Francesca

francesca_woodman
Image  by Francesca Woodman

The silent embroiderer continues to weave. The rain tinkles, their spherical bodies dashing themselves against the window panes.

Her needle; quick – sharp – is the sniper resting on the water’s edge. Then it dives in, that little pinprick of red, and a flame slowly flickers on the surface of cobalt silk. That sudden flare, the inevitable anger! She stops her work, startled.

Then it quivers; dilating in a spectrum of orange, and the sudden memory of a held-back slap inches its way to the surface. A tear-streaked face, painted in hazy shades of white and grey, keeps repeating: “No, mamma.”

She tilts her head, grappling with the memory, her eyes narrowing involuntarily. The hazy film continues, unaided. But the persistence of her laconic reply rapidly gives way to the explosion. The hand moves suddenly, from out of the corner of her eye, and a tingling sting radiates across her fleshy cheeks, stippling its anger across naive flesh. “But why, mamma?” And another slap. “But why?” Slap.

Then it dims to night, as if someone had turned the light down a notch, and a blanket swims into view. Its hunched folds, pregnant with a slowly ebbing warmth and some strange, pernicious yearning now seems to her like that distant glimmer of stars, brushing against cold, stiffened feet, offering some unfulfilled premise of yet another forgotten story:

But what? And why?

She touches the cool metal, that sits neatly in the clasp of her throat, that silent observer, yielding no truth to her curious fingers, but pressing down on that hollow at the base of her throat.

Her chair creaks. The damp air clings to her. She stops her embroidery, and looks out through the dirty windows.

The cuckoo, doomed forever as that instigator of abandonment, starts crying out its wretched call in the fading daylight.

© Zelda Reville


Again: hi.

Edit: Just realized that today is my 2nd year anniversary on WordPress. Damn, I feel old already!

 

Reading Naked Lunch – Chapter 5: The Word

fox-the-magician
The Magician tarot card from the Animal Totem Deck by Leeza Robertson

And here is the previous chapter of Reading Naked Lunch…


As I lower my head into the basin, I stare at the ceiling. There’s a crooked line, a visible crack, where the paint has started to peel. My hairdresser runs cold water on my hair and I close my eyes. The man doesn’t reappear. Nothing. Yes.

On the radio, a girl sings, “It was all just a mad daydream…”

Then I am led back to my chair. My bony butt does not savour the moment when my butt is re-introduced to the cold, hard seat. I look at the book. There it is, the red and yellow standing out in sharp contrast against the black upholstery, its cheery colours almost refuting what I had read earlier. I frown. Strange…it had looked so…inculpable, earlier. Was ‘inculpable’ the right word? I pick up the book again. Shit. A voice, ingratiatingly obnoxious, inserts itself between my ears.

“Real funny, too, at first.” 

The man’s mouth slid forward in a grin, not losing the momentum.

“Did you miss me now, then?”

In place of the gentleman is now a hideously painted two-faced harlequin, ageing face painted half in white and half in black. He steps out neatly from a pile of something that slides around his stockinged feet in the darkness – I peer at the something – then I make out a quarter of a collar belonging to a smooth, crisp shirt – then a dark liquid pooling around his feet – blood!

The knife is nowhere to be seen. But the harlequin sneers at me and casts a mawkish glance at the something. 

“Well, that’s just my old skin! My meat costume, I call it. It hurts like hell – always difficult when you start removing the skin round the balls – but I’ve always preferred myself this way. What d’you think?” He strode forward, clasping my hand in his. Cool and clammy. I swallow.

He smiles, his pale blue eyes twinkling merrily, then drops his voice to a growl. “Don’t give me that squeamish look, you insufferable piece of shit.” He pulls me forward in a crushing hug. Eeew. He smells utterly of junk. The sweet smell of opium perfumes his next whisper, the stench of death nailing my metaphysical coffin shut. “You know very well that I am I, but you are also I…” He forces me to my knees.

“You know you want it.”

Planting his foot on a stone with strange symbols that seemed to have sprouted out of nowhere (they look like…hieroglyphics), he utters the first sentence. A look of spellbound serenity enters the blue of his eyes.

