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Your Muses Never Asked

First, I told her that I loved her. She understood the words, but not the meaning.

So I wrote her a song. I pored over rhymes, beat myself bloody to work up the rhythm. I borrowed what I could, stole what I needed, and I put my heart and soul into bridges, choruses, and verse.

She couldn't quite make out the words and made up her own meaning.

So I wrote poetry. I found the perfect metaphor, a fitting framework. I made a romance and an abuse of form, grammar, and imagery. I confused a couple of similes, but that was intentional.

Love never quite makes sense, does it? She said that it was beautiful, but wasn't about her.

So I wrote a novel. I made cookie-cutter frames of us and threw them into white space. I invented wars and high stakes, made a fiction out the idea that there's always a conflict, always a rise, always a climax that we share together...then an afterglow. Then an epilogue. And always a lesson.

She wept and understood the meaning, but the words didn't reflect us anymore.

So I just kissed her. She slapped me, as she should, and then she walked away.

You can't make someone understand a goddamned thing.

But it's worth it when you don't have to.

(Prompt: from twcwelcomecenter

That about sums up who I've been for the last couple of years.

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins

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Stories

I told you stories. I told you about tree-lined streets, shady in the summer, drooping with wet, plush snow in the winter. I told you about beige houses, tan roofs, white garage doors and driveways with SUVs and the occasional pickup truck. The steady whir of bicycle wheels on gray concrete, the quiet rustle of leaves in trees, the sky so blue, without a streak of cloud, in the summertime that it seemed like a mirage, like nothing could possibly be so unmarred. The air there smelled like budding trees or blooming flowers or crisp foliage or clean snow. The houses looked comfortingly similar. There was a peaceful routine with each summer morning spent on the front or side porch, smiling at neighbors walking dogs and pushing strollers in the pale early sunlight. There was an aching sentimentality with each summer night, when we would ride our bikes to the neighborhood playground, pump our legs on the swings. Climb the jungle gym. Kiss softly under the slide, reclaiming our childhoods, making adolescent memories under the thoughtful watch of the moon. I told you stories about my other boyfriends, high school ones, the ones who took me to Dairy Queen and bought me Blizzards and held my hand and made out with me in the chilly vacant lot beneath the bridge. I told you stories about my friends, about going to the mall on Saturdays and spending sleepless nights in brightly lit bedrooms plastered with posters of teen singers and handsome actors. I told you about my mother, her hands reddened by the housewife’s labor of washing dishes and scrubbing the kitchen linoleum. My mother, soft-faced and so comforted by her role as Marcus Seeder’s husband, as Giselle and Zoë Seeder’s mother. And my father, who taught history at the high school, who came home at four-thirty and spent late nights leafing through scholarly journals and was so proud when I made National Honor Society. His hair was sandy and streaked with gray, his cornflower blue eyes were crinkly and hidden by thick lensed glasses, and he smelled like peppermint and musk. I told you how, on nights where I felt timid and small no matter how old I got, when my ambitions and dreams seemed to tower intimidatingly over me, I would sit cross-legged and barefoot in my pajama bottoms in my parents’ bedroom, and how it would smell like my mother’s Michael Kors perfume and linen fabric softener and my father’s musky aftershave, and I would thumb through their photo albums. Our house, beige and unassuming and similar to every other house in our neighborhood, was in the photos from the beginning: my mother, 27 years old and obviously pregnant, wearing overalls and dark curls wrapped in a bandana, was smiling and holding a paintbrush. My father, his face unlined and his tawny hair without even a hint of gray, had his arm wrapped around her. I showed you the pictures: me, a baby, an only child until six years old. Zoë, a toddler, and myself, holding her. Our first days of school: first and seventh grade; sixth and twelfth grade. Our parents and us, tanned and sandy down at Myrtle Beach, grinning in front of a sunset over the Atlantic with my maternal grandmother, her skin leathery and wrinkled, a pink baseball cap perched on her platinum blonde perm, smiling over us. My high school graduation, Zoë’s National Junior Honor Society induction, my father, graying and solemn and proud, at both of these. I showed you the world that had shaped me, the grainy photographs that captured a glimpse into the American dream I had been living. The dream was green lawns whizzing by kids on their bikes, exploring the same benevolent streets they had known all their lives, waving to the kind-faced neighbor women standing on their front porches, watering flowers, watching the skies change from pale to vibrant to dusky. The dream was refuge, escapees from the tired, dirty cities, escapees from confusion and complication to a place where kids could roam unharmed and everyone knew everyone and summers were sunny and warm and winters were white and cold. The dream was a place for everything and everything in its place, or rather, everyone. The dream was a pretty wife and mom to mop your kitchen floors, bake chocolate chip cookies and brownies every Sunday, grocery shop on Saturday, cook tasty meals in a gleaming paradise, and happily host the neighbors for dinner parties on Fridays. The dream was two or three pretty children, athletic and intelligent and musical and charitable, always outside in the fragrant summer air until dinnertime, respectful to their elders, kind to one another, conventionally attractive and healthy except for the occasional flu. The dream was a working dad, home by dinner, faithful to his wife and playful to his kids, friendly to the neighbors, can grill a steak or a burger, talks sports and beer and manly-man stuff. The dream was distinctly American, the beginning of a suburban culture where cookie-cutter was good and desirable, and outside the box was seen as scary, dangerous, risky, unknown. The dream was all of this, and my parents had it, and my sister bought it, and I wanted to buy it but I couldn’t, so I left as soon as I could. Instead of going to a small Roman Catholic college in a scenic, rural area of the state, located conveniently ten minutes from the highway, I went to New York City, the very same grimy, scary, dirty, tremendous, bursting, vital, lively, perfect city my grandparents had hustled the hell out of in the 1950s, the same city my parents had taken us to visit, tentatively, some long weekends, where we would take pictures in Times Square and ice-skate in Rockefeller Center and stay in a pretty hotel and then jump on the Peter Pan bus back home. I chose New York University for its location, because it had a presence in the city, and I wanted to have a presence in the city, I wanted to be in a place where people stuck out like ridged knobs, where they took pride in their talents and their flaws and in anything that made them different from everyone else. Where I was from, people were smoothed over, flush with the pattern of the town, afraid to branch out, afraid to stick out, even if it meant they were bent and twisted and broken beneath their perfectly flat surface. And we all were, we had to be, we wouldn’t have fit. I was ready for city therapy, to unroll my differences and flaunt them, proud, for the world to see, because the suburbs were a world, but they were never the world, and I needed the world. The whole world. New York and beyond. Whatever I could grasp between my fingers, and hold onto, and whatever could carry my newfound burden, my startling disconnection from all I had been told was right, was what I wanted, and needed. So I left.

