Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My Latest Forray Into Short Fiction

I made another attempt at writing a shorter piece of fiction (my novella is available for reading, just follow the link on the side bar). It follows below and is, essentially, inspired by a number of things I have witnessed or experienced in my life. I really had a problem ending it and, I suppose, in a way as it is a challenge to convention then it is only appropriate not to end conventionally. In any case, it is my first non-proofed draft. Enough said.....

"The Addiction"

The weather outside the café is indecisive as it often tends to be in this New World city in October as they sit there over steaming espressos and camel coloured latte’s. They have met here on the second Thursday of the month every month now for four and a half years. Deep in conversation over world affairs, there is always an underlying tenderness that deliberately buries itself with many unspoken words, mixed in with world-beat rhythms and alt rock angst ridden crooning that occupy the surrounding airwaves, passing on through gestures: the occasional pause as one foot brushes the other beneath the wooden tegument of the table on the black and white tiled floor, or the savoured time passing as their knees meet through an unintentional shifting in the hard wooden chairs.

Both are married to partners of several years, he more happily and willingly than her. There meeting can only be facilitated monthly, partially to deny any rising suspicion, and partly because his employment often sees him on the road, out of this tired and industrial town, spoiled by the wealth of local industries capitalisation on the earth’s riches. It is perhaps ironic that he is involved in a trade outside of what makes the local economy boom. She, on the other hand is tied by way of her husband to the boom, to a man who has made his small fortune as a middle management bureaucrat. He speaks rarely of his wife at home and he has no children. She, a son, nearly seven now and, though more endeared to his father as boys tend to be at his age, she has a devoted bond forged as only mothers tend to create.

They met at a workshop. Though neither demonstrated artistic prowess, they enjoyed working with clay, and it was at a beginner’s pottery class held over a weekend four and a half years ago on a warm May weekend. Clay was so sensual a medium, its coolness and its sense of malleability, gushing between tensing fingers and the basis of all that we are. A group of them went out for coffee a few times during their breaks, and it was there that they began to talk about the greater ideals of the world. At the end of the weekend they exchanged email addresses as people often do, but rarely write. He did write, however, and the meetings for over coffee commenced.

Never did they contrive to develop their feelings for one another, but, over time, both were gripped by their desire to graduate their acquaintance into something more sensual. Perhaps it was his restraint that she admired the most, and perhaps that was the aspect of his character that caused her to fall in love. There, it has been said! She loved him, and, though he never would say so in so many words, as oftentimes is the case, he communicated a mutual notion.

Though their feelings and emotions were underwriting each and every meeting, it was rarely spoke of. They had discussed it openly, and, though perhaps it is somewhat belligerent to say so, it was he who practised restraint and approached the issue with logic. First and foremost was a cold and calculated analysis of what could be gained and what would be lost. He pointed out how inevitably, even if they were to indulge their emotions in a clandestine manner that, sooner or later, things would either result in separations from their partners or, perhaps, one of them feeling a profound regret and resentment toward the other for throwing away a perfectly good marriage. Even if they could separate their respective emotional lives, jealousy and possessiveness is part of human nature. Free love, though a wonderful thought, was not conducive the irrationalities of the human psyche. She found little fault with his reasoning, acknowledging that she stood to lose the most in that a separation and divorce on the grounds of adultery would most certainly result in the loss of custody of her son. Besides, her husband was the affluent one, and she could hardly afford the expense of a lawyer let alone survive as a single mother. Besides, he had spoken openly about never wanting children. It’s not that he disliked them, but rather, he just wasn’t suited to the lifestyle of becoming a hockey dad and doing fund raising bingos, attending school dances, etc.

Still, she was the one who persisted on the topic of her desires, sometimes in veiled emails, others, through blatant admissions. He never toyed with her, nor did he attempt to string her along, but rather he silently struggled between his love of his wife and his feelings for this woman with who he had thrown clay onto a pottery wheel, making creations that all came out as ashtrays. He was the broody one. He read heavy literature and History, indulged in alternative media and was severely critical of society and its conventions. Even though he was endeared to his partner, he wondered how any creature that lived as long as man could settle on one mate for life – especially if one did not plan on reproducing. Perhaps it was his unique perspective or the mere fact that his interests exceeded the highlights from NFL Sunday that appealed to her. He was not doctorate of letters, but he was of slightly more depth – or at least aspired to greater heights than most men she knew.

