.. | short stories | 04 (stream of consciousness, not yaoi)
Over anything else at some moments it was Time that she felt most keenly. Time ticking, Time running, Time passing. Why this feeling now, more and more often? This horrible weight of knowledge on shoulders far too young that time was... what? Wasting. Time was wasting. She put her cold fingers to her throat, felt the slow beat of a pulse, blood pumping through vein, heart, lungs, heart, artery, throat, vein and back again. Was that what it meant to be alive? She felt her eyes blink, her hands feel. Her ears picking up the muted sounds of a world outside that never seemed to question. Why was it that only she questioned? Was that what it meant? Beside her a body without a face shifted, made contact and leaned away again. Senseless touching of human on human, even the slightest hitch of motion brought her into contact with her species once more, that was all it took. One couldn't live without being touched. Was that what it meant?
The gentle rocking of bodies with the sway of the train, humankind flocking like lemmings, hating each other for being packed so close, loving each other the same- who ever wanted to ride the train alone?
When one was alone, that was when magic happened in the mind, she thought. She was often alone, she felt, within her mind, where thoughts fluttered to and fro from consciousness to subconscious, phrases, thoughts, emotions- things she always thought to write down but they were gone again before paper could be found. The brain was highly unfair that way, she thought in her mind alone. Think of the things she could write if she could somehow fashion a hand for grabbing them right out of the gray matter, splatter them on paper. She thought of the Egyptians then, and the making of mummies. Their brains used to be pulled out of their nose with pokers, even when they were alive, thoughts and all. She wondered what great thoughts had been wasted by such a thing, destroyed because they were all jumbled together, not systematically fashioned in high intricacy, the veritable working machine that was the human brain, synapses, action potentials, the proportionate somatic homonculous with which humans felt their body in the mind. She had studied it all in university but had found herself interested only to a point before things had becomes too technical, when they began to explain the brain in a most horrible piece by piece fashion- sodium, calcium, the blood-brain barrier, the three layers of meninges. She could understand it all, these technicalities, these mechanics of life, but it grated her soul that everything was taught so dryly, as if her teachers, doctors themselves, had lost their respect for the power of a human mind, its capacity for hurt, anger, reason, frustration and love. It was meat to them, following a predictably orderly fashion, ticking away like time, until mitochondria failed, age set in and it began to waste away. The emotions so heady in youth, like a Bohemian mantra, began a spiral downward, flickering out like an old gas lamp; passion, hope, beauty, love.
Love. Was that it? A cruel thing to someone who never felt she had been in it. It was a failing, to not be one of those that fell 'in love'- the very sound of such a phrase made her cringe inwardly. It seemed so terribly overused, misused. It was in books, in poems, almost every song she... loved had something to do with it. It drove people to do things, be things, pursue things. But she had become skeptical about it as her life went on and she got older, met people, experienced people. If love was so powerful, how could it possibly exist in such a quantity? Would the fact that Lilly, for example, had fallen 'in love' so many times not dilute something supposedly so potent?
It almost didn't even make sense, to feel 'in love'. To give oneself over to love, to sex so easily. And yet sex without love, or at least affection, seemed so horribly wrong as well. That idea was what failed her the most as a woman, as a human. She liked sex, loved the idea of it in fact, but it was some foreign thing as well, two sides of a blade, top and bottom, dark side, light side. It was something invasive, insidious, and made her feel her human mortality encased within tender flesh ripe for touch. Youth was spent building up to the frivoloity of the moment when one expects so much. The first time had not been bantam, nor even the night complete before he was gone again, off to his girlfriend with whom he broke up a few days later. It was for nothing almost that their friendship was destroyed by their night, or half-night, together. The losing of her virginity was not something she'd ever thought to regret- it had been something she'd longed to be rid of, be able to stop worrying about, fretting over it, feeling as if she was held back. Held back from what? She had no religion to tell her it was something to save. To fill the void she would do things for herself, be responsible for herself like all humans should. It had been hasty to rid herself of the worry, but still she did not regret. She thought it was not in her nature to regret things like that. After all, she had always regretted things she didn't do against those she did. Was that wrong? He had been a decent choice after all, even though her judgment of his character had been off. He'd been guilty afterwards, stopped speaking to her, felt he had forced her into something she hadn't wanted to do. It was infuriating, this treatment as if she were a child incapable of making her own decisions. She had handed him this opportunity, how dare he not be grateful for her trust? How dare he, as a man, as a human, assume that she would not be responsible for her actions. Selfish like a woman, like a human, she had an obligation to herself. He did not. She hated him for making her regret.
