Socio [Short Piece]

You know that it’s wrong.

Trouble is, you don’t understand why this is the case. It’s not that you don’t know right from wrong. You do. They taught you all that, and you parroted it back to them like the obedient child you were. Are. You’re not so far from being a child, really, when you think about it. The thrill is still there, and you feel the same now as you did when you did it for the first time, when you were only five years old.

They said you were cured when they let you out. As far as you’re concerned, there was nothing to cure, but you played along. You’re still playing along now. But you give yourself moments, moments of delicious abandon, of freedom, of allowing yourself to be who you were meant to be. It’s the only way you can act like all the others. If you didn’t give yourself the respite from the constant hustle and bustle of normality, you don’t think you’d be alive right now.

So it’s wrong to do as you do. So what? People do “wrong” every day, don’t they? Even the most stand-up citizens sometimes fudge their tax-returns or ignore the phone when their old mother calls. The world is full of hypocrites, and you’re just one more.

The only thing that sometimes worries you is what will happen if you’re caught. You’re careful, of course. You’re probably the best. Usually, they look like suicides or accidents. And you don’t have a pattern, a ritual. At least, not one that they can discern. You never leave traces of your private ceremonies, and none of the ones you leave to be found seem to have anything in common, on the surface. You’re safe, so far. But what if they catch you one day?

Will you be able to fake remorse? Insanity? Will you be able to be free again? You don’t know, and that is the only fear this great wide world holds for you.

Bad Hair Day

I have never paid much attention to my hair. I’ve tried, time after time, to care. I’ve tried arranging it in different styles, I’ve tried dying pieces of it to see if my old love of black hair would resonate on my own, I’ve tried to muster up the courage to cut it into some completely different and new shape. But no, none of it’s worked.

My hair is long, right down my back. I’m told that it’s a blessing that it’s so straight and thick, although personally I just feel that it’s rather dull. I’ve been told that I’m anything from blond to a redhead, but yet when I look at it I see a very normal, dull shade of light brown and nothing more. No matter, though. I truly don’t care about it enough.

My default hair-style is a ponytail, tight as can be, so that I don’t feel it tickling my neck or shoulders and so it doesn’t get in my face. Sometimes, when I take the scrunchy off at night, my hair retains some of that pony-tail shape, giving the hair going down my back a funny little dent in it where it had been restrained all day.

For all that, I can’t cut it. I have dreams of getting a cool new haircut, shorter than it’s been since I was just a tiny tot, but nothing ever comes of them. I’m scared of the change, I suppose. Still, even though I find my hair to be rather dull, I’m blessed with never having had a bad hair-day. Day started on the wrong foot? I’ve got those. Days where I seem even clumsier than usual? Got those, too. Days where I just wake up and think something’s absolutely wrong with my life and the world? Yup, those are around as well. Day where I wake up and think about my hair being problematic? Nah. Not at all.

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.

1. Mr. and Mrs. Adams [3]

“Yes, hi, it’s me.”

Caroline clutched the receiver in her hand. She looked at Mr. Adams, and words failed her as tears sprung into her eyes. She hadn’t heard Marty’s voice in almost three years. Now, out of the blue, there he was, sounding just as he did before. Mr. Adams walked into his study and picked up the phone on his desk there. He spoke into it in a quiet, sad voice.

“Where have you been, Marty?”

“Oh,” the voice over the phone sounded taken aback. “Hi, Dan.”

“Well?”

“I- I’m sorry,” the voice began to choke as the words tumbled out. “I’m so sorry, to both of you. It’s just that after Susan… and then the funeral was just horrible and Claire wasn’t speaking to anyone and I couldn’t shake the feeling that the both of you blamed me somehow – blamed me for listening to Susan, for not telling you sooner, for hiding it from you for a year. And then the operation – and the doctors didn’t know that they’d find what they found and just – we didn’t know, and it was supposed to be easy and quick and gone within a few months and Susan felt that it was bad enough that we lived so far away and I just…”

“Oh, Marty,” breathed Mrs. Adams.

