KYLE PERDUE - PORT
Kyle Perdue was born and raised in Carlsbad, California. He is currently studying marine biology at University of California, San Diego. He finds writing to be very therapeutic and amongst all of the scientific thinking he does at school, it is something he can always look forward to. His favorite writers are Bukowski, Turgenev, and Hamsun.
Two women in the next room talk of love over recurrent glasses of wine. As their discussion unravels and it gets quite emotional; I can hear one of them pushing through the tears as she explains her story. This event sparks an unforgettable experience I had many summers ago, when I had incidentally gotten wrapped up in a drug feud and, more importantly, met whom I consider to be the most remarkable woman I have ever met— in appearance and manner. I wish she sat alongside me now, but I only occasionally glance over at a napkin stained with a wet circle, accompanied by an uncharted series of books I haven't yet started. The story goes something like this:
There was an ocean, a patio, and a small house. It was a one story, with a light blue body and a yellow roof. The patio leads right onto the sand, which stretched into the beach and eventually the water. Most of the time it was pretty windy, and the sun would beat down on umbrellas that had been there for I don't know how long— too long. They were all the same kind of umbrella, equally spread out projecting from the sand to the sky in different angles due to the wind. There wasn't anything around the house except tall grass that went for miles and a white picket fence that eventually ended at a point where there was a lighthouse. This lighthouse was usually locked, but some were known to have ascended it’s exclusionary stair-set and peer out the top, looking over the Eastern horizon.
The house used to belong to my uncle; when he passed I got a phone call about his will, and was told he left me a house on the opposite coast, a beautiful one-story right on the ocean. I was proud that he left it for me, for we had always been very close. No one had known that he owned this house, not even me. A secret life, my uncle lived.
Sometimes I went for a week or two, but mostly I stayed for months at a time. It was nicest in the fall when the greenery turned to oranges and yellows but I was usually there in the summer, when the water was warm and the sun had come out of hibernation. It was a nice and cozy house, but the salty winds had worn it down. The paint was cracked and the inside was dusty and beaten. Some days I biked down the coast and some days I walked along the sand with a twig, but most days I tried working on the house— I wasn't much of a handyman but I was getting better. I stocked the kitchen with various imported beverages I’d gotten from the port: all kinds of wines, liquors, beers. There were some from Africa, Bulgaria, Belgium, Chile. I think there must have been a drink from every part of the world in there. If I were ever to be robbed the thief would have tripped on his feet trying to leave. These drinks came in handy while I worked on the inside and outside of the house. I would put on a record and take slow sips of something. Outside on the patio there were two chairs that faced the ocean. One was green and the other was blue. In between them was a small table with many ring-stains, and an ash tray where my uncle smoked cigars.
I will admit, sometimes it got quite lonely in this house on the beach. It was nice and I could get my work done; no one was there to bother me. And having worked hard on year studying at the University I was currently attending, these beach-side getaways were a gratifying necessity. I was studying marine biology at the time, but that is not something I wish to discuss. I wrote on the side: short stories, poetry, maybe a novella if I ever got so lucky (I always wanted to write a novel but was never good at finishing the things I started). It was a hobby, but sometimes I sent stuff in to journals and magazines and they would kindly sent back a rejection note. Something along the lines of: “We appreciate you considering This Literary Journal, however, this doesn't fit what we are looking for at this time. Best of luck in the future.” I guess it just wasn't for them.
A couple miles South of the small house was a port, small and quaint. It was filled with tourism and hardy marine folk, the kind with tattoos who owned the day and night; they worked hard in the long hours of sunlight and drank well into twilight, cursing and fighting and fucking. Boats and ships came into the harbor of this port. Some carried people, others had trading items: food, livestock, silk, linen, electronics. Like the tide carrying the water, herds of people would come into the town for weeks at a time, then retreat back into the sea. They took pictures and purchasing postcards, did tours and ate fish. Little did I know that upon one of these boats, with crossed legs and gentle lips, sat the girl of my dreams.
Many days I went into the port and walked around, browsed the shops and talked with the tourists. There was a good bakery shop that sold bread, pastries, coffee, and espresso. I liked to sit outside and watch the town move; it was a living thing. Each resident had a purpose, like organs to the body. Even the tourists were necessary, peppering money into the market and driving slowly, somehow always in your way. The lady who owned the bakery was from Germany. She was big and round, and constantly sweating. Her name was Olga. She was really very nice. Her husband was even bigger than her. They were like European sumo wrestlers. She greeted me every time I came in with a smile and a big hug. She gave me free coffee but I paid for the bread, oils, and sweet delicacies. I had my proper seat outside that faced the town. Vines hung above my head on the balcony where Olga and her husband lived. No wonder they were so big, they lived directly over their own bakery. The sweet aroma of their limitless inventions flowed out the bakery door and into the window of their home, teasing those food-pregnant bellies. There were flowers scattered around the bakery patio: lilacs, roses, orchids, and my personal favorite: lilies. It was a nice spot.
If it were nighttime, and the small house got too quiet, I switched my drink from Olga’s coffee to the bottle, where the barkeep was a tall and slender Italian. He seemed malevolent with his creepy walk and thin goatee. There were several pubs and bars in the port, but I preferred his, named: “Bubbly Tavern.” Inside it was dim and the tables were made of wood. The only light allowed to enter came through stained glass that emitted beams of deep blue and sea green. For the small size of the port-town, the nightlife got crowded and wild. There were a few times I awoke on the sand just outside the town, with a group of people, unaware of who they were and how I got there. I’d slip away and retreat back to the small house, where I would cook eggs and bacon with toast and sausage— reviving my deathly state.
Sleep was never a strong suit of mine back home, but here on the Eastern sand, I could snooze for a lifetime. It was partly because of the state of serenity the house had to offer, along with the caressing hand of solitude offered by its location on the shore. The only sound you could hear was the wind creating ripples in the sand, and the waves crashing onto the shore like they’d been lost at sea forever. In this particular summer getaway, I was sleeping in one morning when there was a knock at the door. I was nude so I put on a robe and answered. There was a yellow haired man in a blue uniform with a pouch full of letters.
“Letter for Chase Boneby.”
I took the letter from his grip.
“Thank you,” I said, then closed the door.
