W. FLOOD : Chapter Twenty-Three

Twenty three.

I was awake, lying on the floor beside Glory, blinking, adjusting my green eyes. Grun. The night light kept the fire going, but it didn’t keep us warm. Pangur Ban snored at our feet. Each snore was reassurance that she was still alive. Those little barely audible indications of actual life. Rotten lungs moving air in and out. Those mechanizations don’t always prove anything to me. Some of us are still alive but inside we are already dead. I rolled over and Glory was as beautiful as ever and wide awake, looking at me with worried eyes.

“Hi,” she said, with her hands in prayer under her ears. It sounded like the sweetest thing anyone ever said to me. How could she be this enchanting? I was in trouble. I mean all she had to say was hi. Not good. Not good at all.

“Hi.” I wiped my mouth, and scratched my face. “What time is it?”

“It’s early still. Are you ok? Your dream seemed a little intense. You were shaking.” Glory brushed my hair aside with her fingers.

I almost said yes without thinking. force of habit. The truth was something you weren’t supposed to tell to people. The truth and your true feelings can and will be used against you. Under no circumstance are you to trust any human being, believe me. Don’t confide in people, shut it, shut your fucking fat dumb mouth. It was part of my conditioning, to just say yes, to say I’m fine. Let’s leave it at that. The truth is I’m never really fine. Hattie was never fine. Who wants to hear how I really feel? Who could possibly understand how I am feeling? They are not me. I am not them. They are not Morrissey. They are not Eastwood. They are not Hattie, Catherine, or Glory. What is it about Glory that makes me want to open up. Don’t front, you know she got you open. Why do I live in terms of cultural associations? I’ve coveted the ideal woman since their shapes stole my attention and kept me awake at night in sixth grade. Do you know how scary they have always been to me? Very.

“No. I don’t think I’m alright. I don’t like admitting something like that.”

“Is it me? Should I go?”

“No, its not you. You probably should run far away for your own well being but I don’t want you to leave. No. I really want you to stay.”

“What is it? What’s troubling you.”

“I want to be able to talk to you. I mean it. I want to and I’m not just saying that. Vulnerability is not a good look. For anyone. It’s just I don’t think I want to talk yet. I want you to be the one I can talk to. I want you to be one who knows me better than anyone, who knows what upsets me, who knows what makes me happy. I just want you to know me, really know me.”

Could I ever be entirely candid and genuine with anyone? doubtful. Could she really be the person I needed or was I fooling myself again? highly likely. Is it that I am the one who’s wrong and distrustful? I languished over everything, each detail, each unthoughtful blurt. And for others it’s not even a big deal, people let it go without any regard or they speak freely without a care in this putrid world. How can you share your feelings when those thoughts can be deceptive? Lamenting reactions. Fleeting happiness. Nothings lasts and what is real? I have so many unanswered questions. How do you say to a woman you barely know that you see yourself falling in love with her but there will always be a part of you that can’t be happy, or that you will always secretly want to leave it all behind? Do you tell her that you will look for reasons to fuck it all up? Is that misleading? Is that escapist disposition inherent? Does anybody else secretly yearn to leave or question the existence of true love? Or to simply question existence at all? They have to, some people do, some leave everything behind in order to secure a better life, to prove certain things they can’t explain to themselves. I am no different. Were the woman in my bloodline all dreamers? Were the men all evaders? Did they romanticize everything as well, as I do? Was failure as corporeal for them as it had always been for me. How do I tell someone I don’t know that after a few hours spent together that I love you is lingering on the tip of my tongue. This could not be the cognition of a stable person. I am the twenty eight year adolescent with hearts for eyes. Am I pathetic? I am.

Do I tell her I am frightened. My feelings are untrustworthy and transposing constantly. I feel the tingling onset of love or what I thought the perception of love might feel like. I have been in love before or felt what I thought was love only to feel mistaken and short changed. How can you be certain? What if it was never true love at all, what if it was all just some gross infatuation. I’m scared I have never truly loved anyone. If that is correct, I am even more aghast that I will probably never truly love anyone. I feel it’s impossible for anyone to love me. You can call me a piece of shit once and I’ll believe it, but tell me you love me a hundred times and I will never believe it. I wouldn’t even entertain it as gospel. No one will ever love me and I don’t belong anywhere, at least not anywhere on this planet. Except maybe at the end of a long tacky bar with old men as lonely and bitter as I.

“I want to be that for you. Your phone is vibrating.” My friends stood by me, because although I have hurt them, I have never hurt them in the ways I’ve been hurt. They could still look at me.

“That’s fine. Leave it. I thought it was on silent. I have gotten used to zoning it out.”

“Your friends miss you. They are not giving up.”

“I miss them too. They don’t deserve this kind of behavior. Really. I don’t know what I’m doing. Ever.” I had some pictures and myself and of my friends on my desk.

“You look so happy in these pictures. All smiles and hugs. I like it. I like the ones in the hall with the hair on them.” Glory flipped through picture book she took from the messy desk.

“Thanks. I was always happy. What is happiness though? My friends and select family members make me extremely happy but there is a constant urge for me to leave everyone behind or an urge for something more, which has nothing to do with them. It’s me. I am unhappy and happy in life, simultaneously. I am not getting everything I’d like out of life.”

“You’re happy and sad. That’s everyone. Your not content and that’s good. We all have these feelings. We all want more from life. It will make you driven. That is why you will make it through.”

“I don’t dispute that. I’m not saying my life is the worst. I’m not participating in the who has it worse competition, I can only speak on how I feel about my life. It’s all so self-centered. And I feel like I should be somewhere else. I feel like I should be doing something else, something different. I often feel like its all a waste of time. Everything. Does New York have a heart to break? Rounded off, I’m 30, the daylight is burning quicker and quicker, before you know it I will be 40, 50 and I don’t have anything working out for me, so what the fuck. I took a time out, an emotional sabbatical, from everyone to try and focus on what is it I need to do with my life. Maybe it was a teaser for them so they can adapt for when I really leave.” I laughed. “Maybe it was for me since everyone is moving on in their own lives, their careers and families, we are seeing less and less of each other anyway. I don’t know. I just want to be more in control of my feelings, if I deprived myself of the people who make my life worthwhile, then I could condition myself to be stronger emotionally. Catherine is so much stronger. I don’t know how she does it.”

“I left everyone and for what? To live in a major city. Pay outrageous rent. Deal with assholes. Maybe I did it to say I did it. Maybe I did it to chase my own dreams. Maybe I did it to meet you. Who knows? Live for right now. My best friend here is my therapist. Tanya is nice and all. but come on. Wilhelm, you have to do what makes you happy right now.”

“For right now?”

“Yes.”

“Take off your shirt.”

“I’m being serious.”

“I am dead serious. I’ll rip it off you.” I joked making a tearing sound with my mouth and tore apart an invisible shirt.

Glory took off the red sweat shirt with my initials on it. I asked, “Are you happy to be sleeping on the floor.”

“I am happy to be sleeping on the floor.”

“I am not unhappy about it. I would just envisioned everything differently.” I wanted it all to be different.

“It’s perfect.”

“You’re perfect but I am not good enough for you.” I meant the last bit.

“Don’t project your shit onto me. You don’t know that and I don’t think that. Why are you even thinking about that.” I couldn’t believe how this was possible? She looked amazing.

“I don’t know. I don’t know why I think half the things I do. Subject change! Will you share milk with me, like drink out of my glass?”

“I will drink milk out of your mouth.” She laughed.

“Like Alicia Silverstone?” I couldn’t contain my joy.

“I want you to Alicia Silverstone me everyday. Feed me like a fucking bird.” She erupted with the sweetest laughter.

“I need you.” I meant the last bit.

“I like your face. Can you do me a favor?” Glory rolled over and propped up onto her elbows, bring her wonderful face closer to mine.

“I could.” I said.

“Can we always try to tell the truth.”

“I don’t know if I can. I mean I won’t lie to you. I just don’t know how to talk sometimes. Talk. I will try. Do you see the picture on the wall behind me?”

“The couple with their faces covered?”

“Yeah, that one. What do you think it means?”

“Hmm.” She furrowed her brows and I wanted to kiss her. “I’m not sure. I like it. Who painted it? Duchamp?”

“Magritte. Rene Magritte. It’s called The Lovers. What do you think?”

