Archive for ‘Storytelling’

October 5, 2013

“The Unlucky Ones: Part 2”

Author’s Note: My partner said that he really enjoyed “The Unlucky Ones” and encouraged me to write it into a series. So, here we go.

Suni stretched and yawned as she pulled herself up out of bed. She looked over to find that Adrienne was already up. Suni shrugged her blanket off and wandered barefoot into the kitchen. Adrienne was sitting at the desk with a headset and microphone on. The headset was plugged into the front of the desk, next to a small thumb drive. The desk – which doubled as a touch screen monitor – displayed a list of audio files that Adrienne was mindlessly tapping through while scribbling in her journal.

“I’m going to make toast; do you want some?” Suni asked through a yawn.

Adrienne mumbled almost inaudibly, “I’m fine, but thanks.”

Suni shrugged and dropped a single piece of wheat toast into the toaster. She slid the door on the refrigerator built into the wall. She grabbed the quail eggs that were in a wire basket on the second shelf and the vacuum-sealed package of bacon she cut from the side of the hog she shot earlier this month. She slid the refrigerator door closed and watched the light flick off inside.

Setting the food down on the kitchen island, she asked aloud, “Do we still have tomatoes?”

“Only the ones we canned. Unless you want green ones. You can pick those yourself,” Adrienne muttered as her eyes darted from her journal to the display screen and back to her journal again.

“Canned is good,” Suni replied. She spun around and opened the kitchen cabinet closest to the refrigerator. In it were many clear mason jars with the same kind of white label. Black, green and kidney beans, peaches, pears, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips and white beans, all stacked and lined up in alphabetical order, just the way Adrienne liked it. Suni grabbed the first jars of tomatoes she saw and shut the cabinet again.

She bent down and fumbled through a drawer until she found a large, deep frying pan. She set the pan down on the electric range that took up a third of the counter space in the small kitchen/tool shed. She turned a dial and watched the thermometer on the range rise. She unzipped the package of bacon and retrieved three slices. When the pan was ready, she dropped the bacon in and heard the pleasant sizzle. The sound alone could rouse her from sleep, but the aroma that filled the room immediately after was her favorite part of this morning ritual.

Suni had made a point for the past two years to bag one hog every four months. The first two years in the bunker, she suffered through an almost entirely vegetarian diet. It would have driven her to drink if she had the resources. She vowed to never do it again after she bagged her first hog. Adrienne didn’t seem to have minded it so much; she had spent a few years on her own before Suni came along. She caught small game then, but not enough to sustain a true carnivore’s diet. But the garden she had nursed in the bunker provided her with everything she needed.

Suni continued to prepare her meal. She resealed the package of bacon and stuffed the zipper end into a slot in the wall. She pressed a button to the side of the slot and watched as the air was vacuumed out of the plastic package. When it was complete, the slot spit the package out onto the counter to the right of the range. She scooped the package up and threw it back into the fridge before returning to her cooking.

“Smells good,” Adrienne commented absently.

Suni didn’t reply. She pulled open the cooking utensil drawer and retrieved a spatula. She also remembered her toast and reached over to the toaster to push the button down until she heard the familiar click. She flipped her bacon while tapping the drawer shut with her hip. Then she spun around and grabbed the basket of eggs from the island in one swift motion. She cracked five small eggs above the pan and watched as they quickly fried in the hot bacon grease. She shuffled over to another cabinet and grabbed a plate, picked up the pan, and slid the contents neatly onto the plate. She heard her toast pop and grabbed it instinctively. After juggling it for a moment – having forgotten how hot it would be – she dropped it on top of the rest of her meal. She pulled a fork from the silverware drawer and walked over to Adrienne.

“Are you sure you don’t want anything? The pan’s still hot; it’d only take me a minute,” Suni asked again.

Adrienne finally looked up. There was still a dreariness in her eyes; it was clear she hadn’t slept well. She smiled and sighed, “Really, I’m fine. Go ahead and eat.”

Suni shrugged. She grabbed a stool from the dining table and set it down next to Adrienne. She sat and after a moment of annoying hovering, Adrienne finally conceded to filling Suni in on what she was doing.

