Spark of Beauty

I didn’t plan on it. It just happened. I swear, it wasn’t on purpose. I didn’t mean to do it. But I guess I should start at the beginning. That’s what they told me I should do. Just start at the beginning, and everything would become clearer as I went along.
I guess the first time was when I was really young. My aunt had baked me the most beautiful birthday cake a boy could ask for. It had the shape of a rocket ship on it, all made out of candy and and sprinkles. The cake itself was creamy and cheesy, just the way I liked it. I’d always hated chocolate, apparently. I was one of the only kids I knew who liked drinking milk straight up. Anyway, the cake had six candles in it – I was turning five, and there was one for good luck. My aunt lit the candles, one by one, with those big kitchen matches. You know the kind. About as long as an adult’s finger, with a red head the size of the pearls on our grandmothers’ pearls.
I think the next time something happened that made me think about things was later that year, on the Fourth of July. It’s not illegal to light up your own fireworks where I live, so every year the whole neighborhood would get together and make a big show of it. The kids would ooh and aah and the adults would echo them, as if they’d never seen the big sparklies in the sky before. This time stands out in my memory, though, because my aunt had a new boyfriend then, and he was one of the guys who went behind the old silo to light the cracklers away from the crowd so that no one would get hurt. My aunt took me with her to see how it was done – thinking back now, I’m pretty sure they also got to necking some while I was investigating the inside of the disused silo. Anyway, once I’d come out of the silo and they’d stopped fooling around in the darkness, my aunt’s boyfriend bent down and showed me the long tail of the fireworks and how you light one end of it so that your hand doesn’t get hurt from being too near where the big BANG happens when the spark hits the chemicals inside that make it do what it does to light up and burst into a hundred little red or green flames in the sky.
I’m not making sense? But – I started at the beginning, didn’t I? Oh. Oh, I see. I haven’t been clear enough. Well, I guess I have a bit of an issue with that, because, you see, not many people really understand what it is that I do. Or what it is that I like, you might say.
Alright, I’ll be blunt, then. I suppose that’s how you’ve gotta be in this sort of thing. Fire, then. I like fire. Why? I couldn’t tell you that. Maybe it’s because my aunt and her boyfriends necked while I was around. Some shrinks have told me that. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have parents, because they died in a car crash – that incidentally also had a fireball involved in it. Oh, yeah, I was in that car crash too. The shrinks love that as well. They think that part of me remembers that beautiful fireball that must have killed my parents and which I was immune to because my little car seat was covered with a blanket that was still damp from the beach, where we’d been that day. But I’ve never seen what a fireball looks like. The shrinks think that that’s what I’m looking for, that that’s why I light houses on fire, that I’m trying to recreate the scene of my second birth from the ruins of a crashed and mutilated car with the corpses of two dead people stinking in front of me.
I beg your pardon. I didn’t mean to make you queasy. I simply get very… agitated, yes, that’s the right word for it, agitated. Because I take offense at the need to explain why I find beauty in something that you people don’t happen to find beautiful. I think that it’s despicable that you think I need some sort of excuse, some sort of ulterior motive, and that without one I wouldn’t enjoy doing what I do.
My lawyer has told me that this wouldn’t be a very good defense, and I suppose she’s right. But it’s also the truth, as my earliest memories have it. Take from it what you will. Just know that I never meant to kill anyone. I just wanted to see something beautiful.

“S”

Whenever she looked out her window, she saw a big “S” on the red brick building across from her. Just one letter, a simple one, with a serif on either end. It wasn’t the most innocent or joyful of letters; “snakes” and “sadness” and “sordid” all began with it, and she couldn’t help thinking of those and other harsh words whenever she looked at her “S.”

But not everyone had a big, two-story-tall letter painted on the building across the street. She could tell it was that large because she could see the windows next to it. Okay, so maybe it was only one-and-a-half stories tall, but it was up around the tenth or eleventh floor, and everything looks bigger higher up. Or so she thought at least.

