Sunday, December 23, 2012

a short story: A Willow or Two.

this story was written during my desert years and eventually published in issue number two of the excellent literary magazine " Up The Staircase Quarterly" when i first dare venture into the submission mode.

A Willow or Two
by Nadine Sellers

The willow is trembling outside the window like a nervous peeping tom. An opaque pink haze has settled upon the night in town. Head resting on pillows, I hold a book open in my palm and count what would be my blessings - dinner dishes done ' no broken bones and more squash in the fridge. Then why do I feel so, so unsettled?

Sirens screech by on main street every hour and I keep thinking it' s Joe. I know these phone calls are from him; no one talks, but I stare at the phone with doubt every time this happens. I look at the phone now, it is about to ring, I will it. The noise reverberates through the apartment, so very loud that I cringe. I extend my arm slowly, I pick it up resolutely. Hello? Hello? No one answers; The breath is that of a woman, that woman. I sense her presence, in cell phone void from satellite space, where she feels safe to reach out and bother someone.

Air swells through the veils, playing shadow games upon twilight. The telephone is a dead animal, limp in my hand. An automated voice urges me to make a call or set the thing back on its base. I hang up obediently, absently. It is only a cheap outdated model. After Joe smashed the last three, I saved myself some expense and bought bottom of the line items; no fuss, no frills. You learn to live with bare minimum when possessions come to a premature ending. Most items are of disposable consequence; detach, detach!

Twenty six saucers ago I would have winced at the perennial losses, now I count the individual breakage as material recycling. Object-d'art accumulate faster than space to keep them in. Cumulus becomes burden. I can find yard sale tables and chairs faster than they were originally manufactured. I can drag home my friends' discarded rugs and curtains faster than Joe can stain them with dark wines, stale beers or greasy leftovers. Blessings or commination? At any other time I would reason this axiology; now, I breathe a shallow intake and expel dire thoughts in puny breaths. Too much has happened for too long, I have no resource but to lay there and save myself for the day I am free of fear, free of self.

Freedom is but a word, it used to be an ideology, an honorable illusion of youth. At first I had fancied myself free of parental bondage. Then I had jumped into premature marriage; many a woman can attest to the erroneous expectation of that theory. Of course, I liked many aspects of a concrete relationship, where can a girl get steady love and someone to lavish excess tenderness on? The dog pound would be a good place to start, but? Men don't shed so much hair, and the bond is of a different dimension.

Indoctrinated in the fine art of matrimony by a stern society, I love to love. I believe in deep binding, the ties that squeeze till they hurt. I derive joy from the lesser pain after the rain of tears. Need for closeness has brought severe hardship, and yet, I look at the phone, hoping Joe is there, contained in the safety of the object, close to my ear as I call the image of his sensitive face within my closed eyelids.

He will tell me he has learned so much. So much to suffer, so much to coerce through cluttered viscera. I should rescue a cat or cruise the anonymous mall in search of societal oblivion. I would frighten the meek, scare the weak who need me to entertain them, to perform a sad social dance for them. I am in mourning for a chunk of life spoiled, my life, my loss.

There are bookshelves full of how to for the enabler, the co-dependent and the forlorn. I am free to choose among prime debaucheries to prompt an avalanche of ill feelings. Boredom and sagging minds present fair excuses. Too easy to circulate in the halls of doubt. Too unfair to assign culpability for the decay of sweet and sour co-existence. Yes, yes, love was and still is a marvel of parapsychology, a revelatory animal chemistry. The forgotten novel weights upon my hand as I reach for the covers. A tear insists on teasing me all the way to my chin, damn it, I am solid and I refuse to cry!

By now, birds nestle quietly. From the darkness of the bedroom, I scan the shape of the tree swaying to the town pulse. It must be midnight on this sundry weekday. I should sleep. Work comes early to the dutiful. Leaves brush against one another rustling lightly. The scent of artemesia streams in the tender breeze . Cold punishes my bones with denial; dry pleasure, the ascetic response. My jaw aches with stoicism. I am a native in the plain, nature, my maternal foster spirit, I faint within.

Gravel crunch, obscene lights, a car door slams and I sit up. Not again, you fool! I sneer lazily at rushing anticipation. If I am free and I am well, why do I insist on hoping ? solace of same, same sadness, same anguish? Familiarity elicits replication at the cost of disgust. Stuck in a morose leitmotiv, I wallow in the pathos of melancholy. My body knows the sheets and the blanket settles, heavy as his hand, upon my hip on a rare night. I whine and whisper my way to sleep again.

Daylight brings me to shower, brush, comb, in blind robotic automation. Then on to eat with ritualistic Zen attention; the toast feels light and scabrous to the hand, elbows bend, butter melts. A sense of otherliness overcomes the spare conscience to find comfort in minutiae, consolation in detachment. Alone with spoon in hand, apple crunching loudly under tooth. No one to hear the mechanical tempo, no one to see the spoon drop on the tablecloth. I could sing if I wanted to, I could dance around the room to some innate cadence.

Amid myriad choices, my hand refuses to push the button, to turn the knob, to play the song. Silence is mine. I am stillness. I am silence'?

©Nadine Sellers