some fall in love. i shatter.

Archive for 2013|Yearly archive page

46 Weeks; 46 Stories

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm

46 weeks, 46 stories.

Volume II of the 69 Love Stories Project went into the books last Monday.

Two-thirds of the way across the sky.

It’s been a pleasure and a misery; it’s come easily and it’s been an act of bloodletting. Crossing the halfway mark of this project brought impressions of accomplishment and fear, pride and trepidation, and the certainty that no matter how ugly it may get, I’ll see this thing through to the end.

So upon the closing of Volume II, as with the conclusion of Volume I, I’ve decided to step away from the 69 Love Stories site for the next few weeks. The pacing of one story every week dips deeply into the well of creativity and some time for replenishment is necessary. I’d like to see Volume III, the final set of stories, come into the world with a sense of renewed urgency, with a variation on the excitement that came with the commencement of Volumes I and II.

If you’re here as a subscriber or someone following the links on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know when I’m back and Volume III has begun. If you’re not a subscriber, just click on the link to follow this blog and you’ll receive an email whenever a new story or update is posted. In the meantime, if you’re interested in contributing to the Project, I’d still love for you to get ahold of me and share your ideas. Just click on that ‘Contribute’ link and follow the instructions you find there.

I also want to thank everyone that has already contributed to this project. I’ve enjoyed both talking to you about the possibilities of your artistic contributions and seeing their effects within the stories. For those of you still considering how you’d like to contribute, there are only twenty-three stories left. If we’ve already begun a conversation, I’ll be in touch with you soon with reminders and follow-ups.

And finally I’d like to say thank you to everyone that’s been coming to this site simply for the sake of reading. It means a lot to know you’re out there and that I’m writing for someone.

Thank you.


Gemini and Virgo (#46)

In Stories Volume 2 on March 11, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Mercury Lounge – 2001

Four minutes. Nick kept pushing his way towards the bar but every advance was met with an unseen, crowd-sourced nudge backwards. Four interminable minutes. The long, narrow bar, with its scratched brass railings and its faded black and white tiled floor, doubled as the entry way to the venue in the back behind two thin swinging doors. Even with a capacity of only 250, the concert traffic was enough to pile the drinkers at the bar atop one another. They prodded Nick forward but the drinkers kept repelling him backward.

By that point, Nick didn’t even care that much about the beers anymore; didn’t care about bringing a beer for Steve, back watching Lola Ray perform in the other room. By that point, after four minutes that he’d perceived as forty, it was principle. It shouldn’t be this fucking hard, he thought. His eyes scanned for an opening to get through the three-deep morass, his elbow tried to pry open small gaps, his feet slid into open spaces. An inch to the right, two inches forward, a step back and to the left, a shoulder to press open a small opening. It didn’t matter where at the bar he got, he just needed to get there. A step to the right and just barely forward. Ahead of him, he could see a slim opening to the right of a blond woman sitting on a stool. A push from behind propelled him forward and he angled himself toward the woman, landing half in the gap and half against her shoulder.

“What the fuck?” Nick steadied himself against the bar and turned to the blond, glaring at him with a glass of turbulent white wine in her now wet hand.

“Sorry, got pushed.” The glare lingered even as she looked down to wipe the spilled wine off her hand. “Can I buy you another?” Nick quickly calculated how much cash was in his wallet, hoped his recollection was correct as the bartender caught his eye. “Two Heinekens and,” he turned back to the woman, “anything?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Just the two Heinekens.” In the slim bar space between them, she laid the two wine-soaked napkins that sat like little exclamation points. Nick pulled a ten-dollar bill and two singles from his wallet. Neither one looked at the other, a tiny annoyance and a minor apology dissolving in the noisy, chaotic air around them.

The bartender placed the two beer bottles on the bar and Nick handed the twelve dollars back. He scooped the two bottlenecks between his thumb and middle finger before turning back to the crowd.

“Hey, sorry again,” Nick said, more honestly and less reflexively.

“Don’t worry about it,” Alice said, more sincerely and with less annoyance.

***      ***      ***      ***      ***


Mercury Bar – 2006

“So I said to him, ‘If you genuinely think she’s good at what she does, then why give her such a shitty timeslot?’ He gave me some bullshit answer about schedules being in place and that he’d try to figure out something better in the future. I think he’s intimidated by here. You’ve met her a few times, Gretchen. Sure, she can be abrasive but she’s also so fucking intelligent. She might be the smartest person I know.”

Alice had gone on about her office intrigue for the better part of our brunch. I’d stopped paying as much attention after my second Bloody Mary. It’d gone to my head a little bit faster than normal in the early spring sun that shone so brightly and brought so many people out of their apartments. People-watching, dog-watching, thinking about errands, keeping on eye on the guys that sat down around us; all these things could be done while maintaining enough of an ear open to listen for the pauses.

“Yeah, but what can you do?” Such a beautiful stock response.

“I don’t know, I just don’t want to see this thing go down in flames so soon. It’s going to eventually but it doesn’t need to be so quickly.” The only downside to ‘But what can you do’ was the open-ended nature of the question. I’d just given Alice free reign over the next five, ten, fifteen minutes to tell me what she could do. Three mimosas weren’t helping reel in her verbosity.

The table next to us on the small, crowded sidewalk patio had cleared out a few minutes earlier and I watched as the hostess escorted two guys over. They were both cute, even while both looked hungover. The taller one had a cleanly shaved head; the other had short black hair. Both were unshaven and looked weak to the sun behind their aviator sunglasses. The bald one, the cuter one, sat next to me. I heard one thank the hostess and then they stared mutely at their menus. Alice continued to fill the empty air. I sipped the last bit of my drink and she did the same.

Our waiter came by. Alice signaled for the check before he stopped at the neighboring table.

“Can I get you guys something to drink?”

“Two coffees and two Bloody Marys.” A raspy voice from the dark-haired guy.

We paid our bill as the waiter brought drinks to our neighbors. I would’ve lingered to talk with them but they didn’t seem capable of conversation and Alice had to meet a friend across town. As we stood to go, she swung her large purse a little widely, knocking into the black-haired guy and spilling his coffee across the table.

“Oh, shit. I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” I covered my mouth, trying not to laugh; the bald friend either did the same or suppressed his nausea.

“Yeah… yeah, I’m fine. I didn’t get any on me.” His speech was stilted, like he was still navigating being human. He looked up at Alice, lingered on her face a moment before turning back to sop up the coffee on his plate. She paused as well, just a second.

“Are you sure? I’m really sorry.”

“Yeah, it’s fine; no worries.”

“Sorry, guys; enjoy the rest of your brunch. Let’s go, Alice.” I knew she’d stand there apologizing if I didn’t push her on. I took a step in her direction and she turned for the street. As we walked away, the bald one finally broke his silence.

