trying to recapture the
wet mark/ the
that still loves,
wrapped around the bedside
in a complicated
the metallic temperature of
against the black sky
the lit window
dragging its pavement square
like a clenched fist
a taste of blood / a piece of paper
results in dirty,
Darian TV Producer Russel
It’s approximately twenty-four hours since the best mistake I’ve ever made. I’m holding out hope that it wasn’t a mistake, and everything will turn out fine, but that would be uncharacteristically optimistic for me. Now I can only hope that it doesn’t turn everything I’ve ever worked for into dust.
Darian Russell is a charming man, and I’m an even more charming woman. Not to flatter myself, but we all know it’s true. So put two and two together. He texts me, we have wine, we end up sprawled across his hotel bed, all clothing and dignity long forgotten. I can only hope that, despite this, he still agrees to turn my book into a movie, what with him being a producer and all.
God, I hope this deal still goes through.
The waiter puts my salad in front of me, which I’m not very keen on eating, but I’m meant to look like some kind of polite, regular, not-falling-apart woman, and those kinds of women eat salads.
The two men across from me have finally moved on to talking to someone further down the table, alternating who asks the questions. Both journalists; I’d accepted business cards from them both earlier, with plans to recycle because I may be a bitch but I do have a green thumb. They had asked me questions about my upcoming novel, as if I know any better than them.
It’s a work-not-work happy hour, meaning I get told it’s not work but I get yelled at if I drink too many margaritas. It’s actually a networking event, and I’m stuck at the end of a long table full of potentially important contacts, as Bram put it, trying to make charming conversation.
Bram, always sticking his nose into my business, leans sideways into my personal bubble. His pasta dish has just arrived. “Macie, what’s going on?”
I sip my margarita, smiling pleasantly over the rim at nothing in particular. “Whatever do you mean?” Sometimes in my attempts to stay civil I begin to talk like a Dickens character. Or something. I haven’t read Dickens since high school.
“You’re checking your phone obsessively,” he hisses, flattening his napkin against his thigh.
I turn in my seat, accidentally bumping his knee. “Oh, I’m sorry, Mother. Is it no phones at the table?” I ask, setting down my glass and giving him a pointed look.
Bram purses his lips and breathes out through his nose. “It’s just that you’ve been making a face like you’re about to pass out for the last half hour.”
I face forward again, accidentally catching the eye of one of the journalists–either Houston or Riley, I can’t remember because they both had such awful names. He smiles and lifts his glass, holding eye contact. I quickly look down at my salad, which has not gotten more appealing.
“I’m waiting for someone to text me back,” I mutter to Bram, looking up just as Houston and Riley lean together, one of them whispering a word that sounds horrifyingly close to ‘smash’, as their eyes dart back to me.
“Can it wait?” Bram asks, stabbing at his pasta. They’re the bow-tie ones, all dressed up just to get eaten. Me too, I think.
“Hey, I wanted to ask, what inspired the The Lakeside Haunt?” asks one of the journalists suddenly. He’s got a little slug-like mustache, makes him look more like a Houston than a Riley. “It’s my favorite of your books,” he adds, leaning in.
I nod and take a dainty bite of salad, making him wait. Then I smile placidly and say, “Oh, you know. I think trips to the seaside as a kid was a big inspiration.” I twirl my fork in my salad. “What kind of writing was it that you said you did?”
I could hear Bram sigh next to me. Luckily most men don’t expect us pea-brained women to retain much. Houston says, “Gossip column. Fanfare Today Magazine.” This is new to me, actually. He hadn’t admitted that before, and that’s a fact.
“How fun! The gossip column, why that’s fantastic.” I smile stiffly as I turn to Bram. I cannot believe he thought a gossip columnist could be an ‘important contact’. I’m about to get a movie deal, for god’s sake.
Bram raises his eyebrows at me, which usually means behave. Instead, I lay a hand on Bram’s arm, which makes his body freeze up and his mouth twitch down. “Actually, Bram was just telling me an amusing story. Probably nothing as good as what you write, of course, but surely he’d love to tell it.”
Bram’s jaw is tightening, which means I’m breaking him out of his professional nonchalance. A personal victory to me. “I don’t think–”
“Oh, you know,” I goad in a sultry voice. “The one about the fisherman. It’s hilarious.” I turn back to Houston and Riley. “You’ll both love it. I’m just going to go to the ladies’ room real quick.” I wink at them, then pat Bram on the hand.
He glares at me as I stand, and I smile back.
