She Was Zero
There’s a certain comfort to knowing that someone won’t remember you in the morning. That they won’t feel the same about you. Heck, it’d be a miracle if they felt anything at all. I guess it started when I was younger. Fifteen: age of battles where most wars are lost to the offspring of disappeared fathers. I read that once, didn’t understand what it meant at all. I wormed the words into shoeboxes of mysteries, yanking their letters until nothing meant everything, and everything was nothing. For every story told, I wonder how many more are lost to time and silence. Nobody else will ever tell the story of us as it stands, complete and yet undeniably shattered. She and I are the sum of a hundred stories never told.
Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen
Twelve, eleven, ten
Nine, eight, seven
Six, five, four
Three, two, one...
It all starts at one, doesn’t it? Everything. Nobody ever starts at zero! Why would they? Zero is nothing and nobody. But zero is special, isn’t it? Multiplied against anything, it’s nothing. The heart feels, the eyes see, the ears hear, but we still know NOTHING! Added or subtracted, it disappears completely. Comfortless and confined to its own place, the finite bounds of an infinite number line. Anyway...
They’ve got numbers for names, I suppose, for what’s the point of knowing but never letting the words slip. Does it really matter if their name was Channing or Dylan or Gwen or Rachel? None of it matters. They’ll still flow from my unfeeling fingers like loose sand all the same. None of anything I ever do matters. I guess that’s that existential nihilism people always talk about.
Fifteen lovers. That’s enough. It’s been fun, but I think I’ll keep this one forever. I laugh, mockingly, at number fifteen, the only one who’s ever been brave enough to deem themself worthy of a second night, of a morning where the soft petals of autumn dawn grace emotionless entities in their entirety. Narcissist. Yeah, that’ll be the day, I think. There are a lot of days between now and then, yet not enough, I think. When my heart unfreezes and the tyranny holding my mind against its will, holding it inside the meaningless body, yes, then I think I will finally let myself stay until the morning. Well, I suppose the final day did come. My own personal Ragnarök.
I never had an Achilles Heel, never a soft spot where sentiment could seep through. I’ve never been totally vulnerable. Not even when my mother died. I remember the day solemnly, with the frown I know people expect of an alleged mourner. I remember it in shadows and slipped words, and almost mists into definitely because I can never truly picture it exactly. Screams emanating from down the hospital corridor. Legs broken, wheelchair out of reach. Footsteps nearing. Children crying. They’re always crying! Just one shot. Why is it always the strongest, and most loved, who fall first?
I’ve never felt true rejection. Dreaming and waking, only to shatter again. I’ve sparked it in other people, but it’s better that way. I didn’t want to be a big fish in a small water, so I left. And I guess I never stopped. Awkward conversations aren’t my style. I’ll never mope and whine over what could be. Then hope only for the bitter sting of rejection to beat me senseless, yanking my heart from its chest and promising a terrible, foreboding end and leaving my eyes to ponder it all, rose colored glasses smashed against concrete.
“You asked how much I love you, what can I say?”
“Not much I think,” her thumb twirled into her hair, disappearing beneath my somber gaze and gently resting on her neck.
That was true, what I said. What would she want me to tell her? Either way, I’d be lying. After I whispered those first words, she gave the answer I expected, but it was hardly the one I wanted. She was the first one I ever wanted to stay. Lucky number fifteen, I suppose, though it’s likely Lady Luck left me to my own devices that night. I doubt she would have stayed long; they never do.
“Why didn’t you save me from myself? Heaven knows you had the chance.”
She remembers, I can tell by the finicky expression in her eyes, the way they flickers between pity and sorrow and hatred, all directed at me. She remembers all those nights, we were younger, yes, but still the same. Still patiently waiting for our chance in the lunch line and caressing stuffed animals instead of each other’s shoulders. I think she loved me then. Maybe not so much now. After all, my dad always warned against buying used shoes with the toes scuffed and the soles worn in through mud and snow and evergreen needles spread like wedding rice. I guess people are just about the same.
