Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dreamt something better

The covers are warm and inviting, and heedless of his redolence. They want only his lust for sloth, his naked embrace of textiles. It is so simple to collapse into them, taking mind to keep at least one orifice pointed gargoyle-like over the edge of the bed; a combination theory and experience has taught him the value of choosing the orifice most connected to his various breathing/life-sustaining parts. Semi-paralyzed in a sea of cotton and synthetic fibre, his mouth flops open and closed as much as could be expected from any such landed creature unused to the unyielding firmament. He can only just breathe, escalating to a wave and crest of hyperventilation. A joint actually moves, the precursor of total motionlessness. Dream, dream, dream... Bittersweet, as always, is the amber wave of memory that he plummets into.

Memories of the first, a title so well-deserved, bubble to the top, bringing words as gentle and soft as could be. Thoughts of her, next to him, warm with the gentle play of hands on hands and suggestive smoothing of her back- on a dare, almost, his hand might move next to her face on the carpet, a bold gesture for the secret prize of closeness, of having her warm breath fall gently onto his fingers. Remember the wide eyes when she looped up her foot to bring it around his ankle, playfully rubbing that in the mind turned to images of subtle games played under tables by winking lovers, socked toes darting furtively up leggings to caress bare calves-
Her face, and body, a mirror image of his except in the broken symmetry where she had crossed over heel-to-heel, where his hand rested just moments away from her cheeks. Pale hazel eyes, always on him, glinting with bare appreciation-- warm embers of the usual fire, perhaps doused by an unusual sense of trepidation.
“Jason...” It was intended as more than the whisper it came out as, evident in the way she kept parting her lips, eyes darting up and down his face.
At this point, even a usual preference for risk-aversion would have dipped itself in purple, torn off its overgarments and gone screaming into a crowd of hungry dogs.
Hungry dogs, right.
As an archer pulls the bowstring taut, so deliberate was his hand motion, fingers coming to rest on the angle of her jaw. Gentle, but firm, utterly driven.
But it was unnecessary. His patience was replied to with startling immediacy, and as their lips met, an almost overwhelming distraction from the sudden trauma to his nose might have ruined everything.
Not now, not with that one moment. No time for the minor naggings of pain when his face was flushed with the sudden flare of their heat.

Here, he is almost pushed, in his dreams, to a finite regression, remembering those other 'firsts': fumbling and sweaty apologies for experience trotted out by a constant hormonal screaming. Then, it was all about making it to the next level, tasting for the first time that salty pinched flesh between trying-it-rough teeth. Then, it was spit and tongues, and the tickle of nostril-breath on your cheeks as, for the first time, you felt someone else's tooth enamel. Then, it was a time of shameful surprises that creep up on you before you're even aware of them, and the rest of the exercise becomes a disaster management scenario that only now can bring at best a wan smile of stupider times.

But back in the first, that puncturing of overcast and cloudy memories by that wholly different need for the sun to shine, and having just that one moment to show you what the good days can look like, and what the best days might look like if you're lucky enough to live them for as long as you can. Fireworks in your head, scattering the stars.
So you do what you can do, for anyone who shows you that bright side. You let them know how much they're needed, how much you ache for them and that it's built to a passion and a lust by even the littlest glimpses.
Pull her to, pull her on top. Pull her in closer and curl your fingers into her braided hair-
And everything about her says 'yes'.
And everything she has smiles as the first buttons pop out.
And the only thing he wants is for her to see his face beyond the stupid 'oh' that is all he can manage in the cascade of skin as she falls to him, followed by the rush of his hands...
To see...

'Cruelty, thy name is Consciousness, thou pigfucker' he rails, grasping and gasping on the suddenly-there linoleum tiles, his face plunged into the mercifully white toilet. 'You utter fuck.'

