Tomato Red and Cherry Chapstick

Inspired by a conversation I had about mental health with some cool peeps yesterday.

“Absolutely famished.”

“Honestly, same.”

“Should we?”

“I mean, probably.”

I held the door open for her; she slipped inside. The walls were still wet with a fresh coat of blood from a can. She ran her finger over a drop as it migrated down.

“Bad paint job.” She muttered.

“Granted, the walls were pretty hard to fix.”

“That’s what happens when you take a sledgehammer to a building.”

I shrugged, kicked open a box of pizza, and sat on the dusty floors.

“Do you even remember what this place looked like before—”

“Sometimes.”

“Why do you never want to talk about i—”

“Why did you order pepperoni? You know I can’t eat that.”

“You could just pull them off—”

“You could have just ordered cheese.”

“Next time.”

Eventually she sat down next to me, handing over a water bottle while avoiding eye contact

“How’s work?”

“Same as always, ah’guess.”

What a fantastic conversationalist. You ever yelled at yourself in your head before? Weird thing.

“Tell me one thing.” She started.

“I don’t—”

“Let me—can I just—one thing, that’s all I want to say. Can I say one thing?”

I sat silently awaiting.

“Why’d you do it?”

“Do what?” I tried.

“Why’d you take an axe to our living room, Jacob? Why’d you knock over our photos? Why’d you tear the strings of the carpet out one by one?”

“It wasn’t one by one.” Too much effort. Impressed she thought differently.

“Who are you?” She cried. No one ever means that question. “Who are you?” A little louder. “TELL ME WHO YOU ARE.”

I broke my own trust and snapped my eyes in her direction. The tight curls around her face defied gravity. Gold was missing from around her eyes; they were swollen. She wasn’t boring to look at, at all. But when I stared too long, her face mushed together. Into a Pangea of regret and pain. And she thought she didn’t know me?

“Have you ever considered becoming a model?”

“What the fu—”

“You’re nice to look at.”

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to that.”

“Then again, I’m biased.”

“What are you doing?”

“What’cha mean?”

“You’re ruining everything.”

“It was already ruined.” I laughed a little, she didn’t seem to like that.

“I’m leaving.” She wouldn’t. I knew her better than she did. She’d stay, help me rebuild the walls. We’d paint them a new color, something hopeful. But the walls always found their own special way of not doing the wall thing. She really liked building houses.

“Did the neighbors like the baguettes.”

“Bouquets.”

“I thought you said baguettes.”

“Why would I buy the neighbors a baguette?”

“We should buy them a baguette next time.”

“There won’t be a next time. This isn’t happening again. I won’t stay anymore.” She would.  I didn’t have to say it either. She knew. Of all the houses she’d built, this one was by far her favorite.

“Lillian, tell me this. Why paint the walls if you’re leaving?”

“Walls deserve to be painted.”

“And painted, and repainted, and peeled back to reveal the last twelve colors you thought would be better.”

“I just want the house to look ok.”

“It doesn’t deserve to be standing.” There was mold. Somewhere, I was sure. She looked to be angered. Not surprising, she pointed her eyes downward, the rest of her face arching. I laughed at her, couldn’t seem to stop laughing.

She suddenly jumped up, flinging herself at the wall. She punched and clawed at the holes, wet red left behind on her clothing and fingernails.

I’m tired of never being enough.” She kicked the bottom left corner, the only spot I’d never tried to ruin, between hot breaths, and screams

“You’re enough for me.” She stopped. Looked at me.

“Who am I?” She whispered, color dripping down her sleeves, soaking into her skin. Golden stained crisp apple candy. Chocolate made cherry. Love and hate and anger and passion and cherry red lips later, looked me in the eye, told me she loved me. Told me she didn’t know how to live without me, told me she wished we’d never met as kids, told me she wished I’d torture someone else for eternity instead, told me her demons ever appeared as men.

“Valid.” Cranberry handprints followed their way to my face, two layers of red, the third a neurological response. She began clawing at my eyes, pulled out my hairs one by one. Tore the shirt, felt the boiling heat of rage bubble over into the worst decision she’d make. Brought her palms into the air, making fists, bringing them down onto me. Over and Over. But demons don’t feel. Surely, she knew. Surely, I’d made her aware.

“Sweetheart.” I did not resist, I asked politely. But kicks and screams and piles of something else to match the else on the wall. The shelves fallen over.
I wasn’t worried. She’d rebuild me too.