She and Mr. Adams had the same memories flooding their senses. Both were remembering their blissful lives, teaching at the university and living peacefully in this house that they finally managed to pay off the mortgage on. Both remembered how three years ago they got a phone call from their only daughter, their Susan. They remembered her calm and collected voice as she lied to them outright, telling them that she needed to have some really minor surgery and not to worry and not to come down to Manhattan for it – it was just this tiny lump the doctors needed to take out, it would be over in a few days. The surgery had, in actuality, been for removing her breast-cancer, which she hadn’t told her parents about since it was considered curable. The doctors hadn’t expected what resulted in the surgery – a complication, a blood clot. They’d removed it, but apparently some of it had traveled through her bloodstream already and had obstructed some smaller veins. She’d died from the blood not managing to travel to her brain rather than from her cancer.

She hadn’t told her parents about any of her chemotherapy, hadn’t told them about what she was going through – she didn’t want to worry them, as she told Marty over and over again. It was bad enough, in her eyes, that Claire, their daughter, had to know and see what was happening. That was Susan’s biggest flaw and always had been – she wanted to take everything on herself, without help from the outside, without causing worry to anyone. Mr. and Mrs. Adams knew this. It was themselves they blamed for not guessing more about her surgery. They blamed Susan, too, although it had taken them two years in counseling after her death to be able to admit it to themselves. But the only thing they blamed Marty for was his cutting his ties with them after Susan’s funeral. They loved Marty like a son, and they wanted to be a part of Clair’s life.

This is what they both, through many moments of choked silences, managed to convey to Marty during their conversation that August evening. Marty, who had broken down completely and sobbed into the phone a few times, sat alone in his apartment in Manhattan – Claire was at her drawing class – and felt that for the first time in three years he had some hope in his horizons. He’d lost his own parents when he was much younger, and the simple warmth of Susan’s folks and the way they forgave him immediately for his mule-headed guilt-trip went straight to his heart.

It sealed his decision. After hanging up with his in-laws, and promising them that he’d bring Claire for a visit very soon, he made a big post-it note and hung it on the fridge. It said “CALL REAL ESTATE AGENT AND SAY YES.” He underlined the word “YES” three times, picked up his keys, and set out to pick Claire up, thinking that the future might finally be looking up.

Dora’s Birthday [Part I]

It was Dora’s birthday, and everything seemed to be going wrong.
When she woke up in the morning and walked to the bathroom, she stubbed her toe and it really hurt. Her mother tried to find some ice for it, but the ice-box was empty, and so she made Dora hold a cold can of beans on her toe instead. Dora pointed out, as she held the can, that it was leaking. Her mother said a bad word, apologized, and got a cloth and some soap to clean up the bean-juice from the floor.
Later, after Dora had had breakfast – with her toe still throbbing – her father came into the room and said “Happy birthday, Dora-Dear! Seven is huge.” He lifted her into the air and kissed both her cheeks. When he put her back down on the floor, though, she slipped on the wet area where her mother had washed and fell right down on her butt. That hurt too.
It was a school day, and Dora was looking forward to having everyone sing to her and lift her up on a chair. She skipped upstairs even though her behind still ached and her toe felt swollen. She was about to put on her favorite pair of red shoes with blue stripes on them, when she saw her dog, Brownie, look at her guiltily from the doorway. Dora knew that look. She peered into her shoes, and sure enough, Brownie had left a big puddle of puke in one of them. Dora yelled at Brownie, who got scared and ran away. She regretted it afterwards, but it was getting late, so she put on her second favorite pair of shoes [white with green polka-dots] and went downstairs where her parents were waiting to drive her to school. She stuck her tongue out at Brownie, who was sulking underneath the coffee-table, as she went out the front door.
At school, things seemed to be looking up; all her friends wished her a happy birthday, and Mrs. Peterson, the first grade teacher, smiled warmly and promised that Dora would get an extra chocolate chip cookie for dessert at lunch-time. But then, at lunch-time, the dessert wasn’t chocolate chip cookies after all – it was vanilla ice-cream, which Dora detested, so she didn’t end up getting any dessert at all.
When Dora got home from school, she found Brownie hiding under her bed. She lured her out with soft cooing noises and stroked her, saying she was a bad dog for puking in her shoe but she she loved her anyway. Then it was time for Dora to leave again with her parents. They were all going to Dora’s grandparents house for a nice dinner, a yummy cake, and what Dora was looking forward to most: presents!
Dora was sure things were finally going to go well now. After all, what more could go wrong? She’d had her toe hurting in her shoes all morning, her butt was still feeling very bumped from the fall, her shoes weren’t as comfy as the ones she really liked, and she hadn’t had anything sweet at all today! But now things would be fine, because things were always fine at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.