It was kind of like Stephen (another “S”, she always reminded herself) who was so beautiful and seemed so majestic. He was tall, and his head was disproportionately large for his body. But she couldn’t help being attracted to him, daydreaming about him, adding the letters to his name to her view of “S.” Stephen, for his part, didn’t know she existed because they’d never been introduced. In fact, his name wasn’t actually Stephen, it was Pedro, but she’d given him a name of her own after she’d seen him at the bagel shop on the corner for the fourth morning in a row.

She wasn’t an obsessive person, no, you couldn’t say that exactly, she thought, but she was definitely aware, and self-aware as well, and she knew there was a certain obsessive quality to her fascination with her “S.” Especially when she knew there must be more letters painted up there, hidden from her by the jut of another building that was angled just right to show her the one “S” and nothing else. She wondered whether she’d ever see the thing, the letter or the entire word, from street level and see what it was referring to. The thought was terrifying.

Sundays on the Bus [Flash Fiction – maybe a beginning to a longer short story?]

Rupert took the bus to work on Sundays. He didn’t have to; the divorce had gone through pretty smoothly and he’d gotten to keep the car, which he drove the rest of the week. Monday through Friday, the bus was packed with loud teenagers going to school and busy businessmen and businesswomen who put him on edge. For a guy who worked six days a week, including Sundays, Rupert considered himself to be pretty relaxed, and the tense atmosphere on the bus every morning made him feel unnecessarily stressed.

But Sundays were special. On Sundays, nobody else in his line of work went to the office. He worked in Finance, at a Big Corporation where he made a Nice Living. He never explained to people anything beyond this, because he’d learned that his job-description made their eyes wander and their mouths open in embarrassing yawns. He didn’t begrudge them. He knew that not everyone found beauty in what appeared at first glance to be monotonous number-crunching.

Three years after the divorce, Rupert had to admit to himself that he also took the bus to work on Sundays because of the chance to see Her. She was taller than him, more giraffe than woman, with a wide mouth, high cheekbones and soft brown eyes. She had a small boy – Rupert saw him grow from a newborn baby to a large toddler of three – and She took him to the big park near Rupert’s office to watch other people flying kites. Rupert toyed with the idea of mysteriously gifting them both with a kite one day, but he never quite worked up the nerve to do it.

He wondered sometimes, especially during the dreary winters when She and her son rode the bus far less often, whether he was obsessed. He didn’t think he was creepy; he never stared at Her inappropriately and never offered Her son any candy. But he kept taking the bus every single Sunday, rain or shine, in the hopes of speaking to Her, even accidentally. He sometimes dreamed of criminals hijacking the vehicle or getting into a dramatic crash so that he’d have an excuse to perform a heroic act for which She’d be so grateful that She’d speak to him. Then he remember his puny arms and his ever-growing paunch and sadly realized that in the event of an emergency, it would probably be Her who would rescue him.

His and Hers

She knew everything there was to know about him. She knew every scrap of information he’d ever posted on the Web, she knew every secret he’d ever written in one of his various anonymous blogs that she’d tracked down, and she knew every one of his many pastimes because he was so good as to post them incessantly on his Twitter account.

She knew that he’d spent a month in Japan eating nothing but rice because he was allergic to all types of fish. She knew that he was going to apply to Harvard Law School only because his father wanted him to, and that he ended up going because he wanted to as well. She knew that on his twenty-fourth birthday he ran out of clean underwear and had decided, to celebrate his nuptials, to walk around nude beneath his Dockers.

She knew when he started going out with the blonde, when he dumped her for the brunette and when he decided he needed time off from any hair-colors at all. She knew when he fell in love, when he proposed and when he was turned down. She knew when he was depressed and went to seek medical and professional help. She knew when he graduated with distinction and decided to get a teaching certificate instead of become a lawyer like he’d planned at first.

She knew him better than she knew herself. She became joyful when he was happy and blue when he was sad and excited when he was planning his next move in life. She celebrated his birthdays and the holidays he observed. She shared New Year’s Eve with him in Times Square where she knew he went every single year without fail.

She lived her life through him, through his experiences, through his loves and disappointments, his successes and his defeats, his whims and his dedications.

His life was hers, and he didn’t know it.