The harsh light in the restaurant bathroom makes me look pale. Which should be impossible due to all my hours on the beach. I’m nothing if not tan. I check my phone again, swiping away notifications from my sister, who wants money again, missed calls from my friend Jamie, who probably has dating drama, and reminders for me to do thinks like laundry and buy shampoo because I keep putting them off. No messages from Darian TV Producer Russell. Not a single word from him since we’d slept together, which I don’t know how to interpret. Good thing? Bad thing?
The bathroom door opens, and a woman in a leopard-print jacket gives me a once-over, one white tennis shoe holding the door open. She looks out into the hallway and says, “Yeah, she’s in here.”
“Tell her to come out. Please.” Bram’s voice. My whole stomach feels empty, and not just because all I had was a single bite of a shitty salad.
The woman raises her eyebrows at me and holds the door wider. I close my eyes because my head is churning like a washing machine. I double check my phone. The woman shakes her head and enters, the door swinging behind her, and locks herself in a stall.
“He seems worried,” she says to me through the stall.
I sigh. “Sorry. Thanks,” I tell her, trying to sound sincere because I mean it. It’s not her fault tonight is shitty. Why is it so shitty? Not enough alcohol, maybe? “I like your lipstick,” I tell her as I’m leaving, because nothing says thank you like a compliment in a public restroom.
Bram’s got his arms folded, trying to make himself smaller in the space of the tiny, tiny restaurant hallway. He’s not doing a good job of it because when I come to stand next to him I’m close enough to smell the pasta sauce on his breath.
“You done hiding?” His eyebrows are lowered, and his hair is in wisps across his forehead. He’s exactly the kind of person that writers love to describe, because he’s got all the right features for it. Golden blonde hair and piercing eyes and cheekbones, yada yada yada. I’m annoyed with him.
I adjust my crossbody bag across my chest, but his eyes don’t leave my face. “Why are they here? Is there anyone out there that’s worth my time? Why am I here?”
Bram shakes his head. His posture is stiff but his voice is surprisingly gentle. “Do you have better things to do? What’s going on, who are you texting?”
“More like who am I not texting,” I reply bitterly, checking my phone one last time. Another text from my sister, and an email from my credit card company.
Bram straightens to his full height, which is about equal to mine because of my excessively tall heels. He’s very much in my personal space now, but I’m not backing down. “Well?”
The space in my head shrinks until there are no more thoughts, and I choke out a laugh. “Darian,” I tell him.
I jut my chin out so our faces are inches apart. I make sure to enunciate every syllable. “I fucked Darian Russel, and now I’m waiting for the consequences.”
For a moment I think Bram’s eyes are going to fall out of his head. He’s looking at me but not seeing me. He recoils. “What?”
The women’s bathroom door opens, and Miss Leopard Print walks out, stopping to eye us both. Bram and I press ourselves against opposite walls so that she can squeeze through the space between us. She gives me a single eyebrow quirk as she passes, which I think is supposed to be reassuring, but really I’m not sure.
“You didn’t.” Bram’s turned back into Professional Bram. His words aren’t even clipped; he doesn’t sound angry or disappointed. He’s just stating words. Like facts.
I hate to talk to him like this. Like there’s no reason or emotion to any of this, like following a specific path–shake that hand, say this, smile for the camera–and everything will fall into place. Maybe I shouldn’t have slept with Darian, but I don’t regret it. It was amazing and I’d do it again, theoretically. And I don’t have time to listen to Bram tell me that this isn’t the ‘right way’ to do things. Or that it’s ‘unprofessional’.
I give Bram one last look, chin still raised. “I did. But don’t worry, I won’t be taking any of the losers here today home, you can be damn sure about that.” And then, like a badass who just delivered a clever line, I walk away.
When I get home I stare at my computer screen until I can’t see anything, then crawl into bed and dream about sea monsters dragging me underwater and watching me choke.
pt 3: https://www.theprose.com/post/759007/coffee-stained-egos
pt 1: https://theprose.com/post/642933/living-in-the-moment
crashing waves, do you hear them?
the sun is setting now, magic in the sky
did the cat escape again?
no, it's just us, why?
something soft is behind me
do you see it? (nothing there)
sweetie, you'll never believe
your guardian angel is here
do you have one as well?
only in my dreams
(protecting me from the hell)
(of resorting to demonic screams)
that's why you love sleeping
yes, there's somebody who cares
you know, i also care deeply
even if you don't sense it there
yes, i realize you do
(but the blind can't see)
(my skies aren't blue)
(they're stormy seas)
(i'm telling you lies)
(living for your approval)
(if you were deaf, i could fight)
(but you'd haunt me still)
is the sunset over now?