“He had a number he called “The Better ‘Ole” that was a scream, I tell you. I forget most of it but it was clever. Like, “Oh I say, are you still down there, old thing?”

Then he paused, possibly for dramatic effect.

“Nah…I had to go relieve myself.”

In spite of my rather unfortunate position, I laugh. Dear god…

He sighs. “I wish I could get you to talk now, but you’ll have to listen to me first.” His mouth twitched.

Then, he mutters: “Pompous bastard.”

“Huh?”

“After a while, the ass start talking on its own. He would go in without anything prepared and his ass would ad-lib and toss the gags back at him every time. Then it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy in-curving hooks and started eating.”

“Holy shit! What sort of asshole is that anyway – ” but he shushes me. He drones on:

“He thought this was cute at first and built an act around it, but the asshole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights.”

“Sounds like Asperger’s to me! Or the current state of this world, at least…” I manage to blurt out, before he hits me on the head. “Ouch – fuck off!”

His face slowly slides like the slow, tumultuous motion of melted wax, taking on the mantle of exaggerated tragedy. “It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags – nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth.” He produced a handkerchief with ‘W.S.B’ embroidered on it in gold thread and dabbed at his eyes. When he removes his hankie, it is streaked with black and white. I roll my eyes, as I involuntarily sniff, and dodge the incoming whack from his bony fist.  Then he continues, his tragic visage shape-shifting, mercurial quick, into that of the boy-faced mask of righteous petulance:

“Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it, but nothing did any good and the asshole said to him: “It’s you who will shut up in the end. Not me. Because we don’t need you around here any more. I can talk and eat and shit.”

He pauses again, and then takes out a pistol from nowhere (Nowhere at this point now looks like a legitimate place, but just not in front of my eyes), wiping the barrel with his handkerchief.

“Be careful with where you point that thing, boy!” I hiss under my breath.

His face cracks into a smile. “Did you know that I never, ever miss?” At the mention of ‘miss’ his mouth starts to slide down at the corner, taking on a resemblance to a sad clown rather than a cackling harlequin. “Unless, of course, if you count that one, terrible time…” Then his face hardens.


I’m sorry for the delay! This was supposed to be posted earlier this week, but lots of stuff happened this week and I wasn’t able to squeeze in any time to edit these pieces. This chapter describes my first introduction to The Word, which I thought was incredibly funny because it describes how the current world has actually gone to shit.

And here’s the rest of the chapters for your catch-up in the Reading Naked Lunch mini-series. 🙃

 

 

Reading Naked Lunch – Chapter 4: Where Is The Pivot?

old-man-with-magnifying-glass
Photo by Mari Lezhava on Unsplash

 

Ok, you might not have read Chapter 3 yet…

Then, I reopen the book, hair dripping in protest under the steam machine. My eyes immediately shift to off-focus. Go away, reluctance! The page starts swimming. The words seem to look like tiny ants crawling all over the paper. Hell no – it’s still the same gibberish. I want to toss my head in frustration, but then I suddenly remember that I have a hot steamer directly above my head. I try to turn my head to my left and catch a glimpse of the customer next to me, cheerfully chatting to another hairdresser.

Change tactics. 

“Wha-?”

The gentleman walks over and stands in front of me. “You have a choice. You know where the pivot is.”

Pivot? What is it? My eyes skim past a sentence. I ain’t know no pivot…“Did I ever tell you about the man who taught his asshole how to talk?” Where the hell was that pivot? Where is the –

“This ass talk had sort of a gut frequency. It hit you right down there like you gotta go.”

Aha.

“You know when the old colon gives you the elbow and it feels sorta cold inside, and you know all you have to do is turn loose?” The gentleman grips hold of the knife and pulls it out, inspecting the blade, cleaning off the wood chips stuck to the tip of the knife.

