Friday, April 04, 2008

The Neighbour's Gun

I remember those lazy summer nights. In my light, light dress, I would open the window and gaze at the moon in the night. I would look and almost feel the air touching every inch of my body. The cool breeze, the nature and my neighbor’s gun.
He was a strange man. A Texan. He moved here long ago when his wife died in a car crash. He’d use his gun daily since then. He’d shut through the window into the sky. Tryin’ to kill that fucking bastard that killed my wife all over again, he’d say. The fucking bastard died in the accident as well.
We live in a two story building, you see. It’s just our family on the first floor: mum, dad, my sister and me. He had the second floor for his own. We’d rarely talk though, he was an odd man. He wouldn’t talk much. I don’t talk much either; this is where we are alike.
Every night, he’d take out his gun and shoot at the sky. It was his religion, it was his ritual of some sort, nobody understood that, it actually bothered everyone at first. But you get used to living with other people’s ghosts. I did. I couldn’t fall asleep until he shot that bullet into the sky. I know mum couldn’t, I would hear her going into the kitchen for a glass of water, waiting for him to shoot. When he did, she’d turn the kitchen lights off and fall asleep.
I never could fall asleep after his shots though. I kept thinking about how much he had loved his wife that he decided to continue this ritual until the day he died. Although he came to live with us a long time ago, like ten years perhaps, he was thrown out of every home he tried to live in, because the neighbors couldn’t accept this weird ritual of his.
I would sit there looking through the window wondering about him and his life. I heard him breathe when he would go out to the balcony. He couldn’t sleep either, maybe it was the summer’s heat, maybe he had insomnia. No one dared to ask, even me. Even if someone asked, I doubt that he would respond and his silence was disturbing. I had lots of thoughts at night, about my own future even. About my future when I grow older and live with Vic in another house, for example. I was wondering how I will fall asleep without hearing that shot at night. After the dose of thinking I listened to my own breathing or sometimes looked at the picture of my aunt to whom I once said “I wish you nothing but death”. My mum put her picture in my room as a punishment after she died. You see she cut my lips when I was little and the scars will never heal. They are not very noticeable, though which is good. She’d often laugh at me because of that. I never told my mother about her sister, I said that I cut them myself. I decided to have my own ghost and live with it. It was sometimes hard seeing her face, smiling, full of greed and hatred. My sister saw her cutting my lips with the little scissors and auntie said: “You say this to anyone and I will make your smile eternal too.”
My sister never spoke of that again. Neither did I.
And one night he didn’t shoot. In the morning we didn’t talk while having breakfast. Dad was silent, instead of saying the morning jokes. Mum’s hands were shaking. My sister was looking at me with a gaze that almost asked me to tell her that he did shoot. I was looking at them all, observing how the old Texan became a part of our life. His ritual became ours. My mother’s moves were chaotic; she seemed to be impatient and anticipating.
“I’ll go see Vic today,” I said to my family.
My dad looked at me like he approved it, so I did. I saw Vic from afar, he was earlier than me, as usual, sitting of the grass near the lake where we always meet. He was sad today.
“I didn’t hear it,” he said.
I looked at him attentively.
“Tell me he did,” he said it calmly, looking at the little waves of the lake.
“He didn’t shoot, Vic,” I said. “Now kiss me.”

