Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Flame

Ever since I've experienced the sensation of disassociation (both in my past and sometimes even now), I've been fascinated with how it feels, works, how I would describe it if I could. I've learned, in most cases, it's a defense mechanism. But I've decided to play around with it a bit in the story I wrote tonight.

I've had this image of a detached-looking woman, a smudged wine glass and a broken relationship in my mind for a long time now, which is usually how my short stories begin. An image that hits and stays with me that I eventually write around. In this case, though, I kept waiting, because I hadn't felt the "it" I needed to feel to put it on paper.

Until today. One of my good friends, Claire, was telling me about something her acupuncturist had mentioned, a meditation of sorts, for when you're in some kind of troubled state. It's a mental exercise where we go back to images of our former selves during a similarly troubled state (under the notion our lives/behaviors can be cyclical or patterned) and we tell that version of our self something that will put them at ease, break their current negative state, something that will bring some peace. And the idea is that will help our present self break that same negative state and unhealthy pattern.

Well, as she said all this, I felt the "it." So tonight, I had to write.

The Flame

I slowly pressed the glass rim against my lips, cradling the round base in my palm as I felt the thin stem extend between my fingers. I gently tipped my head back and let the dry, slightly bitter Pinot Noir die upon my lips, leaving hints of cherry, raspberry and plum in its wake.

I ran my tongue along my lower lip and looked up at him.

He sat in the green recliner … his recliner and continued on. His cutting words like a thousand small knives slowly digging into my skin. The pain began to blend together, the trails of blood from each wound streaming as one.

Suddenly, his words, tainted with bitterness, resentment, anger and hurt became distorted and jagged as well, like a well used, rusty razor's edge.

I looked down again, focusing on the finger printed glass as I swirled and swirled the deep burgundy liquid … and felt another tear brim before cascading to its death on my forearm, leaving another mascara streak behind it.

Another followed suit, stopping at the tip of my nose. I brought my free hand up and quickly sniffled against it. He didn't seem to notice … or perhaps he didn't care. He had a point to make after all.

I looked at my left hand, examining the engagement ring. It was small, but flashy. It didn't suit me, so why did I pretend otherwise? Who was I anymore?

What was I doing?

I shifted my weight to the left and drew my legs up underneath me. I parted my lips, now chapped by dried tears, to say something, defend myself, yell back like I once used to.


I sucked in a deep breath, feeling a lump in my throat. I imagined it a knot of a thousand half thought notions, never uttered, sticking to each other, like sap to a tree.

Instead I cleared my throat and took another sip of wine. When I finally did begin to speak, my voice quivered with uncertainty. He cut me off and barreled on. 

His dark brown eyes, darker … almost nonsensical in their gaze, as though he was more in love with his own words, the sound of his voice, than he ever was with me.

Maybe he didn't know what love was anymore than I once did. Maybe I still don't. But something inside tells me otherwise, like a phantom whisper.

I tossed my head back and looked up at the ceiling, another mascara streaked tear rolling down my cheek, past my sharp law line and along my neck. I was running on empty. I had nothing left to give. I remember this feeling. I remember it well. Only this time, I refuse to let my body become a deflated pillow on the floor … beneath his feet.

But why, oh why could I not speak? Where was my fire? When had it been smothered beyond my notice?

I slightly shook my head and looked back at the smudged glass, gazing deep into it, feeling the familiar disconnect of my mind from the present.

I suddenly stood before the 16-year-old version of myself. She was sitting on the floor of an outdoor porch as it rained outside. She brought a cigarette to her lips, took a full drag and slowly let the smoke unravel through the window screen into the misty rain.

She examined the ring of black lipstick against the butt before she smashed it into the cement beneath her. Her insides swarmed with loneliness and an isolation she had yet to fully understand. Mascara ran down her cheeks as she examined her black chipped nail polish. I leaned in, near her ear, brought my hand against the side of her head, over her temple and whispered.

“Never doubt yourself. I love you.”

I watched her eyes twitch with my words, as though catching them on the wind with slight recognition. A heaviness began to lift as she rose up and threw the remaining cigarettes in the mud outside.

I felt myself disconnect once more. I was back on that sunken in couch, swirling that wine.

“Does that make any sense to you?” He asked, his voice seeping with indignation.

I solemnly nodded, my energy puttering. I began to twirl the ring on my finger around and around with my thumb. Again, I felt my mind unhinge like a door.

I saw another version of myself in a strange bathroom in the basement of a house. She stared in the mirror, watching his dark haired head disappear as he closed the door behind her. She looked at her bloodshot, sleep deprived eyes, confused, bewildered, scared, invaded.

I stepped up behind her, wrapped my arms around her mid section and whispered in her ear.
“You will heal. Not all touches hurt. I love you.”

I stepped back and watched her sink to the floor and hug her knees. But her eyes were no longer empty and lost … they held a glimmer of hope.

I blinked, feeling the weight of a body next to me on the couch. I looked over at his thin, wiry body as he moved closer, pulling me into his arms. I tried to push back, but he held tight. I sat rigid for a few minutes before going slack.

Candle flames are fickle things … they can be blown out in an instant.

I began heaving with tears. Something felt twisted about the source of hurt trying to comfort the wound. He murmured soft words against my head, his tone lithe once more. We were like a scratched record. Lord knows I was familiar with this dance ... my bones ached from it's familiar strides.

Old and gray, he'd say … old and gray.

I felt ashen already, hollowed out, as though we'd been feeding each other poison for years.

How do I stop the record?

I noticed the lump was gone. His words meant nothing anymore. I closed my eyes tightly against his shoulder and immersed in the sparking blackness.

I homed in on a silhouette lying in a bed surrounded by plain, static white walls.
It was a slightly younger version of myself, I realized. I floated above her as she curled into fetal position beneath the covers, afraid to close her eyes, afraid of what she'd see.

I descended to the bed behind her and moved forward to envelope her. I moved a strand of long, auburn hair out of her eyes and behind her ear, resting my lips near her temple.

“You are never alone. Ever. You will be OK. I love you.”

He finally released me, snapping me back to the present. He tried to force my chin up to look at him. I pulled at my face, trying to wipe it clean. He grabbed at my hands to stop.

Candle flames really are fickle things … a kiss of oxygen can ignite a blaze.

I pushed away and stood up, feeling my throat expanding, my heart racing with adrenaline. I looked over at the glass of wine on the scuffed and stained coffee table and lifted it up to his baffled and incredulous face.

I slid the ring to the tip of my finger before letting it plunk into the glass, sinking like an anchor to a crimson shore.

I grabbed my keys and purse. He began to rise, but I held up my hand and shot a fierce look that stayed his movement, causing him to slowly sink back to the couch in silence.

“I am loved. Very much. Just not by you.”

And with one swift motion, I shut the door behind me … and felt the hinges finally lock into place.


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