residuals #30days #30days2018 by Cherie Ann Turpin

Maybe the imminent and overwhelming arrival of the lunar eclipse accorded some responsibility into Kathy’s bitter mood following the breakup of yet another short term lovership. She knew how to explain herself, her position, her sense of self, easily, as a writer, when she spoke before her students in the four classes she taught at the local community college. There were no subjects too taboo to discuss with her audience, who usually sat mesmerized or at least shocked, such as when she “performed” as resident poet at The Atomic Cafe, a run-down coffee joint run almost entirely from donations from locals, students, and permanent exiles from the savagery of city life and suburban jungles.

Burlington, Vermont was a haven for those young enough to transform isolation from New England cynicism into active and optimistic socio-political coalitions determined to see permanent social change; for those too embittered to still believe in or hope for much of anything other than a swift, peaceful death, Burlington served as a sort of thin shield, like fish scales, from the hostilities to which no place in America could be immune.

Kathy could not cut, however, through the thick partition that separated herself from her desires, the wall of silence that froze her tongue when she touched her last lover, who broke off with her in apparent bewilderment at her seeming lack of interest in him, his attempts at conversation, and most disturbing, his sexual needs. Kathy, as if intuitively, felt him withdraw from her presence, and silently wished him quickly gone, but not for the reasons he assumed. When she stood amid the studded and pierced women and men she noticed on the left covered with photos of poets who, like her, began and ended their careers standing and reciting in front of audiences like this one. She also noticed a vaguely familiar face staring at her.

At this sight, she suppressed an impulse to bolt from the room. Instead, she closed her eyes, and after a few uncomfortable moments of silence, began reciting from memory the first stanza from her latest poem. When Kathy’s mind began to generate the energy she needed to recite her poem, she began to forget that her body was actually standing in a grimy, worn storefront that was already filled with other writers eager to draw from the sexual energy emanating from the short, buxom woman with short brown dreads. Her low, gravely voice trembled as she, eyes closed, softly swaying, spoke to complete strangers her most intimate poetry.

When Kathy opened her eyes the first thing she saw was a tall man with a smooth complexion made even more apparent with his black turtleneck and slacks, his long dreds pulled back and somewhat controlled into a single plait. She saw his full lips slight curl with amusement, his brown eyes focused on her own large, black eyes with a curious but intent stare. For a moment she thought he was laughing at her. Then, as the audience began to field her with questions and suggestions, she lost focus on the tall dark stranger in the back of the room and continued her discussion.

Later, during the communal vegetarian dinner feast, Kathy saw him again, grazing on a steaming pile of black beans over brown rice. She waited until he swallowed whatever he was chewing, then sauntered over to his chair near one of the gray, frosted panes of the storefront. The combined effects of the dimmed lights and the dark shadows cast by the rich, black panels and jagged masonry covering the walls, floor, and ceiling left an impression on Kathy that she was walking through a cave, or perhaps, a dungeon.

The man’s eyes narrowed briefly, then widened again with that same irreverent humor that had earlier unnerved her. She noticed the crinkles framing his eyes, nose, and mouth, how his age seemed both ancient and young at once. He was older than she last remembered, but not by much. She turned on her heel and walked over to a small but familiar group of locals who greeted her warmly. When she turned her head back towards the chair, he was gone. She felt both sad and triumphant, wondering what on Goddess’s green earth was he doing in Vermont, of all places? The man reappeared suddenly, and sat back into the yellow chair, reclining comfortably. No one seemed to notice but Kathy, who walked over and whispered to him.

“How the hell did y-y-”

“How did I learn to teleport? Come on, Kathy. Is that all you have to say to me? Don’t you even want to ask me WHY am I here? How long?” He folded his hands together to emphasize the lack of physical weapons, metal or otherwise. He seemed genuinely puzzled at her stance towards his very presence, if not hurt.