His pale eyes reflect the cat’s eye glint from the blade. Then, his lips start moving, humming a melody that synchronizes with the enunciations of my tongue. The felt hat slips over his egg-shaped head. “Well this talking hit you right down there, a bubbly, thick stagnant sound, a sound you could smell.”  He starts to take his coat off. The knife drops to the floor. His crisp, tailored shirt comes off, revealing a bony, exposed chest. A scar traces its jagged teeth over the expanse of his skin, right where the heart is. I can see the slight quiver that betrays the location of his human sensitivity. His hands drop towards his pants. His movements, oblivious, to my stare. His innocence, blatantly oblivious, to my shame. Do I avert my eyes? Or do I continue this horror peep show?

He picks up the knife. Then he stops humming. Speaking in a gravelly voice, he rumbles: “This man worked for a carnival you dig, and to start with it was like a novelty ventriloquist act.”

He proceeds to do the unthinkable. A laugh first escapes his throat, then, just as swiftly, the knife plunges into the territory of that scar. A blast of cold air hits my neck as my hairdresser removes the steamer from my hair. The scene abruptly squeals to a stop. The man vanishes. She gestures towards the washstand, speaking in kindly tones, the voice matching the image of her harmless, round face…

I shiver. I am glad, for I have not a single chance to witness whatever could have come next.


Congratulations for coming this far! If this rambling was to your liking, here’s Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. Happy reading!

Reading Naked Lunch – Chapter 1: Introducing

well-dressed-man-with-hand-facing-backwards
Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

 

This strange, thin man – who is he? This skulking shadow of a gentleman, peering from neatly pressed suits…I stare at my computer screen. Fascination has me in its cool grasp. Horn-rimmed glasses. Very long arms. They are thin and spindly. His expression, hard to read in the fading light, fixes me with a very cool stare. I start frowning.

 

Who are you, strange man?

My tentative point of entry: a second-hand copy with yellowed pages. US Grove Edition 2001. Large font splashed all over the cover in red and yellow. It arrives, suitably, in a poorly-looking envelope. My fingers tear away at the thin paper. This also marks my first foray into the delights of Internet purchases. Books – nothing too tricky. I don’t need measurements or expiry dates. A quick Goodreads lookup and a cursory glance at the synopsis will do. I quickly flip through the pages with some interest. What will this book bring to the fore? Then, something catches my eye, and my fingers pause mid-page in papery playback.

A green line, a horizontal literary crack – I’ve stumbled onto an annotation! Signs of its second-handedness has revealed itself. The ink has seeped through the thin page to the back, its garishness setting off silent bells. What promise did that single line pledge to the person before me? What did that sentence exactly mean to him – or her? Or it? My eyes alight on the visual tidbit, tittering. Mmmmmm….

Then this strange man says, “Fondle this line with curiousity.”

Huh? Okay, fine – whatever you say, strange ol’ man…

“NAKED LUNCH – a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork.”

I turn my head back to my tiny stack of library books. Someone at the back of my mind starts to mutter a mantra, a disembodied voice that echoes from the bottom of a dry well. “No, it’s not time for you to read that yet…” I start chewing on my lip, being as predictable as any anime trope that involves the not-so-subtle glint of spectacles. There’s only two choices for me to pick. Which one will it be?

After some consideration, I place it back on my groaning bookshelf, uttering a silent “sorry” to its groaning weight. As I settle on my bed, ready to frolick with another anonymous character on page 114, my right eye registers the red and yellows of the cover, now saddened by the dimness to the equivalent of dark mustard and menstrual stains. The enclosed darkness of my bookshelf seems to coccoon my book tightly in its wooden bosom, as if protecting it from my hungry gaze with its stare of death. Excuse me – but did you just buy me to add to your collection of pretentious literature? Fuck me. I could swear that Proust book almost gave me that exact accusatory statement.

I quickly resolve to stop being so bookishly promiscuous and thunk down a mental note to read it during my salon appointment.


I initially wanted to write another lengthy, mind-twiddling discourse on Burroughs (which would make no sense in the end, lol) but fictionalizing my Naked Lunch reading seems more fun then another attempt at cracking the dry desert. So here is the first chapter of Reading Naked Lunch, which I will split into six chapters. A proper story with a beginning and an end, readers. Finally.

How George Blew His Top – Part 1

Once upon a time, there stood three, lofty mountains.