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All Gotta Bear

You wouldn’t. The words struck fire in the hearts of the determined, and suddenly no force of nature could stop the events ready to unfold. She took the words as a bet, always wanting to prove others wrong. It didn’t matter to her so much if she was always right, but she craved finding faults in others. She searched for flaws like a small child searching for candy, clammy hands grasping at nothing but air in hopes of finding more.

She found camping distasteful, due to its lack of action. You pitch a tent and pray to the gods of camping you don’t get eaten by a raccoon. Her friend adored camping and seemed offended by her lack of enjoyment. Raccoons can’t eat you, that’s bears – Where can I find the bears, they seem more fun than you. – There’s always a cave somewhere. – I’ll see you later then. – Where are you off to? – I’ve got a bear to chase. – You wouldn’t.

She had left the tent without another word. She had never chased after a bear before, or at least not consciously. Sometimes bears would appear when one least expected them, and quite suddenly, but she’d never actively pursued one.

The woods were a mess, and not in the way woods usually were. Branches crumbled on the ground suddenly felt more out of place, and the color of the leaves somehow seemed distorted. She tried not to analyze it, there was far too much going on in the trees to make any sense, and she always seemed to get lost as soon as she began.

Bears usually left prints, or so she thought. She was no bear expert, but, of course, she would pretend to be. If ever there was something she didn’t understand, she would either pretend it didn’t exist or feign expertise. But she couldn’t seem to spot any trail.

She figured if she kept walking long enough she would stumble across something. Perhaps she became luckier with each step she took, because soon she was approaching what seemed to be a cave.

She wasn’t one to think through her choices in order to make sound decisions, she liked kicking in the front door and hoping no alarms went off. Maybe that was why she walked into the cave alone, with a headlamp and no sense of direction.

She shuffled along, but when her footstep was slightly too loud and it whispered throughout the space, she was half tempted to call out and ask who was there. Her thoughts must have echoed loud enough, for as she proceeded on slowly she could make out a figure waving to her.

Hello? She did not hold back the question this time. The figure seemed to shift slightly. Hello. His voice rang back so calmly; she couldn’t find any reason to question why he was sitting, alone, in the middle of a cave. She didn’t know how to explain herself. I was just exploring. – I can see that. – And I stumbled upon this cave. – Welcome.

            She continued on toward him, he seemed to be beckoning her through the strings interlacing his voice through echoes. How long have you been here? The question seemed reasonable to her. I should ask you the same. – Well, I just got here. – Yes, I heard your footsteps. – So, you’ve been here a long time? – I suppose. It seems irrelevant how long I’ve been in this cave. The important thing is that I am here.

Did he like the cave? She wasn’t sure why anyone would want to stay somewhere where nothing could be seen in full light. Her eyes were already growing numb from the shadowy atmosphere. He seemed to notice her discomfort. Your eyes will adjust if you give them time. – I’m not sure how much time I’m planning on spending in here. – Why are you here? – I was chasing after a bear. – Well, obviously. – Obviously? – Don’t you know, we’ve all got a bear to chase.

Laughter was dripping from his words, mixing into her mind like oil in water. She hadn’t felt any level of discomfort, but her body felt gradually heavier with each passing breath. She felt a bit winded; maybe she ought to sit down. It wasn’t long until she had joined him on the cave floor.

Why are you here? She felt the need to reciprocate his wonderings. I like to tuck myself away, escape the sunlight. It tends to be a bit too bright for me. – So you’re shielding yourself from sunlight? – There’s so much more than sunlight to be shielded from.

Her eyelids began to droop; perhaps she could get a few minutes of shuteye. Did you get lost in the woods? He seemed to notice her sudden drowsiness. I, well, I was trying to find a bear. – Silly girl, why would you go looking for the bears? They will find you.

A bear has never found me before. – Well, haven’t you lead a lucky life. – Are there no bears here? – If they are here, they don’t bother me. There isn’t much harm they can do to me in here. – Couldn’t they do the same harm inside this cave as they could outside? – Perhaps, but it wouldn’t be the same, now would it?

She didn’t know how to answer him, but she was losing interest. Her brain was slowly shutting off. She thought of the bear she needed to chase, but maybe she ought to just let it find her, yes, she ought to just let it find her. For now she would rest.

Private and Confidential

This letter is strictly confidential and for the eyes of the addressee only

Dear Mrs. Addams,

I’m writing to inform you of the results from your daughter’s last visit. I am terribly sorry to tell you she has come down with, as I expected, The Smile. As cases are so rare, proper treatment has not been developed, but I ask that you keep a watchful eye on her. The Smile has been known to have drastic symptoms.

