Sunday Morning: Loft Apartment by Sarah Spires

I was listening to that old Strokes album
you got me for my birthday
and you were smoking a cigarette.

We were just two people
locked together by broken promises
and unrealistic expectations.

I liked the way you kissed me,
like you were deep in thought
about each brush of our lips.

But maybe you were really somewhere
far, far away,
dreaming of a life without me
where you ride your bike to work
and play poker on Tuesday nights.

You told me you wanted to know me better,
my skin hung heavy
with regret and insecurities
that you could never understand

So I laid back and watched you blow out smoke
as Julien Casablanca’s voice cooed to the highest octave,
enjoying the simplicity of the moment
but wondering how long it would be before you were gone.

Digits by Hannah Bernard

Today, when I walked into work, two women, one a blonde and the other a brunette, stood huddled together with mittens and their coffee cupped in their hands. “That’s the guy I told you about.” I turned a corner three and a half feet away, and stood with my back against a brick wall, my head peering around the corner. Their voices floated towards me.
The brunette said, “The weird guy?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. He’s been working here forever. I don’t remember his name, though.” The blonde sipped some of her coffee, her lipstick staining the lid red.
“Well, that’s odd.” The brunette wobbled in her heels, steam from the coffee floating up to her face. “I guess all that matters is if he gets his job done, and if he does it well.”
“Yeah, I guess. He just gives me the creeps, you know? He just…stares at you and picks his nails. It’s like his eyes see right through you, which could be hot in bed…”
“You’re sick,” the brunette said, laughing. Her teeth were white and straight, drawing one’s attention to the rest of her sculpted face.
The rest of the day I watched her. By the printer, by the water cooler, at lunch. Her hands moved with grace; everything she touched, she touched it gently. Her nails were painted with a clear sheen that drew your eye to her hand then up her arm. Her watch fit loosely on her hand, catching light. She moved with power. When she walked, crowds parted. Men gawked. Women glared. She’s everything I’m not. I picked dead skin off my cuticles, and counted how many seconds it took for strips of dead skin to fall to the ground. My fingers refused to be still. They ran over the hem of my shirt, trying to flatten it out repeatedly.
After lunch, I was called to a meeting. I entered the room, and the two women were sitting next to each other, erect at the conference table three feet apart. The blonde opened her eyes wide and smiled, leaning in to whisper to the brunette. The brunette covered her mouth politely, covering the smile that was spreading across her face. I sat down directly across from her, and looked in my lap. I started to pick at my cuticles, watching the dry skin peel off of my fingers like I was molting.
“Today, we’re here to talk about…” Mr. McDaniel droned on about statistics and how our group was aiding the in the goal of the company. I stole glances of the brunette. Her eyes were focused on the power point that was up on the screen. Her eyes never flicked towards me. The blonde, on the other hand, stared at me constantly. She looked weak; she looked as if any man can dominate her and she would let them. Submissive. I laid my hands flat on the table, and started drumming my fingers. I breathed deeply, filling my chest with the dusty air.
After the meeting, I walked about twelve feet behind the brunette and the blonde. The blonde would look at me over her shoulder, sizing me up. I looked down at my feet, watching the brown shuffle against the dingy teal carpet. The blonde turned into her office, shutting the door quickly behind her. The brunette walked into a hallway where they were remodeling. Most of the people had moved into cubicles temporarily, making the area around me more crowded. My hands balled into fists inside of my pockets, my nails cutting slightly into my palm.
She stopped by the water cooler, and filled up the paper cup. She lifted it to her mouth, her lip print smearing on it. I did the same thing.
“That meeting was awful, wasn’t it?” She spoke softly.
“Yeah.” Her eyes looked down towards my shoes, then back up to meet my eyes. She lingered on my hands, which were trembling and fidgeting.
“There’s only so many times you can say how much money we’ve made before it’s boring, you know?” People milled past us, not seeing me but seeing her towering over me.
“I guess.” She nodded and slowly began to turn away.
“What do you do?” I called out, my voice coming out fragmented and broken. She turned around and gave me a puzzled look.
“What do you mean?”
I cleared my throat. “As in, what do you do here?”
She raised her right eyebrow slightly, unmeasurable. “Accounting.” She tried to keep her face placid, but her efforts were unsuccessful. “Why do you ask?”
“Just curious.” She looked at me under furrowed eyebrows, and then walked down the hallway, a mirage against plastic covered walls.
Later that night, I waited in the parking lot six feet away from the exit of the building. Our office building was small, and it was easy to spot her lonely car. She walked out of the doors and into the yellow glow of street lights. It casted peculiar shadows across her face, making her cheeks look more sunken in than they actually were. She walked towards the cherry red murano. I waited, leaning against the side of the building in the shadows. She fumbled through her purse, looking for her car keys. The keys clanged against the oil-stained asphalt. She unlocked the door and sat in the driver’s seat, staring at the wall in front of the car. Her lips were tight and her eyebrows were slanted upward, tears welling up in her eyes. She covered her face with her hands, the light still reflecting off of her nail polish. Her shoulders lurched forward as she sobbed.
I stayed in the shadows, not letting the dingy yellow light see any part of me. I watched her cry; her sobs were only slightly muffled by the car. She cried for seven and a half minutes, roughly. She straightened her back, wiped underneath her puffy eyes, and threw the car into reverse. She left the lot, but I still lingered in the dark. There’s some kind of comfort of being in the dark; no one can see you, not even yourself.
I went home, and got myself dressed. A pack of cigarettes laid open on the top of my dresser, and I slowly puffed on one in the solace of my room. I dabbed cologne on. I combed my hair and brushed my teeth and left the house, locking the door behind me.
I got into my car, the old engine rattled to life. As I drove around downtown, I looked for her car with the dent in the back bumper four inches from the license plate. I drove around, hoping by happenstance I’ll run into her somewhere. In a town like this, it’s easy to be alone in a crowd of people you know, to get lost on streets you grew up on. It’s strange, feeling so at home and out of place at the same time.