He looked at me, smiled and pretended he didn’t want to. So I sat further from him. He looked at me then turned away. Fine, I thought and turned away as well. In one second I felt something on my hand, in two more seconds that thing held my hands and I couldn’t do anything about it. And in three more seconds I felt this soft touch on my lips. How could he not kiss me? He lay down on me, touching me and kissing me on the neck, lips and shoulders. Then he lay beside me.
“I like your dress,” he said
I didn’t react. I just lay there, feeling the soft wind on my skin.
“I like your breasts,” he said loudly.
I turned to him and started making faces at him and he just laughed. And I laughed at him. It was a sunny summer’s day and we didn’t have a care in the world.
Who am I trying to kid? We did have one care. And it bothered everyone.
I came back home to see a pie on the table and my mum sitting in the kitchen looking through the window. Waiting.
“I have to ask you this,” she said. “Go to him, make sure he is fine, give him this pie. I won’t be able to sleep. I just can’t.”
Her face was almost crying, she thought he died. And it seemed only I felt that he was fine.
“All right, mum.”
I took the stairs I almost never took before. They were clean, though, he’d clean them time to time. I wasn’t afraid. I am not saying that I wasn’t curious why didn’t he shoot, I was, but there was something in me that was killing the will to know. I knocked on his door. No one opened. I waited. Knocked again and waited… until he opened.
“Yep?” He said calmly.
“Hi, I’m the neighbor downstairs, my mum made you this pie and wanted me to make sure you are ok,” I said.
“Thank you but you eat it all up, miss. I am fine,” he said.
I looked at him. He looked at me. His gaze was stronger than mine, so eventually I looked down.
“I didn’t hear it.” I said and heard him closing the door. Not slamming it, but closing it quietly.
I looked at the door for a moment then went to sit on the stairs. I was thinking about him, he was a very handsome man, yes he was old but years ago he must have been the most handsome guy in town.
And I heard him open the door. I could already imagine him pointing his gun at me and shooting me and saying: “Heard it now.” I closed my eyes.
When I opened them I just saw him sitting next to me only now wearing a cowboy hat.
“You got a nice boy there. He comes up to ya some nights, havin’ fun there miss?” he asked calmly, smiling at me.
I smiled at him, I must admit, he got me shy there.
“It’s not what you think…” I didn’t finish.
“Well why ain’ it?” he smiled again and looked right into my face and his smile was gone. I didn’t turn away, I knew he saw my scars or my eternal smile, like auntie called it.
“I hear you breathe on the balcony every time after you shoot. You keep thinking of her.”
“At night yes. And sometimes I think of you when you silently listen to me,” he said.
“Scissors,” I said and sighted. “She took scissors and cut my lips. A frame with her picture is in my room because no one saw her cutting me but everyone saw me wishing her death.”
“Why yer keepin’ it then?” He asked.
“Same reason you’re shooting.”
He looked away. He understood me. He took his cowboy hat off and closed his eyes.
“Don’t pity me, sir,” I said interrupting his thoughts.
He opened his eyes and looked at me.
“It’s just a photo, miss. It’s destroyable,” he said.
“I haven’t figured a good way to destroy it yet.”
“When you do, miss, you know where to find me,” he said and stood up. “And miss, I hope when this guy comes next time it will be what I think.”
He smiled and made me smile.
“Sir, are you sure you don’t want the pie?”
But he already closed the door, I didn’t even say goodbye.
I came back home that evening with the pie to find my whole family by the kitchen table, sitting and waiting. Their faces turned to me as I approached them.
“He’s fine,” I said. “I guess he fell asleep yesterday and forgot to shoot or something.”
They all were calm now and as I sat by the kitchen table, they started to eat.
I couldn’t sleep that night either. I was looking through the window, thinking about the Texan when I heard steps. I saw a silhouette coming towards me. It was Vic.
“Hi Juliet,” he said.
“Hi yourself, Romeo, climb in,” I replied with a little laugh.
He entered my room looking into my eyes. I looked back at him as he sat on the floor. I sat right next to him.
“He’s fine,” I spoke at last.
Vic was silent for a moment then he looked at me.
“That’s not why I came here. I came here to spend time with you,” he said it and touched my nose.
I smiled at him and kissed him softly. He touched my face with his hands and touched my lips by his so slowly then he opened his mouth and bit my lip softly. I embraced him tighter and closed my eyes. He touched me slowly while he was kissing my neck and shoulders. He paused for a moment and I opened my eyes, he knew I loved when he did that. He carried me to the bed while kissing me passionately, every kiss was deeper and deeper. I took his shirt off to feel his warmth. I knew the neighbor heard us. Every time, he wasn’t listening but he heard us. I think he was thinking about himself and his wife when he heard us.
“Wait,” I said to Vic.
He looked at me confused as I stood up and took the frame with the picture of my aunt. I came closer to the window and heard him breathe silently. He was waiting to shoot but didn’t want to disturb me and Vic. Or he was waiting for my move to help him and myself.
“Thank you,” I said loudly and heard him stand up. I closed my eyes and threw the frame as high as I could and heard him shoot.
When what’s left of the frame fell down, I noticed that the bullet went right through her face. I looked at it for a while, not smiling, not crying, I was calm.
I came back to Vic who apparently was very proud of me. I didn’t tell him about my aunt but I know that my sister couldn’t bear her guilt and told him.
That night was what the Texan thought it would be.
As I was lying in Vic’s embrace, I heard him shoot again. Did he make up for yesterday’s failure to shoot? That thought was just a manipulation. What I originally thought was if it was my neighbor’s gun that shot to the sky or to his forehead tonight. Turned out later it was the second. And everyone lives with their ghosts.

