed the last pieces of her clothing and laid on the bed, folding her hands on her soft stomach. Then she closed her eyes and conveyed the images of him that she had stored away in her mind. They came, and took her away. Away from the grey. Away from the grief. She felt her feet touch the ground and her eyes sought out details to understand where she was. She was in a strange land where no age and no pain existed. A land between life and death. But she didn’t know that yet. Her vessel was still inhaling air to fill her lungs, and making her heart beat on.
She could hear his voice; Henry’s voice was teasing her, asking to come see him. But whenever she turned toward the direction of the sound, nothing was there. No one was there.
“Henry?” Her thin voice reverberated through the nothingness. The uncertainty spread inside her body. The soles of her naked feet felt a change in the surrounding before her mind was able to catch on. Where the ground had been of sand and gravel before, it was now cotton-like and soft. Walking became more like floating. A familiar laughter made her walk on with a smile. She was where she wanted to be. For a moment, her chest had felt constricted, but it wasn’t anymore. Panic that had threatened to arise was pushed back down. She knew that she would be fine, because he was near.
There was no way to describe what she saw around her. There were no shapes and yet everything was of different shapes. There were no colors and yet everything was so very colorful. There were no sounds and yet, it wasn’t quiet either. Everything felt familiar and well-known. Almost intimate. Even the smell of the air reminded her of a place she had loved once upon a time.
“Henry?” she asked again. She felt the touch on her bare arm before she saw him.
“There you are, my love,” he replied and kissed her forehead. “I missed you, what took you so long?” She needed a moment to answer. She took his cheeks between her hands and exhaled sharply. “Henry, is this you? This can’t be you.” The man looked familiar, but he was young. So very young. Her Henry had been old and sick, marked by his age and everything he had seen in his lifetime. His hands covered hers. The heat of him seeped into her. His smile was contagious and familiar. “It is you,” she whispered, stepping back and bringing her hands to her lips. If this was Henry, what did it mean? How could it be? The blurry shapes and colors changed around her. She was on the farm she had grown up. The grass was green; the shade of green it has after a recent summer rain. The sky was blue and cloudless. The barn that had burned down and had killed livestock stood tall and was painted in red and white. Looking down, she realized that she was standing on a wooden porch. She was wearing a thin dress she had loved because of the flowers on it. She turned around. Everything was familiar. Young Henry sat in a rocking chair looking at her.
“Did the other shoe finally drop?” he chuckled and reached his hand out to her. He was engulfed in light. The glow was so bright, she almost had to look away, but she couldn’t. She took his hand and he pulled her toward him. “Oh Henry,” she sniveled. “Are we…?” She didn’t finish her question.
“Yes, Vera, my love. Welcome to eternity.”
She looked at him. He was more than she had ever expected him to be. A lot more. His green eyes were so pale, and his ginger hair was just leaning enough to the blond side to look beautiful. His fingers were long and slender, its tips worn and hard from playing his instrument daily for more than three decades. There was something very gentle about him. It wasn’t just the voice that was deep and a little raspy with a sensual lilt. His hands were animated when he spoke. There was life inside this man. A light that shone brightly. There had always been something mysterious, vulnerable, strong and sensual about him. He knew many demons by name. Some, she knew too. He was known for being difficult, too sure about his talent and himself, but that confidence was something she had always admired. And now she sat face to face with him. When they had talked on the phone for the first time, she had been starstruck. But soon it became normalcy to talk to him weekly, sometimes only monthly. There was a bond. Too many similarities to ignore. For both of them. She didn’t want to be his groupie, and she didn’t feel like it either, but now she didn’t only like his music and his lyrics, she had grown to like the man himself too. With all his flaws. They made him human. With all his arrogance that shone through too.
She didn’t know what he saw in her, but since he had repeatedly told her that she was beautiful and that he liked her mind, she didn’t question it. There was no use. He saw things in her she didn’t see. And he inspired change within that she hadn’t known to be capable of.
Sometimes they didn’t speak in months. During these months, she felt lonely and unhappy. Incomplete. Even though they shared this connection and this inexplicable bond, she wanted to leave him his space. She saw the music as being his job. There were times when he didn’t do a lot and other times when he was too busy to do anything but write and record a new album. She refused to intrude. She took it as a gift when he spent time with her, and she was content that he always seemed to come back to her.