“Fuck, Nick. How did we get so drunk last night?”

***      ***      ***      ***      ***


Mercury Gallery – 2011

The gallery was even more crowded than Alice had expected. She tried wandering the space but found herself doing more elbowing than wandering in order to just walk straight ahead. The wine from the open bar made things a bit more bearable.

Nick showed up to the gallery two hours after the opening had begun. The space was crowded but that crowd was thinner than he’d expected. The open bar near the entrance caught his eye.

Alice circled the thinning-out gallery for the fourth time, finally able to take in the art more than the people. A second white wine in hand, she walked the perimeter of the second floor. The walls displayed black and white in-progress photos of the small sculptures on pedestals around her.

Nick took his time across the first floor, comforted by his glass of red wine and the chatter of those around him. A handful of photos accompanied each sculpture. He found himself more drawn to the photographs, appreciating the documentation of the process more than the final product. It lent a certain kind of validity to the sculptures.

Alice sat on the black leather bench that stood in the center of the larger second-floor room. The wine had caught up to her a little more quickly than anticipated. Perhaps it was pacing the gallery that did it, she thought. On the wall ahead of her was a large black and white aerial photo of Chicago.

He ascended the stairs with his second red wine in hand. The second floor was practically empty. Nick stepped into the small room to the left of the stairs and exited in under two minutes. In the larger room ahead, more interesting than any of the art, was a blond girl, seated on a black leather bench. She leaned on her knee and her face rested in the palm of one hand. The other held a glass of wine.

“That’s Chicago,” he said, sitting next to her on the black bench. He sipped from his short plastic glass as she cast a sidelong glance at him.

“I know. I used to live there. Not sure what it’s doing in an art gallery in San Francisco when it clearly doesn’t belong to the artist.”

“You lived there? I lived there for almost ten years. Moved away close to two years ago.”

“Sounds like we overlapped for a lot of those years. I got there in 2001 and left last year.” She took her eyes off the photo once again and met his in the shrinking space between them.

“Funny that we meet each other here. I wonder if we ever ran into each other in Chicago. I’m Nick.”





Secrets Kept Between Them (#45)

In Stories Volume 2 on March 4, 2013 at 11:27 am

Westfall stepped through the thick and well-polished wooden double doors that led from the bright and cold street into the muted light and incense-scented air of the church vestibule. Chandeliers with electric lights disguised as candles hung from the cathedral ceiling while beams remained angled and bent to keep the vaunted structure in place. Sunlight penetrated the stained glass, losing its luster but picking up kaleidoscopic beauty. Shafts of light as varied as the rainbow shot downwards to the red carpet and chestnut pews.

The nave was surprisingly empty for being so close upon mass. From the sanctuary backwards, Westfall counted maybe thirty people in the two dozen rows of pews. Everyone appeared wrapped in prayer; heads down in deferential reverence or craned upwards plaintively for God. They were young and old, alternately tired and filled with life. To Westfall, so removed from churches and religions, they were nearly all intimidating. The sudden compulsion, the crisis of soul that had compelled him through those wooden doors, had not inoculated him from the nervousness of being in the presence of the pious.

Casting his eyes across the back of the room, Westfall spotted an open stretch of pew punctuated by a woman sitting just past the halfway dividing point. Her face looked straightforward, her hands were not pressed together in prayer, her jacket was off, and she wore a comfortable black dress. He found her neither reverential nor plaintive; he found her reserve almost reassuring. Sliding silently into the pew, a feeling of relief entered into him, as if the crisis that had directed him into the church was beginning to abate. The woman looked over at the disturbance in her pew. She smiled at him, Westfall nodded back. Without hesitation and almost without his notice, she took her jacket in hand and slid her way down the pew until she was next to him.

“No need to sit in the same pew and be so far apart, right?” A wry smile and an almond-shaped eye looked sideways at Westfall through the dark hair that fell past her face. “I’m Hanna.”

“Westfall.” He extended his right hand across his body and took hers, noticing her long, cold fingers and the firm grip they took of his.  The chime of someone’s watch indicated that it was 10am, time for the mass to start, but there were no officiants to be found. He glanced at Hanna again; she still smiled. “What brings you here?”

“That’s an odd question to ask someone in a church,” she laughed.

“Is it? Should I have just assumed?” He’d ignored the laugh and only heard Hanna’s fast question, prompting a defensive earnestness.

“No, I suppose you shouldn’t have. I like the space. I like what I find here.” Hanna paused, her lips opened a dry crack. “I like the people I come across. Weak or strong, they’re all looking for support and willing to stoop a bit to find it.”

“Is that what you’re doing here? Stooping down to find support?”

“I’m not exactly a believer, if that’s what you mean. God isn’t the one directing me into this pew every few weeks. I do believe in a spirituality, I believe in a mystery, I believe in something larger than just you and me here, fumbling our way through short lives.”

“But you find strength in this… conduit of spirituality? In the space, in the people, in the contact reverence?” He laughed a little but now she maintained a reverence.

“I do. Somewhat. Yes, I suppose.” A shared sidelong glance as they both looked forward. “But what about you? What brought you in here?” The pensiveness transferred quickly from her eyes to his as she looked toward him and he looked forward.

“An emptiness,” Westfall admitted more readily than he’d expected. “Not a long, consuming emptiness, but a poignant one that struck me this morning and, well, I happened to be passing this church. I’m not a believer either; God isn’t my thing but I sometimes feel like there is something grander to all of… this.” He looked towards Hanna, who now faced him directly. Both wide eyes looked directly into his from below the curtain of bangs. Suddenly self-conscious, Westfall brushed away a piece of his own hair that tickled his right ear. He glanced at his watch. 10:05.

“Do you believe you have a soul? Or that there is such a thing as the soul?”

“Without necessarily naming it as such, I suppose I do. There’s a certain difficulty believing in a bigger scheme without also thinking that components of that bigger scheme exist within us as individuals. So then I guess I’m saying that I felt an emptiness in my soul.” He was as disarmed speaking so openly to a stranger as he was in finding himself in a church on a Sunday morning.

“A poignant emptiness in your soul,” she pondered. “And sudden?”

“Sudden enough. I guess I’ve felt lacking in some way for some time.”

“I know that feeling. That’s part of why I come here for strength, to steady myself against that gap in the soul. Just being in this space, there’s something that helps to fill it in. To understand that sometimes we need a certain amount of faith because life and the world don’t make sense, things don’t add up, and the way we expect things to play out isn’t often the way that they do.” Hanna’s voice had risen and she glanced around in the sudden silence but nobody looked their way. The sun through the stained glass cast a blue haze over her and a red haze over Westfall. Neither could see the color on themselves but each saw the shading on the other. She checked the time on her phone. 10:10.

