Glutton for Punishment

“Man, that’s annoying.”
“What?”
“Don’t you hear that noise? That eee-hee-eee-heee?”
“Uh- oh, yeah, I guess. Is it driving you nuts? Want to go in?”
“Nah, it’s fine. Sorry. Go on.”
“Okay. So yeah, so I was telling her about how it was, you know, meeting the other girl- woman, sorry, sorry, woman- and she was fine with it. What?”
“Huh? No, sorry, I mean, yeah, I’m listening, it’s just that noise. I’m trying to figure out what it is.”
“I think it’s like a rusty metal gate or something. You know. The wind moving it or something.”
“Oh yeah. Yeah, you’re totally right. Anyway, do you really think she was alright with it?”
“I don’t know, see that’s what I’m saying. I think so. Besides, she can’t keep her mouth shut when she’s not, right? Like, we know that by now.”
“Do we?”
“I mean, I didn’t mean it like that, you know what I mean. It’s just that she’s honest with me. You know? Like to a fault.”
“Yeah, I guess, but I – what? Mom, I can’t hear you! No, I’m outside! I’ll do it later! Sorry.”
“It’s fine, no worries. Do you want to go talk to her?”
“No, no, no, she can wait, she’s just annoyed about the laundry but I told her earlier that I’d do it after you left. So it’s like totally fine. Don’t even.”
“Kay. So…”
“So yeah, anyway, what I’m saying is, I don’t know that she’s honest with you. Always. I mean, are you sure?”
“Totally sure. I mean, trust me on this. I know it.”
“Okay. But so how is that a bad thing? I mean, if she’s honest with you, and she seemed fine with it, then it’s fine. Right?”
“Right. I mean, yeah. It is.”
“It is?”
“Yeah. I think. I mean. Yeah.”
“But…?”
“Nothing, no, nothing, it’s just that she always seems so tense, like she does want to say something but she can’t say it and it’s kind of annoying, you know?”
“So you mean she’s not fine with it.”
“She says she is, though! And even if not, it’s not like I can do anything, right? Right.”
“Right. Except like talk to her some more.”
“Yeah, I guess. But we talk so much. I mean, like, I like talking to her, I love talking to her, obviously, but I’m just sick of it being like, you know- listen, you look like you totally can’t stand that noise anymore. Sure you don’t want to go inside?”
“Yeah, I’m sure, I’m sure.”
“So-”
“Actually no, it’s totally making me go crazy, let’s go in. It’s like once you realize it’s there you can’t stop listening to it, right?”
“Yeah, totally. But it doesn’t bother me as much I guess.”
“How? It’s like the most annoying noise on the planet. Eee-uh-ee-hee-uh.”
“You’re bringing it inside now too?”
“It’s stuck in my head, man, like actually, it’s awful. Anyway, coffee? Tea?”
“Sure.”

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Can and Cannot

“I can’t.”
“But why? This doesn’t make any sense!”
“I guess not. But I just can’t do this anymore. That sounds so fluffy and cliche and… well, not me. I know. But it’s also true.”
“But what’s changed?”
“Nothing. With me, anyway, nothing has changed. That’s the whole point. With you, though? I don’t know. It seems like nothing, at times. But at others… everything’s changed.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I know. I guess I’m sentimental. I also just obsess about things, so I assume everyone else does too.”
“I really don’t know what else I’m supposed to say.”
“Me neither.”
“So what now?
“I guess we don’t see each other for a few years. Or ever. You know. Whichever happens to happen.”
“…”
“So you’re not going to say anything? You’re not even going to make me feel like this is hard for you?”
“It IS hard for me.”
“Right.”
“It is! If you don’t want to believe me-”
“No, fine, I do, I do believe you. I just think you’ve never really appreciated how hard it is for me.”
“I do-”
“No, no, you don’t. Because you’ve forced me to make this step myself. True, in a way it’s been me hurting myself through you but you know how hard it is for me to stop hurting myself and if you really cared in any way close to what you claim, you would have made this step before me. But you didn’t. And now I have to. And you’ll hate me.”
“But I still don’t get it. I thought everything was fine.”
“It’s not.”
“You can’t?”
“You can?”
“Yes.”
“Well, I can’t.”