“Are they dead? Is it the death of love. Maybe they don’t want to reveal their identities. Or they are ashamed of affection. What do you think? Catholic guilt.”

“He did a series of these. Different people embracing with their faces obscured with shrouds. This is my favorite painting of all time. He never really said but from what I’ve read as far as the meaning goes. Some presume it had to do with his mothers suicide, he found her in the river where she drown herself with her night gown or dress or whatever, up and over, wrapped around her face.”

“That’s terrible. So sad. Poor boy.”

“She didn’t want to do it anymore. It’s her choice. I look at this a lot and I think, and this is only my opinion, that it is a representation of a relationship, it shows the truth about them, that we are covered and guarded and never really reveal everything to the ones we love. We never fully open ourselves to others despite still being intimate.”

“It could be that. It also could not be that. Why are you so uneasy? I can feel it. Out of nowhere you seem so uncomfortable.”

“I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. Sometimes I feel the uneasiness, like I’m aware of it and sometimes I have no idea why I come across like that, granted without any shock or surprise of it being so.”

“I like your suit.”

“This is mine. My first real suit. I bought it a few days ago and the only reason I bought it is to wear it at my mother’s funeral. I’m incapable of having contact with her and she is sick, and I know the next time we meet I will need that suit. That is me being unguarded and telling you something no one knows, not even Catherine. But I don’t want to talk about it. Not yet anyway.”

“I’m sorry about your mom. Are you sure you wouldn’t want to let it out?” Glory asked. I used to be so angry at Hattie for telling people who didn’t care about our matters. Who was I to judge? What was I doing now.

“Yes, I’m sure.” I nodded and felt like a child.

“Alright. Can we take a picture?”

“We can do whatever you want?”

“Grab your camera from the desk. There are some more sheets in the coffin. I’ll get them. Set the timer.” I obeyed and she jumped up and got the sheets. Pangur Ban showed no interest.

“How do you set the timer?”

“It’s your camera. Give it to me, I’ll do it. Take off your glasses.” Glory placed her hand out and I carefully planted it. Glory set it, angled it on the desk, and the picture took. “Fuck. We have to set up quick. I’ll put so it takes a few in one shot.” I said okay. We kneeled before each other and wrapped the sheets around our faces, leaving our bodies naked, beautifully glowing in front of the imagined fire. We embraced and there was a little visibility through the sheets. We were in each other’s arms and saw the flashes and spoke while the light captured us. Our mouths released heat and we dampened the cloth between our faces.

“What would the people in the painting say to each other.” She half mumbled, keeping her mouth on mine, though I never understood anything clearer.

“I suppose Les Amores would say I love you to each other.”

“Would they mean it?”

“Does anyone ever?” I said.

“I love you.” Glory said.

“I love you.” I repeated her but I think I meant the last bit.

She pulled the shroud off, “Whenever we are together can you always keep your mouth near mine?”

I kept my shroud on, “I can’t tell if this is right or if your fucking crazy. I just hope we are always together.” Glory uncovered my face which was beaming red, rot, and kissed me, pulling me down to the makeshift bed.

Glory found sleep without difficulty next to me. As did Pangur Ban. We slept on the floor, in the confined quarters of a tiny apartment in Whitestone, Queens. A place just like any other I’m sure. A place where people talk more than they should. What did it matter what people thought? Tedious morality. I can’t shake the feeling I’m shit and Glory deserves more than I could ever offer her. She shouldn’t bother, and I should know better than to waste her time. It was awful how attached I already was to her. But I knew that about myself. So easily the weak sink their fangs in. I felt strongly about disconnecting, about becoming the living dead. Forget about me, is what I never said but implied. Do you know what Balzac said? He said Glory is the sunshine of the dead. Have you ever read Balzac? Me either, maybe we could together. What if that face, that endearing, resting face I can’t help but watch sleep is the sunshine I need to pierce the black cloud hovering over my heart? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. How long before I sabotage this, whatever this is, courting I suppose.

It was morning. My eye would heal. I had always been physical in my youth. Split knuckles and broken noses got better in time. The heart was eager to turn away. It doesn’t ameliorate, it does not feel any better. I wanted to saddle up and leave, it would be best for everyone. I’ve heard their songs and I knew that cowboys cried. I affirmed that we, my nuclear family destroyed the ones we loved the most. I wanted nights without foul mouths and shattered glass. I wanted nights of conversation and love making. No restrictions of oneself. I wanted nights without apology or insecurity, no second guesses.

I could walk out of this house that was owned by someone else, wearing out the soles of my Nikes and my mind would remain clouded and dismal, no matter where I ended up. I knew life was supposed to be more than this. I needed to start smiling. Show your jagged teeth. If all you ever wanted was to say something meaningful, anything at all, say it now, even if no one is listening. I am beyond the perils of my upbringing, or the adversity the world delivers daily. I needed a change from this stagnation. I would worship no false idols only Glory. I needed my inspiring little sister. Ronald. Mr. Ceraso. Emma. I needed all of those people I let down, all those that I’ve mistreated. It was cathartic on the floor of that room. I was sick of being alone, sick of hurting, sick of the shame I couldn’t release. I heard all of those conversations we had, the muddling of my family name, all of the advice I waved off, all of the kinds words I never believed. I had to be myself. Whatever that entailed. Heartache. Anxiety. And all. I had to just be myself. I had to learn to be alright with who I am despite all the experiences that broke my heart and made me strange. Moving on.

I couldn’t sleep so I got up carefully not to disturb Glory. What did you want to be when you grow up? A seemingly easy question. Catherine jokingly choose to be an insect. Glory choose to be an actress. Hattie, well I couldn’t answer that. I just wanted to grow as a person. I wanted to make art in some capacity, art would always be present in my life, and that was my choice.

I went to my desk, opened my lap top. I created a document. I was going to let it rip. Eastwood, was the title and a word that I would get tattooed across my fingers. I had a lot of calls to return that day. In that chair, I thought of Hattie, how I loved her and how I knew I would never see her again, we were even. My whole life I hadn’t done anything, it was as if I had not lived up until that morning, this was it. I knew there was no such thing as a happy ending but what about the possibility of reincarnation. I had to start over. I spent so much time worrying, the thoughts were unmerciful. What was I to write? What did you think about me? I didn’t think much of myself so how could you ever regard me highly. I knew I didn’t know much. I knew how to say the colors in German. Life was full of colors and she was a heroine, I just could not see them or her for a about twenty eight years, until I cleaned off my glasses. Apologies were in order. I knew I loved Glory Mayberry. I knew I wanted more from this world for Catherine. I knew this was not going to be easy. I dedicated so much of my time trying to disappear, to drop out of sight, and fade away. I knew all I ever wanted was to write but my voice was muted. I was going to write to Glory, to tell her all the things I couldn’t say, the explanations, the piece I started at Anne Bonny’s, the thing Mr. Ceraso was proofreading, the billet-doux, all of those crumpled and embarrassing love letters. I was going to tell the truth. Confide in the stranger. I would obey Mcloughlin, but I was going to do far worse than burn the house down, I wanted to put Nero to shame, I was going to set fire to this whole fucking world. Today I, W. Flood, would reappear, and all of you fucks were going to know about it whether you liked it or not.

Advertisements

W. FLOOD : Chapter Twenty Two

W. Flood

Chapter Twenty-Two.

I walked passed a dead tree.

 

We will die and our relationships will, quite possibly in time, die as well. Everything must die eventually so why not trees, they are not exempt. I noticed there were two apples, badly bruised and hardly hanging on to branches overhead. I imagined long, shriveled hands extending out of darkened robes and presenting the apples to me. Who were the apples? What does your tree say about you? I looked behind me, it was Whitestone but not quite, It felt like something familiar but portentous.

It was a house I used to live in, broken down into quadrants, as if someone divided it with a can of spray paint. This house was something from a past life, or a moment in this life that has been exhausting enough to completely block out. It appeared that I was returning to this home although it was odd since I was aware I no longer inhabited that house, and hadn’t for years. How is it you can be aware of the fact you’re dreaming? a kind of deja vu. I was standing before the door. The white paint, weiss, was cracked and rusted on the storm door. I was consumed with the same dread that swelled within me every time I returned back to one of those houses. Would this be the time I find Hattie? If I found Hattie dead in my dream would it be a prophecy? Predetermination is not real, i reminded myself. Fate is pretend. Finding my Mother dead was the last thing I would ever want to happen.