I saw her car pulling down an alley way, searching for a parking spot to get into an old bar. It was the type of bar that middle aged men went to in order to find something younger than either themselves or their wives. I parked and strolled into the bar, disappearing into the smoke.
I waited by the bar, drinking a glass of water. Then the brunette walked through the door, neon lights and smoke making a filter to make her look more beautiful and younger than she appeared. She walked to the bar in the same heels she wore to work, but in jeans and a blouse. She sat down two seats away from me and said, “Whiskey on the rocks, please.” The bartender nodded, throwing the dirty rag over his shoulder. She placed her cheek in her hand and her elbow on the dark wood of the bar and stared ahead. I watched her out of the corner of my eye for a while, and the only time she moved was to take a sip of her drink and sigh. The bartender came by and asked what I wanted. I asked for the same thing.
“Rough night?” I asked her after the bartender left, taking a drink out of my glass.
She scoffed. “That noticeable, huh?”
“Birds of a feather flock together,” I said, raising up my glass.
She forced a smile and took a drink, staring at the grain on the wooden counter. She finished her drink, and called the bartender for another. “On me,” I said.
She looked at me pensively out of the corner of her eye. “Thanks. But you don’t have to do that.”
“Just trying to be nice, that’s all.”
“You don’t have to be.”
“I know.” She waited four minutes before speaking again.
“You look familiar. Do I know you?”
“We work together,” I said, staring at the ice floating in my glass. It’s hot in here. My hands were clammy as the rested on my knees.
“Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t even recognize you!”
“It’s all right,” I said, smiling encouragingly.
“I don’t remember your name…” she added shamefully.
I gave a lighthearted laugh. “It’s all right! I promise. It’s Christopher.”
“Christina. Nice to meet you.”
“You as well.”
As the night wore on, conversation became easier. She moved closer to my seat, and brought with her this aura of welcome. She laughed at my jokes, touched my arm when she smiled, brushed her hair behind her ear like she was young and in love again. Her eyes were somewhat glassy, reflecting the light off of the white of her eyes.
“Have you always lived here?” She asked.
“Yeah, I have. Have you?”
“No. I moved here about five years ago from Chicago. You never really grow used to living in a town smaller than that.”
“What possessed you to move here?”
She paused. “I like the relaxed atmosphere.” She took a rushed sip of her drink.
“Lots of people do,” I offered.
“Is that why there’s so many old people here?” she laughed.
“I guess. I don’t know why else they would come. The golf sucks.”
“Don’t rush it,” she said, talking to me like I was a child.
“Do you live here alone?” I asked, taking a drink out of my glass and watching her out of the corner of my eyes. Her brow furrowed.
“As of yesterday. My parents came to live with me after my boyfriend left.”
“That’s nice of them. Are they nice people?”
Her face brightened. “They’re my biggest supporters and best friends. Are you close to your parents?”
I stared down at the wood grain. “No, not really.” I paused. “My mother died when I was young. My father was never the man I needed him to be.” I thought of nights spent up in my room, with my dad downstairs throwing glass bottles against the walls while he was screaming at my mom. Her death wasn’t an accident; it was my dad’s only way to deal with her. I dug my finger nails into the bar, trying to stop the reruns of memories.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly. We sat in silence for three minutes. “I think it’s shitty that it takes us a lifetime to get over our childhoods.” She looked up at me. “Don’t let it take over your life.” I nodded. I didn’t feel the need to break the peace with a response.
She took a sip from her drink, and then excused herself to the bathroom. I asked the bartender for another drink for her. He made the drink and slid it across the bar, congratulating me on my date with a smirk and a wink. I ignored that. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a vial of crushed Ambien and dumped it into her drink, making sure the powder dissolved. Christina came back from the bathroom and thanked me for the extra drink, saying that I didn’t have to do that, but smiling the whole time.
When she finished her drink, she was wobbly and couldn’t walk. I called a cab for her and told the bar to not tow her car, she’ll be back to get it tomorrow. The cab came, and I put her in there. I told the driver her address, and paid the fare. I followed in my sedan a few cars behind them. When the cab pulled away from her house, I parked the car and got out to help her. I carried her into her house, and laid her down on the couch.
I pulled on some latex gloves. I locked the door and closed the blinds.
“Claire?” I asked, shaking her shoulders. “Claire, are you awake?” She stirred. “Claire, I need you to get up.” She mumbled something and turned her head away from me. “Answer me. Now.”
“Who’s Claire?” slipped out of her mouth, slurred and gargled.
“You’re Claire.”
“No, I’m Christina.”
“No, you’re Claire. You’ve always been Claire.” I reached down my hand and ran my fingers through her hair. She shied away from my touch, burying herself in the cushions of the couch. “Don’t you love me?” She gargled and slurred some kind of response. “You’ve always loved me. I’ve always loved you. We’re meant to be together, Claire.” I sat on the couch and pulled her up towards me, holding her head to my chest. She tried to push me away, but I held onto her tighter. “Stop,” she mumbled into my chest, trying to push me away. But I was stronger. “I’m not Claire. Stop.” I squeezed harder. “I’m Christina.”
I laid her on her back face up and rose up off the couch. I stuffed two more Ambien down her throat and waited for her to pass out. Once her eyes were closed and her breathing steadied, I dragged her up the stairs towards her bathroom. Her head bounced on the staircase like a ball does when it’s pushed down the stairs. I put her in the tub and filled it up with water, the water from the spout echoing in the bathroom. I undressed her, admiring how small her waist was and how supple her breasts were and how she just had to go be someone she wasn’t supposed to be. She just couldn’t listen to me. I put her in the tub, watching her hands float to the surface. I turned the water off, turned on the hair dryer, and dropped it in the tub. Her body convulsed with electricity, and I left that whore to die in the dark and in the stench of burnt flesh. It took three minutes for her to die.
