Short Story • 1st Place
Now Hear Me Talk
By David A. Spellman
In a stained mirror under a hard light I had studied my broken face and made it clean. In a dirty bathroom behind a locked door I had let the memories come and with a scale measured them. My sin against their sin. My sin against her sin. The loving against the lying. With a sharp mind I had cut the lives we led loose of their linearity. With a careful heart I had considered:
The crash of a falling glass. A cherry rolling on the floor. The jukebox playing the song. The old song. Our song. Oh. What we attach. And then one day it comes on the radio right when it should. We think. This means something. Maybe? No. It doesn’t. Let’s swim. I’ll swim. The night we swam. Slipping the suit off the soft skin. It’s okay. I know. Good. Trust me now. I do. In the water then. Our noises and the fog. Low moon. Full moon. Your face then and how it moved. The wide eyes. The bit lip. The freckled flesh pulled tight. Soft whispers. No whispers. Yelling our names loud. Did you? Almost. Later the first snow. In the kitchen ripping roses. Pieces in a big bowl. Throw them in the car. The door opens and the flowers flow. Your whole side covered. A bed of red to ride on. Too much? I think so. Perhaps. You in an apron holding a silver tray. Laughing. Half-joke. What’s that? A cake. A snowman. Icing buttons. Black hat. One balloon too. No holiday. No reason. My house smelling sweet for a week. The skin against the skin against the seat. Your shaking slender shoulders. Your bending back. All that flesh in the heat. Parked in the dark with the windows rolled. Comes. Twice. The same car comes by once and then again. White lights find us. Lit up. Exposed. The steam opaque no longer. Clothes on quick. The cops? No. No one. They’re leaving now. Damn. We shouldn’t have stopped. Screaming on my porch. I try to compromise. I speak clear and calm. But you just say the same thing again and then really scream this time. I snap around. Kick the chair as hard as I can. I can scream too and I do. It hits the post with such a big noise. The loud sound of sudden violence. I look back and you’re walking away. The distant city and my heavy eyes. It’s okay. You can drive. The seat back and you beside. Music. The easy sleep. Wake up and we’re there. You tell me about the semis and the rain. Endless peril. You say. The tickets for the concert in your hand. Hopping up and down. You grab my arm roughly. I just shrug. Yeah. I just say. Okay. And watch your face change. Slowly the glow goes. The head down. I know you liked it a little more than that. A blanket on the brittle growing grass. One of the far fields that no one really owns. We were languid with no language. We were lying with no words. A rich redolent river. Your hair then. Smelled more then than ever. Your skirt against my jeans. My hands against your sweater. Warm then. More then. Warmer than the weather. Those people. That party. Whiskey up. A little drunk. Standing on a table. The story goes. The joke is told. Everyone laughs but you. Just a stare. There’s something wrong. But no. There’s never a reason. Off the trail for too long. Too far. Can’t find it. A road there? We go. But no. Just sticks cracking in the creek. The dirt dry. The water gone. What this was once it is not now and surely we are lost. Yes. We will end like all things end. We will not be an exception. This? No. This is nothing special. Still around. The new relation. Lovers can be friends. In the crowd we talk again. Too fast. Too nice. Oh. Who knows how the hell to be. See you around. In the town. Hello becomes enough. I am and you are but we only were. There is nothing now. But there is something you should know. Some of that time. Near the end of our time. I had another. What you thought. It was right. Yeah. I fucked her. The features shrink. The eyes retreat. And you’re going for it. Don’t. I say but you do. She could cry now if she had to and she did. Thought it was what I wanted but bear the sight I could not. Make it stop. Please stop. No. Just green. More talk. Long talk. Slow talk. Haven’t in awhile. Let us look at it again. Let us start from the beginning. Let us let out what is left. Between us there have been many words. Between us there has been much pain. Certainly our share is the same. You had done it and you had said it and that was it. I had done it and I had said it and that was it. It was over and that was it. Let us joke to know we are well. Let us laugh so we can leave. A big smile. A little push. Let us seal it all up. And we do and it is done. But when her mouth slides closed a little tooth snags the lower lip while she looks up at me with her eyes so wet and her face so sad. So serious. So funny. And God damn me if I didn’t still feel something for her then.
A promise to meet had been made and that is what I would do. It was all finished. It was all decided. The washing and the recalling were through. The last few laps of the past had carried my doubts away with them and there were no choices now. I would make that journey. I would climb that tower. Together we would talk. I supposed I still felt something alright but I knew it was not much. After wading through the waters of who we were I was left only weary. It was all just so significant wasn’t it? All of the words and all of the moments just meant so much didn’t they? We were just so different weren’t we? With a shrug and a smirk I collapsed into my car. Turning the key I could feel the loudest laughter moving through my stomach as it grew into a great wave against us and our love.
Thinking only of the road before me a kind coolness crept along my mind slowly claiming it wholly with the refreshingly tangible and clear cares of driving. Only concerned with how hard the pedals should be pushed or how far the wheel should be turned I felt my tired head loosen and lighten with heavenly facts. As the cars and the signs and the trees rushed around me in lowering and lifting lines of light that proudly meant nothing beyond space taken or color contained I rested in the simple beauty of sensations irrefutably real and free from time’s tampering. All the way to the Watchtower I was enveloped in the warm absence of anything epical.
