6:37 in the morning. Tears and shower water mingle. It hasn’t been this bad in a while. No way of getting her thoughts straight and too many responsibilities to rest. Nowhere to hide, just in plain sight. Getting dressed. One task done. Getting the kids ready for school. Another task done. Did not cry for an hour. Success. Husband didn’t notice – or hasn’t said anything. Success. Driving to work. Another task done. Working on autopilot. Smiling, singing. Out of body experience. She wishes she wasn’t there. Nowhere. No one notices. Success. She’s winning. Not this battle, not this fight. One task at a time.
No amount of positive words he read could change the heavy feeling inside his chest. If he didn’t have all these responsibilities, he would probably leave everything behind. But on top of being a responsible man, he also cared. And he was a coward. If he ran, he didn’t know where to. And the unknown scared him more than anything else. And so, he stayed inside his bubble, breaking to pieces with every breath he took, and falling apart with every thought that flooded his mind. He kept reading every inspirational quote on the internet. It made him angry. But there was nothing he would or could change. Trapped inside his own inability to move on.
Packing her bags, she left that town. She didn’t turn around to see them going on about their lives. No one would miss her. She was invisible. Not good enough. A failure. She heaved her baggage on her shoulders, ran her fingers over the footprints on her soul and vanished into thin air.
She didn’t know the answers to many questions. She didn’t know why this special man needed to be a part of her life. She didn’t know how she felt for him. She didn’t know why him. But she knew that she deserved better than him telling her “see you in another life”. She deserved better than that. She accepted that he didn’t want to talk to her. She accepted that she didn’t know why he was like breathing air for her. But she didn’t accept “see you in another life.”
On the treadmill. The rhythmic thump of his feet provides more peace of mind for Connor. Sweat is running down his body in rivulets and is caught in the fibers of his workout clothes. Running. Nothing but running. His eyes are glued to his record collection. It is organized by alphabet. It is time to organize it by color of the cover. Although, it becomes harder to find what you are looking for that way. Maybe organizing it by year of release? But then there is the dilemma with re-releases. Connor keeps running and thinking. Until he stops thinking and just runs. It is as if his body knows exactly what to do and for once, his brain isn’t needed. A euphoric bliss settles like a calming veil over Connor’s heart. Forgotten – or repressed, are today’s events. He slows down and blinks hard a couple of times. He grabs his towel and wipes his face twice before he finally comes to a complete halt. Connor is conscious of every muscle in his body. He hears the blood pumping through his veins, carrying oxygen to every organ. But he feels good. Elated. Positively exhausted.
Breathe in. The sign on the floor in his bedroom reads. Connor obeys and undresses. He folds his clothes and puts them in a hamper. Breathe out; says the sign on the bathroom floor. Again he obeys before he gets in the shower stall. The water rains down on his neck, and he moans. This is relaxing, even more so after his excessive workout. Connor stands motionless until the water begins to turn cold. He washes himself and turns off the tap.
As soon as he is dressed, his mind starts racing again. His internal battle over events he cannot change continues until it is interrupted by a knock at the door. Another knock. Yet another knock, followed by words. “I’m sorry Connor. Don’t open the door, but I brought your book. I cleaned it and put it in a plastic bag. Putting it on the doormat is safe. Really, I am sorry. It was good to see you. You look amazing. Anyway. I’ll leave. I’ll text you later. Goodbye, Connor.” Connor listened to Thomas’s words with his ear pressed against the door that was separating them. Thomas understands Connor’s need for certain things to happen in a certain way. Thomas knows Connor. Too well.
The moment Connor hears the retreating footsteps, he opens the door. Thomas hasn’t lied. The book is in a clear plastic bag. On the doormat. Connor picks it up, and looks left and right, up and down the hallway. No one is there. “Thank you,” he whispers. Connor puts the book on the coffee table and stares at it suspiciously. Nothing happens. He runs a hand through his hair, a new battle taking place in his head. What if he texted Thomas first? He pretends that he deleted the number. And it’s true, he did. But, there are the call logs. And although there is no name with the number anymore, Connor knows exactly whose it is. Quickly, as if the letters are burning his fingers, and the words on the screen are poison for his eyes, he types “Thank you, Thomas”. He turns off the messaging app, mutes the phone and puts it – display facing down – next to the book. His leg begins bouncing up and down. His thumb finds a way to his mouth where his teeth gnaw at the skin and the nail. Off-kilter. This day needs to end.