 

“Some Fish Need Certain Bicycles”

I want to be very clear that the narrator of this poem is NOT ME. That is, she is perhaps an aspect of something within myself – but the poem wasn’t written about someone specific. It’s from a couple years ago, and I just rediscovered it in my files and thought I would share it.

I’m sorry I come off strong,
But I’ve been with you too long
to try to hide what I feel and shut my mouth.
I would agree to never see another snowflake
if only things would stay the same,
If only I’d be the only name in your mind
that brings memories of the kind of pleasure
you and I share.
I cannot imagine another life,
Not without your mind and body and soul.
My only goal, as of now,
is to make sure you don’t get tired of me,
that you keep on loving me,
that you won’t want to forsake me.
I wish I needed you like a fish needs a bicycle,
but it’s not true that I do,
And I don’t know how it ever could.
Scary? Oh, I know I am.
Am I in love? Very much so, thank you.
Sad? You have no idea.

Phases

As you may know, if you frequent this page, I am a walker. I walk daily, and a day without a long, brisk walk is a day that is plain wrong. Tonight, as I was taking a walk, I realized that my walks have phases, and they are the same phases each and every time.

The Beginning: When I set out, I am normally optimistic about the coming walk – thinking to myself how good it is to be out, breathing the fresh, hopefully cool, air. This feeling fades though, rather quickly, and this phase doesn’t normally last more than three to four minutes.

The Misery: This is the phase that comes over me as the muscles in my legs begin to ache, as I begin getting warm and uncomfortable, as I begin to think longingly of getting home already. My music begins to annoy me, I feel everyone is staring at me, my muscles burn and my hands freeze or seize up. I begin a fierce, silent battle in my mind – a small part of me trying to convince the rest of me to cut the walk short, to take a shortcut, to give up, that it’s not a big deal. I hope never to succumb to this feeling. Shortly after the halfway point of my walk though, this phase blissfully fades away.

The Glass Half Full: About three minutes after my halfway point, I begin feeling optimistic once more. I think to myself – I’ve finished half already! Even though the weariness in my muscles is still prevailing over my physical well being, my mood begins to lighten and I feel the very beginnings of what will come in the next phase…

The Reason I Walk Every Day: This is my favorite part. On a good day, it lasts almost half my walk. This is the part where my energy and stamina suddenly rise, adrenaline pumping through me, my muscles miraculously become free of pain or discomfort, only full now of the urge to move on and on and on. I feel like I could walk forever, and keep enjoying it. I suddenly feel like bouncing, running, jumping. Every breath of wind feels like a blessing, as if it knows I need the cool air on my face. I feel elated, so proud that I didn’t cave into my discomfort, so in control of my body and energy.

The Ending: This phase is a more tired state of the previous one. It happens only as I walk into the driveway of my building, shaking a little still with the force of the energy flowing through me, out of me. I feel exhausted,  but pleased, satisfied, proud and content all at once.

Peanuts

Growing up in Israel, I had to endure children who only knew who Snoopy was. Nobody here knows of Linus’s blanket, Lucy’s mean spirit or Violet’s vanity. No one here knows anything more about this wonderful comic-world than Snoopy’s dance steps. They don’t know of the ice that nearly crushed his house [he was lured out with a pizza] and they don’t know that he has a Van Gogh in his doghouse and they surely don’t know that he fell in love with a girl beagle with long ears but that her father didn’t let them marry because he’s an “obedience-school dropout.”

Why do I know these things? In a generation where Peanuts was still in the Sunday comics for a few years but no more than that? Well, I know because I still have all my mom’s, dad’s and aunt’s Peanut books. They all cost ninety-nine cents back then, it says so right on the cover. I’m super careful with all these books because I love them, I adore them, I know half the comics in them by heart. At least half. I know of the dandelions on Charlie Brown’s pitcher’s mound, I know of Linus’s crush for his teacher – which was weird because at first he just found her odd and kept telling about the changes she wanted in her salary. I know about the Great Pumpkin and how Linus ruined his chances at being school president because he told everyone how on Halloween night the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch.

Can you tell that I have a bit of an obsessive love for the Peanutes gang?