At Not To

“Darling!” she said. “I’m so glad you came. I’ve been waiting for you all day. I was dying to see you. Is that a new haircut?” It wasn’t. “Well, you look amazing. I’ve missed you. Why do you always stay away so long?” It had only been a week since I’d seen her. “Jeb went to buy a power drill from Sears. He’ll be back soon. We can have a nice cup of tea. I got those butter cookies you like so much.” I’ve never liked butter cookies. It was gingerbread cookies that had always been my favorite. “Sit down right there. That’s good. Now, tell me all about yourself and how you’ve been. Is your boss still giving you trouble at the office?” My boss had never given me trouble. It was my brother, Harrison, who was having problems at work. His boss had decided that he wasn’t working hard enough, and to be fair, he was right. Harrison was so bored at his job that he just looked at porn all the time and tried to find new positions to try with his latest girlfriend, who had once been a dancer. “And what about that plant I got you, is it still alive? Are you treating it well? You know, you have to give it a lot of light. Light is crucial for that kind of plant. I forget the name, but the guy at the nursery definitely told me that what it needed was a lot of light and not too much water.” The plant had died three months ago. I’d told her this at least twice. I said nothing this time. “Oh my, I can’t believe I forgot to tell you. Did I tell you? Jeb’s getting a promotion and we might be moving to Oklahoma! Isn’t that wonderful?” She’d told me this at least twice on the phone in the past week. “Oh, darling, I’ll still get to see you. Since Jeb is getting a raise I’ll be able to take the train over any weekend I like. Your brother’s said I can stay with him.” He hadn’t. That was my sister, Eliza, who had offered her a place to stay, albeit reluctantly. But she didn’t really love Eliza and she couldn’t bear Eliza’s girlfriend, and we all knew it. She wouldn’t stay with them, even if her life depended on it. “Have you been watching American Idol? Didn’t you use to like that show?” Never. “I thought so – but you probably don’t have time for it now, not anymore, not with all the work you’ve got piling up, I’m sure. You really shouldn’t take those freelance jobs, you know, they’re way too much for you. You never have time for anything anymore, darling. You never come and see me. Oh, Jeb had these two tickets to the game that’s happening at that stadium – oh, what’s its name? You know the one, the one downtown next to the mall. That one. So do you want them? There are three tickets, really, but Jeb is going to go alone because his friends don’t like going to the game – isn’t it silly, they all say they’re too old and that they prefer being at home in front of the television. As if Jeb is old! He’s in the prime of life, he really is. Anyway, do you want the tickets? You’ll have to sit with Jeb, of course, but you should spend more time with each other anyway.” I’d never been to a game in my life. Well, maybe one or two in high school, because my friends had wanted to go for some obscure reason. Maybe it had been the cheerleaders. “Also, you know, I showed my friend Pam the picture of Lia, and she pointed out how much Lia looks like me when I was younger – isn’t that funny, darling? You know, they do say that-” I actually had noticed that, but it was much too creepy and disgusting a concept for me to entertain for long. “Oh, I’m just teasing, don’t make that face. You know I don’t go in for all that psychobabble anyway, darling. Pam does, though. Do you know, she’s seen five different therapists in the past year? I mean, aren’t you supposed to stick with one person if you start that whole thing?” It’s incredible how people manage to judge things they don’t even believe in. “Going already? Oh, darling, you didn’t even finish your tea. Do you want some butter cookies for the drive home?”

Amelia [Character]

Amelia thought about death a lot. She didn’t consider herself morbid. She told people she was a realist. “Every time you cross a street, you might die,” she would say. “A freak tornado can happen at any time. Earthquakes aren’t that rare. All it takes is one moment of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you’re dead. And that’s a fact.”