Thirty-two steps up to his apartment. Turning the key in the lock twice. Calming shaking hands and racing thoughts. Connor enters his sanctuary and pulls his boots off his feet. He puts them where they belong, in their spot by the door. Connor begins touching each finger on his hand with his thumb. Forward and backward. Forward and backward again. Until he feels that he calmed down enough to function again. Yes, that helped. Oh, the embarrassment of having been hit by a ball in the face in public, and falling off a bench like some lunatic who can’t sit upright on his own. The humiliation of seeing Thomas again in this situation. Connor often fantasizes about seeing his ex-lover again. But never in his wildest fantasies has he thought that he would look this weak. In his imagination, he faced Thomas as a made man. In a fancy suit and with his act together. And it is still Connor’s determination to become rich and famous, but he is not there yet. Thomas on the other hand – he looked just as handsome (and evil) as he has always looked. As if the events of the past have not left any dents on his soul and scratches in his mind. The world is a weird place to exist. There is a painting on Connor’s wall. Birds in the sky. Light as a feather, heavy as a cloud. These explosions of emotions leave him drained of energy. And he left his book behind. There is no way to distract himself. There is no way to stop repeating the events in his head. And he can’t start to read a new book. He hasn’t finished the other one. Connor’s face is throbbing and swelling on one side. He wishes that he could cry. But he can’t. There are no tears left in him. They were all cried for someone else. No more tears for himself.
There is a melody in Connor’s thoughts. There is poetry in his mind. Sitting on a bench in a park, he looks like a painting from a different era. Yes, Connor is art. His legs are stretched far from his body, his ankles crossed. A smile is tugging at his lips. From time to time, it is replaced with a frown. Deeply lost in the book, he doesn’t see the ball that is heading right his way. Lost in a world of giants that need to be defeated, and princes who, after slaying dragons, are allowed to marry the king’s daughter… BAM. The round leather collides with Connor’s head, he loses balance, and a laughable shriek escapes his mouth as the full impact of the ball pushes him off the bench. From up close, the grass that is now grazing his cheek has many different shades of green. An observation he stores away for further pondering at a later moment. Internally, Connor courses himself. People are gathering around him, some are pointing their phones in his direction. His cheeks heat with anger and embarrassment, but no tone leaves his lips. In his peripheral vision, he notices red shoes. Red is an angry color. Every color has an emotion for Connor.
“I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” a voice laced with regret and concern whispers. It is followed by a gentle touch on his shoulder. Connor follows the outstretched arm with his eyes, touching a tender spot on his face with his hand. There will be a bruise on his face. Violet and swollen. He gasps when he sees the face of his helper. “It’s not the first time you hurt me. Please, hurt me again.” Brown eyes widen as they connect with Connor’s blue ones and register the words that were said. “It is you.” People are whispering to each other. They are aware of the connection between the two humans in front of them, but how, or why, or when, remains a mystery. Attention spans are reaching an end. Phones are put away. Heads are shaken, and backs are turned. “Connor, I…” Connor lowers his gaze and takes a deep breath. He flinches at the realization that there is still a physical connection between him and his assailant. He tenses at the realization that there is still an emotional connection between him and Thomas. Thomas, who had left him black and bruised before. “No,” Connor whispers to no one in particular, gets his feet back under him and flees the park. He will not be able to ever come back to his favorite spot again. It is soiled with memories. It is soiled with embarrassment. His only regret is that he left his book behind.
