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.

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.”