Vignette: At the Symphony

By the way…

I’ve never fallen so hard for someone as I did for you as I watched you fall hard for the symphony. How your hand squeezed mine as the conductor walked on stage. How I could feel your heartbeat drumming along with the tympani. How you drew breath as the first-chair violinist drew her bow.  

You said you couldn’t imagine ever feeling this way over music. I thought I couldn’t imagine ever feeling this way over a person. 

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#NaNoWriMo2018 Day 16: The origins of Handel

When Anne woke up the morning after meeting Handel, she had two questions: how many tequila shots had she done, and why had she told the bartender she had a nice rack?

She hoped the answers would somehow explain exactly how she had fallen so hard for the Boy with the Blue Tie.

Anne first saw him from across the packed room, his face, neck and torso appearing in quick flashes between the legs of the pole dancers on top of the bar. At first she thought the abnormally well-dressed guy was watching the same cutoff-clad dancer as she was — then she realized he was watching her. While debating whether to shimmy through the crowd and introduce herself like the fresh-out-of-college adult she was, he made the choice for her and parted the sea of tees and jeans with his oxford shirt and silk necktie. And there she stood, feeling dumb and underdressed in her shorts and sweater.

He said his name was Handel, as in the violin composer. She remembered her best friend in high school playing Handelian concertos on his Stradivarius. Of course, Anne’s Handel wasn’t the Handel, but he did make her as weak at the knees as a Music for the Royal Fireworks. He asked her if she would like another drink, and they retreated to the outdoor patio where the music was softer and the air cooler. There was also a much thinner line at the outdoor bar, which meant the whiskey and cokes flowed freer — as did the tequila.

They talked until Anne’s roommate Lindsey came by with her boyfriend. She was swaying heavily, and Anne knew that meant it was time to go. The Boy in the Blue Tie was just so charming, a welcome change from the panderers and drunkards that usually made a pass at her on a night like this one. Handel treated her with courtesy and let her set the pace of their flirtations.

“Thanks, Mike, but I’ll stick here,” she told Lindsey’s boyfriend. “You take Lindsey home.”

Mike clearly looked concerned and insisted that she come back with them so she wouldn’t walk the three city blocks alone. That was when Handel offered to walk her. Any other man offering the same favor would have been regarded with suspicion, but Mike and Anne alike found themselves trusting the Boy in the Blue Tie. The last thing she recalled was taking a third tequila shot while watching Lindsey and Mike walk out the gate and onto the street. Handel was whispering something in her ear, and she liked the feeling of his hot breath on her skin.

The next morning, all Anne had to remember the rest of the evening by was a phone number sloppily scrawled on her forearm and a headache that split her head in a clean line between her eyes. She was in her own bed, alone, with no sign of anyone else sharing it with her. That was good. Mike and Lindsey were snoring in the room next door. Also good.

Then she saw the cerulean silk tie hanging off the back of her chair.

 

Handel spotted Anne right away. She carried herself with the same faux confidence to cover up the despair of joblessness that every other just-graduated-college adult bore. It wasn’t his intention to get her drunk, but there was little else to do at the bar. And she kept pulling his tie, like she thought it was a cute game of flirtation.

Which it was.

When it became clear that her roommate had abandoned her, he walked her three blocks to her apartment. As they walked in, he could hear the wet smacking sounds and moans coming from behind a closed door at the end of the hall. The only other open room had to be hers, so he quietly led her across the threshold and to her bed. She immediately curled up in a ball on top of the down comforter, the pillows framing half of her face so she looked like a mask upon a satin cushion in a museum. A thing of simplistic prettiness. The moon was low — it was almost 6 a.m. — and the cornflower sky made her fair skin glow with dawn.

Handel didn’t take much time to look at her. From her desk he took a felt-tip pen and wrote his number on her arm. She stirred slightly, giving the last number 2 an oddly angled tail. Before leaving, he left his tie draped on the back of her chair. If he had interested her while at the bar (and if she could remember it), she would want to meet up to at least return his tie. And if he hadn’t or she didn’t? Well, there were other ties in the world.

This was the first time I wrote about a character named Handel, who no longer resembles anything represented in this short vignette.

Vignette: City love

Her love for her city had always lied dormant and deep, buried in her core like the marrow in her bones. But then she found him in the city’s chaos, and that marrow had bloated and broken its bony shell to become a blush illuminating her cheeks like the rosy sunrise over the lake.

Chicago northside skyline at dusk

Poem: Time on his arm

He wears time on his arm
Literally, artisically, devotedly.
Not as a watch that slips on and off,
Slows down and speeds up,
Inexplicably stops one day
(it just needs a new battery…or maybe a repair shop).

No, he’s got Dali clocks under his skin.
Minute hands, hour hands, Roman numerals
Tangle among flies and flowers and dreams,
And tie together with vines that bind around his forearm.
A permanent reminder that time is impermanent.