If mountains could be separated accordingly to their gender, there would be two male mountains and one female mountain –

Supposedly female, as judged by the two male mountains, who could barely make out two swollen peaks jutting out of the billowing tufts that obscured their vision (and ardent admiration) for her beauty. They finally knew one fine summer’s day, when a shrill voice screamed “Get away from me!” as a humble camel ascended her peaks.

Being mountains, they could not move from where Nature, that sly puppeteer, had condemned them to stay, so they passed their expansive, idle time by mostly sitting in silence. On occasion they would converse with each other, and find out what each other’s inhabitants had been up to.

These settlers had turned up unannounced one day, and proceeded to make each mountain their home without further delay.

A religious sect had set up shop on the first male mountain, a wandering philosopher had declared the second male mountain his perfect haven, and two magnificent eagles spied the female mountain as the perfect place to call their home. Both eagles had since spawned a healthy eagle population on the previously eagle-free area.

As it conspired, today was one of these days, and the second male mountain was bemoaning his unfortunate fate to them. He called himself George after he’d heard someone call the philosopher that. He knew not what a George was, but it sounded nice and good as a name; furthermore, he was tired of being called Blue Peak. First, he was not blue, and second, he felt that the name Blue Peak was lacking in character, somewhat – passe, bland, two common nouns hastily strung together for the sake of naming this mountain something.

He felt he had a shining destiny laid for him, in his path. He knew not what this was, but it winked at him periodically in his daydreams, like the stars in the sky. He sighed.

George was a very laid-back and patient mountain, but then again, all mountains are laid-back and patient to an extent. He had learned many philosophical theories over the years by listening to the philosopher’s lectures, and therefore made better use of his eternal life by musing over them.  But lately all that pondering only served to put George in a dreadful mood…which could only be described as something along the vague, scholarly lines of “existential despair”. George had first heard the term issued by a belligerent student. This melancholic, restless feeling, he assumed, was probably what this word meant.

“I wish he would stop bringing in more students, they’re ruining my forests with all that chopping for firewood. They’re turning me BALD.” George griped to the first male mountain, who called himself Chris for the same reasons as George. Chris, being much more reckless than George, became increasingly at odds with George as their inhabitants were constantly bickering with each other. Both secretly wished that they could get away from each other, but alas – they couldn’t move, and so they continued their luckless fate. They could only hope for the unreliable clouds to obscure each other from sight.

Chris was in a jubilant mood, having spoken to the female mountain earlier, while simultaneously ogling her glorious pinnacles.

“He is doing God’s work, only with philosophy,” Chris replied benignly. “George is doing a good job.

Religion and philosophy tentatively held hands for once, though peering at each other with suspicion.

“Did you mean me, or that fleabag philosopher?” George asked, morosely.

“Him, of course.”

Both of them soon lapsed into deep silence.

“Well, don’t you say!” exclaimed the female mountain suddenly.

“What, Bird?” Both Chris and George answered. They’d called her that after Chris had overheard an excited toddler exclaiming, “Bird, bird!” as he saw a circling eagle.

“It’s not much, really. I was just eavesdropping on the eagles. You’re going to have new people staying with you again, George!” Bird said.

“Perhaps you should be more careful, now that they know you’ve heard everything,” George replied cautiously.

“Aww don’t worry, they don’t speak mountain! They’ll think it’s one of those tremors again.” Bird replied brightly. George silently applauded and admired her unceasing optimism.

He wished he had half of her joyous personality – or at least her carefree approach to life. Damn it all – why had the philosopher chosen him, of all places, to stay on?

As he raged, the clouds; fluffy, majestic masterpieces of Nature’s doing, parted  like the velvet curtains of an opening theatre show, and he then witnessed Bird in her feminine glory. Her unconscious sensuality and naive seduction were displayed at their very best, with the addition of the late summer’s rays. She was clothed in a bejewelled emerald sheath of lush forest that clung to all the right places – Good god, those rising peaks! – and he continued to stare in undisguised awe. Somewhere in George, a tremor split the ground open. No one was harmed, though the philosopher balked at how his overweight pony had fallen to its premature death, into the newly-created crevasse.

