Red

Rip your heart out of your chest

Sow it to your sleeve

Go on, then.

Plunge the needle in and out through your pulsing flesh.

Drop your arm.

Does it feel heavy? Do you feel light? Can you breath now?

Do your lungs stretch and fill the void inside of you?

Can you still hear the blood swishing through your veins?

Or does it pool stagnantly within the walls of your still body.

Do they see you now? Do they love you now?

Or do they laugh?

Do their sleeves drip with blood too?

What is your favorite color?

Oh, forget I asked–I already know.

It doesn’t matter what color your sleeve was to begin with.

It is all red now.

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Bloodline

When my father strode into my room on a balmy June night, well past my bedtime, I almost believed that perhaps the rivers of the world had begun to flow upstream. I watched him settle uncomfortably into the too-small office chair which sat in front of my too-small desk. The desk, since the time of its possession from Craig’s List (my father’s favorite second hand website) had served for me as nothing more than storage of random, long-forgotten objects.

At the time of my father’s very first and greatly unexpected visit, I was sprawled across my bed on the other side of the tiny room, an earbud subtly tucked in my ear and concealed by my hair. The rest of the wire and my phone, from which the music was playing, was tucked deep under the covers. I was supposed to be sleeping, but my father had already seen that I wasn’t, so I supposed that there was no point in pretending.

Since I always slept (or pretended to) with the tube light on, I could clearly see his face. I waited tensely for the lecture on sleeping early, but it didn’t come. For a moment, my father’s eyes wandered about the room, first visiting my Ravenclaw poster on the wall, then my bow and arrow set (another worthy prize from the wonderful Craig’s List) wedged between the dresser and another wall, and finally my small bookshelf in the corner of the room, which was overflowing with books of all shapes and sizes- the only area of color in my otherwise bland room. The bookshelf itself I had painted apple green, my mother’s favorite color. His eyes seemed to linger on the bookshelf, as if he was searching for something.

Once he had completed his survey of my room, he fidgeted slightly in the chair and then cleared his throat. I held my breath and waited. My father’s heart-to-heart’s were never not awkward. But which fourteen year old girl can say otherwise?

Finally, while staring at a nondescript point on the floor, he muttered in his low, rumbling voice, “Have you gotten around to doing any more reading, Hal?”

I blinked. What? Where were condescending, arrogant words which my father prided himself on. Instead, he was referring to a decades-old book of his which he had given to me to read. I glanced guiltily past my father at the cluttered desk behind him, where I just barely made out the battered spine of the aforementioned book, peeking out from between a sixth grade math test which I had failed and a crinkled Nature Valley bar wrapper.

Following my gaze, my dad grasped the tip of the book and freed it from the wreckage. Dusting it off, he idly flipped through the pages. I eyed the book in his hands, trying to think of the reason why he so desperately wanted me to read this book that he paid me bizarre visits in practically the middle of the night to check my progress. And the story itself was by no accounts a page turner.
“How do you like it so far?” he asked, thumbing through the pages with unnecessary and rather excessive passion.
“Um…well,” I shifted awkwardly and yanked on the wire of my earbud so that it fell out of my ear and was hidden under the folds of the blanket. Clearing my throat, I sat up on my elbows and grasped wildly at straws, silently cursing myself for not having read past the first page.

“It’s quite fascinating, you know, the bit that I’ve read so far. Really thought provoking. Of course, the characters have hardly been introduced, so it’s hard to say at this point and well…”

Why do I even try? My father obviously didn’t buy a word, but strangely, he didn’t tell me off. He seemed strangely calm and withdrawn tonight. Sort of like the calm before the storm. The thought frightened me, so I stopped thinking it.

“It’s teaches a nice life lesson, actually. I think you’d find it a great read,” he pressed.

Why? As far as I knew, my father wasn’t a fan of fiction.

“Sure, I will,” I said automatically. This encounter was growing more and more uncomfortable by the minute.

“Right. The next time I come in here, you’ll be using it as a footrest. Well, I’m done with my work. I might as well tell you about it.”

I forced myself not to roll my eyes. The irony! He decided to start telling me bedtime stories once I got to highschool. My father straightened in the chair all of a sudden, dwarfing it completely.

“The story is about greed,” he said loudly, “What money does to you.”

He leaned forward, and I winced. There probably was not a single neighbor who couldn’t hear his little fairytale through the wafer thin walls of our tiny apartment. But as his voice grew louder and louder, his eyes grew wider and wider.

“It’s about a young woman who had everything that you could imagine- talent, kindness, looks. Hal, she was so beautiful. But she had one weakness- money.”

By now, I was thoroughly convinced that something was wrong. Oh lord. Not yet fifty and already mad. Maybe someone had slipped something in his Diet coke at the team dinner? Perhaps I should have called my mother’s driver and asked him to pick me up immediately and take me home. I yanked the blankets up to my chin and scooted as far away from him as the size of my twin bed would allow, which, granted, was not very far.

