Equalizing

I assume there’s a stage in everyone’s life when they feel more or less like an equal to their parent or guardian. A switch gets flipped and the relationship stabilizes, in a sense. It all begins from that one moment when one of you realize the value of the other.

This was one of those moments.

People always thought we had a great relationship. We were more like best friends, they’d say. We knew how to maintain a level of “cool”, but it was not an easy relationship. I was never the daughter she hoped I’d be and it was okay for her to let me know.

I grew up too fast and she wasn’t happy about change. With time, though she began to accommodate me, and she began to change too. But there was always an underlying discomfort.

I’d get the randomest calls, at the randomest times and she would say the strangest sharpest things. Never once did I think it came from a place of neediness.

I thought I was bad, because she said I was bad. I thought I was poor daughter and failing at this “family thing”.

But that night, there was clarity. You know that feeling you get when something that you’ve been processing for so long surfaces? My chest resisted gravity while my shoulders embraced it. Her condescending remarks, a blur.

I asked, “What’s wrong?:”

Her voice changed, “I have a headache…it’s been a rough day…can you come home?”

“I’ll be there in half an hour.”

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Home 

Deep breath….. It’s just a cupboard.

She walked past every section but stopped to pick up on of those little pencils and lists. She took  two steps forward only to take take two steps back.

“I think I’m going to need two of these, ” she thought, grabbing another pencil, “and another one of these,” grabbing another number list.

She walked, hunched, past families picking browsing through potential bedrooms, potential bathrooms and kitchens, potentials ……

She hunched.

Seeing a man draw his partner closer to him while they stared at a baby’s crib reminded somehow her to straighten her back and broaden her shoulders.

She walked in and out of bedrooms. Fingers grazed surfaced like silk and absorbing their feel like sponge. Then she touched something. The wood was smoothened but with a minimal layer of wax.

Opening her eyes fully for the first time she saw a moderately sized four-door wardrobe. A reddish hue tinged its surface.

The doors opened to comfortably spaced clothing racks and shelves. It was tall but not tall enough to make it unreachable. It was wide but not wide enough to cramp the space in her room.

Item number jotted down, her little legs took quick strides with wide eyes and wide shoulders.

The narrow pathway soon expanded leading her to the warehouse-like room filled with neatly stored furnitue.

She loved this place. The enormity of the space spread out the distances between people. There was so much air to breathe, and that smell of cardboard boxes, which calmed her senses.

A1380 …… A1380

A….. 1…3….

“1380!”

“Yah!”

“Huh”

“Hi!”

Startled she took a 360 degree turn and saw no one around.

She swore she had heard a man’s voice come from somewhere near by. No not just somewhere, from right in front of her. She peered closer into the shelf.

“People always get surprised when their furniture talks to them, relax. I’ve been waiting for you . I’m the last one of the batch left here on the shelf, let’s go!”

She blinked.

There was no one. Just 1380 printed boldly on a large, lone cardboard box. Everything else was at least a few feet away.

The box is talking to me? I’ve gone insane. I have been single for way too long. I need to eat.

“I’m sorry.”

He interrupted her thoughts. His voice was warm and soft. It very well could have been a woman’s voice if it didn’t have a underlying baritone note.

“I’m sorry, I’ve just been waiting for quite some time, frankly I don’t think I was ready to be taken away until now. I didn’t mean to startle you. The trolleys are at the end of the next isle. Grab one, come get me and we can sort the rest out once we’re out of here.”

“Oh… Yes… Oh…kay….”

Wobbly legs worked their way through the isles. She processed nothing, just grabbed the huge box in which her dismantled (talking?) cupboard sat in, and went to the counter.

Into the back seat he went. She sat infront and gripped the steering wheel.

“I’m Lionel by the way.”

Ok it’s real. She turned her head around.

“M.. M..Mel… Melissa. That’s my name. You talk. Is it the box talking or the cupboard?”

He laughed. “Cardboard boxes can’t talk, silly!”

“Well up until today, as far as I knew,neither could cupboards.”

“Fair point.”
It took her two days to put him together. She’d come back from work, turn the kettle on and the house would smell of coffee. He said he never acquired a taste and never understood people’s love for it. But in here, on her, he liked it.
For the last time she put her screwdriver down, swung the doors back and forth to make sure they worked smoothly and fell back on her bed.

“I feel good. It feels good to be in one, big, useful piece.”

” You look good.”