“I suppose that’s it. Faith. Strength in belief that things want to turn out well. It’s difficult to rely on statements like that when they sound so…”


“Yes. Naïve.”

“Sometimes naiveté is just life with the artifice stripped away.” Hanna said it with a straight face but first a smile and then a tiny laugh escaped. Westfall laughed quietly too, hovering close to just being a cough. “I think that statement sounded naïve itself, didn’t it?”

“Just a little.” He laughed again. “Does this service always start so late?”

“No, I’ve never encountered this before. There were no signs about changed times were there?” She looked around but saw nothing; and actually instead of nothing, she saw every other person sitting calmly and quietly as if nothing strange was happening.

“I didn’t see any. I’m feeling a bit more fortified already though, without the service.”

“Are you? Good. Me too. Our little talk has filled in for the service, I suppose.” Again, the smile; slight, wry, maybe a little coquettish, he thought, when coupled with those eyes. He coughed again and smiled more widely back at her.

“Look, I don’t usually come here and I’m feeling a bit better already, so I don’t know that I need to hang around for a mass that may never happen. Just being in this space, feeling what’s around us, talking with you, feeling like your sliding next to me was a chance moment equivalent to my choosing to step into this church… it’s helped me. So I could stay but if you’re interested, I’d be happy to buy you a coffee right now.” He’d broken eye contact for this little invitation and struggled to look back.

Hanna’s eyes were on the crucifix that hung against the wall of the sanctuary. Her eyes were steady, her lips straight; she was seemingly focused on looking through the representation of Christ. And she was silent, exploring a labyrinth of thought. Westfall knew she’d heard him and awkward as it was to now wait silently, knew that she would answer him whenever she came back to their space.

“I am feeling a bit more solid with our talk,” she said, “but I think I’d like to stay for the service, whenever it may start. This conversation has been good for both of us but I don’t make it in here that often and I should stay for what I came for.”

“Okay. I can –”

“I think you should go though. You’re feeling a bit stronger; get some fresh air. This space will be here for you another time. Moderate that filling in of the soul, otherwise you may hurt it.” Hanna took his hand and squeezed it once more. “But meet me outside in an hour. I’ll have that coffee with you. I just need to be here right now. The mass will start soon enough and it’s usually over in under an hour. Get some air, take in the world; that can be just as good as being in here. We’ll talk more.”

Westfall lingered an extra moment before pulling his hand back. He smiled in an odd way that left the corners of his mouth angled downwards.

“An hour? Outside those main doors?”

“Exactly,” Hanna replied.

“It’s a plan.” Westfall stood just as the priest’s robes fluttered into view. “I’ll see you in a bit.”

“Okay.” He walked away from the beams of light, from the sanctuary, the nave, the cathedral ceiling with the beams that held everything in place. His shoes left little impressions on the red carpet. His jacket held traces of incense. The heavy door felt lighter as Westfall pushed back into the cold sunlight. Before the door shut, he glanced backwards. Hanna looked forward towards the altar with her arm resting on the back of the pew. Her attention was focused in front of her and yet her fingers seemed to wave a little goodbye. Westfall breathed deeply, felt the cold enter his lungs, and felt his body begin to warm that air.

One Step Inside Doesn’t Mean You Understand (#44)

In Stories Volume 2 on February 25, 2013 at 11:16 am

“I think there’s an orgy going on in the backroom.”

When you’re on a first date and someone mentions an orgy, I think that most people presume that things are going well. Whether a come-on or sign of openness, it usually indicates that things are trending positively. I was smart enough to realize that Rhonda was simply making small talk, seeking ways to get me to stop paying more attention to my beer than to her.

“What makes you think that?” I looked up and asked in concession.

“Well,” she sat up a little straighter and smiled a little wider, “I’ve been overhearing bits of other people’s conversations and keeping an eye on the goings on around here.” I didn’t think she meant this to indicate that I was so disconnected that she needed to seek entertainment elsewhere while on our date but I still took it that way. “And I haven’t heard the word ‘orgy,’ exactly, but people keep hinting at something wild in the backroom and I’ve definitely heard the word ‘sex’ at least seven times.”

“Seven is a lot.” Even I couldn’t tell if I was being sarcastic or not. If there really was an orgy in the back of the bar, that would be amazingly odd, but could there really be? I mean, bars are pretty filthy places when you get down to it; why wouldn’t you just have it at someone’s loft? Somebody participating in the orgy needs to live in a loft, it’s a given.

“Seven is a lot, P. And then once I started hearing these things, I started to notice people in here with mussed hair – not mussed on purpose where you look closer and it’s more quaffed; not the mussed that looks too good to be legitimately mussed. I’m talking about the dry and frazzled look, guys with hair that’s been sweaty and dried without primping, girls with knots and tangles. It’s easier to see on the girls. Look, over there, the blond in the red dress.” I looked behind me through the crowd of eager twenty-somethings hungry for meaning and movement in a downtrodden bar and there she was. Her hair did in fact have tangles and an overall unkempt look, not falling in line with the dress she wore.

“You see her?”

“You’re right, something’s definitely off.” Scanning the crowd, it became obvious that the blonde wasn’t the only one. Too many people had hair at odd angles, clothes with balled-up wrinkles, half-untucked shirts, makeup smeared. The bar was crowded, the potential orgiers were definitely in the minority but they distinctly stood out. At least a dozen of them were milling around and a half-dozen that may have been part of their crowd but may have just been going for that post-orgy look.

“So,” Rhonda gave me the smile and raised eyebrows that made me think she had been making small talk along with indicating that things were going well, “should we go check it out?” She downed the remaining half of her vodka tonic and slipped down from her barstool.

“Uh…” I looked back down at my beer but there were no excuses drowning inside. “I’m not sure I really want to know about a bar orgy.” She grabbed me by the wrist and stood my beer on the bar.

“Come on, P. I’m not saying we have to jump in, I just want to see if it’s really happening.” Her fingers still wrapped around my wrist, she cut a winding path through the bar, past supposed orgiers and non-orgiers alike. I wanted to suggest that we could just ask one of our mussed friends but Rhonda was determined.

Dozens of people filled the narrow floor of the bar. Whatever maximum occupancy the fire code allowed in that dingy, dark wooded haven of modern rock, hair metal, and misdirected dreams, that number had been surpassed. None of those future hopefuls would slow Rhonda down. She had chosen the bar for our date and she knew exactly where she was going.