Like now. He had insisted on making time for her tonight, even though he was working. It was the first time they sat face to face. But it was apparent that the chemicals between them were stronger than she had ever anticipated.
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
He looked at her. He had loved many women in his life, had been engaged twice too. Opening up to this woman and trusting her the way he did had been a challenge. She had touched him at a moment when he had craved connection. Something had made him take his chances. And he knew how risky it had been. There were still one-night stands who wrote less than nice things on the band’s Facebook page. She was not like them. She was respectful of his work. And she had put him in his place once or twice when he had become too cocky. He liked that. He also liked the undivided attention she offered and that she didn’t conceal how much she loved his talent. She was the one he had always missed, but he hadn’t known it until she had become a constant part of his life. And gorgeous. She was gorgeous. Her brown eyes were full of emotions and her hair, it was gorgeous. There was no other word he could think of to describe her. Her skin was unblemished. No tattoos, no piercings. So different from the girls he took to the hotel for one night only. Of course, he knew about the self-harming scars and he had seen her many beauty spots on her olive skin. She was a little chubby, but he wasn’t thin or muscular either. He was soft around the middle and conscious about it. And then she had told him that she loved his hairy belly. It had made him smile. It was then when he had realised that she was so very different.At first, he had had no intention to meet her. It had been a fantasy. A game. But there was something very mysterious about her. The connection grew and that bond too – a bond he had only felt with his siblings. He felt safe with her. He had offered to meet at one of their shows, and she had immediately said that he was working, and she didn’t want to intrude. It had made him want her even more. She took herself back and was respectful, polite, and there was a sense of humour that matched his own. She was so much more than he had ever expected her to be. And now they sat face to face. Around them, people were busy getting the venue ready. Lights were checked, guitars were tuned, the bar was stocked, and the stage was set for its final look. And he only had eyes for her. He had promised to make time for her. And he needed to know that when he played in her city, that she would be there. He wanted to look into her eyes at one particular moment. When they would play a new song for the first time. She had no idea the song was for her, but he knew she would know as soon as she heard the lyrics. He had used words she had said to him. After the show, when his duties were fulfilled he intended to take her out. Maybe for a walk under the winter’s sky. Maybe to the hotel. Who knew where their journey would lead. At first, he had been afraid that she was just another groupie. Now, he was scared that he was about to fall in love. She smelled so good, and her smile brightened the dim room. His heart felt something he had sworn it would never be allowed again. There was no use fighting it. The chemicals between them were so much stronger than he could ever have anticipated.
I watch her. Daily. I know her routines, and I know when she goes to sleep. I stand on the street, hidden in the shadows, but I see her. I see how she pulls her curtains close. Does she know that I can still see her? I see her silhouette undress. The shirt that glides off her shoulders and how she shakes her head. Her hair falls in long waves down her shoulders. I see how she unclasps her bra, and I wish it would be me doing it. But I am doomed to stay in the shadows. Is she aroused or is it cold in her bedroom? I would like to taste her breasts. I am sure she is very sensitive, and it would make her moan. She pushes down her skirt and I long to see her like that. One day I will. I won’t hide forever. Once not that long ago, I worked up all my courage and asked her for the time when she passed me on her way home. Her icy blue eyes stared at me as if I was the scum attached to her Manolo Blahniks. Her slender fingers brushed the cuffs of her stylish trench coat back and revealed an expensive watch. She answered curtly and was gone before I had processed it. Her voice was deep and raspy. Really sexy. Ever since that day, I imagine her moan my name. Maybe even scream it in ecstasy. One day she will. I am sure about that. I wish I could see more of her than her silhouette. All too soon, she turns off the lights, and her room is bathed in darkness. I wonder if she sleeps naked or if she puts something on when she turns off the lights. One day I will go upstairs and find out.
Why not today?
