fiction

Date Night

Those two over there, yeah, the table in the corner right there. Before you got here he said: “Are you more of a wine girl or, uh, martinis? I’m not much of a wine guy but I’d maybe go for a pinot grigio.” The waitress has come by their table three times already. Oh, no, don’t be sorry. I was enjoying myself, doing a little eavesdropping, just hanging out, killing time, etcetera etcetera. When they sat down he opened his menu and remarked that it was much longer than what he saw online as if making a pronouncement about a new land he’d just set foot upon, his crew of weary sailor-explorers in tow. Then they were talking about some tabloid scandal, hard to say which one, hard to say it matters—“I never really followed up,” he said—really said “followed up”—“but from what I can tell, he was totally in on it.” She said “yeah.” That’s the only word I’ve heard from her, might be the only one she knows. Yeah, aren’t you funny. Look if you can, at the earnestness of his expression, look how vacuous. It’s astounding. I feel like we’re on safari. How does a face get so empty? I know I’m being judgy, I know, I’m probably just trying to impress you with the astuteness of my observations and my charming prattling commentary. It’s really not cute. Does “judgy” end in -ey or just -y? Ah but now here comes their food and wait… wait… yep, their phones….

Anyway, I’m just dodging, to be honest. Funny how people say things like that, like “in all honesty,” “to be honest,” “full disclosure,” and then don’t tell the truth. It’s like a blatant pretext for a lie. But it’s kinda nice to know the truth’s not coming, so you don’t have to ferret it out. I’m not lying, though, just talking to keep from saying anything. Or getting lost in my thoughts and having a noticeable detachment sort of driftaway. That’d be uncomfortable. At least I assume. And you’d need ferrets. No, it’s not you, not at all. Well, sort of. Sort of you. That looks delicious, what they got. I should ask her if it is. I bet she’ll say “yeah.” It’s mostly me and sort of you. I’m not sure what that means either. It’s this. Me. And you. Full disclosure. And I’m afraid if I go down the path I feel is before me—us—it’ll be almost impossible to keep from going at it too… I don’t know… fervently. I was gonna say “hard” but that sounds weird and it’s not a matter of forcefulness. Like that time I was typing away and the period key popped right off the keyboard. I couldn’t tell where one thought stopped and another began. Just think of all those endings lost. Yeah, I really did. I know, happens all the time, not that interesting, but thanks for indulging me. I know that’s not what you’re saying, I am. Let’s put a period on that. Very funny indeed. He just sniffed his wine.

So here’s the thing, a very serious thing. The thing is I’ve had a thing for you since… I don’t know when. Kidding, kidding. That’s what he probably just said to her, right after the sniff and a slow blink. Then we’d end up like them, photographing our food and talking of scandal. Have you heard of the impostor complex? It’s a cognitive-behavioral thing. Did you know that thesaurus.com lists Siberia as a synonym for “limbo?” and “nada” as a synonym for “cipher?”

You’ve always made me a little nervous. I’ve been told my emotional intelligence is too high. That’s probably why I have to listen to music when I paint, so I don’t sit there and analyze each and every stroke for what it may probably not even remotely mean, falling down a wormhole of self-awareness with self after self after self flitting by and Matt Fucking Damon waiting on the other end on some unsustainable planet—did you ever see that movie? Or film, I guess, film. Let’s be sophisticates, yes. Did you know that was his middle name? No, that’s not all it was about. It was about time and love and alternate realities, parallel universes, shit like that. I think. And the end of the world. Then I think at times like this, times of pointed, scatterbrained observation and hyper-present-ness and unnecessary explanation, of something I read recently about advanced pop criticism. That it sits too firmly in the now, pulling all the rest of life and thought and time to the pinnacle-present. It’s like Buddhism gone wrong. Or wild. Or one aspect of it, flashing its tits on spring break and calling it a phase. Or an experience, yeah, funny. Like that, it’s like that. This is, I mean. Oh, yeah, no, not like that. Of course, no. There are too many people around and I have no such expectations. But, later, if you were to find yourself inclined… No, I’m kidding. It’s totally different and absolutely the same.

“Look, it’s nothing obsessive or overwhelming, just an enduring, definite thing. You appear without conscious intent, you show up in dreams, playing roles of a romancer of sorts, a close companion, a secret lover,” he says, and I wonder why I hadn’t thought of that, imagine he must’ve read it somewhere—or heard it, more likely—and I’m afraid to say so to you but just then our food arrives, breaking up the flow of thoughts and words and I’m glad there’s now something other than my foot to place in my mouth.

