April 17

I Will Take Time

It has been four months since I’ve last seen her, and her absence is like a crater in my heart.  At night, I lay awake staring at the ceiling and feeling phantom sensations of her fingertips running across my chest and the warmth of her breath condensing on my neck.

I feel like half of a person without her.  Less than half of a person, even.  Like perhaps a past version of myself would not even recognize what I have become.

There was nothing harder than to say goodbye to her, so I never vocalized those words.  I held on to that hope for so long that she’d come back, but I watched her walk away, and I think I knew.  I was fooling myself, but I knew she wasn’t coming back.

I dream of seeing her, being with her, but even my dreams pull her away before they end.  I can feel my own passion erupting in the air around me so thick that I can’t breathe, and then I wake up in a cold sweat clutching the sheets of the empty bed beside me.  I wonder, how do you feel without me there?  Is it anything like I feel?  Is it anything like you’d hoped it would feel?

Even during my waking hours, I can close my eyes and see her there.  I see the same scenes playing out over and over and no matter where I am, I break down – fall to my knees and suddenly taste the salt of my own tears.

You were never supposed to leave; never supposed to do this to me.  You didn’t even have the decency to leave me in one piece, so how am I supposed to put myself back together when I am scattered apart like so many petals of a rose?

February 27

Siberia (unfinished)

I’ve never posted an unfinished story here, but there’s a first time for everything.  I thought it would be interesting to share this, because I have no intentions of finishing it, as the mood I was in while writing it is long gone and will likely never return.

The ocean stretched out before Raye, a veritable expanse of vast nothingness, despite whatever may lurk below the choppy whitecaps of the surface.  She took a step up on the railing and hung over the edge of the ship to admire the way the water was cut and displaced in waves by the hunk of metal she was on.

“Be careful, Raye.”

Clark knew she had a daring sense of adventure, but it scared him just a bit to see her hanging over the railing like that.

“I’m always careful.”

“Except for the time you fell overboard late last year.”

Raye turned to him and winced.

“That was a fluke.”

The ship was as long as an 18-wheeler and 2 and a half times the width.  Its white hull was stained with seawater and barnacles, but the wooden deck was as clean as a living room floor.  It was Raye and Clark’s home, after all.  The ship was their castle; their seaworthy abode and escape.

“Yeah, well flukes can happen twice.”

Raye turned around and stuck her tongue out at Clark.

“Is that gesture supposed to annoy me?”

“No, it’s supposed to make you lighten up.”

“Like that’ll happen.”

Clark turned around and headed back to the deck where he steered the ship from.  He gripped the wheel in his hands, admiring how the worn wood felt smooth against his skin.

February 24

Bridges

“Why are bridges always used as allegories?” Taylor asked.

We were standing on a small bridge walkway over the pond at the park as she seemed to pull this question out of nowhere.

“Well, it’s because bridges connect things, right?”

“Why are you asking me, Jacob?  This question is for you.”

“Fine, then I stand by that statement.  Bridges connect things.  You can either cross a bridge to get over an obstacle, or you can burn a bridge to disconnect yourself from it.”

“That’s so sad, though.  Why do singers always sing about burning bridges?  Why don’t they sing about building new bridges instead?”

I put my finger to my chin in thought.

“If you think about it, that’s basically reality.  The allegory of the bridge is a very accurate one, because to build a bridge, it takes time and effort, but to burn a bridge, you simply drop a match onto it.”

“You think people sing about burning bridges more because it’s easier to do than building them?”

“It’s true though, isn’t it?  How much effort do you have to put into forming a relationship?”

“A lot.”

“And to end one?”

“You say the word ‘goodbye.'”

“Exactly.”

Taylor frowned and looked down at the water.

“That’s just so sad.”

“That just brings up another point.”

Her gaze lifted off of the water and found my eyes.

“And what is that?”

“Maybe another reason people write songs about burning bridges is because sad or angry emotions put writers in moods more conducive to writing.”