The next day, I walked into work, my briefcase stiff in my arm. I walked by cubicles filled with women gossiping, but not about anything that was new. The day went smoothly. No one asked about Christina, not even her blonde friend. They all assumed she took a sick day. Even the day after that, they weren’t worried about her. It wasn’t until about four days later that people started to talk. The blonde girl swore she was going to go over to Christina’s house to see if she was okay. Let her go over there. Let her absorb the black stench that is Christina. Let her see her mangled body and burned hair and let her see what she did to herself.
The day after that, she came back crying. “Christina committed suicide,” she said to the crowd of coworkers, “I always knew she was depressed, but she was seeing someone and was on antidepressants so I don’t understand what happened. Was it something I did?”
“No, no, honey, of course it’s not your fault,” the women cooed. Leave it to a woman to turn everything around so it’s about them. I tried to ignore her, though.
I went home every day, poured myself a glass of whiskey, puffed on a cigarette, and tried to get her shrill voice out of my head. I thought about Claire and Christina. I thought about how if Claire had just stayed with me that night that nothing would’ve happened to her. I thought about her stinking flesh, how her house must smell from her being burned to sitting in rancid water for five days. I thought about how lucky I was and how lucky Claire wasn’t.
After sitting in a plastic lawn chair, I decided I was too inside my head. Your mind can get to you like that; when you’re overanalyzing every aspect of yourself and you’re second guessing everything you say and do. I decided that, after one more drink, I would go take a walk. I brought a pack of cigarettes with me, and they sat snug in my jeans pocket.
The neon lights downtown stung my eyes, and the quiet suburbs made my skin itch. I walked all over the city, leaving a trail of smoke and burnt filters. I reached the docks, and the eerie stillness of the water made me feel content. There was a party on one of the boats. The bass from the dj barely vibrated the water. The reflection of the dock lights rippled, and I sat and watched. I watched for about ten and a half minutes when the click-clack of heels tapped on the ground behind me. I looked over my shoulder, and there stood the blonde, drink in hand.
“I know you,” she said, trying not to wobble on the uneven dock. “You’re the guy that followed Christina and me around all the time. Like a lost puppy or something.”
“Yeah.” I looked away to her reflection in the water. It rippled just the same as the lights did.
“Do you know me?” She walked over to where I was sitting and loomed over me.
“Yeah.”
“So, why don’t you ever say hello then?”
I just shrugged and looked back to her rippling reflection. The small waves contorted her cheeks and chin, making her look like one of Picasso’s paintings.
“Do you know my name?” She was bent down toward my ear, her hot breath creating moisture on my neck. “Everyone knows my name.” She sat down next to me. Her strawberry schnapps sloshed out of her plastic cup and onto her mini skirt. She didn’t seem to mind.
“No, I don’t know your name.”
“It’s Ashley. Ashley Wilson.”
“Christopher.”
“I wish I could say it was nice to meet you, Christopher.” She looked down at her half-filled cup. “Did you know Christina?”
“Yes.”
“Do you know what happened to her?”
“How would I know?”
“Who doesn’t know?” She stared at her reflection in the water like I was.
“Was she your friend?” I asked.
She scoffed. “You should know.” She looked over at me, but quickly looked back to the water.
“What are you doing here?” I asked after a pause of twenty seconds .
I stood up and reached out my hand. “You’re drunk. Let’s get you home.”
“No shit, I’m drunk.” She stood up. “Answer my question.”
“Yes, yes I love you. Now let’s go.” She flung her arm around my neck and put all of her weight on me.
“No, you don’t. You’re just saying that to make me feel better. Thanks anyways.”
I nodded. I was too busy focusing on not getting her skinny heel stuck in between boards. She clung to me as we walked by old boats bobbing on the water and past the buildings where they decapitated that days catch. Fish heads were strewn across the floor, their eyes staring past me.
“This is gross,” Ashley said, spilling some of her schnapps onto the dead fish. “Drink up, fuckers.”
We walked past the boat that the party was taking place in, and I asked Ashley if she wanted to go back. “No. It’s filled with douchebags.” We eventually made it to the edge of the docks, and there was a taxi waiting.
“Well, that’s my ride, sugar,” she said to me, pushing herself off of my chest. “See you later.” She stumbled over to the cab, flung open the door, and tried to get in gracefully. It’s hard to do anything gracefully when you’re drunk, though, so she ended up looking like a fish out of water. She popped her head out of the window.
“Do you have a cigarette? I have to have one before I go to sleep so I won’t wake up hung over.”
“No, I don’t. Sorry.” She waved me off, told the taxi driver to hurry up, and they peeled past me.
I started walking back towards my apartment, and lit my last cigarette. I ditched the pack somewhere on the sidewalk. As smoke left my mouth and escaped into the air, Ashley’s voice floated into my ears. Who is she to ask me if I loved her? Or if I loved Christina? My love for Christina is no one’s business. Especially some drunk girl who tried taking my last cigarette.
I retraced my journey, through neighborhoods with sleeping families and alleys with strung out addicts. When I entered my apartment, the hairs on my neck were standing. I smelt the air. I laid my fingertips on the walls, smudging dirt on the white paint. I ran them slowly along the wall, tracking filth across the wall. I dragged my fingers around the corner and towards the kitchen. I lifted my hand off the wall, and looked at the trail I made.
I walked over to the liquor cabinet, pulled out the last bottle of whiskey, and put my lips to the rim. It burned all the way down. It warmed the pit in my stomach. I sat it down on the counter top, and walked to the bathroom. The rubbing alcohol was underneath the sink. I grabbed Jack and sat crisscrossed on the square of carpet that was my living room. The carpet was a dingy white, stained yellow from months of walking over it with my shoes on.
I drank some more, and poured the rubbing alcohol onto the carpet. It spread across the carpet in a misshapen circle. I pulled my lighter out of my pocket, and touched the flame lightly to the spot I made. It lit up. Another swig. The carpet burned black. I put my hand over the flame. I couldn’t feel it burning me, but I knew it was. The fire spread across the carpet, consuming more and more of this place I called home.
I laid my hand on top of the flame, my sleeve catching fire. I didn’t mind, though. My intestines were on fire with and kerosene flowed through my veins and fire licked at my muscles. My skin blistered from the heat, and everything was balanced. Everything was equal.
