Summertime Sadness

When I dream of him, I see him standing at the water’s edge with a peaceful smile on his face. He looks out at the horizon, dressed in his usual khakis and white button-down, not seeming to notice that his pants are wet to the knees. I almost forget that he’s no longer weighed down by the heaviness of living.

All of the other beachgoers completely ignore him. Surely, someone would have noticed a man walking into the ocean fully clothed. I guess it’s more likely he was wearing swim trunks, but I never saw him that way. Always with his business casual uniform and a slight, hidden smile that tugged at the corners of his mouth when he saw me, like he was amused by his own personal joke.

I feel an insect land on my arm and begin to help itself to my blood. My eyes instinctively try to find the source, as I swat it away, violently. When I look back to him, he’s gone. My eyes search the beach, but the only evidence that he was ever there floats in the distance, abandoned in the water: khakis and a white button-down.

He foreshadowed his exit; he gave me a copy of The Awakening by Kate Chopin. The thing about foreshadowing is that you rarely notice it as you’re reading the story. You’re just left looking back, asking yourself how you didn’t see it coming.

When I wake, I’m assaulted by the usual zoo inside my head. All of my thoughts pile on top of one another, insisting each is more important than the rest. Everything goes quiet, but the sound of the surf, when I remember him, standing there on the beach in my dream.

I imagine he is teaching in a quiet beachside town, where no one would ever recognize him. Standing in front of a blackboard, looking at his class with a slight, hidden smile that tugs at the corners of his mouth.


The Ray Bradbury Noun List Twist
– Nouns: insect, water, arm, thoughts, zoo.

Hell-evator

“There was a time when things were different. Ya know?” a woman’s voice boomed through the lobby, followed by the sharp click of her heels. I turned, startled by her presence, and watched her exit to the street through the revolving door, evidently talking on her phone.

After I was alone again, I returned to my previous position, hovered over the elevator call buttons. I pressed the little circle lit with an “up” arrow, again. I knew it wasn’t going to make the elevator arrive any faster, but my black high heels were killing my feet and my purse felt like a anvil hanging off my shoulder. Finally, a ding echoed throughout the lobby, signifying the right elevator cab’s arrival. Despite being a new building, the elevators operated with the rickety movement and questionable reliability of much older elevators.

The doors separated like they were trying to build suspense. I immediately noticed a man standing in the left corner, so I took a step back, avoiding eye contact, because I was not in the mood for pleasantries, and waited for him to exit. He didn’t move, so I finally looked up at his face, anger and impatience radiating off of me. He looked back at me with an expression that mirrored mine and made an exaggerated sweeping motion with his left hand that indicated I should board the elevator. I tilted my head in confusion, my eyes suspicious, but slowly obliged. His obnoxious tie caught my eye as I passed; it had two large parrots in the middle, one a brilliant red and the other a bright blue.

I turned around, so I could face the doors in the awkward manner that people stand in elevators. As I watched the doors close, a feeling of dread came over me, but it was too late; even if I leapt at the call buttons and pressed the “Open Doors” button 100 frantic times, it wouldn’t make any difference. The car began its ascent and I shifted my feet uncomfortably. The light above me flickered and I jumped. Looking up, I silently begged it to not go out, but it didn’t cooperate. The entire car came to a rather violent halt, darkness surrounding me suddenly.

A strange sound of pure terror escaped my lips as worst case scenarios played out in my mind. I opened my eyes as wide as possible, as if it would help me see better in the absolute darkness. My body was frozen as my mind raced. The strange man to my right made an audible movement, reminding me he was still there. And, so, my terror grew.

After what seemed like an hour, but was little more than 30 seconds, a dim light came on above the call buttons. I immediately looked towards the man, fully expecting him to be standing inches from me, holding a kitchen knife above his head. Instead, he was looking back at me with the same fear in his eyes. The tension was so high that it took me a minute to find the ironic humor in the situation, but I eventually did and suddenly broke out laughing. I felt ridiculous, but relief flooded my body.

The man looked at me like I was crazy. “Why are you laughing?” he asked, harshly.

“I thought…” I started, but had to catch my breath. “I though you were going to murder me.” His expression changed in that moment, but not in the way I was expecting. The corners of his mouth turned up slowly, but his eyes narrowed, making him look sinister. My laughter stopped abruptly and I froze under that look.

“Oh, I am,” he said, simply.

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Writing submission to The Speakeasy #147

Things We Lost in the Fire

I am a little behind on the Zero to Hero challenge, but I am determined to complete it. So, here goes Day 16. I didn’t like the prompt about reputation, because I see reputation as largely substance-less. Someone’s true value isn’t contained in or defined by their reputation. I honestly haven’t thought much about reputation since high school, so I chose another prompt. The one for today: Your home is on fire. Grab five items (assume all people and animals are safe). What did you grab?