I walked into the kitchen, put the letter on the dining table, and went back to bed for an hour. After that I opened the letter. I was surprised to see it was from my mother:
I am writing to let you know your father has been admitted to the County Hospital. It is nothing serious, just a minor car wreck. He will be okay, he has only cracked a few ribs and broken his arm. You see his Alzheimers has been in full swing these past few months, he can’t even remember who I am. Or I wonder if he’s faking? He never seemed to know who I was before. But that’s neither here not there. I guess he was at a traffic light and someone rear-ended him, but because of his Alzheimers the other party is trying to sue us. Can you believe the people of this world, Chase? Anyways, I hope you are enjoying your uncle’s estate. I really would like to hear from you, please do write back. A mother needs to know her son is alright.
Tears wet the page and rolled onto the wooden floor. I couldn't help it. I folded the letter, put it back in its envelope, and tucked it away with the others. I liked how she called it an “Estate.” I guess it was, because of its acreage.
Days on the beach front seemed to roll slowly by. Weeks here felt long and drawn out, like the little motionless sand dunes that mimicked gently crashing waves. Sometimes I’d grab a blanket and a few bottles of wine and head out onto the sand. I liked to drink straight from the bottle. The sand was a humble yellow and always felt velvety soft under the tough bottoms of my feet. You could dip your foot in and depending on the time of day it would warm you or cool you down. I’d sit, or lie, and write on a notepad. Thoughts usually poured out of me like blood from a deep cut. They all seemed to be about women, I tried to write about nature and other things but usually when it all unfolded out of my head it was about women. Their looks, actions, and behaviors. I don't know why, maybe my tongue was hungry from neglect. Every now and then I read some school materials like textbooks and journal articles. As I said, I was studying marine biology; it was fitting to be sitting on the beach while I did this. Often I would look out during my readings and see the spouts from a whale. I asked myself which whale that should be, this time of year in the Eastern waters. I hadn't a clue, which motivated me to read more (only slightly, for I was no fan of school).
One particular Saturday evening I was sitting on a blanket and gulping wine. I don't remember what kind of wine it was, nor does it matter. Wine to me was wine, and after the second glass it all tasted the same. The only difference was in the hangovers. Anyway, I was sipping wine when I noticed a woman walking along the water’s edge. She had dark brown hair, almost purple, it was subject to the wind; her eyes were a devastating blue, the kind that melted men and froze your tongue. Her fair skin lifted the hairs on my neck, and she had on a white undershirt and a black button down sweater, unbuttoned. She wore tight blue jeans and was carrying her black shoes in one hand. Her walk and tone was so pleasant, and she jumped every now and then as to avoid getting too wet from the water. When she got kind of in front of my area, she looked over and smiled innocently, and didn't look away for some time. It was late on in our encounter that I realized my jaw was hung open and I hadn't waved. I quickly waved and smiled. She looked away. The whole thing was delightfully gleeful, and overrode my body with a feeling of jubilance; I felt like I was six years old again. For the rest of the day she came into my mind. I couldn't do anything. I was losing my mind. It was lost unto her. She’d make me clinically insane, I remember thinking. I couldn't even sleep.
The next morning I had to get coffee from Olga. I went in and got a big sweaty hug and a coffee. I sat in my spot and watched time pass. I wondered what I would say if I saw that girl. I envisioned kneeling at her side and telling her that I love her and I’d never been in such a state of euphoria in my life. Then I thought that might be a little bit creepy, it’s not the eighteen hundreds anymore, unfortunately. It was just then that the yellow-haired mailman came up. He had a mustache this time. I was in a deep trance of thought when he walked up.
“Letter for Hans,” he said.
I was not looking at him, but at nothing, still thinking of the moment at the beach.
“Are you Mr. Hans?” He asked.
“Sure,” I said still looking forward.
“Okay.” He placed the letter on the table next to my mug of coffee.
Moments later I looked at the letter and realized what happened. I stood up quickly and waved the letter in the air, trying to yell after the mailman. It was too late— he had already gone. I sat back down to enjoy my coffee but in doing so it had spilled all over the envelope. I tried to wipe it off with some napkins and noticed it was half-open. I know it’s immoral to open other people’s mail. But then I opened it.
It has come to our attention that you will be trying to supply the town with the same drug we notoriously supply them with. We know that you are aware of our presence and our importance in this town. The following words should not be taken lightly.
Have you ever heard the story of the snot-nosed kid, Mr. Hans? Well, the snot-nosed kid was a curious and motivated kid. He went everywhere he was not supposed to go. He thought he could do whatever he wanted. Nobody wanted the snot-nosed kid around but he didn't care. He just kept meddling. Then one day, the whole town got together and burned him at a stake. You are the snot-nosed kid, Mr. Hans. If you think you can come into this town and run our drug off the market, you too, will be burned at the stake. It would be in the best interest of your well-being if you did not let that happen.
You have been warned,
I put it back in the envelope and took it to the post office.
“Why has this been opened?” They asked me.
“It was like that when I got it.” I answered.
Then they took it into a room in the back and I left. It worried me that I had read it. I didn't know who these people were, but they didn't seem like people to mess with. That night I sat by the fire and had tea and tried to relax.
The next morning I biked to the lighthouse. I had never been inside; it was always locked with a big chain around the door. At the bar I had heard stories upon stories of people making it inside and climbing to the top. I brought a flashlight because some said it was completely dark inside other than at the summit where the spotlight was. Others said it was haunted, filled with heroin junkies, an ex-psychiatric ward, alien nesting grounds, I think I’d heard every story that was possible about the place. Someone even once said it was a Chinese military ground. What would the Chinese be doing out here? Anyways, I got there, and it was locked again.
It was a several days after I saw the purplish-haired woman and a couple days after I read that strange letter when I was looking at a map. It was on my dining table with its corners draped over the sides. I had a magnified glass and was looking at where I could drive to. My uncle had left an old beat up car with a man named Stan in the port-town. I didn't know until I had gotten a letter that morning that he wrote me prior to his death. There was a mix up at the post office, as they had put it, where something had happened with one of their employees and they were very apologetic of getting the letter to me late. My uncle was clear in the letter that he wanted me to obtain this car and park it in front of the small house where he said it belonged. But before that, I thought I could make use of it, and venture somewhere while I had the time. There was a point about an hour north of the port-town and another hour North of that there was a cove. Inland of the cove was an old art museum in a town with many vineyards. This area was supposed to be well known for its beauty. The cove, also, I’d heard, had many distinct kinds of marine animals and plants.