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Identification Please

The morning routine, pronounced usually with an emphatic 'rut-een' in the minds of most of the workers, settled in with the traditional rush of the coffee machine's dispensation of the morning's necessary allotment of stimulation mixed with refreshing mocha, the earnest creak of asses taking up residence in their appointed desk-chairs, and the unprotesting hum of monitors and terminals as they too were sped into their own awakenings. Fingers twitched with the false anticipation of trying to remember the passwords they'd inputted only yesterday.
Someone entered his first dog's name.
Another entered her birthdate.
Another entered her favourite football team's mascot.
Another entered in sequence the name of his wife, son, and daughter, compressed into a 12-character response.
Yet another typed in his favourite Godzilla movie (simply and perhaps a bit unimaginatively, 'Godzilla' out of reverence for the Japanese original).
Yet another rapidly entered in the name of a certain game show host, whose image was brought to mind whenever she attended to the intimate needs of her boyfriend. The conditioned response of this always made her hips shiver, and nobody could see into the cubicle to wonder why she would lick her lips and pout her jaw with heavy breath.
Another entered an alpha-neumeric sequence that contained the maximum allowed number of characters for any permissible password. The illusion of unbreakable security that this gave was unbroken by the fact that it was so complicated that it had to be copied from a sticky-note attached to his monitor, helpfully prefaced with the heading “Password:”.
Another entered his mother's maiden name.
Another entered, with a dreamy look on his face, the song that had been playing when he'd lost his virginity, a rather unplanned venture involving a shuffled CD-changer that had happened upon his little sister's boy-band best-of. The dreamy look was nothing if not guilty.
Another entered the name of his patron Saint.
Another entered her dream car's make and model.
The entire floor had progressed from a trickle of keyboard clicks from the chicken-typing lot whose newness was further announced by a refusal to plunge into coffee addiction, instead heading to their desks with an enthusiasm and desperation to make impressions that in itself would achieve the end of its life-span in a matter of weeks. Now, the steady resonance of inputs poured freely, an avalanche of the speed-typing veterans whose pupils firmly moulded into the picture of caffeinated concentration.
Only one man still sat at his desk, oblivious to the city-enveloping sun that shone through one of the few windows. The one man who knew without error each of his floor workers' memoir, coveted as it had been to be the first willed recollection in the morning rut-een. It was a window into each character, compressed into a 5-20 character appreciation. Just as well they reminded themselves what they were working for, why they were here, imprisoned as much by their contractual obligations as by their earnest desires for their passions-- their passwords. Individual, unique, and binding. Employee identification, employee identity.
And he alone would scrutinize them wordlessly. He would keep track of whether they would be kept in line by their dedication, or fall into unproductive distraction. His task, and his job: the watcher, the voyeur, the man who made it his work to oversee.
The monitor flashed, demanding his input.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Saturday in Soweto

The city pulsed into the hospital on a nightly basis, a collection of fresh scars, scabs, and throbbing masses that would bounce moans of pain off the sweat-covered walls from which the paint bubbled and chipped. A hell of humidity turned the air into a near-clotting fluid one had to wade through.
Anticipation was almost enough to supplant the need for coffee- almost- as if adrenaline from the probable flood to come kept everyone breathing. But it was early yet, and so Roos Hoek filled her senses with the least offensive blend of Java available. Just one cup of it, no more or else caffeinated alacrity will turn to a set of nerves that won’t stop humming with activity, overcharged and out of control.Unsurprisingly decaf can’t be found fresh in the break room. The last jar is a cake of powder that has fused into a sweaty solid, bleeding oil and essence.
“How’s it?”
Pieterzoon, already out of his scrubs and disquietingly clean. Blonde sweatless brows seemed entirely alien given the morning perspiration that clung to every other surface. “It’s them blerry payday weekends, eh? Ag man, I don’t envy you tonight, not at all.” He’d speak in English to be understood, heavily accented in English-Dutch inflection. Roos was, after all, only Dutch in name, and still blanked
whenever peppered with Afrikaans by conclusion-jumpers who saw just another Afrikaaner who spoke the language. Hell, she spoke more French than anything else, having only elected to take English to escape the bored townships of Provence. With that, she found herself in Johannesburg. Peachy. Be careful what you wish for.
She tilted her head, shrugging. “It doesn’t help that Thabola and Mbosi are still out on holiday for another few days.”
“Fok aye. You know those tits try to put themselves out of harm’s way on these nights by penciling in vacation time years in advance.”
“Don’t be so cynical, man. They’re at the top for a reason. --And before you say it, that reason isn’t Mandela.”
Pieterzoon dropped his eyes. “Whatever, girl, whatever.” A sigh. “I’m out for the shut-eye and peaceful recuperation. Say high to the dronkies for me, eh?”
He brushed past her without another word, almost brusquely. Maybe he was right, maybe he wasn’t, she couldn’t say, but dammit, why did everyone have to be so goddamned touchy about it.
Well, it’s not like they didn’t have a history of it, mmm, muttered her inner voice, now they’re just grumpy that the shoe is on the other foot. But nothing was that simple. Apartheid had switched to reverse racism, and the iron-clad oppression of bigotry had for a brief while been swept away, only to fall into a disjointed attempt to control a population discovering freedom without the gradual acknowledgment of its excesses.
Hell of a way to start the day. Hell of a reminder.
“Et merde,” she muttered to herself.

