Sunday, November 19, 2006

If I've Told You This Story, Stop Me

Here's a piece of flash fiction for your Sunday reading. It first appeared in a journal called Parting Gifts.

The Contemplation of Ruins

Okay, let's say you could do it. Meaning you have the capacity. Fall in love, have a baby, find a job, write a book, get a divorce, etc. First off, there's always some asshole telling you how easy it would be if you really wanted to. It's you that's holding you back. And so on and so forth. And when you're finished, there's somebody else telling you how you could have done it easier, less expensively, with more style, less mess. I'm tired of this.

Sometimes it takes every ounce of energy just to get through the day without coming out the other side as though I'm a passenger getting off a particularly long flight, rumpled and jet-lagged, waiting for someone to pick me up and take me home.

When a man wants to leave you, it's like when you're in a bathtub running the hot water and all of a sudden it's getting colder and colder until you can't stand it. You keep wanting to believe it's going to warm back up, but eventually you're forced to get out and put on your clothes just to quit shaking.

When I get letters for him, which used to be all the time and now is almost never, I always write "not at this address" on the envelope. One time my pen wouldn't work so I threw his mail away. When a pen really finally runs out of ink, all the shaking in the world won't bring it back.

Two weeks after, I dialed my old phone number to check my messages, not realizing it wasn't my phone number anymore, wasn't my message, wasn't anything. I felt like I'd been on one of those rides that goes up for a very long time until you're suspended. Just when you're convinced that you won't drop, you do. At amusement parks, I avoid those rides along with the ones where you're stuck with centrifugal force to a wall and spun around. Inevitably, those attract pukers. One of my childhood friends always rode the evil Whirl-O-Matic with the expected results.

"Why do you put yourself through that?" I'd ask as she leaned against the wall, her face pale after vomiting near the log ride.

"Because I think I'm going to get used to feeling bad when it's over."

One of my co-workers, Kate, got a divorce about the same time I did. It's been two years since that Three Mile Island summer of break-ups, and she's met a man from England through a pen pal page on the internet. Everybody around the office refers to him as Nigel, even though his name is Henry. He's coming to stay on the basis of one two-week visit. I'm as cut off from the meaning of this sudden action as anybody else.

"He's such a cupcake, a perfect little cupcake," she'd told me right after he left from his visit.

"After jerk-boy city, I didn't think it was possible that love could happen so fast or seem so right."

I didn't know it was possible for people to talk that way and keep a straight face.
After, I dated men who, well, wouldn't be described as cupcakes by me or anyone else. I dated men who coached basketball and soccer and hockey. My current has been known to yell "your intensity is for shit" at random points during the evening. He had a side of the bed in no time flat. He's a good time, or at least my idea of one.

When this man was looking for a different job, one of my friends asked him how it was going.

"The last time I made a cut was on my high school basketball team," he said.
It's his reduced expectations that get to me every time.

When I tell my current about Kate's description of Nigel as we're lying in bed, he asks when Cupcake is due to arrive.

I roll onto my side, facing him. "A couple of weeks. Before desire fails, before the silver cord is loosed."

"Where does that come from?"

"Ecclesiastes. There is nothing new under the sun," I say, as I put his hand on my breast.

"Thank God for that." Then we don't say anything at all.

Watching little boys and little girls playing with building blocks, the psychologist Erik Erikson noted that while girls concentrated on building houses and entrances, boys would stack blocks as high as they could and knock them down. I think about what the therapist said to me at my last marriage counselling session: "You're not mad at this man, you're mad at all men." I'd had quite enough, but my ex continues with her to this day. As Erikson wrote in his journal, "Contemplation of the ruins is a masculine speciality."

After, I try not to think about the future because that means thinking about the past, which is, well, past. Instead, I think of Nigel getting off the long flight over the ocean knowing at the end of the tunnel there will be someone waiting to pick him up, help him with his luggage, and drive him to a place he'll learn to call home.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"The ballerina must not depend totally upon her partner for support. In most lifts, there is preparation that helps send her in the air -- and takes the weight off her partner." Barefoot to Balanchine

Cocktail Hour

Drinking movie suggestion: Lady Sings the Blues

Benedictions and Maledictions

Happy Sunday!


Special said...

Eccles. and a good feel. Perfect.

Anonymous said...

Can I tell you how incredible that dress is? Simply smashing. Love the color combination and pattern. And the flash fiction piece, brilliant, as always. -Jill

JR's Thumbprints said...

As for Erikson's theory on "The Contemplation of Ruins" being a masculine thing, your flash fiction story just blew it out of the water. Good flash.

Isn't this the same journal Erik (Erik's Choice) was in?

John Ricci said...

Dear Michelle, betwixt Bo Schembechler and Big Blue it has been a sad weekend or was until I saw your charming view and lovely blog that is. You are looking positively angelic and I agree with Jill, simply smashing. Prayers for Bo and Blue but champagne cheers to you. Bravo!

The Walking Man said...

Oh my hitting a home run on so many levels. almost caught that one in the gut but decided that it would hurt less to not jump and hit the wall with what's left of my decrepit body. so I raised the glove shoulder level and then faked a trip backwards landing on my well protected backside.

Who's Bo, did Bo Peep die or something and that's why everyone is blue? Did she die from hypothermia while waiting for Bob Peep to come and warm the water back up or was he off obsessing about what could have been and what may have been had he not gotten legally entangled with a person whose first priority was sheep? Personally when my first marriage broke up i warmed the water with my tears and Jim Beam urine so she never had to get out of the bath.

Flash fiction or reality tremors, either or; the only thing I know for sure is that i got fired by my last shrink and i don't obsess over the loss of that relationship, matter of fact first person I ever met who would rather lose twenty dollars a minute than be near me, most would just close the office and move away like the two before did.

I like the cupcake from the internet, having known at least two females who "fell in love with the bullshit one can send through their fingertips" Almost wetting themelves daily until the day arrives and the true cupcake turns out to be something from the ding dong factory.

uhhhhhhhhhh and seeing as how everyone feels the need to comment on your clothes ... the carnival you cut that piece of fabric from would like it back to repair thier dunking booth with. But nice smile...probably because you just finished this blog for the day and now can go get a cocktail and watch a sappy movie like The wizard of Oz....yeah i know all the rumors but i was clothed under my robes when that damn Dorothy and her four nutty ass friends found me.

Anonymous said...

great story! That dress is just amazing!!

Pythia3 said...

Michelle! Great to see/read/meet up with you again! (Oh, I have to watch those damn exclamation points!!!)You look amazing. I know I'm going to have a blast reading your blog. You are a wonderful writer and poet and I can learn much from you. Your blog is so cool - so you - but what else would I have expected? Spells . . . oh hell yes! You do it.
Hope you are well.
I'll be back.
Lindy (aka Pythia / Formerly Milan
PS I'm a newbie blogger.