This is for Wiesia.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Skin Deep

She was gorgeous; with her little silk dress on, a perfect figure, her skin porcelain white. Mozart was her melody. Ballet-dancer.

She was so deeply in love. She'd hear Him read His poems. She'd watch Him play the piano. She was His. And she liked it. Only He could touch her and hold her. He'd whisper to her: “I love you”.
"I will become a great musician one day, I promise. I'll compose songs for you. I will do whatever it takes to be happy. And you will always dance to my music", He said to her.
"Yes, I'd love that, tell me more", she responded.
"I will be rich, we will be rich, my money is yours, take it or leave it", He continued. "Diamonds and pearls, amethysts and opals from the most exotic countries, this is what I am aiming at."
"I just want you."
He didn't hear her out. He'd just leave sometimes without saying anything, with his eyes looking at the clock like He was late somewhere. She knew His timetable well. But sometimes He would just surprise her. Dancing was her way of forgetting those gaps of time between them. She wondered what He was doing while He was away. Her thoughts and herself was all she had when He was far from her. Picturing Him in her mind, she'd hear Mozart play almost automatically: the pale white skin, the hazel eyes, the brown hair, those long fingers made to play the piano.
There were several times when He was sitting there, looking at her with hungry eyes. She was sometimes afraid of that.
"You are beautiful. But beauty is only skin deep. Inside, you are empty. You are nothing. You don't have feelings, you don't have emotions. You are a moving emptiness. You are a beautiful emptiness but nothing more. And I love you", He told her.
She would feel like crying when He said that to her but that last phrase has always made her forget everything and fall more madly in love.
"I love you too", she whispered.
Then He touched her body. Slowly, with his fingers, He started touching her face: eyes, nose lips and cheeks. Then He touched her arms and hands, then He went down to touch her breasts and stomach through that beautiful silk dress she loved the most. Then He let her dance for Him. She swirled and turned, just the way He liked it. She watched Him close His eyes at times, feeling the music.
He would marry her soon.
She waited patiently.
He hid the engagement ring in a box that played the Mozart melody. He thought she was so stupid not to notice. She studied the ring very carefully: eternal platinum, with five beautiful stones in it. Diamonds, they call them. She was sure of it. She'd have this ring to herself? Can it be true?

He would go out looking at the clock more often, this always made her worried. She'd peek into the box when He was away to make herself calm down, that He is hers and only hers.
He came back home with The Other She. The Other She was very beautiful but not as beautiful as the ballet-dancer in the silk dress. Not at all. She was sure of it. The Other She wasn't even a dancer. But sometimes The Other She would sing to His songs. He'd touch The Other She's hands. It really hurt her. He didn't know she watched them secretly.
"Go out of the room, now", He said strictly to The Other She.
The Other She listened to him and left.
It was she and Him left in the room. The ballet-dancer and the piano player. A perfect combination.
He opened the box, took the ring out of it and kneeled.
"I love you. And always loved you. I cherish every moment with you and you are the light when it’s night, the breeze on a hot day and a helping hand when I am in a downfall. I love you. I want to take every step with you and only you. There will never be any other she, only you. I love you. I love you. I love you. Will you... Will you marry me?"
"Yes! Yes! Yes! I love you too! I do", she relied with no hesitation.
He smiled happily. She was so happy, He let her dance to the beautiful music and He…
He just looked away and said: “You can come in now.”
The Other She came in and sat down.
He kneeled again and said the exact same things to The Other She.
The Other She stood up, confused as He put the ring on The Other She’s finger. He was shivering with nervousness.
"Yes, I do", said The Other She.
He stood up, started to carry The Other She who raised her hands with happiness as ballet-dancer accidentally fell down.
"I am so sorry, we can repair her," said The Other She.
He looked sad again. "She was the only thing left after my parents."
"We can fix her."
"No. I won't let a porcelain ballerina on a music box spoil my happiness", he said calmly now.
"She was beautiful", The Other She said.
"Beauty is only skin deep."
She lay there for some hours broken, inside and out. He broke everything in her, even her emptiness.
Skin deep.
But she was made of porcelain.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Used to

I'm used to asking you before I decide
I'm used to looking ill and wearing your clothes
And taking my meds
And sometimes overdose
I'm used to fighting and feeling annoyed
Being the player or being the toy

I'm used to hating the same people as you
Doing something old and bringing something new
I'm used to screaming to turn the TV off
I'm used to your logic, headaches and cough

I have to get used to the changing times
And penalties and loans and debts and fines

I have to get used to using the key
Instead of ringing the bell

Oh and the bags on the way back
From the market are as heavy as hell


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