She ran a finger underneath the velvet choker tied round her neck. Lifting the long-stemmed glass in front of her, she took a sip of champagne. The bubbles burned her tongue. The restaurant was brightly lit, clean and simply decorate, but Amelia saw dozens of opportunities for death all around her. If the waiter slipped right there, he would bang his head on the corner of a table. If the bartender poisoned the beer barrels, everyone who was ordering on tap would be in trouble. If the electric chandelier fell, it would crush the angry family sitting at the table directly beneath it.

“Ah, Amelia! Welcome back, welcome back,” the head waiter said, shuffling over rather nervously and drying his sweating hands on his tailcoat. “What can I get you today?”

“Nothing much, nothing much. This champagne is rather nice, you know.”

“I’m glad it’s to your liking!”

“Yes. Do you know that if you swallow something the wrong way, the fluid stays in your lungs? You can accumulate so much fluid there that it can kill you.”

“Indeed?”

“Hm. I think so. Maybe not. But it makes sense, doesn’t it?” Amelia realized she was a little tipsy. This was, after all, her third glass. “Death is a beautiful thing, my dear sir, did you know that?”

“Amelia, now,” the head waiter extended his hands forward, trying to ward off the oddness. “You remember what happened last time we had this talk?”

“Yes,” Amelia said, her voice serene and her eyes gazing far away. “You ended up escorting me out very rudely and then calling the police. The police, mind you, could have been very rough with me. Did you know that there was a kind of thing as ‘suicide-by-cop?'”

“No, I wasn’t aware. The cops weren’t rough with you, were they?” The head waiter’s anxiety levels were rising and he could almost feel the blood pressure closing his arteries and making it difficult to breathe. Amelia, or maybe it was Amelia’s money, often had that effect on people.

“No, no, of course not. But they could have been, you know. I just think you should get us both some lemon pie and then sit down and have a chat with me. What do you say?”

The head waiter made his excuses and hurried away to get the bill which he would put, not so tactfully, beside Amelia’s plate of pie. He sometimes had nightmares about Amelia. It was hard for him to envision her as someone like him, with a family and a past and some future. She had significantly less future than he did. Maybe that was part of why she frightened him so much.

It was so convenient and easy to see her as a scary old witch who was fascinated with her mortality; it was rare that people saw her for what she was – her friends dead, her family members all involved in their own lives, she was an old woman who was, indeed, fascinated with her mortality.

Links [Overheard]

“So if your friends hadn’t taken a course with my friend-”

“And you hadn’t come to play board-games with us that one night-”

“Then you never would have talked to me at the party and-”

“You never would have asked me out-”

“And we wouldn’t have known each other at all.”

“Exactly.”

“Huh.”

“Indeed. Life and stuff.”

“Funny how that works out.”

“Yeah. Funny.”

All is Fair in Love

“I don’t want to.”

“But we have to.”

“I know…”

“I don’t want to either. I love you.”

“Do you?”

“Of course I do! Don’t you believe me by now?”

“I do… It’s just me and my issues, you know.”

“I know. Believe me, I don’t want to either.”

“But we have to.”

“Yes.”

“At least for a while.”

“Exactly. I think it’s important.”

“I do too.”

“You really do, though, right?”

“Yes, I swear! And we’re not closing any doors, right?”

“Of course not. No closing doors.”

“And we’ll always be there for each other.”

“Always.”

Blackout

“Ouch!”

“Oh!”

“Who’s that?”

“Taylor? It’s me, it’s Petunia!”

“Pet – d’you know what’s going on?”

“No, listen, I think there’s been a power-outage.”

“…Duh.”

“I mean – I think it’s not just the building! I looked outside and everything’s black, it’s creepy.”

“Well, want to come back to my place? I can find some candles or something.”

“Taylor, come on, is now really the time to hit on me?”

“What better time? It’s dark, there’s a sense of danger in the air, you’re all helpless…”

“Shut up!”

“It’s too easy to get you mad. And that hurt, by the way. How did you even manage to find my shins?”

“I’m gifted.”

“Okay, I can hear you rolling your eyes. Geez. Anyway, seriously, come to my place – I won’t hit on you! – and we’ll try to figure out what’s going on.”

