What Hurts

 

Anxiety out of control

Reassurance is try and miss

Taxi cruises up and

it has the light off

Face of a friend who doesn’t hear you

when you call out in a crowd

Visit to a museum gallery while they announce

they’re closing in 15 minutes.

 

Read. Type. Look at Pinterest

Midsection squeezing itself like a lemon

while you pin a picture of a cute dog

No workout pictures because you already have

tight abs, yes, they are really so tight

you almost can’t breathe

 

There’s a hollow feeling in the middle

Can’t be hunger

Food would make you vomit

You eat anyway but you don’t

taste anything

which is okay because

you don’t want to

The realization of that presses down

on you and you do stop breathing

for a bit

 

You want to live and enjoy

living but you can’t remember

how you did it or when

No sand castles

Just holes in the beach

You dig up the sand with your little shovel and

the tide fills them in and makes them

soupy

 

You start again a distance away repeating

it’ll be okay like saying it will

make a difference this time

it’ll be okay.

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August Writing Challenge

Via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, I was invited to participate with three other writers in a 100 words a day challenge. Though we are free to write more than 100 words, I wanted to stay as close to the minimum as possible, since finding words has never been my problem, pruning judiciously is.

Here are the first week’s snippets, not including the first day, because I started later in the month.

Day 2 – Wednesday, August 05, 2015

It was a broken smile. Though the corners could still turn upwards, there was a shadow in each preventing the mouth from moving beyond simulated to heartfelt. One shadow was disappointment. The other was resignation. The lips themselves held a minute tremor, as if at any moment, they might give up trying to smile and collapse into a default position of ugly weeping. Above them, the eyes closed, imploring the brain for a distraction. But the brain was not listening; it had abandoned the present for the past. And underneath them all, the heart continued to pace madly in its cage, wanting nothing so much but to stop caring.

Day 3 – Thursday, August 06, 2015

She took his heart like the keys to a new house, exclaiming over its virtues; the vaulted ceilings, the spacious chambers. She went through every room, hanging new pictures and painting the walls in combinations of colours he had never seen before. She placed new furniture and pulled off the old drapes to let in expanses of sunlight. Through the open windows he saw parklands filled with laughing families; there was a breeze that smelled of Sunday pancake breakfasts. She worked with certainty, aligning memories to a gentle alphabet and when she was finished, his heart had become a home for them both.

Day 4 – Friday, August 07, 2015

Outside, I saw a dead rat. He looked alive: his small, round black eyes shiny, his brown-ticked fur clean and groomed. Was he dead?

There was no blood; no deformity that argued for death by car. What he could have died of; be dying of?

I brought my shovel and dug a hole. Had he died slowly? Killed by something I couldn’t see? If I left him, could he recover or might his body poison another animal? Was he dead?

I put him into the hole and watched him. After a while, I shoveled in the loose dirt, stamped it down and walked away. Was he dead or only soon to be dead? I wondered.

Day 5 – Saturday, August 8, 2015

“Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!” She pushed herself away from him and slid along the wall to the door of the classroom, where she stood, pounding a fist against the frame. “You have no idea how much I hate you at this minute. How much I wish I could just let myself go and kill you. It would be such a relief to stop trying to be reasonable, stop trying not to interfere. I want to interfere with you. I want to use a knife and interfere with you in a big way.” Her black eyes were stark in her white face. “I think killing you would give me an orgasm.”

The Musings of PontiViro

I haven’t been posting here much partly because I got trapped in the alternate universe that is Ancestry.com, trying to find an elusive ancestor (I did!) and also because without feedback, posting feels pretty lonely. I’ll try to post more here, but I promise nothing. Ha.

***

I’m considering a new novel, in its very early stages now, and as usual for me, this trying out begins with a conversation with a character. Pontiviro or ‘Viro as his friends call him, showed up one day and just started talking. I still don’t know where he lives, exactly, and what may be going on, but here’s what he had to say to me:

hand holding stone

The Musings of PontiViro

You might say that since I fell in love with Cadio Barbet, I’ve done and seen more than any compact person might have done and seen. But it being an unrequited love tends to take a little of the sheen off of the accomplishments. At least I have him to myself, since there’s not a chance in a frozen hell that he would ever be interested in anyone else, man or woman, compact or full-size.

Sometimes I think things could be improved if Cadio would allow for a sexual relationship, if not a mutually-doting one. But when I brought it up, he considered me through his spectacles for a long minute, so that I knew he was taking my request seriously, then said, “No. No, thank you” and resumed reading.

I knew it wasn’t a reflection on me. Some folk would have an aversion to thinking about lovemaking with a compact man – otherwise known pejoratively as midgets – alright, probably most folk in this country. But not Cadio. He is the least prejudiced person I’ve ever met. He’s also the least interested person I’ve ever met.

Notice that I didn’t say he was uninteresting. Because he isn’t, and I’ve got a few scars to prove just how interesting he can be to others.

If Cadio is his real name and who he might otherwise be, I’ve no idea. And not for lack of trying. But he won’t talk about himself. Oh, once in a while, he’ll say something that seems to be a clue, but then at another time, he’ll say something that contradicts the first something. I used to keep a journal of the somethings, but it got tiresome once I became aware that anything he says about himself is likely a lie of some sort and that he does it on purpose. Probably. I’m not even sure about that.