“Because I don’t know how to fix the broken, okay!” She screams, and had I been a lesser person, I would have cowered under her watch, the epitome of condescending and heartless. Tasting my own medicine never did feel sweet. She’d bring death upon the gruffest sailors, yet I still want to follow my heart. Help.
I want to slam my face into an elephant’s tusk, just to see the blood seep out, feel the bones and cartilage rupture. Until I’m dead. I won’t. But let it be known that I want to. I think she might like it better that way, and I would do anything for her. I beg my voice to be loyal, fight off the traitorous instinct to bend and shiver until it’s hardly there at all, just a whisper, a fine, little wisp of words that never were.
The cracked pot leaked slowly around my hands as I carried it to the stove. Why was I preparing pasta? For some fragmented view of domestic life? It certainly was not for her, no, certainly not. It was because I wanted linguini when she left. Darn, I think, if I really wanted to leave first, I wouldn’t have taken her home. Now I’m making pasta in my own kitchen when normally I’d be catching the noon train to Essex for a morning-after pick-me-up.
“So I’m broken then?”
“If the shoe fits,” her words pummel me. I realize later that she left first. Nobody’s ever done that before her. But then again, nobody’s ever held me like her, and I’ve never wanted somebody to stay like her. I’ve never wanted to get away from somebody like her. Every word, she’s one step closer to understanding me, cracking the code, but I’ll never get close enough to her.
Danger, I think, danger is what I need. Not the danger of committing a crime or running a red light or setting fires to feel joy. I just want to get lost. Get lost far away from her. I will live in Africa and console the ferocious lions, scale rocks and gallop through meadows to a cold cave that once, a long, long time ago, belonged to the fire-keepers and the cavemen who stole the first ember. I will set myself aflame if it means being away from her. Here I lay, I’m stuck between two worlds. Both end in her. Oh, I’ve always held a flair for the dramatics.
I’m alone again come Friday night, so I stick pins in my heart and watch it bleed. I suppose it’s not my anymore to break: it’s stolen. In the hollow of my heart, here I lay, content with shouting, ”I’m stuck,” between two worlds where only death lives
I flip through channels, bored. I leave other people bored and anxiety-ridden, not the other way around.
Some sitcom with C-list actors begins, ”Good morning! Coffee ma’am? Oh yes sir, please, without it, I would be a beast.”
Then, Dr. Phil comes on, a right terrible show, one I have no idea how it stays on, ”I won’t forgive her! That ***** gave my daughter ideas on how to kill herself.”
The trashiness continues, I speak aloud to no one and realize how alike my father and I have become. We both lost beautiful women.
”The weapons of WW3 are a lost mystry. Now we fight with sticks and stones.”
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Whoever made that up was a stupid clown. Pineapple words clog my throat, acidity burning. I am so sad. She will not leave me alone. The world is warmer every day, but that will never cure the ice in my soul.
“Ask not what yours can do for you. Rather what you can do for yours.”
”Were you born as a twin or is that voice inside your head an illusion?”
”He bit the hand that fed him. Then, the whole world quickly came crashing down.”
Good for him. Chaos is good once in a while, Mr. Sci-Fi movie trailer.
“My darling wife- I will always love you~ hold still while I bury you— alive!”
What channel is this?
Eventually, I allow myself to succumb to the pull of the void, letting the cracking of nightmares lull me in.
Ninth Grade, Halloween Night
She was a cat. Black eyeliner for whiskers and bashfulness slipped into a feline-like suit of pure darkness. The boys called her sleazy, I preferred goddess in cinnamon red lip balm. She was, in a sense. She might have been plopped down from Olympus just for me. Isn’t it romantic how I can only think about her in metaphors and empty promises? I don’t think so.
Easy laugh falling from crimson lips, breezy amber locks flowing, voices still full of hesitation and anticipation. I’d grovel on my knees at Aphrodite’s temple to get that back. Senior abbey monks mutter, gesture at the ridiculous notion that a mortal could change fate. Alas. It was a challenge, convincing myself to stay home that night. While my brother played superhero, I resigned myself to being the wallflower at the neighborhood Trunk or Treat. But at least she was there. She was always too polite to leave. Was. Used to be. God I hate past tense almost as much as I hate reliving the past. But it’s necessary, isn’t it?