yes (it's been for so long)
are we going inside now?
yes (we always will)
why do you love the coast?
it's all because of the ocean
(and only here i see you, my ghost)
she is a mystery, the moon,
hidden behind her silver curtains
an elusive silhoutte
against the inky black sky
she dances unseen,
whispers in secrets
only the tides can understand
months have gone by since we spoke about this for the first time
and nothing has changed, it's only grown
replying to you without addressing you, hoping you will read into it
crying and choking because i'm so scared to fall in love with you
here's how i was taught to love, with cynicism and a crystal ball
Living In The Moment
And somehow I'm sitting on the floor of a bar. It's all torn paper napkins and little plastic straws and sticky puddles and shoes ankles gum cup discarded vape pen. I suddenly feel my scalp, my hair's all tied back and it itches and I think I might cry or at least just go to sleep.
Red high heels. White tennis shoes, but they're grimy. Black loafers.
"Hey, you ok?" A voice from a million miles away, like a sea monster shouting through water and I can't hear it amongst the clanging inside my tiny submarine. Write that down, probably, I think.
Lipstick rolls next to me, touching my hand. Fallen out of a purse, probably.
Then there are brown eyes and black loafers and these high heels are blue, and I don't know what color I'm wearing. Somebody's arguing and somebody has their sea monster hands wrapped around my forearm.
Upright, face. Faces. Right, a question from a million miles away. I feel fantastic, I say but I probably don't. And there are eyelashes on someone and pink sequins and someone else, so many people, all the people. All the people in the world all here all talking in the same place.
On Tuesday morning, I'm sitting on the beach, wearing a $200 bikini and a wide-brimmed sun hat and bejeweled sunglasses. I hate the sunglasses, a gift from my mother, more than I hate her terrible new boyfriend, but they're very shiny and expensive. Two things that I like to be. Or that I pretend to like to be, anyway.
I don't know how I got back to my flat from the bar, but I wasn't killed. I still smell sticky, even after a shower. I can't remember much from last night except that I had some idea about submarines. I think I slept for three hours, my head's pounding in time with the ocean waves, and I'm planning on sitting still until absolutely necessary because I still feel unsteady on my feet.
I've got a notebook open on one of my tan thighs, and I squint down at the word 'submarine' written in handwriting that's less legible than a kindergartner's. I give up, close my eyes, and wonder why my bed smelled like someone else's perfume.
"Macie, it's so good to meet you," the woman says as she shakes my hand firmly. I give her a smile and try to make sure I'm not making a bitchy face, because that's usually how people see my smile. I don't know if it's my smile, really, or just everything else about my that comes across that way. I'm already regretting wearing my low-cut white jumpsuit. I'd stood in front of my closet for two hours before arriving at this dinner, wondering if it was going to be fancy or formal or business casual. I'd gone with formal sexy, with an open back. This woman's gone with a turtleneck blouse and pencil skirt. Just differences in personality, maybe?
"I am so sorry, remind me of your name?" I ask as she seats herself.
Bram gives me a look over the top of his menu. I'm sure he disapproves that I don't already know who I'm meeting. I'm tempted to make a face back at him, or snap it's your fault for not briefing me on this. He may be my agent, but often he feels like my surly personal assistant. I decide to not say anything, because I'm an adult and I can tell when my irritation is the result of a hangover.
"Tessa Livingston," she says, glancing at Bram.
He gives her his 'sorry' eyebrows, which are always directed at other people and never at me. I decide now is a good time to narrow my eyes at him. "Thanks for coming, Tessa, Macie's been working tirelessly on her new novel. I think she only got, what, three hours of sleep last night?"
His blue eyes meet mine and I wish he wasn't so goddamn handsome, with his tousled golden curls and nice eyelashes. I wish I had a glass of wine, because I've got nothing to do with my hands but consider strangling him.
I laugh, like we're all in on the same joke. Like I'm not trying to do the mental math to figure out whether Bram might've dragged me home from the bar yesterday night--this morning. "I can't help it, you know, when inspiration strikes," I tell Tessa with a shrug.
She gives a moderate smile, which I'll take as a win. I don't really need her approval. Once she'd said her name I remembered Bram telling me over the phone last week that she's the producer's assistant. I want the producer to like me, not her. Now I'm just racking my brain trying to remember the producer's name. Russell, I think. Derrick, or Daryl. Damien?