I woke up the next morning and I couldn’t remember why my carpet had a hole burned in it, and I couldn’t remember why my hands were swollen with blisters. I ran cold water over them. I could feel the heat leaving my skin and flowing down the drain into sewers.
I saw Ashley at work that day. She ignored me. She averted her eyes from me whenever we passed each other in the halls, and she looked above my head whenever we were in group discussions. She ignored me because she was embarrassed she clung to me all night.
After lunch, I was sitting in my cubicle playing solitaire, when Ashley came behind me.
“Hey.”
I turned around and just looked at her.
“Thanks for getting me to the cab last night.”
“Yeah.”
She shuffled her feet and looked down at the ground, arms folded over her chest. She waited 6 minutes to start conversation again.
“There’s another party tonight.” I grunted in response. “At the same place.” She wanted less than a minute. “Would you like to come with me?”
“Why do you want me to come?” I turned around in my chair.
“Just thought you might like to.” She looked over top of the cubicles, scanning for listening ears.
“No, thank you.” I returned to my game of solitaire. She left.
After work that day, I saw her standing by her car with a cigarette dangling around her mouth. The smoke floated away from her, down the street, and to a couple drinking coffee together on the corner. She puffed quietly. When she reached the end of her cigarette, she stubbed it on the hood of her car and kicked it out into the middle of the street. She got into her car and drove away.
I followed her to the docks. The sun wasn’t quite set; it created long, slanted shadows. The only people there were the fishermen. There was no party, at least yet. She walked onto the pier with her shoes off, and dangled them over the edge. I stood behind a building, watching her around the corner. She stared down into the water. She didn’t move for twelve minutes.
I walked out from my hiding spot, the sunlight stinging my eyes. I shaded my face with my hands. As I walked closer to her, she straightened up.
“What do you want?” Her voice was harsh.
“I didn’t know you came here,” I said.
“Oh,” her voice held the tone of recognition, “Yeah, I come here sometimes.”
“It’s nice to get away sometimes,” I said, sitting down next to her.
“I’ve only seen this place at night when I’m drunk.” She laughed to herself. “This is a shithole during the day. I thought it was so pretty and glamorous. Now, look at it.” She looked around. “Dead fish everywhere.”
We were quiet for a while. “How are you holding up?”
She looked startled. “What do you mean?”
“I know you and Christina were close.”
“Oh, that.” She took a breath. “I guess I’m alright. I just miss her. I thought she was getting better.” I didn’t say anything until she started talking again. “I guess you don’t know a lot about people.”
“You never really know a person,” I said quietly. I started picking at the splinters sticking up from the weathered wood.
“What’s done is done,” she said.
“But you wish it didn’t have to happen that way.”
“Who would?”
“There are some sick people.” I stood up and extended my hand. “You ready to go?”
“Not yet.”
I told her I was leaving. I went and waited in my car, cigarette smoke circling around my head. She didn’t leave for a while. The stars were starting to peek out when she finally entered the parking lot. She saw my car and started walking towards me. She walked with artificial power. Her posture said empowerment, but her eyes said submissive.
She tapped on my window. “Let’s go get something to drink.”
I nodded and flicked the butt of the cigarette out into the desolate parking lot. “Where to?”
“Anywhere.”
“Alright, where is that?”
“My house, or something.”
I told her that would be great, and that I would follow her there. She rushed across the asphalt and to her car, desperate to get anything to numb her down her throat. As we pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street, I began to think about why Ashley wanted me to come home with her. Women have been attracted to me before, but they never went as far to say “come sleep with me” that Ashley is saying.
She pulled out of the parking lot and I followed behind her, my headlights glaring off of her back bumper. I followed her through back roads and neighborhoods that all looked the same. Same kids playing in the streets, same moms sitting in lawn chairs in gossip circles, same dads drinking beers together. It was all so mundane, and fitting that Ashley lives smack dab in the middle of a place like this.
She eventually pulled into her driveway. Her yard was a swallow yellow, starved of water and fried from standing in the sun. Straw was strewn across the yard in a feeble attempt to protect seed from being swallowed by the birds that swarmed her house. What little landscaping she had was dying. The bushes had no leaves, the leaves all wilted off and were scattered across the mulch. I put my car in parked and stepped onto the grass, crunching what was left into dust. She walked up to the front door and I followed dutifully.
“Make yourself at home,” she said, slinging her car keys on a table by the front door. In contrast to the state of the exterior, the interior was organized and looked like the spitting image of a Pottery Barn magazine.
“The drinks are in here.” I followed the trail of her voice to the open kitchen. It overlooked the great room. A small breakfast nook cornered the kitchen. The kitchen itself was laid out in a straight line. It was open, easy to breathe in.
“What would you like?”
“What are you having?”
“Peach schnapps and orange juice.” A smile spread slowly across her face. “My choice of poison.”
“I’ll have that as well, then.” I tried to smile to encourage her. She smiled timidly back.
The drinking had started. She started asking me questions.
“Did you ever have a first love?”
I took a small sip. “Yes. Once.”
“What was her name?”
“Claire.”
“How old were you?”
“About seventeen.” I took another drink. “Things just don’t seem to work out the way we want them to.”
“What happened?” I couldn’t tell if she was feigning interest, or if she was truly curious about my life. Either way, I still told her. I told her about Claire being stolen by her boyfriend at the time- he stole her away from me at our senior prom. He told me I wasn’t man enough to take her back. She was gone for hours, and I searched the city for her. Well, I eventually found her sitting on a corner downtown, sobbing into her dress. I comforted her, and I told her I had always loved her. I could tell she loved me, too. Her eyes glinted in the dusty street light, a small smile played on her mouth. She stood up to guide me to her house. A car swerved out of the intersection, and hit Claire directly. I retained minimal damage. Claire, on the hand, was pinned against a light pole, cut in half. The driver stepped out of the car, and started begging me for help. I called the police, but left the scene immediately. I walked over to her boyfriend’s house, and broke the news to him. He didn’t care. He didn’t even react. He just shut the door, and I never saw him again.