Now walking through the wild this carelessness had continued but crossing into the clearing it could not carry on for coming here I thought I had known what the tower was and I thought I had known what I would see but when I finally found myself suddenly in the shadow of the structure what I saw was that I had it all wrong. It was taller. Than I was. Than I wished it to be. It stood sterner. Than I was standing. Than I could stand. And surer. More sure than I was or would be. The straight beams. The steel bolts. Against the sky they broke. And sensing the start of a slight shivering I knew there was no denying I could do. No. There was no laughing left. Oh. The tower. It was something alright. Oh. The Watchtower. I guess it might have meant something to me. But what I want to know is. Well what I wanted to know was. Did it or did it not hold her in its highest? Was she there? And is she here?
There was no knowing that then. There was no reason to worry. The tower was not that big and neither were we. It was all nothing now. Selling this to myself I took steady steps up the aged steps trying to shake off my shaking. If she was not here I would not care and if she was we would talk. She was only a sliver of me now. She was no reason to shiver. I said it again. And again. Silently stammering. But it was no use. The stream had started. The recollection had resumed. I could feel my indifference going. I could feel the past coming. There was this time. And there was that time. There was no time. All of time. All at once. The shaking only spreading as I climbed until my every muscle is trembling and my every nerve is quivering and I think I am just going to be sick. And is she here? And is she here? But she was not there.
Now she had told me to meet her here and here I was. Alone. Okay. All numb now. Yes. I couldn’t care less about her. Now I am feeling good. It is hot up here. But this feeling I remember. Oh. Yes. Now I am feeling cool. What I was once. I remember. And right now I feel nothing for her. I got nothing to lose. Not caring now. Oh. Caring is never cool.
No. I would not be nervous for her. No. I would not feel too much. Oh. Not this time. No. Not anymore. Ki. Kindsey. Oh. She was just a girl. Kin. Kindsey. No. She was never nothing more. Ki. Kin. Kind. Kindsey. Oh. She was just another girl.
But … then it was her. Crying. Saying:
Now it is now and I can feel it. I can feel it out there and in me now. The world through me in this now and at this now. This now. This moment. This time. The world is present now.
Earth! You old ball and chain. You wet water park. You lucky son of a bitch. You white and blue flower growing in shit.
And the world is so big:
Now and right now and around me I can feel it. Life and those lives living. And a billion hands touching a billion hands. And all those muscles that move and the minds that move them. And the mouths drinking up the water and the milk. All these mammals moving. All these minds thinking about sex and death.
And to think of all the different shades of skin that stretch around our bones and to think of all the different sets of sounds that mean the Sun and all those stories of gods and good and rules that have been heard and told and made truth.
And how could anyone ever kill anyone? And what kind of woman would I want and what old dead men would I have read if I had known only stone and snow and saints? What causes would I care for if I had thought my thoughts in heat and sand? And how can I ever begin to know how much giving birth hurts?
And to think of how I could have been a different man and to think of how I could have died my days away in another land.
Now and right now and around me everywhere right now there are too many stories to even talk. There is love and there are lines and there are lessons that if I heard I would refuse to learn. There are ugly and cruel minds. And to think of the bitter and dull people you know and can’t stand and how they think and understand the world. Their truth of love and war and words. And everyone is a hero in their own book. And everyone is good. So how could I ever believe I’m either? No. I am too young. Too bright. Too alive to think I’m right.
Up here I can feel it … up here I can feel it in my breast. Back here where we started. Together back up here again. And I can feel it in you. I can feel it in her breast. You can feel that this is something. You can feel that you know. I can feel the frames a-flying. And I can see the motion slow.
Up here I can feel it … up here I can feel it in my throat. All the time spent brushing our teeth and buying bread. Was all for this. And can you feel how big this is? Can you feel it? This was all I ever wanted. This is what I have been waiting for. The moments like these. The handful of life worth living. When everything is so big you can just feel it. Oh! And just to see her here now. Just to be back up here now. And God! How human our faces. A blank and broken boy with bruises. And a convulsing little girl. All that crying. How elaborate the blood and the tears and the rain. How typical the lying. And all of it in this stupid symbol of it all. All of this happening in this tower. And up here I can feel it. Up here I can just feel it. I can feel the moment in me now. And I can hear the notes. I can feel the world in me now. And I can know the words. Oh up here. Darling. Doesn’t it feel like a plan? Like every chance and choice was only just for now. And up here. Baby. Doesn’t it all feel so sad?
“Now—” I had said. About to say more. But no. She screamed:
“I didn’t tell them to hit you.”
“Then what did you tell them?”
“That you hit me—”
“Kindsey! Why did you lie?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you know what you did?”
“But why did you lie?”
“Because you lied!”
I knew that. Saying:
“We’re innocent. We’re all innocent and we’re all hurting each other. Right?”