“You seem to have a short memory, Jacque,” replied Kathy, her voice slowly rising. It seemed to come from a deep, bitter well. “As I recall, ten years ago you trashed our apartment and tried to destroy my manuscript because you thought I was writing about another lover? You were determined to break me, to destroy me if necessary, to own me. You knew I was a novice, yet you pushed me to the edge, again and again–”

“–And so you settled for quiet Vermont, only now you pine away for the unobtainable, and suck the energy dry out of these poor, dumb hicks who couldn’t tell a butt plug from a pacifier.”

“How did you find me? And what DO you want?” Might as well get to the point. Kathy wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer to the last question. Jacque’s face crinkled at last with a genuine smile, pleased at her seemingly more relaxed stance. His brown eyes glittered like a wolf eyeing a doe’s soft underbelly. She noticed, for the first time, that white strands were beginning to salt down the his long black dredlocks. She also noticed that he had released them from the band that pulled his hair back earlier in the evening.

“I was wrong to allow my jealousy to surface so easily, and I was wrong to make you feel unsafe in any way. I had forgotten how easy it was to cross the line magickally—and the alcohol didn’t help. Anyway, enough bullshit, you want to know why I am here. I want to invite you to join the project out in Seattle, to sharpen your craft, so to speak, on the cutting edge of magic as performance art–”

“And you don’t have access to people who can do that out there? Why me?” quipped Kathy, noticing but not caring that when she interrupted Jacque, his eyes glittered with not a little irritation.

“–and I want us to start the circle over again–”

“As what? Master and servant? Husband and helpmate? Adam and Eve? Eden is lost to us both, love, and I don’t intend to search for it. I told you, I don’t want any part of that anymore.”
Jacque was visibly struggling to remain focused. Kathy wondered if all of him was really in Vermont. She wondered if he was still in Seattle, but silently decided not to ask. He looked tired, suddenly, as he looked up at her and spoke.

“Look, I didn’t come to bury the hatchet in your head. I want it to be better. I want to be your lover, your companion. I want us to back to high ritual again.” As he spoke, a sadness washed over Kathy as she watched him plead his case. The irony of his words being the very thing she dreaded and craved grieved her.

It was a cruel, cruel joke played on her by the divine, she thought bitterly. She wanted to believe him, to give herself to his looming, roaring energy. But he did not convince her of his change from the raging, jealous sadist who could never be satisfied to the apparition now sitting in front of her. Still, she admired his gall in the wake of the destruction he waged in her life.

She was so immersed in her thoughts that she had not noticed that Jacque was no longer speaking. She had no adequate response that would convey the confusion, the anger, the desire in her heart. So she sat in silence, watching the snow gather in the dusty windowsill outside. A car pulled into the driveway across the street, and two men, both dressed in ski jackets and earmuffs ran towards the side entrance of the dark wooden storefront, leaving their breath in the wake. When the car drove away, Jacque focused on her face, and studied her eyes for a moment.

“I apologize for my intrusiveness in your life. I will move on,” he said slowly. Kathy watched him as he began to shimmer.

“I didn’t say no to everything, Jacque.”

“And, so now, what am I to take as your answer?” choked Jacque. “Do you know how hard this was, traveling across the country, knowing what an ass I was to you, to beg you back into my life? I saw your book, Winter Garden, in a store downtown about six months ago. Was it all pain to you, Kathy? Was I merely an experiment for you? Or do you remember how I held you?“

“I have a life here, cold and lonely it has been for a long time now. But it’s the one I know that works for me, “ Kathy whispered fiercely. She stood completely still, breathing evenly.

“I know you, Jacque, and you know me. So we don’t have to pretend with each other. You know what I want.”

He blinked twice and for the first time, seemed genuinely confused. Kathy leaned down towards his face and smiled grimly. “You took so much energy from me that last time. You owe me, big time. You can start by teaching me how to teleport to Seattle right now. Then we can talk.”

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