“Wow,” she said breathlessly. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that.”
It seemed like we had been drinking for some time, but when I looked out the window, it was barely dusk. Ashley was already plastered. She was sprawled across her couch, drunk. A vein in her neck pulsed as she breathed. I already had the gloves on. No one would know I was here. I grabbed the duct tape out of her utility closet, and I woke her up.
“Come on, let’s go get you in bed.”
“But I’m so comfortable.”
“Sleeping on the couch isn’t good for your neck.” We stumbled up the stairs and down the hall to her bedroom. I laid her down on the bed, her arms raised above her head. She groaned and turned her head to the side. I locked the door. I ripped off some duct tape and started wrapping her wrists around the headboard.
“What are you doing?” she mumbled, squirming away from me.
I hushed her. “Nothing, honey.” She accepted that answer and closed her eyes again. I wrapped her ankles around the foot of the bed. I stepped away from the bed, and admired her. I threw the duct tape under the bed.
I traced her collar bone. I traced the notch in her neck , watched her chest rise and fall, watched goose bumps rise appear. She was different than Christina, that’s for sure. Whether this was a good or bad thing, I haven’t decided. Her mouth twisted into a smile.
“You want me.” Her voice slipped through parted lips and settled on me. It startled me, and I snatched my hand away.
“On the contrary,” I gathered, “you want me.”
Her laugh was hollow. “Men are so daft sometimes. I thought you were smarter than that.”
“I’m smarter than you know.”
“Why do you have me tied up, then?” She looked down at her ankles and then her wrists. “Is this how you fuck the girls you love?”
“I never said I loved you.”
“But you did. Remember that day on the docks? The first time we met? I do. I remember that day. And I remember that you said you loved me.”
“I just said that.”
“I know you did, but it still counts. You can’t take back the things you said.”
“But I didn’t mean-”
“It’s too late, Christopher. You’ve fucked up. Now I’m in love with you all because you said three silly words.” She stared at me. “Three stupid words slipped out of your mouth.” She was breathing heavily. Her chest rose and fell rapidly. “And you didn’t mean them.” Her eyes were wild. “You’re just like the rest of them. Cheap bastards.”
She paused and stared at the ceiling. “The words we say get lost in the heat of the moment. They lose meaning because we don’t have any meaning.” She snapped her head towards me, her eyes wide. “Do you know what I mean?” I didn’t answer right away. “Well, do you?”
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
“No you don’t. You’re just saying that.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Yes I do. Do you?” She glared at me accusingly.
“You’re too drunk to be talking like this.”
“Am I? I didn’t fucking notice.”
We sat there. Her heavy breath filled the room. It felt humid, stuffy. I wanted to tell her to close her mouth, but I didn’t want to disturb the image of her flushed face, the breath rushing out from her barely parted lips. She continued to stare at me.
“Just close your eyes,” I said, standing up to leave the room.
“Why?”
“Just be asleep by the time I get back.” I shut the door behind me, and walked through the dark hallway. I felt my way along the walls, the latex pulled and stretched on bumps in the paint. I felt cold tile under my feet, and I felt my way towards the knife block. I traced my fingers up until I felt a handle.
I’ll admit I did feel bad for Ashley. She’s so lost and so alone, like a little girl. I rubbed my thumb perpendicular to the blade. I reflected on why I was going to end her life, and I couldn’t come up with a reason that seemed honorable. To take her out of her misery? For my pleasure? Surely, it wasn’t that.
I felt my way back to the room, and sure enough, Ashley was awake and staring at the knife in my hand.
“What are you gonna do, kill me?” Her voice stung like alcohol in a fresh wound. “Good.”
“It won’t take long.” I walked over to the bed and looked into her eyes. Tears were welling up along her bottom lash line, but there wasn’t any fear. I swallowed hard and ran the tip of the knife up her thigh, breaking the skin. Ashley didn’t scream; she just shut her eyes and winced. I did the same thing to the other thigh; still the same response. I placed the blade on her neck.
“Why are you being quiet?”
“You want me to scream, don’t you?” she shot back, “You get off on this shit. Sick bastard.”
I ignored the last part. I traced the knife down to her stomach, and pressed slightly harder, blood pooling on her skin.
“Why are you doing this to me?” I looked up at her. Her mouth was a tight line, barely quivering.
“I don’t know.”
“So, you’re just doing this for shits and giggles?”
“I guess.”
“Give me a damn answer!” She screamed at me. I placed my hand over her mouth, smearing blood on her face.
“I’m doing this because you’re nowhere near the woman Claire was, dumb bitch,” I hissed. “You don’t get it.”
She squirmed out from underneath my hand. “So this is some kind of power trip?”
“No! You don’t understand! You people never do.” I put the knife back on her neck. “Oh, and another thing.” I leaned in close to her ear and whispered. “I killed Christina.” I stood up straight. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was open in a gasp. “You asshole!” she screamed, “You fucking asshole! You tricked me and made me think she did that shit to herself, but you did it! You did that to her!”
I dragged the blade across her neck as she spoke. Blood spilled out onto the pillow from her mouth. My hands were quivering. “None of you could ever be as good as her,” I whispered. I talked to the walls, to the furniture, to Ashley’s blood stained body, whatever would listen to me. “I just wanted her. That’s all I ever wanted.” I looked towards Ashley. “You couldn’t be that if I wanted you to be.”
I placed the knife on the bedside table, and left the house.
I saw on the news the next day that she was found by her boyfriend of four months. He called the police in panic, but they took him to jail. He was the beneficiary on her life insurance, so there was probably cause for him to kill her. For weeks there were trials made public by the reporters. He went to jail for first degree murder, twenty-five to life with no parole.
I went to work, and all of my coworkers were sobbing over the deaths of these two friends. There was speculation that Ashley’s boyfriend also killed Christina, but that was just gossip. There was a new employee hired to take both of their jobs. She was a tall red head. Her hair flowed down her back in kinks. She was thin, and walked with power. We got called into our first group meeting, where Mr. McDaniel would introduce us all to her. I followed six and a half feet behind her into the conference room.