His attraction to her lie in the fact that she was interested in what he had to say and she wanted to know more, causing him to process his thoughts further that he might have done. Though he was far from model material, she possessed a bohemian image to him that would be elegant, comfortable and natural, whether in a tent pitched in the middle of nowhere or at a gala ball. She was into healthy living – a vegetarian – did Yoga, ate whole foods and organic produce, was into homeopathic medicine and world music.

The café in which they were presently seated was one of those independent earthy organic type places with art covering the walls – at least some of it was – and the music playing at various levels spanned the alternative genre from Neko Case to The Replacements. Everyone inside wore garmented in earth tone khakis, olive and black, wearing corduroy, flat caps and those guerrilla hats made popular by the likes of Fidel Castro. The menu boasted of coffee in the various European preparation, in addition to whole grain and Middle Eastern foods: hummus, tabouli, etc.

They began their meeting in their usual fashion: a few small jokes, teasing each other about something or other, the typical “so what’s new” and so forth. He rants about the U.S.A. and how there are no ideological people in the world, save for the bureaucrats who attempt to justify their jobs by way of commissioning reports and studies. Of how people stand by, working their butts off and getting little for it while politicians legislate themselves raises almost annually. He tells her of how television is the real drug that is destroying society, causing the masses to become placated through mind numbing tripe. He laments, though not a Communist himself, of how Russia and other nations orchestrated mass revolutions while we, in our present day of email and cellular phones, have become one ineffective clot of suburban status quo with no more passion that a wet dish cloth. She likes the way he says things – his interjection of humour into his analogies. Perhaps it’s that sense of being a young, vigorous revolutionary that attracts her to him, though they are both in near to forty now than even thirty and she knows the revolution will never come. Is he an escape or fantasy and not truly real at all?

A lull. She breeches the subject of her feelings for him, hand fidgeting with a Guinness coaster as she speaks, eyes cast down. He never began this conversation. She rarely speaks of her feelings to him face to face, but, rather, prefers to articulate her words in emails. They but rarely speak directly of their feelings, not since the time when, only for a few moments, they succumbed to an embrace, halting things before they carried on across the threshold of no return as prescribed by years of Christian Judaic tradition. After that was when he left the question open as to where all of this would or could take them if they were to proceed. Perhaps he was a coward, afraid of abandoning the comforts of the safety net over which he lived his life. Perhaps he questioned his feelings – was this a mere infatuation? A mere search for greener pastures? Or was there something more?

She begins: “I think about you every day and have done so for the past four and a half years”. Never has she been so direct. Oftentimes she laments not being able to “play” and that he is a massive part of her life that she feels must be hidden like a sacred relic – completely unable to reveal any part of him to her inner circle of friends. She continues “I just wish that I could be with you – walk down the street holding your hand…” her voice begins to trail off as he listens, eyes directly on hers. Silence eats away a few moments but is not at all uncomfortable.

“We’re very lucky you know” he begins. “If we could indulge in our desires, then we could so easily slide down the slope of our physical desires that we would neglect getting to know each other…” he stops, attempting to find a way to demonstrate how their situation has created their relationship, while, if things had been different, they could have simply indulged their passions and, like starting a fire with logs instead of twigs and kindling, the flame could have been short lived. This was a catch-22 of course and, as with all speculation, the truth would never truly be known.

Truth be told, he wants to have his cake and eat it too – to have two existences in two realities: one of a bohemian poet, and the other as a family man. Poet’s do not make for good family men, he realises. The lens through which a poet lives magnified the imagery and notions floating around causing one’s swing in emotional state to be too severe. How much of poetry and art is pain? How many well-known scribes drowned themselves in alcohol and drugs, or dropped the curtain early on their existence? What would make a person desirous of such a reality? Perhaps it was the stark contrast to the suburban alternative. A Passionless journey supplemented by bad movies, market culturalism and an overall sensation of spinning one’s wheels in a quantitative rather than qualitative life.