I reluctantly entered the house, looking behind me for people. Who now lived here and was anyone home? It underwent a swift change. I looked down, I was no longer in jeans and a t-shirt, but in my new suit. No shoes. My bleached white feet, weiss, was so bright my feet gleamed. Inside this room, which apparently was a dining room. I saw myself, I was with Hattie and Catherine around a dinner table. Hattie spoke to a younger harsher version of myself, asking if they could talk, if they could be friends. Young Wilhelm stood, vehemently screaming, ‘No! We are not fucking friends, I have nothing to say to you.’

I regret to confess to you that I usually behaved with an over abundance of insolence. I was a real cunt.

They were gone in an instant, and I could hear “No one cares about you” over and over, reverberating through this strange place.

I walked down the hall following horse shoe tracks in the carpet, calling out to her, “MOM!” Where the fuck did a horse come from?

The tracks were the only trace of my father, a nod to his departure, leaving nothing behind but instilling  me with our mutual desire to mosey on. I’d paint Whitestone red if I could, Queens, the whole of New York if I was more ambitious. Did Cowboys head west for profit or to leave their past? The shame and guilt tears at a man’s core. But not all men. I never realized how fundamental an Irish goodbye was in regards to Westerns.

I got to the end of the hallway and knocked on the door, “Mom! Are you okay?” I guess we were always liars, lying to ourselves. A waste of time asking questions when we all knew the answers.

The door opened. Hattie was on the floor. Nothing unusual there. I checked her pulse, relieved to find slow drunken rhythms of a broken heart. The thought of my own pulse makes me anxious. The fact that veins and arteries are dispersed throughout my own body are more than enough to make me want to faint. My central nervous system processes bad information. Why do I tell you these things about myself? The floor cracked open and Hattie fell into the hole, a darkened void. I was frozen, when the floor beneath me broke, I fell into an old bedroom room that I once occupied, not a bedroom that was mine, but more like a stranger overstaying his welcome.

I took a stuffed animal and sniffed it. I got up and walked through the house, Hattie’s second husband was on the couch. “Your mother is in the hospital again. Nice suit.” He scoffed.

“What is wrong with my suit?”

“Keep pretending, you can dress up shit but it’s still shit. When your mother’s gone you and your sister will no longer stay here. Got it?”

“I got it,” I opened the door and was smashed by a wave of scotch. It knocked off my feet, and washed me onto the shore, through the opened electronic glass doors of a hospital. Booth Memorial. No one seemed to find anything abnormal about an ocean of scotch breaking waves into the lobby, it threw me into the front desk. It slammed me hard, I coughed, spitting out a twelve old year old single malt and snot.

“Who are you here to see.” Said a women who looked like Mrs. Healy, in an old purple sweater.

“Hattie. My mother, please.” I said, loosening my tie.

“What is your name, sir?”

“Wilhelm. Wilhelm Flood.”

“Ok, what is your mother’s name?”

“Hattie. I’m sorry, I mean Harriet. My mother’s name is Harriet.”

“Harriet what young man? We need a surname in order to locate the patient.”

“I… I… I don’t know her last name.”

“How do you not know your own mother’s last name? A good son you are.”

I turned and ran, hiding in the first room that was unlocked. I was alone inside it. It was like any ordinary hospital room I suppose, an overpowering antiseptic feel. The last and only time I ever went to visit Hattie in the hospital was nine years ago on Christmas. It was cruel of me to never see her when she was committed. In a room just like this she spent most of the last decade, alone. Surrounded by sedated colored walls and machinery that dripped and beeped. It could be from a movie. It looked like props, stuff of science fiction. The obligatory wall mounted television with nothing intelligent airing. It was a room like this that I couldn’t enter. I couldn’t see her in the white paper gown, weiss, with the tubes sprouting from bruised veins. I just couldn’t. My difficulties with emotional expression is exhaustive and extenuating. How are you with your emotions?

“Mom”, I called out. I checked the bathroom, knocking lightly before opening, flicking on the switch. I walked around the bed, tabloid magazines on the chair beside it and strawberry milk and ice chips on the food tray. It had to be her room. I pulled open the shades, and it was snowing. I saw a car in the distance, spinning to a halt, a woman running away and a little boy standing, calling out to her. It was me in my red hooded sweatshirt, my younger self looking up to my older self with tear filled eyes, holding her driving shoes. Those tacky pink high heels. I felt my feet being dripped on, my suit was still soaked and pungent with drink, my bare feet were crimson, my teeth were falling out, I was bleeding from my mouth, profusely, I caught the teeth, when I looked into my hands they were pills, my hands overflowed with pills, I was panicking, I knew it was a dream but I was feeling overwhelmed and short of breath.

I heard whispering behind me, I turned, startled to be in a funeral parlor. I heard all of their thoughts clearly, You are cliche. You are a bastard. He never cared about her when she was alive. I heard everything all my head. I always had. so did Hattie. A man I didn’t know motioned for me to advance. He was something from an olden era. I walked passed the rows of people, people I knew, some strangers, people I loved and admired and people I’ve tried to shut out. I walked in my suit, shoeless, with a blood smeared face but I had grown new teeth, or they just appeared back into my mouth, I felt self conscious and scared.

He showed me the woman in the casket but I didn’t recognize her. She didn’t look like something that recently expired, she was something monumental. She was a person from long ago, in an ancient civilization exhumed from some puzzling sarcophagus brought here to teach us the meaning of life. Life is about lessons, so we should try to learn from her, from her mistakes. How could that be Hattie? Unrecognizable. Mummified. All of those woman with bemoaning eyes I pass in the street, they all remind me of Hattie, it is simply not accurate. They don’t look Hattie and Hattie looks nothing like them, at least not anymore. Maybe I no longer recognized my mother. This was what I knew I couldn’t handle. The king of rock ’n’ roll was speaking at the podium on behalf of Hattie.

“Who are you?” I asked, still standing over Hattie’s corpse.

“It is cliche but you can’t help it, you are pathetically textbook. You are too late. You fell right into your role without much struggle. Hand me that hammer, son.”

I gave him a hammer that lied beside me feet, “Why is there an Elvis impersonator here? Doesn’t that seem inappropriate?”

“What is appropriate? Can you answer that? She loved the King. So I’m here. It’s almost your turn to eulogize your mother”, he said. “Say all those things you should have said when you had the chance.” He guided me to the me to the lectern. The strange man clapped, “Thank you very much, King. There you go, Wilhelm. Your audience awaits you. Don’t fuck it up like you do everything else. No pressure.”

I looked at the casket, it was white and studded, matching Elvis’ jumpsuit. The front row had eight chairs, all seated with Catherine of various stages in her life, from a child to present day. Catherine, young and crying in her pajamas all the way up to Catherine dressed in black looking much like the way I left her today, pretty and stressed. The faces of all my relatives and friends staring coldly at me, shunning me, avoiding eye contact with me. Why is it I couldn’t look them straight in the eyes?
What if it’s all my fault, everything?

I attempted to make a sound, but when I opened my mouth, I hesitated, I didn’t know what to say. There was so much I could say but sometimes it’s physically impossible to speak. I shut down so easily. There was a steady pulse of hammering noises. The man looked back at me, nails dangling from his mouth and falling from his hand, fumbling with red strings. He had nailed a charred heart and speckled lungs onto the wall. “I’m working here. I have to complete this piece. I call it circulatory system. What Hattie required to get through life, through each sorrowful day took a toll, a fatal one on her body. Her rotting insides are a testament to deprivation. There are three distinct parts: the pulmonary, the coronary and the systemic circulation. Just breathe. Take it all in. Go on, Wilhelm. I am listening. We are all listening.”