Saturday afternoon, and already temperatures were running high, a fever of cheers from everyone who'd slaved through the week with the expectation that they could now reap the rewards. Money, freshly minted, flowing opposite the stream of cans and bottles into plastic bags. The sun still breathing down peeling necks, thirsts were still being created rather than quenched. What better cure to the burden of thirst than with newfound libation? It was an answer that trickled into minds as the hours wore on and the boots came off, and by the time the horizon had pinched off the heat of day, liquid relaxation flowed freely.

Already Roos was blinking hard in the haze of stale beer and belched curry as the starting wave came slopping in, dragged by fortunately sober friends who passed the time by blending in with the crowd, passing between themselves drinks with feigned covertness. But few took heed of the drunk and orderly when there were their counterparts to mind. The sound of a pleading spew of vomit from a teenager was as much a starter's pistol as she was going to get.
Good evening, Soweto...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A glint of something

She marked the time with the patter of her fork, slow and seemingly purposeful chews separating each and every tick against the cheap china. She was out of uniform, so it was fine having her eat listlessly at the counter. A few of the regulars not convinced enough to buy cheap eats elsewhere would be all that would recognize her, given that was both the usual hostess and easily the prettiest worker at the rest (no doubt the two were connected), the rest of the workers seeming to have succumbed to the undesirable combination of affliction that comes when gravity meets cellulite. Lydia's only droop seemed the usual one around the edges of her mouth, not simply because of the feigned exuberance that put prospective customers in motion towards their waiting booths. Always, from management- 'Happy workers, happy customers, happy meals', even for smiles kept up by toothpicks.

“You'd better eat some of that, darlin'.” Said Catie

It was true. While Lydia was the prettiest, it was in spite of, not because of, a rather rail-thin figure. The manager, were it not for Lydia's stalwart consistency, would have felt more genuine in whispering things about cocaine and amphetamine rather than that founded only in jealousy of the young girl's figure.

“Trying.” Said Lydia.

The truth was that her mind was rather far away from there, lost to the endless discharge of precipitates from the asphalt arteries that burst into the diner with a disjoint of baseball caps, tattoos, and sad Middle America affectation that leads to premature droop and a sort of pansexual hirsuteness around the face and jowels. Wobbling chins and all-day breakfasts smothered in table syrup and served with crackling pig fat fresh off the sheet grill. Days wore you down rather than simply wearing on as might be expected. Little pills from the doctor, yellow tabs to treat the blue days, but more often than not they just left you with your mouth dry and your seat wet. A perfect match, perhaps, to the palms sticky with fake-maple sugar.

Lydia could still hear her mother's voice, the strong Vermont can-do pout, “Table syrup, more the misnomer than you can imagine, little Liddy. None of that junk on the table, not on my watch, not ever.”

The thought of this would make Lydia sink more towards her plate, towards the fries smothered in the alien vinegar rather than the common ketchup.

“You wouldn't believe what we got today.” Said Catie, quite prepared to accept the possibility that Lydia would, in fact, believe it. “Some queer from New York comes in and asks for a veggie burger. Annie was serving him, and had to be shown just where on the menu it was! I tell you, I don't get those queers- they won't eat meat, but why? So afraid of eating their own, but they all look more like the beansprouts they eat to me!”

Lydia continued to dig her fork into the malt-and-bitter-smelling frenchfries, staring blankly at the little chips that would fly off from the crisp little strings.

“He got the dipping veggies, and we had to find a bottle of ranch dressing- just for him. He just returned it to us after the meal, said he didn't need none of it, said that we could keep it for other customers. Chef and I had a big laugh pouring that little shot of ranch back into the bottle!”

Still, Lydia's fixation had dulled her to her friend- instead she found herself trapped in a thought that kept at her, growing in spite of attempts at ignoring it. Embers, she now thought, stoking her fries as if they were fires on the logs.