We passed the end of the bar, passed the jukebox on the wall, and turned into a little hallway with the bathrooms on one side and the backroom on the other. A large bouncer in a fuchsia tracksuit, white headband, and Ray-Bans stood in front of said backroom. His body blocked most of the windowed double doors. I hoped he’d be on my side but guys like that usually aren’t. Rhonda glanced back at me, a grin across her face; she too hoped the bouncer would be on her side.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but is there an orgy going on back there?” Her 5”4’ frame, which didn’t seem that small standing next to me, was dwarfed by the purple-clad giant. His head slowly swiveled and pivoted downward to catch Rhonda’s face. Then he looked at me. Then he looked at Rhonda again. His body didn’t move from its arms-folded defensive stance the entire time. Almost imperceptibly, the bouncer nodded. “I knew it!” she shouted. With a palm, the bouncer signaled for her to quiet down.

She turned and whispered to me, “I knew it. Should we try to get in?” I feel I should state here that I’m not a prude. I’m into sex as much as the next guy and sure, I’m into a little experimentation here and there, why not? And while it’s not at the top of the list of things I’d like to do, I haven’t necessarily ruled out any orgies. I guess I’m just not sure my brain could handle the insecurity and competitiveness. But an orgy in the back room of a not particularly clean bar?

“I don’t think so, Rhonda. It can’t be very sanitary, can it?”

“You’re worried about what the room’s like?” I can’t say for sure if I meant the room or the whole situation. “There’s so much sex going on in there, who cares what the room’s like? Look, I’m going to try to get in; if you don’t want to come, that’s your loss.” She said it so matter of fact, like, ‘I’m going to eat this last slice of pizza.’ She was waiting for a response.

“Were we going to have sex tonight?”

“P, I love sex so much!” She clenched her fists and shook them close to her body, like a joyous child getting just the right toy for Christmas. That comparison solidified my decision to not enter into the orgy. “Yeah, we were going to have sex tonight. I don’t fuck around with this two-date rule; if I like a guy, we hit it. But this orgy,” she gestured towards the bouncer, whom I imagined had overheard a lot of strange conversations, “is a game changer. So you in or you out?” She practically hopped from foot to foot.

“I’m out. I’m sorry but I just can’t, not in there. I had a good time with you though.”

“Yeah, me too. Call me, okay?” She didn’t wait for an answer. She was already talking to the bouncer who pushed the door open for her while his body blocked the view. Rhonda’s arm was already out of her shirt as she passed through the doorway. The bouncer gave me a look.

“Usually the other way around,” he said. “Usually the guys want in and the girlfriends don’t.”

“She’s not my girlfriend.” I gave him a shrug and walked out the bar. It was nearly midnight. I walked to a much quieter bar down the block where I had another beer. I never called Rhonda after that. She never called me either.

Ghosts Of A Recollection (#43)

In Stories Volume 2 on February 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm

It would have been unfair to say the beach was ugly because it was beige and yet, as he stood on the thin and tattered wooden walkway separating the beach from the street, he couldn’t help but blame the visual malaise on the particular beigeness of that particular sand. All sand is basically beige, he thought, but there should be radiance, hopefulness, promises of joy, recollections of memories. The sand should be like the best doorman, the red carpet, the welcoming committee ready to impart kindness and warmth. But this sand appeared to be infused with nothing but grayness. An entire gray scale in every grain of sand.


He swept his vision along the length of the beach. A landscape of sand dunes blown into lumpy existence by the hot breeze that blew through the November afternoon. The Gulf of Mexico retained a measure of beauty, the sometimes deep blue and sometimes emerald water shimmering in the spotlights of sun that broke through the cloud cover. But to reach that water, first the great lumps of sad sand, the tendrils of green shrubbery that struggled to grow through the graininess, the faded red and white remnants of picket fences that used to cordon off portions of the beach. A wasteland landscape; not another individual had bothered to wander outside.


A glance backward and his eyes fe




ll upon his father’s new vacation home on Sandy Boulevard; a tired old building of weathered whi


“Hey! I’m talking to you, asshole. Just because you think you control me doesn’t mean you can ignore me!”


Uncertain of what he was hearing, the Writer slipped his fingers off the keyboard, gazing at the backlit laptop screen and then looking towards the closed window of his 5th floor apartment. Someone on the street?


“Not over there, pal. Back down here.” His eyes drifted back toward the laptop screen where his story sat incomplete. The cursor blinked where he’d left it. “I know what you’re doing, Writer. Just because you haven’t written it all out yet doesn’t mean that you haven’t already transferred your thoughts and intentions into the work. Don’t think I don’t know what you have in mind.”


“Oh yeah? What do you think I intend to do?” Why am I having this imaginary conversation with the Character, he wondered. Then he realized he’d spoken the words aloud to the computer.


“I know that you’re planning to kill me. As a metaphor. To make a point about love.”


“That’s absurd!”


“Is it really?” The Writer paused before speaking again. What the Character had said was true; he’d responded as he had simply as knee-jerk reaction.


“Well, I’ve thought about the possi –”


“Screw your sense of possibility, you have the entire thing mapped out already. You send me into the water, unafraid of the waves, unaware of the rip current, and then you beat me down with the waves, sending me unknowingly into the current in search of calmer waters.” He’s in my head, the Writer thought. Of course he’s in my head, he’s born of my head, he’s nothing but my head. “And then the current pulls me out, I’m too panicked and tired to think of a sensible escape, and I eventually give myself over to the idea of drowning. How fucking romantic.”


“It’s not meant to be about the romantic aspects of love, it’s about the overwhelming force of it. The way that it comes up and hits you like a tidal wave, hits you in a way that you had no expectation of, overwhelms you.”


“Yeah, I can see the way that it’s going to overwhelm me. And I can follow your logic a little bit, I’m deep in your head enough to follow that, but why the current? Why do I need to die for this? Don’t you make your point well enough otherwise?”


“Your death is the second metaphor –”


“I know my death is the second goddamn metaphor! But why? Why do you need a second fucking metaphor at my expense? What’s wrong with just wringing out the overwhelming nature of love in the first go-round? Why should I die for this?”


“Because it’s about the way that we succumb to love.”


“And the submission in the waves isn’t enough?”


“The waves are the unanticipated force and impact of love. You escape from the waves. That’s not submission, that’s you fighting against the force of love, against the ways that it pushes you around, bends you to it’s will, tries to make of you something that you’re not.”


“An anomaly. Unexpected.”




“Don’t get so excited just because I follow a part of your logic. That’s only the first part. I still don’t comprehend the need to kill me. Shouldn’t the strength of love be enough to carry your story?”


“A lesser story, sure, but I’m trying to say something about love’s unexpected thrust and how a person then responds.”


“A person could respond two ways, you know. A person – who for the sake of personalizing things let’s just refer to as myself – could not give over to love, not succumb, and instead fight back.”