“Remember the thumb drive we found on that guy last night? Well, I’ve been going through the contents. It’s a pretty average audio journal, for the most part. I’ve been writing down anything that sounds a little interesting, like good hunting spots or fresh water sources. But there have been a couple entries that sound a little stranger. Here, listen to this one.”

She yanked her headset out of the desk. She tapped a file on the screen and the desk speakers crackled as the recording began:

It’s, um, Wednesday, October nineteenth. Michael and I have been on this hunt for a couple days now. It’s pretty scarce. Disheartening, really. But we made camp here in this abandoned fishing shack at the edge of the swamp. This place hasn’t seen much action for a while, except maybe some rats. Anyway, we ran into them again. Same pack as before, but it looks like they’ve grown. They don’t appear to be aggressive. I mean, they clearly saw us. But they just watched us for a little while and then they were on their way. We still haven’t been close enough to get a good look at them. But they look like dogs. I think, anyway. Big dogs. Big, weird looking dogs. Michael says they have to be like, mutated or something. Well, that’s it. Until next time.

Suni, with a mouthful of food, muttered, “You said there were more of these?”

Adrienne nodded. “Three others that I’ve found. Two before that one, one after. I’ve still got about twenty files to listen to, but those four mention this pack of big dogs. They don’t attack people or anything. They just watch them. Maybe they’re wolves?” she asked rhetorically.

Suni scraped a forkful of food up and waved it in front of Adrienne’s mouth. Adrienne rolled her eyes and scowled at Suni for a moment before opening her mouth. Suni grinned proudly and pushed the food into Adrienne’s mouth. She finished off her plate and got up to clean.

Stacking up all of the dishes and carrying them to the sink, Suni noted, “Whatever they are, we haven’t seen any around here. So I don’t think we have to worry about it, right? But those hunting spots you wrote down. Those could be useful.”

Adrienne nodded as she plugged her headset back in. “Well, if I find any more hunting spots, I’ll let you know,” she sighed.

Suni could hear the sarcasm in Adrienne’s voice. She set down the pan she was washing into the steel basin sink. “You sound so disappointed that I’m not more interested in your monster dogs.”

“It just sounded interesting is all. But like you said, it’s not something we need to preoccupy ourselves with. it’s not important,” Adrienne remarked.

Suni sighed heavily. “Fine. If your dogs get more interesting, let me hear it. I mean, the dead guy ended up here. Maybe they followed him,” she responded mockingly.

Adrienne slammed her journal shut and threw her headset onto the desk. “I hate how you refer to these people as ‘dead guys.’ They were people. Trying to survive, like we are. And they didn’t make it. God, it’s like you have no respect.”

“Jesus Christ, Reenie! You really think I’m such a heartless bitch, don’t you? Does that make you feel better?” Suni shouted as she slammed the pan down again with a loud bang. “Does it make you feel so much holier-than-thou when I’m not the selfless, compassionate fucking saint that you are?! I’m sorry, but I can’t cry over every John and Jane Doe that dies on our front porch! People die all the time. I’m just glad it wasn’t you or me.”

Adrienne stood and stomped out of the living room and into the garden room, slamming the door behind her.

Suni clenched her fists and pounded them both on the kitchen counter. She could feel her cheeks burning up. She took a few long, deep breaths and resumed cleaning. Once she was finished, she walked back into the bedroom and sat on her bed. She stared in front of her. Adrienne’s bed was neatly made, as always. She spread her feet apart on the ground and reached between her legs to open the drawer under her bed. She retrieved a set of clothes and then shuffled to the bathroom, near the front door.

She closed the door behind her and locked it. She angrily threw her clothes onto the counter and stood in front of the sink and mirror. Her hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail. She had black flyaway curls pointing in every direction. She grimaced at it, pulling the elastic band out and watching her hair explode into a disheveled mess. She ran her fingers through it, trying to make some sense of the chaos.

