Monthly Archives: April 2019

Eyes Deep And Dark

After the show, we could take pictures, by standing outside the tank.
The mermaid would swim to the glass, smile, and you’d stand in front
of that same glass, and smile, or give a thumbs up,or pull a silly face.

Harsh light and tropical fishes swimming about with nowhere to go to.
The mermaid, with rust colored hair starting to fade, fair skin looking chalky,
and a tail not as vibrant as it once had been, would smile for you, sweetly.

I watched from the shadows in the back while the others crowded forth.
I thought I was not a gawker, and mark, or an awful person, yet I was here.
I watch the mermaid play her part in this dance, in this cruel play, not crack.

Almost to the end, as others had gone, I walked to the tank, heart racing.
She noticed me, smiled, a little light coming to her face, though unsure.
She swam close to the glass, looked me in the eye, curious and anxious.

A breathe away from the glass, I looked into her eyes, eyes deep and dark,
that knew kingdoms older than man, and wonders lost when Earth was young.
Eyes that had sorrows deeper than the ocean she’d been stolen away from.

I put my hand on the glass, cold and sterile, chilled and hard, something between.
Her face was unsure, but still curious, still wanting to be seen, to be seen as whole.
She placed her own hand on the glass opposite of mine, and we watched each other.

I smiled, a pittance, a penny thrown to a beggar, knowing I loved this creature,
but that I was here where she was kept, and was part of the curse that trapped her.
But I wanted to see her, up close, in the light, and I wanted her to see me too.

She looked into my eyes too, saw into me, saw all that was there, broken, lost.
She didn’t smile, but she didn’t take her hand away, and there we were, watchers,
strangers in an imbalnce of desire. She was taken. I was there too look upon her.

Finally, I looked away, cast my eyes down, and turned from her and the bright tank.
Through the dakrened theatre I walked, shame in desire fufilled, a derire, in the end,
I could not sate or deny, but gave into, and came her to get what it was I wanted.

At the door, I looked back. She was still floating there, her hand still on the glass,
watching me with a distant, sad look, a look that shamed me, made my face flush
and my heart race. My eyes stung and I left her there, not looking back at all as I ran.

 

I Thought I Would Have A Good Time

Maisie had thought going out with a group from work would be fun. It had been a lot of fun joking and talking in the car ride up Alcoa Highway to the club in The Old City. Loose camaraderie was more her thing. The interplay of friends and a place to themselves, away from the world.

Maisie had also enjoyed getting dressed up to go out. It was something she rarely did, and it had been something of a treat, a chance to express another side of herself. One of the young woman, and undergrad in Economics named Tessa, had helped her with her and make-up and choosing her outfit. Maisie went with the same one she’d worn the first time she’d went out with her lover.

But now actually at the club, the music was too loud, and it was dark but cut through with strobes that made her eyes hurt. The drinks were expensive; even soda set her back $7. The others, a mix of undergrad men and women, where having quite the time, but Maisie was feeling like she was backed into a corner, the bass line of the music thumping like a fist into her chest, her mind scrambled and unsettled, and she felt the lizard fight or flight instinct rising in her, telling her she should run for the door.

One of the young men in her group, a sweet Art boy named Skylar, asked her to dance with them. She wasn’t sure about going out on the dance floor, already feeling backed into a corner, but she didn’t want to spoil the other’s fun either. So she danced with him and focused on the melody line of the music, and that helped soothe her.

After, on the empty highway back home, everyone was quiet and content. Maisie’s ears rang and her skin vibrated with electricity. Tessa was half asleep and tipsy, laying her head on Maisie’s shoulder. Her head rocked with the rhythm of the road. Her long hair brushing sweetly against Maisie’s cheek.

They dropped Maisie off at her parent’s house, and she watched them drive into the night, back to their dorms and their carefree times.

Maisie let herself back into her house, and walked down into her basement apartment, and lay on her bed.  She turned her alarm clock radio on, to a late night call in show that played love songs and the host offered advice. She felt she was glad she went, and was hoping these were new and permanent friends, but clubbing was not for her.

As a lament to unrequited love played, she drifted to sleep.

Little Spoon

Maisie lay beside her lover, cuddled up, the little spoon. It was silent in their apartment. No music or TV on. Just the quiet and still of the night.

Maisie lay there, feeling safe and protected in her lover’s embrace, in the warmth of their bodies together, in the quiet that was a balm to her, that she didn’t realize she needed.

She drifted off to sleep, her mind and her soul still, and so content and at peace. For once, she’d have beautiful dreams.

Cold Lunch

Maisie sighed, laying her silverware down on the formica table top, realizing she was cornered and would have to listen to Hope’s spiel. Hope was every bit the arrogant, concern trolling prick her father Rev. Bradley was, and every time Hope saw Maisie on campus, she’d give her the spiel about how she “Just Needed Jesus”. Accept Jesus into her heart, and all this madness would go away.

