Author Archives: Sasan Beni
“Dear Lake Huron,” he whispered, his hair rising and falling, “You are the loveliest bubble!”
Among the waves, under the stars, he recalled other bubbles that he had seen; desert horizons in Iran. From one bubble to the next, at peace with the idea of being afloat in this vast expanse… No longer under the stars; he knew he was a part of them. Deserts and oceans…Earlier in the night, Jon had said, “Venture on, the wind will find you.” Among the aches and the stiffness of the universe in his muscles, he kept moving, allowing the sand to caress, for the first time, his bare feet; the bare feet that few had ever seen.
He turned to his friends. “There’s a light on the water.” He pointed and pointed. “There’s a light there. It has to be on the water.”
“Might be the reflection of a star…”
“I don’t think so,” he said, as he dug his toes into the sand. “It’s a different color.”
They all watched the light and said nothing. It would’ve been a pointless conversation, but then again, in this vast expanse, pointlessness went right hand in hand with the immensity of one’s desires. Irony smiled constantly. Among the aches, and the stiffness of the universe in his muscles, he kept moving, and he wanted to write the greatest poem in the sand with his toes, for lake Huron.
“Dear lake Huron,” he whispered, “Thank you for understanding my feet.”
“To each his own,” I said.
“Shots!” Sam exclaimed, “Shots!”
“Jon, can you tend to your duty please?”
There wasn’t as much laughter as I would’ve liked. I can’t get enough of making people laugh. I am addicted to the sensation of being humorous, and in my awkward desperation, I often ramble on to massacre jokes, painting silence, an awkward silence, worthy of me and my attire. But then again, some people will always laugh at my stupidity. Stupidity isn’t always funny; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t…Either way, I never get as much laughter as I want. I don’t think anyone does.
Every now and then, Kate would look up from her book. “The sun is out again,” she whispered to me.
I looked around, nodding my head gently and said, “I’m not gonna be fooled.”
“Fooled…? By the sun…?”
“You’re a weirdo.”
“I just mean, I’m not gonna rip my shirt off and start dancing. It’ll be overcast again soon.”
Jon came back out on the porch with a tray and four shots of rye. “Well done,” said Sam. Kate closed her book. The sun was back in full effect, and despite my urge for thunder and my speckled negativity, the clouds did not return. However, I did end up taking off my shirt eventually.
“You’re way too white!”
“Yeah, you could definitely use some color,” said Kate.
Forty Creek flowed with calm. Jon said, “My ass is incredibly sore.”
“That was one hell of a hike,” said Sam.
“Are you guys down to go to the beach tonight?”
“Most definitely,” said Kate.
Soon enough, they all started slapping the air and smacking away the mosquitos. “They never bother me,” I muttered, cocky and proud that my blood just wasn’t sweet enough.
“I’ve gotten so many bites on my ass,” said Jon.
“You have one problematic ass bro!” This time I drew more laughter, but still not enough.
“They like your meaty ass!” said Sam.
They all had sweeter blood than me. I just might be one bitter ass middle eastern, and I don’t look middle eastern, which might make me much more bitter, in my blood, in my ass…None of this makes sense, but it’s funny, so laugh!
“Smart-serve us some shots Jonny boy!”
Forty Creek flowed with calm. The clouds never returned, and apparently, hunger and thirst had never left.
“You look exhausted,” I said to Kate.
“Gonna sleep well tonight…”
“Making tacos for dinner,” said Jon.
Entertained by all of our unique excitements, I started to notice our differences in unison. I noticed what the air had done to us. I started to see how our capabilities had come together. I couldn’t stop admiring the four of us, our differences in unison. The three of them were the only world I needed, and we shared everything; everything in our pockets and in the air, everything but the stingers of mosquitos.
“I miss the cats,” I muttered.
“You missed them as soon as we left home!” Kate exclaimed. “An hour into the drive up here, he turns to me and says, ‘I really miss the cats.’ An hour into the drive!”
Jon said, “It’s amazing that you’ve become such a cat person.”
“You do spend a lot of time with them,” said Sam.
I had nothing to say, but my smile was as real as it could get. I did not go on to mention that at times, even out there, in the cottage, in the woods, I could hear our cats meowing. Specially the kitten; he was always meowing. I mentioned nothing about carrying their meows around. That’s just crazy.