For what was she searching? An escape from a marriage? The notion that, from waking until sleep, she could be engaged by the sensual and intellect in some great utopian Nirvana? Escape is so commonly sought. She asks herself why is it that we choose to entrap ourselves in skins that we despise? Perhaps it’s our upbringing she thinks. Our clay forms are moulded from beyond our reach in our youth by well-meaning guardians, she thinks, and by the time we take the reins the journey is on a well worn road that from which most fear to stray. Her thoughts always tend to ground themselves in earth.

“So what do you want to happen?” he queries. Moments pass, again, the silence remarkably serene considering the issue on the table.

“I want to be with you. I want to be able to tell people about you. I lie in bed while during sex and think what colour paint would liven up the bedroom.”

He says nothing, as he sits, pondering. He knows that affairs seldom are successful, nor does he care to create a situation in which his wife would be hurt. Certainly, there was a chance that he could find that elusive notion of happiness with her, but he distrusts such ideals and acknowledges that to pursue them could result in having nothing at all in the end. Selfishness or coward ness – he is uncertain. Perhaps, as is typical with most people, that which seems exciting and elusive is what fans the flames. He is well aware, as is she, of the hard work that all relationships must undergo and how the honeymoon phase inevitably dissipates after a short passing of time. Still, the notion of living that double life. Could he trust her? No person can answer such questions that rest in future predictions. How many throughout history have been betrayed by those closest to them? He racks his brain in an effort to think of some way in which the truth could be revealed.

“What are you thinking?” she asks, eyes raised to meet his.

“I don’t know.” He waits before continuing “what about your son?”

She does not answer. She often says what a good father her husband is – and awesome father to be exact. An exasperated sigh collapses from her diaphragm with significant weight.

He takes another approach. “Say we did get together in a passionate manner. Where would that take us? What would we stand to gain and what could we lose? Would we be selfish? After all, the gravity of the situation would extend well beyond us.”

“I know what you’re saying, it’s just…” she trails off and again her eyes sweep to the floor as her head turns slightly away. She seems as if she will burst, in spite of another weighted exhalation.

Perhaps it is a sense of vanity. Perhaps it is his way out. He throws out an idea; a test to see, perhaps, whether she is truly prepared to sacrifice all. A play on “would you die for me” yet not quite so dramatically and with a lesser amount of certainty. If he is manipulating her, he is doing so from deep inside his conciseness, not out of any malice of which he was aware. Perhaps it was simply some kind of quest for finality in some regard as it pertains to the two of them. Though oblivious to it, he was putting forth words that demonstrated narcissistic tendencies somewhere in his id or ego. He begins:

“Okay, tell you what. I know that this will sound outlandish and downright bizarre, but let me explain.”

Her eyes return to him. “Okay” she replies as she shifts in her chair, knees meeting beneath the table, a hint of a smile pushing at the muscles lining her cheeks.

“Start smoking.”

“What?” she breaks in immediately, stare and face fixed as a stiff body in the first instant of a fall.

“Let me finish” he replies. “Start smoking, but don’t let anyone know that you have. If you can keep it a secret for six months, then we will go that next step – you and me.”

“That’s disgusting” she exclaims. He sits looking at her. Neither of them were smokers, though he did find it somewhat sexy, especially in old black and white movies – the way a woman’s neck would elongate as she exhaled and the rolling, soft cloud that animated the breath. He imagined the beautiful patterns that flowed and ebbed all around with regular respiration that remain unseen all around us every moment of our being. Imagine if everyone’s breath was a different colour – how would our world look: an elaborate pallet of colour or a shit coloured black? He knew the hazards to one’s health, but reasoned that if they were to go for the gusto and take this particular path then caution must be thrown to the wind. He also knew that smoking was contrary to her organic way of living. This is why he proposed this, knowing full well that if she was prepared to take up smoking, contrary to all she believed, then there could be no stronger indicator of her true desire to make this journey.

