(Rings on her fingers and bells on
"Dialogues With The Devil"
By Poor Richard's Son-2002
When you argue with the Mother of All Lies, knowing the truth helps a lot. Why, because if you don't, everything else sounds dangerously plausible.
He remembered thinking that very thought just as he recalled how queasy it made him. He was sick to his stomach at the idea that he'd just proposed marriage. And it was to a woman who would become the antithesis to any hopes he possessed for a happy life. Still, there remained those beady eyes that always stared at you in a fleeting manner not unlike how jackals approach some run-off pride of lions' kill. She never seemed to focus clearly or maintain enough sincere eye contact to dispel the sneaking suspicion she created in you that some partygoer you'd invited to your pool had just sneaked in a stinking crap near the deep end diving board. Yet, beneath the evil veneer, there always seemed to be the admirable essence of a brazen scalawag, who remained fearless in the face of any incriminating charge he might accuse her of.
"So, why in the hell did you lie to me?"
"To protect you from going off half cocked and going to jail. You know how your temper is"
Her voice trailed off, withering away like rising smoke from a fading fire. It was as if some one had accidentally turned down the soundtrack from an Arnold Swartznegger kill them all flick. Always, it seemed as if she wasn't quite sure whether or not he'd buy her ploy. Nonetheless, she would come up with a good retort that a sucker like him wanted to hear. And as always, he did.
He recalled when the sun arose on that bright and cold wintry morning last December. The sensation of icy winds blowing under the door scraped at his toes as they slammed onto the tawdry motel room floor. The stench of last weeks pizza still filled the darkened room. As though the smothering aura of a desperate man's bum's luck descended like a cloud of fog. He felt a choking feeling as he a carefully fired a well-aimed gym-shoe at the beckoning alarm clock. It was half past eleven and time for work. If he fully intended to pay another weeks rent at that poor man's excuse for a decent place to live he had better go, he mused.
He felt he was trapped just as surely as the sun rises in the east. As if he were some surly-assed grizzly bear with his bloody paw stuck within the jagged blood drenched jaws of a northwest trapper's bear-trap, he moaned piteously his un-witnessed laments. Tossing and turning in the broken bed, no relief came from his torment. Another bad night's sleep had passed.
The nightmares relentlessly hounded him once more. For the last three nights there would be no relief form the guilt, shame and the certain knowledge his days were numbered.
There's no rest for the damned; no peace for the condemned. Disaster's only a breath away and I can smell it.
And he knew this as he scrambled sluggishly out of bed. Quietly, he looked at his woman lying seductively next to him. She was curled up like a small kitten, entranced with the selfish joy of its own existence.
Things had not been going that entirely well for the two of them since he hurriedly moved in with her several weeks ago, out of that flea-infested motel. Like a man who overstayed his welcome, the party seemed to be over and he had nowhere else to go. The calendar on the wall above the fake brass bed-railings bore witness to how long it had been since his last time out in the sunlight. He was a prisoner, self-sentenced to house arrest of unknown length. Not even he could figure out when he might again venture out into the world and try once more his hand at being responsible.
Months before, he bristled with anticipation at the prospect of spending time getting acquainted with what sounded like a decent women. He was ending his long social drought. At least so it seemed at the time.
With the eastern Ohio sun glaring thru his window, she continued to tell he of her life, her past loves and all that she hoped for in the future. Her voice was raspy in
a sultry way. She spoke of how hard it was to find a decent dating companion who shared her love for film, quiet evenings at home and good conversation.
He agreed with her and spoke of his many failed attempts meeting new and compatible partners. He spoke of the blind dates from hell I'd so often managed to find himself a party to. As tales of the acid-tongued, male-bashing women who seemed to take great delight in displaying their skills at verbally abusing any man unlucky enough to be nearby flowed forth from his memories, She seemed eager to agree and offer like stories of her own disappointments. It appeared that he'd finally been fortunate in having found a compatible other. That was how they met.
Now, he felt himself reaching for her with a desperation he had never known. His hands shook and his head ached but still his eyes could not tear themselves away from her. She turned and threw his mail into his face without a word. Her lips pursed and her eyes gleamed.