So I walked the several miles into town and looked at the letter for reference on where to go for the car. “Wegner’s Auto Garage.” I walked in and a muscular and greasy man greeted me.
“Ah, Ritchie’s nephew.”
“How’d you know?” I asked him.
“He spoke a lot of you.”
“Right this way.”
I followed him and he gave me the keys to the car. It was covered.
“Listen, stop by sometime. We’ll have a drink and talk about Ritchie.”
“Sure,” I said.
He opened the garage and went back into his office. I uncovered the car and it was mustard yellow. On the side read “Fiat 500.” It looked like a very small cab. I drove it out of Wegner’s shop, through the town, and toward the main road.
The main road was a two-lane road. I took it an hour to the point and I had a coffee. Several people on the way ran in front of the car and stuck there finger in the air, as if to hail me like a taxi. I swerved around them giving them the finger. The point was just that, a hundred or so foot cliff on the edge of a peninsula. It was nice but less nice alone. I needed a companion. A woman companion. Where was my woman companion?
Another hour and I was at the cove. The road leading to it was closed. Everything was always closed. I parked and got to the cove by foot. No one was there, it was beautiful. I got to see hundreds of sea lions in their natural state. They didn't see me; I had snuck up on them. Many of them were asleep, bathing in the sun with their whiskers finally resting. Beauty, but umph, what a stench. It smelled of raw sewage and shit. I stood a while breathing in the magnificent sights, not literally, of course. I couldn't handle it for long. I went back to the car and drove to the art museum.
“Twenty dollars,” a young adult with a small head and thick-rimmed glasses said.”
He was in one of those glass windows with the metal circle to speak through.
“I’m a senior.” I said.
“You don't look like a senior.” He said shortly.
He was right; I was only twenty-two. With my beard and dry skin I looked thirty.
“I have that disease where you don’t age,” I replied.
He looked confused.
“Oh . . . okay, sorry.”
I took my stub and went inside.
For a while I was alone. I looked at a painting of a woman in blue, standing at a fountain. She had a blue umbrella and it was raining. She faced me and her eyes were looking directly out of the painting. There was a city behind her and people in suits with briefcases were walking left and right. In one corner there was a couple picnicking in some grass. The girl in the couple was the same girl who was subjected, the one with the umbrella. There was another couple sitting on a bench holding hands. That girl was her too. There were two more of her: one working at an ice cream stand and the other tossing a coin in the fountain. The men were different, though. The piece was titled “Vagina.” Next to it was a small table with three quarters and a pen on it. Titled: “Life.” The piece next to this was another painting. It appeared to be me standing and looking at the painting. I quickly turned around and nobody was there. When I looked back at the piece it was different. It was a peanut that had a face talking to a grape that had a face. They were at lunch and on their plates were small people. I needed to sit down. It was all too much. I also needed a drink. I found a seat on a small bench just beside the two paintings. A man in a spiffy vest came up to me with his chest puffed with air and his chin high. He walked with both elbows up and his hands in front of his chest. His pencil mustache that curled up at the ends glimmered under the museum lighting, just like his leather shoes.
“Sir!” He yelled.
I looked at him, surprised and angry because it startled me. I thought of bum-rushing him and right hooking him right in the jaw.
“That is a piece from the collection ‘Art You Wouldn't Think is Art’ by Lord Cecil Gregory Drake. I demand you get off that piece instantly!”
I leaned forward and peered down under the bench and a price and info tag was dangling, then swayed as I lifted my rear from it.
“Oh,” I said, “I thought it was a normal bench.”
I noticed past the museum employee was a bar. It looked neat, like an old bar from the nineteen thirties, small and quaint.
“Say,” I began, “can I get a drink?”
I motioned to the bar and passed the employee, still gawking at the bar’s elegant appearance.
“Sir!” He yelled again. “That is yet another piece from the collection ‘Art You Wouldn't Think is Art’ by Lord Cecil Gregory Drake.”
I rubbed the back of my neck and lifted my eyebrows. Guy must think awful highly of himself to be called “Lord.”
“Can I interest you in a full tour, Mister . . .?”
“Well that’s an odd name . . .”
I said nothing.
“I’m alright. Thanks, though.”
He nodded his head and was gone.
I examined the bar further. I saw a glimmer of a bottle. When I tried to snatch it, it wouldn't move. It was ceramic— an imposter. Lord Cecil had gotten me again.
I moved into another room where nothing was. There was a marbled floor of blackened white checkers, a high ceiling, and the sound of an organ playing from somewhere. Each window had linen curtains that went up to the ceiling and the room was lined in gold trim. On the right side, about halfway up the wall was a balcony. Nothing was on the balcony and it led somewhere but that somewhere was very dark.
As I stepped in, I noticed a huge set of marble doors on the other side; the door knobs were round. I walked toward them, each step echoed in the unclear and unsure room. I gripped the round knob, turned, then pushed and it took me to another strange room. Each wall was a color, including the floor and ceiling. Colored lights shined onto each. There was green, orange, purple, red, blue, and cyan. Sculptures of various shapes and sizes lined the outsides of the room— all facing inwards. The organ music was louder, very loud, and I realized there was a woman sitting at an organ hammering her fingers to the keys. I took a few steps toward the center of the room and it ceased. She straightened but didn't turn.
“Hello.” She said calmly.
“Sounded nice.” I said.
“Nice? That was Nikolai Mentura’s ‘Fleeting Hearts and Racing Windows.’ ”
She turned and rose. She wore a shining black dress and all of her dark hair was swooped to one side and held by a black pin. Her black lipstick and eyeliner emphasized her fair complexion as she walked toward me.
“Want to play a game?” She asked.
“What kind of game?”
“I go hide and you try and find me.”
“Hide and seek?”
“No, I go hide and you come find me.”
“Hide and seek.”
“The fire of the ice.”
“Okay so I am going to go hide— this museum is big, so good luck. I could be anywhere.”
She went through another set of doors and was gone. I fiddled with the organ and looked inside its interior while I let her hide. I didn't know if she was serious, but I was feeling adventurous.
