Sunday, March 27, 2011

Breakaway


She found him on Facebook. Why she even bothered to look she's not sure but he looks the same. A little more portly and his hair is grey but his face is largely unchanged. Still kind, with wicked twinkly blue eyes and a wry smile. She fights the urge to call. It's been 34 years since they had a 'dalliance'. She knows he was married in the 80s and now has two little girls. She forgets the time that's passed, they'll be young women now. She knows because she rang his mother when her husband died. Why? The same elusive reason she searched for him on Facebook. Banal curiosity. She does wonder if he is happy. She wants him to be happy. She remembers how often he badgered her to make love to him. She remembers how much she wanted to. She wonders how things might have been different if she had.

Can we make love now?" He says it often, in private, in public he doesn't care and she takes it as a tease. Not that she isn't keen but . .
"Yeh yeh . . " she assures as they walk, hands linked, along a fog-steeped road, but he's serious.

He met her at a fancy dress party. He didn't dress up, he's beyond these things but his friend attracted attention as a blue haired Aladdin Sane. She was all gold all pink and pretty in her harem outfit. She was tanned, young, with a flashing smile and eyes within which you could drown. . . he did . .almost instantly. "Wanna see the stars on the roof of my car?" She laughs at the lameness of the pickup line but agrees. She's on holiday, having fun and he's as lovely as they come around these parts and so she panders to his request. Sure enough, there are stars on the inside of his car, blue and glittery, something to stare at while on the back seat, kissing and fondling but she won't let him go all the way. Not here. Not now. Not on the back seat of a car with the stars watching. She wants it to be perfect. Pressed sheets, breakfast. Somewhere neutral and neat and romantic. They met three weeks ago and she's seen him, loved him, held him, in-between hikes and road trips across the country. He waits for her return each time and is there smiling, happy to have her in his arms if only for a moment.
She's on holiday in England, using her grandparents' private hotel as a base while she ventures on brief sorties around the country.  They're weird. She knows it, they've been this way all their lives but he just doesn't get it. A married couple who hate each other with a vengeance yet can't stand to be out of each other's lives. Her grandfather, Vic,  lives next door and comes in to make breakfast for the guests, supervises the chambermaids and does the books. Her Grandmother Ivy, lives in room 14 and rises at 2 to drink copious amount of tea and chain smokes while she orders supplies, readies the bar and prepares dinner.  Ships in the night, so wrong for each other for so long, yet inseparable. She doesn't know it now, but they'll die within a week of each other so firm are the ties that bind them.  He left her once, twice, maybe three times. She can't remember but he always came back. Always. They pass like ships in the night with a cursory glance, a brief update then he goes off to check out his form guide, muttering “Never bet on a grey” and she half-heartedly commences her day and parties hard into the night with guests. Always a Peter Stuyvesant in one hand and a large gin and tonic, tightly gripped, in the other.
"When are we going to make love then?" The question is repetitive and frequent, "Oh for goodness sakes! Saturday OK?" It's her last week. "Come over, you can stay in room 21. I'll be in 24 and when Ivy goes go to bed, I'll be over." She kisses him softly and traces the inside of his upper lip with her tongue as a tease. He pulls her close and reciprocates with an urgency that betrays the fact, she is soon to leave. She hears the strains of Art Garfunkle's Breakaway, the album he bought for her, and she knows that time is of the essence.  He doesn't want her to go and talks of meeting next year in Canada to 'work things out'. She agrees, it's a good plan.
As the night closes in, and the inebriated chinks of Ivy clearing glasses and emptying the till can be heard downstairs. She showers. Razor glides along her legs and underarms until they're smooth as satin. Shampoo suds and cleanses her thick brown hair, leaving it smelling sweet and fragrant. She pats dry and inspects her naked body before the full length mirror. It's still tanned from the early summer she has left for the frost and ice of a European winter. Her breasts firm and youthful, her skin, olive with only the palour of a tan prevented by a bikini, evidence of it's real hue. She lavishes Chanel No. 5 on her pulse points and smoothes a little in her hair.  She pulls out the black kimono spattered with willow and cherry blossom. A prized purchase from Miss Selfridge's and wraps the soft garment around her.
She knows he's there, just across the hall, she 'feels' him there. Waiting, wanting, beneath the gaudily feminine pink candlewick bedspread. She imagines him, lying naked in anticipation. His hands behind his head the quiet grin of lust upon his face. The pull too strong, she walks through his door. "Hey" she whispers, as he hoists himself upon two pillows, "You're early" he smiles. She bends down towards him and profers a kiss, lets him see enough of her breasts to tease before she withdraws, "Yeh, can't come in yet though. Nana's still downstairs clearing up. I just wanted to let you know that I'm here. That I love that you're here and I'll be back soon." She re-wraps the kimono and blows him a kiss before a gentle retreat and closing the door.
There's little to do but wait, and so she does. Then come the voices. She can't discern what's being said but there's anger. A man shouting, her Nana crying. Within moments, it's obvious that the man is her Grandpa. What he's doing in the building at 2am she doesn't know but wishes they'd just go to bed, leaving her to her clandestine tryst. She wonders down the spiral stairs towards the kitchen and the clamour is becomes loud. She enters the kitchen in time to watch Ivy dodge a flying saucepan lid that clips her glasses sending them careening across the room. Vic, storms past her and out towards his flat. Berating, muttering, unaware of the damage he's done.
Ivy's bleeding, the frames of her glasses having dug deep into the corner of her eyebrow. She's crying, "Bastard!" she sobs. “Bloody bastard . .” The rendezvous is forgotten as she bathes her Nana's eye and makes tea. Lots of tea, strong and sweet and consoling. She talks with her gin soaked grandmother about love and loss and anger and pain and how fucked-up things can be before she realises it's 4am. She's emotionally exhausted and takes Nana to bed. It's late but she wonders back to his room to find him sleeping. Tucked and tired, she doesn't have the heart, nor the inclination, to wake him. He looks beautiful. Her heart skips.
In the morning, he's upset. "What happened? You didn't come?" Explanations and apologies are made. He hugs her, tight, and says he 'understands' but really, he's distraught, pissed, sad. This was to be his night of nights, the cement between the cracks, the glue that would bind them. She's leaving today and he's missed his opportunity. Little does he know that she's filled with a regret that will last for decades. Had she been older, she'd have found a way . . taken the risk but she didn't.
She is older now and reflects on what might have been. She married, had children but finds herself alone. She stares at the Facebook photo and resists the urge to message. "Can't go back," she thinks and clicks onto her profile page. An opportunity lost. She wonders how life might have been so different and the song plays on repeat in her head . . Breakaway . . .