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The doll

A was not a grand time, the poor were on every street corner, and the air would hang low and thick on the streets of the city. I had a doll shop in those days. I was excellent at my trade. I created works of beauty and elegance. My tiny shop was covered floor to ceiling in dolls of all creation. The trophy of them all was a girl, not two feet tall. Her face was that of angels and her dress of purist white silk. She took center stage on my shelves and I gladly took the compliments of passing customers. However, my daughter, this story is not of me. Have patience and you shall see.

 

“But grandpapa, what became of this doll?”

 

One day as I was approaching my shop I noticed a street urchin selling tiny flowers across the street. As I passed, she looked at me expectantly. “Mister, would you like to buy a flower for the misses?” She said brightly and smiled.

 

Her hair was a tangle of knots and dirt. Her clothes soiled from years of misuse and neglect. She just stood there with her box of flowers and held one tiny yellow one out to me. The war had been most hard on the orphans of the city. Many ran in gangs abused my thieves and burglars alike. I was doubtful the small price I paid would go towards food or shelter from the coming winter, but I reached within my pocket and drew out a silver coin. With a smile on my face, I reached down, deposited the coin in her box, and received my flower. She smiled again quite brightly and did a little curtsy for me. I walked on to my shop and went busily about my business. I placed the flower in a vase and sat it upon my cash register.