That disappointing, jarringly anti-climactic first time had been nearly four years ago. The times she'd known it since then had faded into non-memory, so little did they seem to matter. It was in the chosen persons the problem lay, surely. Someone would come along, someone who would make it matter, make the experience worthy of memory. It had to be.
In the biting air inside the train her cheeks flushed to think about it still, with anger, not passion, as it was one and not the other that he had left her with. Two years ago she felt that time had been wasting and acted on it. Now she felt it again. Dissolving into the air like a violent sneeze, just as suddenly, just as quickly. Her life would be this train ride if she didn't get off soon, to her home, to her flat mate, away from these inner thoughts she always lingered on when alone in her mind.
The train rocked to a stop and bodies shifted in unison, masses of muscle-less flesh. Why did people allow themselves to be jostled about so, not reach out for the handbars to stabilize themselves? She did- the person beside her was far too close, her space was invaded, she felt the stranger closing in on her like some great hand clenching into a fist. Pulling her coat tighter, she sprang up from her seat and slung her heavy bag weighted with books over her shoulder, heard the grate of her boots on the gritty floor and then lost it among the other grates as everyone rose. She ducked her head, tossed her hair and shoved her way through, as everyone tried to do, to get out of the seedy bath of cold humans and rough jackets. The cool, fresher air of the station filled her lungs and she felt better to breathe it, thinking about where the air had come from; outside, open, free. It was where she wanted to be. Voices shouted, echoed, baggage rustled, wheels gritted on the cement and heels clicked. Humanity walked, a young woman with her pink beanie and matching scarf, an old man hobbling along toting his rolling suitcase behind.
She walked into the open air, not so pungent with train smells. Her cheeks were cold, she could feel them tight, rosy. Her neck was warm underneath her plain red scarf and the double sensation felt wonderful. It was good to feel such things, physical things. She liked it when things were physical to her, things she enjoyed, people she enjoyed. The stranger on the train, the girl in front of her in class today, the man walking beside her now; they were all too close. But when her flat mate was near, her father, her dog, a handsome stranger she didn't fear so much leaning over her at the bookstore, she enjoyed their warmth. Trusted them.
The books jostled a little in her shoulder bag as it occasionally tapped the back of her thigh. Today she had bought another Mary Renault, about Thesius this time because the ones about Alexander depressed her so. And some little paperback from the sixties, about the encroachment of nature upon mankind. It was the quote on the inner cover which made her buy it- '...the weeds began to flourish in the streets, and the pollen to blow over the cash register; the advance of the jungle had begun.' It was strange that she could remember the quote but not the man who'd written it. And she'd bought another old anthropology textbook, worn by disrespectful student hands, hastily read a day before the test, not read for its content but because a grade hung between the pages. It had been so cheap and contained such interesting names and cycling timelines of her species that as yet had no end. There was only a little guilt for buying more books- already she had several waiting on the shelf: Whitman's poems, a dissertation on love by Ovid, Stevenson's 'Kidnapped'- who didn't want to read about pirates? Wilde, Darwin, another sad Hardy, another social commentary by Forster, and Kushner, who'd written the one about the 17th century-ish swordsman, a book that had been so sophisticated in language. Elegant.
Amid a light drizzle that misted her cold face like her father's sprinkler when he used to water the garden, her building loomed darkly above her. How had she gotten here so quickly? Grit, grit went her boots across the old tile doorway floor, aged off-white with years, covering a resigned sigh against the cold ache of her legs to climb three flights of stairs. Step step step... turn, step step step... turn, step step step... Sooner or later she would have to start using the elevator and get over how its creaking made her envision the thing plummeting down its shifty shaft, breaking it into a thousand whirling shards of flipflopping wood pieces and her body among them, down the dark shaft from light into oblivion. Would one feel the fall? Surely, like rides at amusement parks, one felt, with their somatic senses, how their brain gets left behind for an instant and the body rides alone. The real question was, would one feel the floor after the fall?
Step step step, stop. The front door was unlocked to let in anyone from the outside world- beggars, rapists, thieves, Jehova's Witnesses and candy grams. A roommate who'd forgotten her key.
'That you, Evie?' Lilly's voice rang out from the other room. Without waiting for an answer the hairdryer flipped on, its spiraling, high pitched, muffled sound filling the small flat, drowning out the music playing. The crooning undertones beneath the oceanic whir of the hair dryer meant Sade was singing about no ordinary love.
She hadn't seen Lilly all day, still had yet to see her.
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