Then, without warning, he felt the strangest sensation. A deep, dark, angry…something. This…something had inconspicuously attached itself to his volatile mire of existential despair. What was this?

He was very confused. It was the first time he’d ever encountered anything like it. No word from his limited vocabulary could describe this roaring Minotaur that was barely chained to the ground.

In his mind’s eye, this curious beast looked like a reddish black mob of angry ants. And then, through this tangled mess he discerned a faint thread of yearning – first spiraling out, gossamer-thin, then becoming a mass of tangled lines, red and purple and black, which lashed at him. George tried to shake this not altogether unpleasant feeling away, but the more he stared at Bird, the more intense this feeling grew.

A passing gale soon swept the clouds in Bird’s direction, obscuring her from his sight. The intensity of this feeling subsided with the elegiac movement of the clouds, although now it continued to lick at him like kindling embers gnawing away at firewood. George mulled over this sudden change in mood. He decided to seek counsel from the only friend he had, even though in all honesty, he would have given everything to get away from him on some days. But still, he was the only person he could count on, and he knew it was the same for that friend too.

“Chris?”

“Yes, George?”

“Erm, have you ever felt…” George hesitated for a moment. He wasn’t sure how to best articulate this emotion to Chris. His dangling sentence abruptly terminated itself as his mind tried to package this vague feeling into appropriate language. He observed his inner monologue dully as it hurriedly pulled up words from messy book shelves, pored over them. Realization and rapture saw him ascend rapidly to the dizzy heights of ecstasy, his internal monologue praising itself on its fantastic rational, logical, genius mind. Unfortunately, this short reign was quickly replaced by a writhing despair, as self-doubt rose like the mightiest of waves, more frightening then what Noah saw as his ark sailed the treacherous sea. He soon sighed, yielding to a rather agreeable ennui as he watched his perfectly built train of thought topple to the ground in a detached manner, scattering the pieces of logic everywhere. Why did he even try sometimes? What even was the point?

Chris’s voice rudely jolted him from the grasp of his inner world.

“George? What were you saying?”

George sighed. “It’s nothing, Chris…”

© Zelda Reville


Do mountains dream of playboy bunnies and drunken philosophy? Who knows? I’m planning to put this out as a 3 part series to challenge my lazy ass to write something more than 3000 words. I don’t know if I’ll actually complete this, but I’ll try…

A Resident Of Teeth Park Complains

“Chorus boy!
You peddle insinuating
off-key melodies;
stamp with spite on
enameled floorboards,
claim the Diamond Throne
as your own -“

Aye. You there. Come over here and I’ll tell you a story. You say you can’t sleep? Well, me too – or anyone else in this godforsaken area. There’s no damned sleep for anyone in this neighbourhood tonight, so you might as well give it up. Keep the windows shut, will you? Do you want some hot chocolate? Yes? Ok. There you go.

You know Toby? Good for you. He’s the mayor of this district. A real nice boy with the most adorable cheeks. Mum and Dad love him to bits. He always gets the good grades in school and says his prayers before going to bed. Oh yes. But he never brushes his teeth. What? You say that’s not a problem? Well, it’s not a problem for him, yes – how could a tiny, ineffectual motion cumbersome to sweet Sleep be a considerate problem, considering how inviting the bed can be? But on our terms, he’s ignoring the water pipes that burst and the overflowing garbage in the streets. And that’s a big problem cos he’s just invited some unsavoury people to our lovely neighbourhood. For convenience’s sake, we’ll call them Mr C. and G. Let’s start with Mr C first.

The whereabouts of Mr G have been lost to time, but I’ve gathered a morsel here and there. Mr G was an illegitimate child of unknown origin, who used to hide and shiver in the theater wings eking out a miserable existence as he avoided the Toothbrush Brigade and Toothpaste Legion. I’ve always wondered how this crafty specimen came to be, since he usually remains invisible from prying eyes for most of the time. He’s a bit like the Italian mafioso. Thin mustache, beady eyes, lips forever curled on the edges of a really bad joke that never leaves his mouth, preferring to keep the puns to himself.