"What was that for," he shouted. "You aint' got no reason for treating me that way."
"If you don't like, then leave asshole."
"And go where? I gave up everything I had to be with you. All my bridges have been burned to a crisp and ya' know it. I thought you loved me; why can't you just treat me that way?"
"You get treated just the way you deserve," she sneered. "What makes you think you should get anything better. If your ass hadn't decided to play cat-daddy to that two-bit skeezer and her crumb-snatching brood, ya' might've been gettin' a better cup of tea here. Instead, your gonna get yourself killed just bein' stuck on stupid"
"So, now your telling me that bringing her home from the station to live with us wasn't your idea too? You kept pushing me away; kept on harping and complaining anytime I wanted to get some lovin' from you. What the hell did you expect?"
"You damned fool. I expected more than you'll ever know and I'm gonna' get it."
He watched as she kept fondling the plain white envelope within her hands. It was stamped but had no address on it.
"What's in that letter? My insurance papers or something?"
Slowly, with a dryness exceeded only in the wasteland of desolate deserts, she smirked. Picking up the TV remote lying between her long black legs on the tattered bedspread, she changed channels and chuckled under her breath.
Naked, the two of them lie together in bed, separated by a pile of blankets and comforters that she had placed between them like the Great Wall of China. The light of day filterd through the bed sheets covering the windows in place of drapes. He reached his knee over towards her thigh in an effort to both feel her naked flesh and to signal her he was ready. Responding, she turned away while using her hand to push his leg off. He groaned and turned on his side, placing his hand between his legs in the fetal position. His shaft still throbbed to the beat of his pulse against his own hand.
It was silent in the house. This was as it often was, but there persisted a low roaring within him not unlike waves from the sea crashing onto shore. He began to stare at the front door booth afraid to of its significance as entrance into and exit out of a thing this thing that he was in. As unnamable as it was, he knew it as much for what it brought into his life as for what it also took away.
Both he and she often said not much to one another lately; yet within this silence lay their common pact. An agreement struck not with words as much as with their tolerance, patience and common struggle to share an existence that retained its own naked truths. Truths they both brought to the table for better or worse.
"I need you Baby," he said. " We can make this thing work between us."
"That's what I'm afraid of. You do need me and it just might work."
"I'm not trying to change your mind and you can't change mine."
"That's just it. Nothing is ever going to change. We're fooling ourselves; living under a delusion that we're making life better for one another. I don't have time for that. I don't need you to change jack shit in my life."
It was not always a good truth but often very necessary. For when shame and pain reared up to assault this thing they protected between them, only the truth of their feelings for one another prevailed and conquered. But, it was this singular realty of their emotions that remained their personal mountain to climb. Not unlike the fearfully dual nature of the front door being both exit and entrance, both of these lovers wanted one another as much as they feared their commitment. They needed each other yet despised that need, as a weakness in the armor of independent survival each was so accustomed to over the long and lonely years of broken solitude.
"You more afraid of me leaving or that I might stay; which one is it?"
"Both of them."
Weeks before this time they were at the crossroads, with which they now found themselves confronted by. She was stricken with a long series of ailments that rendered her sickly and agitated. It had produced a severe strain on that fragile construct that was the early foundation for what they had together. Neither of them anticipated the others reactions or expectations for dealing with the other under these circumstances.
"It aint' fair that while I think you should become more open and receptive to help you feel the opposite way," she said. She bolted upright in bed and folded her legs beneath her like some wise-assed yogi dispensing ancient wisdom.
Their values began to reveal themselves as not being so different by definition but alien by the method of how they would be expressed within their relations. Under the heat of battle one person will strike out while another flees. So it was with them.
"Time, aint' our friend," he replied.
It proved to be their enemies within the awful insidiousness of bad timing. She now spoke to him with the tone of a woman betrayed.
As she reached out for his trust he jerked away; beleaguered by bouts of insecurity. fed by misunderstanding of her unspoken motives. He feared what she could do to him given his love for her. She feared the same but rather than speaking to it, she often chose to camouflage the issue with personal attack. The burden of their past baggage would more than once cripple their communication.