The shorter, the braver, rise not to the faint of heart, but those who respect. I never knew what that meant either. Instead of hanging family pictures on the walls, her parents plastered quotes in every vivid hue, with every word known to man. It was not beautiful. But I sat in that kitchen, that house, while she nursed my broken nose or scraped knees. I slept in the living room on Christmas Eve and wept because I had no family to hold like she held me. I broke into a million pieces. No. A billion. I can’t take this.
“I’m ready," I called when she asked me to leave the warmth of her house. Leave the smell of her.
She left her beanie in my house that night. That’s a lie. She left it in her back pocket, and I brought it back to my house. How could I not when it smelled like lemon and New York salons that we’d never been to? It was shaped like a balloon, and with it, I believe I could have flown like the myth of Icarus.
The day ended with contentment and desire for another just like the one now over. I want that day back. I would reverse every single moment since then just to get her smile back. For her eyes that lit up the night. The way she took my hand and held it like a paper doll, such that if it wasn’t treated with the utmost care, it might break. I wish she would have held my heart that same way, but it was not to be.
She once told me, ”Laugh at the hardship, cry at the happy memories, carry that weight, refuse to lose.” We were in sixth grade. She had been stood up by some idiot who couldn’t see what was right in front of him. She watched the clock, chewing white wheat bread, tick by rock, waiting for a call that would never come. I watched the windmill her father built, a micro reconstruction, sway lifelessly. Walls. Shadows. The sound of rain. So many things to work through. So little time.
We carved our names into a tree that summer. A mosaic of roots, intertwined like Celtic knots, terrible to traverse, but beautiful to behold. Relationships; easy to end; to mend is effort. It’s worth it only with the worthy. She was worthy, I suppose.
I started counting lovers like daisy petals, pretending it didn’t hurt to leave them because someone left me, and isn’t all the same? In galleries of green, plucking petals in hope. “He loves me, he love me not.” Don’t all great loves either end in hatred or death? I find I’d rather the latter. Have it plague my nightmares instead of my waking hours. Sleeping sorrows, I suppose. There’s nothing worse than becoming old and irrelevant, dreaming only of things out of reach. Please come back, I’ll whisper into my pillow, the one on her side of the bed that she only graced with her scent, lemon and New York salons, once. But it was not to be. I told you it was a worthless perspective to have, always behind her, never beside her, but you never listened.
I left her beside the tree. No one came to her rescue, she lay there, still, alone, lifeless, cold, and rotting. Mildew. Grief, a destroyer of worlds. In this moment, it landed the final blows to mine.
Basement. Darkness. The smell of rain.
Creaks. Cracks. Crackles. Silk soft hair matted by the narcissist of a sapling beside her, who would not raise a limb to help her up. Sometimes I forget whether I’m speaking of her or me.
Gone. A dream. A hope. A wish. A shadow. A prayer. Pop, sizzle, crash. All gone. Blustery blizzard began blowing beyond believable boundaries.
Lively lighting lingered long. Screw my brain for thinking in alliteration. We want to predict the future, but such a dream will only manufacture silly trysts through cotton fields of agony, ending inevitably with broken hearts and twisted ankles. Flying through the treasure cove of forgotten, bad heartbreaks and banana-colored forests, my mind starts to dream again. Finally, I see dadada below the dadada El Captain mountain. I can do this, I told myself, but climbing it in springtime and undertaking this incredible journey I’m on is hard, however, only because my mind must make it so. Metaphor? Game on.
Aberrant behavior. Infantile actions. Gregarious bartenders with too much enthusiasm. Tee-totalers, leave me alone. Human stupidity embossed on my forehead. Wheezing. Voracious civilians claw at my throat. Feast on my self-hatred. worthlessness. So many examples of my own limitations. Can't help her or myself. Relevance? Not sure.