I stood at the lectern and rubbed a smudge on the wood. “I’m Wilhelm Flood. Hi. Hattie is my mother. Was. Is. I don’t know. I am her misbegotten child, her fruitless son. She was a beautiful woman. Hattie was someone I should have spoken to but couldn’t. I just couldn’t. Her heart was so big and broken and I couldn’t help her fix it. No one could. No one could ever. When Hattie was her normal self she was someone I had the greatest affection for, I mean naturally. She was my mother but that is not even it, she had personality, you know, she was funny. But she needed to be saved and protected and there wasn’t anyone who could do those things. All the kings horses, you know. There was no restoration for her or us after a certain point, that was just it. She would do the sweetest things for us, for my sister and I but we lose sight of the good. We forget the good times. Why is it the bad memories always present themselves in the mind. Why do we go to those dark places? I want little good memories. Who knew a grilled cheese sandwich could be so thoughtful. It sounds so dumb. I’m sorry. I don’t know how to do this. Things just got so bad and I allowed myself one vice to cope and it was hatred. I let hatred nip at my heart until it swallowed the whole thing. It was a self-defeating tactic but I couldn’t watch her destroy herself anymore and I couldn’t stomach the chaos of the shedding households without it. I wouldn’t talk to her. I couldn’t forgive her for the look on Catherine’s face. I couldn’t forgive her for all the broken promises. Forgiveness is the last step and I guess so is death. If I knew how to say the right things, if I did, if I just spoke, if I knew how to communicate maybe it would have all changed for the better instead of for the worst. I am sorry. Suedehead. I am so sorry that it’s like this. That is was like this. But it was the only way it was going to be. It’s funny I understand Hattie, I possess the same personality traits, the torment of never being comfortable in your own skin, the overwhelming fear of being yourself. Low self esteem. Poor self image. I get those things. Catherine was stronger. She assumed her role of caretaker and became the parent. I was remote and angry, it is only now I embrace my awkward and anxious inner workings, she allowed herself remedies that took over and annihilated her whole being. Hattie had relinquished her self. Having an understanding of these things doesn’t quite mean it can be controlled. I apologize for my embarrassment of you, Mom. I am a coward. Your son is a coward, frightened and ashamed. I am ashamed of us both. And I thought about this dreaded moment for years, since dad left. He couldn’t stand it either. I used to cry and be scared I was going to find you. Our relationship was destroyed. Our family dissolved and then I cried, as I am now. Catherine and I left and I feared everyday we would get the phone call to inform us of your death. I’ve written a eulogy for you everyday for years, without even knowing it. Hattie thought everyone hated her and it was only me. And deep down it was the biggest lie I’ve ever told. She would be crying and she’d slur the words, I love you. She just needed love. That was all. And I would stare into her brown eyes without saying a word, because I was too damaged to give in. I was too resentful to say I love you back. I was never a strong person, Catherine is the strong one. I am a bastard. And I have let the world down and I am sorry. I fear I am a bad person. I have to go.”

“You always have to go, you always want to leave it all behind, especially us.” Said Catherine, all eight versions of her in unison. The strange man rushed Elvis to the podium for an impromptu encore of Are You Lonesome Tonight. The Floods are lonesome every night. It is not even a question.

“I’m sorry.”

“You’re always sorry.” Said Catherine, all of them, again. Did anyone know me at all? If sorry was a color what color would sorry be? I’d paint the whole world that color to show how sorry I am.

W. FLOOD : Chapter XXI

W. Flood

Chapter XXI

Glory came back to my bedroom from the bathroom. We shared my toothbrush, when she asked me if she could use mine, I felt the urge to say I love you. Ich Liebe Dich. I didn’t know why but I felt like the two of us sharing my toothbrush gave us some closeness, a history maybe.

I feared that at any given time I may potentially ruin the moment, the night, my life. Why is it I can be unemployed or without a career, unhappy in various parts of my life but the prospect of a woman makes it all tolerable. If love is real then I suppose it is worth a shot, but I can’t trust myself. I know that much. Am I romantic or a paltry philanderer dressing up my lust in order to feel better about myself and my intentions. I felt love before, and I know lust but is one any more real than the other or am I a moron for trying to make distinctions. I knew one thing, I didn’t want her to leave. Any woman I ever loved, or believed I had loved I didn’t want them to ever leave. It was the women I didn’t love, or the women I wasn’t in love with anymore that after sex I just wanted them to leave. I wanted Glory to stay, I wanted her to stay for a long as she wanted.

She was wearing my red, rot, hooded sweatshirt with my initials on the front, just like the one I owned as a kid but slightly different. She kissed me and made a faint hmm sound. “I want to know more about you, too.”

“Do you,” I said.

“I don’t believe you have to live with so much unhappiness within you, Wilhelm. I don’t think you are a direct reflection of anyone. I think you are a good person. We are adults, accountable for our own actions, judged based on who we are now. Not who we were or where we came from. I want to do something with you.”

“Anal?” Glory shook her head no. “Sorry. Ok. Like what?”

“I mean let’s do something together. Let’s go on a trip or learn a language together. Take a cooking class or dance class. Break dancing, calypso whatever. We could learn sign language. Anything. I just want to be around you. I wish I could explain it.”

“Lets do all of it.” I said. “I’m on board for all of that.”

“Yeah?” said Glory, she lightly clapped twice. “I want to become more of a student of life. I want to learn about everything, and I’d like to learn all these things with you. Will you really go on auditions with me?”

“Yes. For sure. I said I would. I meant it. I think it would be fun. Interesting at least. You can’t resent me if I steal roles though.”

“Oh, definitely not. Can we travel? I feel like I haven’t seen anything.”

“I am in for anything and everything. The only problem would be funds. If I can save enough I would absolutely love to travel with you. I love staying in hotels. I like sleeping in strange places and sometimes I really enjoy sleeping in my clothes. Though the two are not exclusively linked. ”

“You look better without them.” Glory began to laugh but let out a huge yawn.

“You destroyed that compliment. Tired, are we?”

“Exhausted. Do you have work tomorrow?”

“Yeah. I don’t have to be up too early. We can go back into the city together after breakfast.” I got up to set my alarm, “be right back.” I went into the hallway and took the night-light that doubles as an air freshener. “I’m back”

“I was beginning to worry. What’s that?”

“Our fireplace.” I plugged it in and went to the desk and took orange and red markers. Orange und rot. And I drew a primitive looking fire along the light projected on the wall. I turned off the desk light, reminiscent of hieroglyphics.

“ Good thing. It’s so cold here. Come here. hold me.”

We laid there, I was the little spoon, my preference, with Pangur Ban down by our feet. The three of us on layers of old blankets and quilts that I’ve had for years, between a coffin, and walls, houses, countries, planets. Us, Glory and I in the center of everything.

“Where are we?”

“Well, wherever we are I’m thinking it’s winter time.”

“Yes. It has to be winter, so where could we be?” Glory said.

“We are in a cottage in Tipperary or in a cabin, in the Black Forest. Your decision.”

“Let’s go with the cottage.”

“Nice choice. Let me put more wood on the fire.” I took off my socks and threw them at the wall.

“Its so nice being here. Who’s cottage does this belong to? Give me some back story.” Glory rubbed my arm.

“My great great Nana.”

“It’s lovely here. I could live here. It feels like it would be a nice home. Doesn’t it? Do you feel at home here.”

“I don’t know if I feel at home anywhere. I suppose I have always felt out-of-place. I am pretty happy here with you at the moment.” There was no place on earth that felt like home to me.

“I want you to be happy. This is what I want. I like being with you. I like your mouth. I want us to always be forthcoming and open with each other.  Let’s establish a friendship rooted in honesty. You said some things earlier that made me happy. I wouldn’t expect a guy to confess like that, maybe if he was lying, but you weren’t. I could tell. I don’t want to overwhelm you or freak you out but I watched you, too. You looked so lonely. Its funny, after you told me things, like how you stopped talking to your friends and how you feel lost, I got the impression you were a little melancholic. When you were alone, writing at the bar, you seemed down, but whenever you were engaged you livened up, right back to smiling and laughing. I kind of felt like you were mysterious in a way. There is a darkness. I guess I was attracted to that as well. I was curious about you. But you were remote, and I respected that. The truth was I just wanted to know you. I wanted to know who you were. I made up stories about you. I wondered if you were at all close to who I imagined you to be.”

“Am I?

“In a way you are. I don’t know why we feel the way we do sometimes. But I was intrigued by you. I thought about us, doing all sorts of wonderful things together. I felt like we could be absolute. I pictured us getting married. I know it is crazy.”

“No. It’s not. That’s normal. Do me a favor?”

“Get your things and get out! Nut job!” I pointed to the door.

“Ha. Stop it! It’s not that crazy. Is it? Want it to get crazier I have a list of baby names.” Glory laughed, and squeezed me.