“That’s still a little sad.”

“You asked me a question.  You didn’t tell me to sugarcoat it.”

“I know.  I just wish the answer wasn’t so melancholy.”

“Well, if you have any matches, might I suggest tossing them in the water?”

“Why?”

“So you can’t light this bridge on fire.”

Taylor laughed and shot me a smile.

“This bridge is made of steel.”

February 7

The “I” in “Lie”

Marco wasn’t the type of guy to fall in love.  He didn’t understand the lovey-dovey couples he saw making out in the park; didn’t get the poems overflowing with romantic emotion and despair.  There was too much drama involved in romantic relationships; not enough individuality between those that called themselves lovers.  They sponged off of each other.  They made themselves into different people.  Marco would never be anything other than himself.  Not for anyone.

Marco’s best friend was a guy by the name of Rick.  Unlike Marco, Rick had a girlfriend that he was hopelessly in love with.  When Marco hung out with Rick, they did guy things and shot the shit, and that’s exactly how Marco liked it.  But when Marco hung out with Rick and his girlfriend, Lisa, the air was different.  There was a tinge of red around them; an aura of passion and love and lust.

Marco couldn’t blame Rick for being with Lisa.  If you were going to be in a relationship, Marco figured it might as well be with a gorgeous girl, and that’s exactly what Lisa was.  Beauty is such a subjective thing, and though Rick or Marco or any other guy with their tastes in the feminine form could go on and on about what made Lisa physically appealing, what Marco found so inspiring about Lisa wasn’t her long, slightly tanned legs or the curvy lines he could trace up and down the sides of her figure; not her naturally dirty blonde hair or hauntingly beautiful gray eyes; instead, it was the grace that emanated from her, the fluidity with which she moved.  When she entered a room, her presence permeated the air; saturated the atmosphere, made you aware that she was something special.

When Lisa turned her head and looked at you, her hair would flutter over her shoulders, moving from one side to the other, coming to a rest in exactly the right spot.  Her eyes would find their way to you, and her lips would crinkle up in a smile on just one side.  Even for Marco, this was an incredible thing to behold.  Love, no; but for Lisa, he had an immense lust that was nearly beyond control.

But Lisa was Rick’s girl.  Marco could stare from afar, but anything more would be a betrayal of his best friend and of a beautiful girl.  After all, even if she had feelings for him, even if she would leave Rick to be with him, he would not be able to return anything more than physical desire.

Marco had few issues being around Rick and Lisa together.  This was a constant reminder to him that Lisa was off limits.  But there were times that Lisa needed a ride or was bored, and when Rick wasn’t around, Lisa would turn to Marco for trips to grocery store or the mall.  Lisa had girlfriends she could’ve asked, but she didn’t ask them.  She had family she could’ve asked, but she asked him instead.

“Marco, sorry to bug you, but I’m out of milk.”

How could Marco say no to this?  On a hot summer day, Lisa would surely be dressed provocatively enough to drive his testosterone levels through the roof.  And this was temptation.  Unneeded temptation to betray his best friend.

“Sure thing, be right over.”

Temptation that he should’ve avoided, but didn’t.  It wasn’t Lisa’s fault that she was overflowing with feminine charm; why should she have to pay for his near lack of restraint?  She needed groceries, so Marco would take her.  And they’d be friendly the entire time, and nothing more.

Lisa stepped into the car, and Marco was immediately struck by her, as usual.  She was clothed in a baby doll tee and shorts that accentuated her shapely hips and long, slender legs, but this still belied her charm.

“Hey Marco.  Thanks for this.”

Her voice filled his ears like the wind over a field of grass; peaceful, reserved, underappreciated.  If he closed his eyes, he could picture himself there, alone, keeping the beauty of it all to himself.

“No problem, Lisa.  Any time.”

He meant it, too.  He didn’t want to mean it, but he did.