I’ve fallen out of my mind. I’m not okay, but for you, I’ll act okay. My dad told me to always buy new shoes; they won’t last forever, like tattered calico, like scratched vinyl records somebody took a sledgehammer to. Like her. Forever is a pointe shoe, it lasts but a night, worn out with your dancing. I feel like I’m wearing ice skates sometimes. And with a shiver, the ice cracked, and everything fell, and the dark water welcomed it. Oh well. I love to suffer at my own hand.
I think I might miss her sometimes.
I want to point out that there’s no dirty stuff in here. She’s leaving their tea party alright? And this story doesn’t really make sense...I’m realizing now. You like the way I got around using half the sentences by having her watch tv and complain? Cool, I hate it too. I’ll probably rewrite anyway, so stay tuned if I stop procrastinating long enough.
There's about 2700 words here. Fifty four entries, times fifteen each, that's a crazy 810 words! Fifty four people. Wow. I want to thank everyone for participating. The 810 words are in bold (hope I caught all of them because I did the bold after I wrote this.) Yeah thanks, guys, really. :)
The Life of the World to Come
What happens next,
after I catch myself talking out loud
to no one, alone in the evening in the
kitchen, when the echo of my voice
off the corners of the walls only
reinforces that I am alone,
the steam on the windows
mercifully transforming me into
a shapeless ghost, a darker space
within a greater blankness, and
the silence which answers my
question, the only answer that
could conceiveably be correct,
wraps itself around me like fog
and the lip of the canyon that
lies between then and now
suddenly silently senselessly
yawns open, like the mouth of a
sleeping baby dreaming of his
mother's milk, helpless in the night,
his mind filled with the only
truth, the only thing that matters?
But Cannot Comprehend
And yet, in spite of everything,
You love me, with all your heart and soul
This I understand
But cannot comprehend.
I hurt you with my carelessness.
In spite of this
Your eyes meet mine
With devotion still unbent
This I understand
But cannot comprehend.
My soul could burst with gratitude
I say I’m always yours
Yet still I fly to other worlds
Deserting you, unmeant.
In spite of this
You love me still
Though I cannot repent.
This I understand
But cannot comprehend
How you love me ’til the end.
The shattered Blade of Asgard at half guard
The Valkyrie cries and the shield shatters
Stand fast the battle lines strike fast strike hard
Roar Niddhog roar, Yggdrasil falters fails
Tree uprooted, world in hail and frost
The winter comes, hunger stabs, life drowns in hail
The endless cycle, Ragnarok has shone
Upon the Ida plain we meet again
To be born again from this place of home
The realms to rise and fall the cosmos spins
An endless tale of man and gods to weave
A fabled tale where none may claim to win
For none can win the endless games to come
Spiraling into Infinity's grasp
Again the horn sounds the end to us come
How shall the final battle play again?
Never the same and never different
To play out anew to all once again
This the trial, the alchemists tempest
To turn the dross to gold and purify
To prepare the final crucibles fire
past and future
of hollow present
sip on tears
yet you find your way
slip into a space
that has opened up
between my yesterday
and your tomorrow
with hashtag fiction
as an insult
to my existence
and our memories;
you cradle life
and i hold
your shadow still.
Pic: ©Laura Makabresku
the soothing tide
drifting on back strokes,
footprints left as treasure
in dawning foam
of lapping teal waves.
white diamond wind
tossing oceans in
salt of briny breeze,
kissing azure ocean
of white capped dreams.
skin of the sea rising
to frothed crescents,
canopy of waves
sheltering my soul,
alone, holding ocean
in my sieved fingers
rich cobalt view
of serene passion,
floating above surface
before diving into depth,
sunlit smile and silence.
uncharted waters waiting
for you to decipher
blush of shell-toned sky,
a soaring seagull
at cusp of cerulean sea.
sailing my ship
to unknown horizons
in destiny of ballads,
strolling endless shore
of no regrets.