Step Out [Flash Fiction]

Jimmy was a bellboy. He wore a dark red uniform with shiny brass buttons, polished black shoes, and a cap with a hard top. Sometimes, when there was no one in the elevator, he took the cap off and ran his fingers through his blond hair. More rarely, and only if he was having a bad day, he would take his shoes off and stretch his toes inside their gray silk socks.

Mr. and Mrs. Hall came into the elevator. “Where to?” Jimmy asked with a polite smile. “Lobby,” Mr. Hall grunted without looking at him. Jimmy stepped forward and pressed the big yellow button with the letter “L” stamped in it. As the elevator descended, he kept his eyes fixed forward and pretended not to hear Mrs. Hall’s hissed accusations and Mr. Halls impatient sighs and indignant tut-tuts. “Good day,” Jimmy said, stepping forward to hold the elevator door open. Mr. and Mrs. Hall didn’t answer.

Jimmy stepped back into the elevator and waited for the door to close. It was the off-season now, so there weren’t as many guests, which meant Jimmy didn’t have as much work. It upset him to stand in the elevator and wait, but he was a bellboy and that was his job. The automatic light-switch was on a timer, as was the fan, and pretty soon both went off, leaving Jimmy planted firmly in the back, left hand corner of the elevator in the increasingly stifling dark.

He couldn’t remember how it happened exactly. In fact, there were many things that he couldn’t remember. He knew, vaguely, that there had been things to remember – maybe a father’s proud glance and a mother’s hug, maybe even (and he wasn’t at all sure about this) a scent of wet dog – but those things were gone now. Sometimes, when a little girl came into the elevator and smiled at him, he felt something around his rib-cage, a sense of loss or maybe grief, but he was sure that there hadn’t ever been a girl to remember; during long stretches of time in the dark, he thought that maybe there could have been a girl in some future, though.

Jimmy was a bellboy. His name tag, a vital part of his uniform, proved it. The men and women who came into the elevator and then stepped out of it all knew he was a bellboy and, usually, treated him accordingly, as part of the furniture. That was alright. Jimmy was very skillful at what he did and he was aware that his servile attitude was excellent and appropriate. He just wondered, once in a very long while, if there would come a day when he would step out of the elevator after the likes of Mr. and Mrs. Hall.

Inadequate

Not enough – that’s the thing.

Not enough of a personality.

Not enough of a joker.

Not enough of an adventurer.

Not enough of a drama-queen.

Too much also –

That’s the strange thing,

How there can be too much

That becomes part of inadequacy.

Too much of a ‘fraidy-cat.

Too much of a listener.

Too much of a pleaser.

Too much of a dullard.

Too much of a forgetful face.

Not enough and too much

of everything Important, it seems.

Without

Disclaimer: I’m sorry, everyone, for being so emo and sappy over the holidays… I have a promise to myself never to erase any posts; otherwise, I’d erase this crappy poem. Instead, I’m adding this disclaimer.

 

Without,

Things are different.

The sky hasn’t fallen,

The planets orbit as usual,

Toddlers cry and children laugh,

Parents love and people die.

But things are still different,

Without.

Without,

Molehill fears become mountains,

Nasty insecurities become screaming flaws,

While outwardly things remain the same,

A mask making up for everything,

Without.

Without,

Experiences are private once more,

Sharing becomes hard work,

Terrors and nightmares rule the dark,

Loneliness is a natural state,

Without.

Without,

Is simply harder than with,

Is sadder than with,

Is a struggle worthy only of the word

Without.

Everybody Dies

It’s an inevitable truth that everybody dies. We don’t all go in the same way. Not all of us get to live long enough. Too many of us die before our time. I say us, because humanity is a species, a world-wide animal that has taken over this planet. Doesn’t matter what you believe – in Darwin’s theories of evolution or in God creating the world in six days or the hundred other explanations people have to figure out how we got here. It doesn’t really matter why we’re here. Only that we are. And that we all die.

Some people believe in a beyond –  a heaven or a hell or something in between. Some believe that we’re all born again into a new body after we die. Some of us believe that there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, that dying is the simple end of life itself, with nothing further. Once again, it doesn’t really matter what we believe about what happens after death. Some of us may take comfort in knowing that there’s a better place that we go to. But some, maybe even many, would rather keep going with their lives as long as they can without finding out what’s awaiting.

