At the fork in the road I went with the spoon. I pitied the fork; she seemed to have had a hard life. She just lay there, her tines bent and tangled and pointing in each of the four directions. As a guidepost she was totally hopeless.
I considered the knife. I was wary of him; after all, everyone knows he and the fork had an on-again, off-again relationship, sometimes executing a perfect tango, other times going their separate ways. He gave me a sharp look. I could tell he was keen, but he was definitely an edgy character. Besides, everyone knows a knife cuts both ways. Again, no help with directions.
That left the spoon. Oh, the spoon! His comfortably round belly mirrored my own shape to perfection. In the end, like with like makes for the best relationships. Not for me an union of opposites. But what direction to take?
“Oh, I’m going to mace you,” she said, gently caressing his face as he held her in a loving embrace.
He smiled for a moment, his breath coming out as vapor in the cold air, but then a cloud of worry passed over the sunshine of his mood.
“Wait, did you just say you were going to miss me or mace me?”
She opened her mouth right way to say “miss”, but found herself strangely and completely immersed in a sea of uncertainty.
“I don’t know,” she finally admitted after a long pause.
Winter came in the morning. Actually, it came sometime around the midnight. He was sleeping then. Or, as he puts it – weaving his dreams. He often uses such poetical tricks, to force upon his thoughtful side, on few acquaintances he has. In reality he was busy sleeping then, recuperating from his day’s work, preparing himself for an yet another day of patterned chores and timely activities.
Winter, may be because it was untimely, came furtively inside his room, through a narrow opening in the window. He intentionally keeps it open, to allow morning light to seep and invade his eyes, in case the alarm clock fails to maul his senses.
Winter began to gently caress his warm exposed flesh. A feeble shivering ran through his body. He forsook his half-woven dreams and hurled himself to awareness. It was dark then. Therefore, he failed to identify winter lurking, diffusing inside his room. He attributed his shivering to his poor diet and daily fatigue. He turned to the other side of the bed and slept shivering.
Across the plateau of sharp stones is a mountain. High on the mountain is a lake that reflects a dying sun, and on the far side of the lake is a cliff, black and smooth, as if of obsidian, but it is made of frozen tears. Atop the cliff is a palace, once the home of great kings. Inside the palace is a temple, tiny, insignificant, and unadorned. Inside the temple is a sanctum, a small room with smooth marble walls. In the sanctum is a low pedestal, and on the pedestal sits a decorated, perfectly smooth, locked box.
The monsters began appearing every night at 2:53. It wasn’t long before there were fifty or sixty of the little guys. They kept him up talking and talking and talking. At first they didn’t seem very threatening. Until the pudgy one pulled out a revolver. He never said anything, just sat and stared.
His leg buckled as he crossed the backyard patio at his rural Virginia home. He crashed forward onto pea-sized brown pebbles exposed among moss and algae, his afternoon glass of scotch bursting beside him. He lay with his arms outstretched as if in a dive. His leg was not broke, though something inside his body had quit and he could no longer move. A biological clock unwound, yet still ticking.
His cell phone lay on the kitchen table.
He was not afraid.
Cumulus clouds filtered a dying sun settling over the satellite dish. Mosquitoes caroused freely along his arms, tiny frail legs aloft and angled awkwardly close to his face. He observed each small swelling with renewed interest. At night he became cold. Cold like a desert night; overhead stars shining as brightly as the nights he had hunted leopards in Africa.
He closed his eyes and dreamed of savannas beneath mountains.
There is a man, not old, who is about to kiss his wife goodbye for the last time. He does not desire the kiss, especially here, in this crowded courtroom corridor, under the scrutiny of both their lawyers, but he steels himself to tolerate it. He knows that his (now) ex-wife wishes to bestow this last kiss more from a desire to convince herself that their parting is civilized than from any feeling she has for him.
His wife (ex-wife), dressed immaculately, immaculately made-up, wearing a hair-style he has never seen before, is leaning toward him. She is saying something: “Take care of yourself,” or “I want you to be happy,” or some such maudlin phrase. She might even be saying “Have a nice life,” for all he knows. Her words do not register with him, only the sound of her voice, the smell of her perfume, as her lips draw closer to his own. Even now, he thinks to himself, it is not too late to simply turn and walk off down the corridor, away. Perhaps she would call after him, perhaps not.
Time and neglect ravage cemeteries. Stones crumble, inscriptions fading from the surface, covered in moss and lichen that over the course of thousands of years will turn them into the very earth on which they now stand. Flower petals begin to rot, dropping from their stems like falling leaves in the midst of autumn, colors dying, turning to withered brown. Vases tip over in the wind, as if pushed by an invisible finger, glass and porcelain shattering against the hard bases of gravestones or lying unbroken at their feet. Scraps of paper flutter in the breeze, inked with the words that have run together thanks to the rain, taped to stones or tucked folded under vases, but a few fly free, escaped to tumble across the ground at the mercy of the breath of the wind.
On 184th and Broadway, there is a falafel shop where a laminated poster of the Dome of the Rock hangs on the wall behind the yellowed counter. Every day, people sit on the stools, place their orders, and eat their meals as they stare at the poster. Some are alone and stare until the check comes. Others, enjoying (or maybe not) company while there, stare only when conversation lulls. But everyone stares.
The poster has heard lots of things. Political rants, avowals of love. Mourning, plans for the future. Baby names, curses. Once, a marriage proposal (though that was probably not in good taste).
I smell like coconut oil. It’s my favorite scent that I pick up at Whole Foods. Wherever I go people are always stopping me to ask, “Hey, WHAT is that scent you’re wearing? You smell GREAT!”
Which leads me to another question. Did you ever see the old film “Risky Business”? The scene where Tom Cruise is waiting for the bum to get off the train so he can make sweet love to
Lana? The man is staring at them wearing a grimy army jacket, and his head tilted downward slightly so the whites of his eyes are very pronounced with all the dirt smeared on his face? His lower lip is hanging out, and he’s drooling as he stares at them like he’s watching television. Yeah. That scene. That’s exactly how I felt on the bus at 7 a.m. this morning.
Then there was the fact that it started to get very packed each time we stopped. So much that I found myself clutching my purse, and clenching my jaw. I’m from Oregon — what can I say. I’m used to wide open spaces. I digress here a bit — but I’m always amazed when people actually ask me if we still have “covered wagons” there.