Thursday, June 30, 2005

I trust you...

and as such I am going to do a crazy thing and show you my first attempt at fiction in something like six years.

Forgottenmachine, Anne, Fern, and any others who actually write fiction and have some idea of what really sucks and what doesn't, please let me know what you think.

Without further ado, here is my first draft. I'm calling it Green Maple, but I don't think that's a very good title and I may change it. Typos, spelling errors, and poor attempts to make paragraphs are solely the fault of the author, but I am spelling 'GRAY' like that and not like the tea, so be it.

Oh, and even if you're not a writer, please comment. I need all the help I can get.

Thanks, guys. I am only doing this because I trust your opinions, and that is a big deal.

Also, if you read this blog for the photos or the bawdy comments I occasionally make, do yourself and me a favour and skip this entry. Thanks!

Green Maple

I still remember how very green those leaves were that spring, and the contrast they made against the perpetually gray sky. I met you on one of the cloudy mornings I spent on the beach, lying on a blanket, fully-clothed, with my arms half-buried in the sand and my eyes towards the sky. I loved the ashen grayness of those days, the way the air was heavy with impending thunderstorms and the dark navy blue of the sea crashed to the shore with such indifferent fury. They were lonely days for me, but happy ones. This you could never believe – that when I looked sad to you, I was often as perfectly content as I wanted to be. I still don’t know how long you sat there next to me on a large piece of driftwood, in fact I was scarcely aware of your presence until you spoke to me.

“It doesn’t seem like a very nice day to go to the beach,” you said, and I tore my gaze from the sky for a moment to look at you. Normally I bristled at the rare individuals who broke my solitude on those mornings, but your face was so soft and your eyes were such a bright blue that instead I sat up and replied: “It’s a perfect day for me. Feel the sand.” So you knelt down and ran your fingers through it – those amazingly agile fingers of yours – and looked at me with something like surprise on your face. The sand was still warm from the sun the day before, and I smiled as if to say that only you and I were clever enough to be at the beach today.

You gave me a grin, not even a half-smile, but a gleeful expression like a child’s, and you unfolded your legs to stretch out on the log behind me. It was then that I noticed the maple trees for the first time – their green leaves had just come out after one of the longest, grayest winters on record. I loved the gray and the rain, but the newspapers and the people I overheard on the bus complained incessantly about the cold, and the cancelled picnics, and the miserable, muddy soccer games. Those leaves were strangely appealing to me on that day, though I cannot remember looking at them on any day before it.

Small talk seemed a bit out of place after our strange meeting, and so we talked about music instead. You said you were a musician, and so I asked what you played. “Mainly the piano,” you replied, “but in truth I play most anything.”

And it was true. You had a drum set in your studio and three beat-up old guitars, and I can’t forget – as hard as I’ve tried – that night you played Moonlight Sonata for me on the saxophone. I didn’t think it was possible to play something so subtle on such a loud and self-assured instrument, but now I know better. We talked about Jeff Buckley, and I said I thought he must have known he was going to drown in that river before it happened. You disagreed, because everything seems prophetic in hindsight. You asked me if I was a musician, and I said no, that I wrote poems that never turned out the way I wanted them to, and I always discarded them before they were finished. You smiled and asked how on earth I could possibly make a living writing failed poetry. You didn’t mean it as a criticism, and indeed it sounded more like curiosity. I explained that I worked a few days a week at a soulless clothing boutique downtown, and you nodded as though you’d done the same at some point in your life.

The sky darkened as we talked, and soon I could feel the electricity in the air as the storm rose above the trees and crackled through the clouds. I told you to lie on the sand, because one shouldn’t be the tallest object on the beach during a storm.

“What about the maple trees?” you asked, and I said we’d just have to wait and see. We watched the lightning as it snaked across the sky, the white veins of light spreading across the horizon like frantic spider webs and then dissolving into the blue-black sheet of the sea. I asked if you thought it was really quite beautiful, and you said yes, but also terrifying. I couldn’t be scared of the eternal, I replied, and what could be more eternal than the ocean. It was here before we arrived, and it will be here long after we are gone. You nodded to me, but you also took my hand – and not, it seemed, to protect me. It was in that moment that I let go of the only thing that had protected me all those years – my conviction that the only eternal thing in my life was nature, and nature didn’t know, nature didn’t care.