Looking into the mirror again, Suni frowned. She looked tired. Her brow seemed to be permanently furrowed. Her thick eyebrows made her look much angrier than she was most of the time. And her eyes were something else entirely. One eye was an average, ordinary brown. The other was half brown, half pale blue, as if someone had dropped bleach onto one side of her eye. She had dark circles under eyes, aging her far beyond her years. Her lips were thick – one of the few traits she was fond of – but cracked and broken, with a small scar on her top lip on the left side. She had many freckles, dotting her mocha-colored skin. She also had three small, light patches of skin on one cheek from a burn scar that never regained its color. All in all, she thought, it was a pretty rough sell.

She stripped down, stepping out of her clothes and leaving them in a pile in front of the mirror. She left her key around her neck. She stepped into the small shower and turned on the water. It spurted out, sporadically at first, then in a steady stream. It was cold, as it always was. She had always thought the cold water was refreshing, but Adrienne never forgot to mention how much she missed hot, steaming showers. Suni stood there for what felt like hours. Her hair seemed to fall into submission under the water. As she washed it, she felt knots untie themselves. She noticed that clumps of hair were collecting in her hands as she combed her fingers through. She was used to losing more and more hair with every shower, but it was always a little disappointing. She washed and rinsed the rest of her body, taking note of a few new bruises and scrapes, then shut the water off.

She opened the shower door and grabbed a white towel off of a hook on the wall. She stood in the shower and dried her body as much as she could. Folding her hair into the towel, she walked over to her pile of fresh clothes and pulled each article on. There wasn’t much variety to her wardrobe. Another white tank top and long brown cargo pants. She buckled a leather belt around her waist to keep her pants from sliding off of her hips; they had fit her better before. She pulled the towel off of her head and replaced it on the hook. Then, she scooped up her old clothes and opened the bathroom door. As she walked back into the bedroom, she heard food being cooked in the kitchen.

Suni walked into the kitchen and opened the weapons’ cabinet. She grabbed her sniper rifle and slung the strap over her shoulder. She turned on her heel to grab a knife out of a drawer. Her gaze met Adrienne’s, who was standing on the other side of the kitchen island with a plate of eggs and tomatoes.

“You forgot to use the tomatoes,” Adrienne commented quietly.

Suni chuckled, “I knew I’d forgotten something.”

Suni quickly dropped her eyes to the drawer in front of her and began to mindlessly shuffle through knives. Adrienne began to walk back to her spot at the desk when Suni blurted out, “I’m sorry I’m such an asshole.” She quickly found a large hunting knife, sheathed it, and stuffed it in her waistband.

As she shuffled out of the room towards the front door, Adrienne replied timidly, “You’re not an asshole, Su. You’re good.”

Suni paused for a moment before unlocking the door and stepping out. She turned to close the door and looked in to see Adrienne smiling at her. “Happy hunting.”

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September 13, 2013

“The Unlucky Ones”

“I haven’t been sleeping well lately.”

“I heard. You wake up in the middle of the night and leave. What’s going on?”

Adrienne stood silent for a moment and thought carefully about her answer.

“I’ve just had a lot on my mind. The cold air helps me clear my head.”

Suni nodded. “I do that sometimes. Although, when I go outside, I don’t usually just walk around. I take my bow out and hunt nutria. They’re surprisingly lively this winter.

“Oh, well I go out past the marsh. I like to lie in the field at night. There are so many stars when the clouds clear enough.”

“That’s pretty rare, though. Isn’t it?” Suni asked.

Adrienne sighed, “Yeah. It’s always cloudy.”

The conversation died down. Suni rolled over on her cot and switched on her lamp. She grabbed her journal off of the low shelf next to her cot and began to leaf through it. She kept drawings of the local game like nutria, snakes, and mud crabs. She also kept clippings of plants that she’d identified. She knew which ones were safe to eat and which ones to avoid. You could tell she had experience with some of the more dangerous plants from the rash scars on her hands. She was also short a thumb. She considered it her hunter’s badge of honor. The gator may have taken it, but she got it back once she cleaned the bastard out.