 

The days went by slowly by. Each morning I repeated my routine. Until one day in the bustle of holiday shoppers, I notice the little girl pressing her nose to the store window. She was looking at my best doll and longing shown in her eyes. I paused for a moment and wondered to myself if she had ever had the luxury of being a little girl. The carefree play with dolls or china tea set. I knew the answer already. The thought made a tear form in the corner of my eye. The moment past and she was gone. Customers pressed demands and the event faded from my mind as business filled my thoughts.

 

That night, I tossed in my bed my mind racing over new orders and yet in the corner of my thoughts I pondered the fate of this little urchin so small in my shop window. Where did she live? What food was she to eat? Grandmamma and I were not blessed with children at that time, and the empty spot in our lives often weighed heavy on us and especially your grandmamma. I am not sure but that I was awake the night thinking about her. I decided that would bring a biscuit and potpie for her the next day.

 

The morning came with a shock. I dressed quickly I paused to make my lunch then kissed your grandmamma goodbye for the day and left. She would depart soon herself and do the bidding of the family for whom she cleaned house. I walked the streets mindless of the cold pressing with each blast of wind I felt. I wondered if she would still be there at her spot beckoning to each passer by for a sale. I turned the last corner and found her just as I had done for so many weeks. I walked up to the same bright smile and purchased my flower. Then from within my overcoat I pulled the parcel of food and handed it to her. At first, she eyed it without extending her hand. Noticing her hesitancy I quickly added, “It’s just some biscuit and potpie for you to warm your tummy by.” Her face turned from doubt to a smile, and she slowly took the food and stuffed it within her coat.

 

That day as I worked my trade I became aware of the little girl standing at the window once more. Her face still covered in smudges of black, she stared at my prize doll with longing in her young eyes. As the day ended, I heard the bell of my door jingle and looked to see who came in. The little urchin stood there, hands buried deep within her pockets as if to ward off an accusation of thievery. She stood back pressed to the door and looked at me without expression. I was slightly shocked from the unexpected forwardness she had yet to display to me. My words returned to my mouth, and I greeted her pleasantly. Relief broke on her face as the concern left her face and she took an awkward step toward the counter and stopped.

 

“Mister, how much for the doll with the white dress?” She asked as a longing came back over her face.

 

Well, that is a unique doll. It's price is steep for the wrong buyer but for it's intended owner the price is just about right, I said with a magical smile on my face.

 

A small hand popped quickly from her pocket and in it was a few pence. "Is this enough?” She said with hope springing on mattered lips.

 

My heart lurched within my chest. I realized this individual doll did indeed have an owner. Her price, well her price amazingly settled right at a few pence. I believe you are the mystical owner of this little girl, I said with flourish and pomp. I reached and pulled down the doll then gently handed it to the little girl.

 

Her face sprang into joy and from behind streetwise eyes. Then I saw the heart of a little girl before me. She took the doll and gently cradled her in her arms. She just stood there a moment and looked first at the doll and then to me then quickly placed the pence into my palm and turned to leave.

 

She burst through the door with the doll held tightly in her arms. I smiled and looked at the coins in my hand. The amount barely pays for the material, but the joy at seeing the little girl light up with rare happiness paid the bill in full.

 

A scream exploded from outside as the sound of tires squealing on cobble shook the shop windows. I rushed out into crowded sidewalk pushing my way through the crowd until I stood over a growing puddle of crimson and gasped. They are on the ground, crumpled, and twisted lay the little girl still clutching the doll.

 

"They tried to take her but... but I kept her safe," her tiny voice trailed off.

 

I knelt down and cradled her wiping dirt and from her face. Yes, she is safe child. You did well, came my reply through tears welling up on my cheeks. Her mouth formed a smile then slowly her eyes lost focus, and she was gone.

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey; I Killed These Roses Myself

And then she sighed at length in some bid to get his attention but he left that somewhere back in July and there wasn’t any going back, back to when the air was light and that stain in the carpet didn’t have any reason to exist and she never sighed at length and her face wasn’t so big that it reminded him of all of the makeup that she left in his bathroom shelves.

