Rogue Desir

Look around. Everyone has their lips painted, so you do the same. You choose Rogue Desir, an obnoxiously bright fuchsia that contrasts your pale face. Twist the end and Rogue Desir emerges like a defeated opponent, sullen and concaving after dozens of applications. Set your mouth slightly apart, as if you were to place a cigarette between them, and tediously trace the contours of your lips, being careful not to smudge it against your philtrum. There. You are ready to begin your daily pursuit. Men will pay more attention to you when you ask for help; they will linger on you for an extra second as you walk past them. Don’t forget to take your bag with you before you leave. More importantly, don’t forget to fill your bag with its contents. Take the traffic cone orange bottle of 100 mg Oxycodone and the Tic Tac case filled with 300 mg Vicodin. Oh, don’t forget to take the pill case stuffed with 30 mg Morphine, and the Altoids container you used to store .5 mg Xanax. Snatch the bottle of promethazine syrup – you will use this to wash down these pills. There. You are ready to begin your daily pursuit. Insert the keys in the ignition, and head to the nearest motor lounge. You will need about forty five dollars in cash for a night, as well as your driver’s license. Obediently, these rest in your wallet, waiting for your fingers to snatch them out. Here. You have arrived at a dreary lot which the lounge sits atop of. The dank air of the lobby permeates your senses as you walk in. “Hello,” you breathe out. Use that charm, lean your elbows on the ledge and gently lean in. “A single room for the night.” You can see him eyeing the Rogue Desir. He’s just like the rest: perverted and animalistic. It doesn’t matter, all you need are the keys to your temporary room. 19E. A first floor room. Great, no stairs to trudge up.

The carpet is hideous, a pea green spotted with the ash of ancient cigarettes. The narrow hallway seems to clench your chest with each step you take, and as the numbers on each door progressively ascend to 19, your fingertips become numb as you turn the lock and push the door open. A generic floral painting greets you, and you inhale the stale air as though it were the purest air atop Everest. The mirror adjacent to the bed catches your reflection, and you pause slightly at the sight. You are beautiful. Your eyes glisten with the fragile advantage of youth, and your cheeks are warm with healthy blood. Your hair strays, wild and untamed, constantly altering at your movements. With your back against the headboard, your body sinks into the narrow mattress, cold against the starched comforter. Hmm.. who has been on this bed before you? A man evicted from his home? A lonely truck driver that knows no companion but the road? You are just another number. You are another number to add to the amount of bodies that have rested on this mattress before you, and the number will continue after you. Reaching into your bag, you fish out the plethora of noisy containers and bottles that protest your grasp. Just pile them up next to you – order doesn’t matter, quantity does. Pop open a cap here, unscrew a lid there, and pour a hearty pile of pills into your palm. Don’t think. Just open your mouth, still lined with Rogue Desir, and swallow these pills. Take a swig of the syrup, and you are on your way. There. You have fulfilled your daily pursuit, and you are on your way to escape. Don’t be afraid, let time and nothingness consume you. This, at last, is peace.

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Now

Tranquility rushed through my veins at the same steady pace of a tenacious stream. For a few brief seconds, the silence smothered the noise and I can feel, rather than think. It is times like these that are so fleeting that I cannot fully acknowledge them until after the moment is gone. Now, I try to grasp onto the threads the moment left behind, refusing to let it completely unravel from my mind.

I have woken up next to him time and time again, but this morning was different.While my eyelids, heavy with the burden of the night before pried themselves open, I focused on the wooden blind that concealed the window behind us. That fucking blind. It was never properly nailed into the wall, and the slightest touch would send it crashing to the ground. I had a purple galaxy of bruises on my foot from where it had landed on me a few mornings prior. I hated that blind, but my sentiments towards it were different this morning. Subtle streaks of the sun vigorously fought to peek through the narrow slits and graze our faces. The light was muffled as it collided with the stagnant, dark air of the room. It was oddly hopeful, like a traveler who continues to voyage despite his loss of direction and purpose. And the sound from that morning still resonates with me. It sounded as if the world had come to a halt, and the only things present were the breath of the trees and the movement of the clouds. It gave me an overwhelming sense of belonging, and for a brief but lingering moment, I fell prey to a wave of ataraxia. The chaos of my relentless conscience dissipated, and nothing mattered except for the fact that I was there, alive, with my body contoured against his.