But the arrival of another portly and petulant choir boy – blessed with the ignorable name of Messr. C  – saved Mr G’s arse one dark and stormy night. In doing so, he also sealed the fate of Teeth Park. Like any gangster worth his mettle, owning a well-stocked armoury to terrorize the Teeth residents is something they do very well. This terrible anthem is the tune to which they dance to, as they bring a rod swinging onto someone else’s head:

“Rusty saucepans,
holey drums,
the booming and
our favourite
of all time –
the pneumatic drill!”

By god, I hate that drill… It makes the whole neighbourhood vibrate on its rollies, shakes the dentures out of them old folkies and scares the noisy macaws out of the trees! I can’t sleep with them making all this racket at 3 in the morning! Argh! Well, you know…this reminds me of the good old days, flanked with  picture-ready sunsets and morals to match. The Toothbrush Legion and Toothpaste Brigade would make their daily patrols every night, watching out for these particular two troublemakers… but ever since Toby stopped brushing his teeth, they have no need to fear fluoride bullets, or the Mouthwash Of Peril. Why, you ask? Let me show you something, son. These cheeky rascals pinned this note to the board outside the police station last night. They are the end of us, I tell you. Not unless we do something.

“Who cares
for triclosan tear gas
or abrasives,
when you’ve got
pure sugary corruption?”

That’s not all. Have you seen Ms. H? She’s that odd lady with the sky-high bouffant, thinking that she’s still stuck in 1969. You’ve probably seen her dumpster diving in the late afternoons, or trying to woo terrified teenagers with her questionable amorousness. There’s no mistaking that horrid dress sewn with sequins of moss-green and spittle-flecked diamonds, sashaying down the red carpet like some phony Marilyn Monroe. She nearly set her pitbull on me once when I yelled at her to keep away from my trash bin. Good lord! I can’t remember when Toby sold his dear soul to the donut shop down his street.

I tell you, his mum’s obviously spoiled him with too much liquorice and gummy bears. You know, I have this suspicion that maybe his mum is Satan in disguise. If his mum is really Satan, then what on Earth is his Dad doing to him?!

© Zelda Reville


 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Story “Bugger” published on The Naga

submission-bugger-the-naga
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi

I’m very delighted to announce that my short story “Bugger” has been published on Elancharan’s fantastic blog The Naga. This piece nearly didn’t get past the drafting stage because I couldn’t figure out an appropriate ending, but the huge, scary headline screaming “I WANT YOUR MADNESS” convinced me that this was worth finishing. Plus, I’m not sorry to say that I couldn’t resist that title –  I was dying to know if my insanity was compatible with The Naga after looking through the submissions of others and his own work.

I’m finally glad to know that it is, and I feel relieved and accepted as a fellow insouciant freak. Here’s the link to my short story!

Elancharan’s fiery spew of poetry ignites and provokes, no matter the subject. He simply can’t be ignored. And he is amazingly prolific. Do check out his work here!

Rococo

I can see the threads of you resting their dismembered polymers on the raintrees outside this room; the remaining fibers being spun into these fairy lights that haven’t been lit up for Christmas yet. I came round last Friday and the week before, but you’re always absent.  Well, I can’t be wrong, can I? The schedule on the door states that your piano lessons are always marked Fridays, 4 to 5 pm for the intermediates. It’s more like your presence in my life has been defined much more suitably by your constant absence.

The sunsets are so pretty when the sunshine comes in. Do you see how the sunlight bends its lithe body and presses its fingers – curious little fingers they are – into the black, glossy surface, outlining that hard edge of gold? Don’t they look like a toddler’s snub fingers? I know decadent verses like this draw the most derisive snorts from you. But please allow me the indulgence today, for it recalls a memory, at once familiar and soothing.

I remember how the remaining unharvested strawberries used to rot in the golden fields outside your house and how your mum would swear at you for forgetting this simple task. She would stand on the porch, shaking her fist, her plump face flushed  in the sweltering heat. But  your face would split into this odd grin that reminded me of the consequences of the Cheshire cat put on a liquid diet. And I would have cycled by your house on one of these seemingly normal days, my hair doing a Superman in the breeze, hands gripped tightly round the rusty handlebars that left their auburn ashes on my palms. When I cycle past your house now, I keep checking my hands for gritty rust. It’s an awful habit of mine. But I always forget that I’ve been riding on the new Aleoca bike that replaced that old BMX you gave me for Christmas all these years ago. Paolo gave it to me. Do you know who Paolo is? They look the same and carry out the same function, but when I hop over the seat and clench my legs around the frame – now that’s where they’re different.

