Monthly Archives: February 2015

Alice

Charlie woke from his afternoon nap. A gentle rain was drumming against the window. He was happy to have escaped Toronto. Unemployed and bored, on a whim, he had driven through the night to Ottawa, giving his old friend Kim quite the shock on that gloomy Thursday morning in mid-July, as she was heading out to work. She was pleased to see him though and told him to make himself at home and wait till she got back.

They hadn’t spoken since the funeral, going on three years. Sam, Kim’s late husband and Charlie’s old college roommate, had died in a car accident in 2010. Charlie left the bedroom and walked downstairs.

It was around four when Kim came home.

“Charlie! Wow,” she exclaimed, dropping her purse on the floor, “So good to see you. I’m sorry about this morning,” she continued, taking off her coat, running her right hand through her hair, shaking out the rain, “I was running late.”

“Don’t mention it…I should’ve called.”

“Charlie,” she said, almost in a whisper, “You were meant to be here.” She walked over to him and wrapped her arms around him. “Life is very mysterious.”

“Sure is,” he said, nodding his head, pouting his lips.

“You were meant to be here,” she said again, excited this time. “I’m having company,” she continued, going from one corner of the room to the next, lighting candles. Charlie looked around, noticing candles everywhere.

“I really should’ve called. I’m sorry.”

“No, no,” she said, turning to him, holding a lit candle, “We’ve been in touch, you and me…” She was whispering again.

Charlie cleared his throat, staring at the melting candle in her hand. “I’m not sure I follow.”

The doorbell rang. “There are other forces at play,” she said to him as she walked away. Asides from scratching his head and swaying from side to side in the glow of candles, Charlie was more or less motionless, confused.  Out of the hallway, Kim returned, her smile very much the same, turning to Charlie and saying, “I’d like you to meet, Anjelica Swan,” and as if on cue, a tall slender woman emerged from the hallway. She had curious eyes. Charlie walked over to her, offering his hand. He noticed as he got closer that she had cracked leathery skin. He noticed that her eyes were more than just curious. Instead of shaking his hand, the woman grabbed his wrist and pulled his hand forward.

“Uh huh,” she exhaled into his palm.

“Yes, it’s good to meet you, too,” said Charlie, trying to be polite as he pulled his hand back, disgusted.

“Shall we get started?”

“I’m sorry,” said Charlie, “I don’t…”

“Its fine,” said Kim, directing the woman to the dining room table, “Right this way.” She then went on to light some more candles. The entire house was lit by candles at this point.

“Um, Kim, can you please… Maybe, I’ll just get out of your hair,” he said all of a sudden, pointing to the door.

“No!” she exclaimed, “No way! Listen, listen,” she added, lowering her tone and tiptoeing over to him, “Anjelica is my psychic. I see her every Thursday.”

“You see a psychic every Thursday?”

“Yes, for about a year now. She’s gonna help me contact Sam.”

“Sam? You’ve been trying to contact Sam every Thursday?”

“All this talk won’t do,” said Anjelica Swan, sitting at the table, her voice just as parched as her skin.

“Charlie,” whispered Kim, “You were meant to be here.”

“Was I? I’m not even sure what this is.”

“There are things I need to know!”

“Like what? How fast he was going when he crashed, or how slippery the roads were?”

“Let us begin!” Anjelica Swan shouted.

“Please Charlie…”

Shaking his head, he surrendered to the candlelit room and took a seat at the table, across from Anjelica Swan. Kim sat to his left.

“We ask for peace,” said the psychic, “We ask that you see us now. We travel with peace.” Her voice was firm. Her eyes were closed, her hands locked together, fingers-crossed, on top of the table. “We ask for peace. We ask you to come forth. We ask you to lead us to light.”

“Wow,” Charlie whispered, turning to Kim, “She’s really jumping into it!” He laughed and turned back to find Anjelica Swan staring at him. She looked like a snake, he thought.

“Many are here,” she smiled, “But none are Sam.” She opened her right hand and sprinkled sand over the table. Almost as if he was trying not to laugh, Charlie looked away, shaking his head and sinking into his chair.

“I don’t understand,” said Kim.

“Sam is not here,” said Anjelica Swan, running her long, cracked leathery fingers over the sand on the table.

“Right,” said Charlie, scratching his chin, “You hear that, Kim? He’s not here.” He crossed his arms and tilted his head, staring at Kim and smiling.

“Did you know, Mr. Charles,” said the psychic, leaning forward, “Did you know that spirits follow us around?”

“Oh yes!” Charlie exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air, “I’ve heard that they are excellent trackers, practically invisible!”

“Another fun fact,” laughed the psychic, “Spirits do not appreciate sarcasm.”

“My apologies,” said Charlie, leaning back in his chair. A few moments passed in silence. Anjelica Swan had closed her eyes again. Charlie let out a sigh.

“What is happening?” said Kim.

“I am sorry,” said the psychic, “Sam is nowhere to be found. However, Alice is here, sitting with us,” she said, pointing with her eyes at the empty chair to the right of Charlie.