He is living a life between clouds and feathers. Some days, his heart is free as a bird and light as a feather. Some days, his hearts is dark as a storm and heavy as a raincloud. Moods change as often as the hand of fate touches his soul. Every moment is loved and lived. Relived and perceived as hell. Where is he supposed to go from here? And more importantly; how did he get here? He whispers these questions during the day. He screams the same words in his dreams. His lonely existence is in vain. But without him, this earth is an empty place. Heavy as a cloud, light as a feather. If his mind were a bird, it would have left its cage a long while ago. As it is, his mind is embedded in a grey cloud.
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?
She is a thing of beauty. As I cradle her head in my hands, her blond hair lies in waves on the pristine white pillow that supports her. He eyes are closed and the long lashes are kissing her rosy cheeks. Her lips are parted slightly and I feel her moan against my neck rather than hearing it. Gooseflesh adorns her pale skin. Sweat leads a trail down to the center of her breasts. I kiss those fleshy orbs, tease the dark nipples, just to illicit one more of those wanton moans out of her throat. What a beauty she is. One of a kind. A real thing of beauty. I kiss her neck, bite her playfully just behind her ear and lick that same spot with my flattened tongue. Her legs sneak around my hips. I know what she wants. She is close. I can feel the pulsing of her blood. I am buried inside her heat. Oh the agonizing joy. It’s torturing to bring her so much joy. She pulls me down to her and our lips meet for a kiss. Her eyes are wide open, seemingly searching for something in mine. Is she searching for the truth? The one that I am not accepting? I can’t deal with these thoughts. Not now. Go away. I don’t want you. Not moments before I fall off the cliff. I am not sure for how long I can hold back with her. It is in her moans and in her scent. It is in the way she feels around me and the way she tastes. It is overwhelming. She is overwhelming. And I am losing control. Everything inside me is becoming tense. I should stop. I should pull out. But I can’t. I carry death inside of me. There is a real chance that I am sharing it with her if I don’t stop. “Don’t stop! Don’t ever stop!” Her words are slurred. Drunk with lust. Her breathing changes. Her moans are more constant. “Let me cum inside of you,” I beg. I don’t know why I asked, but she consents. And I give in. I release myself into her quivering body. Jet after jet of my poison is now coating her insides. I marked her for life. I made her mine. I shouldn’t feel this ecstatic, but I do. “You’re mine now,” I growl. She giggles. “Forever,” I add and pull out. I feel naked without her skin covering me. “You’re mine now,” she echoes my words. I can’t help but smile. If she only knew.
He’s perfect for me. If he only knew that I marked him for life. His lust, my lust. I couldn’t let him stop. It has been such a long time since a man touched me the way he did. He is mine now. Maybe he will hate me once he’ll find out. Maybe he’ll love me even more. “Forever,” I add with a smile. I am going to do everything I can to keep him in my life. But, if he only knew.
“I had these ideas about you. None of them are true…”
“Well… You’re a smoker.”
“Been one for 30 years. What else?”
“You’re smaller than I expected”
*He groans, rolls his eyes and puts his cigarette out with the heel of his sneaker. She’s embarrassed and nervous, trying to find words to say that aren’t offending or insulting in this awkward situation.
“You are much more handsome than on your pictures.”
*He smiles. She’s back on track.
“I said “no” when you asked about being intimate on our first date. I meant “yes”.”
*The admission leaves her timid and waiting for rejection. She puts a lock of hair behind her ear. It jumps right back to where it was. He stands straighter, anticipating what will be happening next.
“I can’t see how this has anything to do with the way you imagined me to be”
“I judged you. I don’t know you.”
*It’s almost an apology. Almost.
“We spoke on the phone for two years.”
“You know exactly who I am. Maybe not my mannerisms or my daily habits. You know the deeper me. You know me better than anyone else.”
*It’s flattering to hear these words, but she is sceptical. Does he really tell the truth or is this his way of getting what he wants? It doesn’t matter. Who cares? She gives in. No reason to fight the feelings she doesn’t want to fight.
“You had me with that smile, moments before you said hello.”
“Two years ago I told you that I would never fall in love with you and that I only want sex from you. I lied.”