The sun on my skin, breathing in and breathing out, revealed my weariness and brought forth that old familiar vertigo, but it still didn’t stop me from rolling a joint.
Day-bombed to the edge of being; I thought, “If only St. Patrick could see me now!” I thought so many stupid thoughts. I pictured our cats back home, having a vacation of their own. I pictured them, confused and deprived, meowing around Amanda, who we had entrusted to feed them every day. I thought of a Hemingway short story, “Old Man over the Bridge.” I remembered that the old man had to abandon his animals during the war. He had some birds, a few cats, and four goats. I remembered how he had told the young soldier Hemingway that the birds would fly away, because he had left their cages open…but what were the goats to do? The cats would survive, I remembered him saying; cats are resilient and can fend for themselves, but his heart was filled with worry for his goats. What were they to do? Soon enough, they would surely die. But the cats, he was certain, would be fine.
Halfway through the joint, the three of them dispersed and went inside, leaving me on the porch, smoking by myself. I don’t remember what time it was. I could hear one of them doing the dishes. Sam had put on some jazz. I opened my notebook and started writing this. The floodgates propped open; I was the ocean of purpose, whatever the fuck that is…I had so much to say. I don’t remember how long I sat there writing, but at one point, Sam came back out on the porch and placed a smooth white rock on the table, in front of me. The joint had gone out in my hand and I knew all too well that all was lost.
“Found that on the beach,” he said.
All was lost on the page. I put down the pen, lowering my sunglasses as I picked up the rock. It was just a rock, and my smile was as real as it could get.
“If they’re open, I’m going to kiss someone,” he muttered, walking up the deserted street, his voice rumbling in his chest like that of Tom Waits. He lit a cigarette, taking steps slowly, and slowly piecing together their first night spent at the cottage, and the rain that had so subtly crept upon them in their drunken stupor.
It was exactly seven. Who knew when the rest of his party would rise…? Didn’t matter though, they’d be asleep for a while, and hopefully the store would be open, and he could grab a coffee and a newspaper. Along the way, up the deserted street in Sauble beach, his eyes flew about, leaping from crow to seagull to robin, from chirp to chirp and caw to caw; he thought, “All fucking birds are early birds!”
He sighed; or let’s just say that he exhaled his cigarette smoke. He smiled, or better to say that his insides woke, and his eyes grew wider, knowing that he hadn’t been walking without a purpose. The store was open.
A couple of old men, sitting on the bench in front, didn’t even notice him, or so it seemed. It seemed that out there, in the deserted town, life hovered by in utter calm; out there, life was the subtlety of the midnight fog. He thought, “This town belongs to early birds!” and he smiled. It had been a while since he had smiled with such sincerity at something so simple. In the city, it would’ve been too early for such nonsense.
Toronto Star, cup of coffee…He stared at the cashier, smiling still, perhaps even smiling a wider smile, proud of himself and the early birds inside him. He cleared his throat a couple of times, but Tom Waits rumbled still in his chest, as he said, “Walking here I told myself, if the store is open, I’m going to kiss someone!” The lady chuckled, but that was it. She wasn’t interested in his story; cloaked in Toronto from head to toe…She wasn’t interested, she asked nothing. It was too early for conversation perhaps. Perhaps, the thought of a kiss from Tom Waits frightened her. Who knows…?
Newspaper under the arm and coffee in hand, he walked to the beach; or better to say, he hovered back, from crow to seagull to robin, from chirp to chirp and caw to caw. He hovered to the alien beach where lingering flashbacks awaited him. The birds knew all too well, and they might’ve told him as he hovered back, but he’d never know.
“They all just want somebody. Everyone has the same thing…”
“Same thing?” she interrupted, “You make it sound like a disease.”
“It is! It is a disease!” he exclaimed. They drank. He let out his usual theatrical laugh and quickly added, “No…Not a disease.”