Thanks Jeff for challenging me to write 1000 words in an hour. Yours is better but for God's  sakes, FINISH IT. (If you're an invitee on Panoramic Mindscapes go give him some schtick.)  And Ian, if you're out there . . I'm sorry. You are my sweet regret.




Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pathetique

She wonders if she'd had a hand in her future, how would she have drawn it. She never 'expected the unexpected'. Odd since it's now her favourite saying.

Her lover would have lived, her pigeon pair known a father. Her finances would have been secure but she'd be 'normal'. Middle class and clawing for the unnecessary.  Gold shoes and dripping in Pandora. A manicure once a fortnight, tennis on Tuesdays - a life of leisure and lunch. Parent meetings and school involvement, canteen duty and warm banana bread on the bench when they came home. A nice house with quality fittings, splayed with 'things' that one day someone would have to throw away when she died. Pretty possessions with no meaning, just for show.

She would have had warmth in her bed beyond a large, lolling dog. A good and kind man to spoon, face buried in his fragrant hair, lips tantalising his neck, knees curled into the puzzle of his beautiful body. Pillow talk, with someone other than the imagined. She misses pillow talk. Security and comfort. Love and lust. A man, a complete family, a life.

He left her. Not for another woman. He died. Just did. Heaving in her arms at 35 years of age. She in a poorly chosen dress, he, butt-naked and quivering. He left her with nothing but a debt, toddlers, a cat and blood money. They cut up their joint cards, right in front of her eyes as she discharged their mortgage. Gave her a cheque for the insurance and sent her on her way.  "We hope your banking experience with us was exceptional" (asshole).

He was not unfaithful. He didn't trade her in. He wasn't unhappy or unfulfilled. Perhaps if he was, she'd have got back on that horse, jumped back in the saddle, been chagrined enough to chase. But love's like nuclear waste with a lengthy half-life. It lasts for years, decades. Once the air clears, it is too late. No iodine to prevent the sickness. No-one could replace him, and so she never tried.