After a few minutes I went through the doors and walked around. I was in a long hallway with doors on either side and in between the doors were displays of marbled heads and knights in armor. It was dim, and one light flickered. There was a scuffle in the first door on the right so I went in. What I found was an old man in a wheelchair who was trying to put clothes on. He was bare naked and his white goose skin dangled above his feet. His penis looked like an acorn— a white acorn. I immediately shut the door. Further down the hall was a door that was a different color than the rest— red. I tried and it was locked. I went into the one across the hall and a middle-aged man sat sipping tea at a long and furnished wooden table. A white table cloth ran along its top. Alongside his tea he had a plate of linguine, and a napkin was tucked into the collar of his shirt under a light beard that was a different color than his hair. The man looked up at me and gestured toward the seat opposite the long table.
I pulled out the chair and there was a stuffed bear, almost life size. Its head drooped.
“You can move Bear.” He said.
I placed the bear gently onto the ground and sat down.
“Put him in a chair. His favorite chair.”
I looked around and the room was full of chairs: big, small, tall, blue, skinny, silver, jagged. I got back up and picked up the bear. Then I looked at him for some sort of guidance. He gave none.
“His favorite chair.”
I put him in the silver chair and looked at the man. He shook his head, huffing and puffing. I tried the rusty chair. He gasped and shook his head again. I looked at the red chair and then back at the man, who lifted his chin and opened his eyes wide. I knew it was the one. I began to sit down as I said:
“Never have been a fan of red, myself.”
“You are missing out then. It’s the color of love, wine, and blood; all things that make us different from the stones that sit in the roads and the plants that pucker to the sun and sway in the wind. These are the things that really make us living.”
He lifted a tea kettle into the air.
“Sure.” I answered.
He poured some into a small white ceramic cup with a gold handle that sat on a small plate then got up and walked it over to me. I took a sip and burned my tongue.
“It bites,” he said as he walked back to his chair.
“What is it you do here?” I asked him.
He swirled a mass of linguine around his fork and lifted it above his plate then said,
“I own the place.” He threw the linguine into the back of his throat.
“The whole museum?”
“The East Wing, the Center Hall, the West Wing, and the many acres surrounding the building, but not the translucent garden; yes, the whole museum, you could say?”
Then he took a mouthful of linguine and the sauce dripped down his chin. I took more and more sips of tea while we talked. I can’t remember what we conversed about after that but I remember seeing something strange. A while into our talk I noticed someone had been walking around the room, opening windows and lighting candles. The figure would brush by my shoulder and go to the door, stop, take a deep breath, and then turn around and fiddle around in the room some more. I never looked at the person directly but they came in and out of my peripheral vision. Finally a loud noise made me look at them; they must have dropped something, a plate. They dropped a plate. I turned and saw the bear, bending over and picking up several fruits.
“Apologies, sir,” it said.
I turned back to the man, my jaw hung down.
“Now, don’t fret child, what you see is simply the absinthe toying with your perception. Fun, isn't it?”
He took another fork full of linguine and stuffed it into his mouth then grinned. I wanted to take his fork and pierce him in the neck. I looked down at my tea and the cup was empty. I had drunk all of it, every last drop. The candles in the middle portion of the table flicked on without hesitation, and the table cloth hardened like clay. The man across from me wasn't a man anymore; he was fluid with the atmosphere. His head melted with the air and the room instantaneously filled with colors; I saw him drift away, becoming smaller and smaller until he disappeared. It didn’t phase me as though it would have if were sober. Something yearned in me to disappear into the colors too but I could feel myself whole, a fabric of the tangible dimension. I stretched my hands toward his dissipation, but nothing happened. Then the room began to do backflips— one minute the floor would be the ceiling and then the ceiling the floor. On one turn around the ceiling was invisible and I could see the blue sky peeking into my junky mind. This was all before I passed out.
I woke up choking. Water had hit me in the face and gone into my nostrils where it travelled down my throat. On bended knee the man handed me his dirty napkin.
“Wipe yourself off, you dirty drug-addict.” He said.
I passed out again, and the last thing I saw was the bottom of his shoe as he stepped over me.
The second time I woke up he wasn't around. I left the room and glanced at a clock in the hallway and was surprised to see not much time had passed. It was still the afternoon. I tried the door at the end of the hallway, expecting it to be an exit, or a staircase or something, but what I found was both alarming and exciting. The woman who had been playing the organ was lying bare naked on a bed. She was on her side facing me, stroking her leg with a finger and smiling. The room was pure black and white: the floor was white and there was a giant black rug that led up to a black bed with white sheets and white pillows. Under all that swooped hair she smiled at me and with black-painted lips she said,
“Oops, you found me . . . Now make a kitty purr.”
Then she gestured me toward the bed with her pointer-finger. It curled toward her chin and led me in. She was looking right into my eyes and it all became very intimate; it was not clear to me I was about to be seduced; I was in a trance. I began to slowly advance the bed in a trance when the door behind me burst open.
“What’s going on in here?!”
It was the man who had drugged me. His face immediately reddened and he began fiddling his hands while looking down at the floor, ashamed.
“Ah, darling,” he said, still looking down, “I told you not to force our visitors to play hide and seek.” Then he looked at me, “You’ll have to forgive me, sir, she is mentally unstable and likes to play all of these weird games during the day.”
Where was I? What kind of museum was this? Who were these people?
“Put something on!” He shouted at her. Then she began crying and ran out of the room.
What is wrong with these people? I thought.
“That’s okay. I was just leaving anyways.”
I started walking in the direction I came and he followed.
“Listen, if you ever want to stay here a few nights, no charge, you’re more than welcome. Our door is always open.”
“I might take you up on that.”
“It’s just that, we don’t get many visitors and she gets lonely, and I haven't been sexually active for so long.”
“Like I said, that’s okay. Don’t worry. I just need to leave. Now.”
I quickened my pace. When I got to the door I waved goodbye, hopped in the Fiat and started home. It had been quite the adventure.
The next few days were uneventful. I cleaned the house, watched the ocean, and cooked dinners. The backyard of the house had a small chicken coop with a few sheep, one cow, and three turkeys. Sometimes they woke me up at dawn, other times they must have been as hungover as I was. These chickens laid the most soft of eggs that seemed to melt in your mouth. Every now and then one was sacrificed for its muscle. There were a few small rice plants that were harvestable when they glowed yellow and began to droop. I was not a good cook, but I respected its art, for who didn't love to eat? Chicken and rice soup was one of my specialties. Under my flame it tasted like shit but I had gotten so used it that I learned to enjoy it.
