Where We Are
She is watching the planes take off.
It is a problem of comparison; where and are.
Her companion turns to her and says, from the roof of his car, from the cement of the lot, from steam rising in the summer heat, “If you could go anywhere, where would you go?”
She wished he hadn’t asked it. The obvious question. She doesn’t want to answer, but she habitually does what she doesn’t want, so she replies.
With a shrug.
With a sigh. Maybe New York? Or Denver. Some place I went to as a kid that I can go back to as an adult. Alone. I need my Rome.
He has just come back from Rome; eight weeks gone, and now he’s back. He smiles a crooked smile, which, if she had seen it, might have made her start to love him again, but she doesn’t. To her, he’s the one that left and to her he’s still gone.
She is looking back up at the sky, and the smile goes unseen. And the hand reaching out to her and then withdrawn goes unseen, and the shift and the silence and what time is it, dinner perhaps, or maybe a drink, or maybe I’ll drink alone. Again. With you by my side.
But it’s not as bad as it seems. It is just life. Coming and going and he understands that and she understands that, and the day understands that. And now it is dark and she is tucked into him, out of habit. Her long hair and his crooked grin.
Drive me home? She wonders, catching his eye.
Not yet, he returns and she catches his smile.
A Story Untold
Perhaps the story starts slowly.
Perhaps at a window pane sits an author, head on hand, hand on arm, arm on table. Perhaps there is rain falling down, and she looks at it, gray faced; gray room; gray matter. Nothing is light and nothing is normal; unless normal is desperate. And the feeling is felt by the man, who perhaps, just at that moment, walks in the room.
Heavy footsteps on hardwood floors.
Perhaps they were once lovers, this man and this author, now together by the window. Perhaps they are still lovers. Maybe they were only friends, and nothing else. Then again, it is possible that they are related; it will be difficult to tell at this point, for we have only just met them.
Perhaps he will say to her, “How was your day?”
She won’t turn around. She’ll leave the question hanging in the space, suspended by a string. So he’ll try something different, something with better chances. Perhaps, “Have you written anything today?”
“No,” she will say, her eyes staring at the rain, “I haven’t written anything in eight years.” She’s exaggerating, and he’ll know it, but the point will not be lost on him. He stands behind her now, his hands resting on her shoulders; a small bit of warmth in the room. A bit of orange and red on the gray where hand touches skin.
A soft touch that perhaps will tell us they are more than just friends. And certainly not brother and sister. Let us hope.
“How can that be?” he asks softly, softly still, raising his hand to brush a stray hair back from her face, “You sit here at the window day after day, and still you have not written a thing?” The gray is melting. And she feels it; resents the orange creeping in that she’s worked so hard to keep out. She has to focus now to bring it back. She closes her eyes and lifts her shoulders, shrugs to her ears, edging his hand out. Leaves him no room.
A clear message of discouragement.
“I have nothing to write about.” Flatly. Briefly.
He shivers. Hands back, behind his back. “You don’t want me here?” He’s hurt. The room turns pink, as the sun starts to set. The color of cheeks.
Perhaps she hears the quiver in his voice and her heart takes pause. Writer or lover, writer or lover, writer or lover, perhaps she’ll say to herself, over and over, like she’s done before, and perhaps she’ll waver, wanting a lover, and turn her head. “My love, my dear, my heart, my soul, I love you so.” Perhaps to herself, perhaps out loud, perhaps to no one but the audience so that they’ll forgive her.
Still, they will demand an explanation for what she is about to do. Which perhaps, will be an aside. Not to him, but to them. For they, after all, will need know. She’ll turn away from him, her love, her heart, and she’ll explain; with a single gray tear on a single pink cheek — about the dream she had as a child; locked in a closet; locked in a cupboard; locked in an attic writing until her fingers bled, and her tears bled, and her life bled onto the pages beneath her pen. And that is all that ever seemed important. And that is all life is. And nothing else. It is a simple statement, cold, but fierce; that to write is art, and art is pain, and to live without pain is to live without writing and to live without life and love and hope and dreams and orange and red and golden colors in the day. And perhaps we will think, “What a sad woman. A cold woman. She got it all wrong. She got it all wrong.”
We will know that she got it all wrong. But we will also know that a decision has been made, nonetheless. And we will feel it in the room. The floor will tense. And the walls will tense, and the bookshelves, and the bed frame, and the window will tense; as if holding their breath for the terrible act that is to come. An act that, perhaps, has just now settled in her mind for the first time. A flash; a light; a way out. Her eyes will glint and we will know it then, without her saying. We will know what the room has already felt and been dreading. But we won’t believe it. We can’t believe it. And we will think to ourselves, “No, it can’t be — who would do such a terrible thing?’ So we will look again. And there it will be, for just a second more; a small light in her eye. A terrible, horrible, frightful, glaring light in the eye, announcing the dreadful, monstrous thing that will be done. And in that second we will know without doubt what it is she will do, and we will shout at her, scream at her, yell, and cry, and flail at her, “WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO DO MUST NOT BE DONE!”
But it will be too late. She will have decided upon it, settled upon it, a cold look upon her face; a familiar look upon her face. A rigid jaw and a steady hand; a breath of release.
And perhaps we will shout again at the woman on the page, “DO NOT DO THIS!”
But again, as before, it will be too late. And the woman, hair held back, will reach her hand into her desk and pull out a letter opener from the drawer. The top drawer. The only drawer. And with a quick motion turn and plunge it into her lover’s neck.
For by now, we will all know that he is her lover.
And he will splay to the floor. A look. A disbelief. A pleading; a betrayal. But it is too late, too quick, too brief, too bloody — crimson pouring across the floor.
A crime too horrible to see.
We will not want to see it.
We will wish that we never saw it. We will wish ourselves somewhere far away and safe from the memory of such things.
But then again, perhaps…
Perhaps we never see. Perhaps we never know; a dark deed untold. Never see the severed arteries, severed veins, severed life, severed love.
Perhaps the letter opener stays in the desk.
For perhaps it is better to leave the monstrous act alone. A scene untouched; untold; at rest. A deed passed over, for who would forget what they saw, and who would forgive her if they knew? Who would see such a terrible death and not demand an explanation greater than art — for surely a life cannot be such a simple thing to take?
We could not bare that question, and we could not bare that void.
So perhaps, in the end, it is better to leave her, alone, turned to the window, with the rain falling down and the grey deepening into night; taking a pen to her paper, the sadness and the pain wrapped up in her hands and pouring something beautiful on the page.
Perhaps it is better to end with something beautiful. For that, in-and-of-and-unto itself, should need no explanation.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED