Monday, March 12, 2007

License - Chapter Four

I left Jason’s house in the morning unrested and restless, briefly able to concentrate on the melting ice and the puddles that it created. When I realized that there would be melting ice not only here, but the entire way back to the apartment, I resented it, knowing I would have to concentrate on it and not the useless thoughts that were practicing a cheerleading routine between my ears. Always the same routine, very little progress with each pass.

When I’d come by the night before, unannounced to my boyfriend’s house, he opened his door, not unsurprised, but not generally pleased either. He frowned at my mustache instead of laughing at it, annoyed that I’d come up with not one but two gimmicks, the showing up out of nowhere and the facial furniture, to provoke him to ask me about my day. He ignored them both and slinked off, sub sandwich in his hand, back to the couch and Deal or No Deal, the door left open the only indication that I’d been noticed at all.

Goosestepping unattractively across the messy wet salt water punctuated by curved icehill surprise wedges, I was annoyed when someone took my arm. I might have looked silly, but I can walk, albeit slowly, on a sidewalk without help. I looked up and was met by the eyes of a very gracefully aging Asian woman in a beige raincoat.

“You are beautiful,” she said with a squeeze of my arm and walked on. I didn’t have time to respond.

You might think of Jason’s behavior at the door as some sort of indication that he was angry with me, or perhaps that I was lying to Mike and Jason was actually my secret autistic brother. In truth, he’s just like that sometimes and it has nothing to do with anything. He is a faucet, on or off. He was simply off. When he seduced me, he was on. He only came on about half the time later.

I left him on the couch and went to his bathroom to take a shower and work at the spirit gum and fake fur on my lip. I looked at myself in the mirror before I took the mustache off and relived the moment on the roof before I could spray it away with a power washer.

On the sidewalk, my arm still feeling dented from the manicured fingers of the stranger, I stood up straight, glancing down only occasionally at the reverse Arctic, ice on the bottom and water on top, and made it a half block before I fell right on my ass. I was negotiating the quickest and most dignified way to get out of this situation when an arm came down to me and helped me up. It was what we call a Trixie, a woman in her twenties with a double jogging stroller and a single child, hair neatly combed into a flawless ponytail and cute little overpriced jogging-wear. I thanked the Trixie as she righted me, surprised as I’ve held so many doors open for her kind and never gotten a thank you. She smiled, bit her lip and said, “You are beautiful.” I wanted to thank her, but realized that I’d just thanked her five seconds before. The thought of whether to thank her or not was enough to befuddle me until it was too late to say anything at all, and I walked forward again, smiling a bit over this new befuddlement, my sudden apparent fan club.

I felt stupid, going to Jason’s, as if he would somehow see that I had been kissed and that he’d better put in a better bid to keep me. There were no sudden flowers, bath drawn with the spare petals floating in it, no cupcakes baked, deep hugs or trips to New Zealand planned. But now that I was there, I made the best of it, planned to shower myself into normality and sit down with him to watch whatever he was watching, a silent acceptance between the two of us that I should be used to by now.

Just around the corner, down the one long block between Jason’s house and my apartment, a string of persons entered my sightlines, each with the same abashed look on their faces, each clearly awaiting my approach. “You’re beautiful,” came a voice behind me, obviously someone I’d already passed up. I tried to ignore it and stomped bravely on. Two men, both with thick eastern European postures looked at me humbly and genuinely and blocked my path. They were very young, very thin and shy. “You are beyooteeful,” the one on the left let out, then grinned and bowed away. I tried to get around the one on the right, but he found the strength to purse his mouth and try to make himself understood. “You are beautiful.

“Thank you,” I managed, though I was beginning to shake terribly, as if I had stage fright. I don’t get stage fright.

Jason stood up at 10:00 and walked to the bedroom. I slid in next to him, naked, though I now felt a little self-conscious about it. He read for a while, then reached across me to turn the light off. The dark made no difference. My eyes wouldn’t shut. I listened to him sleep, wanting to go home, but scared to leave. I felt that if I left I might not come back.

The next person on the street was a middle aged dad type. He smiled and spat out “You’re beautiful,” with a little belly-shaking hop. I was walking as quickly as I could, bursting through iceless patches, going up on the grass when great wavy glaciers were unavoidable. I wanted to be home right now. Two black teenaged girls, twittering, “You beautiful.” Another Trixie, “You’re beautiful.” A white young man, “You’re beautiful.” A little girl and her father, “What did you want to tell the lady?” “You’re bootiful.” “You are.” Two middle aged couples, “You’re beautiful.”

“Mike!” I yelled. “Miiiike! Where are you!” I was taking my shoes off to run the rest of the way when an elderly gentleman, his white hair carefully parted, took my hand to balance me. I looked up into his fading blue eyes.

“You are beautiful.”

Tears began to stream down my face, my feet numbing in the ice water, “Mike! Mike! Mike!” I ran, mumbles of “You’re beautiful,” and more clear calls of it, a cacophony, the symbols losing meaning, but still stunning me. I got to my apartment building and ran up the stairs, the carpet itching my feet, opened my door and slammed it behind me. I stood and panted for a moment, placed my shoes on the floor and went to my phone to check for messages. There were none. The notepad next to the phone, in wonderful cursive script, read, “You’re beautiful.” I held it in my shaking hands for a while and cried until I’d calmed down. I wiped my face with a nearby napkin, inhaled deeply and picked up the phone.


canopygrape said...

Expressing the amount to which I enjoyed this in a few sentences is impossible, but please know I find it absolutely brilliant. It is forceful and smooth at the same time. The writing is vivacious and vibrant, I always get this tingle when I read thid, which is quite surprising since nothing earth-shattering happens. Still, for some reason, I get this very immediate thrill. And despite the abrupt speed of the story nothing feels hasty at all.

I really have no idea what it is but this story just has it.

Droplet said...


When you wrote this I was in a shitty place and feeling like crap about this site and my writing and some things that were going on in my personal life and I couldn't find any way to answer you without locking myself in the bathroom and crying for days. This comment meant the world to me.

And now that I've made you uncomfortable with that statement....

Thank you.