One night after a not-so-steady amount of drinking I was walking to the beach to look at the moon. I had started at Bubbly Tavern and somehow ended up at another pub I didn't know. Someone bought me a drink there, and I tried my best to be coherent but the conversation just didn't work out. The next thing I knew I was walking through the park coming up on the fountain; I was sobering up at this point. The park was very small: there were four white arbors that served as entrances to its symmetrical arrangement. Each arbor gave way to a dirt path, lined by colorful and aromatic flowers hidden among bushes. In the center was the fountain, and like any park, it was littered with trees and grass. No one was out tonight, or they had seen me coming and carefully scurried away. But I walked through the park and exited back on the road. I was walking along and noticed that in one wooden house at the top window, that window just underneath the peak of the roof, there was a bright yellow light on. A silhouette stood there at its side. I looked away when moments later a voice called to me. It was the silhouette. I looked up and the light blinded me; I could barely see it.
“What are you doing?” It asked.
It had a nice melody to it, as if it were singing instead of talking. Perfect pitch.
“Walking down to the ocean,” I answered. “I wanted to look at the moon.” My hand was blocking my eyes from being pierced by the light.
The voice giggled.
“Do you know the time?” It asked.
“No, it’s probably around eleven o’clock though?”
It giggled again.
“Hang on! I’m coming down.” The silhouette shut the window, seemed to undress, redress, then run out of the room. I looked toward the front door and a magnificent creature emerged into the night. She was wearing a white dress harboring blue flowers, and small brown shoes. I looked up at her face and it was the girl I’d seen the day at the beach— which seemed like years ago— but in reality was no more than four days ago. She laughed. The same feeling of ecstasy melted my internal body like the time it had that day on the sand. I could feel my body fall into itself where I lay a pool of skin and blood and eyes. It nearly sobered me up.
“Are you okay?” She asked.
“Yes . . . I was just . . . Thinking.” I replied. I had nothing to say; it was always that way. Before or after an encounter with a girl like her I always had something intelligent or charming to say, but when I looked them in the face my body became still and my conversation numb. That was why I liked to drink with women. It greased the gears and provided coal to my engines. Luckily, she saved my dismissiveness with a cheerful proposition:
“Well, let’s go look at the moon!” She said cheerfully.
I liked how she was comfortable to approach me the way she had. And she was shameless in talking and accompanying me to the beach.
We walked on in a nice kind of silence. She was the kind of girl you felt like you had already known for years— easy and amiable. When we arrived at the ocean she pulled out a blanket she had hidden under her shirt for warmth. She fanned it up and down until it fell naturally on the sand, then she took my hand and pulled me to sit. I sat and took glances at her when she wasn't looking. She pulled a blue candle out from her pocket, and put it in front of us. A few matches were sacrificed until one finally popped under the safety of her hand, then ultimately gave its life to the wick of the candle. I pulled a bottle of wine from my coat pocket, one I had stolen from the unknown bar as I was leaving. I told myself I’d pay them back if I ever were to return, in one of my many future drunken visits. I never did. The cork was already a little bit protruded so I bit down hard and twisted. Wine flowed into my mouth and down my esophagus where it warmed my belly. I lifted the bottle to her and she took it in both hands and hit it like a champ— a big gulp followed by a smile.
“I just moved here.” She spoke.
“Where did you come from?” I asked.
“Wintermare. A town just south of the capitol.”
“I know Wintermare. I have run a few deliveries out there.”
It was true. When I worked for the government they had me riding all around the State, dropping off items and packages. It wasn't all bad. Just then she did something peculiar, she placed her hands flat on the ground and lifted herself closer to me. I could feel the warmth of her body in my core, and smell the wine from her glass. It was all very euphoric. I looked at her and she giggled then placed her small hand in front of her face and shyly looked down. I’d yet to see her in a bashful state and, it was quite surprising. She seemed to me a confident girl, while full of life also a bit young; obviously emanating with sheer and unimaginable beauty. I always felt a man needed no more than a woman, a bottle, and a good place to be— somewhere scenic that made the weight on your heart even heavier. It was all about weighing your heart down with things, until you died a heavy corpse.
Just then we heard a yelling from down the beach. From the darkness submerged a small and plump man, balding above round spectacles. He was waving a note in his hand.
“Madame Pomme! Madame Pomme!” He yelled.
I looked at her, and she didn't look the slightest bit worried by his entrance.
“Yes, Hector?” She asked.
“Your mother wishes to speak with you at once. She has said that she does not condone your little bon voyage and you are needed at home, where she can speak with you.”
She got up and nodded my way, but before getting too far she turned back and ran at me, she hugged me and said goodbye. Watching her attractive actions and the way she moved through the atmosphere like a thick paintbrush on a canvas I was mesmerized; I simply sat and enjoyed the view. She turned as she was leaving.
“Aren’t you going to say goodbye?”
“Oh . . . Yes. Goodbye!” I smiled.
She laughed. I looked back over the water with the wine bottle still in my arms. Her blue candle had burned itself into obscurity; a pool of blue lay at the base of the blanket. I finished the wine, folded her blanket and took the candle. On my walk home I stopped by her house and left her blanket on the front doorstep.
It was a sleepless night again. As soon as I thought I was about to drift into a nice dream, I’d toss and turn with that girl on my mind. It was agony. Not only could I not fall asleep because of her, if I got halfway there, into that partly-dreaming bliss I would see her face, and it would start all over again. I got up and smoked some hemp, then eventually woke up the next morning in a daze.
Over the next few days I wrote a lot. Everywhere I walked I was smiling glazed in a mentality that I had conquered my own life; all that needed to be done was done. The previous events that transpired had set the stage for a grand finale in which I would close the curtains confidently myself. I lived in a state of both peace and anxiety to see her again. I walked into town and had to try not looking around desperately like a dog seeking a bone. A dark haired woman appeared from in between two wooden cabins and turned quickly, walking several yards ahead— I was in her wake. I stretched my neck right, then left, and tipped myself from toe to toe trying to make out the face of this woman. Could it be her? The hair was similar: long, straight, and dark with a hint of cherry. She turned slightly. It wasn't her, the nose was different. I was a hound for love. I stopped at Olga’s. As I walked up for a coffee I realized my heart was already sputtering and my toes tapping, if I had a coffee I might just die. So I got an herbal tea and sat in my chair, under the vines. I watched the people pass as they do. Nothing was happening, at least in my mind because I only wanted to see one person. Suddenly something fell from high above. It hit the tough pavement with a loud thud, which was followed by many screams. People began to run away and some even dropped everything they were carrying. It took me a couple seconds to realize something was off. Something clicked in my head and I noticed the town had lost its tranquility; the daily regiment of the town had come to a halt. I stood up and looked over the railing that contained rows of red and orange roses to find a man. He lay in a pool of blood and his body was mangled, twisted the way a body is not meant to go. He was in a nice suit. A coin bag poked from his pocket. A ragged man ran up, picked it like an apple, and was gone as quick as he’d come. I ran up to the body and turned it upside where a note came out of his hand. I pulled the note and read it:
Your time has come, Mr. Laugholin. Think of yourself as the chess piece that one uses off the start of the game: a pawn. Yes, a pawn. Because that is all you are. Now look behind you.