Second Wave

Hello, guys. Sorry for the lag in writing; I’ve been working on my own work, and my class didn’t have anything ready to be published. But, since the beginning of the six weeks has come and gone, we have pieces ready to put on here. I’m not sure how many pieces will be published on here. You can expect one of my pieces on here, though.

Thank you for your patience!

Hannah

Rules Version II, Electric Boogaloo

by Keegan Sims

 

Sound of Law and Order Gavel

LAW ENFORCEMENT ROOM

A stack of papers is on a table in front of CHAD “CHET” HOWARD. BRUCE sets a lunch tray in front of Chet.

CHET

What’s this for?

BRUCE

You’re going to be here for a while, Chad.

Chad props his feet up on the table.

CHET

It’s Chet.

Bruce puts his hands on the table.

BRUCE

Chad, do you know why you’re here?

CHET

I have a feeling you’re gonna tell me.

BRUCE

You’ve managed to violate every single rule.

CHET

I’ve been working on that for a while.

Bruce

Don’t you know what’s expected of you?

Chet rolls his head back and leans forward, placing his legs on the ground in a wide stance.

CHET

(Gradually becomes more and more mocking)

Do not disrupt the learning environment. Follow all school rules. Give cooperation and respect to all adults. Be courteous to peers. Academics are your first priority.

BRUCE

Do you know these because you break them so often?

CHET

I don’t know, Lieutenant Dan, what do you think?

BRUCE

I think we’re going to fix you.

Chet takes a drink of the milk. The side of the carton reads Mind Control: Now with more calcium.

Zoom out to:

Reveal the rest of the LAW ENFORCEMENT ROOM.

A chair, a projector, a screen sit in the half of the room that we have not seen yet. Beside the chair is a desk with a jump rope, tape, and plastic handcuffs.

BRUCE

We’ve developed a treatment plan for you, Chad.

DOC. WATSON pulls the screen down and turns on the projector with a remote. Screen reveals a PowerPoint titled: The Terrible Things You’ve Done and subtitled: The Ludovico Technique©

BRUCE

It’s called the Ludovico technique.

Doc. Watson leads Chet into the chair and ties into place using the jump rope.

BRUCE

This high-tech machine (gestures to jump rope) is here to

show you a couple of videos.

CHET

What kind of videos?

BRUCE

Just watch.

First video begins playing.

CHET

Hey, that’s me.

BRUCE

Enjoy.

Bruce turns the lights out and walks out, shutting the door behind him.

Cut to:

ROOM

Chet walks into a classroom and scrawls “Vandalism” on the whiteboard.

CHET

This is true art!

He throws the marker into the air

CHET

Chaos!

Cut to:

SOCIAL STUDIES HALLWAY

Close-up of the of social studies bathroom door

VOICE

(Falsetto)

Boy, I sure hope that no-one catches us smoking, drinking, and

performing lewd acts in the bathroom.

Cut to:

SCIENCE HALLWAY

Chet is walking down the science hallway.

ADMINISTRATOR

Now, what in the H-E-C-K do you think you’re doing?

Get to the tardy table.

CHET

I’m saggin.

ADMINISTRATOR
Sagging?

CHET

Yeah, I got it down to a science.

ADMINISTRATOR

Well, you look like a fool with your pants on the ground.

CHET
My pants on the ground?

ADMINISTRATOR

With the gold in your mouth, your hat turned sideways,

and your pants on the ground. You think you’re a cool cat?

CHET

Yeah, with my pants on the ground.

Cut to:

CENTRAL FOYER

Chet is talking with two of his friends.

CHET

Hey guys, you wanna leave campus and see my car? It’s parked right outside.

FRIENDS

Sure, why not, bro?

Cut to:

OUTSIDE OF LABAGUETTE

Chet and his friends are admiring his awful vehicle.

FRIEND #1

Cool car, dude. When’d you get it?

CHET

A little bit ago, but I got a new spoiler.

They circle around to the back of the car. A bumper sticker reads SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE.

FRIEND #2

I’m only on Chamber of Secrets!

CHET

Well, it ain’t a secret no more.

Cut to:

MATH HALLWAY

Chet enters through the front doors and walks into a room.

TEACHER

Where have you been? You’re tardy.

CHET

I haven’t been anywhere. Where’ve you been?

TEACHER

I’ve been waiting for you to come give me a tardy slip.

TEACHER goes for one, which Chet doesn’t have.

TEACHER

Wait a minute, you smell like milk. Have you been drinking again?

CHET

(almost childlike)

Nooo. Have you been drinking?

The teacher goes to grab at Chet’s backpack, and he backs away. The teacher makes another attempt to grab at the backpack, and succeeds this time around. She looks inside and pulls out a carton of milk.

TEACHER

I thought as much. Go to the office.

CHET

This is an udder disaster.

Cut to:

ENGLISH HALLWAY

Multiple students are running from door to door tagging each one with printouts of famous paintings, including Soup Cans, Starry Night, Mona Lisa, and The Persistence of Memory.

Teachers peer out of their doors.

TEACHER #1

This is disruptive!

TEACHER #2

Do you have a hall pass?

TEACHER #3

Gang activity!

TEACHER #4

I HATE WARHOL.

Cut to:

COMPUTER LAB

Chet is texting wildly and laughing obnoxiously. Beside him is another student typing rapidly.

TEACHER

Can you please put your phone away?

CHET

Whatever.

He pretends to put it away. He leans over to the student.

STUDENT

(whispering)

You won’t like him when he’s angry.

Chet glances at him, visibly annoyed.

CHET

Shut up. I know you can type faster than that.

The student looks up, frightened. Chet puffs his chest up.

CHET

Get on with it.

He goes back to texting and laughs obnoxiously. Moments later, the teacher returns and smacks the phone out of his hand.   

Cut to:

CLASSROOM

TEACHER

We’ve only had class twice this week, but you’ve missed the homework three times.

How you’ve done that, I don’t know.

CHET

This class is absolute PROFANITY.

The class gasps exaggeratedly.

TEACHER

Did you just use profanity in my class?

CHET

Yeah, what’re you going to do, suspend me?

TEACHER

Yes.

Teacher points towards door of classroom.

Zoom out to:

LAW ENFORCEMENT ROOM

Chet is staring at the projector, wide-eyed. Bruce steps over to Chet and says:

BRUCE

I think you’ve had enough.

Chet nods. Doc. Watson and Bruce unstrap him.