Maisie looked up at the young woman who’d once been her best friend, who’d she felt closer to than anyone else in the world, and wondered how they’d both so soured. Hope said she prayed for Maisie every day, but wouldn’t actually be by her side when the shit hit the fan. And Maisie, realized, bitterly, she really didn’t want Hope at her side when said shit hit the fan. All Maisie was to Hope now, was a soul to save, not even a person, and a vulture like her would swoop down in a vulnerable moment to manipulate her into accepting “Jesus”. And even if she did, her mind would still be broken, and things would still be fucked, and Hope would just tell her she didn’t have enough “Faith”.

Hope finally finished, and Maisie returned to her food, which was already getting cold, and just looked down and pretended not to see Hope still standing there, fake and rictus smile pulled open like dry leather, waiting for Maisie to say yes, she’d come to church or the graduate student bible study, or that she knew Jesus loved her. Maisie would never say any of those things.

Finally, Hope left.

The Old Tales

Maisie sat under the shade of a giant and proud oak tree, standing on the top of a hill of the old cemetery she used to visit in high school when it was spring and summer and warm. The peace and stillness of the place always soothed her, and she was left alone to rest or wander, or dream of the lives of those beneath her feet.

It was late April, but it was already starting to edge to the heat and humidity of summer, and she wanted to return to her old sanctuary, with an old tattered paperback from her youth, before it became to uncomfortable to enjoy being outside.

Up on the hill, and with the plentiful trees, the cemetery was a world removed from downtown and the busy road just about 50 yards away.

 

The book Maisie was reading was an old fantasy novel from the 70s, about a enchanted kingdom and the evil that threatened it. A brave band of heroes fought the great evil, and after much sacrifice, prevailed, preserving the kingdom.

Maisie still felt a flicker of her old joy at the story, from eighth grade, before the darkness fell, and still had innocence and was naïve, and was so easily carried into other worlds. She still, after all this time, was carried away with the heroes in their desperate fight.

But slaying an evil wizard or a greedy dragon or destroying a cursed object couldn’t end the darkness and make everything happily ever after.

 

At 25, Maisie was finally beginning to come out of the darkness, out of the worst of her mental illness, and finally begin to build a life for herself. Yet, that illness, that darkness, would always be a part of her, would always live inside her.

Like kudzu that had to be pulled up by the root and burned, metal illness was very difficult to uproot and could always come up again, growing it’s tendrils around her and choking out all light and grace.

There was still a bit of the naïve young girl in her, but the old tales gave hope and not always truth.

 

Maisie put her book in her knapsack as the sun started to set. It had been a good Saturday, and simple day for herself, out in the world, not hiding in her room or staring at a screen.

Her head was still filled with knights and elven maidens and wonderous places, as she walked home, seeing the patches of woods around her neighborhood almost like she did as a child, full of wonder and magic.

She sat on the front steps off her house, watching the sun fall away and all the stars come out, hoping to make this lightness and warmth last, before the darkness clawed it’s way back to her throat again.

Club Sandwich

Maisie was eating at her favorite local mom and pop restaurant. The waitresses often brought their children in to sit a table off in the corner to play, or color, or play games on tablets. However, Kiernan, the daughter of the daughter of the owner, has become quiet attached to Maisie, and Maisie listens to Kiernan as she recounts all her adventures and escapades and flights of daring do.

Kiernan’s mother Lauren came out from the kitchen, and shooed Kiernan back to the corner table with the other kids. Lauren apologized to Maisie, but Maisie smiled and said she didn’t mind. In fact she adored Kiernan’s unselfconscious joy and exuberance. Her wild imagination. Her sweet and guileless nature.

Soon after, Maisie’s order came out; club sandwich with dill spear on the side. Maisie looked over to the kids, and felt a sadness and joy, a bittersweet loss. Kiernan would not always be as she was. The world would get to her, and shame her, and she would be betrayed and even the ones she loved would twist the knife.

Maisie had struggled so long with so much sorrow and disorder, so much unpredictability and instability, and she’d been so young, maybe 15, the last time things were good, that she’d never put much thought into whether she’d have children of her own. The world growing dark and more unstable, hadn’t put it any closer to the front of her mind.

Maisie watched the children, and hoped that always retain some of that innocence and enthusiasm, that all the things in this life that can scar us and hurt, they would never be completely broken.

Maisie eats her meal, and once again wonders about her past, and her future.

Rictus Grin

Maisie was back at the Mary Blount College library, now that it was the end of the day. It was Thursday, but it was a long weekend before the Easter holiday. She sat in the soft sunlight from the high windows, looking through a literary magazine, looking for something beautiful or thoughtful or awe inspiring in it’s pages.

A little after 5 on a holiday weekend, not many were around. The two librarians at the front desk chatted among themselves. A smattering of students were still studying. The place was calm and still, like an estuary away from a troubled sea.

Maisie kept reading, trying to find inspiration and solace. She was becoming more of her extroverted self, from before her mental illness struck her down. When she was a child she knew no strangers, was a little chatterbox who would talk to anyone. When the darkness fell, she retreated into herself, and her own eerie dreams.