“Who doesn’t? We can be superlative. I’m fine with that.” I had a list too.

“I confess I feel so very foolish saying these things out loud, but I have thought them. It’s true. I attribute it to possessing an over active imagination and not so much as an obsession of you.’

“Officer, the woman was obsessed I had to. Does anyone know your here?” pew pew. I imitated shooting her.

“Creeps. I want to be where you are as long as you want me to be there with you.”

“Huh? I want you here. With me. I’m skeptical and weary of amorous relations but I’d rather try and fail then not try at all. I’m trying to think differently, maybe its maturity finally setting in, if we tried and it failed, I wouldn’t perceive it as a waste of time but more of a lesson. I’d be grateful for it.”

“I require your mouth to be close to mine whenever we’re together.” We kissed.

“There is going to come a time when I rue this day and wished it never happened.”

“You don’t know that.” She raised a fist to me in jest.

“I don’t know anything. But I do know this is going to end catastrophically, everything does.”

W. FLOOD : Chapter Twenty

W. Flood

 

Chapter Twenty

I turned on the lights to my small bedroom and let Glory walk in first ahead of me. I’m a gentleman. I could never tire of watching her walk, just the sight of her moving was enough for me to smile, and salivate a bit. Her limbs were fucking cute. The way I felt couldn’t be natural. I felt foolish, but having her so close to me was strange. It shouldn’t have been strange, but it was, everything always is. I don’t know how to act properly. It was so hard to be myself with the tireless analysis of every single move or word. I was so keen on her and she didn’t care about those things that made me vulnerable. I had no reason to feel out of sorts but I nevertheless did. The way her jeans looked made me feel a little bit better. I won’t lie.

“We have to be quiet. Catherine is asleep.” I said in a whisper that I guided safely into her ear.

She looked around at the room. “This is awesome! Where did you get the coffin?”

“My best friend Ronnie and I made these coffins when we were in junior high. We got one each. You got the stakes, I got the coffin.” I wrestled my phone from my pocket, I looked at the copious amounts of missed calls and voice messages. What the fuck was I doing? I missed my family. My friends were always like family to me and I felt guilty about shunning them.

Pangur was on the unmade bed, Glory sat beside her and softly petted her frail frame. Pangur was so close to the end of her road. I needed to make a decision and soon. “So this is Pangur Ban. She is so pretty for an old lady. What the fuck is a Pangur Ban? What do you mean?” Glory spoke to my cat. I fumbled with opening fresh beers, first handing Glory hers and then I put mine out toward her to clink her bottle against mine. Slainte.
“Pangur Ban, is the title of an old, old poem about a dude’s cat. Ninth or tenth century, I’m not positive. Irish stuff.”

I put on Chelsea Wolfe, low but audible. I thought how unromantic it was to click a button to hear music. To put the needle to a record is something of a aphrodisiac. I needed a record player. Fuck. My old one broke ages ago.

“How old is she?” asked Glory.

“As ancient as the poem.”

“Oh, no,” said Glory as Pangur Ban walked the length of the bed hunched over, almost a stretch and emptied her bladder. Glory rose slowly, unaffected by the amount of piss but concerned. Why must everything be so embarrassing? Life is undignified.

“Pangur, No!”

“Oh, no.”

“I’m sorry. Should I be embarrassed? She is losing control of her bodily functions. This happens. She is really sick.” I turned to my cat, “Come on! Babe, now?”

“Aww. Poor thing. That is so sad. No need to be embarrassed.” Glory rubbed my back, as if I was the one who pissed the bed. I hadn’t done that in months. Honest.

“Fuck.”

“It’s really an obscene amount of piss. How is it possible for something so small to retain that much liquid? She never even drinks her water. I don’t get it.”

“Isn’t it? Toilet maybe.” Pangur hopped off the bed.

I removed the comforter and the sheets from the bed. “I have to clean this. I’m going to put these in the washing machine.”

“Can I help?” Glory asked, thoughtfully.

I envisioned myself throwing my beer on her and telling her to remove her clothes so I could wash those too. I’m good at ruining moments. I refrained. “There are blankets in the coffin. I’m sorry but we will have to sleep on the floor.”

“I don’t care where we sleep. It’s not the end of the world. Stop worrying.” She kissed me.

When I returned from the kitchen Glory was not in the room. There was a nice cozy bed set up on the floor with the quilts from the coffin and throw pillows from the bed. “Glory? Glory? Where are you?” I had a handful of stain remover and remembered how terrible cat piss smells as the smell punched me in the nose. Then it occurred to me where this little weirdo might have been hiding. I smiled, lifting the lid of the coffin open.

“You fit. I haven’t fit in that thing since I was sixteen.”

“I do fit. It’s snug in here. How about you pretend I’m dead. What would you say about me? Give me a proper eulogy”.

“I don’t want to eulogize you. I don’t know you well enough yet to deliver a eulogy.”

“Just do it. Say something nice.”

“Fine but you can’t look at me.” I shut the lid and sat on top. “Can you breathe?” She clawed the inside of the coffin. “Is that a yes?” More clawing. “Hold on what is your last name?”

“It’s Mayberry. Gloria Mayberry.”

“I like it.” I said lifting the lid of the coffin as I stood up. “Well, Thank you for coming here. Am I supposed to thank people? Wait! What did you die from?”

“Witch hunt. I was hanged.” She hung herself with an imaginary rope, her wet tongue dangled.

“What fucking year is this?”

“1692, who cares. Proceed.”

“I am deeply saddened by the sudden execution of Glory Mayberry. I didn’t know her all that well.” I looked at her, her wry smile, her crayon blue jeans. Blau. I thought of what she said about the being true to myself, about not caring what others might think. I decided to just be honest, it wasn’t as much about being honest to her than it was about finally saying aloud what I really thought and how I truly felt.

“I saw Glory at Anne Bonny’s. It was excruciatingly painful for me to look away from her. She was so beautiful. I was completely smitten. I knew it. I knew everything she wore and how on some days her hair was straight and other days a bit wild. I wanted to smell it. I wanted to sniff her head so badly. I don’t know much about her and that is what makes me sad the most. That I won’t be able to learn everything about her. I won’t be able to be a part of her life. I wanted to be Glory’s best friend. I know she wanted to be an actress. I know her parents were amazing. I know she wished she was nicer to her sister. Her therapist was aces. I know she was smart and she was funny. Had I known she was going to be a victim of such mass hysteria, I would have spoken to her sooner. Its my fault, you see, I am at a place in my life were I don’t know if love is real, or if things in life are ever truly right. I was looking for isolation and distance and instead I stumbled upon a woman, a woman I did my best to avoid, to admire from afar, in order to save her and protect myself from certain heartache. I wish I would have found more quotes. Had I known the inevitable I would have never let myself shy away from touching her at each possible rendezvous. A lobster claw snapping at her arm or an affectionate squeeze of her neck whenever in close range. I wanted to be her person. From the moment I found out about her existence I thought about her everyday. Quelle domage. Maybe we could have had something intrinsic, something irrefutable. She could have helped me, she could have been the person, my person, who gave me the sustenance and could have amended my recurring feeling of disorientation. Maybe with her beside me I would never feel lost again.”

She looked up at me and I couldn’t gauge what was going on inside her pretty scalp.

“Ok I think I should stop there.”

“It was lovely.” She climbed out and rolled over to my feet, crashing into my legs. She pulled me down to the floor by the bottom of my shirt. “I want to kill you.” I would have let her too.

W. FLOOD : Chapter Nineteen

W. Flood

Chapter Nineteen

Glory and I walked along 149th street toward my apartment. It was dark and gloomy, just the way I had always liked it. It could have been perfect only had it been Halloween or Walpurgisnacht, but it was an ordinary day. The desolation of Memorial park had an eerie feel, of something supernatural as if specters watched us from some hidden shadow.

Glory had her hand in mine, just where I wanted it, underneath the constellations of Hercules and Corona Borealis. I wanted to know about the stars so I could navigate us out of here. There would never be enough time for us here, in this world, in this form. We had to hurry. We all know death is close but I knew death was closer than I preferred, inching forward each second. I was comforted by the fact that I knew someone like Glory. I also knew it was only a matter of time before I fucked this up. Wilhelm, ever the saboteur. Just leave me enough rope.