” So come on! Get your clothes out of those boxes. You have a cupboard now!”

” They can wait. I’m going to sit back and enjoy my craftsmenship.”

They laughed together. He liked this. He was home.

 

Burning This City Down

Hunched, between mouthfuls you say, “I love burning bridges. ”

My eyes go big, “What was that? You love burning bridges? Thanks for the clarification, I didn’t hear you the first 100 times.”

Why am I here? Why am I listening to YOU?

Sarcasm normally proves to be a weak conversational tool the first time you meet someone. But you like it and that keeps me here. In between mouthfuls, thoughtfuls, wordfuls, knowing you’ve lost catchphrase 1 , catchphrase 2 is catching up, “I’ve never had a dull moment in my life.”

And you continue, “I went back home to have my child. She’s a beauty. Wanna see her?”

“Of course. Oh, she is a beauty!” I sound surprised but I’m not. It’s hard to refrain from conveying some sort of enthusiasm when a parent shows off their child.

You scroll further down the gallery of you phone and land on a video. Your wide-eyed beauty queen blows off 6 candles on a big white birthday cake. I can already tell that she is going to live her life looking and acting much older than her age. She scans all the faces around her, soaking in everyone’s version of her favourite day of the year. When the scanning is done she looks straight at me, through the camera.”

Don’t fret mini-woman, I know that it may not seem like enough, but you’re mother loves you very much and very soon you will learn to truly love yourself and you’ll be unstoppable.

“Not a dull moment.” You interrupt my telepathetic, time-transcending pep talk with your daughter. 2 has caught up, and you look at me, expecting a comment, but I spare you. Call it forgiveness, I call it exceeding expectations.

We eat and drink because maybe I interest you? And your interest interests me? Through your countless reminiscences and infinite references to the past I can feel you hint at something. I wonder about your present.  It’s hard not to feel that there’s something more than interest. You’re probably not curious at all.

Come on, think…..

We’ve  just met. Why did you want to meet me? If you don’t want anything from me, what are you trying to give me? You keep stirring. It’s annoying but I’m not budging.

Before my train of thought hits home, you go in for the kill, casually, not wavering from the consistency of your mannerisms.

 

I know the father of her child….

A door slams in my face and my appetite has left the building.

Was I another bridge you built to burn?

 

 

Pen to Paper

He’s sitting in front of me, aching to help me, not because he really wants to see me in a better place. I know that. He knows that. He wants to do this  simply to validate his existence and his view of himself. And who does he see himself as? A good guy. The good guy who can help another person out no matter how much of a little shit he thinks they are.

I repeat myself, “Don’t make me do it.”

“But it’s great therapy. Grab a pen, paper, or your ipad…”

“Don’t have an ipad.”

“Or sit down at your computer, and start writing. Listen, I’ve been here before.”

“No you haven’t.”

“Ok, maybe not exactly here, here, but we all struggle you know.”

Gee, who is this genius? Do we? Do we all struggle? I would have never thought. I am not feeling sorry for myself, you asked me how my day was, why my day was the way it was, and what some of my thoughts were. You ask me about my thoughts, I kindly ask you to back off, you ask me to write them down, I kindly ask you to back off…but you just don’t give up.

“You don’t know what happens when I write.”

“You release all that dark energy you have inside of you?”

“Dark energy…you don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

‘You know what I’m talking about. Your negativity is eating you up. Let it go. Write it down.”

“It’s been a year. A tough yet peaceful year because I haven’t written.”

“That’s what I just don’t understand….”

“Right. You know you’ve been so persistent…I might as well show you. A pen and paper, are the only tools I’ll need.”

Don’t. Fuck it. He wants it, he gets it….Breathe.

 

 

I’m not sure how much time has passed.

He’s sitting in front of me, tearing up, panting with scars on his face…black and red….in the right hands, a ball-point can be so sharp.

My hands are moist, bloody….it looks like I wrote vigorously. Vigorously enough to rip the paper into bits. Vigorously enough to tattoo my thighs with words and numbers, not all too legible: Bend, NOTHING, daughter, 4, 13 (followed by a massive exclamation mark), center, I Lo(four funny looking letters) you, 6, Brother, LAUGH, water, 3, HOME?, work, work, work, OFF……

There’s more on the walls. I don’t remember getting up.

“I’m sorry…I think.’

“Get out…”

In Your Hands

The doorbell rings.. once..then twice. And then nothing. It always does when he’s been waiting outside for more than 5 minutes.