If she'd had a hand in her future, how would she have drawn it? Not as the static existence it is now. Perhaps in vibrant colours or soft romantic pastels. Perhaps the stark dramatic shades of black and white graphic novels splashed with the passion of red or a frustrated and silent Munzian scream.  Will she fall in love again? Probably not, in lust perhaps. Her worn, well-mapped body is not lascivious viewing. Even though that 32 year old RSVP 'friend' seeks a woman 45-60. She can't bring herself to email him and strike up a conversation. A silly drunken whim took her online and the emails do not stop even though she is intermittently  'invisible'. So self-conscious is she, the prospect has no more substance than the froth on her cappuccino. These days it's dim light, between the sheets to hide her imperfections which are less obvious when felt, but glaring if seen. What woman fears her own body? She does.

Her soul and skin bare scars. Those of bittersweet joy in the stretch marks across her belly, stubborn and irremovable despite efforts to make them fade, they are reminders of a blissful time. Those of neglect where weight was gained and lost in a repetitive cycle of diet and degustation. Scars of pain from surgery and falls. The cut on her knee sustained in childhood. The white strips on her arms, remnants of burns from a teenage part-time job, the gape of a hysterectomy almost invisible but she knows it's there. The removal of her womanhood affects her more than she admits. The raised eyebrow stitched imperfectly after a drunken fall. And the creases of age, which no rejuvenating unction will remove despite the investment made.

The scars of sunlight, freckles across otherwise seductive shoulders and decolletage, mark a once smooth and olive tone. A complexion so perfect it was admired. Now flawed and unremarkable.  Hands are gnarled and veins protrude where sleek softness should prevail. She wishes she'd used moisturiser more often.  Knees groan with wear, and try as she might to disguise discomfort, it's ever present.  Voltarin is her friend.

She gazes into the mirror, light too bright, impurities exposed. Breasts once the playthings of lovers less than perfect. She moves her eyes upwards and preens and plucks that errant hair persisting beneath her chin. Where did she go? The nymph? All that remains is libido and the need for affection betrayed in the mirror by soulful eyes. The vixen within just bursting to escape. So busy was she, with life and work. The banality of it all punctuated infrequently with spurious moments of joy and passion, moments so far and few between since he died.

Instead she is 'different', some call her 'unique'.  Careless as she ages. She's become eccentric on the exterior. Accepting of affection but suspicious of love. She's quirky and 'connected' but deeply sad and hollow. One hand clapping and a tiny violin rubs between her fingers.  She hopes for a life of  unrealised dreams to be realised, yet dreads that they may never come to fruition.

If she has a hand in her future, he will come. He'll caress her face and hair. He'll  be comfortable in her presence. Wrap her in his arms and breathe upon her neck. Hold her firm and make her feel small and delicate, vulnerable.  He'll talk and laugh and know what lies beneath. He'll like her more than love her. Embrace her creativity and scold her aged beliefs. He'll play and taunt and tell her she is beautiful, sensual, still a woman, still worthy of affection and admiration. He'll desire her in the dark and understand  her imperfections are what makes her who she is. He'll treat her as a new adventure, something different yet worthy. He'll be unafraid to be seen with her amid the smirks and whispers. He'll love her, deeply, sincerely but briefly, because she will let him go. He will make her happy.  Just for a moment. Her future will no longer be important - fulfilled, not by her hand, but by his.

She just has to find him first.


Written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory . . Give a Hand to the Future
NB: My mother used to play this and it still makes me cry.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cooking dogs, shopping and dancing . . .

You fucktardy little squidge, you cause me such grief, inserting yourself where not needed, and deserting me when there is a need to pause. You're that irritating little grain of sand against a naked buttock scritching, scratching, rolling before capture. You're that grating little drip of annoyance. Friend to some, enemy to most. You're so insignificant and unimportant flying solo. So vital and necessary in a crowd. Yet without you, meaning is lost. Pace is fast and, worst of all, my words don't make sense. Spritely, evasive, overpowering little shit. Insert yourself where you shouldn't be and remain absent when you're needed.  Sounds like some men I know.

Apparently, I cannot use commas.
Apparently I, cannot use commas.
Apparently I cannot, use commas.
Apparently I cannot use, commas.