Adrienne rolled onto her stomach and stuffed her cold hands under her thin pillow. Unlike Suni, Adrienne was more of a homebody. She did most of the cooking, cleaning, and upkeep of the shelter’s defenses. She also took it upon herself to set traps around the entrances. Adrienne prided herself on being very adept at making chemical traps, just like her father did. Her newest trap, when triggered, sprayed the animal (or intruder) with an aerosol that quickly turned to a sticky, dense gel upon contact with the air for a few seconds. If the gel finds its way onto the victim’s mouth and nose – as it probably would with any four-legged animal with its belly to the ground – it would suffocate them. The gel also proved dense enough to incapacitate a person when sprayed at their feet (Suni was kind enough to act as guinea pig, which resulted in several hours with her boots stuck to the ground). The trap, placed carefully under a tree by the rear entrance, hadn’t been set off yet. But Adrienne was anxious to see the results of a successful trigger.

Suni clicked off her lamp and set her journal back on the shelf. The lights-out was a silent signal for the two to go to bed. Over the past four years together, the pair had developed a comfortable routine. It didn’t used to be this way, but nowadays, they even got tired at the same time.  Adrienne closed her eyes and began to drift off.

Her eyes shot open a few moments later. She’d almost forgotten. She turned over and opened a panel on the wall. Behind it was a small screen and several old looking buttons. She switched the screen on. The salt and pepper crackled for a moment before straightening out to ant’s eye view of the clearing outside. This was the front entrance camera. All clear. She clicked the Camera 2 button; all clear. Cameras 3, 4, and 5; all clear. She sighed. None of her traps had gone off yet. It had been a few days since she’d set a new trap; she was beginning to think she had scared off all the game. Adrienne switched the screen off and closed the wall panel. She slumped back onto her stomach and fell quickly into a dream.

Leaves rustled beneath her feet. It was autumn here, and there were reds and yellows everywhere. The rays of sun came through the falling leaves like raindrops. She heard a child laughing somewhere in the distance. But that’s not right; we haven’t seen another person for months. We haven’t seen kids for at least a year. That’s not right —

An alarm shook Suni and Adrienne into sudden readiness. Suni shot out of bed and shoved on her boots. Adrienne sat up and threw open the security camera panel. The Camera 3 light was flashing red. She flicked the alarm off and the blaring sound was silenced. She hesitated for a moment before switching on the screen and clicking the Camera 3 button. The screen was fuzzy at first, but as it cleared, she could tell something was wrong. Camera 3, which was situated in a small hole carved into a tree just outside the rear entrance, was tilted, like something had disturbed or tampered with it. Along the ground, she saw holes in the grass. Someone had been digging. They were looking for an entrance.

“What is it?” Suni shouted from the other room. While Adrienne was watching the security screen, Suni had been grabbing her bow and sidearm. Her boots thumped heavily on the metal floor as she reentered the bedroom.

“Someone is or was out there. They were digging.”

“Did any of your traps go off?”

Adrienne responded quickly, “Not at 3, but let me check.” She sped through the other cameras. The two at the front entrance seemed undisturbed, but the screen went black when she clicked 4. “Looks like something took out Cam 4.”

Suni frowned. “Well, there hasn’t been any noise at the door, so whatever took out the camera must have also taken out the intruder.”

“Shit. I knew I over-packed that capsule,” Adrienne cursed.

Adrienne climbed out of bed and pulled on her boots. She grabbed her leather jacket off the end of the cot and went into the other room. Suni had left the weapons’ cabinet open, displaying the various short bows, crossbows, and small arms they had at their disposal. Behind a piece of glass was Suni’s special sniper rifle. Adrienne knew better than to touch that. She grabbed a small Ruger 9MM and stuffed it into the front of her pants. On her way out to the rear entrance, she also grabbed her pocket knife off the island counter top.

She shuffled through the bedroom and met Suni at the door. Suni gave her a short glance, silently asking if she was ready. Adrienne nodded. Suni retrieved a key that hung around her neck on a thick twine string and slid it into the massive metal door. She spun the lock, pulling the bolts out of the wall and door frame until they clicked into place inside the lock. She then pulled the heavy door open. On the other side was a metal ladder going up about eight meters to the surface.

Adrienne went first. She pulled her key (which was also on a string around her neck) up to her lips and held it between her teeth as she climbed. As she got to the top, she flipped open another metal panel on the wall in front of her. She reached through the rungs of the ladder and flipped on a switch. A screen, similar to the one by her cot, flickered on. Mounted on the rear entrance hatch, the camera showed most of what was outside; a smudge on the dome of the camera was obscuring some of the view. Adrienne held a button with a right arrow and watched as the camera spun slowly to give her a 360-view from the hatch. About halfway through the full cycle, she saw what caused the smudge on the dome: a still body crumpled in a heap a meter or two away from the hatch. The image was black and white, but she knew blood when she saw it.