Their trip to the store was nothing more than quotidian.  Ordinary.  Customary.  He expected it; he had no reason to expect anything else, but somehow, he was always disappointed.  Somehow, he felt as though he and Lisa were standing on a cliff’s edge, waiting to see who would jump first.

“Rick’s got work until 10.”

What did that mean?

“That sucks.”

For Marco.  It only made the temptation greater.

They pulled up at Lisa’s apartment.  Being a gentleman, though not feeling much like one, Marco helped Lisa carry her bags.

“Thanks a lot.”

Marco needed to go.  He really needed to go.

“Always a pleasure to help a beautiful woman in distress.”

Shit, why did he always come off so flirtatious by nature?

Lisa giggled and cast a smile at him.

“You wanna hang out for a while?  I’ve got nothing to do.”

Oh no.  Marco knew he had to decline.  That was the only option.

“Sure.”

The dissonance between his head and his mouth never ceased to amaze him.  Why had he accepted?

“You want something to drink?”

Her voice was so calm and beautiful, even asking such a mundane question.   How did she make this garden variety offer of hospitality so alluring?

“Sure, but I can get it myself.”

Marco was already sitting down, though, so Lisa ignored him and made her way to the kitchen.  He watched her walk; admired the way her arms swayed about her sides in such a pliant, yet purposeful manner.  It was as if they were going somewhere, without going anywhere at all.

Lisa opened a cabinet and reached up for a cup.  Marco watched out of the corner of his eye as her tee shirt lifted up and exposed her bare midriff.  It was lightly tanned like the rest of her body; smooth and flat like he’d imagined.

His lust was fiery and intense.  Its flames licked up at his heels as his body grew warmer from excitement and nervousness.  This couldn’t end well.  He needed to go.  Now.

“Here.”

Lisa handed him a cold glass of water, and after a few sips, he cooled down a bit.

“Thank you.”

Maybe he could handle it after all.  Maybe.

“It’s the least I could do for all the times you jump at my beck and call for trips to the store or whatever else I need.”

A glass of water was the very least of what he got out of helping Lisa.

“That’s what friends are for.”

Some friend he was to Rick, though; sitting here in his girlfriend’s apartment, fawning over her.  Lusting after her, barely able to control his libido.

“How good of a friend do you consider Rick?”

Marco was caught off guard.

“He’s my best friend.”

She should’ve known that.

“Well, I guess the question I meant to ask is really how good of a friend are you to Rick?”

Marco froze as Lisa sat down next to him and leaned over just a bit.  His heart pounded out a timpani solo in his chest.

“I…”

The words became cotton in his mouth.

Lisa leaned over a bit more, putting a hand on his leg and making sure that from his angle, he could see down the deep V neck cut of her tee shirt that accentuated her female assets.

“Lisa, what are you-”

She put a finger to his lips, halting not only the words on his tongue, but his very breath.  She lowered the finger.

“I see how you look at me.”

Shit.  Shit.  Shit!

“No, I just-”

Lisa put her finger back on his lips.

“I didn’t say it was a bad thing.”

She moved her finger away and crawled onto his lap.  It should’ve been a raw motion fueled by desire, but even this was done with the finesse of a dancer; the carefully refined nature of a master craftsman.  How did she always move like this?  How could she always exceed the grace of even a swan?

“But, Rick…”

Lisa leaned forward, a few strands of hair falling in front of her face.

“I won’t tell if you won’t.”

She brushed her hair back behind her ear with an elegant gesture of her hand.  Marco couldn’t stand it.  He wanted to cradle her head in his hands, pull her closer; stop the teasing and just get this over with.

“Would you really be unfaithful to Rick for one chance at physical pleasure with me?”

It came out hushed, as if Rick were in the next room.

“Who said anything about frequency?  This could happen once, this could happen many more times after that.”

Marco couldn’t believe it.  This was Lisa?  The Lisa he knew?  If he was in this for the romance, he’d be sorely disappointed, but from his standpoint, the last of his defenses against temptation were quickly being shot down, burned down, knocked over, incinerated.

