The Unfinished Chapters

                                 The Unfinished Chapters

A clarity that had before escaped her had begun its ascent, seeping into her cognizance like a slow-growing moss– though the truth, laid so bare in her mind, was intolerable. “Bury it down”, said the troll of her subconscious. Another layer, another day, another mask. . . she’d live.

It happened on a summer afternoon- the year he turned nine. Now a striking man of thirty-three, he masked his pain with precision, though the subtle sheen of perversion cloaked him, a shroud of his shame. Never satisfied, never truly vulnerable, a shivering lamb behind the curtains, he devoured affection with teeth.

The feeling had drained from her fingers; bolts of exquisite need surging through her torso. This was sorrow. This was hunger. This was surrender.

Swimming in the chaos, people darting by, the quiet rush of melancholy seeping out in their breath- hot and desperate in the frigid air, she found herself hypnotized by the rhythm of steps, somehow unable to move forward. This city had bled her dry.

He had lost her. There, in the laundromat where he’d first spoken her name, he watched as the rest of the vacant souls folded their clean shirts. Tumbling in with his socks were a pair of her underwear he hadn’t had the strength to throw out.

Dipping a toe into the bath, he smirked at the androgyny of it. Suicide in the bathtub. Was for women. And he lay dying—unable to escape the thought.

Like some blissful melody, he clung to her lips, conjuring within her a desire so unbridled she had to blink away her madness and breathe in slowly. This was real. And it was heavy. She knew then that to lose him would break her.

Ripe and eager in her youth, a sordid existence had taken its toll; the light had vanished from her gaze, leaving behind two near-vacant orbs, dull with the ache of misery. And yet, he had asked her to “smile”.

The guilt would bubble into her thoughts, a menace to the happiness she was so desperately trying to build. Now and then she’d hear a song that spoke his name in whispers–and only then would the tears come, slow and deliberate, searing her cheeks with the heat of her sorrow.

Sitting there in the parking lot, looking beyond his own reflection in the rear-view mirror and into a void he could never fill, he buckled, succumbing to the tidal wave. He cried until his cells burned with the destruction of his very sanity. Peeling back the facade, his grief exposed the red of his insides, blistered and sore.

In all its effortless glory, the setting sun glowed upon her, reminding her only of the days when she had someone with whom to share it. He was gone, long beyond the clouds.

Laying there in the darkness, the comforter pulled straight up to his chin like he’d done as a child, his mind quaked with the vision of his own insignificance. A father he’d respected was now gone- another notch in the great tragedy of his genes. A legacy of tortured souls. Now more than ever, he could feel the fibers of his being shifting into the pattern drawn by fate and circumstance.

A quiet desperation was building steadily within him, a surge of some unfathomable dark force pushing him toward his gradual defeat. Steadying himself against a telephone pole as the dust from the highway swelled around his form, he wondered if he’d ever feel joy again.

It was getting colder. The air was crisp, reminiscent of seasons past, though he no longer welcomed the chill . The house was quiet, hollow with the ache of loss and memories. All the firewood in the world couldn’t get him through the Winter.

Eyes were familiar. Glued to her at every turn, they judged her, unaware of her burden. A beautiful tragedy, she was alone.

There he sat, bathed in the grimy light of another insignificant diner, soothing his nerves with the meat of some unfortunate cow. His lips curled slightly at the thought, though these days his smiles were never truly representative of any positive emotion. A pervasive silence occupied his mind–no joy, no sadness, no fire. He was stripped bare.

There in the sink lay the mark of her decaying youth, fragile, brittle with the knowledge that no color would find it again, hair that had seen more suffering than most would come to know. Plucking it away, she smiled at her reflection in the mirror, looking into the eyes that sparkled with mischief despite her years and thought, “one more down”.

Into the void she would plunge, once again, like dipping her head into tar, until the feelings unexplained by logic would subside and she’d go on living as if it had never happened, a flow of blood expelling the mania, her cycle complete. To be a woman, she often thought, was the worst punishment a soul could endure.

The deafening sound of his own feet slapping the seemingly endless linoleum accompanied the increasing pace of his heart. Fifteen years he’d slaved for that corner office- a decade and a half- some kid’s lifetime- gone- with nothing but a box of shit to show for it.

It had crept up like a shadow, but like winter it had come upon her, slicing her into fine lines and ridges, the map of her life displayed on her skin. Standing there against the frosted window,  she watched the cars go by, a trail of lights streaming into the distance. Gilded little ants, they seemed, frenzied by their race to an imaginary finish line. When the calm settles in, she thought to herself, there’s nothing to do but sit back and watch. The rush was over.

Why he felt the need to smash things was beyond him. It was merely a game, yet the thought of being bested by anyone, more specifically the bastard that had crucified his dignity- filled him with a rage so searing that he could feel his pulse in his temples. Afraid of blushing, he skulked away quietly, tearing his cuticles apart like some voracious predator.

To erase it would do him no good, though the mere thought of what had transpired that night sat in his mind like some hideous boil, growing plump and tender with the fuel of his apprehension. So there he abandoned it, to erode slowly in that dark crevice of his imagination. It would howl with need, rapping at his skull in moments of doubt, but gagged and bound, there it would stay.

Escapism had served her well into a seemingly halcyon cocoon of her youth, caressing her fragile being with the warm assurance of something non-existent. And upon her decent into the world, beyond the doe-eyed veil of innocence, she felt, for the first time, the safety of her own wisdom.

A menacing click in her head, it would light up her synapses in brief moments of bittersweet reverie. Oh, to let it die! Persistent, the cloud of his visage would haunt her with the dull ache of what had come and gone. The warmth of his gaze had dissipated into a hollow stare, the tender moments stinging her eyes as she watched the man she loved fade into nothing.

The song was the same, the same chord progressions, the same haunting melody; but though she expected it to conjure some torrent of sorrow upon hearing it again, this time, it was merely a song. He was swiftly becoming a memory.

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