The solitary spotted dove sings its docile conclusion to the sunset before the soft patter of its feathers – first a silken rustle, then an incognizant echo – alerts me to its quiet exit. Yes. That was what you did. I unwrap my scarf and retie it, making sure not to snag the frail fabric. There’s a large gaping hole where it got caught on the bramble when you left that day. I was singing in the backyard with the strawberries. I don’t know if you remember giving me this scarf. I hope you do. Do you still remember your promise? Do you still remember me, clinging on to this worthless scarf that I should have thrown away, but somehow still find myself being unable to do so?

There’s hardly an inch of snow, but I see the trees waving their surrender to the winter’s night. My hand reaches forward to grab a branch that hovers within my reach, but it clenches at nothing but the inky sky. I can grasp at the ether, but I can’t hold it in my hands. All this air around me, enveloping me in its simultaneous embrace of intimacy and detachment. Why can’t I hold it, if I can grab it?  My breath makes its sprightly escape from between my lips, the condensation forced out like the steam absconding with its hard-won freedom from the spout of a boiling kettle. I inhale and exhale forcefully and my right hand tries to catch the gleeful escapee, but once again I clutch at nothing. My twin stares at me from beyond the fingerprint-smeared glass, unable to do anything, a pearl of a tear rolling down her cheek. That is all you’re allowed. The flow staunches itself. I walk over to the piano. That’s what I’m good at.

Then my scarf slips slightly, uncoiling itself, tired of holding on to a similarly wrinkled neck. The wreath of pungent burgundy starts to recall its age in a dip and the whoosh of old cloth – coffee stains five summers ago, a snag in the fabric during the peak hour rush. Its unraveling edges trail across the worn ivory. Stroked by pianists past their golden prime,  clumsily scratched by the fingernails of beginners yet to begin theirs.  A dirty shellac rag falls onto the floor, its graceful defeat by gravity a cruel confirmation of its lowly status. I can no longer go at it alone, anymore. I sink into the piano seat and close my eyes. The scent of strawberry shortcakes waft up from the bakery below.

I hear the door open, its sustained tone carefully shredding the tranquility into two, letting in a mere crack of light. The light slowly pools at my feet, man-made incandescence casting its spotlight as the door opens another crack.

Click. Thump. Click, thump, click, thump.

That’s it. That’s you.

I remember the footsteps of people very well. Here’s my dream catologue. Mum’s footsteps: the absent-minded scuffle of a patient housewife. Dad’s foosteps: slow, lumbering giant in Timberland boots. And you. Leather-suited heel down, first. That’s where the click comes from. Then the muffled thump as your shuffled step resonates. My eyelids flutter against their own will, battling 10 years of despair and hope. No, don’t open them – it’s not him! Yes! You’d recognize those footsteps anywhere!

I allow myself a little slit of thinly-lit vision. Mmmm. The vivid tones brim at the edges, quickly separating into dots of black, orange, white – all accomplished by the quiver of muscles that stitch such gratuitous immediacy to the seductive power of wilful ignorance. The sharp intake of my own breath that follows is a betrayal to the accumulated bile that has simmered underneath.

Your soft footsteps start coagulating into a reality that starts building its own momentum, rolling down a valley – right smack into  a torrent of unpleasant memories and the terror of the present solidifying with each step that tears itself away from the shadows.  The scream of tyres. Burning rubber. Upturned car. An  explosion. The raven that grasps my shoulders with its griffin’s claws melts away with your impending arrival. Why are you still here, right before me? The draughts blow in, and I shiver, but the goosebumps don’t come. He’s still alive.

The footsteps stop.

Oh my god.

It’s him. It’s really him.

Where have you been all these years?!