The interfering little squabittys can take a swan dive off the Coat Hanger for all I care!  And they'll barely make a Doppler effect.  One of the awesome things about the English language is, (oops, there I go again) you can fuck it up in so many ways yet it remains comprehensible. (Should I have put a comma after 'yet'?)

Besides, picking up grammatical errors is what proofreaders are for.

Oh fuckit to Friday, I ended the tirade on a preposition.

No wonder I'm not getting too many call backs.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Horrible Peas in a Horrible Pod


"Myocardial infarction" says the Military Coroner in a droll, accepting tone. The 45 year old platoon Sergeant who died suddenly behind the latrines is lain unceremoniously on a stainless steel autopsy table, chest exposed, eyes still open. "Can't explain it really," he continues, "he was pretty fit, good weight. Nothing in the toxicology. Just one of those things. Shit happens." The young private standing behind him has a wry smile on her face, "Yep, when yer number's up . . .yer number's up. It'll piss his family off that he died from a heart attack, should've been a roadside bomb."

They stand to attention as pallbearers carry another son bagged and boxed, draped in the US flag, onto the Hercules. The solemnity of the occasion not lost by his men. They've seen too many fallen comrades packed in boxes or sent home in bits.  This time their Platoon Sergeant will make the one-way trip. But this time there are no tears from one corner of the parade ground. Five soldiers stand erect, eyes forward, po-faced, yet with a twinkle in their eyes.

***

"You're supposed to be my Platoon Leader!!" shrieks Private Benedict, slammed hard against the latrine wall by her accoster. "Oh no bitch! I'm yer platoon daddy!" He draws a knife and slices cleanly through the back of her jacket revealing skin that makes him salivate while she squirms. Her protest is short lived. She knows real resistance is futile. Nobody can hear her whimper. He's chosen his ambush site well as he pushes her thorax into the wall with a mighty hand and desecrates the body she only ever gave up for one man. Her chosen lover isn't here when she needs him most. Her Platoon leader's fumblings finished, he re-arranges his clothing, slaps her hard on the ass and strides away. For now, she's free to pee and the warm fluid trickles down the inside of her leg. Tepid tears trickle down her bruised cheek.  This is the first time for Caroline, the first time he's sprung on her. Bladder full and desperate to go, she didn't heed the warnings. "Don't drink after 7, it's not safe to hit the bathroom at night."  She's found out the hard way.

Belinda Jameson has presented to his office to deliver a message as she has hundreds of times before. The shapely blonde with the cold blue stare is always 'the one'. He undresses her with his eyes before she's had a chance to stand at ease. "Take a seat Jameson," he coos, oozing behind the chair that she now sits stiffly upon. His nose nudges her neck and smells her unwashed hair. She's long forgone hygiene in the hope he will desist but it turns him on, the unadulterated scent of a woman. His tongue caresses the edge of her perfect ear, his stale breath forces her to wince. She cocks her head, chin against her collar in revulsion but she's been through this before. His clammy hands slide down the front of her shirt before he takes her - invariably bent over his desk. It seems that eye contact is his weakness, he prefers his conquests to face away or gaze mindlessly into space.

Ruth Gonzalez has learned compliance. She's been through the drill before. She stares at the ceiling of his quarters while he grunts. No foreplay, no love-making. This is an act of violence and control but she knows the cost of resisting. Her last efforts to expose abuse ended up in her transfer and demotion. Her treason brought her here to another abuser. Once again succumbing to the lust of an ugly man. She lies back and thinks of home and the husband who waits. Perhaps he doesn't. He won't want her after this, she thinks. Perhaps he will. Perhaps he'll never know. The thought of losing the man she loves brings bile to her throat as much as does the animal on top of her.

Gayle Fielding is a  'dyke' or so the men label her. She's not. She's a Lesbian, a subtle difference but she's proud of it. She misses the warm touch of a lover, one left long behind. Misogynistic comrades leave her body alone but the harassment is never-ending. They tease her to distraction. She's sworn at, spat at and called a raging homo.  She's told to sprint in full battle dress for the slightest misdemeanor. Her food tray knocked from the mess hall table with overt aggression. Lewd and lascivious comments made about Menage a Trois, and she's nick-named 'Fruit Fly'.