“Fine, fine.”

“Alrighty, here we go. Just try to sit there – yeah, that’s the couch, right there – and I’ll be back in a second.”

“Don’t you have a flashlight?”

“Huh? I can’t hear you, just a second, I’m in the closet!”

“I said, don’t you have a flashlight?”

“Yeah, but no batteries, ’cause I’m an idiot. Here we go. Good thing I smoke, right? I’ve got about a thousand lighters floating around here.”

“You should tell your doctor that next time he tries to give you another nicotine patch: ‘No, no, it’s good I smoke, really, because if I didn’t, I’d never have lighters around!'”

“Seriously, you’re the most sarcastic woman I’ve ever met.”

“Thank you – I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“So why were you in the hall without a flashlight yourself? Or a phone, for that matter. I just went out to the fusebox – I thought it was just my place that lost power.”

“Oh, um… well, to tell the truth, I kind of locked myself out of my place.”

“You what?

“Yeah, yeah, you can stop laughing now, it’s not that funny! You know how I got that new door-handle last week that makes it so you can’t open it from the outside without a key? Kind of worked against me tonight. I thought it was just my place that was out of power, too, and I went outside and I forgot to take my keys with me… Oh, shut up, will you?”

“Sorry, sorry, it’s just- that’s hilarious. Miss Excuse-Me-But-I-Think-A-Hundred-Bucks-Are-Worth-Extra-Safety uses her new safety against herself.”

“Shut up, Taylor. Geez. Seriously, can you just try to figure out what’s going on?”

“Sure, sure, I’ll see if my phone is still online…”

“Good, you do that. Okay, I’ve seen your apartment before, so I know that that’s new.”

“Um, Pet?”

“I mean, what deranged girlfriend gave you that thing? It’s hideous! I mean, come on, a fake antelope head? How tacky can you get, boy?”

“Petunia?”

“Huh? What? What’s wrong?”

“I’m not… quite sure. The network on my phone’s working, but the news is saying some really strange things…”

“Okay, now you’re freaking me out.”

“Um – there’s some sort of death-threat on Google News. It says ‘The Magliorandi are a peaceful race, but have expressed in no uncertain terms that they will destroy our planet if the human race will put up a fight.'”

What?! Let me see that!”

“…”

You idiot!!!!

“I can’t believe I had you going again! You’re just so easy, I can’t believe it! Ow! Ow, okay, no need to punch me so hard! I was just kidding!”

“You had me trying to decide between chocolate and pasta for my last meal, you jerk!”

“Pasta? I mean, seriously, pasta? That’s a lame last meal.”

“You know who’s lame? You are.”

“Nice, nice, I see you turn into a six-year old when you’re scared.”

“As opposed to you, who’s a six-year old all the time. Jerk.”

“Fine, but you’ve got to admit that aliens landing on earth is way more interesting than ‘Power should be restored in several hours, and all residents are asked to stay inside while work-crews will be on the streets, rectifying the mass power-line failure.'”

“You’re still a jerk.”

“Fine, fine, fine. But seriously, pasta? As a last meal? Pasta?!”

“Why, what would you have then? Jerk?”

“I don’t know – maybe a really expensive steak with fancy sauce stuff. Or some tiny gourmet French dish or something like that.”

“See, I would totally want to go with someone I just know I love. Like chocolate. Or pasta.”

“Yeah, but if it’s your last meal, shouldn’t you milk it for all it’s worth?”

“You’re such a- a- I don’t even know what. If it was my last meal on earth I wouldn’t care about trying to use anybody, I’d just want to eat something I like.”

“Oh, well, okay then, Miss Holier-Than-Thou.”

“Geez, Taylor, seriously, will you shut up?”

“I’m offering you hospitality and all you’re doing is abusing me! Is that any way to treat a man?”

“Yes.”

“Fair enough. Want a game of Scrabble?”

“Sure, might as well do something useful while I wait – like kicking your butt.”

“Uh-huh. We’ll see about that.”

“Fifty bucks say I beat you?”

“You’re on.”