“I want to; I really want to, but I don’t know if I can live with that on my conscience.”

It was, after all, the only thing holding him back at that point.

Lisa inched forward, her face just inches from Marco’s.  He could see the light makeup on her face and was amazed that she looked like this almost naturally.

Her gray eyes glittered as she grew closer.  One kiss couldn’t hurt, right?  Just a kiss.  Just one.

Their lips locked, eyes closed, warmth spreading across their faces.  It was electric; physical chemistry unlike anything Marco had ever felt.  As their lips parted, he could almost feel a spark between them; a magnetic pull, an aching to guide her lips back to his.

He gently placed his hand behind her ear.

“This is wrong.”

But they kissed again, the spark immediately returning.

There were no fireworks.  Those were for love, and that’s not what this was.  This was electricity; this was fire.  Play with electricity, you get shocked.  Play with fire, you get burned.

“You want this too.  I know you do.  All of those times you’ve given me rides.  You just drop what you’re doing and show up, doing everything you can to stifle your lewd eyes.  But I see you, and I do the same right back to you.  Do you really think I was out of milk today?”

Marco knew what he was doing.  He knew his friendship with Rick would be over if he found out.  He knew it was a stupid risk and a terrible thing to do.

But Lisa was right there in front of him, the most tempting seductress ever put on the face of the planet.  He couldn’t help himself.  This was a carnal desire beyond his control.

Two kisses, three kisses, what was the difference?

Electricity and fire lashed together in the air as they kissed again.  Lisa could practically feel her hair standing on end; Marco could still feel the heat of the flames on his feet.  It didn’t matter, though.  Nothing mattered as they started stripping their clothes off.

That evening Marco and Lisa became slaves to their lust; to the pleasures of the flesh; to a life of lying.  He left at 8, knowing that he could never look Rick in the eyes again.

November 28

Wake Up

In elementary school while in 4th grade, I met a girl named Marika. Her name was pronounced like the name Marie, but with a -ka on the end. Some boys called her “America” as a joke, but I couldn’t bring myself to make fun of her name because it was unique, unlike mine – Chris.

We remained friends throughout middle school and high school, but we were never really close. I’d been to her house multiple times for parties, but that was about it.

College changed everything, though. From our small town, we were the only 2 people that went to a particular university 2 states away. I don’t know why she picked that university, but it had a good biological science program, and that’s why I went.

We started talking and hanging out more often during the last couple of months of high school when we realized that besides each other, there was probably not a single person that either of us knew that would be going that that school.

That summer was one of the most important summers of my life. We got a lot closer, or, at least, close enough to decide to rent an apartment together, which I guess is pretty close. I never expected her to become my best friend, especially not so quickly, but by the 3rd week of school, I was sure of it.

We clicked in a very unique way, but maybe it was only unique to me because my best friends had always been guys. She’d drag me off with her to the mall, and suddenly, even though I’d always hated shopping, it wasn’t so bad anymore. I’d make her go see stupid guy movies with me, and she’d laugh her ass off the entire time.

Toward the middle of our sophomore year, Marika started dating a guy named Dillon. She always brought her boyfriends by the apartment to get my opinion on them, and he seemed like a pretty decent guy. Usually, I was a pretty decent judge of character, but with Dillon, I was way off the mark.

A couple of weeks later, Marika came home crying at 1 in the morning with a black eye.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Dillon…hit me,” she timidly responded.

“WHAT?!”

I was furious.

“It’s not the first time,” she bawled. “I didn’t know what to do!”

She turned around and lifted up the back of of her shirt. There were three other bruises spread across the upper and lower part of her back.

I couldn’t see straight – could hardly breathe.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” I asked. I tried my best to not let my anger affect my tone of voice toward her, though. She was scared and hurt, and screaming at her wouldn’t help that. “I would’ve helped you.”