The Smile can result in fits of uncontrollable laughter, and even a permanent state of happiness. We aren’t entirely sure of the cause, but it is extremely contagious. We do warn you, and the rest of your family, to be cautious and to look for early signs that may point to development of The Smile. These early signs can include; a slight warm feeling in your chest, a slight change in mood, usually from the customary gloomy state to a slightly more elevated state of, in medical terms, ‘joy’, but seeing as The Smile is so rare there could be many more symptoms, that doctors are unaware of, in existence.

This is as much information as I can provide, I’m terribly sorry. Your daughter must live with this condition for the rest of her life. We can only hope that it doesn’t interfere with her familiar way of living. The Smile, unfortunately, has been known to extend the length of ones life, but each case has shown to be different.

If you would like for your daughter to be a part of our ongoing research for a cure, please write back immediately, if not we ask that you refrain from exposing her to the public, as her condition will affect everyone around her.

We hope your day is dark and gloomy and we send you our condolences,

Dr. Doom and the rest of the staff from the Caliginous Clinic.

Short haired redhead with glasses at Goodwill

Inspired by a craigslist missed connections story

 I don’t go to Goodwill that often, but I love clothes and money doesn’t love me, so here’s the solution.

I just finished my shift at the frozen yogurt store. It’s been a less than thrilling day; one of the machines levers was stuck and the yogurt wouldn’t stop pouring out, so I tried catching it with my hands, but of course that didn’t work. Our bathrooms were all taken and my shift was running up, so I just slapped some hand sanitizer on and hoped for the best.

It wasn’t my smartest decision because now here I am…in this goodwill staring at you, the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen, and I’m afraid if I introduce myself you’ll want to shake my sticky froyo-covered hand.

Your hair is cut short; it tucks in right at your chin, and I’ve never seen anyone rock bangs the way you do, but then again maybe it’s just the beauty of your red hair. I’m staring at you, and noting how I shouldn’t be staring at you so intently, but you look up. You’re holding a pair of jeans in your hand…they’re a light wash denim that have been worn in, and you lock eyes with me. You smile a little and then push up your red-rimmed glasses that I know should clash with your hair’s coloring, but instead make it shine more so than without.

You have the air about you that one might be intimidated by; I think about giving you my number, but I’m too shy for the likes of that…and you’re probably already taken, with your charisma and charm.

I look down quickly, hoping you’ll look away so I can examine you once again, but when I glance back up you’ve turned and tucked yourself into a dressing room. I would wait and see what the jeans look like and maybe introduce myself, but I’m so afraid my cake-batter aroma will scare you off.

So, I’m writing on craigslist, maybe you like craigslist? Maybe it’s a fun past time to see what other people are up to…I’ve only just discovered it, seeing as ‘how do I find the girl I just fell in love with at a goodwill’ didn’t yield as many results as I’d have preferred.

Maybe you’ll see this and we can grab coffee…or a drink, if you like bars, just anything but frozen yogurt…

Sincerely,

The human in the sports attire that smelled like cake-batter and stared at you

(p.s I hope the jeans fit.)

Wedding Dress Dilemma

My sister and I weren’t the best musical performers out there; which was usually why we ended up playing in subway stations for some extra pocket change. She was the singer and I played guitar; we weren’t good by any means, but we were entertaining enough that some people would stop and listen for a bit, before walking away and maybe deciding to drop some change into my guitar case.

We did this about twice a week, on a good week, sometimes her throat would hurt from her unprofessional singing methods, or I would catch a headache from the array of smells a subway station could claim, but as often as we could; we were performing.

We decided to go and play a couple of songs in the underground one bleak night. It was a random day, not one of our usual performing nights, but she wanted to sing and, being the professional I was, I went along with it. The subway station near our petite place was different, to say the least, which is why I wasn’t entirely surprised to see what I did.

When I walked down the stairs, guitar case in hand, my eye was immediately drawn to the girl standing, rather confidently, in a white wedding dress. She wasn’t strikingly gorgeous or anything of that nature, but it was hard to miss her. The native New Yorkers didn’t even blink an eye when they walked past, but I couldn’t keep mine off her.

“The nut-houses you find in a subway station.” My sister commented, as we went to find a good location to perform.

“I wonder what happened, to leave her here in a wedding dress.” I replied, barely being able to walk forward with my eyes still stuck on her.

I tried to push her out of my thoughts as we started playing through our first song, but I saw her wander over; her white dress flowing behind her as it flicked up the dirt of the subway underground. She stood some feet away from us, but close enough for me to see the mascara that had soaked up under her eyes. I couldn’t keep performing with the need to know what had happened growing stronger.