All too often the impact of their behaviors towards one another escaped them. Each was preoccupied so much by their own personal perspectives. They became surprised, stunned and dismayed by the others reactions to their words, deeds and most importantly assumed intent. Care was thrown to the wind.
The effect was taking its toll upon their waning patience to let love have a decent chance. In their own ways they groped desperately for some means to cope with being responsible for the heart and sprit of the other. Secretly perhaps, they didn't want that burden but knew silently that it must come with the territory.
This may explain a curious thing that occurred with increasing frequency. He had become a foil to her bouts of uneasiness. She became trapped by his fits of immobility and indecisiveness. Both never perceived why. The cumulative effects of these emotional cesspools in which they drowned blinded them. It ate away at their chances to remain happy and productive.
For it was through the pain and suffering they would endure that this thing they shared would be made unbreakable. Although it threatened to destroy them in the process, it was the gamble each had bet upon when they took each other's hearts in hand. But the challenge of their thing's truth remained. Both wanted and needed change but neither knew how to achieve it thru the other's influence. The beauty of it all would lie in the fact that if they survived then change would be inevitable.
The sound of a Sunday morning's rainstorm draped his ears like the shroud of Turin upon His corpse. The rat-a-tat-tat of the grayish raindrops upon the too small kitchen window seemed to fit his current mood. Curiously, he watched with morbid fascination as another stream of roaches marched across the dining room table. Lumbering, they strode on towards another sector of this vast domain that they ruled despite his woman's futile attempts to exterminate the pests. The house belonged to them both. Or did it?
He didn't really mind the vermin. They were a temporary inconvenience he thought often she had promised to try and get up in the morning instead of the afternoon from last nights latest episode of booze and weed. She told him she'd see about taking him to pick up his impounded car and out to get cigarettes and maybe a beer since he had been behaving so well lately. Especially because he didn't pressure her about going out and ruining yet another paycheck on cheap women and partying like a drunken sailor.
But like so many other times he again realized just like the day before that she was losing interest in keeping him around. She really wasn't motivated to assist him in getting back on his feet after the series of fuck-ups he just undergone. The handwriting was indeed on the wall and he could smell the scent of irritation abounding whenever they passed each other in the apartment.
The strange phone calls where no one would answer didn't help matters much when she picked up the calls. He hadn't been to work for over 10 days. Yet, he loved her and wondered too many times if she really felt the same way despite her saying so. Another fair-weather romance he told himself. He kept tensing his back as if waiting for the knife of another broke-down relationship to sink into his back. There was no telling when if ever she would be able to promise him another chance at redemption especially when she herself could no longer support emotionally the commitment that true love and devotion required. But so what, he thought.
He could fix this situation. He was in the midst of a debt firestorm and only a shower of fast blood money would extinguish the flames.
He watched with morbid curiosity as her eyelids fluttered like a wayward butterfly as she refused again to respond to all questions put to her. Her brow furrowed and the eyebrows narrowed together silently upon the repeated request for an answer. She glanced away and focused her attention on barren wall. Every wall were stark reminders that no pictures nor decorations would ever make up for a place devoid of loving care. It was a feeding ground and a lair for this tigress to consume him like the mark that he was.
She fed upon his ass and treated him like the short-lived one-use commodity he'd become to her. A provider of home that he offered that served them both not too unlike the mythical Flying Dutchman Ghost ship acted as stygian domain of the sailors forever damned to wander the high seas searching for peace. Like those specters, he too was damned and didn't quite know what to do about it.
He craned his thin neck trying to attract her attention; striving to maintain eye contact. Perhaps, he quipped, will the passion he felt within his soul into her black heart. He prayed within his mind that a spark of love still existed. So, once more he asked her that question.
She turned towards him, grinning from ear to ear, exuding a cunning slyness that made him shiver.
"The question is," she spoke with that strangely nasal, erratic tone hat reminded him of a world weary teacher fetidly trying to pound an innocuous lesson into a clueless student. "Well do you love me ?"