Everybody dies. Yes. It’s a simple truth. Death is portrayed as a dark angel, a hooded figure with a sickle, a looming darkness, a white light, a sense of peace… None of us will know what death is until it happens to us. The only thing I can imagine about death is silence. Absolute silence. So still, so extremely quiet, that it’s deafening.

Why does everybody die? It’s the simple cycle of nature, or God, or Gods – whatever and whomever you want to attribute it to. Some people believe there’s a reason – a sin, or a mistake, or something that needs punishing. Some people believe there’s a reason – that a person is too good to live in this world of fear and darkness. Some people simply believe there are no reasons.

The problem is, until now, this looks like a depressing, rather scattered article about death. But is it? Really? Isn’t knowing that death is inevitable freeing somehow? It can let us live without fear, without the constant gnawing pangs of worry over what might happen to us when we fly, or cross the road, or have a surgery. I can’t say that knowing that death is waiting for us all helps when someone we love dies. It doesn’t help then, and won’t ever, because losing someone is more difficult than losing oneself, or most always is.

But in terms of each of our own personal lives – there’s a freedom to being aware of the simple truth that humans, just like all other animals, procreate and then die, leaving the world to become, hopefully, a better place.

“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.

Freakout

Tears swell up.

Bile churns.

Head aches.

Heart burns.

*

Muscles tense.

Thoughts amass.

Hands shake.

Words turn crass.

*

Flying away.

Later today.

Not to stay.

But that’s okay.

*

Freakout.

Walkabout.

Lipsapout.

I’llsortitout.

Collapse

Some things are destroyed all at once, in a flash and with a bang. The ruin is catastrophic, dramatic, big and bold. It’s a declaration of horror and ruin, without any cause for doubt or room for discussion. There’s a sort of beauty, stark and horrible, to a ruin like this. People watch car crashes and buildings going up in flames and roadkill for this reason – there’s a beauty in the dramatic effect of a life being snuffed out or even simply in the ruin of something substantial that you wouldn’t expect to be destroyed so quickly or easily. It’s a morbid and fearful beauty, but there is beauty in it.

Then there are things that collapse from within, slowly, without drawing attention to themselves. Things stew for ages, gradually becoming worse, collapsing by degrees. It’s like something decaying, almost – there is something there underneath the surface that rots away slowly, until one day you realize that the whole thing is about to fall down completely with the slightest puff of wind or nudge of a fingertip. There is a different sort of beauty here – the frail, the pathetic, the fragile and ethereal look that sometimes comes across in this situation. It is the feeling of impending doom, but one that has been coming for a long, long time.

No matter what, there is a beauty in collapse, however wrong it may be.

Winter Break

I’m officially on winter break!

This makes me joyful. While the past few months have been eye-opening, difficult, wonderful, mind-expanding, glorious, interesting, intense and any other number of adjectives – while all this is true, it’s also true that I’m not sorry that my first semester in college is officially over. I’m through the first hump now, and I know more of what I can do, what’s expected of me and how well I can perform. I’m pleased with my studies – rather, I’m ecstatic about them. I never thought that I could truly enjoy intense studying as much as I did – that is, I always knew that I’d enjoy learning new things in college, but my satisfaction and pleasure in it in reality exceeded my wildest dreams.

Still, I’m happy that I have a break now. I have almost a month to air out my brain a little and go back to school feeling refreshed and eager again. I truly find it rather astonishing how much knowledge I feel I’ve gained over the past months, as well as how much work I’ve done. My mind still reels at the notion that I wrote somewhere around 150 pages throughout the past three-and-a-half months.

Now that I’m back, I’m going to be kicking myself back into my proper writing/blogging regime. I miss the creative side of my brain and intend to use it again during the break I have. This shouldn’t be too difficult a task, if only because my recently acquired insomnia causes me to lie in bed for hours thinking about characters and things I want to write about. Next post should finally be something more than a useless, silly ramble like this!

My Desk

My desk is wooden, old and creaking. The drawers stumble and rattle when they’re opened and shut, like old wheezing men, protesting the exercise forced on them. The keyboard tray slumps down precariously when any weight is put on it, threatening to someday tumble to the floor.