Then the seat beneath me inflates and deflates just as quickly. He has seated himself on the same chair that I’m on, occupying the empty space beside me. Filling it in with pitch-black gooey Plaster-Of-Paris – the words come quickly, in a torrent, reading from a hastily scrawled note – the form of a  5′ 10″ human shaped figure of 36 years, who liked beat-up cars and penny books –

Something brushes against my bare skin, the faintest of impressions. The small piano seat is too small for two. His elbow nudges my arm. The expeditious invasion is now complete. My shaky breathing starts to quicken, collecting any breathable scrap of him into my lungs. Hungry for more, binging on the present. Strawberry. Cologne. The one that I gave him for his birthday! My heartbeat jars. More, more, more –

I wait for him to speak, to break these foreboding fences down. Anything to convince me that we could start afresh; to put away these 10 long years into a crate, nail it shut, shove it into a drawer and carry on as if nothing ever happened. As if that never happened.

He clears his throat. I bite my lips. Then silence perforates the barriers.

Unable to contain myself anymore, my eyes burst open and the room swims before them, orange, black and green dots morphing into the bitter mixture of dismay and anger obscuring my vision, burning my throat. I stand up, all ready to shout obscenities at him, to rail against him for our baby girl now clasped in eternal slumber underneath an inconsequential tablet. Then I take in his whole bulk, and gasp as my eyes flicker upon his face. The scarf now unwinds itself, fluttering to the floor, its invoking ability now powerless against the crushing truth that stands before me.  A hand flies to cover my own mouth in defense against my shock; to stop myself from screaming, but the sobs come hard and fast, venomous in their strength. My legs finally crumple underneath me, all sense of ostentatious fortitude gone.

He turns his milky white eyes onto me, and pauses, before saying the exact phrase I don’t want to hear.

“I’m sorry.”

© Zelda Reville


Michiru Aoyama‘s music is manna for inspiration.

Anonymity

“Do you know why he committed suicide?” He asked, chewing on gum like any bored young man would do.

I thought for a moment, and frowned. “Wasn’t it because of his depression?”

He remained silent for a few minutes, and then shook his head.

“Why then?” I heard myself asking, my curiosity piqued by his delayed response. “Isn’t that what some people do; when they sink too deep into the depths, and everything hems in from all sides until they have nowhere to walk on but the roads of Death?”

Tom spat his gum out onto the sidewalk. “He killed himself, that poor bastard, because he couldn’t bear to live day after day, drowning in the dregs of his colourless life.”

“He despised – no, he was terrified of – the thought; of living past his youth, into the curse of old age, and degenerating slowly – crumbling and folding into frailty and sickness, till he passed on.”

He lit a cigarette which I hadn’t noticed before, and continued. “He figured that if he took his life when he was still able and young, he wouldn’t have that happening to him. Did you know how much he hated that? He kept telling me: Tom , help me, I can’t take this shit life anymore. I tried to shake him out, I really did. But that fucking idiot was completely out of his mind – he just sat there day by day mumbling to himself, and then he took his own life yesterday. Hanged himself by the oak tree, just near the dorm. Fucking hell, he could have chosen a better place.”

He took a long drag on his cigarette, breathing out sickly nicotine fumes, and shrugged helplessly, looking forlorn. “He was going into his engineering undergraduate studies too! Top of the class, he was. Well, not anymore – he’s in the ground now, not knowing we’re having this conversation, and not knowing that he’s become a fucking prick.” Tom laughed, its hollowness ringing in my ears. “His life wasn’t colourless. His family’s rich. Nice bird hangin’ on his arm too. Sky high grades. Great life waiting for him after university. I don’t get it. Why do all these silly, philosphical fuckwits kill themselves, and why do the girls throw themselves onto them idiots?”

Tom stubbed out the cigarette, and the ashes flew onto his bare, heavily- veined arm. “Even the cig’s trying to piss me off today! Damn it, the whole lot of you are trying to drive me insane!” He swore, flinging the burnt cigarette onto the grass. I watched him walk off, and sighed.

Tom needed time alone, and now was not the time.

(I found this while clearing out my inbox…totally forgot this was still lying around! I was supposed to flesh this out but I wasn’t able to. Oh well.)

© Zelda Reville