“We got a body,” Adrienne mumbled, still holding her key in her mouth.

Suni, who had been waiting patiently at the bottom of the ladder, let out a loud sigh. “Human?”

Adrienne closed the camera panel. “Looks like it. I need to go out and check Cams 3 and 4. Guess you’re looting.”

Adrienne listened as Suni’s boots made a distinct, heavy clunk on the metal rungs. Once she could feel Suni just below her, she grabbed the key out of her mouth and reached up to insert it into the hatch lock. She turned the key and heard the soft click as the bolts fell into place.

She pushed up and felt a short rush of “fresh” air come down the tunnel as she opened the hatch. She finished her climb and felt morning dew soak through her gloves as she pulled herself out of the hole. She spun around to take a short glimpse at the body, then walked over to Camera 4. It was mostly intact, but the lens was gone and the wires had been yanked out. She put the camera into her jacket pocket and made her way to the tree. As she walked off, she heard Suni rolling the body over.

Camera 3 was tipped sideways, but it looked to be a completely separate incident. Probably a squirrel. She readjusted the camera and walked over to take a look at the kind of damage her trap had done.

Suni grumbled something under her breath.

“I didn’t hear that,” Adrienne said.

Suni spoke up, “I said this guy is fucked up.”

“How old, would you say?”

“Probably around twenty-one, twenty-two.”

Adrienne sighed. She was twenty-six. Suni was thirty. Poor kid, she thought to herself.

Adrienne picked up the remnants of her trap. Need to come up with a different word for these, she thought. But she didn’t like the word “bomb.” It sounded too aggressive. But then, blowing up a person sounds pretty aggressive. The trap consisted of a short, stout piece of plastic piping, packed full of metal shards and homemade gun powder and capped with pieces of scavenged aluminum. A simple pressure trigger set off a spark inside a small glass enclosure made from a Christmas light bulb, which lit the very short fuse. The fuse ignited the packed piping. The rest doesn’t need much description. I guess it is a bomb, she thought. 

“Anything interesting on him?” she inquired.

Suni shrugged, “So far, a bit.  A silver chain around his neck and a pocketful of .45 rounds. But there’s a pack over there I haven’t checked. Blast must’ve thrown it out of his hands.”

Adrienne wandered over to the pack. It was a small, heavy black canvas pack. It was in relatively good shape, all things considered. She opened the flap, revealing several cans of chili, a small bag of rice, and what looked like blank papers rolled up together with a rubber band.

“Got chili and rice. Some blank paper too,” she called.

Suni replied, “Sweet. I need more pages for my journal.”

As Adrienne pulled everything out of the bag, she noticed something at the bottom. It a black box, camouflaged against the black canvas. She pulled it out and set the pack down. She opened it to find a thumb drive and a few photographs. The photos were of a young man and a little boy. They looked like brothers. She wondered which one the dead guy was. She grimaced at the thought. She snapped the box shut and stuffed it back into the bag, along with the chili, rice, and paper.

“That’s it. I’m going to take this all back down and try to fix this camera,” Adrienne said monotonously.

Suni, who was currently salvaging the boots off the body, responded without looking up, “Right behind you. I’ll lock up.”

Adrienne threw the pack over her shoulder and felt the damp canvas against her jacket and thin shirt. She climbed down the ladder and kicked off her muddied boots at the inner door. She walked through the bedroom into the kitchen/living area, where she replaced her sidearm and threw the pack onto the island. Listening to the distant clunk of Suni’s boots as she climbed down, Adrienne set the cans of chili and rice on the top food shelf. She threw the paper on a desk nearby. Then, she reached into the bottom of the pack and retrieved the box. She opened it and set the thumb drive on the desk, next to the papers.

Suni walked in and shed her jacket, revealing her tattered, stained white tank. She turned on the kitchen sink for a few seconds, letting the basin fill a little. She started rinsing the dirt and dried blood off her hands and arms. As she did this, she looked over her shoulder at Adrienne. “What you got there?”