Cut to:

CLASSROOM

Chet is silent in the room, to everyone’s surprise. The other students glance over at him from time to time.

FRIEND #1

What’s wrong with you, bro?

Chet doesn’t respond, only speeds his writing. His friend frowns and turns away.

FRIEND #2

What’s his problem?

Later:

Friends #1-2 are walking down the Social Studies hallway. They see another student and proceed to attack him. Chet intervenes by walking into the middle of it and eating a bag of chips.

FRIEND #2

What are you doing, man?

Chet continues to eat his chips. An administrator rushes up the stairs and grabs Friends 1 and 2.

ADMINISTRATOR
And what are you doing?

Chet shrugs his shoulders, grabbing for another handful of chips.

ADMINISTRATOR
What’s your name?

Chet shrugs his shoulders again. The administrator pulls out a clipboard.

CHET
It’s Howard. Chet Howard.

The administrator flips through a few pages.

ADMINISTRATOR
Chet. Here you are. Right now you have… 45 unexcused absences.

The administrator looks up.

ADMINISTRATOR
That must be a record of some kind. Wait a second. It says that you also have… one excused absence.

CHET

So I guess it’s not all bad, huh?

ADMINISTRATOR
It says it’s signed by Gandalf the Pink. You didn’t even try, did you? I’m not even sure what the consequence for this is. Let’s go, kid.

Cut to:
LUNCH ROOM
The room is filled with the usual lunch chatter. A dull roar echoes around the room. Chet is sitting alone, looking at his tray and shaking his head. A choir of gasps comes from the tables around him, and, above all, a scream is heard.

VOICE
Food fight!!!

Around the room, a flurry of papers is volleyed back and forth. It is pictures of food, and a great deal of the students look mildly irritated that it isn’t the real thing. One of the students picks up a real piece of food and lobs it upwards. It lands on Chet. His face clouds over, emotions conflicting with one another. Eventually, his good side gives up the fight. He stands up on top of the lunch table and lets out a cry.

Cut to:
Central foyer, 4:16 PM
Chet is strolling around the school, a grin plastered across his face. Several administrators speak to him, but are not audible

CHET (V.O.)
They say that the administration has the right to make the final decision on any issue.

The administrators grab his arms.

CHET (V.O.)
And maybe they do. Maybe they have everyone under their thumb. And me?

We see Chet being escorted out of the school.

CHET (V.O.)
I was cured all right.

The screen goes black.

Agitprop

by Keegan Sims

Aneta

    Have you ever watched traffic blur past and slowly come to the realization that you will never know anything about the driver? Have you ever wanted to peer into the lives of the extras that populate the film of your life, to explore the catacombs of their existence, grasping at the walls as you lose yourself in their tunnels and their bridges to a thousand more lives whom you, too, do not know? In one of his moments of vulnerability, our father revealed to me that he wanted to dig up these underground anthills and bring them into the brilliance of the sun. For him, solidarity was strength, but unity was power.

Matvei

Our father compared the family to a familiar food chain: wildflowers wilt without apiarian pollination; grasshoppers require botanic respite; rats starve without entomological sustenance; snakes press for murine nourishment; hawks clamor for serpentine production. But what good does the hawk do? Who depends on the hawk? What right has the gluttonous hawk to usurp the creations of the enslaved, to leech, like a heartworm, off the blood of the unempowered? Much in the same way, we, as a unit, were deprived of a voice with which to cry out against our sponging ancestral wrinkles.To rectify this ultimate perversion of power, he took it upon himself to vanguard us into a new existence. He encharged himself with the daunting task of inverting the familial power system.

My father’s father was at least ten years past the average age. Our family constituted the entirety of his companionship; his wife had gone far earlier and our father’s patience had worn thin years before. Why must he, in his adult life, take care of his own selfish father as well as his children? His father had nothing more to live for. Without a job, or even an inkling of purpose, some bare contribution, with no wife, and no-one to befriend someone so clearly adamant in rejecting the simplest of society’s conventions so why, why was he still here? We saw him as sucking us dry to prolong an unnatural existence. Every life must come to an end, and he wasn’t brave enough to do it himself, so our father had to provide the courage he didn’t find.

One night, with the family gone, and with the hush that he had come to know so well over the years spent rolling into his unjustified accommodation, smoke fluttered into his room. From the kitchen, small crackles and orange flickers danced into view, first flirting with the walls and carpet and then more confidently crawling from the stove they had came from.

After the fire, the devouring and transformation, we were, for the first time in our family’s history, without shelter; a consequence of the revolt against the suppression held by my father’s father. It is true, we existed in his home, but we did not live there. We maintained it, kept what little blood that still ran through it warm, worked like mill horses to prod some heartbeat back into the farmland’s clogged veins, never for more than a brief glimmer of gratitude, faded to his ever-present scowl, whispering for more. Communally, we rebuilt a home, but more importantly, redesigned the family. No longer did the power originate in the fangs of a parasite, a mere hole in the bucket into which the labor of the family was poured and siphoned out without reward, but instead distributed across lines which we drew ourselves, determined by contribution to the ultimate betterment of the family.

Our father received the most justified share.

Askar

    The old way, as our father referred to it, was before my time. It was described as such: traditionally, a worker would build a house to sell it, to make a profit, and to use what earnings he could keep to fund the construction of another house. He put this as a clear example of dressed-up slavery, inferring that once the worker had accepted his fate of endless building, he was no longer in control of his own destiny, but rather puppeteered by men who exploit his labor.

The most basic principles of a civilized school of thought will state that only once those who control the production overthrow those who control the means of production, who reap the benefits but do not work, will arise the utopia promised to us. When the most oppressed may rule and the oppressors ruled will we all have what we deserve. Once the carpenter builds a home out of love of the work, rather than love of money can there be semblance of equality.

Our father built our house to be lived in. He worked until his hands had calloused over to the extent that his thumbs were barely distinguishable. Our family, as he said, drove him to work, what he called a true labor of love. For this reason, we elected to transfer to him the right to guide us into a greater future. For him, the future was one without an eternal struggle between the have and have nots, one where our interests were put first. No longer would the hardest working relative be looked down upon or the laziest rewarded for living off of what others had created. We advanced ourselves underneath his guidance, separated from the agrarianism that we had seen ourselves doomed to by his father.