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art, fiction

00:45 – 00:54 Mokhovaya Ulitsa St. Petersburg, Russia

Outside my Window: 00:45 – 00:54 Mokhovaya Ulitsa St. Petersburg, Russia

it is dark. A man in a gray suit stands in the door of the bistro. He is talking to a girl in a black leather jacket. It must be cold outside. It certainly looks wet

a man walks by on his phone. He is wearing a suit coat. White shirt underneath, loose collar no tie. come to think of it, yes, the guy in the bistro. He has the same shirt. The collar is a bit wider.

The man in the black suit coat has stopped, texting. He turns around and walks back, into the bistro, past the man with the matching shirt. All this, as a couple, both wearing gray, walk by.

The man in the gray jacket, white shirt. He comes out. He has a guitar on his back, I think. It is in a gray case.

Two older men walk by. I think. One of them may be a woman. His pants are tight. He is wearing flip flops. But that tells you very little these days. He has a puffy black jacket (it must be cold) and I can’t see his face. It could be a woman. But his hair is short. But that tells you very little these days.

It is quiet.

It is empty.

A car. Gray. Not speeding.

A man walks out of the mart. Younger. Tan. Tanned by ancestry, not the sun. It looks like he bought a drink. Non-alcoholic, maybe. He texts between a white and gray car. He gets in the gray car. Drives off. It must not have been alcoholic, surely.

Two men and a woman walk by. Man, they are moving. Not running, moving. They, too, are all wearing gray, odd. They pass a man with an unlit cigarette in his mouth. He is wearing black.

Two men and a woman again. Different ones this time. Both men wear black hoodies, up. Maybe it is raining. They aren’t moving so fast.

A man walks, stops, paces. Smoking. Between the mart and bistro. He has glasses. He is not wearing gray. Oh, shit, wait. He turns. Down the front of his jacket. A fat gray stripe. It is an ugly jacket. He is an ugly man. Maybe, it is dark. He is wearing glasses. A woman passes by him in a long black coat. She looks to be floating, not aiming anywhere. He watches her approach. As she passes, he looks away briefly only to return, smirking, watching her backside as she makes her way further down the street, out of sight. A car drives by, lights on.

It turns out he is an ugly man after all.

 

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art, fiction

Outside my Window 7:26 – 7:59 P.M.

hijben

A man is standing by the cars outside my window, smoking. He is not a man, really, younger. A boy. But he is wearing a suit like a man. I don’t think it is his car, it is nice. Something with an animal for an emblem. But then again, it is a nice suit.

Turns out it is his car. It seems he didn’t want to smoke in his nice car. He must be a man.

A boy in an orange shirt; bright orange. Oranger than orange, the orange of a blind, elderly fashionista. He is standing in front of the market across. There is no telling what he will look like when he is older. He is wearing glasses, his hair is a mess. One day, he will see, I won’t. Oh well, he went inside.

A woman pushes her daughter on a silly looking carriage. It is shaped like a bike, with a fat seat. She is eating ice cream, the little girl. The mom has a small boy in the other hand; jealous of his sister, probably. I would be.

A whole group. A messily clothed slog of meat walk by. A disturbing amount of floral shirts are among them, despite age. They’ve passed.

A woman in heels heads into the market. I can hear them click from here. I am on the second floor, across.

Two twenty-somethings and a girl in a gray dress stand outside the middle eastern restaurant beside the market. She is smoking, they aren’t. One of the men has his hair up in a bun. I don’t like that, I don’t know why.

The young man in the nice suit and nice car has been sitting a while outside. In the air-conditioning, most likely. It is a decent day. A woman just got in. I only just noticed his scarf, it is floral, too. They are driving away now. It his nice car with an animal emblem, like a leopard, but without spots. They are gone, off somewhere nice, I suppose.

A man walks with his girlfriend in one hand. Not his whole girlfriend, of course, just her hand. In the other he holds a skateboard. It is bright orange, but, at least he is wearing sunglasses.

A girl in an orange scarf passes with her friend. It is a sensible orange, more sluggish. She is talking with her hands outstretched, holding an invisible ball. I can only imagine.

An Asian looking an with blue streaks through his hair passes, drinking Gatorade. It is blue, too.

A man in lime green shoes, violent green, sour–a sour, sour green–he walks by. I can’t see the rest of hm.