After that morning you came down to the beach a few times a week, always when I was there, and I never asked how you knew my plans in advance. You sometimes brought breakfast – a couple of pastries and strawberries now that they were in season, and we would talk about the French bakery and the entertaining customers who wanted their baguettes “pas trop cuit.” But sometimes we just sat and watched the waves crash against the shore. When it got sunny and the people flocked to the sand with their volleyball nets and stereos blasting rap music, we went earlier in the morning, sometimes before 7:00 o’clock. You were a night owl, and I knew that the dark circles under your eyes were the result of our early mornings, so I agreed to meet you for lunch instead.

We began to meet regularly as spring became summer, and you traded in your ripped jeans and hooded jackets for concert t-shirts from a few decades back. I didn’t need to ask whether you’d gone hunting through vintage bins. I knew that you had been in the front row singing along to Robert Plant – whether you’d made it there in person or not. I came to see you play one night in a jazz bar downtown, and I found myself fascinated by the way you moved the keys on the piano. The ivory rippled in waves under your fingers as they moved along the black keys that floated like boats on the ocean. The sound was extraordinary, but it was the animation in your face that compelled me. This, I thought, is more than contentment. This must be joy itself.

One sunny afternoon you invited me to meet your little four-year-old niece, Annabelle. Her father had a sailboat, but he also had a law firm, and so he had given her to us for the afternoon so we could take her sailing. You were a terrible sailor, and I was used to watching the ocean, not floating on it. The sun intimidated me – its burning relentlessness made me long for those gray days of spring – but you insisted I come along, and so I went. Annabelle was tiny and blond and alive with the excitement of the ocean, even if all we could do was motor around the bay. I hadn’t the faintest idea how to unfold the sail or operate any of the complicated ropes and beams, and neither did you. Annabelle scarcely cared, she was too busy leaning over the railing (after you got sensibly protective and put a harness on her so she couldn’t fall overboard) and watching the fish, squealing “fishies!” every few seconds. After she’d exclaimed this about four or five times I looked over at you with a pained expression on my face. You winked at me and laughed, and I had to laugh with you. I slid over to you on the deck of the boat and you kissed my forehead and smiled and told me not to be so serious, lest I hurt myself. How right you were about that.

Half-way through the afternoon I saw some river otters pop their heads above the surface of the water and I called to Annabelle to come see them. She watched with uncharacteristic silence as they bobbed in the waves, their furry brown heads not much smaller than hers. Then she did a remarkable thing – she whistled to them as though they were puppies, and they swam closer to the boat. I had never seen a child so young whistle like that, nor had I ever seen wild animals react to a human being with such responsiveness. For all my time by the ocean I had never considered that perhaps the ocean spent time with me too.

That night I invited you to my apartment, and it was the first night of many we spent together. The realm of the physical is a beautiful one in and of itself, but there was so much more to you than that. What surprised me the most was how alert you were. I had been with men who were adequate and even remarkable in bed, but none who paid quite as much attention to me as you did. You felt every tremor, every kiss I left on your collarbone, and every small shiver you sent up my spine. What I didn’t know was that you stayed up long after I was already asleep, and you would open the curtains to let the moonlight in. You’d let the creamy white brightness light up my dark hair as it curled down past my shoulders, and it would rest on my skin that was still so pale from the clouds of that gray spring. You’d watch the space between my waist and my hips as I slept, and you’d run your fingers along that curve, just to confirm that it was as silky and warm as it looked. I must have felt your touch in my dreams, because I always dreamed of your hands, their smooth softness on the outside and the pads of your fingers a little rough from the guitar strings. But I never knew that you watched me, not until I heard you play Moonlight Sonata and then I knew that your admiration for the piece had nothing to do with the Countess Giulietta, or with the subtle beauty of the melody.