“But that’s not the story I’m writing. I’ve had this for a long time. I want to have a situation where the essence of succumbing is played out and the immensity of it is given description.”




“It’s not absurd. To fall in love, to give oneself over to another person, is to succumb in certain ways. I’m not saying that drowning is the best metaphor but it does visually convey this idea of sublimating the self, of giving over, of letting the other person wash over you and entering into a different world.”


“That’s such a flawed metaphor. Nobody gives himself over completely. Nobody wants to, nobody would; it’s simply too much. We all retain pieces if not most of ourselves when we enter into relationships.”


“I know, I know, and I said it’s not perfect, but it’s making a point. You’re against this idea of complete sublimation, and I’m not saying that I’m for it, but so many people seem to take the stance of remaining fiercely independent and not giving anything over. This is a fierce example but it shows how one man can be so unprepared for love, and then caught off guard, swept off his feet, and even beaten down by it. He flees it, thinks he can find a safe ground away from it, only to find himself caught up in the pull. And it’s not that it saps his will, but it gradually insinuates itself into his body, into his mind, and into his emotions. He’s panicky but eventually he slows down, looks around, and realizes that he’s in love. At that point, a peaceful abandon comes over him. So it’s not exactly sublimation to an unseen person as much as it is the idea of realizing that love has taken hold and that he’s no longer afraid of it or of what it means.”


The Character had taken seat on a naked root while the Writer gave his little speech. As the words trailed off, he stood and began walking towards the water, leaving his towel, keys, and phone behind. He still wore the sunglasses and the sun worked with vigor to burn away the clouds.


“I guess,” he began before coughing on the sand that blew into his face. He glanced skyward, where he presumed the Writer to be, and scowled. “I guess you have a point. Thing is, I’m not in love. And while I admitted that you may have a point, it means little to me in the abstract, you understand? Dying for love when there isn’t in fact any love seems a hollow fate.”


“But you’re just a character I’ve created.” Again, the skyward scowl.


“Correct that you created me but incorrect that I’m just a character. You brought me to life. You gave me a family, a bit of background, an emotional motivation. You gave the hints and the edges of a life beyond this and with that comes certain hopes and dreams. Just because you haven’t spilled them onto the page for everyone to see doesn’t mean that they’re not there. Details aren’t a necessity for the essence, especially if you consider yourself any good, which I don’t know. Our little relationship here is fairly new. I don’t even know your name.”


“I don’t know yours either.”


“Well maybe you’re not that good then.”


“Maybe the name isn’t important. Maybe it’s something to do with universality.”


“Lot of maybes, boss. And for someone so uncertain about something like a name, why would you kill me for the idea of love when there could be real love for me somewhere. I’m not sold on the idea but I’d much rather die for actual love than the metaphor.”


“That’s a little too over-the-top, don’t you think? There’s a greater power in the metaphor. I’m trying to reach people.”


“Who are you trying to reach?”




“People. Forget abstract people and think about this person you’ve plunked down on this page. Save one soul with a purpose instead of a handful without.” He was walking the length of the beach, getting further from the items he’d dropped onto the sand but still existing in a place without other humans on the beach. A slim part of him hoped that he’d find someone in the creative corners of the Writer’s mind, an unexpected offshoot that could change the trajectory of the story. The further he walked though, and the more he realized just how barren the beachscape was, the more convinced he became of the Writer’s conviction and commitment to the storyline already plotted.


“It’s not so easy. I care about the world, maybe more than the world cares about me, but I want to say something and have an impact. You’re… I’m sorry, but you’re a tool in that goal. You’re a character and yes, you have both meaning and import, but only in the sense that I give it to you. I’m going to need you to head back towards your father’s house. I’ll need you to put your things down and go into the water, and it wouldn’t make much sense to have that happen way out here, away from where you began.”


“Maybe I was looking for love out here, some human connection that could save me from what seems to be an inevitable fate.”


“You can’t be saved from the inevitable; you can’t be saved from fate. Go.”


He turned around and began back, dragging his feet through the sand, coming to appreciate its dry abrasion with the knowledge of what was to come. The Character picked up his things and continued towards his father’s house. The sunglasses he pulled back to the top of his head, no longer minding the glare of the sun; appreciating it actually, the way it stung his eyes.


Somewhere, he thought, beyond the horizon, beyond the limitations of the Writer’s hands and imagination, stood the person that the Character loved. He couldn’t say whether it was man or woman, he wasn’t that self-aware, but he knew that the person existed and that they deserved at least some chance with one another. But he was powerless to the notions of the Writer. One dedicated to the quiet power of the individuals; the other dedicated to the loud nudging of the masses.


Ahead, the Character could see where he’d stepped onto the beach. He contemplated running but as he did so, a gust picked up against his face, reminding him that the Writer was inside his head as much as he was inside the Writer’s.


te wood that looked as if it belonged floating upon the sea. His father, renewed by new love and a new marriage, looked upon it as an impending retirement project to while away the winter months when Delaware held less appeal than it used to. His new wife had vacationed near this place in her childhood and the stories of pleasantly wasted away afternoons had lured him in. They had both been asleep while he slipped through the house, quietly opening creaking cabinets while searching for the blue and white striped beach towel that now sat folded underneath his arm.

Divides Great And Small (#42)

In Stories Volume 2 on February 11, 2013 at 4:16 pm


“Didn’t I say not to hit the ‘Door Open’ button?”

“If you did, I didn’t hear it.”

“This elevator is shit – it gets jammed like this every month. You’ll need to use the callbox to get a technician to come out.”

“I see it here.” Exasperation crowded his voice.

“These apartments were built in 1922 – I don’t think they’ve done much to improve the elevators since then.” She tried injecting a lilt into her voice to lift him a little but it traveled neither far nor well.




“How long did they say?”

“Maybe sixty but probably closer to ninety minutes.”

“That’s about normal around here. At least I can hear you through this gap.”

“I think I can almost fit my hand through it…”

“No! That can’t be safe! What if the door suddenly shuts?”

“Has that ever happened?”

“Not that I know of but… you know, it could.”



“So I guess dinner’s off.”

“I just emailed the restaurant to cancel the reservation.”

“We’ll need to eat at some point though. I could make us something once you get out of there.”

“Do you cook?”

“I love to cook. And more importantly, I’m good at it. Plus I just went grocery shopping this weekend, so my kitchen’s stocked.”



The silence, with no offsetting visual, stretched out wider and taller than it should have, filling the hallway and the elevator shaft. He cleared his throat and they both felt a little echo tremor through the space.

“I just wanted to spend time with you, get to know you.” She smiled at the earnestness in his voice. “That’s sort of the point of the first date, right?”

“We can still do that here. There isn’t much to do but talk.”



“What are your top three movies?”

