by The Kietz
There are few things as exhilarating as sharing a meal and a conversation with an exquisite young woman. One may have pined for weeks, months, perhaps years, waiting for the appropriate circumstance to muster the nerve, and the perfect balance between demand and begging—the paradoxical marriage of self-assurance and lowliness—required to propose the overwhelming question:
“I am about to go out for lunch, if you would like to join me.”
The game is set. As one door opens many others close. Women who once basked in the male gaze now nonchalantly turn and saunter their wanton hips elsewhere. Men, hearing the creak of a shutting door, begin to strut, and they scheme how the lock may be barred from latching its last. It does not take a strong foot to keep a door ajar.
When at last he has the young lady to himself she is a delight. He stammers things he supposes are charming and makes premature advances, tipping his quivering hand. She submits to his intrepid compliments. Her eyes do not shy from his. There is hope. At last a smile breaks. There is no anxiety, nor rapture, on par with first inkling flutters of requited affection, like the first spark of a roaring inferno. There is hope, hope that this time the flames may be hot enough to burn down the taciturn walls which enclose the exasperated tundra of a young man’s solitude. It starts slowly and furtively at first, then, like an avalanche, all at once it begins—the delving into and sharing of secrets, the exposition of past regrets, the unveiling mutual interest, and all the hints to a continuation of their correspondence all lead up to later that frostbitten night when she visits a warm room that is not his own.
She was not beautiful and knew it. Her lips raw and rigid pressed against each other as she gnawed the flaking skin off. She caught her reflection in the dark glass of the car windshield.
She turned her face away from the wide blue eyes that stared back from a crooked face. A shiver ran up her spine twisting her like a body drowning. Cold and pale she sat, fingers like bone on the steering wheel, waiting for the light to turn.
She lived her life in circles. Her lungs always caught waiting for the moment when they would exhale, releasing their anticipation into a moment of glorious metamorphosis. But glory never seemed to come, and her throat always burned with the breath it bated.
She prayed for escape from the endless cycle, her lips whispering blurred words that twisted over each other. She knew already that salvation never came to people to like her, people who clung to the earth like dust, who were weak, worthless, weary. Too tired to pray, worn down from clawing at the walls for a way out.
The lights of downtown burned her eyes. Retinas glowing with the green light reflecting through her windshield, she drove. Windows down, wind whipping her hair, moonlight caressing her skin with a warmth she had never known, she pressed her foot down harder and flew.
The world stood still, wrapping around her as she tore through the papery skin of night. Screeching through the darkness she stopped on a lonely bridge distant from the city. From the rusty cocoon of the car she emerged.
Blinking in the sickly orange glow of the street lamps she climbed over the rail and onto the ledge. She stood trembling, illumined in the tender moonlight. Hovering in the shadows, her reflection glowing on the water’s surface.
She could be beautiful. She could take a breath, shut her eyes, and fall. Her flesh would burn away, her bones exposed would crumble, and she’d join the velvet sky, transformed, a brilliant light among the stars. She would be free.
Shaking, she turned away from the water and looked back to the halo of lights blinking in the distance. She crumpled to her knees, sobbing heavy gasping tears.
He would be home now. His girth sprawled across the couch, TV blaring, a king surveying his domain. He wouldn’t care she was missing until she came home. Then he would thunder to the doorway, propelling his body with massive strides.
She’d press her thin fingers against her eyes, fall to her knees, crawl, scream. His fists would sting the air, his hands would grab, ripping, tearing. He would drag her across the floor, have his way, and leave her heaving body on the blood smeared linoleum floor. And in the morning he would whisper he didn’t mean it. Didn’t she know he loved her?
The black scabs of blood would crumble apart in the water as she scrubbed away the painful hours. With heavy hands, she’d smear the fleshy stick of concealer across her bruises, rub foundation into the cuts. Across her swollen lips she’d draw an apathetic smile; over her blackened eyes she’d place thick sunglasses. She’d wear the same mask as all the other girls and no one would ever know.
Staring into the cool dark water below, she rubbed away the tears that carved rivers down her pasty cheeks. She could taste their salt seeping into the corners of her mouth and wiped them away. Layers of creamy peach foundation, thick black mascara, and heavy red lipstick smeared across her hands and wrists.
This could be it. Her body smothered in years of torment, stained orange, black, red, she could fling herself into the darkness below. All her secrets, all his promises would dissolve in the water. No one would know her pain, how he had hurt her. She would die and leave behind a world ignorant to her suffering.
They would stand above her pale broken body and sigh, what a shame, so sad, if only we had known. He would look down on her and nod with the others, I had no idea.
He would keep on living, smiling, stealing and breaking, destroying women with reckless abandon. She would be the one left suffocating beneath the earth; the one who would bear the burden. He would be liberated, her body still crushed beneath his massive feet.
Some faint ember of rage began to flicker within her chest. Burning, bright and warm it rose through her lungs, flickered throughout her body. She would not be the burden bearer. She would not die for him. She would not spend eternity suffocating beneath him. She was worth more.
She would be her own savior.
Burning with a flaming intensity she had long forgotten, she walked back to the car. The orange light of the street lamps wove like fire through her hair. The red and black stains that smeared across her face and arms shone like flames burning in the twilight.
The sun began to rise above the city behind her, etching its pale glow across the skyline. She didn’t notice. She was watching the road ahead.
Her clear blue eyes met the reflection in the windshield. She was not beautiful.
But she could be.
He was standing in his bed, looking at the ceiling like it wasn’t there. He could see right through it. He could see the sea of stars that was covering the sky every night. It felt like… a blanket for him. The stars eased his pain every time he looked at them. He grinned. He was watching himself swimming in stars, not flying. He was swimming in that vast ocean the sky is. Ever since he was a little boy, everyone told him that the sky is the limit. For him… the sky was only the beginning. A beginning of a journey through stars, through the Universe. He woke up. He was looking at his desk. Looking at a model of a spaceship. The feeling of the spaceship in his arms gave him confidence. Confidence that one day he may travel among the stars. He went to his bed again. This time he could sleep. This time he could watch himself flying, instead of swimming through stars…
The girl was desperate for the lovely dress hanging inside the thick wall of glass. Her eyes were glued , when her nose touched the cold glass setting off the alarm. Guard at the huge shop was huffing and puffing with disgust, he couldn’t see the need within her desire to touch this fine muslin..or was it silk. The guard poked a stick in her ribs, she was about to scream..yet too starved to utter a scream..or a word. She moved quickly, the guard was yelling, “In this cold night!!” The girl was sad, she wanted to feel the dress softness with her finger tip, but her hands were dirty..her appearance of rags was an insult to the shop..but somehow she was smiling..her emotions were confused as they were trapped..she was now making new plans to look elsewhere..people have such huge windows to showcase for display and so little patience for an ardent admirer..who can not afford the price.