His fingers were squirming worms looking for more and more words, and his eyes lowered in the search as well. He said, “It’s just, I see the same things in everyone. I see how haunting loneliness is for them. Everyone wants somebody, and in most cases, it doesn’t matter who. They just want somebody, anybody…” He paused. Hunger had tiptoed back again; a sip of wine to his growling gut…He went on to say, “I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Maybe ‘cause it’s all around us. Everyone has it. And I’ve lost myself while thinking about it, and at times, I aint got a clue what to make of it, and I have been judgmental, looking at them and running my fingers briefly across the haunting fabric that is their solitude. Now I think, it must be love…it has to be…”
“Right,” she said, smiling as she brushed back his wavy hair, in disarray from his semi-drunken rant.
“It has to be love, some kind of true love! Or I guess, better yet, it’s wanting love; wanting love beside you. Wanting it! Who doesn’t want it? It’s love, right? But, you look around, and lots of people these days, wobbling here and crawling there, on the edge of busting with love, for their loneliness is damp and heavy with time. They want somebody, anybody! They can love anyone, and most of them will, gliding from one set of eyes to the next, ready to plunge over and over for any flower that may or may not present itself. They have so much love that they really have no choice…”
There’s no doubt that he could’ve gone further and further, the words would’ve come along the way; his rant would’ve grown with his intoxication…Neither his tongue or the wine would’ve let him down. He could’ve gone on and on…It’s unclear what made him stop. He leaned back; or better to say, he sank softly into himself, in the euphoric air of purple pillows and wavy hair.
“Are you okay love?”
“You have the most incredible ears!” he exclaimed.
“Thanks,” she laughed, brushing her own hair back this time.
“Something in your eyes as well,” he whispered. “It’s as if your eyes have hands and fingers…No,” he said firmly, “Thank you sweetheart, for listening…”
“And… I think we’re done with the wine for tonight!” She laughed…She laughed…The word ‘tonight’ echoed back and forth, back and forth…
“She has the most incredible ears, and there is something in her eyes as well…That’s when I knew how much she loved me…how she’d listen,” he whispered, suddenly gasping into the sound of his own voice and the emptiness he was talking to. Empty alien beach of lingering flashbacks; the lake also possessed incredible ears. The sea, our distant home, knows all too well, the trails and tides that we carry, deep down inside; the flows and falls of living life and wanting to be loved.
Mothers are missed,
I too, miss my mother,
but more often,
I miss the screaming wind among the treetops
While camping in the woods.
We are human, we grow to miss one another,
We are built that way,
We build attachments out of days,
And sew blankets out of habit, all the time,
Missing each other is all we know,
But I miss more the cawing of crows
And crackling firewood,
And taking a long drunken piss off a cliff.
These days, I miss more the blisters and sores
That carve weariness and thirst into one’s muscles.
I miss the slopes of loose rocks,
My fingertips have the clearest memory,
But unfortunately people’s faces have faded,
In my head, their voices are muffled,
But oh the cawing of crows will outlive us all…
I was never suited for silence,
Sincere all in all, yet never honest…
I’ve been made for love,
But my movements maneuver on anger,
And I’ve got a pair of drifter eyes,
They curse my room and every border, every line.
I’ve been a savage, growing far from healthy
In the habitat of habits,
I’ve had moments,
Running currents and flooded paths,
My flock of fears all in flight…
Distances I’ve come to know,
And certain instances I’ve come to loathe,
Free of matter, because I’ve come to learn
That the mind will manage…
Screaming strengths and plains of passion,
The pain was pure in the time for tears…
The trembling of troubled thoughts
Like frightened trees…but there’s no such thing.
I sigh with seasons, my smile is safe,
And perhaps my being was made for love…
“Kiss me!” She said,
I think I was dancing the stupid dance
that I do, when I finish a story…
“Kiss me, then make us
Something delicious to eat for breakfast…”
I gave her an upside-down kiss,
Spreading my wings as I normally do,
Without a clue,
Winging my way from dance to kiss…
“I will write her many poems,” I thought…
Epiphanies found me in the bacon,
All of my incomplete stories
Came to a dignified end, in my head;
Scattered embers hissed and died,
Only the taste of her lips remained…
And with that, my story started again.
“I still can’t believe it,” she said.
“Same here,” he said, putting his arm around her.
“Everything was going so well for him.”
“I hate funerals,” he said, letting out a small cough and continuing, “Seeing his sister was devastating.”