“She sacrifices everything, even the love of her life.”

His hands flexed suddenly, as if he had been zapped by an electric current, and the book flopped on the floor. He wrapped his fingers tightly around the straight back of the chair, and as he did so, I noticed something for the very first time. On the ring finger of his left hand, a small band of skin was a subtle shade lighter than the rest of his hand.

“The young man she loves wants to travel around the world. He doesn’t want to be tied down to a single town. But she wants him to stay with home, with her, her business, and most of all, her money. And of course, the corrupted creature uses her money to tether him to her home. But he’s free spirited, you know? You can’t put a wild bird in a cage. But he stays for her because, well, he loves her. But soon, he realizes that his own lover was behind everything. So he gets angry and he leaves her alone in her splendid house. Alone with no one to share her seven bedrooms, her pool, her green walls.”

Why did that sound so familiar? I looked desperately around the room, thinking… Seven bedrooms… her pool…. Suddenly, my eyes landed on my beloved green bookshelf. Green walls. Under the blankets, my fingers clenched.

“But she has her money, right? So she doesn’t care. She completely forgets about her husband and her kid. All she wants is money. And that consumes her. She just keeps getting richer and richer….and her heart becomes incapable of love, like stone. Like the dragon under the mountain.”

I peeled my eyes from the bookshelf and looked down, anywhere but my father’s face. The book which he had dropped had fallen open, and from the pages, a small photograph had fallen out. It was of a young woman who looked like me. With huge green eyes, short dark hair, and a pale complexion. I inhaled sharply and looked up at my father. His expression was grief stricken, and his voice had softened to a whisper.

“And she never loved anyone ever again. But I–he never forgot her.”

Our eyes met and my world began and ended and began again in that instant. For the first time in an eternity, my father and I had something in common–both of us were utterly speechless. After my lifetime of wondering and despairing, he had told me the truth. And the truth had set me free. But after all these years, he was still a dampened free spirit, a wild bird that my mother had caged. So I set my father free.
“Dad,” I started in an unbearably quiet whisper, for the rest of my voice had abandoned me, “Mom never forgot you either.”

 

 

The Inventor

To all of my fellow human beings that I have not yet had the pleasure to meet:

Disregard the painfully long and uncomfortable pauses between my sentences. Ignore the way I stumble over my words and drop or blend or jumble the syllables when I speak, as my jumpy mind moves faster than my mouth. With my wily tongue and hyperactive brain, I can invent new words like no one you will ever meet. Pretend like everything is fine as my eyes dart from yours down to my hands and back up around the ceiling at lightning speed. And the way my stance shifts every few seconds. And how, if I’m wearing open-toed sandals, you can see my toes curl and uncurl in aggravation. Overlook the fact, that as we cross paths in the hallway or the grocery store, I avert my eyes from your friendly smile and walk briskly in a straight path, removing myself from the situation in a timely fashion. Do all this, and maybe, just maybe, we will grow to be friends. Eventually. One day in the distant future.

I promise I will slowly warm up to you. And learn to look into your eyes for longer than a few fleeting moments. And I will stand still and smile and say words that have come to hold some meaning for you and me both. You’ll learn quickly– I have faith in you. If you have the patience to endure me and my little quirks, I will forever be indebted to you and your kind soul. But if you do not, I understand completely– life stops for no one, and I am no exception. Besides, patience isn’t a virtue that I have been blessed with, so I can hardly demand that you have the same.

With Love,

The Inventor

Broken Record

You’re a dream

But I’m dreaming you over and over

Too many times- you’re becoming a nightmare

You won’t let me awaken

And I don’t want to either

I say these words too many times,

They mean so little now

Your electric gray eyes pass a current through me

But they harden into stone

When I open my mouth to speak

I could chant Latin to a stranger on the street

But my words would be so real

That I’d be rescued from this dream

That you hold me hostage within

Yet I’m holding on to you just as tight

As you are holding on to me

And to set ablaze our entwined fingers

Would leave me scarred and just as much as you, burned

So I beg you to tell me which language I should have learned

Or whether I should have gotten down on my hands and knees

But as for now, I’m a record spinning aimlessly

And you’ve broken me- heart, soul, and body

I’m falling prey to the fables you tell

And I’m powerless to fight as you cast your spell

In front of your enigmatic stare, my head turns to glass

Like a picture book, you can read all the thoughts that pass

Through my mind, because I cannot bring myself to shut my eyes

And block out all of your pretty little lies

That run freely from your lips like the blood

That pours out of my broken heart like a flood

A deep, dark red whirlwind

As I try to figure out where we went wrong, where I sinned

Yet you’re not all pain, you’re pleasure as well

You play the angel better than the devil, as far as I can tell

But you forget: there’s no ocean without a beach and sand

Darling, you don’t always have the upper hand

We’re on opposite sides of a ferris wheel

And what goes up must come down

Your moment at the top will be fleeting

Because we’ll just keep on going round and round