I suspect him of purposely giving false information despite that I think that, without me to watch out for him, he would probably have been eaten by a beast or drowned crossing a river while trying to read a book. He can’t tell the honest from the dishonest and is clumsy enough with others that it would be hard to attribute any ability to dissemble to him at all. He depends too much on his magical abilities to get him out of trouble he should not have fallen into in the first place, but his magical talents are very great and lately I’m wondering if he didn’t also come out of the womb painted with a very wide lucky streak. Certainly, one of the luckiest things to happen to him is me.

It should be obvious that I am not from here. Where I am from, everyone is about my size. In this place, I choose to let everyone think that I am an oddity – one of their own that came out slightly different. Knowing what I now know, I will not tell anyone the name or location of my people and I pray that the difficulties I went through arriving here will prevent anyone else from doing so anytime soon.  An army of people ten and twelve of my hands taller than the mild – and somewhat boring – inhabitants of my home would be disastrous for my people, I think.  Better they should continue to live their quiet, isolated lives than be caught up in the chaos that is living in Verch among the Verchers.

———-

Lately, I’m beginning to wonder if Cadio is as oblivious as he seems. Recently, I caught him looking at one of those traveling liars – people who sell an idea of something instead of the real thing – like a cure for baldness. This one did not seem particularly fresh to me; his idea was one I had heard frequently in the past month of traveling, becoming faster or stronger or smarter through focusing on a special stone for a set period of time each day. I was about to move on, certain Cadio had done, but he was still beside me, looking at the liar and there was something very like someone had mashed a sneer and a smile together on his face and then tried to hide it. His spectacles gleamed as the sun caught them, so I could not see his eyes, but that look – one I had never seen before – startled, and yes, unnerved me.

At that moment, the liar was juggling the stones he was selling and lying about how he had become quicker and more adroit because of his focusing. The stones seemed to go faster and faster, and the liar’s expression went from confident to delighted to uncertain then passed into nervousness and careened headlong into fear. He called out and a woman joined him on his improvised stage and he exhorted her to take the stones from his hands. She tried, but they only moved faster. No matter what that two did or how they moved, the stones continued their arc, flying round and round, faster and faster, until sweat began to pour from the liar’s face and the woman herself looked frantic.

Cadio walked off and perforce I followed him. When we returned that way some time later, the liar was on his back in the street, his face covered in sweat and his eyes haunted. There was a crowd around him. The woman was crying into her apron and a burly man was swinging with a cudgel at the stones, which evaded the wood and kept going round, while several people in the group made bets on whether the liar would die before the stones stopped and what the stones would do if that happened.

Cadio did not turn his head to look, nor did his hands make any gestures that I could see, and as a sometime picker of pockets, I think I would notice. But the stones suddenly came tumbling in a heap on the liar’s chest. The man took one long breath and sighed it out, then went unconscious. Those with bets settled them. The rest of the crowd looked disappointed at the entertainment’s tame closure and strode away back to their own business.

I looked at Cadio, who seemed to be talking to himself, as he sometimes did. “Stones,” I heard him say. “One has to have stones to sell stones.” Then he chuckled.

“Pardon?” I said, just to hear his reply.

He glanced at me, his grey eyes with a sort of light in them and said, “Maybe he needed more focus.” That is what passes for humour with him.

From a Work-In-Process

sunlight through a window

They were gone. That much was obvious. Most of their clothes, all of what little jewelry they had. Two of her grandmother’s best tablecloths, no doubt to hold the other things. A third tablecloth lay abandoned on an unmade bed, spread out, discarded probably because of the large mend near the center.

Aleta stood in the stillness. The sun came in through the windows and made motes of dust seem to sparkle as they floated aimlessly through the air in front of her face. This whole part of the house felt abandoned, as though it had been empty for a long time. But just this morning it had seemed too small to contain her girls and their laughter.

She might have guessed. Lately, the girls had giggled more and talked more often in whispers. But they had done this often enough, so why should Aleta have thought this was anything out of the ordinary? They were silly girls. They had been born silly. Their father had been silly. Handsome and smart and silly. And one day, he had taken it into his silly head to leave them. The girls were like him. But Aleta had chosen him, so maybe some of their silliness was hers.

From a Work-in-Progress

Hill St. Tunnels, Los Angeles 1954

Los Angeles, 1943

He had not slept in years, yet this waking vision seemed like a dream. A dream so real he could smell the white and purple alyssum  that grew in the cracks between the sidewalk slabs  that made up the entrance to the cathedral of  St. Vibiana’s.

Mass would begin soon. The families waited patiently for the others in front of them to find their way into the church. As always, forward movement slowed as people dipped fingers into basins of holy water and crossed themselves before walking down the aisles to find a seat.

Men on the doorstep were removing their hats, women adjusting their scarves or mantillas. A little apart from the others, his mother reached up to the black lace covering her head and pulled it back a little.

If he had been other than he was, his heart would have felt joy at the sight of her. She was so small and yet he knew her to be strong. Her suit was slightly out of style, but well-made and cared for. She held her bag and her rosary in one hand as she pulled off the glove on the other, using a thumb and forefinger. She smiled a little, nodding at the other worshippers, and folded herself in with the crowd to enter. Just at the doorway, she paused as though she had heard something.

He wanted her to turn her head so he could see her dark eyes and perhaps feel something. Perhaps she was thinking of him. Perhaps she was looking for him. And if she was, what would he feel?

But she did not turn her head. She walked into the cathedral without further hesitation and he was left with less than a wish that he might have remembered how he loved her.