I used to have nightmares about fire as a child, so you better believe I knew what I would grab in case of a fire. Assuming everyone else was safe, it included my favorite teddy and blanket. I have amassed so many possessions in the decades (well, two) since, but I don’t feel the same emotional attachment to things that I used to. I’ve learned that objects may remind you of people or places that are gone, but they don’t contain any part of those people or memories. So, there’s no obligation to keep the things that are just there as reminders, as long as you remember without them. When I finally get to going through all of this stuff, I plan on recording the things that I give away or trash, so I don’t forget, because I don’t have the best memory since the accident.

I’m not sure if I would have the mind to grab anything if a fire broke out, in reality, because I would lose my mind. In fact, I wouldn’t be that surprised if it started in my room. It’s that level of messy. However, if I did grab five items, the first would be (1) my laptop. Aside from being the second most expensive item I own, it has a lot of important information on it, as well as photos. I would ditch my iPad and even my phone in favor of my laptop. I think I would actually feel some relief if my phone were destroyed in a fire. Although it’s attached to my hand half of the day, it’s like a heavy boulder weighing me down. I feel like I miss a lot with my eyes glued to my phone; don’t we all?

With laptop beneath my arm, I would grab (2) my purse. This is mainly a practical necessity. It contains my wallet with money and ID’s, and a couple of other things I wouldn’t want to lose. Maybe, if I’m lucky enough, even my phone! With my purse over my shoulder, I would grab (3) my box of old photos. It contains photos I don’t have the negatives for that were taken back in a time when negatives were used to develop them. Pictures of old friends, places, events and even family photos, which are rather rare in my family. We hardly ever take photos. I’m pretty sure the last photo of us is from my brother’s wedding almost 2 years ago. So, I’d make sure I had those. At this point, I’d probably be scanning the room frantically, trying to come up with something else to grab, until my eyes fell on my (4) jewelery box. I don’t have a lot of fancy jewelry, because I’m not really a jewelry person. Almost all of the pieces in my jewelry box were gifts that I honestly never wear, because I have nowhere to wear them, but they are absolutely irreplaceable. There are pieces from my grandmothers, grandfather, uncle, mom, dad, and even a couple of really pretty things from exes that I wouldn’t wear regardless, but they’re pleasing to the eye.

Lacking the room in my arms, but determined, the last item I would grab would be (5) my Winnie the Pooh book collection; mainly my classic Pooh book. The cover has worn and torn places and the spine is coming apart a little bit, but I’d like to be able to share it with my nephew, and maybe someday, my own kid(s). It goes to show you that the value of something is in who is looking at it. I would then hobble as quickly as possibly out of the house, balancing my last possessions in my arms.

Oddly appropriate song… “Things We Lost In The Fire” by Bastille

Heated Argument

I was relieved to be sitting in the shade. Despite the salty breeze brushing the San Diego coast from the ocean, the heat was heavy. It made movement exhausting, so I sat at the side-street cafe without much conscious thought. I was watching a bead of condensation move slowly down my plastic cup of sweet tea, when an explosion erupted to my right. The sound of a young woman’s grating voice startled me to the present.

“You did wha’?” she boomed in a thick Brooklyn accent, glasses spilling their contents as she stood so quickly she knocked over anything standing tall on the table between her and a thick-necked man.

“Sorry, babe. It just happened,” the mass of muscles half-whispered in a matching Brooklyn accent, shifting his eyes left and right to the other patrons that were now captivated by the scene unraveling in front of them.

“I came all the way ‘ere from New York for you and you cheated? It’s ova -” she started, standing bent at the waist, hands on her hips, so she could tower over the seated, terrified man. I suddenly became aware of the tense muscles holding the horrified expression on my face and closed my mouth, probably just as scared of her as he was.

“It was a mistake,” he interrupted, a little louder. “I love you. I wanna be wit chu. I know that now.” I immediately felt misplaced hatred toward him, for every man who had done something similar to me.

“Don’t give me that bull. You shoulda known before you slept with that whore.” She had a point. She glanced down at the table, taking in the destruction she had caused. She turned and took a couple of steps towards me, not really looking me in the eye. My heart stopped. “Can I borrow this?” she asked, indicating my sweet tea with a pointed and manicured index finger. I gave a small nod, unable to remember how to speak.

She grabbed it and, in one smooth, perfected movement, like she had done this many times before, threw it in the muscle-man’s face. Without waiting for a response, she grabbed her blue leather Coach satchel and walked away from the stunned man. I watched the wind press the fabric of her floral print dress against her right side as she walked down the sidewalk and crossed the busy street with the purpose of putting as much distance as possible between her and this man that sat at the table next to me, mouth still hanging open.

Go Gonzo Weekly Writing Challenge: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/gonzo-writing-challenge/