I looked up to the roof of Olga’s home but only saw the glare of the sun. I fished around in the man’s pockets and found a lure, one token, and another little note that was torn but the end was still legible. It was signed by who other than Mr. Hans— the man who’s letter I had read at Olga’s shoppe the other day. As the authorities approached me they cornered me into the wall of the shoppe and began their interrogation. After many attempts at speaking slowly with wit it was finally clear to them that I had nothing to do with the murder (or suicide) that had occurred. They let me go but I did not show to them the notes I had in my pocket. I never thought the port-town police did a respectful job. Several times I’d seen them beat the homeless, rob the poor, and walk into any building as if it were their own. I was lucky to get away from them that day.
I turned and went into Olga’s. Both incidences had happened near her shoppe: the letter for Hans and this murder (or suicide). I think suicide had been ruled out because of the suspicious note. She hugged me as I tried to speak and my words were pushed out faster:
“Olga, have you ever known a man by the name of Mr. Hans?”
“Oh, yes. A good customer— spends many shanks every time he comes in.”
“What’s he like?”
While I was asking her all of this, I suddenly realized— what am I doing? I’m going to get myself killed. She continued to answer my questions.
“Wealthy. Doesn't talk much. Comes in, gets his coffee, and leaves. Actually, come to think of it, he looks a lot like you. Same face, and hair.”
“What about a ‘Miss H?’ Ever meet a woman who goes by ‘Miss H?’ ”
“No, don't think so.”
“Okay, thanks, Olga.”
She smiled and there was food in her teeth. I left and tried to forget about the whole thing.
I decided to stake out the shoppe and wait for Hans to get thirsty. I looked for the man who looked like me. But first, I had to let things settle. If Hans was wrapped up in all of this then he wouldn't be so dumb as to show up right after this murder. So a few days went by and I was back at the shoppe, waiting. Where is the man who looks like me? The bastard wrapped up in all of this. I though about the courier who had given me his note by accident. I began to think of the girl with the candle: Madame Pomme. I wondered what her first name was— I bet it was beautiful. As I started to doze I saw some feet scurry by. Nice leather shoes. I looked up and a man with a suit and briefcase entered into Olga’s. He had a striking resemblance to me, almost identical if I had gotten a clean haircut. He too had short red hair and a red beard, only, his mustache was red; mine was white. He then exited the shoppe and I tailed him. He headed toward the harbor where trafficking ships and boats weaseled in and out of town. We turned a corner and I heard a “hello” from somewhere. As soon as I had, I knew who it was. My tailing was over. I looked over and there was Madame Pomme, as brilliant as ever, wearing a dirty red dress. I looked back at Hans and he was still heading to the harbor but he looked back and we made eye contact.
“Madame Pomme. How are you?”
She ignored my question and went straight into an explanation.
“I was walking to send something off at the post office when I noticed a crowd stirring at the beach. There were cameras and shouting. I went over and there was this huge hunk of flesh— a beached whale— it was just sitting motionless on the beach. I got furious that everyone was just standing there so I went over and tried to wrestle it back into the water. It wouldn't budge! Then I got angry at it and kicked it. As soon as my foot hit that blubber it ricocheted back and I left. People began laughing. So now I’m going to the launder to get a change of clothes. Want to join?”
“Sure.” I said and gave one last glance toward Hans who was now long gone. I didn't care though, Madame Pomme was all I wanted. She looked good in that dirty red dress, she looked good. We started walking and she began talking.
“You know, I’ve been thinking about you.”
“I’ve been thinking of you, too.”
“How come you never came by my house after that night on the shore?”
“I don’t know— didn't know if it was appropriate.”
“Do you always think so much?”
“I think so.”
“This way.” She said.
We went into a small store.
“This is my launder, Jerome. Jerome, this is . . .”
The launder gave me a petty look and shrugged me away.
“Madame Pomme, I have your linens.”
We left the snide little launder’s shop and I followed her to her house.
“Come in.” She said. “I’ll show you my room!”
Inside the house there was an elderly woman in a rocking chair. She rocked back and forth and her face was vacant.
“This is my mother’s friend.”
“Don’t bother, she doesn't know what is happening. She's a vegetable.”
The downstairs was small and crammed but had a warm coziness to it. We went up the stairs and into her room. It too was small and smelled nice. A typewriter sat by the window and her bed was messy and undone. She went into her closet and tried shutting the door but it never fully shut. It slowly swung back open, but only a little. She began undressing and changing into cleaner clothes. I glanced in the closet and saw her leg; never have I ever been so enchanted and charmed by something as simple as a leg. I don’t know if I am crazy— I think I am— but I couldn't look away. She looked at me and began laughing, then she began telling me a story but it was hard to focus on her words. It was about how her grandfather was in the military and travelled from town to town many years of his life. He kept falling in love in different places until one particular love made him abandon the military. He had told her he couldn't be away from her for a single day, so he left his barracks one night, changed his name, and altered his appearance. It didn't work; he was arrested and sent to prison, but when he got out the woman still waited for him all those years. That woman was her grandmother. She went on to tell me they were still alive and she sees them sometimes. She then said something that surprised me.
“Do you think you and I could have a story like that?”
“I . . . I hadn't thought about it.” I replied.
She walked over and fell onto me. Her whole body was in my lap and she laid looking up at me through some of her hair. We looked into each other’s eyes for moments and then kissed. I got excited, obviously, and then she pulled away. She lifted herself up, or maybe it was I that did . . . smiling, and explained that she had a dinner to get to. “A matter of business,” as she put it, and when I was leaving she said,
“Stop by again soon, please.”
I nodded and walked to the door.