She’d gotten to be more and more like that previous self, since becoming the mail girl here at Mary Blount, and she’d learned that making people laugh got them on your side and disarmed them. Everyone liked to laugh. Everyone wanted something to feel good about.

But some days the smile was hard to wear. Some days it was hard to joke around and be the light they now expected her to be. Some days she felt obligated to be the jokester they loved, even when she felt the darkness clawing back from the emptiness, trying to choke out her spirit and drag it back into the bottomless pit.

Work was over for a few days, and she could recharge, and do fun things. Maybe see a romantic movie, or watch the softball team play, or maybe get to the park and spend sometime in the sun. Maybe she’d feel inspired and driven again.

Her phone tinged, and she looked to see a text from her lover. They would be back in town soon. They would celebrate. She sighed and got up and put up the magazine on the rack, and left to walk home.

Stone Steps

Maisie always ate her lunch on the stone steps of the campus library. The weather was nice, warm and gentle, not yet the willowing and choking humidity of heat of even June.

She made her self a sack lunch every morning. A bologna and American cheese sandwich with mayonnaise. A cookie. A pickle. And a thermos full of unsweet tea.

She’d gotten in the habit of not bringing her earbuds out with her. She’d eat her food and watch the students walk to and from class, watch the sun play through the new growth leaves.

 

Maisie saw Claudia walking towards her from the little café on the other side of the courtyard. She was sipping from a bottle of diet soda, and was, as always, distracted.

Maisie placed her half-eaten sandwich on her knee, waving to Claudia, her other hand over her mouth as she quickly tried to chaw and swallow the mouthful of sandwich.

Claudia looked up, and smiled and waved, then pulled her phone from her purse, and started tapping out a text, drawn into that scrying light.

Maisie looked down, went back to her sandwich. Maisie at 25, was older than the undergraduates going about their way, but she was so far behind them in every other way.

 

Maisie felt a hand squeeze her shoulder, just as Mary sat down next to her. She smiled, and felt a little flip in her belly. Mary was one of the students she liked best, and she hoped that they’d become friends, real friends, not just co-workers.

“Pretty day.” Maisie offered. When all else fails, comment on the weather.

“Yeah, good day to eat your lunch outside.” Mary offered.

“You know why you can’t hear it when a Pterodactyl goes to the bathroom?”

“Why?”

“The P is silent!”

Mary got the giggles, and laughed for a good minute. Maisie felt pleased with herself for this. Making jokes made people like you, made them feel good, disarmed them.

Mary squeezed Maisie’s shoulder again, and got up.

“Got class. Enjoy your lunch.” Mary was walking away.

“Wait!” Maisie called out. Mary stopped, and looked back. Maisie sat for a long beat, mouth open, struck dumb. There was so much she wanted to say, to tell Mary, about things that had happened, that she hoped they’d be friends, that she still feared so much, that this was all a dream, somehow.

“Good luck on your finals. I’ll have my fingers crossed for you.”

Mary smiled, gave her a thumbs up, and then turned again to head to class.

Maisie finished her sandwich, then went inside, hoping the afternoon’s work would distract from things she couldn’t name.

Hot Shower

Maisie could still feel the tingle of the piping hot water on her skin. Her skin thrummed with the echo of the heat. She was sitting on the edge of her bed, taking a few more slow moments before getting ready for work.

A melancholy ballad about unrequited love played from her laptop. It could her in the right frame of mind, soothed and at peace, and floating a few inched off the ground. A shield of sighs against the mad world that was always reaching for her.

She had a job! Her mental illness was finally managed enough that she could make steps towards independence, and making her own way. A simple job, mail girl at the local private college. But it filled her with pride.

Maisie let the last high notes of the ballad play out, and flow through her heart and skin like the fading echo of the hot shower. It was time to get ready and start her day. It was time to face the day.

Not Enough

Love isn’t always enough, Maisie knew. Rev. Bradley couldn’t understand what she was telling him. Talks big talk about listening, but you can’t listen when you’re a paternalistic ass convinced they know better than everyone else.

She had chosen silence in the face of indifference. No not, indifference, but arrogance. The worst kind of arrogance, the kind that cloaked itself in concern and care. Just a guiding held on the till.

The fucked thing, Maisie realized, was that Rev. Bradley did feel a fatherly love for her. He wanted her well, would give her the shirt off his back. But he couldn’t hear her, see her or understand her. His love made her smaller, made her as if still a child.

They were riding back from Maryville, on 411, past all the town and out by the farms and open spaces. The sun was a fading, burnt orange in the sky. She looked at that. She focused on that. The cool window from the open window. The promise that spring was finally here.

Her hair was growing out, and it whipped in her face, like electrified anemones, wild and ecstatic. That venomously downed all her bitter thoughts, and let the warm ones, the hopeful ones, remain and thrive, in this beautiful evening.

She turned and looked at Rev. Bradley. He was talking, she was half listening. And whatever love he felt, he would never turn to him, never trust him, never ask for his help. Love isn’t always enough to bring them close. Love couldn’t still make someone a stranger, or an enemy.