Friday, April 28, 2017

A Word on Rory Langley

I wasn’t planning on ever seeing Ophelia again. Her presence reminded me of Hagar, a girl that I really just wanted to forget again. A girl that was long dead because she took a bullet for me. She didn’t know that the bullet wouldn’t have done anything more than ruin a shirt.

After the kiss, all of the memories came back, and I had the choice to forget them again, or let my eyes stay green. And then Rory Langley died.
Logically speaking, I barely knew her. Our lives were only connected by a common place of living, and she had been out of town regularly over the past few months. That, combined with the fact that I wanted nothing to do with her, meant that I had never even spoken to her. But her death still hurt. I was never again going to have the chance to get to know her. She would ever be no more than a part of the opportunity cost of my life. And what had I really gotten instead?

So I called Ophelia. Thank God she picked up the phone. I asked for her forgiveness for the night of the fair, and then I asked for her help. She came over to my apartment wearing a gorgeous white dress. I wonder if she noticed whether our eyes were suddenly the same color.

I haven’t told her that I’m going to outlive her, but I will eventually. And I’ve accepted the fact myself as well. I’ve decided to stop letting my past decisions hinder my future; it’s not worth it. In other words, my cane is going to spend a bit more time in the closet. I always liked green eyes better anyway.

Oh, and by the way,

I’ve stopped drinking

A Word on the Fair

A fair was held today in celebration of the success of the reconstruction effort. Ophelia and I went down together. I bought her some small sugary baked goods, and we watched the people. I made her giggle by taunting them, and she made me feel warm enough to take my suit jacket off. I left my cane in the car.

When night came, we watched The Little Mermaid. She rested her head on my shoulder when she wasn’t singing along. I sort of bobbed my head a bit. I have to admit, once I gave it the benefit of the doubt, I really enjoyed the show. I was surprised.

2:00am: The lunar eclipse began, but Ophelia and I didn’t notice. We were looking into each other’s eyes.

2:01am: We kissed.

2:04am: I was in my car and driving back to my apartment as fast as I could. That kiss...was not a unique experience. It brought back a memory that was a few lifetimes old. The minute my lips touched Ophelia’s, the forefront of my mind was invaded.

2:15am: I slammed the door to my apartment behind me and raced into the bathroom, breathing heavily. The girl, the one that had been pushing against the edges of my mind for so long, her name was Hagar. I looked into the mirror, and my eyes were green.

3:00am: I’m drunk

A Word on Chinese

There’s no such thing as cuisine in this place, so I go to Beijing Buffet when I want to eat out. All-you-can-eat Asian is the most elegant of the fast foods. I retrieved a respectable portion of lo mein noodles and szechuan vegetables from the metal trays against the right wall of the restaurant and took my plate to the bar. I ordered a glass of water. Whiskey doesn’t go with Chinese.

Beijing Buffet goes through bartenders so fast that there’s no point in wasting the energy to forge relationships with any of them, so I sat in silence, with my cane leaned against one of my legs. The cacophony of the of the restaurant bustling around me combined with the thunder echoing outside and the rain against the windows. It created a layered form of white noise that I got lost in. The chicken was acceptable.

I was so engrossed in feeding myself that I didn’t notice the girl that sat down just two seats over from me. I only looked up when she ordered a Jack Daniels in a British accent. She was wearing a gorgeous light blue dress, and I noticed immediately that her eyes were a deep green.

“Hi there,” she said with a smile. “My name is Ophelia.”

My mouth fumbled around for a moment, and then said, “Like Hamlet?”

She giggled, and my heart restarted. “My parents were Shakespeare fans, yes. But you’re likely the thousandth person to ask me that.”

“Well I apologize for my inability to provide interesting conversation,” I replied meekly.

“Oh, I’m sure you’re more interesting than you give yourself credit for. Tell me about yourself.”

So I did. Not everything, of course. If I had told her something like my real age, she would have ended the conversation rather quickly. But I told her most things. She learned all about my apartment, my business and my proclivities. She seemed to love it when I went on my rants, so I did a lot of griping. And somehow, I managed to learn a lot of things about her too.

I’m lying in my bed now, staring into my phone, and reading her phone number over and over to myself. My hair is still wet from walking home in the rain so fast that I forgot to use my umbrella. If only her name were Cressida instead of Ophelia. Then I could say that, “expectation whirls me around.”

A Word on the River

I was strolling down the lower banks of the rainbow river. There’s a long stretch that I frequent by the city limits. It tends to be the only part of the city where I can find reliable solitude. I really needed to take a break to think. I’ve been having what can only be called flashbacks, and they’ve been interfering with my work. Sudden images of a British woman’s face accompanied by the most intense emotions I’ve felt in years tend to break my concentration. So I was trying to calm down, to do something.