“Fuck!” I said.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” Glory asked, stopping in her tracks and pulling me toward her by the hand. She pulled me closer, placing the back of my knuckles on her mouth as if testing for heat.

“It’s Mr. Dailor.” I said, staring at her, thinking about how we could be standing one day, this far apart at a ceremony, making tough promises, hoping never to stray, hoping our feelings never change for the worse.

“Mr. Dailor? Who’s he?”

“This guy. I’ve known him my entire life but it’s always so awkward with him. I grew up with his son, we were close in elementary school but drifted apart after that. He is a good guy. I think he became a teacher. Mr. Dailor grew up with my mother, Hattie.”

“So what’s the matter? What’s the big deal? Besides the fact he looks a bit off his rocker.”

“Every time I see him he asks me about my mother. ‘How is your mom?’ I just hate lying about it.”

“So don’t. You don’t have to lie about anything. You don’t owe him an explanation. Wilhelm, you don’t have to talk about it or do anything you don’t want to. With him, with me, with anyone.”

“Wilhelm!” Mr.Dailor yelled, changing direction and pulling his mangy looking dog with him. He was one of the few who called me by my proper name. I appreciated that about Mr.Dailor. “How are you? You look good.”

“I’m well.”

“And who is this? She’s hot!”

“This is Glory. I agree. Glory, this is Mr.Dailor.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, Glory. You are a very pretty girl. Nice job Wilhelm! He is a handsome man even though he’s been mixing it up it seems. That’s a good way to lose your looks.”

“Uh. Thank you.”

“I agree.” Said Glory, jutting me with her elbow. I felt like I was bright red. Feverish.

“How is your mother? Glory, did you know my first girlfriend was Wilhelm’s mother. Hattie was so lovely.” Mr.Dailor looked up at the sky, reflecting on his own youth. I did not want to even try to wonder what he was thinking about.

“I did not know that. Young love.” Glory said.

“How would you?” I said to her, smiling.

“Hattie was, what was she? Breathtaking. She really was something. I haven’t seen her in such a long time. How is she doing?”

“I wouldn’t know.” I knew how she was. She was alone and destroyed. Heartbroken and irreparable.

“What does that mean? How would you not know? I don’t understand that.”

“The truth is I haven’t spoken a single word to her in about eight years.”

“No way! Why? I would never not talk to my kids. Wow.”

“It’s sad. It’s not how I want it to be. We just cease to have a relationship.”

“That’s so sad. What happened? I don’t understand.”

“There are reasons. They’re all pretty shitty. The whole situation is shitty.”

“Wilhelm, she is your mom, man. You have to talk to her. I know how she can be.” We both knew what he was implying. “But she needs you. You should call her. Patch things up. You are good kid, do the right thing. Help her.”

“I can’t, I can’t talk to her. I can’t help her. I can’t do anything. Hey Mr.Dailor, I’m sorry, we have to get going.”

“Alright Wilhelm, but think about it.” I always think about it. “Put ice on that eye. Nice meeting you, Glory.”

“It was nice to meet you. Good night, Mr.Dailor. You’re puppy is eating something.”

“Shit. Karloff, don’t eat that.”

We walked along the benches where years ago the older kids hung out at, we passed the handball I wrote on hundreds of times. I don’t know if Glory noticed it, but I wrote ‘It is possible I have done nothing important. – W.Flood’ across eighty feet of handball court. I was surprised it hadn’t been buffed yet. How is it possible some people never accomplish anything in the duration of their lifetime? How is it possible to be content? Why is it that I have continuously wanted more from this monotonous existence without anything worthwhile ever happening. Why couldn’t I do something more? Anything.

We wash away the routine for years at the public house we walked passed, the bar where my friends might have very well been inside. I’ve walked this street so many times. I wanted to walk a different way home for once but I knew I’ve already exhausted every avenue here in Whitestone. Glory squeezed my hand, I didn’t want her pity, it was too much, she didn’t need to know all that.
“So, wow. Eight years. That is a long time. You okay?”

“I suppose. I think I tend to reside in the flux of okay and not okay.” I was never okay, but that was my problem, not hers. I thought that was all I would be for Glory, a problem. She should run from me. Fast and far.

We didn’t say much to each other. When we walked I almost felt like it was already all ruined. The relationship was corrupted. Or was it all in my head. I thought of the fast paced walks on cold nights from the bar. I thought of the other cities and the other lives I might have had if I just left this place behind me. I thought about how I wanted to be in my bed with Glory with everything stricken from the record. Inadmissible in heart. I thought of Hattie. How I hated coming home, the ponderous dread that coursed through me and rained down on me. Eight years later Hattie is somewhere and I felt so guilty for how her life turned out. I was sure I would be the one to find her dead all those times I came home. That looming feeling of death is never absent, it’s right on our heels.

W. FLOOD : Chapter Eighteen

W. Flood

Chapter Eighteen

“I should preface this story with some background information. It most likely wont make sense out of context.” I played the sock on her hand as if it were a guitar. If the sock was a real guitar I’d probably practice a lot more.

“Okay hit me with it.” She sipped her Hofbrau. Glory really wanted to know me which I found most peculiar. She wanted to know about Wilhem Flood, but why? I knew I was worthless, nothing. I couldn’t understand her interest in knowing about who I was as a person. It made me excited and frightened at the same time. She had to be defective. There had to be something irreversibly wrong with her. This was impossible.

I wanted to be different with Glory. I wanted to be myself only this time, unguarded and open. Honest, completely honest.

“I have been pretty unhappy for quite some time. I haven’t really admitted that to anyone. I’m not happy. I mean, I can have a good time. I can still find ways to laugh. But I’ve really just felt…stagnant, frustrated. What’s the best synonym? My Father would always say he was disgusted with his life, by our family, or rather the situations our family found its way into, I guess now I understand what that feeling really is. So before I begin, I’m not complaining about my life nor do I want anyone’s pity, let’s set it straight, there is a clear difference, I’m merely providing facts, a detailed analysis of who I am, and remember you are the one who wanted to know, so here it is. I am Wilhelm Flood. I am 28 years old. Fact. I have not yet begun a career of any variety. Fact. I am really good at nothing. Fact, half fact half joking. I’m alright at a lot of things but not great at anything at all. I feel like nothing grand is going to happen in the foreseeable future. I will never achieve anything, or make any progress and that scares me. I just heard myself and all that sounds awful but.”

“Wait, when in your birthday?” Glory sipped her beer.

“December 29.”

“Really? I’m in December too. The fourth.”

“What!” I said in a exaggerated drawn out way.

“Shut up.” said Glory, slapping my leg. “Continue, please. I get that. I feel the same way sometimes, not entirely but I do understand where you’re coming from. The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, was to act and I never put myself out there because it terrifies me. I don’t think you’re alone. I think the 21st century has become very impossible for most people. I don’t think you have complaints, per se, well maybe a few. It appears to me that you are very hard on yourself. Things will work out. But how does this get you a black eye?”

“Right. Well a few months back I was the bar, it’s right down the street. I was there with my friends, my best friends, people I’d do anything for. We were having a great time bullshitting about whatnot. Its never a bad time, you know, when we all get together. We were talking about our lives. I said something that depressed me. I talked about things, things I’m going to do, things I wanted to do but haven’t done and probably wont ever get to do. Yeah, I’m going to write that book. Im getting that job I wanted. I heard myself, it sounded so rehearsed, I’ve said it so many times. The career wasn’t going to happen, it still hasn’t. It occurred to me that I sounded like I was full of shit. I was sick of talking shit. Talk talk talk. I don’t want to talk about doing things, I want to actually do them. Plus at this point I was having these recurring thoughts of leaving everything behind. I am an escapist at heart. I have always wanted to leave, its one of the things I desired more than anything for years. It’s just sometimes the desire to leave is stronger and the thoughts of leaving are more frequent. I suppose it is when I’m at my most discontent with my life.”

“ You roam around a bit. So why don’t you leave? Why haven’t you left yet? Something has to be the reason for staying.”

“It seems easier for other people to up and leave. Why haven’t I left? My sister, I’d feel bad leaving her.  My family strongly opposes. I don’t have the money to fund the escape. I don’t have the money for most of the things I’d like to do.”

“Your family would want you to be happy and if you really wanted to leave you could. Where would you want to go?

“Are you leaving with me?”