“Poor Stella,” she said.
“I hate having to wear all this black. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense to me.”
“Poor, poor Stella,” she said.
“When do you have to be home?”
“Do you think they’ll catch the guy?”
“I don’t know. I hope they do.”
“They usually catch them right?”
“I think so.”
The sky had cleared up through the course of the day. Bobby and Alice spent a couple of hours at the park next to the funeral home. An old man circled around a soccer field with his dog a few paces ahead of him and a small group of guys were passing around a soccer ball. It was a beautiful day. “When do you have to be home?”
“Right now,” she said, pressing herself ever so gently into his side and making him tighten his arm around her.
“We should get going.”
“I don’t feel like going home.”
“I know. I don’t want you to get in trouble.”
“It’s okay. I’d rather stay here.”
“What would your mom do if she found out you were with me?”
“She’d yell, and curse and probably forbid me to go out.”
“I never thought anybody hated me that much.”
“Janice was eyeing me the whole time.”
“What do you mean?”
“She wouldn’t stop looking at me. I had this bad feeling.”
“I don’t know; a bad feeling. There was something about her look. I think she’s jealous of us.”
“Yeah that’s probably it. We should get going Alice.”
“Never leave me Bobby.”
“You know I won’t,” he said.
As soon as he got home, he changed and threw his suit and tie into the closet, hoping never to see them again. Nobody was home. There was a note on the fridge, which read, “Dear Bobby, I’ve gone to Bill and Charlene’s place. I left you some food on the stove. Warm it up and enjoy. Mom…”
Bobby turned on the television and sat there until he fell asleep. He often fell asleep on the couch.
“Hey sweetheart, how are you?”
“It was an awful day,” said Bobby.
“It’s a tragedy. Poor parents,” she sighed. Bobby nodded his head and sat up.
“When did you get home?
“Just now,” she said.
“What time is it?”
“It’s eleven, I think,” she replied as she went into her room. Bobby got up slowly, yawning and stretching out his arms and back. He entered his room and shut the door. The sound of his cellular phone made him jump a little. He grabbed it quickly. There was a text message. ‘Hey, you looked pretty good today. Why can’t you dress sharp all the time? It was nice seeing you. Janice.” Sitting down on the edge of his bed, Bobby read the message a few times.
Staring down at the street below, he saw a police car cruising slowly. It was a beautiful night. When he sat back down he called her. “Hey.”
“Good evening,” she said.
“I just wanted to thank you for the message.”
“Why didn’t you just message me back?”
“My fingers are hurting.”
“You dialed my number didn’t you?”
“I have you on speed dial.”
“I don’t know…”
“What number am I?”
“Four,” he said and cleared his throat.
“What was that?”
“The cough,” she replied.
“What about it?”
“Forget it,” she said calmly. “Four is a good number.”
“I like six better.”
“Who’s number six?”
“Allen,” he whispered.
“You’re not gonna call him anymore.”
Bobby ran his hand up and down his chest and closed his eyes for a moment. All he could hear was Janice breathing over the phone. “Where are you?”
“In my room,” she said.
“Do you wanna go for a walk?”
“Don’t you ever get any sleep Bobby?”
“I already slept. Come on, you wanna come?”
“I don’t think so baby,” she said jokingly with a low tone, trying to imitate a guy. “You’re welcome Bobby.”
“For what?” he asked.
“The message,” replied Janice. “You wanted to thank me, so you’re welcome.”
“I’m telling you, it’s a nice night.”
“A nice night for what?” exclaimed Janice. “You can come over if you like but I’m not going outside.”
“Alright,” he said.
“So, are you coming?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“I’ll give you some time.”
“You know what I was thinking today Janice? I was remembering when I first met you in grade ten, how you’d never stop smiling or laughing. Nothing ever seemed to destroy you. It’s still the same. Still today, sometimes you’re a mystery to me.”
“I do what I can,” said Janice.
“No, you do more. Both of us know you do more.”
“What does this all mean Bobby?” said Janice as delicately and deliberately as she possibly could.
“I don’t know. I was just thinking about back in the day.”
“Oh yes, the good old days!” said Janice.
“Whatever,” Bobby replied.