*She blushes and smiles at his feet. She still doesn’t know what he sees in her; she is short and overweight; and he could have every girl he wants.
“Come here… We don’t have a lot of time. Let’s make the best of it.”
*She nods. Their eyes are locked and their breaths mingle, moments before their lips touch. Her heart races and her knees feel weak. Electricity. He tastes of cold smoke and she can feel his smile on her lips. His hands find an immediate way under her shirt. The heat of his skin on her back leaves imprints on her soul that she can never wash off. She needs more of him. All of him. As much as he is willing to give. If he lets her in, she will submit to him, surrender to his needs. She will become his everything. With an urgency, they find the bed behind them. Clothes are quickly disposed of. There is no time to waste. Not even to appreciate the nakedness of the other. He used to ask her to tell him that she loves him. For the first time, these words leave her lips without being a lie, just as he enters her and fills her in a way she hasn’t felt in years. Completion. This encounter is more than she ever expected it to be. It is less too. Two lonely humans giving in to their primal urges after building up to this moment for more than two years. Everything they ever said, everything they ever wrote; every picture they ever shared – everything led to this moment. The moment when two become one. And although everything that is happening right there is ordinary, nothing about it is, in fact, ordinary. Moans, sweat, the scent of sex, the creaking of the bed. Two people who stopped thinking. Only existing. Become one.
And as she is standing on this slippery pebbled shore and sees the world is floating by, she takes a step on wobbly legs and starts on her road to hell. She knows the way and she knows how to get there on her own. No one on this journey with her. No one else to blame. As much as she wants to pretend it’s them – the men she seduces and teases; the words she doesn’t use; the past, the present, and the future. But no – this is about her and her road to hell. Maybe she has found her hell already? But no – this is life. Her life. Her choices. She keeps watching as the world floats by until she understands that she has lost her legs and that she is floating too. Well damn – isn’t this swell – this road to hell.
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…
She lay awake in bed; wide awake. The time on her alarm kept moving forward until it was 04:26 in the morning. She only heard silence. No birds tweeting in the trees, no chirping in the grass. In the far distance, she thought she had heard thunder, but maybe it has just been a plane. What kept sleep so elusive? It was a memory.
“I made a mess,” he chuckled. I need to take a shower,” he said still trying to catch his breath. “Will you stay on the line?” She was somewhat surprised by his request, but she agreed. “I won’t take long,” he added. She heard the rustle of his sheets and the padding of his naked feet on hardwood floors. Doors opened and a shower curtain was pushed aside and then she already heard water running. She could almost see the water cascading over his naked, still flushed body. She heard how the water got caught in his hair and how it was released with a splash against the tiles. She heard bottles being open and shampoo being squeezed out. It was all so mundane, yet so intimate. And then he began to hum. She smiled. She loved listening to him. He wasn’t holding back. Just being himself. It filled her with a sense of serenity. Words were added to the sound of water. They didn’t make sense to her, and yet… She kept listening in. The water stopped and the curtain was pushed back again. Was he brushing his teeth now? The sheets were rustling again. “Are you still there?” “Yes, I am” she said fondly. “I need to go, I need to meet with my brother.” It wasn’t how she had the call expected to end, but he never did the expected. “I’ll get in touch, okay?” “Yes, yes okay. Take care.” “It was nice talking to you, sweetie. Bye” It had taken three months before he got back in touch.
She had been listening to his new record. It had been released weeks prior to her sleepless night and one particular song felt familiar. For days she wondered why. Until it hit her like a brick wall. That day in the shower, he had hummed the melody and sung some of the chorus’s words. Had she inspired a song? He hadn’t said anything in that regard but still… A girl can dream, can’t she?
“It’s in the way you need me,” he sang.
5am. The sky was changing its colour. A little over an hour before the alarm would go off. And she tried to hold on to his memory. A man who had since left her life. She still saw him at the edge of her life, but it became easier to ignore him these days. It became easier to not wait anymore. Most days anyway…
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.