The desktop itself is large and smooth, real wood or else a very good imitation. On the right there’s a small, square box of tissue, blue and reassuring. It’s a homely little thing, but comforting somehow in its ordinariness. Behind it is a pile of books – Sophocles, volume I and The Norton Anthology of Drama, volume I. Underneath them lie two large notebooks, one black and bearing the name of the college and the other a yellow Mead. Beside them lie a pair of black ballet shoes still in their box and a ball of dark purple yarn and a scarf-in-progress. Behind these, nestled against the wall, are DVDs and CDs, just a few, dearly beloved and not willing to be left behind.

In the middle of the desktop is yet another pile – a blue folder weighted down by a green Mead notebook lying underneath a recycled grey notebook. On top of all these lies a copy of Martin Luther’s Three Treatises, a train-ticket stub tucked at page 105 as a bookmark. A scrunchie lies abandoned between this pile and the large computer screen, along with an overflowing plastic box of paperclips, a pink set of Post-Its, a flashlight and a Scotch-tape dispenser.

Next to these, on the far left of the desk, is a small and cheerful pail with pins leaning against it [STITCH & BITCH and I LOVE HH] and in the pail are an assortment of black pens and brightly colored highlighters, as well as a pair of children’s scissors and an unsharpened pencil with a cheerful star-shaped eraser stuck to its end. Finally, in the left hand back corner of the desk is a black lamp, goose-neck poised in an odd position so as to cast the most advantageous light.

At 1:35AM, the objects on the desk are reassuring and homey, reminders that life can be comfortable, even if it’s only on a small four-by-two foot desk.

Victoria’s Secret [Part I]

Victoria stood at the window of her big corner office and gazed out at the view. It was days like these that made working in an office like this worth it – the sky was full of white, fluffy clouds that changed shape constantly, and the city gleamed in the rays of sunlight coming through the gaps between the clouds. A crow flew perilously close to the window and Victoria marveled at the way the bird stretched its wings and glided on the wind, seemingly without effort. She closed her eyes and imagined what it would be like to be that crow, free to fly on the currents and soar through the sky. The crow gave a loud caw and jerked Victoria out of her daydream.

She sighed, turned her back on the window, and picked up the cup of tea on her desk. Gulping some, she choked and spit it back out into the cup – it was stone cold. She sat down heavily in the big leather office chair that came with the big corner office and glanced at the open notebook on the desk. It was her daily planner, full of ink blots and cross-outs and arrows pointing to other dates and times. Being head of department was no easy job, Victoria had found out, and the useless secretary she had been given was more interested in fighting with his girlfriend on the phone than in doing his job, so Victoria found herself needing to check and double check all her appointments. Not to mention, of course, the constant changes caused to her schedule just because of last minute things that tended to crop up in the department.

Shaking her head to clear the haze that was settling over her, Victoria got up and pushed open the door to her office.

“Patrick!” she snapped. “I’m going out to lunch. Please make sure to answer the calls I get in the meantime, all right? And I beg of you,” she added as an afterthought, “to write them down and not try to remember them. That’s how I missed Michelle’s message yesterday.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” grinned the twenty-something year old. He looked like he could have been an underwear model, with his blond hair, blue eyes and the muscles bulging under his slightly too sheer white button-down shirt. Victoria had almost laughed outright when she’d first seen him, a few weeks ago when she’d started her new and improved position. Talk about a blast from the past, she’d thought then, as she tried to keep a straight face. Ever since, she’d felt a strange mixture of humor and exasperation towards him. The one person who didn’t seem to think of her as The Big Scary Boss was also the same person she needed most to help her out on a day to day basis, and his lack of fear or respect towards her or the office as a whole wasn’t helping his job performance.

“I mean it, Patrick,” Victoria yelled back over her shoulder as she walked down the corridor towards the elevators. “No forgotten messages, okay?”

“Totally, Ma’am!” he answered in his surfer-dude voice.

Better make it a quick lunch, then, thought Victoria as she heard the unmistakable sound of Patrick’s cellphone go off and the subsequent beginning of an argument with his girlfriend. She pressed the elevator’s DOWN button a few times impatiently, knowing it wouldn’t make it come any faster. There’s another annoying thing about working up in one of these big, cold offices – the damn elevators never seem to come all the way up here.

The elevator finally arrived with a loud “ding-ding” and Victoria entered, nodding politely to the man and woman already in there. The doors shuddered to a close after her and the elevator began to descend. All of a sudden, with an ominous thump and a disturbing creak, the elevator stopped jarringly and the lights abruptly went off.

The three in the elevator simultaneously cursed.