I managed to get a spare key to her apartment. I stole her best friend’s purse because I knew she had the key. It was too easy. I have never used it before. But I will be using it today. Oh, this is so exciting. I am going to see the woman of my dreams soon. She will be pleased to see me and invite me to stay the night. Of course, we will not sleep. We will be busy making love. Yes, making love – not fuck. She is my only real love. My soul mate. It’s a good thing I remembered to steal some chewing gum this morning at the newsstand. I put a stripe in my mouth and let the minty flavor take away the furry feeling on my tongue and teeth. It’s a struggle to chew because of the many missing teeth in my mouth. She will love that too. I can kiss her with my tongue without too many teeth in the way.
I am already on the right floor. How can she live in a building without security? Every creep can walk up and break into her home. It’s a good thing I am here to protect her. I sit in the shadows of the streetlamps every night, and I wait until she turns off all of her lights. It’s just to make sure that she is alright.
Not so long ago, she had a male friend over. She tried to make me jealous. She didn’t even close the curtains. That’s how I know that she has milky white skin, and the aureole of her nipples are a dark shade of red, almost brownish. She’s a natural blonde. She wanted me to see it, and it turned me on so much. That’s how I know that she is waiting for me too. She put on that show for me and now I am here, putting the key in the lock, and I am ready to surprise her. I try to be as silent as possible. I don’t want to wake her up just yet. I want to surprise her, see her sleep, maybe inhale her scent. I am planning to cut off a little of her hair as a souvenir. She will not be pleased, but if I do it while she’s sleeping, she won’t even notice. I remember where her kitchen is and look through the drawers to find scissors. Her kitchen is not as neat as I would have expected it. The dishes from her dinner are still in the sink, and there is half a glass of wine on the counter. On second thought – she must have left it for me. I drink it in one go and lick the rim of the glass. She drank out of the same glass. Some of her DNA is going over into my bloodstream now. I feel euphoric. She is in me.
In the dark, I have trouble to find the right door, but soon enough, I find it. It’s not closed, and I sneak in. Her breathing is calm and even. Almost hypnotizing. She is only wearing panties, the sheet that must have covered her earlier is a mess and not doing its job well. I bend down over her to smell her. I want to memorize this moment. I let my nose roam over her body, paying particular attention to her genitalia. The scent of woman and sweat arouses me further and I stroke myself through my clothes. I can’t hold back a moan. She stirs in her sleep, but she doesn’t wake up. She parts her legs, and her slip moves a little to the side. I am sure she did it on purpose because now I can see her most intimate secret place. I am going to taste her tonight. My cock strains against my pants and I have to free it. I let out another groan when the chilly night air blows over its precum drenched head. I imagine it to be her mouth and her breath on me. Will it ever be more than just a fantasy?
I still clutch the scissors in my hand and remember to cut off one of her locks. When I move closer, my penis touches her shoulder. Her hot skin and her naked body are too much for me to take. I rub myself faster and come all over her breasts and shoulder. Some of my release lands on her face and in her hair. She looks good like that. She is such a beautiful woman christened with my semen. She is mine now. I marked her as mine.
She wakes up, I startled her, and she stares at me with wide eyes. I know that they are blue. I would like to see the color again, but it’s dark in here. Her legs and arms begin to flail in a weak attempt to cover herself. I tell her that I am finally here and that I understood her invitation. I sit down on her bed and feel the mattress dip under my weight. The heat radiating from her body is palpable, even through the layers of my clothes I can feel her. I run my hand over her torso and pay extra attention to her breast. As I predicted earlier, she likes it when I knead them. She whimpers and whispers “Please, please,” her voice sounds different from when I asked her for the time, but I guess it’s because she just woke up. My hand wanders further south and comes to rest between her legs. She closes them, trapping my hand over her heated vagina. I stroke it with my thumb. She whimpers again. I let my nose roam over her neck and lick it. She tastes salty and like soap. I love it. It’s intoxicating. But there is something else. It feels like panic. But maybe I only confuse it with the taste of arousal.