She was too shocked to realise the vanity of what he just said, and the horrors of such a change in lifestyle of which she would never contemplate adopting. Perhaps it was the bizarre and unpredictable nature of the statement that left her fixated solely on her dislike for the habit, not even considering the table upon which he had laid these terms. In fact, it did not even register in her mind that he was serious, much like the news from a loved one who, after a routine examination from their doctor learns that they have a terminal illness with only six months to a year of life remaining. He was often times unpredictable with his comments, but usually it was a portion of his personality reserved for political opinion or the denouncing of popular culture.

He sits there, also feeling like he had opened Pandora’s box. The absurd nature of his thought process aside, what he had done was perhaps force the situation to a head. On the one hand, he feels deep down that she would never concede on this issue and, therefore, was bound to get a safe, controlled response. Perhaps there was a margin of puppeteering at play, under the guise of offering some kind of bait which her passion might irrationally seize upon. If there was one thing the pair of them shared it was the tendency to be impulsive. Four and a half years of restraint could easily become an open watershed if the floodgates were opened even a crack. Perhaps it was ironic, the sensation a child might have when sneaking a cigarette from his parents; the thrill of defiance with the underlining potential to be caught. Getting caught rushed to the forefront of his mind as she sat there in an eternal moment of speechlessness. “What if she ups and agrees?” he asks himself. Certainly he could not cast forth such a line and then drop the rod, running. His palms begin to sweat as he rubs them on the thighs of his faded blue jeans, much like a patient awaiting the doctor’s verdict on a recent batch of tests.

She breaks the silence between them. “You’re crazy.” She shakes her head. The bustle of the café, the music, the conversations, the clicking on laptops evaporate, leaving them in a bubble, fixed eyes. The soundlessness grows disquieting.

“Hear me out” he ventures, like a bungee jumper pushing himself free of the platform, uncertain in the cords ability to break the shock of the plummet. “If you were to start smoking: one, you’d demonstrate how serious you really are about me… I mean us…. that you’d do something that would be ordinarily repulsive. If you kept it secret, you’d have to cover up the smell and whatnot, again showing that you can keep things under wraps – like us for example. Sacrifice…” He hears his own words but can not believe that he’s saying it. She affirms what he is thinking:

“You’re nuts! Absolutely nuts!” she laughs. She still can not believe what he is saying goes beyond some kind of twisted metaphor or analogy of his. “I’m not starting smoking” she says, shaking her head.

“Why? Because of cancer? Let’s face it, were both pushing forty and something else will get us in all likelihood. Besides, who wants to live to be one hundred anyway?”

“That’s not the point. It’s disgusting!”

“So, you are willing to gamble your family and child on this relationship, but not willing to make this concession. I think you’ve just answered your question about any potential of ‘us’ by what you are saying.”

“Are you for real?” she asks, but the last comment he made did possess a quantity of sting. Her revulsion for smoking aside, not to make any qualification as to the absurdity of this particular conversation, she realised that he was asking, in a way, if she would die for him. After all, quality of life aside, is not a gruesome death due to lung cancer one of the greatest smoking deterrents outside of one’s dislike of the stench permeating one’s breath and clothes? The lack of taste buds? The short windedness?

She seems oblivious to his tune calling. She doe not know what to think as this was hardly a normal conversation in which conventional exchanges were a part. That was what she loved about him, was it not? His lack of convention? His unpredictability? A part of her wanted to jump at this opportunity and throw caution to the wind. Still, her thoughts ran discombobulated about her brain, as boxer who just survived a flurry of punches and is trying to find his feet before another onslaught takes him to the canvas.

“You can find inspiration in some of the most unlikely places” she began. “I can’t believe that we are actually having a conversation about us… or this… or whatever…. Fuck, you are… I don’t know….”

“There’s is absolutely no disputing the negative impact smoking can have on one’s health” he began. “That aside, observing smokers can inspire us to better health if we look closely.” She looked at him as observing a rare animal, seldom seen, with a mixture of shock and beauty.” I remember reading about a particular area of Cuba where they have more people living to be one hundred and beyond, and they swore it was a result of little stress, enjoying cigars, eating lots of veg and going easy on the rum” he continued.

