Disclaimers: Original Fiction. The characters are mine created for your reading pleasure.
Violence/Language: Art imitates life, so yeah a little of both.
Sex: This short features alternative content. If you are under the age of 17 or if this is illegal where you live then please read no further. There. I have done my due diligence.
Feedback can be sent to: Bardboi83@yahoo.com
I am looking at her. She's sleeping and she looks innocent. She looks as though she's at peace. I know she is never at peace and I know she is far from innocent.
She rests her cheek against the palm of one hand and the other is resting palm up on the opposite shoulder. I run my finger down its center and wrap my fingers around
the back of it. It's as soft as I thought it would be. As soft as I knew it would be. For hands as slender as hers I know they hold within them strength and I know that
although they appear delicate from a distance, they are anything but. I know they are rough and they are capable. I know she will use them.
I would not call her beautiful, because she is not. I wouldn't even call her pretty at this point. Once upon a time, I would have said she was magnificent. I would have said she is beautiful, because once upon a time she was. Once upon a time she radiated a warmth that was inviting. Once upon a time she would cast her eyes to me, so pale blue they were almost white. They were disarming. Her hair was soft and it was brown and it framed her face, which was smooth and pale. Her body, though never perfect, was that of a woman, with all the softness and curves a woman should have. She was my world. She was my everything. I was blind.
For one kind word I would have moved heaven from the earth. I would have swum a thousand miles and I would have walked even further. She needed something. She reached out to me. She told me a I was strong and she told me that she loved me. Her children told me that they loved me. She told me I was the one and I believed every word. I devoted my life to making her happy. To making her sons happy. She wanted a place of our own and I went and I found one for us. I worked seven days a week so that we could have it. We had nothing and I pulled strings so that at the very least we could have a couch and table. I managed to find a bed and managed to furnish the boys' room. I managed to find a lot of things and I managed to put it together. I managed it all for them.
I think we were happy for a time, the four of us. I really do. I did what I had to in order to make sure that they didn't go without. I did what I had to make sure that they would never again want for or need for anything in the world because I knew that she wanted and needed for so long before she had me. I knew the boys wanted and needed much more than they ever would have had. And to make sure that they didn't go without I did everything and anything I needed to do. To see them happy and well taken care of I would have gone with nothing and so I did. I never complained.
The progression of life takes you by surprise. I never saw things change or beginning to change and shape shift into what they would become. I kept my eyes closed and kept marching ahead. I couldn't take the time to think about it, because if I had it would have been over. It would have been bad. I would have been bad. I would have been guilty because I didn't try hard enough. So I tried harder. While I treaded water to keep us afloat where we were she wanted more. She wanted more than I could give her and she pushed ahead. She moved up from where she was and she wanted to move beyond the small home I worked night and day to create for us. It wasn't good enough, and she let me know that. She let me know that I wasn't good enough.
She pushed us up and out to a larger home with a higher price tag and I gave up my dreams to pay for it. I traded in my apron and my knives for a computer and khakis and collared shirts. I traded in my boots with holes in their soles for a pair of loafers.I watched her spend money on nice clothes and nice furniture and pretty things to decorate with, while I took mine and paid the rent. I paid the water and electric. I paid for the phones and I paid for the cars and I paid for clothes for the boys at middle of the road retail stores. I paid for mine at Goodwill. I had a well dressed family, in a nice apartment, her with a nice car, and I looked like a hobo in pants too big, shirts too big and shoes just a little too small. I couldn't keep up and when I would speak up, I was told to shut up.
This was just a reality of life...
Things went on and we bought a house. The boys went to school and she moved up. I moved up, but only slightly.
I don't really know where it all went so wrong. I think back over the years and try to pin point the time, the day, the month, and the week down to the second and I can't. She said I was hers. She always said I was hers and that I belonged to her. Even as I began pacing the floors of my cage, and pulling at the chains that bound me to the floor of that cage, she said I was hers. She said I would never leave her. She said I belonged to her and she belonged to her and the boys belonged to her. There was nothing that belonged to me, except the clothes on my back and the clunker car I drove day in and day out. I thought I had her heart. That was supposed to be good enough for me.
They say that the truth will set you free and I was never sure about that. The truth was that not a day passed for years where I did not think of leaving. Not a day passed that I didn't dream of freedom. Not a night passed where I slept the sleep of the content and not a morning came where I was eager to wake up and greet the day. I would finish working and long to get in my car and drive as far as it would take me as fast as I could get there. Not a day passed where I ever felt I was truly loved. I wanted happiness. Happiness.