She starts to move more. Almost as if she is trying to fight me. But she can’t be fighting me. I love her. She is my soul mate. She pushes me away hard, and I lose my grip on her. She plays hard to get. I smirk at that. I love it when women do that. I get closer to claim what’s mine again, only, this time, she slaps me in the face. That was not nice. Not nice at all. I only want to love her and protect her. “Get away from me,” she screams and slaps me again. I start to wrestle her on her bed and come to lie on top of her. I know that I am a stout man. She can’t get away from me now that I trapped her with my own body, but she catches me off guard when her knee collides with my balls. The pain is blinding me, and I course. I slap her face to make her see sense. To make her stop. The more she fights me, the more I slap her, until she is finally lying still. I tell her that I will put on the lights now. She isn’t protesting. I guess she understood that I am here to worship her. To love her.
In the dark, I try to find the light switch. I blink when the bedroom is illuminated. What I see now is not what I have expected to see. She is full of blood. Her body and her bed are drenched in it. I look at my hands, they are colored crimson from her blood too. Her face looks bloated, swollen. Her eyes are open. Staring at the ceiling. Filled with fear. I didn’t do it. I didn’t want this to happen. I love her. I fall down on my knees and weep. I didn’t want this. The scissors are impaled in her neck. I must have stuck them in while we were fighting. I can’t remember anything.
No matter how many gushing wounds she has on her face and neck and torso, she is still a beauty. I let my hands wander across her body one last time. I want to memorize her and lock those memories inside my mind. Her skin is colder than before, and it is strange that she isn’t breathing, but she looks peaceful. I will miss her, but now, she will be forever mine. It gives me solace.
I get up from the floor and put my limp dick inside my pants again. It’s time to leave and hide back in the shadows. She’s just asleep. Only sleeping. Yes, that’s it; she is resting. Tomorrow I will come back again. Maybe she won’t fight me as much and just lets me in. I know she wants it. I pull the scissors out of her neck and cut a thick lock of her hair off to put it in the pocket of my coat. I don’t need the scissors anymore and drop them on the floor. One last time I kiss her red lips. I expect her to moan or response in any way, but she stays silent. She must be exhausted. Quietly, because I don’t want to wake her up, I leave her apartment.
It is dark and cold outside. I see that I forgot to turn off her lights, but she will certainly do it herself when she wakes up again. I sit down on a bench nearby and pull out the lock of her hair. It’s soiled in blood, just like my hands and clothes. But it’s okay. It’s her blood, and I will put off washing it off as long as I can. It’s a part of her after all. I sniff at the hair, and I have an instant boner. Freeing myself from the confines of my pants, I rub myself until I find release.
Tomorrow I will visit her again. The thought of touching her again makes me shudder. I smell my fingers, they still hold the scent of her skin and of her blood. I am made to love her, and soon, she will see it too. And then, she will love me too.
I am here. Wide awake, when I should be sound asleep. All alone, when I should be with you. Your scent still lingers on the pillow next to me, and I pull it closer to me. It makes me safe. Safer than I am without you by my side. I want to inhale it and bring you back to me. I am not ready to let go.
I knew that this would happen sometime soon. I knew, that one night, I would wake up, and you would be gone. That night is now. You promised you would never leave me. But you broke your promise. You did this to us.
I came home, and your bags were packed, ready at the door. You said you would go back to your mom’s until I found a new place to stay. But where am I supposed to stay? I don’t have the right to work here. I don’t have much money left and the friends – they are yours, not mine. Not one of them will offer me a couch to sleep on, because no matter how you’ll twist and turn it, I’ll stay the stranger, the foreign woman, who gave up everything for you. You couldn’t look at me when you walked out of the door, and I refused to scream and shout at you. I refused to call you back. I refused to cry in front of you.
Maybe that was my biggest mistake. Maybe I should have fought for you. Maybe I should have asked what was going on and where it all went wrong. I didn’t even think about it. I just saw you and your bags and the determination in your eyes. And the sadness too. I let you go, and it broke my heart.
It’s the middle of the night, and I am still clutching your pillow. I don’t want this to end. I am not ready to let you go. In the spur of the moment, I grab the phone and dial your number. I take a deep breath and sit up straight. I pull your pillow onto my lap and straighten the cover around my legs. On the third ring, you pick up and for a moment, I am speechless. No words are ready to be said.
“It’s me.” I finally say, still running my hand over imaginary creases in the sheets.