“Depends on where you’re going?”

“I’ve always dreamed of moving to Ireland or Germany, or a place like where you’re from.”

“I could live in those places. We could move in with my parents. My mother would adore you. My father might bury you out back.”

“I like that.” I said, raising my beer. “Moving in with your parents might seem like a step backwards. I’ve lived on my own for so long, you know.”

“My father wants to build Evelyn and I our own houses behind our house, further into the woods. It’s his dream. I think he wants a compound. Continue, please.” Glory tugged at the socks.

“So I went home from the bar. I had all of these feelings. I felt like maybe I had become too sentimental, too soft. It’s weird when you can’t tell if you are incapable of love or if it’s really that you love too much. I was once a spiteful cold, cold boy. Now as a man, I well up at the thought of my mother, or the thought of my life remaining this way for the rest of it. So I made a decision. If I couldn’t leave, I would find a different way to escape. I cut myself off from everyone. I haven’t had proper communication with anyone outside of my sister in a while.”

“What’s her name again, I’m sorry.”

“Catherine. She is so worried about me. I have been neglectful towards everyone. It’s partly because I’m ashamed. I want my life to be different. I wanted everything to be so different. I don’t answer my phone, I don’t return their calls or texts. I go out of my way to avoid everyone I know, which is difficult in Whitestone. I saw my friend, Emma. She showed up at my job last night, and she is asking me whats wrong, what’s wrong, something has to wrong, right? I mean everything feels all wrong. But I said that nothing was wrong. I lied to Emma. I tried to reassure her but it wasn’t working so now, we both know everything is wrong. She wants to get a beer, I tell her I cant. I use work as an excuse. I have to be in early. All that sort of bullshit. She insists. So out we go to the bar. She says one beer, I caved. I kept the focus on her and fired questions at her to keep the questions off of me. We drink and she tells me how she’s upset by my actions, that she and everyone misses me and I’m being a selfish cunt. She doesn’t understand what I’m doing. That no one did.” I barely understood it myself.

“Were you two together at some point?”

“Emma? No, we’re just close friends. I’ve known her since I’m eleven years old. Nothing to worry about there. So Emma is so mad at me. And I said some things I regret saying. I insulted her. I implied that she is complacent with her life, and because she’s okay with it does that mean I have to be? I am not. I guess I came off badly, but I didn’t mean anything malicious. honestly. She told me she wanted to punch me in the face. I thought I kind of deserved it with my behavior and all. I said, one shot. I removed my glasses and she swung hard. I said thank you, hugged her and left. I went home and thought about everything, and I cried a bit.”

“You’re a gigantic baby.” Glory chuckled.

“I don’t know if gigantic is precise.”

“How do you feel now?”

“Right this minute? I feel all sorts of emotions.”

“Are you embarrassed to share this with me. If you don’t want to talk about anything just say the word and we can change topics.”

“No. I tend to share too much. But it’s not a trust thing, I don’t trust you, I don’t trust anyone with my emotions entirely. You get the parts I’m okay with. I trust Pangur Ban. Pangur’s talks have no omissions, as for majority of my feelings and thoughts, I can share, I don’t care if you know.

“I already told you I have trust issues.”

“You did. We are perfect then.”

“We could be. We could be two straight lines in a crooked world.

“I’d like that. I think it all comes down to purpose. I want to make something.” I caught the reference.

“What is your family like?”

“My dad moved far away. I never thought about it but I guess he was kind of distant even when he was here. I wish I could up and move. My mother is still here in New York. They both are, I don’t know, damaged in different ways. But deep down they are decent people that are just really fucked up. Its funny my father is a truck driver, and he would sit and watch westerns all day long, it is a similar lawless kind of lifestyle. The open road. Oregon trail shit. I wish I could have appreciated it then, I would have sat and watched them more with him. I didn’t get the appeal. Clint. What a bad dude? In a way my father did exactly what I’ve always wanted to do.”

“Yeah. What’s that?”

“He left.”

“Give me your hands.” She took a felt tipped pen from her purse. “Hold them out like your receiving communion.” She wrote Eastwood across my fingers. “There.”

We kissed, and I could feel myself falling for all those things my heart was whispering to my mind.

“Look at the stars. Here I have this app it will tell us what constellations are above us.” She said, fumbling in her bag for her cellphone, while my own vibrated in my pocket, another ignored call under the stars.

W. FLOOD : Chapter Seventeen

W. Flood

 

Chapter Seventeen.

The harsh headlights of Hattie’s second husband’s filthy Ford pickup, aggressively slithered into the house through the slits in the dust cloaked venetian blinds. The pick-up truck gurgled loudly, and breathed as heavily as Hattie’s second husband did. It was as if he was being selfish with air as well, trying to take it all for himself or he would die. Air felt awful about having to enter his lungs. He would take it all, because everything was all his, in this supposition of a morganatic wedlock. Marriages dissolve by the second across the world, though theirs did not.

Go back where you came from.

The truck was blue and white; blau und weiss. Catherine and I could feel the ominous hum fill the house as he sped into his crumbling driveway. I imagined the fissures that plagued the house of Usher, bubbling and shifting the shoddy concrete of the driveway, his driveway.

Why did they have to return to the house? A ranch style house in Whitestone, that lodged hulking aversions. We were often left alone. But if you asked us, and no one ever did ask us, we preferred it that way, we preferred to be left alone. Let them go off to their debaucheries.

“Be gone!” Channel your inner Vincent Price. Let the adults go off to fumble with their own irresponsible devices, in their rank hang outs or to the seedy casinos of Atlantic city in a feeble attempt to hit it big. It was never going to happen for them. Hattie and him longed to apprehend that quick fix to all their problems. Quite possibly the only commonality between the two of them. The change never poured down from the slots. No chips were ever cashed in.

I find myself wondering what draws people together. How do two people who don’t seem to enjoy each other’s presence come together. I mean, I understood what kept Hattie and her second husband together. The thoughtless arson of every bridge they trespassed. I wanted to be wrong for her sake. Deserving or not, I wanted a better life for Hattie. They were only together because they had no one else and both were too weak to ever try being alone. It was daunting for me to think I was just as weak, possibly even more so, even more desperate than them. Maybe that is another reason I’ve pushed everyone I love away from me, maybe I distanced myself to prove that I can be content alone. I sabotaged everything regardless of the pangs I felt sleeping alone. It occurred to me I couldn’t remember them ever saying I love you. If she said I love you to me I wouldn’t say it back.  I was a bastard for that. He only told me he loved me two or three times and I didn’t believe him. No truth in his stained smirk. I could hear the conversations, the arguments are more apropos description, I could everything through the walls.  We heard every one of his raspy detestation. I knew what he truly thought of me. I didn’t want their love. Anyone with a tongue can say I love you, despite being equipped with defective hearts. Come to think of it, I have a hard time believing anyone who tells me that they love me. It is difficult to fathom that love is even a real thing.

They would return to his house in the early morning hours, drunk and broke, and hating each other for it. This was normal in our house. I felt bad for them. He resented my mother for his misfortune. She was his bad luck charm. The nights were long, tense and sleepless. Catherine and I dreaded their return. It was always the same. A night full of turmoil, a morning of averted eyes and concealed heartache, with miserable days barely worth living. Why couldn’t the house just crumble with us in it. The Ushers pitied Catherine and I. We were raised in putrefaction.

“Promise mommy you wont say anything about what happens here to anyone.” We vowed to Hattie. We’d conceal to truth from all outsiders to help her. Mask your hatred. I never could affirm that last bit. Install in the children a suspicious and fretful perception of the truth. Make it so they always feel like they are at risk of saying too much, of saying the wrong thing, bestow anxiety unto them. The restive wear worn clothes and tired looks.

Catherine and I were happiest when we were left alone in the house.

Nothing in the house belonged to us. We were reassured of that regularly. Nothing. Not the cracking brick facade, or green fence, grun, nor the fridge, that Hattie spelled her name in magnetic letters and I followed it up with, ‘is the mother of immorality’, even those plastic magnetic letters were not ours. We should have never been there in the first place. We were there and had to eat every last bit of the shit thrown at us. He reminded us of his true feelings of us without much provocation. I suppose when you are miserable it does not take much to incite. The look of Hattie’s face could set me off too.