Take a deep breath. You can do it, you tell yourself. Breathe . You clutch your old back-pack and open the door before he has time to open his bag and take his phone out.

“There you are! I was about to call you. We seriously need to make a duplicate for that key now. It’s been 4 months since we moved in.”

He comes in, drops his bag on the floor and grabs you. A tight hug. You need a tight hug. But you don’t give into it.

Instead, you say, “That won’t be necessary. I have to go.”

“Oh! Where you off to?”

“Jones’ Street.”

He looks at you with little curiosity in his eyes. “Hmm, well let me drop you.”

“That’s fine….” Just let me go, you think to yourself.

“C’mon Sandy, I just got home, I’ve been looking forward to some ‘us’ time. I know you have somewhere you need to be but at least if I take you there we can spend a bit of time together.”

Doesn’t he notice the back-pack? He never notices…You don’t have the heart to say anything so you nod your head in agreement. Maybe you can say more in the car.

 

He strips himself naked, washes his face, swings the cupboard’s doors open.

Did he see?

He grabs a T-shirt, shorts, skips the underwear, doesn’t skip the flip-flops, keys…out the door, you follow.

He didn’t see.

 

In the car now. How do you bring this up? You can do it.

His hand is on you thigh, a loving look in his eyes, that beautiful smile on his mouth.

“Jones’ Street is pretty far.”

“You don’t have to take me.”

‘Too late!” He laughs. “I told you, I want to.” He takes your hand, squeezes it. You try not squeeze back. You can’t validate how he’s feeling, you have something to say. You squeeze it back. Maybe this can wait. You’re going to go anyway.

 

He starts to talk, you start to talk.It’s half an hour into the car ride and the two of you are laughing.

“So Jane walks through the door, right after me and she slips.”

“Why didn’t you warn her?” You know the answer to this but you ask again, rhetorically, just because. Just because his eyes glow with a childish naughty look that always amused you.

“Because, because, because. Hey!” He looks up at a neon sign. “Shisha? It’s been a while, and I’m kinda hungry too. You hungry?”

“A little.”

He rubs your stomach lightly, kisses you on the head and parks the car. “Unless you’re in a hurry…”

You laugh, and mimic him. “Too late!”

Seriousness kicks in a millisecond later, your head’s in a knot. Maybe you can tell him now, in the restaurant.

 

Nothing comes out, except for this, “Did you see the cupboard?”

“What do you mean?” Puffs of smoke rise from in between his lips. The food arrives. He’s digging in, and he repeats the question.

“Nah, nothing.” Nothing? Really?! Didn’t notice your back-pack, didn’t notice the cupboard…typical.

Another half hour passes, and now you’re losing track of time. Well time’s not an issue. He needs to know. Dinner eaten, shisha smoked and  inspite of the fact that he tends to be oblivious you’ve had a lovely time. You always do. The two of you always do.

 

You’re back in the car.

“Oh crap! It’s 10. I”m sorry! You must be getting late!”

“It’s fine.” The keys are in your hands. You can go to Jones’ any time you want to. “Let’s go back home..to your place…I mean…”

His hand is in your hand.

“Our place, you mean.”

You say nothing. Maybe today is not the day?

“What’s with the back-pack?” He finally notices.

You stay quite.

“Sandy?”

Your eyes sting.

“Huh? Umm..” You briefly look at him and then look back down.

 

He sees it..your eyes well up. You see the tension on his face, his beautiful face. You feel the tension in the space you share, your beautiful space.

” What’s in the back-pack?”

You look at him. A tear rolls down. You stutter.

“I’m…I … I’m leaving you…I’m leaving us.”

 

 

2 Hours by Road, 9 Seconds by Phone

I hear that song. One of our songs. It’s my ringtone for now. Up until i get tired of hearing the first 9 seconds of the song play, constantly. Well I don’t get that many calls, so it’ll probably be around till I find another song with a catchy intro. Hopefully it’ll be another one of our songs. Our…. Us…..shush….

Pick up the phone, already – he thinks.

i do.

“What you been upto in your little cubicle, two hours away from me?” he asks.

“Nothing….just finished season two of Arrested Development.” I say.

“No. Really?…really!? Woman.”

“Yeah….don’t judge me…”

He raises two arms and one eyebrow and takes a step back. “Not judging, just saying, maybe you should do something else with your time?”