Most scorned of all is Angelique Borlios. She loved him once. She thought he loved her until she found him once again, behind the latrines fondling a new recruit. Now when she reluctantly slides her hand down his pants, she's ordered to make him feel good or drop rank. There's no more warmth in his voice. She's just a vessel like the others.  Tears of loss and love long dried up as she drops to her knees and serve his needs. She wants to bite the end off his dick but she knows as one of only 5 women in a company of 60 men, to do so would be military suicide. She's a career soldier and dreams of better times. No-one would believe her should she fess up and take him to task.

Reluctant whores to the same perverted man, they offload in the privacy of their bunks. The women talk to each other, their tales unravel like a loosely threaded sweater, their dignity and values forming a pile of unruly threads, a dishevelled mass waiting to be untangled.  All prisoners in an open cell, peas in a horrible pod. "We've gotta do something about this," Angelique speaks up. She's suffered, legs spread, a compliant pawn in this sexual game and she's had enough. "It's time we got our own back. We're soldiers for fuck's sake not whores!" 

Belinda pipes, "He's good for fragging!" While the old military term generally refers to death via a carefully placed fragmentation grenade, these women have other ideas.  Each is furious. They feel the ringing in their ears that high blood pressure causes. Palpitations pulse within their chests. The collective fury rises with cold heat from belly to brow. "I'm serious," Belinda repeats, "We've gotta get rid of him."

The silence is heavy but all have that look, that glance of acknowledgment. Yes, their antagonist has to go. Five of them serve, four of them have been violated and branded easy game. Time for it to end. But the ending must be subtle, undetectable, quick and most importantly, must not implicate them.

All eyes now turn to Gayle, "What?" The fact that she's a Medic momentarily escapes her. She also has access to the base pharma stash including powerful painkillers, antibiotics, stimulants and . . . "Sux," pipes Angelique. "We need it. You can get it."

"Oh no . . Oh no . . " Gayle's shaking her head and raising her palm in a 'talk to the hand' gesture. "I have to sign for everything, there's no way . . "  Angelique moves towards her bunk and kneels pleading, "Gayle, you're the only one. We can seduce him into a corner but we need that stuff to knock him cold. I want him paralysed, I want him dead! We want him dead!"

Gayle knows it would work, she's used the powerful anaesthetic Succynylcholine before during emergency intubation and it's fast, almost untraceable after 24 hours. It'll paralyse him alright but getting the stuff out isn't going to be easy. She's rarely in the clinic alone and worries about how to sneak a vial of the deadly potion  without being detected. Drugs are counted and catalogued. "I dunno Ange, I just dunno. Let me think about it. I need to work out how to get the shit out without anyone knowing."  Lights out is called and the conversation left, but each have made an unspoken pact. Fielding will get the drug, Angelique will set up the entrapment. Victims will become killers.


The ward is quiet and she's on duty. It's late in the afternoon, 'observations' have been completed, surgery's over and apart from two others cruising the makeshift ward, she's alone. She takes an ampule of normal saline in her left hand. These vials are harmless and plentiful, never counted as are the drugs. She calls over another nurse, "Steve!"He ambles to her side. "Just check this amp of Sux for me?" The procedure is normal and Steve looks over her shoulder as she holds the vial.  She palms an ampule of normal saline in her left hand. He's asked to check the amp of Succynylcholine from the drug cupboard, destined for a soldier with renal colic. She holds the amp of saline, now mistaken for Sux, between her thumb and index finder of her left hand and cracks it open. The drawing syringe in her right. "Just check the register for the date and dose for me?" He complies with the deliberate distraction.  She draws the saline from the amp, then palms the deadly drug. She's already dropped a sharp in her pocket. The dose confirmed, some hapless writhing soldier receives a shot of salt.

"Just a little prick," she whispers almost smiling at the double entendre as he momentarily lifts his gaze and finally, after all this time makes eye contact. "What?" No answer ensues.  Gonzalez forces the syringe into his carotid artery and he feels the cold sting as fluid courses through his system, but not for long. It's effect is rapid.

Nicotinic receptors spasm and every muscle ceases to function. It's seconds and the stinging site, stings no more. He crumples right before her eyes, bent grotesquely backwards, knees folded underneath his torso, eyes open but unseeing.  The five of them approach and poke and prod, they need to be sure he's dead. The coven of conspirators. He's done.  They're free . . . for now.

Posted for the Tenth Daughter of Memory - Five Soldiers, Four Whores, Three Lovers and Two Killers