I was raised in a house where the motto of "Through truth work and struggle we will over come" was the philosophy. I believed that. I carried that. I tattooed that on my body and wore it like a badge of pride. Happiness was secondary to those three things. I worked and I struggled, but my truth I held inside for a great many years. Her truth she sang with abandon.
I put on too much weight, and I needed to color my hair. I needed to shave my legs and I needed to be quiet. I needed to grow up and act more mature and I needed to stop being so serious about everything at the same time. I needed to get a better car, but I also needed to save money because we were going on a vacation to the Keys next year, but I should go ahead and spend a little money because we were going to visit my friends in my home town this year. I was lazy, and I was too slow, and I wasn't perfect therefore what was I good for?
I couldn't please her any more. Not for as hard as I tried, I couldn't please her and I couldn't please myself, because the few times I did sit there like the cat that ate the canary I was promptly exiled to crappy blow up mattress on the floor to sleep with the dogs in the living room because sleeping on the couch would ruin the suppleness of the leather...that I was paying for.
I was not happy and each day I lived not so much a lie, but a lie of omission, because I didn't sing my truth.
We did take that trip to my home town. We were there for two weeks and in those two weeks I managed to singlehandedly bring about the beginning of the end of our ten years of marital blister...
See, home was a place I ran from. Running is something I am good at. I did it thirteen years before, and damned if I was going to do it again. When we arrived home, to my home, the first place we stopped for the first week of our little trip was with a woman whom I described to my wife as a friend. A friend that I fell in love with when I was seventeen years old. A friend that I carry in my heart until even this day and I am thirty-three, thirty-four in a month. That's seventeen years. And I never stopped loving her. I was back in town and even with my lover in tow I was powerless to stay away from her.
We were to meet up at the train station and I was early. My friend was late. This was the norm. I saw her and she saw me. I didn't intend to embrace her that long and I did not intend to hold her so close, nor did I intend to forget to introduce her to my wife, but I did. I knew this was all a bad idea and I went with it any way. Getting to the point here I didn't mean to ignore her for the week either, but hey, she'd been ignoring me for the most part for the better part of three years, so really, just a drop in the bucket of time, right?
Yeah, she knew. She knew I was still a bit in love with a woman who had my heart years and years ago. She knew it when she met me and she knew that we kept in touch. She knew that Sarah would never let me go, because in her own way she loved me back just as fiercely. While I was no longer in love with Sarah in that famous awestruck way that bards and poets sing of, I loved her because there was too much between us not to. I loved her because I'd loved her so long at that point I never knew how to stop, so I didn't.
We got home and things were strained. Things were worse than they had been. Worse than they had ever been and the fact that we hadn't actually had sex in close to two years just added to the frustration of our situation. I had been faithful. Up until now I had been faithful. Like a puppy kicked, I had been faithful and she had done her share of kicking, and throwing, and hitting, and punching on occasions. I never hit a woman. I never hit her. I never strayed.
I tend to wander aimlessly from time to time. Here and there, moving slowly without purpose. I'm looking for something I can't reach and I can't see. I don't know what it is, but I know its out there and if I look hard enough and long enough I will find it. I always know I will find it.
I found it. I walked right into it. Actually, she walked right into me. Chrissy, walked right into me and she was stunning. We became friends. We had parallel lives at that point. Issues at home, children to raise, jobs to do and a common need. To feel good.
We talked. She listened. I listened. We listened to each other. I taught her she was beautiful and she taught me I was worth more than what I valued myself as. I loved her well and she loved me the same. I am smart enough to know not to mistake gratitude for being in love, but at the time she gave me what I needed to go home and face the day. I gave her what she needed to know she was stunning, to know she was beautiful. I built her a throne on which to sit, and I looked at her as the light in a life gone dark. She told me I was beautiful, and I'd never heard that before...She helped me pull myself up out of the mire that I struggled with daily. But I was still faithful. The difference became I knew what I was worth.
I am smart. I am smarter than those around me want to believe. I have excellent deduction skills and I know when something is not right. I can tell.
I came home and the house was dark. My lover's car wasn't there. I went in and the place smelled way to clean. The linens on the bed were washed. They were the same ones I had put on the day before, but they were warm. Like they came out of the dryer recently. The bedroom smelled clean, but there was something else. I could sense there was something else. It smelled like a person. Not Jean and not me. Not our boys. Our boys were at their grandmother's house for the weekend. That much I knew. I found a shoe print on the carpet and I found a pair of tighty-whitey underwear. I wear boxer briefs. She was having an affair. This hurt.