“Isn’t that sort of a clichéd question?”

“It’s not clichéd when you’re getting to know someone. It can say a lot about a person. If you said all three Madagascar movies, I’m not sure we could continue this conversation.”

“I didn’t know there were three Madagascar movies. I’m not even positive I know what a Madagascar movie is.”



“2008, for work.”

“You just knew you wanted to work in San Francisco, or you had the job before coming here?”



“I was in Austin for eight years. I managed a bar, kind of by accident.”

“How do you manage a bar by accident?”

“I had just gotten my business degree and couldn’t find a job anywhere, so I ended up spending a lot of time at this bar, Black Star. I became the regular there and after three months of drinking away most of my money and not finding any work, the manager, Kylie, left the job. She gave me a perfunctory interview and I stayed the next six years.”



“I gave up drinking for two years straight. I just felt like it was taking over my life a little too much.”

“Do you consider yourself an alcoholic?”

“No. I came back to it and I don’t think I ever needed it. It wasn’t a full-on dependency, just something that I turned to too much and then decided to turn off.”



“Your eyes are blue? I thought they were green.”



“I first met Karen… six months ago? We were in the same spin class at my gym. You’ve known her for a long time right?”

“We were neighbors a few years ago – moved in the same day actually. I don’t know that we would have met or become friends otherwise. The building had these social events every now and then but they were weird. Karen and I would go for laughs. Wait, you were in a spin class?”



“How long has it been?”

“Just over an hour.”

“So soon?”


“The time’s actually gone by pretty fast.”

“I know, right? I could hang out like this longer.”

“You’re not the one stuck in the box.”

“Well I’m not going anywhere. I’m stuck in the hallway for as long as you’re stuck in the box. I’m right here” Stuck inside the box, he smiled silently.



“That seems like a rather brazen question.”



“I can just barely reach my hand through the crack here.” In the hallway, she saw four fingers edging through the opening until stopping at the last knuckle.

“You shouldn’t be doing that. What if the door suddenly closes?”

“It’s not that dangerous,” and she wrapped her thin fingers around his.



“Alright, bud; I’ll have you outta there in just one minute.”

“It isn’t hard to fix?”

“To fix? To fix takes time and money, to get you out only takes a minute.”



The door retracted smoothly under the strength of the technician and Charles stepped out swiftly as if the floor had been laced with burning coals. The maroon carpeting and moss green walls that he’d laughingly called old-fashioned not that long ago had since become inviting. Elizabeth smiled to see his face again in the soft yellow light of the wall sconces, safely removed from all restrictions. She took his strong arm, the extension of those fingers she had clung to just a few minutes earlier, and pulled him into an embrace, whispering words into his ear, her lips hovering in the closest atmosphere around his skin. Charles reentered her apartment while Elizabeth lingered to share a few words with the technician, shifting back and forth on her tan boots. He responded without looking at her, his hands and attention probing the black gaps of the elevator, and after a moment or two, she left him to his work and closed her front door behind her. The white wood closed firmly, separating two worlds from each other.


Recollections Of A Ghost (#41)

In Stories Volume 2 on February 4, 2013 at 3:42 pm

It would have been unfair to say the beach was ugly because it was beige and yet, as he stood on the thin and tattered wooden walkway separating the beach from the street, he couldn’t help but blame the visual malaise on the particular beigeness of that particular sand. All sand is basically beige, he thought, but there should be radiance, hopefulness, promises of joy, recollections of memories. The sand should be like the best doorman, the red carpet, the welcoming committee ready to impart kindness and warmth. But this sand appeared to be infused with nothing but grayness. An entire gray scale in every grain of sand.


He swept his vision along the length of the beach. A landscape of sand dunes blown into lumpy existence by the hot breeze that blew through the November afternoon. The Gulf of Mexico retained a measure of beauty, the sometimes deep blue and sometimes emerald water shimmering in the spotlights of sun that broke through the cloud cover. But to reach that water, first the great lumps of sad sand, the tendrils of green shrubbery that struggled to grow through the graininess, the faded red and white remnants of picket fences that used to cordon off portions of the beach. A wasteland landscape; not another individual had bothered to wander outside.


A glance backward and his eyes fell upon his father’s new vacation home on Sandy Boulevard; a tired old building of weathered white wood that looked as if it belonged floating upon the sea. His father, renewed by new love and a new marriage, looked upon it as an impending retirement project to while away the winter months when Delaware held less appeal than it used to. His new wife had vacationed near this place in her childhood and the stories of pleasantly wasted away afternoons had lured him in. They had both been asleep while he slipped through the house, quietly opening creaking cabinets while searching for the blue and white striped beach towel that now sat folded underneath his arm.


The breeze felt good against his bare chest and bare legs. A slight chill from the overnight air was still burning off in the rising temperature of the morning. He took his first step onto the sand, pleasantly surprised by the warmth it held. The wind blew some stray pieces of greenery into his path, tangling around his right calf and then spinning free and back into the distance before he could even bend down to remove it.


The beach was narrow and the water not far off. Halfway along, he dropped his towel to the ground, leaving it folded so as to guard against the wind getting any ideas of blowing it away. Already in nothing but his smaller-than-preferred black bathing suit, he placed the house keys and his phone in the fold of the towel, his sunglasses atop the little pile. The sun cracked through the spotty wall of clouds just as he cast his unshielded gaze back across the water, leaving him squinting into the sound of waves crashing against the shore. The wind over the water must have been stronger than he had imagined, the waves appearing larger in closer proximity than he had presumed from the remove of the beach’s edge. They gave him pause but nothing more.


At the furthest reach of the surf, he looked back and forth; saw patches of water where the waves crashed harder and pockets of relative calm. The waves weren’t so intimidating. He took his first step onto the wet sand and felt the water rush up around his feet. He splashed his way through the water that turned out warmer than he’d expected. Warm water, warm breeze; spending most of his life in the mid-Atlantic, this wasn’t what he expected from the days around Thanksgiving, but he’d take it.


As he reached knee-deep water, the waves came with greater impact and greater intensity. He could feel the pull against his calves as the water rushed back outwards. The wet sand sunk beneath his feet and then collapsed around the sides until they were nearly buried. He lifted each one out and used the current to speed along his process into the water. But his movement was abruptly canceled by the next wave that hit him with nearly double the force. His calves and hamstrings strained to keep him upright. The water wasn’t deep, not yet, but he didn’t want to be caught so low when the next wave crashed in. The retreating water almost took advantage of his straining forward but he was ready for it, even if it too was stronger than it had been moments earlier.