It was as if her question superceded both the reality and the absence of a love that should have been there between them. A love, which he knew, would always remain unrequited. Before he could go on any further, she gave her chilling overture.
"You better love me."
Suddenly, he knew it didn't matter to her whether or not love was returned. Worse, he knew no matter what, this was as good as it would ever get.
The paradoxes of love turning to hate, promise to sorrow and cognition to confusion became overwhelming. Ever the perfectionist, he believed he could 'will' himself to succeed in life and happiness would follow. But this too turned paradoxical for him . He started to increasingly abuse his life and himself. He found his own fragile
weakness unacceptable and tried to escape them. He developed physical and
psychological manifestations of this internal turmoil. He'd approached what Carl Jung terms the conjunction of opposites. The war of his conscious mind versus his subconscious Id propensities tore him asunder, as He spent literally years searching for some kind of answer to what his life had become; insufferable. He was a victim of the 'knowledge of his own duality', good and bad. He couldn't live with this dishonor. So, he decided to end it all. His shame of self was a new level of pain in the human experience and its agony knew no boundary. But the Lord had other plans for him. What is it He would have Him to do?\f1
A bright glimmer of cold and golden sunlight shone through the narrow kitchen window as she stood by the stove. To her left, the steady rush of water gushed forth from the twisted faucet of the sink. The smell of freshly percolated tea permeated the room as she tossed a spoon she had used for stirring her tea into the cracked porcelain of the counter. She turned towards him, moving her 5'6" svelte ebony frame gracefully, but her eyes quickly refused to settle upon his. It was morning and they had just gone through another night tossing and turning in an effort to avoid physical contact with one another in bed.
He sat on the metal card table chair next to the antique oak dining room table and stared at the cell phone that blinked its green on light. He knew yet another call, probably form a bill collector had come through. It was another call he wouldn't take. He had no answer for their questions. Nor had he a response to her question as to why he had been at the train station that morning before. But he remembered what had taken place as she grimly peered through him.
Yesterday's fiasco had begun for him at the Amtrak commuter station where he had gone to make his yearly pilgrimage. Every first day of March for close to three years he would get dressed up in his only suit which he never wore at any other time and go to the place where he had told his daughter to come and visit him. The two of them hadn't seen one another for seven years. When he had written her, he used the last known address that had been given to him by his son a few years before. As futile as it was, it was his only way of trying to amend the torn relationship between them. It was his olive branch gift and acted as a gesture of peace and reconciliation. But never had there been a return call nor had his daughter, now grown and married with kids of her own, ever met him at that station. Yet, he always came.
This time he had stopped and grabbed his chest just as the Amtrak commuter train rumbled over the sun-drenched horizon. The shriek of the train's whistle harkened feelings of a rising terror that began to swell in his throat and threatened to burst forth.
The station's platform began to rumble beneath his well-worn black penny loafers. The dry arid breeze blew hastily into his weather-etched face, forcing him to frown even further. His blood streaked, bleary eyes blinked rapidly as he sucked on his tongue, still tasting the stale remnants of yesterdays booze.
Two black crows cawed as they drifted effortlessly overhead as if playing tag with the plumes of white clouds. He spat onto the old rickety wooden platform. This time would be different, he thought.
He felt the one-way ticket he had bought in his shirt pocket and crumbled it between his tobacco stained fingers. Next to it, the single .45 caliber bullet remained.
In back of him stood a young pregnant woman who looked to be about 23 or so. Beside her there were two toddlers who yanked incessantly on her black and gold heavy cotton dress as the cool breeze of late winter ruffled the garment like a flag causing it to unfold about her spindly legs which were the color of well creamed coffee. They were smooth and reminded him of buttered turkey meat for some reason.
A tall, slender black conductor faced her, trying to explain how she could tell whether or not this was her train approaching. Each time he spoke, she kept on jerking her head as if looking over her shoulder. She was in an awful hurry alright and she said so to the gum-smacking young conductor who kept bobbing his head to an unheard rap-beat that existed only to his own mind. She looked scared and her eyes were very wide as if anticipating danger around every corner.