Suddenly, the muzzle of a gun pressed into my back.

“Hands up,” said a young male voice. My hands went up slowly.

“It would be a shame for you to shoot me,” I replied. “I’m wearing my only green suit.”

“Just give me your wallet, man,” the voice insisted. Unfortunately for my assailant, I’m not the compliant type. I whipped my body around and slammed the hard wooden shaft of my cane into the side of his face. The would-be thief went sprawling and stumbled about twenty feet before falling onto the ground, allowing me to get a good look at him.

“Hasn’t anyone ever told you to wear black when you do business? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but your t-shirt is light blue. It’s a miracle I didn’t see you a mile away.”

The kid looked shocked, but he was determined. He held up the gun and pointed it at my stomach. “Just toss the wallet over here to me.”

I laughed. “Really? I thought we were past that.” I took a step towards him.

“I’m warning you, man.”

I kept walking. “Have you ever even shot that thing before?”

“Don’t take one more step.” He was almost screaming.

“Or what?” I asked sarcastically. I have a big mouth.

The gun when off. I buckled as the bullet hit my stomach, causing me to stumble back a step. Then I straightened again. An amber stain began to form on my shirt.

“What the hell?” the kid exclaimed.

I looked him dead in the eyes. “You had to go and ruin my shirt, didn’t you?” I kept walking towards him, grabbing the gun from his trembling hand. I shot him in the head. “Sorry kid, but I can’t have you running home and telling your mama about me.”

It took a minute, but I managed to throw his body and the gun into the river. They both sank swiftly. The rainbow river isn’t like other bodies of water. By the time they find him, he’ll be unrecognizably caked in wax.
I’m standing in my bathroom now, burning my shirt in the sink.

I need a drink.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Word on Rip Van Winkle

I opened the door to the liquor store and was met with a fist jabbing into my face. My body stumbled backwards in surprise and then turned to see the culprit sprinting down the street with a bottle of Rip Van Winkle in his hand.

"Go get him, Mr. Evergreen!" yelled the store's proprietor.

"You're damn right I will, Jay." The bastard and I twisted and turned together through the city, until I finally lost him in the the park below Only Way. "I was going to drink that!" I shouted into the trees. I tried to pick out any sign of movement from beyond the fog that layered the ground. "Where the hell did that fucker go?"

"Ah, but aren't you the best man alive at solving riddles?" I wheeled around to face the source of the voice, as an old man appeared through the trees holding a 12-year-old boy by the hand. They looked normal enough at first. The man was wrapped in a long green wool coat, and the boy was slipped into a light blue sweater. As the pair came closer though, I discovered that the old man's eye sockets were empty, and that the boy's mouth was sealed shut by duct tape. I froze, and the old man laughed. "I bet you haven't been called that in a while, have you Barnabas?" The man advanced confidently, almost as if he was leading the boy instead of the other way around. His voice sounded like two slabs of granite being ground together. "Or should I call you Robert?" I flinched, and his smile grew wider. Then suddenly he paused, losing his smile in thought. "No no no, not Robert. Robert’s not the one I want. Robert's the boring one. Wait. I know." His grin came back. "Christopher." I yelped with surprise, and the old man sighed as if he was scratching a long ignored itch. "Ahhhhhh yes, that's what she used to call you, isn't it? Christopher Teller. She was the only one that got to call you Chris. And she used to sing you a song. All the time; her favorite song..." He began to sing, a grin still painted across his face. Auld Lang Syne. And he sang it in a British accent.

"No!" I screamed. I dropped my cane and pressed my palms against my ears to block out his voice, but that didn’t stop my mind from forcing me into a memory I didn’t know that I had. It was of a woman’s face. I crumpled to the ground, and the boy started crying. The old man sang the entire song, and when he was done, he held out the bottle of Rip Van Winkle.

"You'll need this," he said.

He was right.

Friday, November 4, 2016

A Word on Coffee

8:00am - I slowly rolled out of bed, made my way into the kitchenette, and grabbed my only coffee mug. I turned on the faucet, and nothing came out. "Damn."

8:45am - I pushed through a mess of bodies, curving my chest around a cardboard cup of coffee to protect it from the crowd. Connie's, the local coffeehouse, was one of the few places in town that still had water. Unfortunately, I hadn't been the only person to figure that out, and it was as if a number of townspeople had decided to overrun the place. I wouldn't have gone near it if I hadn't needed the caffeine. Every once in a while, a business asks me to give a presentation or assess something on-site, but I happen to be the only businessman that wakes up a reasonable time in the morning, so I rely on coffee to help me up.