“I know,” you say. I wish I could hear more hope in your voice. Instead, I hear weariness and sadness.
“What happened?” I ask, coming straight to the point.
“Everything. Nothing. I am dried up,” you confess and, wouldn’t I know what you are talking about, I wouldn’t understand. But I do. You have lost your creativity. The worst possible scenario for a painter. You haven’t touched a brush since I am here. I am not keeping you from your work, at least not consciously, but you don’t paint anymore.
“Is it my fault?” I ask, dreading the answer. Maybe it is my fault. Maybe it’s the natural way of creativity. It’s like a wave, sometimes all consuming and there and other times only barely tangible. Almost nonexistent.
“Maybe,” you whisper, and I can feel the tears burning in my eyes. I knew it, but I didn’t want to hear it. I am confident that I will never win your heart over your art. You live, breathe, sweat for your art. I can’t win this war. And I shouldn’t want to see it as a war. It’s a part of you. One I fell in love with, too.
“I don’t want you to go,” I finally say, after a short silence that was heavy on the line.
“I don’t know what to do. It’s all I can do. I am good at it.” I can practically see you running your hand over your bald head. Back and forth, feeling the stumbles underneath your fingertips.
“I know. I know.” I whisper, and I can feel you pulling away even further from me. You are slipping through my fingers, and there is nothing I can do.
“I can’t sleep without you by my side. I never thought that I would be addicted to you like this,” you say, and I feel the same. It gives me a little hope. I can’t sleep without feeling your body close to mine and hearing your rhythmic breaths.
“But I am draining you. Why can’t I be a source of energy for you? Why can’t I inspire you?” I don’t want you to answer. I don’t want you to crush my heart even more.
“I don’t know. I wish I would know,” you sound as if you are crying now and I long to hold you. I don’t want to make you miserable. I want to make you happy. I don’t want to make you sad. I want to bring you joy. But I am not ready to let go. Not yet. I let go of too many things lately. You are not one of them. I refuse to let you be one of them.
“Can I come home?” Your question pierces through my thoughts, and I don’t know what to say. I smile – no, grin – I want to say so many things, but there is a big lump in my throat, and it prevents the words to roll off my tongue. Not even a sound comes out. I panic. What if you take my silence as a ‘no’? You clear your throat while I still struggle to make a sound. Tears wet my cheeks. Happy tears, because you are coming back. Soon. It won’t be like it used to be and I know that. Everything will change between us, and yet, I crave your touch and your kiss. I need you to take me into your arms and pet my hair gently. I like it when I lean my head against your shoulder, and your hand racks through the lengths of my hair. It soothes me.
“Yes,” I finally croak.
Before anything else can be said, you are gone. There’s only the familiar sound audible. Disconnection. I look at the phone as if it could answer all those unasked questions. What happened? Where are you? The beep sounds mocking, and I put the phone face down on my the nightstand. What did I do?
I rub my face with my hands. So much drama over nothing. But how am I supposed to make your creativity come back? There is nothing I can do.
Not even five minutes later, I hear your key in the lock of the front door. I run my hands through my hair, to flatten it a bit. It’s a silly move, but it makes me believe, that I look much better now than before. I wait. Patiently. Nervously. The bedroom door opens, and you are back.
You sit on the bed, wringing your hands, looking down at your feet. They are naked. I come closer to you. Putting a kiss on your shoulder, resting my head on it.
“I am sorry.”
“Don’t give up on me. Not yet.” I whisper, and you turn in my arms. Together, we curl up in a ball under the sheets. You are still dressed. It doesn’t matter. You are back. You put his head on my chest and listen to my heartbeat. I kiss your head. Our fingers entwine, and we stay silent. Eventually falling asleep like this. Nothing is as it was before. It will never be the same, but which direction it all will go – I don’t know. In my heart, I know that you are not back for good. Someday soon, you will be gone. And I will be alone.