“You seem shy and I don’t want you to be shy.” I caught her saying as I closed the door.
I walked down the stairs and out the front door with a large grin on my face. I felt like running all the way home without stopping, so I did. I was sweating profusely through my shirt as I got home. I poured some wine and took a bath. I tried to read but could only write. Everything that came out was happy and it was weird. Usually my writing was dark and sad, this stuff was joyous. I had three published poems that I never let anyone know about because if they read them they’d want to admit me to a psychiatric ward; they seemed like things a man about to commit suicide might say. But isn't that what makes good writing? The emotion? I thought so, for the most part. I was never into the story as much as what the writing was expressing. My favorite writers were all crazy. They were alcoholics, sex-addicts, didn't waste time with small talk; people who never settled and had to keep moving on from thing to thing and place to place. That was the thing about writing: all you had to do to make your writing a little bit better was live life experimentally. In a way, say yes to everything, for you could die tomorrow. Take as many experiences as you can to your grave. Wrap yourself in them, and then be lowered into your new abyssal home. And most important: never give up. Moving on is very important, but do not give up.
Anyways, there I was in a state of immense happiness. I thought my future looked very promising. I had a romantic interest, in this rare case that went both ways. All I needed to keep living on was to see her more and more.
The next day I woke up and shaved my face. A massive amount of hair clogged the sink. I had to work a few hours on it. I looked at my hairless face for some time in the mirror. I hadn't shaved in nearly five years! What a change.
Then I left the house. I found a very small-sized wooden boat. It was in bad shape but I climbed in anyways. My weight pushed the boat more into the water which began taking me out into the ocean. I grabbed the paddles and did some backstrokes while looking at my Uncle’s house. Even though he had given it to me in his will, it’d always remain his; I had never thought it to be my own. I looked left down the coast and the search light from the lighthouse was circling. I dipped the right paddle in and the boat veered right, pointing toward town.
Halfway there I saw a bait ball of fish and birds: the feast and the feasted. A small fishing vessel slowly approached and took advantage. A man in a white hat waved at me. I kept paddling. There was a slight salty tailwind that aided me; I barely had to row. The town looked much bigger than it really was from the sea. The tourists coming in on boats must have gotten overwhelmed at first sight, then disappointed by the illusion of grandeur. Two jetties poked out from the town and that’s where boats and ships went in between to make it into the harbor. The tailwind was so strong that I accidentally overshot these jetties. I was landed on the shore to their North, where a small and isolated house sat wallowing. At first I thought it was an abandoned house, with it’s boarded windows and crooked terrace, then I saw myself come out the front door, myself with a beard again? It was Hans! He came out with a man who's face was covered in shadows. His hat was pulled down far and his coat was pulled high. They walked off the patio and turned toward town with their backs toward me. I was just far enough that they didn't notice me. I could only hear bits and pieces of their conversation, something about a daughter they were seeking. I went to the front door and quietly opened it. Nobody was there. The inside was a little bit more tidy than the outside, it looked like it had been worked on a bit, but overall it was still pretty shanty. I was creeping around not seeing much of interest when I got to a locked door. I was about to kick it down when I saw a key sitting on top of the door pane. I snatched the key and opened the door quickly, my adrenaline had mixed with my curiosity and made an interesting cocktail of impatient wonders. There were all of these boxes of cocaine and some weapons sitting about, with one dirty mattress that lay in the corner. I heard voices coming inside the house and quickly left the room and went back toward the front door then dropped myself behind the couch. It was the same two voices as before: Hans and shadow-face.
“Look, if Miss Harriot tries anything, we take advantage of her family ties. If she doesn't care about family, we’ll go after her directly.”
It struck me, “Miss Harriot;” I remembered the “H” at the bottom of those letters, like the one addressed to the man I found mangled from gravity on the floor outside Olga’s Bakery. They moved toward the cocaine-room. I leapt up and ran out of the house and toward town.
Arriving into town I was frantic. The adrenaline had induced some sort of quivering in my spine, and I could not walk right. I don't even know where I was headed when Madame Pomme approached me with a gay look. Just then all my worries were vanquished; I forgot all about Miss Harriot and the cocaine and the dead body and the two men.
“Much sweat is on your brow. What’s the matter?”
“Nothing’s the matter, anymore . . .” I replied.
“Come with me,” she said, “I want to show you something.”
I followed her again to her house where we went into her room. The typewriter was still there by the window.
“This is a poem I wrote about you when I first saw you.” She said.
I took the paper from her hand.
“I wrote it there,” she pointed at the typer, “you were walking by and I could see you through the window. We hadn't yet talked. I liked your style and your appearance. Then I saw you at the beach and you saw me.”
I could feel heat flushing into my face and lead was placed onto my chest as I read it:
there was a man who walked outside my door today
he walked in brown shoes
and his pace was quick
yet I somehow knew he was going nowhere
I saw him
but he didn't see me
his face appealed to me
as did his demeanor and cloth
I picture one day we’ll talk in this very room
and I will show him this poem
he’ll read it and maybe think it is lame
or maybe he will like it
maybe we won’t even ever meet
“Amazing.” I said, throwing my arms around her and kissing her.
“But you didn't think it was lame?”
“No— no. It’s great.”
After that our passion was an uncontrollable tornado to her fancy and well-made bed. It was calm and vicious, lovely and wild. She was wild. She was love. We both slept well into the morning, where I had to leave so she could be of aid to her grandmother’s friend, the vegetable.
I went through the next weeks with a coat of sweetness on my skin. I wore love on my sleeve. I was untouchable; nothing could harm me. I was the happiest I’d ever been in my life. I went to the lighthouse with a saw. I sawed through the chains on the door and went in. What I saw was magnificent. I saw an ordinary lighthouse, as clean as a whistle. I took the stairs up and grew anxious to take Pomme there for a date. Wine and Pomme! Nothing more was needed! Wine, Pomme, a view! Oh, she is going to love this, I thought.
After the lighthouse, nothing truly interesting transpired during this happy time, and by the end of the second week I grew mentally and physically sick at having withdrawals from the simple sight of Pomme. I ventured a countless amount of times in these weeks to her home. She was never in. I was vomiting sleeplessly, I couldn't eat, I could not think correctly. I was feverish and thought of submitting myself to the Port’s one and only insanity ward. I heard a creak in the patio of the house and my eyes darted to the front door. Pomme? I said aloud. Is that you? I became doused in fear and angst that maybe I hadn't seen her in town or on my beach because she didn't want our romance to emanate and grow into a blossoming flower in the full swing of Spring, like I did. I began analyzing every moment I had with her. Every word that was shared, every mannerism she portrayed, and every single breath she took. Where had it gone wrong? What did I do? Was there a moment in which she changed? Her attitude, her tone, herself? I could think of none. Only one thing was certain: I was losing my mind and I desperately needed to find her to find it.