“Listen, lots of things are happening right now. Good things and bad things, and all these things that are actually all the same. You know what I mean? Everything’s changing and life goes on. That’s just how it is and it’s beautiful. You’ve gotta love it, and if you can’t, then that’s too bad. Better get used to it, because that’s how it really is. Nothing else matters.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Nothing does,” said Bobby in a whisper. “Do you believe in God Janice?”
“Of course, I speak to God!”
“Is that right?”
“Whenever I’m feeling really lonely, I talk to him. I don’t ask him for anything. I just talk to him.”
“So that’s what you do on your spare time.”
“Yeah, what do you do?”
“Nothing,” said Bobby.
“No, you talk to me,” she said.
“You can go to sleep Janice. I don’t want to keep you up.”
“How’s your girlfriend?”
Bobby paused in silence for a quick moment and said, “Growing up slowly.”
“Oh Bobby,” Janice laughed. “I don’t know whether to feel happy or sad.”
“You’re a greedy little dog, aren’t you?”
“Perhaps, but it’s not like you’re Mother Teresa!”
“What about the kid?”
“That’s such an ugly word. ‘It’s such a nice night! She’s so nice!’ you should really stop using that word.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Don’t think about everything, you might get a headache.”
“I already have one.”
“Take a pill.”
“You’re supposed to make it go away.”
“Get some sleep Bobby. I’ll be seeing you.”
It took him a while to move and get under his covers. When he finally did, he fell asleep almost instantly. Another message had come crashing into his phone as it sat idle on the bed, somewhere in the sheets.
Exactly four days later, another funeral was held.
It rained all night long and the old man spent most of his time on the balcony, overlooking the ashy metropolitan. I could hear him cough and spit and I rolled around for a while on the ground before I decided to join him.
“I’m having trouble falling asleep.”
“I thought I woke you up.”
“Not at all,” I said.
“It’s a nice night.”
“It sure is.”
“It’s good that we get the rain,” said the old man as he let out a deep cough and spat off the balcony. “Goddamn, I sure could use a woman.”
“Couldn’t we all,” I said and smiled.
“Oh man, if only I had some young fit-bodied Asian woman around, who’d look after me and the house.”
“Why Asian?” I said.
“I wouldn’t want to marry her.”
“Why Asian though?”
“Because they truly know how to take care,” he said. “They have a simple sense of love and a deep sense of loyalty.”
“Is that right?”
“Oh man,” he exclaimed, “You don’t know. Asian women are the best. They’re simple and beautiful and they really know how to care for men.”
“Asia is pretty big.”
“They’re the best! Anywhere in Asia you can find the best women in the world.”
“What about Africa? Some of them are pretty damn sexy.”
“Yeah, Africa too,” he said.
“They’re everywhere I guess. You’ve just got to look for them.”
“Not around here. It’s different around here and besides you can’t find women like that in any place as much as in Asia.”
The rain was pouring steadily and the old man’s eyes remained transfixed on the view of the city beneath him. Sitting next to him, I could feel his hand groping in his pocket. He did that every so often; he would reach deep into his pants pocket, as if in search of something and his hand would remain there for a while before he’d take it out again. “I lived with a native girl back in the day, when I was up north. I owned a restaurant up there. She’d come there all the time; one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen, but she was very poor. I mean really poor. Practically homeless,” he said as his eyes fell from the view and he slowly took his hand out of his pocket. “Good times,” he muttered gently. “She lived with me for about a year.”
“What happened to your restaurant?”
“Ah, don’t worry about it kid. It’s a long story.”
“I appreciate you letting me stay here Fred.”
“It’s all good kiddo. I understand.”
“You know Fred; you’re actually a whole lot younger than you’re supposed to be.”
“Are you saying that I look old?”
“Not at all,” I said. “You look a lot younger than your age.”
“Which one am I then?”
“You’re young Fred.”
“Damn right I am!”
“Damn right you are,” I said patting him once on his back.
“No kiddo, I’m young and old. I look a lot younger than I am, and I’m a whole lot older than I look.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“You’ve gotta be double,” he said with a laugh and repeated it a couple of times as if singing a blues song.
“You think it’s going to keep raining all through the night?”
“Let it rain. I hope it rains all throughout tomorrow.”