“I know, I know,” she cried. “But I was scared. He said he’d hurt me worse. I thought I would just keep waiting to wake up from this nightmare.”

“It’s over,” I said, holding her in my arms and stroking her hair with my hand as gently as I could. “I will never let that monster hurt you ever again.”

It took everything I had to not throw on some clothes, drive to that bastard’s house, and beat the living daylights out of him. Marika needed a friend though, and I was certainly not abandoning her to cause even more violence.

She cried herself to sleep that night on the sofa. I threw a blanket on her and sat across from her thinking. I tried to sleep, but my head was spinning with thoughts that wouldn’t give way to slumber. Dillon might as well have punched my own mother in the face, and I don’t think I could’ve been more infuriated.

I finally nodded off sometime around 3 or 4. I actually had a pretty good dream that night, but I still woke up in a foul mood at around 10 the next morning. Marika was awake, but she hadn’t moved from her spot on the sofa.

“Hey, how you holdin’ up?” I said.

I”‘m okay,” she said.

“What do you want for breakfast? I’ll make whatever you want.”

“Anything?” she asked.

“Yes, anything.”

“Will you make French toast with strawberries and cream on top?”

“Coming right up!” I smiled, adding under my breath, “As long as it’ll cheer you up.”

I went in the kitchen and made breakfast, the entire time with Marika commenting on how good it smelled.

“Breakfast is served!” I said as I finished the last piece.

Watching her savor her breakfast made me feel a little better. If she could forget about what had happened for a little while, then all the work of preparing a nice breakfast was worth it.

knock knock knock

“A visitor at 10:30?” I said.

“Wonder who that could be?” Marika said.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK

“Someone that’s very impatient, apparently,” I said, getting up to answer the door.

“OPEN THE DAMN DOOR, MARIKA,” a voice screamed from outside.

I froze. Dillon.

“Oh no…” Marika timidly whispered from behind me.

I flung the door open, didn’t say a word. Didn’t need to. I swung my fist back and clocked that son of a bitch square between the eyes. He staggered back, fazed but still upright.

“What the…” he stammered.

“Stay the HELL away from Marika,” I gritted through my teeth, eyes fierce with rage. “If you come anywhere near her or this apartment again, I will call the police so fast your ass wont even know what happened. And don’t you even DARE threaten her through ANY means EVER again.”

“Look man, I was just coming to apologize, you don’t have to…” he started.

“Stop. I don’t care. You are a miserable little boy, and I wont give you the chance to try to rid yourself of the guilt. Now get out of here you giant, insufferable douchebag.”

I didn’t think he’d actually leave, but he turned and spit on the ground, and then walked away.

I slammed the door and only then did I feel my hand throbbing from hitting Dillon so hard.  Marika stared at me for a few seconds until silent tears started to fall down her cheeks.  There was no sobbing, no noise to indicate she was crying.  Just tears.

“He isn’t worth crying over,” I said, breaking the tension of the silence.

“I’m not crying over him,” she said, her voice quivering.

“What are they teardrops for, then?”

“I never thought I’d have a friend that cared about me as much as you do,” she said.

Silence enveloped the room.  I wasn’t expecting that response at all.  I was touched, yet I couldn’t respond.  She had been so sad, yet her tears were those of happiness?  Tears because I was in her life?

“T-thanks,” I finally mustered.  She smiled, though still crying, and got up out of the chair.

She didn’t speak, she didn’t even make noise as she walked.  Inches from me, she stopped, wrapped her arms around me, and locked them there.  I could feel the moisture from her cheeks soaking into my shirt as she buried her face into my chest.

“Marika…”

“Don’t make me let go,” she said, her voice muffled, though still intelligible.

Then, there was silence.  I could hear her breathing and nothing else for at least 10 minutes.  She just stood there, holding me, and I held her.  I wasn’t sure what was running through her head, but if this was what she needed, then I’d gladly give it to her.

She’d finally woken up from her nightmare.