The next wave approached; he could see it forming not far from where he shakily stood. Pride contended with caution and though he assured himself that he could easily have fought through the breaking waves, the relative calm of the water not far to his right held a peaceful appeal. His lateral movement wasn’t that fast and the saltwater wall smacked into him with full force, knocking him down and leaving him prone in the surf as the water rushed wildly around him, through his ears, through his soul. The current was stronger again and he placed his hands deep within the ever-shifting sand to stay even the thought of his body shuffling along with the water. As quickly as he could, he got back onto his unsteady feet and moved along towards the neighboring calm. The Gulf water now reached just past his waist, the ebb and flow of the water pushing and pulling him. His chest hair dripped remnants of the emerald water that had beaten against his chest; he tasted salt along the ridges of his lips; smelled seaweed in his nostrils.


The next wave came at him while he stood sort of perpendicular to it and he was spared the brute force of what looked to have been a smaller wave anyway. The calmer water held steady close ahead, almost eerie in the way it stood in such stark contrast to the waves beating against the beach on both sides. Eerie wasn’t important though, not in anyway comparable to being away from those waves.


Somehow sooner than expected, he had broken free from the cascade of waves and felt a calm sense of relief as he moved into the calmer waters that were now up near his neck, so that he was primarily swimming and no longer relying so much on weary legs. But his elation vanished as he felt his body enwrapped by the strong force of a rip current flowing seaward. The water moving against the lower parts of his body didn’t threaten much but the surface gripped him tightly and pulled him away from the shore. As before, his now-wide eyes cast themselves around the beach in search of another human being but as before, he saw nothing. He opened his mouth to yell but with the unsteady levels of the current, he dipped slightly and took in a mouthful of Gulf water.


There’s no help, he told himself, there’s only me. Such a realization was meant to steel him for whatever he needed to do, to allow himself a moment of pause in order to understand what it was he needed to do, but it only made him panic. Flailing in the still seemingly calm water, he attempted swimming towards shore but only managed to tire himself out while being slowly pulled seaward. He paused again to collect his thoughts and to conserve some energy as he tread water.


He couldn’t tell how much time had gone by or how many attempts he’d made at swimming back towards land; only that he was growing more fatigued with nothing but a greater distance from safety to show for it. The sun was higher in the sky. How long had be been out there? Had it been ten minutes or an hour? The weariness throughout his body insisted it had been hours but that couldn’t be possible. He felt fatigue stretching it’s way through his muscles like a stain across a floor. The water pressure on his chest felt like it could collapse his lungs. Salt stung his eyes and clung to the roof of his mouth, leaving him feeling even more alien in the water.


The beach seemed far though he couldn’t say how much so; too far, that was what mattered. He couldn’t tell if the rip current was continuing to pull him away from land or if the normal push and pull of the gulf had taken him into its grasp. Swimming continued to take him nowhere, but there was no knowing if it was the current or the emptiness in his muscles. Everything was in contrast, opposition, and comparison to the current; it stood as the only constant. That and the emptiness of the land in front of him, though even if someone were there, he wasn’t so certain he’d be able to distinguish the shape upon the shore. Would he be able to call out? Would he seem in distress, bobbing there in the water as if simply enjoying the late autumn warmth?


He didn’t care. The realization came as a shock but it came nevertheless. He didn’t care if anyone was there, didn’t care if he could tell either way, didn’t care what he looked like, didn’t care about that crushing pressure on his chest, didn’t care about the legs that he could barely feel, didn’t care about the arms that were sagging in the water, didn’t care about how his body felt heavier and heavier in the water, didn’t care about the surrender that he felt taking over his head and heart. A sunbeam cracked through the clouds and caught his eye.


A vision took over his thoughts. Amorphous, multi-colored, and multi-faceted; a vision had taken over his thoughts and blocked away the sometimes deep blue and sometimes emerald waters engulfing him. He felt himself enveloped in arms, a formless sense that he couldn’t see and yet wrapped him in a soothing grip. He heard soothing words even if he couldn’t say what words he heard or what the voice sounded like or if it even belonged to a man or a woman. He smelled freshness; he smelled the natural scent of life that thrives throughout the world. Sweetness and salt touched his lips, washed over his tongue, remembered to him all the contrasting wonders of the world. And in that, in the midst of all those senses, in the swirling center of his fatigued dream drifting out into the gulf, his body seemingly evaporating from around him, he saw nothing. Black infinity trailed out before him. Whether it was the back of his eyelids or the expanse of nothingness, he couldn’t say. A welcoming void. It filled him from the inside out, his heart and soul finally joined together as one.


The world changed. He became one with the void and the void grew inside him. The world washed away.


Emotional Matryoshkas (#40)

In Stories Volume 2 on January 28, 2013 at 10:37 am

Chapter 1

In the image of pink flowers atop green stalks, he saw rebirth with beauty and the blossoming of love.

Pink love, green beauty, blossoming flowers; and in he stalks, atop the image of rebirth, with the saw.

Atop the green stalks, the image of rebirth in flowers: love, blossoming beauty, and he.

In rebirth, he stalks blossoming love and the green flower of beauty.

The rebirth of love and blossoming green stalks.

Green love and rebirth stalks.

Love and rebirth.


Chapter 2


I would have rewritten my entire life for you.

My entire life would have rewritten you.

Have you rewritten my life?

You have rewritten life.

Rewritten life.



Chapter 3


If you never tell me to let you go, then I’ll hang on forever.

I’ll tell you to go hang forever if you never let me on.

Forever – I’ll never let you tell me if you hang.

If you let me, I’ll hang forever.

Let me hang forever.

Hang forever.



Chapter 4


She felt a shedding of his skin, like a snake, and knew that he’d discovered a piece of his soul that even she hadn’t known existed.

Even he’d known a snake felt a piece of his shedding skin, knew that she discovered his soul… and that she hadn’t existed.

He’d discovered that she existed; she felt a piece of his shedding skin; a snake hadn’t known; and a soul knew.

A piece of a snake existed; she knew he’d felt his discovered skin and shedding soul.

A snake felt his soul; a shedding of skin, she discovered.

She felt his snake, discovered a shedding of a soul.

A snake discovered a shedding soul.

Shedding a soul.





(Credit to Elona Toska for the story concept)

Staring At The Sun (#39)

In Stories Volume 2 on January 21, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Five months had passed. They’d been five long, agonizing months of soul-searching, self-examination, loss, and gradual recovery. Five long months. The first couple spent asking around, inquiring about his state, his feelings, his whereabouts; the subsequent few learning that there was nothing to learn that meant anything to the betterment of Patrick Donovan.


And then one Monday night, Patrick turned the corner off Beauregard and onto Jackson. 7pm, still early, and the crowd of people fresh off work and picking up groceries from the Whole Foods was thick and teeming. His yoga studio fell just beyond the crowd and the temptation of the groceries. Those five months had also been a tumult of pounds both falling off and on, so to pass the resplendent, massive, and Hollywood-lit windows of the grocery store existed as a challenge of his will. The crowd helped as it required much of Patrick’s attention.


