Most of the time I am in my own head which serves as a sort of insulation against all the things which could easily drive one who doesn’t have the mundane distractions of the nine to five work world crazy. Just as occasionally a random thing will serve as a source of inspiration so too can it create an oppressive feeling of desolation which resists being transformed into something productive.
Fortunately, this does not happen nearly as often.
Unexpectedly, the thing came and perched upon my shoulders putting its full weight to bear. It had been called forth by the sounds coming from below of people seemingly having fun that I had heard only because, by happenstance, Coleman Hawkins had just finished his solo.
I went to the window and looked down. Holding hands as their breath created trails of steam looking like shot down planes People walked down the street. The only time I can not retreat into my work is if I had just finished something.
To go out for a little while was a can’t lose proposition. Either I would kill time, one evening which was enough to recharge my batteries and shake free the thing which clutched at me or being among the crowd I would feel the appeal of the solitude of my studio. The cajoling of the street’s power neutralized, the thing did a competitive diver’s leap from my shoulders, running off into the night to find someone else to harry.
The street is not bad merely indifferent to suffering. I drink, not to forget but for the taste. This, when said out loud is a truth which sounds like a lie. The place closest to me would be fine as I was merely seeking minor distraction.
Several doors down I spotted Maryann gently feeding several white squares to the mailbox. I did not know her at all aside from a few brief superficial conversations shared while waiting for drinks or in line to use the toilet at a party.
She intrigued me as she looked like a well-known character actor only sparrow thin and with a mien to match. I did not poach romantic distractions from within my social circle, I had learned the hard way that much like dating a co-worker, it eventually becomes problematic as at some point things will sour and then you are still stuck in each other’s orbit.
I asked her how she was doing, there was momentarily surprise as I said “hello” but then her outward composure was regained as she tried to recall what she had heard about me and if she had personally ever witnessed evidence of it.
("Maryanne", Watercolor & Paper)
Like myself, she had just momentarily popped out although with more a concrete goal in mind. Did she want to join me for a drink? Briefly she looked around to see if there were something to be spotted as to deter this new trajectory but there was nothing but people in stroll motion going about their own evenings. This added to by the fact that the cadence of my voice did not have any of that man talking to woman on several levels undertone made her agree.
Not counting being at a function as there is often a set, limited selection, it is usually pretty telling what a person orders to drink. Surprisingly she went for a gin and tonic. I stuck to my usual. Two rounds in and just being out and about I started feeling better and knew that later after falling asleep to music I would wake up my usual self. Maryann did not seem to be getting the same relief as I.
We left together, I did not think about it one way or another as I paid the bill, telling her that she could get the tip. Holding the door open for her I discretely inhaled as she passed by. There was dichotomy of dried flowers and under that a sort of ozone note akin to what would emanate the next morning from someone who had fallen asleep cocooned in a heavy blanket.
Out on the street she once again looked around and I realized that it was more a nervous tic than my continued presence. As the hour was later there were slightly more people out on the street, slick with revelry. My opening to take my leave I noticed that she looked slightly crestfallen.
“Want to list to some music?”
My question caught her by surprise. She did not want to be alone but despite the fact that over drinks I had given no indication that I had ambitions towards the boy girl thing with her, she was not particularly eager to go to my place.
We would go to her place which was closer. Personally, with someone who I did not know well, I would rather be at their place so that if things go wrong escape is an option. Experience had taught me, easier to go home than kick someone out.
The place was small but clean. I flipped through her records, my eyes wandering to the knick-knacks on the shelf above trying to imagine each thing’s history. The collection was not great but there were few of the basics which everyone should have for me to choose from.
Coming back with a bottle of wine, I was surprised that she sat on the couch with me as opposed to the seat across.
Briefly we clinked glasses. The wine seemed both very sweet and very bitter. She now seemed somewhat more relaxed if not paler but her previous color could merely have been the warmth of bar light.
I would steal glances. The wisp of hair from her bangs took the job and place that would normally have belonged to an insect in warmer weather. Jumping forward it touched the tip of her nose before once again being blown away by the air emanated sharply from her jutted out bottom lip.
Coincidently I was looking at her, the hair was blown out of the way once again. It looked like she was going to say something. Her eye began furiously blinking. I assumed the tip of her swoop had poked it. A second later she slid off the couch. She was on the floor, flat on her back with her legs bent at the knees twisted up in each other. She started making a hard “G” guttural sound, both her wrists bent, hands balled into fists except for the index finger of each. All the color had drained out of her face which made the purple veins under each eye almost luminescent.
I was momentarily transfixed. She began shaking moving from side to side, twisted arms and hands reaching for something I could not see. Had she not been on the floor and had it not happened so suddenly, parts of it resembled an extremely demonstrative orgasm.
I snapped out of it and remembered something I had once read somewhere. I took my wallet out and put it in her mouth as to prevent her from hurting herself. I did not want to run and get a towel to put under her head, opting instead to stay with her and put my tie between the back of her head and the hard floor.
Gradually she grew stiller and stiller. Her skin remained extremely pale. Laying on her back so still, she looked like a marble monument one might see atop a sarcophagus. Her eyes had been closed the whole time. Now they opened and met mine. Even with how spent she was, there was room in her thoughts for embarrassment.
I told her not to worry about it. I helped her into her bedroom. Maryann did not want to call anyone as that had been the worst of it, all there was to do now was take her medicine and sleep.
As she got under the covers, I went into her bathroom to get her the pills and glass of water. I opened the closet door and took out a wash cloth which I let the tap make nice and cool. With one thin arm she reached up and took the pill and water from me. I stood there holding the washcloth which was now dripping on the floor. She looked at me puzzled.
“For your forehead.”
She did not need me to stay but I did until I was sure she was all right. I flicked off the record player on my way out.
I had originally hung out with her only on account of our chance encounter. It was not her seizure which had turned me off but in general priorities which did not include any kind of steady, formal social commitments. My sense of etiquette made me see her a few more times after that first night as I did not want to be thought of as that kind of jerk.
Our third time going out she picked up on my lack of serious interest and in retrospect I think I unintentionally hurt her more than if I had just disappeared. There was the consolation though for her of telling me that she no longer wanted to socialize.
I had not told anyone the story. I liked the novelty of being completely blameless and felt that were the story to get out, inevitably it would change and I would somehow end up the villain of the story.
I do not know if she moved but I never ran into her on the street again. Eventually I moved although not terribly far away. Having been invited to a party I was an hour into it when I realized that it was not going to get any better than it currently was.
It was roughly a twenty-minute walk home and I would stop at the first bar I saw which looked decent, with any luck it would be found somewhere around the halfway point. The perfect place, it was quiet with just enough customers to allow one to have something to look at. Going to pay my tab, I took my wallet from my pocket. I felt hairs on back of my neck prick, eyes upon me. With an empty barstool between us, Maryann was sitting to my right. Her face was in a deep blush as she stared at the teeth marks bore into the leather of my wallet.
- Wayne H. W Wolfson 2017
Wayne's new novel is out now!