"Ah, Darian! Mr. Russell, a pleasure, as always," Bram says, spotting someone and standing from his seat to greet him. Tessa's eyes flick to me, which means she's not an idiot, points to her. I'll be having words with Bram after this dinner. I easily could've remembered Darian Russell's full name without his help.
Darian, who's the big-shot TV producer that Bram has been so adamant that I meet, is not exactly as I'd pictured. I'd sort of just assumed he'd be some large middle-aged white man. I, after all, am the stereotypical thin white woman, and all thin white women need the approval of larger and older white men.
But Darian is a young, fairly small black man. He smiles wide at the sight of Bram and they shake hands, then do that thing where they pull each other in for a bro-hug. Tessa twists in her seat to give Darian a wave, and then I find myself standing, because that's most polite. Also because a little part of me wants him to see my jumpsuit in its full glory. Take that, Tessa.
He raises an eyebrow. "This is the Macie Clements I've heard so much about?" For a moment we consider each other, him in his perfectly fitted plaid suit, and I in a stupidly expensive, very revealing jumpsuit and big, shiny, dangly earrings. I'm towering over him in my heels, and I'm itching to sit. He's made no move to shake my hand.
"Great to meet you, Mr. Russell," I thrust out a hand, eyes bouncing from his warm eyes to the shiny watch on his wrist as he takes my hand.
"Let's all agree on first names, yeah, Bram?" Darian's still holding my hand and Bram's standing behind his chair, waiting to sit, and Tessa's staring at her menu. I nod. Darian pulls out his seat and sits in one graceful movement. "Mr. Russell. Honestly, Bram. I've known you for, what, six years?" Darian laughs and unbuttons his suit jacket, and I relax and laugh too, because it finally feels casual.
Bram purses his lips and I give him a very, very wide smile even though he's refusing to look at me, and both of us sit. Darian smiles charmingly at me. I can't confirm it, but for the first time I'm thinking maybe I will get a TV deal. In fact, I'm suddenly in such a good mood I think my headache's fading. That's right, no more bar-floor Macie. From now on it's Hollywood Macie.
Or something like that.
pt 2: https://theprose.com/post/708516/darian-tv-producer-russel
I am more than a disaster
But not less
I am what you might call
A hot mess
I don't spill my life
Just to impress
But I walk like I know
Where I'm going
And I speak because I know
Where I've been
It's not arrogance just because
The truth's bold
I'm not young just because
I don't look old
Sometimes I burn up
When the sun's cold
I'll always be the love
That you can't hold
People walking in the rain interrupt the rain drops.
So does everything else that prevents the raindrops from reaching their destination.
Hold your hand out and ask the raindrop a question. Did you want to be loved?
I did that the other day and the raindrop’s reply struck me because I understood what it meant.
I have a purpose and though that purpose is fulfilled each time I become, I also want to be loved.
Dedication to a brilliant composer
Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head
(written before hearing the sad news of his passing)
i was, i am, i will be
who i was
is slipping through the void
like a silk dress
gliding across wood floors
stained pink by the washed out blood
ghosts of who i used to be
fleeting glimpses fading from reality
the darkness of my memory
shutting out who i used to be
rewriting my memories to fit
who i am.
who i am
is dancing in the void
thankful for the darkness
that shrouds me,
my last defense
against the discomforts
that i am tired of being forced
i am prepared to lose myself
in the delusion
rather than facing
who i will be.
who i will be
is crawling out of the void
blinking away the sunlight from my eyes
and staring into pale blue skies,
reveling in my newfound freedom
that i am holding myself back from.
i will escape
but for now
slipping through the void
waiting for it to spit me out
into the light at the end
of the tunnel.
in discarded tires,
a poisoned life
sprouting from the ruins
of an old world.
birthed from old rubber
scouring their barren wasteland
that no longer exists.
the tires no longer have cars to pull,
the cars no longer have drivers.
the drivers no longer have homes
and the homes no longer
mosquito nymphs born into ruin
doomed to death before their lives began,
their mother laid its eggs in the old world
only for them to be born into the new.
how quickly life can change,
how fleeting it can be.
and for mosquito nymphs growing
in discarded tires,
their life was injected with meaning
by a dead mother
who dared to create life
in a world of death
and only ended up
with more ruin
and no one around
to see it
or mourn it.
and the mosquito nymphs
will stop growing
in discarded tires,
by the police
of carefully calculated carnage.