Now. Now is just a cold reminder that I am one day further from that moment, and one day further into my new routine. Now, my body is no longer contoured against his in the morning, but by an isolated mass of sheets and blanket. After I cringe at the influx of cold air that permeates my exposed skin, the awake me will stare upwards at the ceiling. Yes, I am awake. But I am not awake in the sense that I am consciously anticipating my surroundings. Instead, I am awake to fulfill my daily obligations. I am living in a haze, invariably reflecting back to that morning.

He has since dissipated from my life. Only fragments of him remain, scattered like debris, unwanted but unavoidable. Despite my efforts to repress my memories, my time with him echoes in the chasms of my thoughts, teasing me with waves of complacency. Some days, his scent will momentarily travel with the breeze and paralyze me in a moment of absolute clarity. The subtle scent of his soft skin adorned with cigarette smoke engulfs me in memories, numbing my fingertips and slowing my heart. As his scent saturates my senses, I can feel his gaze as the dark abyss of his pupils emerge; I am once again in a room next to him. I retreat to a Saturday morning, and we’re maneuvering around the cramped kitchen making farina and eggs. He had taught me to add a tab of butter and a generous heaping of brown sugar and cinnamon to the bowl before adding the farina. I was smugly proud of this recipe, because it was a piece of him that I could take home with me. It is a permanent, intangible reminder of dusky mornings and simpler times.

Nostalgia is nauseating, and creates a relentless cycle of what was, and what could be. What was, and what could be, have turned into what never will be. I will never study the rhythm of his breath in the morning, slowing my breaths to match his. I will never succumb to the veil of sleep, surrendering to a calm coma while encased in his limbs. I try to forget these never’s, knowing they only further my contempt. However, I have realized that forgetting is not the way towards mending. Regardless of the amount of photographs and shirts I discard, it is through remembering that I am able to progress. By remembering the warmth of our entangled fingers, I remember how to love. By remembering the resentment I felt after the deceit unearthed, I remember how to move on.

The fleeting moments like the one from that morning are what saturates life with fragments of bliss. They visit between times of trial, as a reminder that not all is fruitless, and that the wonders of life make the periods of suffering endurable. I can never make these moments last, but like everything, they fade until they are nothing more than a dream. I miss what was, but I am alive. Blood still surges through my veins, I still crave oxygen with each breath, and my appetite for life and love is still omnipresent. Moments like the one from that morning pull me back to the present, reminding me that I am alive, and that everything is exactly the way it is meant to be.

Catalina

I remember. Her eyes snapped open as she rolled onto her side. Finally, she had
recalled where his peculiar lip twitch was from. When she first met him, he had told her he was a guitarist. He would later confess that he wanted to impress her; he had never laid a finger on a fret before. She was a guitarist herself, and was secretly proud of the thickened skin on her fingers. When she asked to see the callouses on his fingertips, he would gingerly hold out his palm, and she noticed his lip would twitch. It was minute, almost imperceptible, but she noticed it. She associated this twitch with lying, and lately, he had been twitching nearly every time she spoke to him.

“Where did you go?”

“To Justin’s. He needed my help with work.” Twitch. The corner of his lip jerked up for a split second as he responded.

Lies on top of lies on top of lies. For the past year, this is what their relationship had been built upon, and the layer of lies was so thick that the origin could not be traced anymore. Now, laying on her side, she peered into the dark abyss in front of her. Numb. She was not angry, not tired, not vengeful. Instead, she felt serene. Today was the day she could escape.

