Today I am featuring a guest writer, my daughter, Courtney. We both enjoy writing. While I must consistently work at writing, she has a true gift. She inspires and challenges me to become the writer I truly want to be. I hope you enjoy this short story. Remember…..there is ALWAYS hope.
The door of the fifteenth room of the first building on the corner of J and 10th street is white with blue trim. Inside sits a woman and a young man, she in a chair he on a bed. She stares blankly at the cream wall behind his head while his gaze rests on the framed photograph that she cradles in her lap as if it were a child.
Her eyes in the photograph are years younger than the eyes that stared through him now. Her arms danced through his and settled at the base of his waist in an embrace. The woman’s lips were parted to reveal the mouth that the young man knew so well. His own mouth settled into a poignant line as he took in her image and twisted into a grimace when he met his own reflection. The boy who met his gaze had questions in his young eyes that begged to be answered. His lanky body clad in swimwear did not fit next to the woman as well as she wished it did. The young man looked passed the twosome in the photo and into the waves that crashed behind them. The picture’s background went from brown to blue to purple to black as the sand gave way to a bruised sunset and the young man let out a tired snicker as he remembered how accurately it portrayed the walls of his soul. The young man thought about the events that followed that picture being captured. How the wrinkly woman who took the photo commented on how they were so handsome, believing them to be siblings. And how after the sagging lady had left them the woman led him to a natural grotto and he took off her flowery swim bottoms, just like her father had so many years before him. He remembered the spirals of smoke as they sat against the wall of the cave and shared cigarettes afterwards; she looking into the smoke, grasping on to what had just happened while he tried to forget.
The boy would learn later about Freud and all his theories and he would sit down alone in his dark room and try. But as it usually goes he could not choose which memories he got to keep and which ones to send away. Someone once told the boy that if you don’t remember an event then it couldn’t have really happened. So he kept trying. Quite predictably, his attempts to repress his memories with her proved to be futile; they continued to swim through his mind in a pool of vivid color that he desperately wished would fade to black.
The young man sighed and met the gaze of the woman whose attention he had caught with his movement. The right side of her lips curved into a tentative smile.
“The orderly who gave me directions to your room said it was so nice that the long lost older sister she had heard so much about had finally made it back into town to see you.”
The young man’s heavy chest heaved out a sigh. He didn’t know why he told the orderlies about her. He liked to imagine it was because he knew that she needed to be discussed in order to live on and he was the only one left to discuss her. He could make up whatever details he wanted to about her, lessening the weight she left on his soul.
As much as she had done he couldn’t let all of her die to him.
“I wish I could say the same.”
Her face fell slightly and she shifted in her chair. The young man wasn’t necessarily displeased to see her but what he felt when she crept her head around his door a few hours previous was not pleasure.
“This place is a lot better than the one I was in after…” she trailed off as she stroked the frame of the photograph and let her eyes drift over the linoleum floor.
His chest extended once more as his eyes followed her fondling hands to the photograph.
“You know after that day,” he started nodding to the photograph, “when all this happened,” he exhaled as he spread his arms across the bedspread.
“They told me to write, just to write whatever I was thinking and you know since that,” he again nods to the photograph, “had just happened I wrote about that day.”
He was not going to offer up the words scratched into the legal pad that lay in the bottom drawer of the nightstand to his right so he raised his eyes to hers and kept them steady until she said, “well show me.”
Slowly the young man shifted his weight and reached over to unearth the legal pad that bore his soul. He flipped the cover over to the first page, lifted his eyes to hers, looked back down and began reading in his recently deepened voice.
The first thing you hear are the crickets, somewhere in the distance. Inhale exhale. The smoke is harsh on your tongue and light on the air. The raindrops penetrate. The crickets wing’s rubbing together remind you of another. Skin. Skins? Yours on mine. The tobacco on the paper. The two things, among others, that defined our lives. The waves are approaching you. You imagine the water skirting up onto the sand and drenching you but at the last second the waves retreat and you remain untouched. There’s disappointment in your eyes. You think it’s probably better to feel something than nothing at all. You move towards me and I away from you. Tonight I decided it for us, which was probably better because you wouldn’t have done it yourself. You look down and realize that your cigarette is almost gone and flick the end and go in for the final drag. Each piece of ash twirls down into the earth, spellbound. I was spellbound by you. Not from the first moment I met you. But that’s what made it so special. You took the time to become wrapped up in me. Unfortunately this means that when you unraveled you took me with you. Your cigarette is gone now so we say goodbye. First you. Then me. Then you watch as your delusion drifts away in the cloud of smoke you just exhaled and disperses at the end of its run. I watch too, slowly gazing into the rain.
The woman’s eyes drooped as she shifted them to meet the young man’s. She pursed her lips anticipating words but none came so she dropped her head, resigned.
“I forgive you.”
She nodded her still lowered head up and down, her shoulders heaving into the motion; a dry sob escaped her mouth. The only sound for several minutes was the rustling of the legal pad as the young man moved it from his lap back to its place in the bottom drawer.
“No you’re not.”
Her head rose sharply and her eyes penetrated him like none had before. He didn’t know how far she had come to say those words to him. She was better and she wanted him to understand.
But she wasn’t better, her presence in that room, his home, betrayed her. The little girl who let her daddy slide off her flower print panties, who never whimpered once, replaced the woman in the chair. Their eyes met once more, her irises that were stained black by the union of pain and memory met his that couldn’t move past gray. The photograph dropped from her lap as the little girl got up and the glass shattered as it met the linoleum floor. She slowly stepped over the shards towards the young man and his bed.
As she approached him the young man laughed, deep and guttural. Her lanky frame extended towards his that filled the twin bed. He laughed on as she climbed in next to him and as he danced his arms into hers and rested them at the base of her waist. He laughed as she curled into him, a fragile stem of a wilting flower that he could so easily end.
The woman settled and the young man stopped laughing. Her tears came slowly; the whimpers she had never before emitted came first. Then, as fits of tears often do, she escalated and was soon shaking the bed with her sobs. The woman couldn’t stop there though, decades of unshed tears tore themselves from her body and despite how tight the young man held her, her tears started to shake the room. The desk rattled to his right, the legal pad in the bottom drawer commingling with his loose sketches of various hotels they had stayed at together. Her howls filled the halls and soon the building started to sway, back and forth as she convulsed in and out of the young man’s chest.
He held her but did not stroke her hair or hold her hand. He led her through the fit until it was over. Her howls turned to sobs that turned to whimpers that turned to silence. She rocked herself back and forth as her life quieted. Then she was still and so was the building and the room and the bed and her soul.
As the woman settled herself into his chest and allowed her eyelids to fall, the young man’s gaze dropped onto the shattered memory on the linoleum. He lifted his eyes up and allowed them to look around the cracked door and into the hallway. His gaze kept going until it found the stairs at the end of the hall and climbed them down to the ground level. It rested on the large double doors that had welcomed him in so many years ago. With little hesitation, his gaze went through the doors and out into the rain.