He didn’t look down at the mess that rested upon his bare chest but it wouldn’t matter if he did because there was nobody there, just a mess of hair and flesh, his chest so bare and the mess so heavy that it pinned his back to the sweat to the sheets to the regret of it all and God, it’s cold.

And then she sighed again and the weight of her breath felt warm but it was really anything but, treading misshapen footprints across his heart that somehow still beat enough for him to know that it was there, enough for him to always know what was coming next.

She didn’t look up or even lift her head but she still went and said something stupid like “do you still love me” and he knew nothing of the answer, barely understood the question but he did know that he was hungry and he thought of the apple that he had cut into pieces for breakfast and how half of it was rotten and so he was still hungry and that there was also a cobweb in that corner of the room that wasn’t there yesterday.

He knew he was terrible at lying, he knew that she knew and he knew that she knew that he knew, but another thing that they both knew with almost absolute certainty was how great they were at lying to themselves and so he just sighed with her and thought about lunch and maybe they’d watch Transformers 2 again because it was such an awful film but they’d end up fucking before that part where Megan Fox runs in slow motion so it was fine anyway.

“Of course I do, honey.
Of course I do.”

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One Chance

In a city of seven million, what were the chances that you and I would meet again?


It was a question I found myself asking on the night bus home. I even tried doing the calculations to soothe my head- but would it be as simple as 1:7 million? Or would it be double, or half? And what about all the other factors to be taken into account? I’m no mathematician, but the outlook wasn’t good.


I had been working some kind of introductions evening at the Museum of London that night, pouring champagne for pre-drunk and overexcited young lawyers (or something along those lines) whose firm were so kindly throwing them a welcome party to celebrate the life of alternating hard work and hedonism that surely lay ahead. Luckily, I was on the “early” shift, so at 12 I promptly put down my bottle of Moët, signed out and left my poor colleagues to deal with the dirty entrails of the night.


A cool rain was falling when I got outside, mixing with the city smog and dusting the streetlamps gold. I walked a little way until I found an overhanging roof offering just enough space to light the cigarette I had been gasping for all evening. The smoke rose slowly through the drizzle to the grey, cloudy sky, as if it were going home.


The circle line ran until 12.30, so I took one of the last trains eastbound from Barbican. The carriage was empty but for one navy-suited man who sat staring at a single page of the Evening Standard until I got off at Embankment. Only the lost and lonely wander between midnight and 4am. The sleepers are already sleeping, the drinkers still drinking. The few of us that remain aren’t headed anywhere.


I certainly wasn’t in any hurry to get home; only desperate to be free.


I came out of the station and past Charing Cross to find that I had just missed a bus, and the next wouldn’t arrive for at least 40 minutes. But it was of no bother to me: like I say, time moves differently during these strange hours.


There was an all-night cafe around the corner from the bus stop, where I often found myself after long shifts, so I entered the familiar womb of fluorescent lighting and paid for a cup of tea and somewhere slightly warmer to sit, along the front window. Outside, the rain continued to fall, drumming a pleasing plush-plush rhythm into the pavement.


In a matter of hours the cafe would be flooded with drunken revellers (and a couple of heartbroken sods) ordering chips and talking loudly about their love for life. (I knew, for I had been one of those people myself.) For now, though, it was almost silent: only the hum of the dormant deep-fat frier, the dull beat of the rain outside, an occasional crackle from the overhead lighting, and somewhere - at the back of my head - a metallic, percussive sound. I looked around, recognising worn-out faces of those coming off or about to start night shifts, either half-asleep or half-alive.


Then, you.


The rain had settled like dew across your hair, despite the umbrella chucked under the table, and droplets hung, glistening, on the host of silver bracelets furnishing your bare wrists, which crashed together as you scribbled intently in black ink on a wide sheet of paper.


Thus the symphony of scattered sounds was complete.


I thought about how, were I an entirely different person, I might go over and sit down across from you, ask what you were working on, and see if your eyes shone illuminate gold as I imagined they must. Time would slip by and I’d offer you another coffee and we’d stay, talking, or maybe quiet, until dawn; two strangers finding peace in an unforgiving city.


