Four Days Left
There are four days left before Pinwheel Poetry's In Transit event, (which I will be performing in: open mic glory and all) and I've gotten quite nervous about it. Thus, I wrote this little piece of fiction to make myself believe that Saturday will be another normal day. And that hope is always present.
That is, a normal day with performance poetry in it.
It's been too long since I've shared a story on my blog, so here it is. A story.
The Boy at Number 4
There she stood over the counter sink, her tight bun undone and her face as pale as the flour tucked away in the pantry. The words had escaped her throat before her mind had processed the consequences. And there, alone in her kitchen, she began to understand the full gravity of what she had done. The cake batter littered the counter like the pieces of her heart—an utter mess in the midst of perfectly arranged furniture.
Four minutes had passed since the door had been slammed shut, and still she stood unmoving over the counter sink. Her hands were clenched into quivering fists. There was no need to blink back tears, for none flowed out. She was not sad, she was angry—irrationally, unconsolably angry. And not with him, oh, no, that was quite impossible. She was angry with herself.
From the outside, the whitewash house at Number 4 was perfectly quiet and peaceful. The streetlamp did not flicker, and the driveway was free of overgrowth. The neighbours liked it that way. Tonight, though, Cassie didn’t care what the bloody neighbours thought! The perfectly manicured lawn was nothing now—not when she’d added too much sugar into the cake mix. (Although this was not the real cause of Cassie’s little kitchen scene.)
And what would the neighbours say tomorrow when she’d show up at her sister’s perfect child’s garden birthday party with an overly sweetened cake instead of her Jordan by her side? What would they say?
The most terrible critics were those closest to you, and Cassie, standing over the counter sink, her cheeks smudged with flour, but now tomato red from shame, knew that tomorrow, everyone she held dear would be the most terrible critic.
“It’s because you nag him about his late hours,” Dad would say. “He works hard all day, and who are you to nag him? You’re just the woman he lives with.”
Or “it’s because you’ve gotten much to busy with this bakery business. How can a man love you when you’re in love with your cakes more than him?” (Of course, this was not true, Cassie was just as much in love with him as her cakes.)
The boy at Number 4 was everyone’s hero, with a walk as straight as his hair. He looked you squarely in the eye when he reprimanded you, and looked away when he complimented you. The boy at Number 4 was technically a man, but with the innocence of a boy. And she? She was just that girl who wasn’t good enough for him.
Suppose Cassie always knew this—from the neighbours, from everyone. Suppose she knew it was only a matter of time before he left. The boy at Number 4 was too good a dream to stay for so long with her, the spirit who was too free to hold him down.
Suppose Cassie always knew this, but hoped still that the boy at Number 4 would turn the brass door handle of their house and come in and say he didn’t mean to walk away and that he didn’t really want to fight.
Suppose she hoped to brew a cup of tea for the boy who never went to bed without it that night.
Suppose she was sorry.
The door handle did not turn that night.
But the doorbell—much to Cassie’s surprise—rang.
Our first kiss happened five months after we first met, two after we'd started dating, three days since our first fight, and half a day after we made up.
The sky was a stream of bright orange, its facade only obscured by wispy clouds that floated past cheerfully.
Funny how these details could pierce the foggy mist of time after a singular spectacular event.
The kiss itself, although it did have that hungry desperate collision of lips, was more of mouth to mouth resuscitation. Quite literally, I'd lost my breath. I could feel his thin lips against mine as he tried to pump air into my lungs.
His gentle hand was pressed against my hip, and the sensation would have sent tingles up my spine if I were only fully conscious.
To be honest, I don't remember much of what had transpired. A loud bang in the air—the sound reminded me more of firecrackers than that of a gunshot—sent me falling down onto the pavement, and then the kiss. Fancy your first kiss as an attempt to resuscitate life back into your limp form. I wish I could say it worked.
When the blazing sirens approached, a crowd had gathered around me. My vision traveled in and out of focus. The sensation felt more like a balancing act than anything else. I lingered at the fringe of life, death teasing next to me. Or maybe it was the other way around? Maybe both life and death were taunting me. Yes, that made much more sense. That's how it felt.
The crowd felt like the audience to my final act, as if i were an acrobat with toes gripping a rope five floors from the ground. I would cross the expanse safely, and they would all clap for me. I'd bow, and go on with my life.
But I was not an acrobat, and my feet were not as nimble. That's the thing about life, there was no safety net. Thus it was, that I fell down, down, down to the place of no return.
I felt his familiar strong hands put pressure on my chest, and I heard him calling out to me.
"Please, wake up," he called. His eyes glistened behind thick rimmed glasses. His eyesight was so poor. I suppose that was part of the reason he was leaning in so close. "Elle, come on, stay with me."
I did try to respond, mind you, but my mouth was uncooperative. My tongue was limp in my mouth, immobile and dry. "Remember our plans, Elle?” The red blood on the sidewalk matched the red stain on my lips. “We were supposed to grow old together. Don't leave me, Elle."
His hands left my side as paramedics struggled to calm him down. A manicured finger took my non-existent pulse. There wasn't much to do at this point. By the time the police came, it was the body bag for me.
Death's hands came next. Cold and clammy, his bony fingers pried myself from my dead form, smiled and tipped his funny tophat. Death was fashionable even at this late hour. There was an open top carriage parked off the curb behind him, and he waved me towards it.
I nodded, but continued to hover over my lifeless figure. He—my kisser—had his head bowed now. His uncharacteristically steady hand was shaking my soft shoulder. The paramedics were still trying to move him away. I should have been besides myself with grief, what me being dead and all, but all I could think about was how cruddy the sidewalk seemed to look with my blood seeping into the crevices of the pavement.
I could no longer hear him call.
We were supposed to grow old together, him and me. We both liked funny tasting lattes because our childhood was coffee-free. We both wanted a farm by the sand and the sea. We both wanted smart kids who would make the world a better place. We both wanted to live. Of course, it was foolish to think we'd ever had control over the way the river flows.
"What will happen next?" I asked Death who had removed his hat and allowed the slight wind to ruffle his hair. I never imagined Death to own a thick mop of hair. I always assumed he was bald.
"I don't know," he replied, the gentle lines bordering his mouth moving as he spoke. "I'm just the carriage driver."
"Is it always a carriage?" I asked, as the pair of horses neighed intuitively. They probably knew we were talking about them.
"No," Death said. "Rarely as of late."
"And I can't go back?"
"No," Death said. "Only forward."
So with one last look, I said a silent goodbye to the man I would have grown old with. I put one bare foot in front of another, avoiding the red pool of blood that had formed around my body, alighted the carriage, and allowed Death to drive me yonder.