WRITER’S BLOCK! I think I’m just too tired. So I’m taking the lazy way out; I am re-posting a short story I wrote last summer. Don’t feel slighted…I actually revised it and spruced it up a bit.
I hate when people say things like “this story was inspired by ____ and _____.” But…This story was inspired by two things:
One. A shameful true story from my Portland life (ripped from the headlines!), wherein I drunkenly climbed into a friend’s bedroom window. I think it was a futile attempt at making a booty call. I say “futile,” not just because I was promptly (yet gently) ejected from the premises, but also because I was far too intoxicated for participation in any worthwhile tryst.
Two. One night, after round two of “B vs. A,” I inadvertently drove by B’s house because I was too busy fiddling with my Ipod and chatting with my passenger (Janelle) to pay attention to driving/navigation. I realized my mistake as I glanced to the left while slamming on my brakes in deference to a nearly-missed stop sign. My station wagon loudly lurched to a halt. I was so embarrassed, I thought I might just burst into flames. The question remains: Why is ex-sex so good?
Last night I drove by your house accidentally. I wasn’t paying attention, fiddling with the radio while talking to a friend.
An accident waiting to happen. And it did.
I realized this as I looked over and saw you on your porch, wearing a t-shirt I have always despised. I forced my eyes to stare straight ahead as I gunned the engine and raced by. My left eye drifted off the side the tiniest bit, trying to sneak one last glance at you. I hoped that the darkness and your likely drunkenness would obscure my identity.
Your friend was with you. I have always suspected she dislikes me. I was more nervous about her catching a glimpse of my shameful face. I knew you would be secretly flattered by my drive-by. But in her mind, it would just be one more item for her lengthy list of my imaginary offenses. “And then she had the nerve to drive by his house!” Some of these misdeeds she accepts as the barest truth, as she has heard them from you. Why would you–the poor, downtrodden ex-boyfriend, the young man with most shattered heart–ever fill her ears with tall tales? Like any good friend, she believes that her hatred of me is a testament of her love for you.
I imagined stopping to tell you, “Oh, sorry…this was an accident. I thought I was on a different street.” But the idea of this, the mere hint of shame that I would feel when your eyes met mine…this was enough to turn my face to fire and my foot to lead. I drove with the fiercest velocity, finally slamming on the brakes and running into my house to hide my head under a pillow.
But that was yesterday. Today was a different time, filled with busy work and casual chatter. Hours spent pretending to accomplish tasks and enjoy gossip. You were constantly standing on the perimeter of my thoughts, a shadowy figure I pretended I did not see.
While rummaging through my desk for a paper clip, I found a photo of you stuffed in the darkest corner. You were smiling in the sun on a vacation we had once taken. And of course you were wearing that t-shirt that I despise. But on that day in the not-so-distant past, maybe that orange shirt wasn’t so terrible.
I walked into the office kitchen and tossed the sentimental snapshot into the sink.
And then I poured a pot of burnt coffee over your happy face.
I fished a plastic fork out of the trash and used it to stuff you down the drain
I felt a twinge of victory when I unleashed the power of the garbage disposal. I imagined you were ground into dust, no longer in this world. A ghost, a crab nebula…something I might never see.
I spent an hour in the bathtub that night, reading a book of astrology. The planets had decided that our relationship was doomed, merely because you were born at the end of winter. The book told me that we could be happy, as long as you passed all of my tests. Apparently I was testing you with my every action and declaration.
Perhaps you knew this and your failure was intentional. You saw freedom at the long list of wrong answers.
Or maybe the examination really was that difficult. A few fail, most barely pass, and one or two get a perfect score.
I crawled into bed surprisingly early. I place a lot of trust in over-the-counter sleep remedies. I am always thankful to live in an era wherein sleeplessness is cured as easily as a headache. I found myself thinking of my job as I drifted out to sea: a minor task to remember for the next morning.
I sat in a park in a city far from here, telling my best friend a story about my brother. We were eating cherries from an enormous bowl. I told myself, “Just one more. These will give me a stomachache.” I laid back on the grass, staring at the sky. It was bluer than it could ever be here. I realized that I could look at the sun without hurting my eyes. Warmth spread across my cheeks to my ears.