If a running man attracts some attention, then our family caught the crowd of a marathon. Our way opened the floodgates: every man with a bent back and a heart turned against his oppressor dropped his shovel and came marching in with a raised fist to our commune, looking for a life outside of ceaseless work. Our father accepted every one of them. I learned to treat them as though they were my family, because every man there was a brother in spirit.

We set forth from there. The family expanded, but our progression did not. Our father became increasingly concerned with how we lived. He confided that he felt we were not utilizing our greatest potential and advancing ourselves as rapidly as he knew we could. For this reason he felt that his strength must grow as we did, so not to let our community wither away. We had learned to trust his direction, we had seen what happens when we went our own ways, forsaking all his instruction in some childish need to rebel.

In our community, insurgency became self-destruction, inherently suicidal. The way our father saw it, it was some born-in drive to feel above his peers. Men like that had no place in our way of life.

Yakiv

    “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” That was his favorite saying. That was everyone’s favorite saying. That was his excuse, I guess, for the way he treated his father. In his eyes, his father wasn’t doing anyone any good, so why even keep him around?

For him, life was too crystallized. It was too permanent. He likened it to being born with both feet stuck in the mud. But death, death was plastic. Malleable. You can live your entire life as little more than a footnote to another footnote. But if you go out the right way, then you’re immortal. His father became immortal, you could say, some time in October.

It was his rationale, I imagine, behind the way he built our house. Which isn’t to say he built it himself. He stressed that we must build it together, for the good of the family.

    When I say we, I really mean everyone but him. Under his supervision, of course. His watchful eye, protecting us from ourselves. From imperfections and laziness. We got it right the first time. If it wasn’t good enough to die for, it wasn’t good enough to live in.

    Once we had charged through that mountain with our eyes closed and finally cleared the other side, a famine hit us. It wasn’t like we hit a bad spell in the weather or had a lackluster harvest. I mean, having a disappointing harvest requires there to be one in the first place.

    Our father insisted, for whatever reason, that we stop farming. He said it he was to free us to progress on our own accord. But really, it was just another one of our father’s great leaps away from his father. Another way to kick his old man in the teeth and rub in just how wrong he was. It wasn’t too bad of a famine, at least in his eyes. No-one important died.

    Then came The Dissent, as our father put it. A group of, I don’t know, fifty men decided that they weren’t going to just starve because our father said so. That didn’t last long.

After that, our father just stayed in the house and glared at everyone outside the window. Our sole communication with him became the looks he shot us whenever we made eye contact, which lasted more or less until he died.

I’m not entirely sure how he died, but then again, who really cares?

Iulian

    I cannot express my level of apathy. I wasn’t sorry to see him go. But it wasn’t much of a vindication either.

He died in his sleep. What am I supposed to get out of that? He didn’t go in some gory mess. He didn’t burn out like his father. He had a stroke. What a justification.

I’m sure The Dissenters would have loved that, just as much as he loved them.

They say they don’t know why The Dissenters did what they did, but really it’s obvious. You don’t eat for three days and you don’t know who you are anymore. Our father certainly knew that. No-one close to him knew that. They’re the ones who miss him the most. But I can’t understand why anyone else does.

If you listen to a buzz long enough, does it start to grow on you?

The communals say yes.

I suppose that if you live with a mosquito long enough, after a while, you want him back underneath your skin.

And now where are we? Stuck in limbo until someone thinks to grab the biggest stick and become our new father. Make this revolution permanent again. Then live out the next fifty years waiting until you die on your own or someone speeds the process up for you. But that’s cynical.

Not necessarily wrong.

It just seems like there’s a lot more hate now, but it’s always been there. We’re just more willing to express it. Not to say that it’s not without reason. It’s all deserved. The Dissenters tried to tell us that years ago. Look where that got them. Look where it’s got us.

    Our father relied on hate. We are pushing his kind back with the same measure. Does that make us any better? Or even any different?

Matteos

    People say our father was a heartless man. This is not true.

    He was focused.

He had a problem with the way his father held control over us. But he was not one to yell about his problems and then sit back and return to the old way of life, as some of us were accustomed to. He wished to move forward. To make change.

Our father saw that talking and compromise did not achieve anything and knew he could do better.

Summer.

He and his father had reached their latest ferocity. His father tripped in the manic speed with which our father was running towards our empowerment.

A man pushing a cart. Everything he owned there.

He approached our father and revealed to have heard everything. The anger and disappointment. He related to him his gratitude.

Out from his cart he pulled a flower. It was as wilted, as tired as he was.

He handed it over, then continued down the road.

That man give our father a purpose. A mission. A symbol of the people: dying, but not beyond resurrection.

Our father was not heartless. Instead, his heart had gone out to that man.

János

    Father’s father died. Fire. Love and belief. Way and voice. My voice. Too. So build. Home black and brick broken and leather black. And deserved it, earned it. Because good for us good for me. Where are his thumbs? Where are his thumbs? Worked. Life. And I, rancid. Secreted. Thoughts surround. Yellow stars in black night. Red, now, fades. Crop? Abandon. Rotten, rotted through core. Industry. Inanition. Apostasy. And burial. Window and daggers. Abaddon.

Fellow Creative Writers:

As we all know, the Prathe strongly suggests we publish our final products by putting our grade on the line (yikes). To make passing possible, I’ve made this blog for us to publish on. I know it’s not the prettiest, I’ll try to work on that. I hope that this makes everything easier for you guys. And, who knows, what if somebody sees what we’ve put on here? Here’s what I’ll need you guys to do:

1. Email me your final draft at my student email (hannah.bernard@stu.fayette.kyschools.us) AND tell me in person that you’ve emailed me. I don’t check my email, but I will if you tell me your piece is resting in my inbox.

2. That’s about it.

Good luck, everyone. I hope this makes the project a little less stressful. I will be posting the URL for the blog in class tomorrow (Monday, 1/13/14) and my student email right beside it. Good luck on your projects.

– Hannah