I headed into Howell Park in search of further privacy, finally taking a sip of my coffee, as I tapped my cane against the dirt path. I almost spit it out. Compared to the coffee that I make in the apartment, I might as well have been taking a bite out of the cup that the coffee came in. I took a breath to harden my resolve. Caffeine was caffeine. I was about to take a second sip, when I noticed that someone else was on the path. It was a young girl (she couldn't have been older than seventeen), and she looked as if a small wind would have caused her to shatter into pieces. At first I walked right past her. It was obvious to me that something truly upsetting had taken place, and I have dealt with more of that in my life than any man's fair share. Nowadays, my policy is to keep to myself, and I happen to be damn good at it. But that's when she spoke.

"Um, have you seen a man named Steve? He hasn't been home in a few days. He's a medium height, and a bit chubby. You probably would have seen him in a white button down and some khakis. He has a perfect comb over, if that helps." I turned and stared at her for a second. She had a British accent.

"Oh, ah, is Steve missing?" She made a face at me, and I kicked myself. "Is he your dad?" I asked.

"Host dad," she replied. "I've been staying with him and his wife."

I just stood there for a moment. I felt helpless. Out of my depth. I held out the cardboard cup. "Do you like coffee?" I asked.

Finally, it was her turn to look flabbergasted. "A lot, actually. I was never much of a tea person."

"Take it." She took it.

"Thank you." She took a sip.

"You're welcome." I walked away as fast as I could, leaving her as she made happy faces into the drink.

9:15am - I sit in my silent car with the key in the ignition, still just as goddamn tired as when I woke up, while I hold back tears. I need a drink.

I can't drink.

I cry.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Word on Southern Living

8:45am - I woke up to a drum roll on my door and groaned. I was too tired to wonder what kind of maniac would knock with a ferocity clearly formulated over years to rouse people from their beds and force them to reactivate their cognitive processes, so I instinctively checked the clock instead. "Come back in two hours," I shouted. As a rule, I don't do anything before 10...

10:45am - The knock came again; I stifled another groan, and I opened the door. My bespoke navy suit suddenly came face to face with two tan trench coats. One of them covered a man in a ratty green shirt with thin white stripes who reached out a hand and declared himself to be, "Simon Worthington from Southern Living," in a slow serious tone. At 6'1, Worthington stood exactly at my height, and the camera around his neck pointed directly at the center of my chest. I put on my dimples and gleamed, as we shook. "Barnabas Evergreen," I said. The second trench coat surrounded a man in a light blue shirt who stood about two inches shorter than his friend and held a pencil and clipboard in his hands. "I'm Chris," said trench coat number two, "May we come in?"

"By all means," I said, gesturing in towards my apartment. Worthington walked past me and sat in the large arm chair directly in front of the door. Chris followed close on Worthington's heels and stood just behind and to the left of his partner. I countered by sitting on the couch against the right wall and angling myself towards my visitors, holding my cane perpendicular to the ground and resting my hands on top of it.

"Tell us something interesting."

"What?" I asked, raising one eyebrow. Worthington's request caught me off guard.

"Our magazine is doing a piece titled '15 Southern Towns Making a Comeback', and yours is on the list." Chris cut-in energetically. "We have to get something from every person in this building. Mr. Simon just wants to cut to the chase, so that we can move on with our lives."

My charm turned a little wry despite my efforts. "I have more secrets to tell than you could possibly imagine," I said pointedly. "You're going to have to be a bit more specific."

Worthington suddenly smiled and quickly slid in with a reply. "I didn't ask for secrets, Mr. Evergreen. We're here from Southern Living not Vice. I'm looking for a cushy story that makes people smile. Human interest is not what people like you and I would consider interesting."

I smiled wider and nodded. Worthington was alright. "Tell your magazine that I'm an experienced immigrant businessman turned entrepreneur, who's trying to get his consulting firm off the ground. Every day brings new struggles, but I'm a hard worker striving for the American dream, and I've found that self determination is the pinnacle of satisfaction. I love living here at the Victorian, and there's no better place in which to have a home office."

Chris scribbled furiously and then frowned. "You're an immigrant? You don't have an accent."

"I lost it a while back," I said. Chris went back to scribbling.

"I don't suppose that you'd let us take your picture, Mr. Evergreen," Worthington said. "Might be good for your business." He took his camera into his hands and held it up.

"No thank you, Mr. Worthington."

"I didn't think so. At least it was worth a try." Worthington stood, turned on his heels and walked out. Chris took one last look around my living space and followed suit, still scribbling. I closed the door behind them.

11:30am - I take a deep breath. People are exhausting. Unfortunately, I have to keep up appearances, or I would lock the door and pretend that there had been a nuclear apocalypse. What I wouldn't give to be the last man on Earth. I haven't cared about anyone other than myself in a long time.

I need a drink.