It would be profoundly inadequate for me to say that I loved you. It would be more apt to say that I saw my world in shades of black and gray and white – the black of the dawn before the sun rose, the gray of those spring skies I loved, and the white of the winter snow – but you made me feel that the world was in bright colours, and that it had been all along. I remember those days with you in vivid colour – the rich green of the maple leaves, the bright blue of your eyes, the violet of little Annabelle’s dress when she whistled to the otters, the deep red of the strawberries you brought to the beach, and the navy denim of your blue jeans. I lived my life in perfect contentment, but never with as much joy as I felt in your presence. I loved you like a single maple leaf on those trees by the ocean – you were so beautiful, so changeable, and ultimately so very ephemeral.

I woke up one morning in your studio to the sounds of you typing something on the computer. It was nearly fall, and the floor was brutally cold as I stepped onto it with my bare feet. I shivered and slid quickly onto the rug and walked past the kitchen to where you were sitting at your desk. Your sandy blond hair was still tangled from the sheets, and you were wearing yet another faded Led Zeppelin shirt and the lurid yellow boxer shorts I always teased you about. I was quiet enough to surprise you as I slid my arms around your chest and kissed the warmest part of your neck. Without a word you picked me up and carried me back to bed. You held me that morning for much longer than I thought I could enjoy it, but I did. We spoke in whispers about what we should do with our day, the first one we had both had off in a week. Then you went quiet, and I asked what you had been writing on the computer.

“I’ve been offered a job,” you said.

It was a recording contract set up by a French record producer who had seen you perform at the bar a few months before. I was happy for you, and I told you so.

“It’s in Paris,” you added “and they want me to start next month. I’d like for you to come with me.”

I paused. Paris…I had been there once. I remembered a bright and loud place with a lot of tourists. I think I was there in July, and I had felt like the only foreigner who spoke passable French. I had also felt like the only person who missed the ocean.

Paris is a wonderful city,” you said. “It’s a romantic place. We could sit by the Seine in the mornings and watch the bateaux-mouches go by. So many writers were inspired in Paris…perhaps you could finally write some poetry you liked.”

It was a terrifying thought, the idea of a bright and ordered life, full of ambitions that were fulfilled rather than abandoned. How could I explain to you the things that kept me here? How could I tell you how much I loved the gloom of the cloudy skies and the sun that filtered through the gray on a summer evening? How could I tell you that I liked my life to be slow and constant, quiet, and almost predictable in its rhythms. And yet I loved you, and I told you so. Not for a moment would I have allowed you to think otherwise. And as I watched your face fall when I shook my head no I would have done anything to take it back, but then I knew there was nothing more I could offer you, no life we could have lived together that would not have broken my spirit, and yours.

We had another few weeks together, and that was all. You left on a suitably gray morning, but it was a morning that puzzled me, for I felt none of my usual contentment, only a nausea that approached horror, and a sense of absolute panic. I kissed you and I held you and I meant it all, and I meant those tears I cried as I watched you walk down my street, the sidewalk already lined with falling maple leaves. I loved those maples in the spring, I loved the bright veined green of their leaves, and yet I know in my heart of hearts that if they never turned yellow, then orange, then red, and if they never fell to the ground, then we would have no brilliant autumn, no soulful winter, and no glorious, gray spring. And yet I still wish with every fibre of my being that maple leaves were like pine needles – not quite so beautiful or so soft, but strongly scented, and always…always….such a rich dark green.

There it is. Dissect away!


by Nome at 1:26 PM
20 mews

    Welcome. This is the humble chronicle of my life & my thoughts on the world as I see it. If you know me in real life and want to keep my trust, PLEASE ASK BEFORE READING! I'm not accountable to you or to anyone else for what I say in these pages. Comments are much appreciated, but but insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please respect privacy and anonymity - nicknames or pseudonyms only. This is my space to be an adult - kids should go elsewhere. Thanks, and enjoy.

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