“Exactly like embers!” Boomed Mom, glancing to and from traffic at the sporadic pirouettes of light along the highway-side. The bright orange gobs of fire that lept up from the tall grass and the cat-tails of greenery held her mouth open in a constant 'oh' of wondrous fascination.

Mom had pulled over some time later, where Lydia had danced about waving her hands exultantly in a rambling chase to catch a handful of fire. But Mom was quicker, and fast as quicksilver had a fistful of quiet light. It seemed to snore between Mom's fingertips, waxing and waning- and the gasp when she parted her hands to show the source...

Lydia started up, the floor protesting the sudden movement of the chair she'd tortuously dragged along it. She smiled at Catie, who could only look back quizically.

“What's gotten into you? You're all smiles. Weirrrrrd.”

“I,” announced Lydia, no small hint of confidence, “am going out to catch some fireflies.”

"You sure there's still enough light out?"

"That's exactly what I'm going to catch!"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mother, standing, walking a skipping child back from school, swinging a basket of food gaily in her off-hand. Peals of laughter mingling with peels of zesty tangerines, unraveled as they walked by fingers sticky with their juices. Mother and son, making faces with orange segments, confidently confiding in the other about the distance to be had by seed-spitting. She let him win, of course. His day out, her day off, the rest of the week’s inevitable toiling washed away in a little wooden crate of sunshine hidden among the rest of the produce.
“Do they grow on vines, mom?”
“Vines, dear boy,” came the voice of wisdom, still laden with Belfast-bereft-of-bombs. “Why, no. You’re thinking of grapes and tomatoes.” The boy wrinkled his nose at the thought of the bitter tomato, whose inclusion in his mother’s usual breakfast choice frustrated him almost as much as her repeated attempts to convince him that it was a fruit. Nothing as bitter and horrible as a tomato could be a fruit. “Tangerines grow on great trees in orchards. Like the way they grow apples and lemons and- and coconuts.”
“Coconuts grow on palm trees! I learned that today!”
“You’re right they do, m’boy. On big trees that grow out of the sandy soil like arms of giants buried in the sand.”
“Arms! Wow!” The child paused, holding one cheek in a still-sticky palm. “So- that’s why they’re called palm trees, because they have a hand at the end of them?”
She laughed. “That may well be the case. You’ll just have to find out.”
“I will! I will!”
The exuberance of youth, the constant energy and wide-eyed wonder piled on top of Vel-Cro sneakers, mismatched socks, and scraped jeans stained with dew and chlorophyll. Matching stains on the elbows and palms of his hands meant that he’d probably been spending another sunny afternoon face firmly pointed earthwards, watching insects climb the micro-metropolis of grass and weeds.
“Can we get a tangerine tree, mom? I’d feed it and water it and climb in it.”
“Alas, dear boy, there’s nowhere to plant it. We’ve no lawn to speak of, and no back-yard that isn’t covered in rock. We’d not only need to buy somewhere new, but also somewhere warm and nice for tangerines to grow.”
“But why can’t we?”
She paused for a moment, slipping in stride and suddenly tired. “Because we’re not able to buy things like that, dear boy, I’m sorry.”
The boy paused, looking up at his mother, suddenly feeling like he’d said something rude or wrong, like asking grown-ups how old they were. It was an ache, having that kind of thing be so possible, that the simple things and questions could really hurt someone. Even the person who kisses it better can be so vulnerable to their own little collection of nicks and cuts. He wanted to ask if they were poor, but he felt with horrid certainty that this was another question that might hurt her, or make her sad. These things might have been as true as the little scrapes, but they could still hurt, and very much so.
He grabbed her suddenly, little arms circling around her hips, face pressing into her abdomen.
“What’s wrong? Jason, are you alright?”
Their eyes met, a vertical stare. “I’m fine, mom.”
“Well then,” she said, suddenly bursting into laughter, “that’s grand.”
It was. Hand in sticky hand, they resumed their walk. But the thought lingered with Jason, having been confirmed: even grown-ups need someone to make it better. Maybe everyone does. Maybe everyone needs someone to be special for them, someone different from everyone who just calls them by their name, someone who says ‘dear’ or ‘honey’, or ‘buddy’, or best of all, Mom. Someone who knew more than just a stitched-on nametag on an anonymity-ensuring uniform- Not just Eily Connolly, but Mom.
His mother kept her smile, and started to hum- “When Irish Eyes are Smi-liiing….”