That morning, everyone woke up feeling grateful because they’re not the moral compass of the group.
I wore them once, her shoes. As unlike anything I own as I am to her. From the shape of them to the colour, scarlet, and of course the heels. Needles that pierced our marriage. Weakened our foundations. Might yet tear us down. They pinched at my toes and left them exposed, fat little things pushed all together like piglets at suckle, the top of my foot spilling out from sharp lines felt vulnerable. Obsolete feet in cutting edge footwear.
Shoes should be soft and comfortable but these… these were shoes made of molten red swords, all edges and no compromise. Just like her, then. Scarlett! Scarlett by name and by hair and by lips and by bloody red shoes. Red like my eyes as I looked down at my feet. A whiff of her scent hits me. Harsh and metallic in my mouth. A perfume only women like her can wear. Chanel No. 5 to my Laura Ashley. A perfume I’d been smelling on him for months now. He’d said it was his assistants, Margaret. The bastard.
We sat on the sand and scrub grass and watched as the combers broke on the shore a few feet in front of us. The moon was full and what light there was had a cold, silvery sheen that gave everything an almost otherworldly glow.
“I’m going to have to sell,” Mayumi told me in her softly modulated voice. It was a beautiful blend of island lilt and harsher Japanese syllables. “There are problems with Brandon’s pension and he didn’t have much life insurance.”
My recently deceased best friend was a great father and husband. Like many hard core Polynesians, however, as a businessman he left a lot to be desired. Fortunately, their house was on a prime stretch of real estate above Kaalawai Beach between Diamond Head and Black Point.
“Don’t make any decisions right away,” I cautioned. “Besides, the kids have been through enough already. What they need now is stability.” Brandon and Mayumi had a thirteen-year-old daughter and a son who was seventeen. Their father’s sudden death had hit the children very hard. “We told you that, for the time being at least, we’d do whatever we can to help … and we meant it.” My wife and I spent almost ten weeks a year visiting from the Mainland. They were, basically, all the family we had.
“I like it when my dog licks the bottom of my feet. Do you think that’s wrong?”
I recently said this to a nice lady who was sitting next to me at dinner. I whispered it of course. I didn’t want the whole table to hear me.
I had just met this person an hour ago and for the last 45 minutes she had been nonstop talking about her three dogs.
My plan here was to either shut her up, or we were going to take this new relationship to a whole new level.
Sure enough, she liked my comment and then told me how much pleasure she gets from her dogs when they lick inside her ears and along the backside of her neck.
Victoria’s brother Jake had caught the bass that day, out on the edges of the great lake. They had rented a little vacation cabin up north, while she was home on summer break. Their parents hadn’t made it up yet, so she took care of her younger brother as best she could, even cleaning his fish for him. She enjoyed it, somehow. Scraping the fine scales off their slick bodies, and careful slices along the bellies to remove the organs. She would reach in with a finger and hook out the soft entrails to clear the abdominal cavity. Only she stopped when one of the bass had a strange, irregular-shaped stomach with a hard mass. It wouldn’t be unusual for these greedy fish to eat things that weren’t food. Victoria sliced it out of the organ with the tip of her knife.
He is in charge of the tickets.
They come to him when they have an appointment. Sometimes the appointments are brief in nature. Sometimes they are not. In either case, he is the first and last person they will see. To acquire a space, you must get a ticket. To leave through his gate, the ticket must be returned.
The tickets are not why they have come. They are nothing more than an inconsequential formality, a mundane procedure which occupies but a shred of the mental cognitions of those who receive the tickets. Their minds are elsewhere, and he knows this.
There is no heartbeat like this one, of seventy in a minute, hung like a Rembrandt on a wall inside of me. In a 4am diner telephone booth. My rattling hands, unable to slot the nickel or dial the running number – ALpine-5690. But finally, and with mercy, it’s done.
“Hello?” Her voice. “Hello?”
It is the role of the fugitive, in narrative and in life, to hesitate at this moment. To avoid giving anyone a hold on the confusion. I’m living parallel to this rule. I quietly focus on the payphone coin slots, without knowing why.
“Is this you, David?” Felicity says. There is caution and upset in her voice.
Another rule is that people are always waiting for the fugitive to call, a premise so indisputable as to be accepted as true without controversy.
“Yes,” I say.
“Where are you?”
“That’s not why I called.”
“Why then? Everybody is so worried.”
I pause. Where am I? I mustn’t say. Maybe somewhere downtown cops huddle round a speaker on a metal table in a dim room, listening. At the telephone company, men in shop coats and graveyard shift operators examine switches and look for lights on wall sized circuit boards, attempting to trace my call.
“So, do you know what has happened?” I ask.
Rae looked at the vibrant orange umbrella in her drink. She held up the Mai Tai she was clutching a bit too tight in her hand. She focused on her drink. For a simple beverage, it was beautifully presented.
Everything here was magnificent. The feel of the grainy white sand between her toes. The clear blue sky. The cries of the seagulls as they hunted for food. The crashing sound of the waves. Rae was pleased with her choice of destination.
It was all still so fresh. She trusted and hoped that making peace with what she’d done would come in time. There were other less extreme avenues she could have taken. But at the time, it seemed like the only thing that made sense.
She and I. We are staying at this expensive hotel. It is near the water, a large body of water. If you look out the window you can see the water reach the horizon. In the old days they thought the line between the sky and water was where the end of the world began. If you went out past where the sky and water met you fell off the edge of the world into a place where demons ate you alive. I think about this as I look out the window at the ocean. I am in the bathroom of a luxurious hotel. It is very nice in there. I am alone. She is in the other room. We are on a date or have an appointment. She is trying on this dress and then that one and finally the first one although she is dissatisfied. I am in the bathroom. I sit on the toilet. I am not using the toilet. I merely sit on it as if it were a seat. I look out the window at the edge of the world where ships and sailors and tourists pitch over the division between sky and water and are consumed by monsters.
He bought me after a week.
Seven days of gliding past my window, his inquisitive gaze somehow more engaging than the others. His spinning kaleidoscope eyes settled on mine for long brackets of time. I didn’t stare back, afraid I’d scare him off. I wished desperately someone would replace my aquamarine tulle dress, passé and redundant. On Thursday, the new clerk, a young boy with black, heavily gelled hair, came to change me. He lifted my glossy, blond hair and held it in his fist while his other hand casually unzipped the back. The boy pulled my dress down in one swift movement, the last rays of sunlight dancing along my smooth chest. I felt his hot breath on my shoulders as his fingers slid around my plastic body, pressing, grasping.