She came home, expecting me to be in bed. I don't know. What she wasn't expecting was for me to be sitting piss drunk and smoking on the couch waiting for her. Her lips were bruised and her hair...I knew someone's hand had been in it and I damn well knew something had been in her mouth. She tried to kiss me hello and I promptly threw up on her shoes. That was all I needed to stumble out of the house.
We talked. We would try to work it out. I tried to work it out. She continued having her affair with a man of higher station and bigger paycheck. Months passed and I could no longer take it. Which brings me to present...
I am looking at her. Sleeping. She thinks I will be here when she wakes up in the morning. I'll be here to walk the dogs, get the boys to school, to make sure she has breakfast and lunch. I touch my lower lip. It's still swollen. Her most recent gift to me. She's sleeping and she looks at peace. The years and incessant baking under artificial light have aged her. She looks fifty to her thirty-six years old. Her skin is darker now, like leather. Her hair is bleached, and brittle all in the name of making herself more appealing for her rich boyfriend. I am appalled. She reminds me of a Peking duck. Like the ones you see in China Town. She's too skinny and she's fermenting in the vodka she drinks every night. She's gone so far back into the closet I'd swear she was living in Narnia.
"I can't do this any more. I don't love you and you've taken what love I had and you've thrown it away. May you find your perfection in someone stronger than me. Good bye Jean." Tell her as I get up.
I packed my clothes earlier in the day and stored a frying pan, two dented pots and a chipped set of extra dishes int the trunk of my car. I got up and went to the boys room. I kiss them both on their foreheads.
"Good bye Jonah. Good bye Evan. I love you both, until I die."
I make my way downstairs and look at my home. I feel empty. There's nothing left to feel. I leave the house and I get in my car. I look up as the engine starts and I see the blinds from our bedroom open. I see her looking down at me. I back up and I drive toward tomorrow. Toward life and beginnings and away from the end. I roll down my windows in the cool night air and I sing my song of truth. That I am the possession of none but me and when I next give my heart it will be to one who deserves it and so much more.
I heard what she said. She thought I was sleeping, but I heard her. I felt her move. I heard the bedroom door open and then close. I opened the blinds and I watched her get into the car. All five feet and eight inches of her. In the street light I could see her bathed in a kind of heavenly glow. I could see the tattoos down her arms and legs. I could see her lip swollen and purple. I could see her muscles move under the cover of her white tank top and I could see her form clad in tight black jeans. She ran her fingers through the mop of golden curls on her head and as she looked toward the road I could see her smile.
I had seen her change this past year. She was more confidant and she was more self-assured. She always worked hard and struggled to make a good life for me and for my boys. Simply put she always did the right thing and that made her easy to be with. Convienent to be with for a time. But she wasn't going anywhere. No matter how hard I pushed her forward to go to college, to get a degree, to work harder, to work faster, to live with purpose she resisted. She stayed where she was and spent days toiling away over spreadsheets, and figures, and data. I spent ten years with a cook turned clerk and she simply would not provide more.
I needed more...She valued less.
Even now, eight months later, I stopped by to drop off her mail and I look around the place she lives. A table and chairs, a couch, a bed, a small TV, laptop computer and white walls. That's all she has and she stands in the middle of it in her tailored Armani suit, hundred-dollar loafers, Fossil watch, as the king of her paltry domain. She smiles, and woman dressed God only know what kind of evening gown saunters from the back. I cannot place this woman, but I know her.
"Zip me?" The woman asks and Mattie obliges.
The woman looked to me and said, "Mattie's been promoted twice. She's a project director at the firm. We're going to celebrate."
"A project director?" I ask.
Mattie nods and the woman responds, "I knew she could do it."
She flashes Mattie the most dazzling smile I've ever seen and kisses her lower lip.
I see her two years later walking arm in arm with the same woman. There is no trace of sadness I used to see reflected in her eyes and I hear the woman say to her, "I'm yours."
I see her two years after that. She is sitting in a booth with a toddler on her lap, paying no attention to the spaghetti sauce covering both of them. She smiles at the girl in her arms and I approach.
"How are you?" I ask
"Never better." she says as her lover approaches holding an infant boy that looks very much like Mattie.
The woman from four years ago, the woman I met six years ago.
"You remember Sarah?"
I nod dumbly.
Sarah says, "Thank you."
I cannot for the life of me think of what she could be thanking me for and I ask, "For what?"
"For teaching me what love is not so that I may appreciate what it is." Mattie replies.
Sarah sits down and I leave back to my table. Back to my husband. He couldn't give me anything more than Mattie did and never loved me half as well. She taught me what love is, and I know in my heart I may never find it again...
(c) 2011 AC
Return to the Academy