“Yes, I read that too.””Stress is what really kills you. I mean, fuck, we are immersed in chemicals 24/7. They say that runners are prone to lung cancer because they breathe deeply and thus take in all the exhaust fumes and whatnot. Then don’t even mention the shit in our food!” He was on a roll.

“I remember working crappy jobs in retail and whatnot when I was in my early 20’s. I’d get my typical half hour for lunch plus two 15 minute breaks. The smoker’s I worked with, however, seemed to go out for 10 minutes each and every hour. I must admit that I was jealous. Upon further reflection, we can begin to see one of smoking’s health benefits: fresh air (wilfully polluted), taking ones self out of the workplace fray and deep breathing with inhalation and exhalation, plus the development of a mini-social group with which one could vent, deflate or simply digress in their thoughts. Even now as I walk past office buildings downtown you see several employees standing outside taking smoke breaks.”

She laughs “though perhaps it’s not quite so relaxing when it’s -30c!”They are both smiling now. He resumes “Smoking is definitely an addiction, but, that being said, many smoker’s will tell you that they absolutely love to smoke. We live in a toxic world, so wilfully adding more toxins to your body seems foolish and probably is. But then we must ask ourselves as well whether smoking is truly the lead culprit of disease and cancer, against a backdrop of bio-engineered foods, environmental pollutants and other noxious elements present in everything ranging from preservatives to underarm deodorant. UV rays cause skin cancer, but what chemicals are in sunscreen as we lather it over our largest organ – our skin? Then there is bug spray; lathering our skin in poison! My Mother has smoked all her adult life and is just now recovering from breast cancer in her mid 60’s. Another friend of mine who has never smoked a day in her life had breast cancer at 28. You hear tales of folks who had a grandparent who smoked until they were 97 and then got hit by a car, and others who lost loved ones to smoking related disease in their early 40s. George Burns made it to 99 smoking his cigars and Santa Claus has been puffing on a pipe for eternity! Life truly is a lottery and I don’t know whether I’d rather a long kick at the cat where my last couple of decades are spent old and decrepit, or to have a shorter but indulgent run.”

“Okay, okay!” she breaks in, “you’re repeating yourself now! What exactly are you attempting to say?””what am I saying here?” he pauses not for dramatics, but to actually have his brain catch up with his mouths emissions. “First of all, enjoy life. If you are enjoying things that are detrimental to your health then assess their value. Smoking might kill you, as may bicycling, skydiving, or anything that involves nature or elevated heart rates. Secondly, as a smoker consciously takes 10 minutes or so to smoke, so should we all simply take 10 minutes each hour to separate ourselves from the rigours of our hectic day, take a few deep inhalations and exhalations- Yoga breathing!” he throws in with a smirk, “and diverge your thoughts on a positive or releasing tangent. Finally, relax and enjoy life. None of us will live forever, and some of us will never truly “live”. Be what you want, be good to people and enjoy yourself.”

“Amen” she says shaking her head which has since become propped on her clasped hands and elbows wool separating flesh from the lacquer finish. “So, if it’s all so good, why haven’t you started?” she retorts.

“That’s a good question” he answers with a chesty laugh. He wondered if she might offer a counter offer, but that was not her style. She never gave him ultimatums nor was she one to press an issue further. In essence, she was the ultimate benevolent negotiator.

The time was getting late and they both had to be on their way back to worlds from which they have their homes. He wants a yes or no now – that’s the way he is. She wants to savour it, think it over, shocked at the rush in her thoughts at the possibility of breaking any predictable mould and climbing out of her life without a safety net, throwing caution to the wind as a Cavalier poet, shouting “carpe diem!”.

Both agree that the moment to leave is upon them, but it is a departure ambiguous, absent of good byes. They hug, feel the warmth of their bodies compressed between seasonal garments, release with a gaze into the abyss of each other’s eyes, and walk out to the street where she climbs into her vehicle (as he has parked a few blocks away). He walks, hands thrust in his jacket pockets, and raises his head one more time to wave to her as she drives along her way.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home