Then one Saturday I had a feeling. I woke differently. I put on a coat and ran out the door. I walked into town on the beach and made it to the bakery. From the bakery I went to Pomme’s house and knocked on the door. No answer. I peeked in the window in an agitated frenzy. I went back to the bakery and sat. What felt like an eternity went by when I saw someone I recognized. An expressionless woman turned a corner, heading in my direction. She strode quickly with fingers wrapped around her wheels-for-legs and her hands shooting forward; with each thrust she went a whopping ten feet. It was Pomme’s vegetable . . . grandmother’s friend. I leapt from my chair in excitement. Yes! Lead me to my love, vegetable! My mouth became watery, I could taste the luck that had just fallen into my lap. I felt like vomiting with joy. A copper taste flushed my taste buds and I swallowed. I threw a hand in the air, thanking the Gods above. The vegetable seemed to be in a frantic hurry. She drooled from her mouth all the while winning whatever imaginary race in which she was competing. I followed her up and down roads, past the snobby little launder’s store and the park and the main church. She went up a ramp and into the police station where I left her alone. I waited for minutes tapping my toes on the pavement and looking around worriedly when she came out with a policeman. The policeman and her took off at a gallop down the road. They led me to Pomme’s house where I heard the police officer yell. I ran inside. I went up to her room and saw her. She lie on the floor in a pool of blood. A small knife handle was in the center of the red mass. Her white dress was dark red and pink. Her wine-colored hair was red and wet, and her eyes looked fake. They looked sad, like they were expecting someone to burst in and save her before she die alone in a puddle of her own blood. Her mouth was open and her lips were dry and cracked. I could smell her scent and feel her breath. I could sense her spirit was in the room, it tugged at my sleeve and asked me where I was. It tortured me with questioned me on why I hadn't stopped in sooner. It cried out to me and embraced my whole body with an abrupt squeeze. I fell to the floor and knelt in the blood. I hugged the lifeless corpse and screamed that I was sorry and that I loved her. I wept like a baby. I cursed and I shouted to the Heavens and I rocked her body back and forth, trying to convince myself she was only sleeping. She was only sleeping! She was dreaming of me. We were on a cruise, just the two of us and we were laughing and smiling and talking of how we would grow old together. I would retire and no longer have to be away and we could spend every second together. We looked out at the water from our cruise and reminisced of how we had met in a shanty port-town. We told all the staff of the cruise, we bragged to them at how we fell in love at first sight. How she’d written a poem of me, and I had of her, without knowing it we had written of each other. I loved her poem. I loved it with every cell of my heart. I looked up near the window and there the poem was, sitting aside the typewriter. I took it off the shelf and went back to Pomme. I took her cold hand and pressed it on the page, the blood had made an outline of that sweet, small hand. I hugged her and the poem. Then I was kicked out of the room and the house by the policeman. I gazed up at her window as I left, there she was. She was sitting at the typer looking out the window. She was letting her fingers do the thinking and she was looking across the street smiling. I looked across the street. I saw myself walking quickly, going nowhere with my brown shoes. I began to cry heavily and I looked at her. She looked like a rose, she looked like an apple, she looked like all of my future and all of my past, she looked like my love. Blood began oozing from her mouth and she became sad. I ran home again, this time out of anger and confusion.
I left on the first cruise out the next morning. I hadn't slept. My mind was racing. I took out the poem from my bag. The red hand-print made me cry. I didn't read it just yet. I put it away and wept for a while.
Upon returning to my parent’s house my mother and I embraced for a long time. I told her of what had happened. I told her to sell the Estate; I’d never return. I noticed my father out in the backyard looking around at the garden. I went out. He was speaking to an orange tree. Then he looked at a carrot patch.
“Yes, yes.” He said to the carrot patch, not noticing me. “I feel the same way, but the color purple is much too enticing.” He then looked back at the orange tree and said,
“Sure, I will tell them for you. Anything for you.”
I cleared my throat and he turned and looked into my eyes.
“Ah, Nicholas, just place the bags in our room while we check-in.”
I hugged him; it was all too much for my weak mind to process.
I went into my room upstairs and pulled out the poem again. It wasn't the poem. It was something else.
Pomme, my sweet little Pomme. I know we haven’t talked in ages, and that is probably my fault, but you must listen to me. Mommy has messed up. She has messed up real bad. Some people are looking for her. And these people know of mommy’s daughter. They will come for you, there is no doubt. But they will not find you. You will be gone. You must pack your things and head for the West Cape. I will come to you at once when this is all over. I will come get you and hug you and keep you safe for the rest of your life. You’ll always be my little girl.
I crumbled up the paper and threw it at the wall. Then I went and grabbed it again. There was a red hair stuck to it. It was the hair of a beard, I could tell. I touched my hairless chin. Hans. My fists clenched and my teeth gritted. A terrible thought occurred to me: could Pomme distinguish Hans from me? Had she thought it was me with the knife? My anger was then consumed by sadness. I wanted to commit suicide but I was too weak. I’d never have the answer.
I went back to the port town a week later and searched endlessly for Hans. I was going to kill him. I had a knife similar to the one I saw in Pomme’s chest. I never saw him. I sat at the coffee shop every day for a month. Nothing. I went back two years after that. Again, nothing. Eventually, my vengeful feelings were vaporized; I no longer needed to kill Hans to feel better, I learned I would never feel better. I would wait out my life in a bitter excitement to die and see Pomme in Heaven, if there is one.
I still have her blue candle, the one she lit the first night we formally met; a relic upon which I bestow my most childish and true feelings of what I can only imagine is love. It sits on my most endeared shelf, withered and worn from years of neglect; having not been touched, but stared at until the tear shed from my eye slowly unravels itself into my once again untrimmed beard. And I don’t know if I have or ever will own anything as confusingly capricious; in terms of emotional display— for nothing else that’s tangible can make me quiver with thoughts I don’t nearly understand, other than that burned-out candle that was left with me on the night I fell in love.