“Just a couple photos.”

Suni nodded. “Well, tack them up with the others.”

Adrienne walked over to the desk. She aimlessly shuffled around the papers and books on top of it, trying to avoid looking up. She sighed and raised her gaze to the cork board hung in front of the desk. She grabbed a thumb tack off the board and pinned the photographs up. They’re in good company, Adrienne thought. There were dozens of other photos. Families, couples, children. She didn’t know them. But she recognized some of them. She called them the “unlucky ones.” Though, the more she thought about it, the more she felt that this was a misnomer.

May 17, 2013

Psychosis

I wrote this about two years ago with an idea from a friend. I’m actually pretty happy with it. Maybe I’ll take it further. If you enjoy it and you’d like to see more of this, let me know in the comments.

Psychosis

I suppose I noticed early on that something was different about her.  In hindsight, I don’t understand how I could go so long without confronting it.  She was so distant.  It was like she was there, physically, but somewhere completely different mentally and spiritually.  I loved her, and because I loved her, I guess I subconsciously neglected the problem, hoping that it would correct itself in time.  But, then it never did.  Eventually, everyone else caught on.  She was rude and uncaring.  She became more and more egocentric.  She wasn’t herself.  She treated me and others in bizarre ways, as if her entire moral consciousness was wiped clean and replaced with one of some pre-axial human being, unaware that there was any soul beyond itself.  Some of the things she said left a bad taste in my own mouth.  But, I was scared to tell her how much she had changed, how warped she was.  I didn’t want to tell her that, with the way she was, I just didn’t love her anymore.

Seven months and twenty-six days. That’s the time it took before anyone realized that Marcie Jacobs was consciously living in a world completely outside of the real, physical world of which she was a member.  Once the rest of us realized it, she was already deeply rooted into her separate universe. So much so that it would be nearly impossible to coax her out of her trance and bring her back to the world she belonged in.

            “Babe, can you do me a favor and grab that green mug from the top shelf.  It’s too high up and I really need to finish painting it or it’ll never get done,” Marcie called to me from the sitting room.

“Is it the one with the Celtic knotwork on the handle?” I asked. She was silent.  “Marcie, knotwork? Yes? No?”   She said nothing.   “If you don’t tell me, I’ll never know,” I said with a tinge of annoyance in my voice.

I grabbed the mug and walked down the hall into the sitting room.  Marcie was sitting on the window seat, staring out into the front lawn and humming.   I sat down beside her and dropped the mug in her lap.  “Babe, I’m not trying to be rude or anything, but, are you deaf?  I asked you if this was the right mug, twice.”  Still, she didn’t respond.  I’ll admit it – I was getting a little aggravated and I think I overreacted.  “Marcie!”  This time, I shouted.

She screamed.  She sprung to her feet, obviously startled.  I watched as the mug jumped out of her lap, crashing onto the hardwood floor.  “God damn it, Ray! What the hell is wrong with you?  There was no need for you to scream like that! Now look at this mess –” she cried.

She was shaking, partially from the scare I’d given her and partially from how perfectly irate she was.  She stood there, surveying the sight for a moment, and then scuffled off down the hall to the broom closet, cursing the entire way.

Feeling terrible, I stood there.  I didn’t know whether I should try to help or just leave the room and let her cool off.  I decided on the former.  I moved swiftly down the hall to meet her before she got back into the room.

Taking the broom and dustpan from her, I stopped her in mid-stride and said, “Let me take care of it, babe.  It was my fault; I’ve got this.” She glared at me, snatched the dustpan and broom back from me and shoved me aside, cursing under her breath again.

Rather than try my hand at being helpful again, I walked into the kitchen.  From there, I heard her muttering to herself.

“’Let me take care of it, babe.’ Yeah, right.  He can’t take care of shit.  What the hell does he do around here anyway?  He sits around, watching his football games and playing his fantasy sports.  What do I do? I cook; I clean; I do his fucking laundry.  Now, he goes and ruins the one thing that I want to do with my free time between work and taking care of his lazy ass.  Perfect.  Give the guy a goddamn medal.”