Thursday night. 7:56pm. I am waiting. The sun is setting. It’s getting colder. But I keep waiting. Every once in a while, I take my phone out of my pocket to check for missed calls or messages. People are looking at me. I keep waiting. It’s only our second date. A concert date. A band that I like a lot but I had no one to come with me tonight. I asked him. Enzo. He said he would love to come. Enzo is Italian. Looks like one too. Dark long wavy hair, brown eyes with a sparkle. Really pretty eyes. His voice is a bit nasal, and he seems nervous all the time, buzzing with a restless inner energy. I have a cousin named Enzo too. Italian heritage and all that. But I am still waiting. The music started inside, and the crowd waiting outside where I am is thinning. The bass is droning. Where is he? I hope nothing happened. Another look at the phone. There’s a message.
Sorry. This is not going to work. Enjoy the show. Sorry. Delete my number. We shouldn’t get in touch. Got back together with my ex.
I read it again. But I don’t understand what I read. I had no idea that he considered going back to his ex. Then again, it was not a subject we had breached. I am torn. Should I go in, buy a couple of beers and listen to the music? Or should I go home? Yes, I was excited for our date tonight, but was I that attached that I will drown in self-pity? I consider my option. I look down the street. It’s nearly empty. Illuminated by the orange city lights. I look back at the club’s entrance. Two men who wouldn’t fit into my closet are guarding the doors. They are laughing. It makes them appear even more intimidating. 8:25. Shit. I have never been to a concert on my own. But I really want to see this band. I take a deep breath. It’s funny how sighing or taking deep breaths relaxes me. Out of my huge tote bag, I get my ticket. I paid for it. I’m going in. One of the burly guys scans my ticket while the other ask to see my bag. I should have thought about that earlier. Could have saved me the embarrassing moment of showing how many used tissues I carry around. Love will tear us apart says the man who scanned my ticket. I don’t understand. He must be good at reading people because he jerks his chin into the direction of my bag that is inspected. Indeed. The words he said are written on my bag. I just smile and nod. I hold out my hand for the obligatory stamp. It’s a teddy bear. Childish. Who chooses these things?
I walk inside. The music is loud. Too many people. And I am alone. I try my best to fit in. But I might look lost. At the bar, I see an opening. Maybe I am lucky and can order a drink without feeling out of place? To my surprise, it does work. The usual shouting and international signs for beer are used, but I get what I want. I turn around to make my way closer to the stage. A man stumbles into my path and something cold is poured down my front. Jeez. Jerk. I shout, looking at the mess he made and the merged beer and whatever liquid he drank that are now on my shirt. I am not sure if he heard me above the music. Our eyes meet. I know those eyes. They are green. Very pale. I take a step back. Small, cautious step. It’s him. Fucking hell! Him; the band’s guitarist and singer. And I just called him a jerk. I feel the heat rising in my cheeks. He looks at me. Watches me with his head tilted to the side. There is something like disappointment on his face now that I recognised him. Should I apologise? I didn’t do anything wrong. But he’s famous. Everyone around us is here to see him. And he poured his drink down my shirt. It’s a weird moment. I only see him. I know that there are people around us. Many people. But they are out of focus. Blurry side notes. Come, he orders and gently wraps his hand around my wrist. Too stunned, I just follow him. He pulls me toward the merchandise stand and asks for a T-shirt. All the time he has his hand on my wrist. He must feel my pulse against the calloused skin of his fingers and hand. I can feel it. Mine. My heart beat. It’s very fast. Almost uncomfortable. He turns to me and smiles. Again he orders me to follow him. And I do. It’s actually not careful to trust him. A stranger. But somehow, I do. Maybe I fell for the illusion that I know him because of his familiar face? Apart from my two greeting words I haven’t said a word. My mind is racing. My heart is too. He pushes doors open and shows his access all areas badge. In one hand he holds a shirt. In the other he holds me. What’s happening here? The music is not as loud anymore after we walked through another door. There are tables with food and more strangely familiar faces. People are laughing and teasing each other. Others are checking instruments. Batteries are put into guitars, strings are tuned. He shows me a door and gives me the piece of cloth he had been clutching in his hand. The one that hadn’t been on me. The moment he releases my wrist, goose flesh spreads where his touch has been. My skin is already missing his touch. Silly thought. I should dismiss it. And I really don’t want to wear a band T-shirt. But I am soaked. And so I give in.