So how funny is it
That whenever that surrealism-swathed arm
Wraps itself around my waist,
Offers itself as we walk down the street,
Extends to hand me a drink
Or reassuringly squeeze my knee,
Time seems to stands still.

(Or at least I wish it would.)

 

Vignette: “Let’s play a game”

“Let’s play a game,” she said. She had worn the right dress for this — the blue cotton one with buttons down the front, a tie around the middle, and a hem too high to be office-appropriate.

He smiled, leaning back on the bed and licking his lips at the thought of what might be coming. She was something in this light, in this heat. In heat, in general.

“I ask a question, and you answer it. If I think you’re being honest, I’ll undo a button.”

All he could think about was what might be under the dress. All she could think about was how much she wanted to pull the thong out from between her asscheeks and itch under the lace of the bustier she was wearing.

“Sure,” he said, not even asking what kind of questions they might be.

“Favorite place you’ve ever been?”

“Turkey,” he said. “You asked me that on our first date.”

“I asked you about your favorite place that you traveled to,” she said, hiding how impressed she was that he remembered one of her mundane ice-breaker questions. “Favorite place in general.”

“Is it pandering if I say ‘right here, right now, with you?'”

“It won’t earn you a button.”

“Then I’d probably say in the garage, working on my dad’s car with him when I was a kid. We’d spend weekends restoring this old T-Bird he bought for $500 from some guy in Fresno.”

She smiled at the thought of him smudged with grease and handing tools to his father, half submerged under an old Thunderbird. Then she cleared the thought of him as a child out of her head while she undid the second-to-top button of her dress.

“What, not going in order?” he asked, hoping the gap would give him a peak at her skin.

“My game, my rules. What are you scared of the most?”

“Snakes,” he said. “You know, wild ones. Pets are fine.”

“OK, Indiana Jones,” she said, undoing another button, this one at the bottom of the dress.

They continued like this for nine more questions until only one button — the one just below her breasts that kept it all together — was left.

Here it was, the point that she both feared and couldn’t wait to get to. The reason she suggested the game in the first place. She let his eyes scan up and down her torso, taking in what he could see of the black lace bustier and matching underwear. When they finally landed at the light pink bow now visible between the edges of her dress, she asked the final question.

“Do you love me?”

The way his twisting, falling stomach somehow echoed in his face told her that he had lied in his answer to the second question.

 

 

 

Poem: My morning

I want so much
To tell you about my morning.

I woke up looking at you,
Feeling your breath rise and fall
Through the mattress.
And then I pried myself out of bed,
Laced up my running shoes,
And let my feet carry me as far away from you
As my heart didn’t want to go.

Meaning I got to the elevator.
No, the front door.
Then you let out this snore that meant
You’d still be there, asleep, when I got back,
So I let myself step out and onto the sidewalk.

Every other runner tries to dodge the waves
Lapping up on the path,
As if they’re trying to avoid a starving monster.
I like splashing through them.
They only want to come play, too.
So whatever clings to my sneakers and holds on,
I’m happy to take with me.

I went three miles before my lungs were on fire,
Then turned around.
Ran another and walked another.
And ended up at the beach.
Our beach.
The one with the small cafe that’s open for odd hours
And serves margaritas on the rocks without salt,
Just the way you like them.

From there I can see our house.
It’s not much, but it’s home.
Home, sweet home.
Mi casa es su casa.
Insert cliche here.

And I imagined you sleeping there,
Lungs expanding and contracting,
Not burning up like mine.
Skin cool and caressed by the linen,
Not gritty with salt and red with sweat like mine.
Brain preoccupied with dreams of her,
Not thoughts of you,
Like mine.

There was a butterfly buried in the sand,
A victim of the playful waves that just wanted to feel
What wings were like
And crushed them in their wake.
The same way I feared my love
Had crushed you.

Except it wasn’t sand that you buried yourself in.
It was a misery that you named after me
Then a woman you knew before me
And will know after me, too.

Because when I came back,
Gritty from salt,
Dusty from sand,
One hand cupped around a broken, buried butterfly
That I wanted to use to show you I finally understood,
And my other hand turning the doorknob,

You were gone.

Monarch butterfly partially buried in sand

Butterfly buried in sand, as found at Ohio Street Beach in Chicago on July 7.

 

#NaNoWriMo2017 Day 3: “Like a Fish”

Martini at the Drifter, a speakeasy in downtown Chicago

The Drifter is one of Chicago’s oldest operating speakeasies and a favorite place to catch a 15-minute act, order a cocktail from a deck of tarot cards and fall head-over-heels into candlelit inspiration.

“Any vices?” he absentmindedly flirted.

“Fuck yeah,” she smiled into her martini. “I drink like a sailor and swear like a fish.”

And he fell madly in love.