“It gets boring after a while.”
“That’s the problem with you people; you get bored of everything. Everything’s gotta be quick and run by you or else it’s boring.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right.”
“I guess the rain isn’t all that bad.”
“Gotta be glad we got it.”
There was a sudden flash of lightning in the distance that came down upon the earth in a straight line, suddenly bursting in three separate directions. “Whoa, did you see that?”
“Goddamn it. No, I blinked.”
“It looked nice.”
“Listen kid, are you planning on going home tomorrow?”
“I don’t know Fred, the thing is, I…”
“Listen kid, its okay if you want to stay. You’re always welcome to stay. Tomorrow you’ve gotta help me with some shopping. There’s nothing in the house.”
“That’s no problem Fred.”
“Good. Do you know how to cook?”
“Well, it all depends on what you mean by cook.”
“I’ll take that as a no, and boiling eggs doesn’t count. I’ll teach you something tomorrow. Maybe you’ll go home after and surprise your mom.”
“Yeah, maybe I will.”
“Alright, I should be calling it a night.” He got up slowly and stretched his arms into the air and arched his back. “You should try and get some sleep too.”
“Yeah, I will. By the way Fred, what was her name?”
“I don’t remember. It was a long time ago kid.” I got up and followed him inside. He stopped at the hallway that led to his room and said, “Sleep well kiddo, I’ll wake you up at eight.”
It felt strange, staring at the ceiling and knowing that my mother was only four floors above me. She was probably still awake and wondering where I was.
Leaning against a tree inside the park, the pain had started to kick in. He felt around the wound in his arm and the blood trickling down from the side of his head had found a way into his eye. He began to take deeper and slower breaths, keeping his eyes open to the sound of crickets in the grass. Judging by the glitter in the air and the calm it must’ve been a clear night. He began to move his legs ever so slightly. In the process he was suddenly struck by a pain in his back and he felt the gushing warmth of his blood as he leaned back harder against the tree and closed his eyes, grinding his teeth together vigorously. That is how he came across the wound in his back.
Everything that had sped by him so far had settled within his pain and the roaring ache within the depths of his lungs. He let out an empty sigh and could no longer tell whether they were tears or streams of blood that made their way down his face. Strangely enough, for a moment or two, he found it in himself to laugh. He giggled like a retard, drooling bloody saliva with his eyes low and hollow of all sense.
“For how long now have you held out on being who you are?”
“I have no problems in life Jack.”
“I’m telling you as a friend. You have to stop acting.”
“I don’t know who to be man. I just enjoy it every day, wherever and whoever that I am.”
“I see your suffering, your pain. I feel your need to not be lonely and I’ve leaned many times against the wall you have made to keep intruders out.”
“You’re religious my friend. Asides from that, you’re just like me.”
“No two people are the same. We were made different and that’s the beauty of it all Charles.”
“You’re right Jack. There are people like you, true to a bundle of beliefs and words, constantly pouring salvation into people’s drinks and lighting a torch of wisdom. There are also people like me, in love and loving moments as they come, completely impartial to the turning and the time that is lost in useless loves. I know one thing for sure; being so sincerely indifferent to the end and the natural fate of all men is much harder than living life inside a book.”
“Is there anybody here?” he tried to yell and it came out more like a sob as he dropped his head. “Help me. Please help me.” A slight breeze had picked up and the tree against his back was humming a gentle note. “Is there anyone here? I need help,” he cried. “Please God, help me. I want to live God, please. I’ll understand and I’ll tell everyone. I’ll stop and go back. I’ll do anything. Oh dear God please.”
Still to this day Charlie tells the story of how he died once when he was nineteen. He says that he clearly remembers their faces; the men that killed him. “There was three of them,” he says. Charlie also tells everyone all the time that he no longer really cares for money. “It just aint worth it,” he says, but that’s all.
It was getting late. I told Jane that I had to get going. I knew that Sam was probably at home, drinking as usual, and even though he didn’t care where I was, I needed to go back home. Sam and I have an interesting relationship. We’re not married, but we live together. We’re not in love, but we understand one another. Some nights I don’t go home and I stay over at a friend’s house. Many nights Sam does the same. We don’t ask any questions, and everything in our lives is separate except for the bed we sleep in. I wasn’t always like this, but I learned to kill my expectations. I saw Jane pouring me another glass of wine. I said, “Ok, this is the last one. Really I gotta go.”