Her escape was not brash; it took months of planning and scrutinizing. She
worked as a freelance writer, taking whichever gigs she could get. She was not choosy, and had written articles about virus epidemics, articles on the benefits of coconut oil, articles on the importance of introducing a child to Mozart at an early age. Freelancing would help her scrape together $1,000 a month, $2000 if she was lucky. But six months of freelancing was not enough for her escape. She desperately needed the money, and she would scour the area for any second hand shops, selling her favorite necklaces and dresses. It was painful departing from certain pieces, especially her black sundress that she had gathered so many memories in. The first time she met him, she had been wearing it. The first time he embraced her, she was wearing it. Now, another girl will have it to make her own memories in.

After six months of freelancing and selling her items, she had gathered enough
money to purchase it. Surfing Craigslist, she found a modest sailboat for sale. It was a 1970 Catalina Sailboat, twenty-two feet long. It needed exterior paint, and the inside needed a good cleaning. Nothing grand, and it was exactly what she needed. She was in agreement with the owner that they would meet at the dock, where he would hand her the keys.

What time is it? Peering at the clock, 3:29am glowed in red light. She gently rose
from bed, slipping on Levis, a windbreaker, and boots. She picked up her bag, and made for the front door. Packing the night before, she brought with her a box of saltines, a canteen, a light sweater, one pair of jeans, a pair of socks, a pen, and a moleskin notebook.  She had decided this bare minimum; she wanted to be practical, not comfortable on her journey. She left behind everything else; her wallet, wardrobe, unfinished magazine articles, and her husband.

She called for a taxi to bring her to the dock; it was forty-five minutes from home
located in a town called Westernly. Westernly is a gray, monotonous town, known for the prevalent drugs and for the dingy pier, hosting a plethora of neglected boats.  It was a dreary neighborhood, but it had access to the Pacific Ocean, and that was all that mattered.

As she departed from the cab and stepped out, a wall of sharp air cascaded across
her body. She walked briskly towards the pier, making a right down the wooden dock before she saw his figure. The dim lights illuminated his features, he was around fifty with greying stubble. He had comforting eyes, eyes that reminded her of the pale moon above them.

“Good luck,” the owner offered as he held out his hand. He took hers and shook it,
leaving behind the keys in her palm.

“Thanks,” was all she could muster as she forced a small smile.

The Catalina was hers, and she stepped on cautiously, balancing herself. The
dingy pier lights illuminated silhouettes in the boat. It was exactly as the owner had described: unexceptional and meek. It was just what she wanted. She turned on the ignition, gave a quick wave to her seller, and departed. Standing by the wheel, she inhaled and let the salty air permeate her body. Then she was off, sailing off into the vast ocean without a destination in mind. In fact, what she hoped for was that she would drift aimlessly, and find peace in the vast realm of water. The days, weeks, or perhaps months of solitude ahead were her escape, and it was not survival she was seeking. She planned to let the elements consume her and her time; only then would her escape be complete. She did not fear death. She welcomed the thought of departing from the world. Finally. Her journey towards escape had started, and she sailed off into the black night, where sky
and water seamlessly joined. This was peace, this was departure, and this was escape.

Kirk Wisland–Goodbye to All of Those

Bending Genre

I used to say write like everybody you know is dead. It was my signature phrase, a gentle cudgel used to subdue the kind of self-questioning fear that often stunts a writer wading into uncharted waters. An exhortation to write wild, brave and free. Of course this was also when I wrote mostly about the living, when I wrote about the dead primarily as a passing referent, a milepost on my narrative journey. After my grandfather died. Before my grandmother died. When my cat, or aunt, or grade-school choir director was still alive. Mostly I wrote about those who would never read my words. I didn’t worry about my mean-spirited (but true!) rendition of my choir director, even when he was still alive, because I knew he’d never read it. And on those rare occasions when I did write about the dead, I wrote mostly flattering things, gentle odes to…

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gilded

gilded, our tongues intertwined

feeling

exploring

yearning

for what never was

and what never will be.

gilded, our limbs combined,

encasing us in safe haven

where I want to stay forever

and always.

gilded, our past delicately weaved

between my fingers

slipping from my grasp.

gilded, the glaze of your eyes fervently follow

my every moment

my every thought

but you are not here.