“Who the hell is Alice?” said Kim.

“A sweet old lady,” said Anjelica Swan, “A beautiful soul! All she wants to know is why Charles doesn’t visit her anymore..? She is lonely in her grave.”

Kim gasped, raising her hand to her mouth, “Oh, Charlie!”

“You know what,” he said, jolting upwards and bumping the table with his legs, causing one of the candles to tip over. “I’m fucking outta here.”

Kim dashed to the fallen candle. “Charlie, please!” He didn’t bother looking back.

With her eyes closed and her hands locked on the table, smiling her snake smile, Anjelica Swan called out to him, “You will go, Mr. Charles, and they will follow you everywhere. Go now, go! Be happy for you will never be alone!”

Charlie could hear her laugh as he walked out into the rain.

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All the While Remembering

“You need to laugh more,” she said, while she hovered behind the bar; her long dark hair caressing her back, taunting my sleepless brain. I watched her fill up my pint glass, but said nothing. Despite the emptiness in my gut and the occasional psychedelic waves in my eyes, distorting my sight and further draining me of all words and meaning, I was sure about one thing; she was growing to like me, beautiful bartender Katie.

My eyes wandered around the bar, from the old boys at the far end, the grey-haired regulars, to a couple at a booth, sharing a plate of nachos, leaning into each other’s eyes. The clock behind the bar said it was half past noon. I felt myself sobering up. I was remembering things again; remembering why I was there, my emptiness turning to shame…I remembered the Facebook message I’d gotten some weeks ago, from a courteous fool, which read, “Hey man, just wanted to let you know that Anthony killed himself last night. Fuckin jumped off his balcony!” I remembered holding my head, curling into a ball. I remembered the shivering emptiness, the nauseating flutter of butterflies’ wings in my gut, the disbelief. I remembered drugging those butterflies to sleep, but now, we were all sobering up.

I turned to my pint, my stomach growling, my eyes trying to hide from Katie, all the while remembering that we had kissed a few nights ago; a drunken kiss in the alleyway behind the bar, I remembered. And there we were, playing our roles. There she was, working her shift, pouring pints. There I was, sharing my aches and pains with the bar stool and trying to forget. There she stood, with what had to be love in her eyes, telling me that I should laugh more; and I said nothing…

I never responded to that message on Facebook, but I pictured Anthony, day in and day out, climbing over the railing and letting go. I pictured him falling backwards and staring at the sky. I remembered his laugh. I remembered how he’d offered me a home when I had none. I tried to remember how it all fell apart, how we lost touch…? His eyes in my head told me it was time to go numb. I got up without a word and walked to the single-person handicap washroom at the end of the pub. A part of me hoped that Katie was watching me.

I emerged from the washroom, a few brief moments later, while the few remaining bumps of cocaine in my pocket, clumped together in the sad little baggy of forgetfulness, were now trailing through my nose and dripping into my throat. I emerged from the washroom, thinking about her lips.

“Are you alright?” She asked as I planted myself back on the bar stool. I glanced at her, nodding my head and reaching for my pint. My muscles were awake again, buzzing. My dilated pupils bouncing about; her lips on my mind… “Any plans tonight?” She asked, crossing her arms, scanning the bar and turning back to me.

“Nope,” I muttered.

“Wanna have a drink with me? I get off at five.”

“Sure,” I said, leaning forward, wanting to say something more. I wanted to talk to her, to confide in her. I wanted to leap over the bar and hug her, all the while remembering that dreadful Facebook message; Anthony’s eyes in my head, asking to be sedated again. I felt like crying. So many thoughts, but no words; so much sorrow, but no tears…I wanted to acknowledge her, to acknowledge the affection that I knew was there; the affection staring at me, arms crossed concerned, asking me to laugh more. None of it was fair. She deserved better. I downed the rest of my pint, summoning my strength, letting go like Anthony on his balcony, and said, “Please, don’t fall in love with me.”

“Don’t…fall in love with you..?” She said. The subtle curves of a confused smile emerged at the corners of her lips. Goddamn, she was beautiful! “Why not?” she added in a different tone, playful, teasing, as she collected my empty glass and poured me another pint.

“I’m very lost.”

“Lost…?”

“I’m all over the place. I’m not…”

“What?”

“I don’t know,” I sighed, submitting to my emptiness once more. I had nothing to say. I tried to look away. I tried to smile.

Falling backwards, staring at the sky, he must’ve been crying, I thought. I would have cried. Katie’s eyes caught me in midair, her smile offering me an escape. “You really need to laugh more,” she said and walked on down the bar to the old boys.

It wasn’t a sudden crash. It was actually a rather gentle landing. A breath of air…My emptiness turned to shame, my shame to anger and my anger to flames that blew out ever so quick. I saw my sadness, sitting hunched over, under the weight of a thousand sleepless nights. I embraced it, casting my eyes down the bar and finding Katie. I stared at her, smiling. There was beauty in the world; beauty that wanted to see me laugh, beauty that made me want to be a better man…

 

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