Just then, a hand appeared out of nowhere and jammed cherries and stems into my mouth. I was choking as rivulets of sticky juice ran into my eyes. I sat up with alarm, pushing the hand away. My mouth tasted sour.
I was greeted by an impish smile. It was you! And you were wearing that fucking orange t-shirt! Without thinking, I smacked you in the face.
I looked up, trying to catch my bearings. The clouds spelled out “survival.”
Survival. I scrambled to my feet and ran as fast as I could. Out of the park, down the street, across a large parking lot, until I came to the ocean. “Fuck, I’ll never be able to swim in that water, ” I thought.
I sat up in bed, wiping the cherry juice from my eyes. My cheeks were wet and my mouth was salty.
There was only way to handle this.
I slipped into some shoes and tossed a sweater over my nightgown. I dragged my bike down the front stairs.
The street was empty, but not as dark as I would have imagined. I had no idea of the time, but I had a feeling dawn was coming soon.
You live far away. Maybe less than five miles. Maybe more than ten. I could drive to your house in 15 minutes. I know this, because I was there once months ago in the middle of the night. On that particular instance I hurried to get there, even while ignoring a growing sense of dread hovering at the back of my head. Red lights were run. Stop signs were negligible.
When I arrived, I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking. My necklace broke and I was embarrassed as I retrieved tiny beads from the cracks in your bedroom floor. But you let me smoke cigarettes in your bed while you rubbed my back. Clothes disappeared much faster than I would have liked.
You were at my house once.
Yes, you have been to my house on two occasions. The first time I toyed with the idea of seduction. But when I greeted you, I was already disappointed. You were not the person I remembered. The stranger at the door wore a disguise of fluttery hands and tiny darting eyes.
The second visit was different. I could sense that you were agreeing with everything I said in an attempt to make me like you again. This annoyed me, but all was forgotten when I realized that you smelled right. You spent the night. No sleep was gleaned by either of us. I avoided my friends’ eye contact for the next week.
But this night, this early morning, clad in my nightgown, I was on a mission. My plan included neither idle conversation nor seamless seduction.
I knew I should have driven my car. The bicycle ride was endless. The route was unmemorable. I sailed through intersections. I fearlessly descended into the tunnel reserved for cars. I crossed trolley tracks and I dodged cats.
I secretly hoped I would tire out and return to my house. I could imagine my sense of relief in the morning and it was delicious.
But no. I am stubborn and so, I pressed on.
Eventually I arrived at your porch. I locked my bike to the railing. The windows were dark. All sensible individuals were asleep.
There was only one way into your second floor bedroom: I would have to climb in your window. This involved scaling the tree and then crawling across the roof. I was assuming that your ancient windows would never lock.
Before I knew you, I climbed roofs and trees on a regular basis. It only seemed natural after a few drinks. I felt like a conqueror! Friends and acquaintances grew to expect this behavior. Furthermore, acts of foolish bravery were encouraged. The same old parties and bar nights become boring without a thrilling half-time show.
If we were still speaking, I could tell you all about the buildings and Norway Maples I have scaled.
One day, fear stopped me. No, it wasn’t the concern of possible injury or death. This seemed negligible. No, I was more concerned about people talking about the cause of my mishap. “Oh, she was drunk and decided to hang out on the roof. What an idiot!” The fear of becoming a cautionary tale kept me on the ground.
But tonight, this risk became a necessity.
Despite scuffing my thighs on bark, climbing the tree was easy. I sat on the roof for a few minutes, plotting my next move. Precision and stealth would be required.
I took deep breaths, urging my heart to slow its beat. I worried that the pounding would wake you.
The window was open. The bed was just below the sill. You were asleep on your stomach, your hands and arms pinned under your body.
Climbing through the window meant quietly landing next you. I left my shoes on the roof. Working with every muscle against gravity, I slid into your bed like a ghost.
You did not notice my presence.
Your hair smelled as I remembered.
I barely breathed.
I could see the faintest bit of the sun just below the horizon. Morning was almost here.
I turned toward you and rested my chin on your shoulder. I pulled the blanket over our heads; our night could last a few more hours.