He noticed that the kids clothing looked to be thrown on them in a fit of disarray and haste. He caught he eye as she peered at him shyly. For a brief moment, they became fellow travelers, fleeing from some unknown tragic reality that was their lives and their fate. Both awaited an even more ominous future. A future that now whistled at them ever closer, louder and louder. They were kindred spirits, he thought; just two passing trains in the night.
When the conductor left her, he moved towards the edge of the track and focused his attention of the train as it pulled into the station. His stomach began to hurt. He didn't know whether to go or to stay. On the other end of this line no one would be waiting. At this end no one was keeping him there either, he thought. Then, he heard a quiet, song-like voice speaking to him from beyond the mists of his private revelations.
"I 'm sorry, Mister, but me and my kids don't have any money. Could I borrow train fare just to get up the road to the next town?"
"What was that you said," he replied as his head began to stop pounding form yet another hangover.
"Well, I need your help Mister; just a few dollars so as I can feed my kids and get outta' this place." She looked at him with big bright eyes that reminded him of Candy, the mother of his kids.
He looked her squarely in the face as she smiled. His loneliness had caught up with him. He knew what was up. Her lips were cracked and chapped, probably from another night of sucking on the glass dick. Opportunity knocked and he listened against his better judgment. She fidgeted while she waited for an answer but still; she moved closer to him and opened up her coat to reveal her hefty cleavage. The mission of an honorable death in another place on the way back to his baby girl dissolved in the flames of lust.
"Sure, lets go somewhere and talk up on it, O.K.?"
He knew now he would never leave this place; it wouldn't let him. Somehow, he no longer cared. Again, he grasped at the lone bullet lodged in his shirt pocket. Instead, what he felt was two one hundred dollar bills. He pulled them out and she smiled coyly as she saw him remove them from his shirt pocket. The crows cawed three more times as they left the train station arm in arm. The toddlers now pulled at his beaten London Fog trench coat like birds of prey.
"Where is the car? Did ya geek it, again you fucking idiot?"
He looked up at her, still trying to shake the pea-thick fog that rattled his brain. Last night's binge hovered over him like the angel of death. He didn't answer.
"Look, I told you last night when I called you for the cab that"
The doorbell interrupted them. She moved from the kitchen into the rear bedroom and threw a pillow violently at the hallway wall.
He answered the door and before him stood the girl from the station.
"Come on baby, I found your car and I got the keys too. Lets go and finish the party we started, O.K."
From in back, where the bedroom was came a shrill command from the women he had confessed his enduring love to. "Gone ahead and do whatever the fuck it is you like to do. Don't let me stop your show. I got things I need to do."
He glanced down briefly at the list of men's phone numbers she had left on the table. They were men who always called for her late at night, even when things went well for them together.
The smell of freshly fired up weed hit his nose at the same time as her response. He left. One trap was as good as the next. He reveled in being the prey; always wanted, always needed; for the feeding. And so did she.
The call came around midnight just after she had finished her shift. She hadn't yet pulled her coat off and rushed towards the phone. The house was dark and empty. Beer cans littered the dining room table as roaches scurried for cover away from this invader.
"Hello, is this Ms. James?"
"Yes it is."
"This is the police department. Does a Mason Lee live at that address?"
"Yes, is he alright because I haven't seen him for a while?"
"I regret to inform you that he is dead. We found his body in a motel room on the Upper East Side. Apparently he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. We'll need for you to come downtown and make a statement after identifying the remains."
"Oh my God."
"I'm sorry ma'am; are you going to be alright?"
"Yes officer, I'll be just fine now."
She hung up the phone and took off her coat. Opening the refrigerator door, she snatched out a 24-ounce beer and took a long slug.
The doorbell startled her for a moment. She went to the door and opened it, returning to her seat at the table near her brew.
"Well come on in and put your things in the back. Just move his old shit out of the way; he don't need it anymore. Your money is on the table."
She smirked as the girl and her toddlers came in. The envelope holding his insurance papers fell onto the table out of her coat pocket while she searched for her cigarette pack.