“Go where?” she asked.
“I have to go home.”
“Oh come on,” she said, “just relax, it’s not like you have work tomorrow morning.”
“I do have work, and plus I have some stuff to do at home.”
“Ok, ok, I’ll let you go…in twenty minutes.” She said and brought me a full glass of wine.
Jane is an artist. I have known her for years now and still have not figured out what specific field of art she specializes in. I also become perplexed every time I try to figure out her source of income and how she pays for her daily expenses. She doesn’t have many expenses though. I have rarely even seen her eat. Asides from the alcohol and cigarettes, I don’t think she consumes much at all. At times I wish I was similar to Jane. She defies every routine known as significant and lives strictly for herself and the interests that occupy her thoughts. That’s how I know she’s an artist, but then again, what do I know about art..? Jane lives in a neighborhood that is always dark, and seems to have no friendly relation with direct sunlight. The entire area feels tight and seems to have a lack of oxygen. Everything is old, from the cars to the houses. It seems as if everyone there is a smoker, and nothing whatsoever seems to bother Jane. I for one am always terrified when I go to visit her. I’m not used to the faces and the accents. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just naturally scared of everything. But Jane’s neighborhood scares me more than anything else.
The thought of leaving her house, going home in a cab was a dreadful one. I drank my glass of wine as quickly as I could and said, “Jane can you call me a cab?” She put down her glass and placed her cigarette in the ashtray.
“What time is it?” said Jane.
“It’s eleven thirty.” She got up and walked toward the kitchen. I could feel the wine going to work in my body. I knew that once I stood up, I would feel how drunk I truly was. I don’t remember why I was so determined to go home. I didn’t have to. I guess I just wanted to get a good night’s sleep. See Sam…
Jane came back and said, “The cab will be here in fifteen, twenty minutes. I guess you have time for another drink.” She said and smiled at me like a devilish teenager.
“No, I’m fine. I have to get up early tomorrow.” Jane said nothing, shrugged her shoulders and poured herself another full glass of wine. Her house was small and had an amazing sense of silence. I watched her as she drank her wine and sparked another cigarette. I felt as if her eyes would zoom on every detail around her. I tried to follow her eyes but never realized exactly what she was looking at. She never stared at anything, she just closed in on it and observed. Perhaps, she did stare…
There was complete silence up until the cab had arrived and the doorbell rang. I got up, grabbed my coat and purse and stood there looking at Jane, who was still sitting down. She was smiling at me. “You know it’s not too late,” she said. “You should spend the night here. I know you worry about Sam, Stella. You can always lie to me and say you have stuff to do at home, but I’ll always know.” I couldn’t say anything. “Stella, believe me, there is so much you need to see, and it’s not at home. But I understand.” Her eyes were low, and I could see the wine flowing inside them. I still didn’t know what to say. I don’t know why, but I felt guilty and somewhat ashamed.
I said, “Really Jane, I should go. Maybe some other time, I promise.” Jane didn’t say anything else. She got up and walked me to the door. I put on my coat and looked at her. I had never seen her the way she was. Somehow I couldn’t tell whether it was the alcohol talking, or just same old Jane. I tried not to think about it. She hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I said, “Try to get some sleep Jane. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Okay, good night,” she said as she opened the door and let me out. As I started walking, Jane muttered something that I couldn’t make out, but I didn’t bother turning around. I got into the cab and took one last look at Jane who was still standing in the doorway. She waved goodbye and closed the door.
As the cab drove through the inner streets of Jane’s neighborhood, I saw teenagers still out. I didn’t know what they were up to. I couldn’t stop thinking about what she might’ve muttered, or the way her eyes pierced through me.
“This is not a good place,” said the cab driver. He had a weird accent. I reckoned he was probably Arabic. “A lot of bad stuff happens here,” he said. “Look, these kids are out at this time. It is a shame. Only God knows what they doing.”
I wanted to say something, but I was scared. Every single house looked exactly like Jane’s. As soon as we entered a main street, I felt calm and for a moment closed my eyes. Suddenly the cab driver said, “I’m sorry miss, but do you mind if I have a smoke?”