I was fuming just listening to her.  She was the one that wouldn’t answer my question and she was the one that wasn’t paying attention.  This really wasn’t my fault.  I grabbed my wallet and car keys and started heading towards the front door.  I heard behind me the crash of the ceramic pieces as they dropped into the bottom of a wastebasket and the thumps of the broom and dustpan as they hit the wall.  Then, I heard her voice.

“While you’re out, do you want to grab me some honey butter from the grocery store.  Honey butter on wheat sounds heavenly right now, don’t you think?”

I stopped and turned around.  I could see her at the other end of the hall, sitting on the window seat, humming.  I wasn’t sure whether to freak out about her radical mood swing or to be happy and skip to the store for her honey butter.

“I love you, Ray!”

I left.  I went through the front door, got in my car, and drove to the store.  I went straight for her honey butter, then down a few aisles for my favorite whiskey.

            The dull hum of the sedan’s engine buzzed in my ear. I made the drive home almost subconsciously, unable to focus on the cracked, pothole-ridden road in front of me and simply going through the motions. I replayed the scene at home over and over in my head.

Marcie had always been a little strange. She had a way of changing moods at an unreasonably quick pace and sometimes I had trouble keeping up with her admittedly one-sided conversations with me. I used to think it was cute, the way she would completely dominate a conversation with all that she had to say. She’s so intelligent. That’s what originally made her so attractive. But, after five years of marriage, it stopped being cute and started irritating me. I could have even initiated the conversation, telling her about traffic on the way home from work or the data rush at the end of the week, and she would still find a way to cut me out. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much of a talker, but her constant struggle with me to take the lead every time we exchanged words had become so out of hand that, eventually, I just stopped fighting it.

I only spoke when spoken to, and for the first few months, my tactic worked. But, Marcie was smart and she caught on. When she confronted me about it, we fought. I vented my frustrations and she proceeded to yelling.

April 10, 2013

She Looks at Me

She looks at me
With pale blue eyes,
With cheap black dye in her hair
And cheap black makeup
Running down her face

She looks at me,
Still unsure of what to say
Because the wrong thing could send me
Flying over the edge,
Into a symphony of self-loathing
Into a special kind of anger
That makes the air around your ears
Feel like it’s on fire

She looks at me
Unaware of all the voices
Fighting for my attention inside my head,
And how every happy possibility
Is doused in the gasoline of inevitable disappointment
And lit by the sparks
Of my anger and fury

She looks at me,
Incapable of understanding
How someone so held together
Could be so broken

She looks at me,
Never knowing that there was once a boy
To whom I gifted my own heart
But in his greed, broke in and stole my innocence

And after he and all of his friends
Had planted their flags and laid claim to my body
Left me in a bathroom,
Trying to spread what little makeup I had left
Over the bruises now scattered across my face

She looks at me,
With the same kind of blissful ignorance that I see
In the eyes of my parents when they look at their little girl,
Wondering why she is so sad all the time

She looks at me
And has no idea that every morning,
I have to count the number of reasons
That I should not kill myself today,
And every night,
I count the scars under my sleeves
And add them to the stretch marks
That my mother is always so eager to point out

She looks at me
And she’ll never understand,
That every time a man touches me
My eyes slam shut and every muscle in my body
Contracts like I’m trying to become so small that I disappear

She looks at me,
And says
“What happened to you?”

She looks at me,
Crawls onto my lap and kisses me firmly
And unbeknownst to her,
I have dubbed her my teenage savior

I look at her,
And know that I can overlook every time
She found a home in someone else’s bed
While I drained myself of hopefulness
On a cold bathroom floor

I look at her,
And I can forgive her for every time
She wasn’t home to take my call
Because she was out getting doses
Of false contentment and self-confidence
From dark street corners and alleyways

I look at her,
And know in my heart that it won’t last,
That I’m just another puppy love romance to her,
That she’s still testing the waters of love
And doesn’t know quite what she wants yet

And even though I would move mountains for her
And attempt to piece together something that resembles
What she calls a soul, even though I don’t believe in such a thing,
Just so that I could give it to her and say “I made this for you”

I know that soon I won’t matter

But when she looks at me,
I don’t care