“We should take a quick intermission.” I suggested, slinging the guitar off my shoulder and forcing it into my sister’s hands.

“Hi.” I said hastily as I approached. She smiled, emptily, but awaited my obvious questioning. “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you wearing a wedding dress?”

“Oh, well today was my wedding day.” She stated. I waited for her to continue, but was annoyed when she didn’t give me the thorough explanation I had been hoping for.

“May I ask why you’re in the subway station and not at your wedding reception?” She laughed softly, but quickly fell into a fit of tears. I didn’t know what to do.

“He stood me up. I waited for him, at the alter…my whole family was there, you know? But he decided, clearly, today was not his day to get married.” It sounded like the first time she had pieced the words together, because clearly I did not know.

“Oh…I’m sorry.” I should have guessed that was the case, but still why was she in the subway station, what did it have to offer her?

“You and your sister sounded lovely.” I was done with the conversation, but I didn’t know how to ease my way out.

“Thanks, we actually need to start playing again, but it was nice to meet you-” I tried to walk away, but she grabbed my hand.

“Would you maybe want to do me a favor?” Her eyes, still watery from tears, showed true desperation.

I tried to tell her no, that I thought I should have gone back to playing guitar with my sister, but she wouldn’t have it.

“I’ll pay you. It’ll be like a gig.” Her words were spilling out and I could hardly keep up. “All you have to do is come to my wedding, show my parents someone good. They never met him anyways, I could say you got lost on…on-the subway…you’re not from here anyways and navigation must’ve been hard. Yes, they’d believe that. That’s all you have to do; pretend to be my fiancé. Then I’ll find him and we can just tell my parents you got facial surgery or something like that. They’re from New York, they’d believe it.”

“Wait, what?” I tried to pull my arm away from her, but she seemed to be gripping it with her life.

“Just come get fake married to me.” Her white teeth against her bright red lipstick made her look even more psychotic with the black specks running down her eyes.

I didn’t say no, and maybe, in retrospect, I should have been more clear; I shrugged. I told her if she desperately needed me, as she so seemingly did, that I would fake marry her.

To be honest I didn’t expect things to end so…interestingly. She didn’t find her fiancé, I’m not even sure if she actually had one to begin with, she married me…and her family seemed cool with it, my sister was just glad I could pay rent for a few months before I moved out and in with my wife. 

Crazier things have happened…maybe not to me, but I sure do have one hell of a ‘first-time-we-met’ story. Our tenth anniversary is next week; I bought her a subway ticket. Is it love? Well, who can say really…

A Different Presidential Race

Inspired by a fun prompt I found on the interweb…thanks tumblr 

    She couldn’t remember a single thing about any of the presidential candidates. There was the one with the big nose, the one with the loud mouth, and the one who didn’t seem to talk at all. She knew she should have been paying attention; after all it was up to high-schoolers to choose the next president, but she couldn’t find it in her to care.

She knew she was supposed to care about her next president and the future of her country, but she still thought it was stupid that kids between the ages of fourteen and eighteen were given the fate of the nation. Something about the ‘untouched political opinions’ teenagers had, but the parents were still talking down everyone’s ears.

She’d given up on voting before she’d even turned fourteen. Everyone was trying to tell her which way to vote, who was the better candidate, who would best equip the country for the future, but she didn’t know…and none of their speeches gave her any insight anyways. Her first round of voting she eenymeenyminymo’d her way through.

At least now the older generations were forced to take her generation more seriously, after all, she was in charge of choosing their future. Talks of ‘well your generation’ this and ‘your generation’ that quickly disappeared. The country depended on the youth, which was nice, but even with that in mind she couldn’t concentrate on the ballot in front of her.

The first name she vaguely could recall, he made awful ads providing no information of himself, but only pointing out the flaws of his opponents. She didn’t find that altogether admirable. The second name was the guy who tried to sell them on his campaign. He tried to relate to her generation in, what could only be described as, an utterly failed attempt. In the end it felt like he was mocking who they were, something else she didn’t find all that admirable.

The only name left was of someone she couldn’t remember at all. He must have slid by, so unmemorable that nothing positive or negative could be attributed to him. He’ll win. She thought. But only because no one can think of a reason not to vote for him. But she could think of many; just because someone snuck by didn’t mean he was a good choice, he just hid behind the stupidity of the others. He didn’t clearly state what he stood for, which was almost as wrong in her eyes.

She stared at the ballot for two seconds longer before placing it back down, unmarked. She knew not voting didn’t improve the situation at hand, but she simply couldn’t choose between three candidates who were equally as unimpressive.