“No, not at all,” I said. ,
“I am sorry, really, but it has been very tiring today,” he said as he rolled down his window. I said nothing and closed my eyes again. I was really tired, or maybe it was just the wine. I couldn’t wait to get home. The empty street made me calm, and I kept hoping that the cab driver wouldn’t speak to me. I always love to talk, with anyone and everyone, but at that point I missed the silence at Jane’s house and for a moment I wished that I hadn’t left. I wondered what Jane was doing. I pictured her drinking another glass of wine, finishing the bottle, smoking another cigarette and going to sleep. She had so much peace all to herself, and I wondered if she ever got lonely. Didn’t she ever feel the need to be with someone? Perhaps, someone who would take care of her and not let her drink so much. A man who would provide for her and buy things for her…
I opened my eyes just as the cab had gotten close to my apartment. The cab driver said, “This is very good neighborhood. A lot of good people live here.”
“Okay, have a good night miss. Take care,” he said. I paid the fare and got out.
“Maybe the cab driver is right,” I thought to myself as I walked into the lobby of my building. It was late and the concierge was asleep behind his desk. “I guess the cab driver was right. There’s no need for security here. This is a good neighborhood full of good people.”
Inside the elevator, I stared at myself in the mirror and it was obvious that I had been drinking. I rarely drink, because I hate myself the day after. I only drink with Jane. Even in the past two years that I’ve lived with Sam, I’ve only drank with him once. I usually sit beside him while he drinks and watches TV. I like to look at him and in a way study his actions. He drinks almost every night when he comes home from work. He works in an office. All I know is that he hates his job and never talks about it. So I’ve never asked him. One time, he came to the café, where I work, and surprised me. It was my birthday, and he had bought me a book. My manager let me leave work early and we walked in the park for hours and just talked. I don’t remember having many days like that, where I smiled and felt so simplistically happy.
I opened the door and walked in to the apartment. It was dark and Sam wasn’t home. I stood there at the door for a moment before I took off my shoes and turned on a light. Even in the depths of complete emptiness my apartment never has the same silence as Jane’s house. At times I wonder how Jane copes with so much silence. It becomes depressing after a while. Doesn’t she ever feel the urge to break it? What does she do with so much silence? Maybe she’s gotten used to it. Or maybe it’s because she’s an artist.
It was late. I didn’t feel like going to bed. I wanted to take a shower and wait for Sam to get home. I wondered where he was, and if he was happy, and if he was thinking about me. For a moment I wanted to be with him, wherever he was. I hoped that he had had a good day. It was nice to see him smile every once in a while, but it was rare, knowing that he hated his job. I try not to hate anything, because it slows me down. Even seeing Sam with such frustration in his eyes every evening after work makes me depressed and brings my thoughts down into a slow pace until they no longer move. Long ago I had tried to talk to him about his job, and through his eyes alone it was evident how he felt. Why can’t we all just be like Jane?
I was no longer drunk. Taking a shower made me feel light, and I came out of the bathroom hoping to see that Sam had arrived. But he hadn’t. I thought about Jane living in a bad neighborhood. I thought about the taxi driver, and where he might live, and if it was a good area with good people. Lying in bed, letting my thoughts float freely from branch to branch, I fell asleep. At times I wish I could have full awareness of the moment that my mind retires to sleep. It would be nice to experience yourself falling into rest, seeing every second of your day pass by again and placing every moment of it onto the shelves of your memory.
I awoke and the lights were still on. I heard the bathroom door close, and smiled knowing that Sam had come home. I was glad that he was home. It didn’t matter what time it was. I didn’t even need to see him. He was home, and that’s all the comfort I needed. I closed my eyes and waited. Once he was in the room I could sense him looking at me. I could smell cigarettes as I heard him taking off his clothes. I didn’t bother opening my eyes. I could see everything; his every single movement, as he turned off the lights and got into bed ever so gently. Lying on his back, I could hear him breathe, and I wondered again why Jane was so lonesome with so much silence. At that point, I could feel myself changing. I could feel new desires wanting to be born.
Slowly, I reached over, put my arm on his chest and we fell asleep.