“I do plenty with my time. Like finish seasons of series.” I grin, stupidly and add, “Time I got, Life I don’t”

“You have a life,” he says, defensively. Defensively and sweetly. “You have me.”

I never had you.

I had, and I have us.

You have us.

We have us.

And that’s plenty more than I could have asked for, and plenty I should be grateful for.

But I never HAD you, and you never HAD me. That, my friend is the most worthy insight I have HAD in a long, long time.

Us…Our…2 hours

“You see?”

“Huh?”

” Oh did I not say that out loud?”

“Say what?”

“Ah…Oh…nothin'”

“Ok crazy..”

Two hours away. Such a ridiculous distance.

The Script

I decided that I was ‘done’. How hard could it be for some one to respond with a reassuring word or a phrase?

I’m sure he had the ability at some point. I take the time to lay my feelings out there but I get nothing from him. It’s just as hard for me as it is for him. I could barely, willingly touch another human being till not-so-long ago.

I guess he does have something to say when he just does have something to say. But what about when I want him to have something to say? Why is ‘all in good time,’ all about his ‘good time’? Why is the tick-tock of my watch irrelevant?

I’m done. Done like that piece of steak sizzling on his, oh-so-awesome titanium frying pan. Can some one turn the exhaust on? I’m coughing away, but he’s got those broad shoulders and beautiful lungs that can breathe in beauty to a  great extent. Of course, except for the tiniest whiff of smoke from a cigarette. What a man at times. And what a wuss at other times…

I’m so done. So he slops me on to a plate, with a side of mashed potatoes and honey-glazed-steamed vegetables. Classy, he is, tenderly slicing me into edible sizes with his fork and his sharpened steak knife. Devouring me with mouthfuls veggies. Crunch-munch, crunch-munch. I’ve always been a delicious treat, he’s told me on several occasions.

I wish I was that piece of meat. At least then I could have been ‘done’, devoured, and I could get this whole ordeal over with. When he slops his head on the plate that my shoulders are, I cradle him, and wrap his words in a motherly blanket that I didn’t even know I possessed. But when slop myself, the clock needs to be on his time.

The fear of being alone does not exist. And there is no fear of being with him either. So what must be done, must be done. I pull out the sharp blades of paper. “The Script”

“The Script?” he reads out aloud.

“Yes,” I say. “Eat this for dessert.”

I know what he’s going to say. Adorably, and with genuine love, he’s going to tell me I’m funny, and a bit of a nut-job. Oh so adorably. Before he can though, I cut him, off. I told you it was sharp. Paper cuts sting. Never underestimate the sharpness of words, the words that he will now know to say.

It’s not a bloody mess. Just about as messy as the left-overs of a juicy piece of steak. I scrub the mess clean, and put him to bed. It takes about 24 hours to digest all that ‘read’ meat. We sleep for hours. Me within him, him, within me.

Next morning, he turns to me and says, “That Script has changed me.’

I smile, and lie, sort of, “I always loved you the way you are, and will love you with all your changes.”

Then and there, I begin to hate myself. Not such an unfamiliar feeling, I must say. Not something I would mind being unfamiliar with, I must add.

He has become the epitome of perfection. And I test it again and again.

“Am I fat?”

“You are the ultimate expression of beauty,” he responds.

“I feel insecure. I have a long way to go. You have enough on your shoulders, and then you need to deal with me.”

“I don’t have to deal with you, I want to “deal” with out. I want to be nothing but yours. I want to take all your pain away and be the balm that will heal your wounds. And I should be damned if I add another scar to your beautiful body.”

I won’t lie. Sometimes I savor these scripted words. He read it well. He bled for it well. He has learned. Or has he? I say more pathetic things, to get more scripted answers from him.  But the sweetness of this lasts less longer than the self hatred that has found itself at home in the old planet that my ego is. He has the perfect answer to every imperfect piece of rubbish I choose to utter.

I can’t live with him, not this way.

I made a mess out of a human. I’m done. Gosh, not again.

“I’ll be back.” 

“I’ll join you.”

“No, it’s fine. Stay.”

“Girl, why would I want to stay here with out you?”

SHUT UP! I hold myself. It’s not his fault.I cleaned my mess once. I need to clean it again. “Can you help me dig through the garbage before the trucks come to take it away? I need to find the pieces off you that I through away.”

“I’d dig through sewage for you.”

…..We better make this quick.

akido man