“You think I need you. You and your fucking kids. You pieces of shit. I need you? You kidding? Leave. Go. This is my house. My house! Get the fuck out. You dumb bitch.” This is not the way you show your love, I’m almost certain of that, and I don’t know anything about anything.

We always hoped the door to our attached rooms would never open. The two us in that split room, with its dingy white walls, restless with bloody cuticles. We weren’t asleep. We were frightened little kids but we could ride out the night in the dark with our tears and fading hopes. The hopeless and the frail. We could handle that, easily. Then the door would open. We’re leaving. Slurred words. Streaked mascara. Catherine would be crying. Hattie as well but still trying to assume a false sense of parental control with a melting face. We’d stuff some clothes into garbage bags and he would belittle us the whole time, finding a sick sense of pleasure from it, schadenfreude, as we left his house with the clothes he bought in garbage bags he bought with our mother he bought. We were directionless. Wandering around Whitestone in the dead of night, with nowhere to go, and no one to call. It was such a joke, a parade for the pathetic, only to march back a few hours later, to sneak in like vermin, quiet so we wouldn’t disturb him from his drunken unconsciousness. After it became routine I stopped packing. The first few times I was so happy at the prospect of escaping.

I spent nights awake in that house of his, I plotted my escape. I looked out the window that looked into the backyard, I saw the darkness and that was where I wanted to go. Walk into it and disappear.

The door opened. We never wanted it to open but it did. She came in crying, make up is disarray, he grabbed at her while yelling, “Where are you going?”

Catherine cried. I’d love to tell you that I didn’t cry but that would be inaccurate. I can not look at Catherine crying and not follow suit.

“Leave me alone, I’m checking on my kids.” Said Hattie pulling her shirt out of his hand.

“Your pieces of shit.”

“Just stop.” Maybe not that night.

He pulled her into the dining room, chastising her for her past, for us, her ex-husband, for all of his failures.

It was all Hattie’s fault. Maybe I had something in common with her second husband after all. My life is not a result of Hattie or him. I want to let go of it all. I thought that, I’ll admit it, I blamed her for a long time but I reflect and as I do, as I confide in you, I don’t ever want to be like those people. I didn’t want to angry anymore. Those adults, do I dare say guardians, laughable at best, those people who shaped my environment, one of whom is part of my genetic coding, were the last people on the planet I would want to emulate. Why are there people in this world who refuse to take responsibility for their actions? Am I the only person who strives to be a decent person? If anything I was grateful, I have seen the ways in which you should never treat the woman you love or how not to have a fulfilling life. It has instilled tenets to guide me and how I behave and treat others. I will try not to raise my voice or speak unkindly, for the moment that I do, the relationship is corrupted and irreparable, and I shall never raise my hand to a woman.

He punched her hard. It made a sound unlike those you hear in movies. I’d like to tell you it’s never happened before but I’d be a liar. He hit her with his disgusting hands. Unwashed hands I had to shake. Hands with bad habits, that I cringed when he dug them into chopped meat or into Hattie. There was no trace of love in his appendages. He pushed her onto the table where he kept his records, pieces of paper flying everywhere. He swung. He swung again, hitting her, hitting her, hitting her. Punch, punch, punch. Catherine and I stood in the doorway, watching, learning. Is this love? Hattie shrieked a sound I hated more than any other sound in the world. I only heard it on nights like those or when she was strapped to a gurney, barely conscious leaving for the hospital.

Catherine yelled at him, “Stop! Stop! You’re hurting her!”

He turned to us, “I’m not hurting her. I love your mother, I’d never hurt her.”

“You are too.” He was still holding her down.

I wanted him to hit me desperately. If he laid a chubby finger on me then that would be it, it would seal his fate, but we are not fatalistic. I looked at the door expecting someone to storm through it and save us. Please, I thought, punch me, just hurt me then my father would come back just like Clint Eastwood. He would be on the way out of a busted up town, conflicted, in the middle of stand-off with a moral dilemma, but he always came back. He did what was right. I wanted Justice, better yet I wanted revenge. I thought my family was going to save us. All the people we swore not to tell a single word to. Why didn’t I speak up? My uncles would come and rescue Catherine and me, where were they? They would help us. They just didn’t know. No one ever came through the door even though I stood and looked toward it waiting for someone to burst through it. No one ever saved us. I just cried, helpless and frozen. I wanted to protect Hattie. I wanted to protect Catherine. Helplessness is an expression I wear. Blood surged in my tight discolored knuckles, grinding me teeth.

Hattie got off the table and darted for the living room, he turned and with a quick shove sent her through the glass coffee table, shattering the glass pane table top. I don’t think he intended for it to happen. I’m not defending him, but the situation was escalating.

“You broke the fucking table,” he said, pointing at her on the floor, where there was a quilt. They usually watched television on the living room floor.

“Enough, okay?” she said through the sobs. She got up carefully, glass strewn about. He hit her, she fell against an end table a lamp exploded.

“You ruin everything! Now I have to get a new lamp too.”

Why didn’t I leave and get help? My family lived nearby. I could have went and got my uncles. Men. Real guys who I wanted to be like. If it was a choice I would have went into a home if it meant that someone took Catherine in. I don’t care about what I saw or how I felt, my only concern or regret is that I did nothing and allowed Catherine to witness and feel those same things I felt bearing witness. My guilt for my sister decimated the guilt I have for Hattie. We were almost rescued, that night was the one time the police came.

Two police officers were at the front door of his house, I recollect how peculiar it sounded to hear knocking on that specific door, no one ever used that door. They said a neighbor reported a complaint, some kind of disturbance. One police officer was an asian man and they other was a white woman. They were in the house, I don’t remember how they got there, they just were, you can think of your own outlandish entrance for them. Hattie’s second husband, sat at the table in the dining room, fixing up his work records, Hattie had annoyingly decided to shut the fuck up, ignoring questions from the female officer. Hattie was then in the living room trying to tidy up while the male officer asked her questions, while never taking his attention off of his partner in the other room. The house remained tense, I don’t think Hattie answered any questions. He seemed like a nice enough man, his eyes were compassionate and I think the sight of my little sister and the surrounding crime scene got to him a little. The night was criminal, punishment needed to be doled out accordingly.

-Miss, what is your name?

-What happened?

-Do you need an ambulance?

-Are these your children or his?

-You need to press charges…

-I know you don’t want to, but you need to.

-Look at what this is doing to your children.

-Did he hit you?

-Ma’am they could take your kids away.

-You should press charges…

There was a knock at the side door, the door we used. There were two more police cars outside.

“Sir, we need you to step outside.”

I went out the front the door, in my pajamas with my red hooded sweatshirt over them, the cowl covering my long messy hair, bare footed, useless and standing in the driveway. He came to the door but wouldn’t step through it.

“Sir, can you come outside, please.”

“For what? This is my house.”

“Please step outside sir.”

“No,” he looked up the steps into the house, toward Hattie, “you called the cops you fucking bitch, rat.”

“The children are frightened, sir. They look like they have been crying for days, your neighbors reported it not your wife, sir. Step outside.” I was ecstatic someone called them.

He tried to shut the door on one officer and the four reacted. They fought with him while one recited the miranda rights, wrestling against the side of the house, his house. One cop smashed his face against the brick siding. I was smiling ear to ear, overcome with joy. The bastard sun rose, people were all outside now, watching her second husband get roughed up and handcuffed.

I was so happy, rooting for the cops, the good guys, I turned to look at the spectators. My happiness was short-lived.

I realized then I was truly alone. Hattie, was crying but for a different reason, it was her worry and sympathy for him. Dare I say, love. Catherine was emulating her. She was so young, she is really not at fault for her reactions. Catherine didn’t know any better, after all, she was just a little girl. I was not very kind to Hattie during this time but after that night I would never show her any warmth. What love was left in my impressionable heart was gone. I lost my innocence long before that night, but now I lost my compassion for my mother as well. We were done, I thought I could remain frozen forever, I thought I could turn my back and sleep soundly. He went through the system, Central Bookings, probably ate a halal sandwich, got arraigned, and was back in under thirty hours. The fighting never ceased, but he didn’t use his hands so much after that. My feelings towards them both were decided. I wanted to write this on the side of his fucking house. You know I love quotes. Nietzsche would not have been impressed.

W. Flood is dead.
W. Flood remains dead.
And you have killed him…