A truck just went by. It was dirty, so dirty. The men in the front look dirty; in a good way, an almost-dangerous sort of way.

A woman, carrying her blanket walks by. The blanket is checkered. Black and orange; soft. Two boys, one bigger, one smaller, chase her on bikes. I don’t think she realizes the chase is on. She finds the right song.

A woman walks out of the market. I didn’t see her go in. She isn’t a woman–really, few are. She has a fat face. I wonder why that is all I can see, I hope she sees more.

A girl, maybe three, or four, just ran by, calling for something, or someone.

A man–I think it’s a man–walks by holding a painting. I can’t see the painting. His hair is frizz. He turns. It isn’t a man.

The man I buy coffee from in the morning walks on by. He has very long hair, messy. Off he goes, in the wrong direction of where I’d expect him to be.

The girl, the one who might be four, has found her mother. She is quiet now.

A younger man, a less well dressed one, stands across, he is on the phone. He looks like the boy in the orange shirt. It turns out he won’t be all that handsome after all.

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fiction

THE TINIEST OF ERUPTIONS

chris-r-0089 Image by Christine Renney

When she was seventeen, Gemma designed a butterfly, sketching it with a biro on A4 sheets. Once satisfied with the shape, using her brother’s felt tip pens she added the colours. It had been garish but she had thought it beautiful, had taken her design to a tattooist and suffered under his needle.
Matching her colours as best he could, he reproduced the butterfly on the small of her back, but the colours had run and mixed to create, once the scabs had fallen away, something else entirely. Not her butterfly but a messy hybrid, a startled moth too close to the flame, mottled and drab.
For months, Gemma moped around in a baggy denim shirt. One night, naked in front of the mirror, turning she glanced back and noticed at the tattoo’s centre the tiniest of eruptions. Her skin was breaking through. She began to claw at it, believing the tattoo was flaking, but to no avail. It resisted her fingernails and although more of these holes would appear she could never find any evidence of this, other then when she turned to look in the mirror.

Gemma notices him noticing her and so they begin to play at that game. He is one of a group of young pups, eagerly lapping at their beer. Although early, already they are restless. He is the least jittery, less inclined to spin around after his tail. She notes all of this and smiles. If he is going to make a move he needs to do it quickly. It’s been a long week and she is tired. Still dressed in her office clothes, prim black skirt and white blouse, Gemma isn’t feeling at her best. She orders another drink; he has until it is drunk.

He becomes insistent. She agrees to go back with him to his room. Her flat is too far and his place is just around the corner.
‘It will,’ he says, ‘be better, easier.’
Outside they push against the tide of revellers. Once clear, he moves ahead and she trips along behind, struggling to keep up. He ushers her into the kitchen and switches on the light. A moth flutters noisily as the fluorescent tube stutters, bursting into life. The linoleum is split, the colours and pattern almost worn away. There is a dirty cup on the draining board and in the harsh light she can see a hairline crack.
Impatient, he holds the door open at the end of the hallway. She is first into his room. When she turns he has already kicked off his trainers, is wrestling with his jeans and boxer shorts. Pulling his t-shirt over his head he emerges, surprised to find her still fully clothed. They haven’t spoken since leaving the bar.
‘I suspect,’ she says, ‘that we won’t be sharing a cigarette when we’re finished here.’
‘I don’t smoke,’ he replies.
‘I don’t either.’
He stares blankly as Gemma unbuttons and removes her blouse. She turns, looking for somewhere to hang it.
‘What’s that on your back?’
She faces him, still holding the blouse. ‘The kitchen here, doesn’t it depress you?’
He is stalled for a second. ‘Come on, let me see.’ He starts to walk around her.
‘What am I, prey?’
‘Man, that is the weirdest tattoo.’
Gemma turns again and studies him, running her eyes up and down. Suddenly, he is very aware of his own nakedness. He glances at his clothes, discarded on the floor. She thrusts her hand out and he takes the blouse, grasping it to his groin.
‘Honestly, the kitchen. Don’t you find it depressing?’
‘No, why would I?’
‘Why wouldn’t you?’
‘What do you want me to say?’
‘Astound me. Buckle my knees with your wit and wisdom.’
‘I think you should go.’
She holds out her hand. Flinching, he backs up.
‘My blouse?’
‘Oh.’
He hands it to her. Turning her back toward him, Gemma puts it on, breathing in the silence. Taking her time, she doesn’t look back and, avoiding the kitchen, she leaves by the front door.

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