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.

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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.