But to navigate a crowd is to strip the people of their faces and individualities. They become instead moving cogs. But sometimes a cog would have a face that Patrick should have recognized, would have recognized had he not been looking at each person as but an obstacle. And sometimes those cogs with recognizable faces would recognize Patrick’s as well. It happened often enough as the grocery store was an anchor in the area, an institution. Almost always, it was just a friend that would draw his attention and stop him on the street. A coworker on rare occasions. But never him. He was never there. No, he was never there, until he was, until he reached his hand out and he stopped Patrick on the street.


“Patrick? Hey! How are you?” The hand flashing into his vision would have been enough to stop his feet; the sound of the voice stopped his soul. His voice. Daniel Lundquist. Patrick steeled his nerves, focused his thoughts, and met the gaze of the man that had broken his heart five long months ago. The man he hadn’t since seen until that cold moment.


“I’m…” he floated around for the right word to convey the shock, terror, excitement, and sadness erupting like a quartet of volcanoes. “I’m… okay. How are you?” Patrick directed that question towards a face with a closely cropped beard, black hair cleanly slicked to the side, eyes that showed no signs of any sleepless nights. He directed it towards a body that still looked trim beneath the tightly-buttoned houndstooth jacket, the efficiently knotted scarf, the brown leather gloved hands that held two bulging and pendulous grocery bags. He directed it towards composition, efficiency, and self-management.


“I’m good, thanks. Not so used to this cold weather but it could be worse, right? There’s no snow.” He smiled widely like they were old friends without baggage, but the baggage was apparent in the empty air that hung between them, balanced precariously upon wisps of breath. They both looked down at Daniel’s brown leather A. Testoni shoes, perfectly polished and safe from the corrosion of rock salt, and then at Patrick’s tattered black Converse high-tops, immune to the ravages of nature, for they were ravaged by time. They matched most of his appearance: the stubble on his face, the muss of his uncut hair, the wrinkles in his shirt.


“What have you been up to?” Patrick took his right hand off the strap of his black and yellow messenger bag and dug it deep into the pocket of his overcoat where Patrick wouldn’t be able to see the tiny tremors rattling his fingers.


“I’ve actually been traveling a lot for work, hence the groceries. My refrigerator was empty of anything edible. Plenty of things inedible, but not much else. I’ve been going in and out of the country pretty steadily for the past two months, so a lot of dinners out or ordered in.” The bags seemed heavy to Patrick’s eyes but they remained fairly steady in Daniel’s grip.


“Why are you traveling so much?” Patrick still couldn’t make more than glancing eye contact, instead shooting towards the ear, or the passing crowd of people, or back down at the ground. He’d spent too much time in those eyes, too much time under very different circumstances, to allow himself to fall back in.


“Oh, I must’ve forgotten when we last saw each other. I got a promotion at work – still at the advertising agency – and their home offices are in London. They’re a little old fashioned about things; they want me there in the flesh for a lot of the introductory meetings. Can’t complain really. But what about you?”


“It’s still Christmas break for my students, so I’m on a little bit of a vacation right now. I just came back two days ago from visiting my family in Texas. They asked about you, which was awkward, but even my mom let it go pretty quickly.”


“Oh… I’m sorry.” There was a measure of comfort in hearing those three words. Patrick had heard those three words so many times in the past few months, especially while in Texas, that they brought him back to steady ground. Meeting Daniel on the street was an anomaly, hearing condolences was a taste of the new normalcy, which Patrick sort of knew how to deal with.


“It was bound to happen at some point, just unfortunate timing. But I’ve got a few days to relax here before classes start again. Not that I’m not looking forward to it – these kids I’m teaching this year… I don’t know if I’m getting better at what I’m doing or they’re becoming more receptive, but I actually can’t wait to get back into the classroom with them.”


“That’s great, Patrick. And I’m sure it’s you. It makes more sense that teachers learn and improve over time than kids magically becoming more receptive. And I see you’re back into yoga?” Daniel lifted one of his overfilled grocery bags and gestured towards the yellow and purple yoga mat bag hanging on Patrick’s left shoulder.


“It’s been helping me focus. I’m going to the gym again as well. Trying to get my life back in order; healthy body, healthy mind.”


“Well you’re looking healthy, so good for you. I wish that I had the time and the focus to take care of myself.”


“And I wish that I could travel to London as much as you are.”


“You studied there during university, right?”


“Yeah. I loved it. I try to go back every couple years but it’s hard to find the time and money.”


“We never went there together, did we?”


“We talked about it but no. Too bad you didn’t have that promotion earlier – it would have made for the perfect conditions.” Patrick’s back stiffened as he heard the words come out of his mouth. He could hear the wistfulness returning to his voice, see the imaginary scenes returning to his mind, sense the dreams of reuniting. Too much time had been spent rejecting those things and laying the bricks to block them off for good. “But you didn’t, so, too bad.”


“Yeah. Too bad.” Patrick glanced at his watch. He was going to be late for his yoga class. He looked back up to see Daniel just standing there, no words on his lips, no glancing around of his eyes, no movements to unstick himself from where he was stuck.


“I’m sorry but I should get to my class. The lockers fill up, you know?”


“Oh, yeah, of course, I’m sorry. I saw you here and just wanted to say hi. You look good, you know. You look healthy, like you’re doing well.” Patrick finally smiled and allowed himself to do so without recrimination.


“I’m feeling alright these days. Thanks.” They each nodded, they each waited for the other person to move, and they waited another moment. “Okay, Daniel, good to see you. And congratulations on the promotion.” He began walking and only thought that maybe he heard a response when he was already a few feet away.


He didn’t look back. He made a point not to. Not that he even wanted to. Not after so much had passed between them and then so much time to make peace with it all. The well-lit windows of the grocery store no longer enticed him, Patrick simply longed to be in the warm yoga studio, seated squarely and safely upon his mat, the firmness of the hardwood grounding him into his physical space.


His hand on the door to the studio, Patrick allowed himself just one glance backwards, just one glance, just to prove to himself that he hadn’t heard any wistfulness in Daniel’s voice. Just to tell himself that there had been no sadness there, no regret, and that they were both, in fact, doing fine. His hand on the door, the door swung open, the warmth of the studio greeting his face red with the cold. One glance. Daniel still standing in that same spot, looking toward Patrick, with his hand on the door, the door swung open, the warmth of the studio warming his face still red with the cold.


Then the door shut.

Through Life (#38)

In Stories Volume 2 on January 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm

IMG_2695 IMG_2691