The fantasy disintegrated as I heard the screech of a chair across the floor. Sketchbook under one arm, canvas bag slung across the other, you walked slowly to the door, paused- as if to measure quite how badly you had damaged the silence- then turned, to look at me.


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They Call Me Viral...

...And this is all I really know.

Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Our feelings are the same way. They're a kind of heat. 

How do I know? Of course I know.

How do I fly? Because I know. Why do I fly? How could I not?

Why do I get up just to get beat down again? Why do I show up, half the time for fans that don't quite understand me? Why do I show up, half the time for critics who think I just want fame? Why do I wake up every morning - aching, bruised, beaten down, and with blood in my teeth? Why do I go to bed an hour or two before that, knowing that I won't ever get enough? Why do I fly?

Because energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Our feelings are the same way.

How do I know? I can hear you crying.

How do I fly? You give me the strength. You. Your pain. Your anger. Your hope. Your attention.

Why do I fly, then? It's not for you. It's not for me. It's not to beat the bad guys. Not for fame.

I fly because somebody's got to fly. All of that energy, crying up for an answer...

It has to go somewhere.

You get it yet? Heat rises.


Prompt: A palpitating Anonymous asked me:

Every little beat of your heart. Every little beat of my heart.

And every beat of mine demands an answer. Sometimes, I even hear an echo. Do you?

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins. Seeking prompts, feedback, reblogs, and all your beating hearts.

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Love in the Time of Hatred

"Married? To HIM?"

My mother sits there, bone china mug rattling against her shaking knuckles. Her mouth hangs open, exposing the rubbery gums of her false teeth.

"Why?"

I could ask you the same thing, you hag; lest we forget it was my dear old drunkard dad, peace be upon him, that busted those old teeth of yours.

"Because I love him." I said, squeezing my lover's hands tighter and shifting awkwardly away from my mother.

"But it's not holy."

It's that line that really puts the strain in the muscles of my neck. An awful counter-argument that wouldn't have been out of place at the Nuremberg trials.

Not holy? I've been an atheist ever since I saw my brother killed by a falling tree. Fuck what's holy. He's a man, I'm a man and so is He. You tell me what isn't holy when the cardinals touch the choristers. Fuck holy. Fuck you.

And fuck God, too. Tell Him it's love.

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Ella Bella

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I know that this is just a temporary place. a waystation on the path that this life has taken me. I am just so tired of the sights of the the same thoughts, the same cold dreams, the same rutted time walking back and forth from one room to the other. 

I want my own windows, my own door, a place that if I wanted to let the fucking dishes sit in the damned sink for a day I could. That place that dosent keep reminding me with passive agressive notes and little hints dropped in conversations that I am not keeping up, that I am not good enough for what ever it is that I am not good enough for. either your god,or your house, or your church or life. 

I don't want to be good enough for you, I want to be good enough for me.

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White Knight Complex

(Save Your Soul - Jamie Cullum)

I don't know how not to save people. I'm sorry. Forgetting that I'm a hero scares me.

Not being a hero? Forgetting that feeling is every other day. That scares me.

I'm not looking away because I'm ashamed of you, your legs, your hair, not even those angry eyes. I love those eyes, even when they burn me. Especially. I mean, I know you've earned them. I know we've all earned them, that you've struggled. I'm not looking away from any of that. I'm looking away from me - I can see the reflection. I can't meet anybody's eyes too long. I see me.

I see the biggest, baddest, burliest son of a bitch to ever overclock his amygdala. Sure, you can fly, but when I run? The ground flies. The air cuts corners around me. Sound bends. Light gets a little closer. And when I have to hit something? I hit it hard. I hit my target. I've saved sixty-seven lives. I've never killed anyone, because that's not how it works for me. It doesn't scare me.

It's the feeling that thrives. It's remembering how invincible felt. It's forgetting growing up. No.

No, it's all those others days that scare me. The days I sit in that office chair with one broken wheel. Circling around a spot burned into the carpet. Papers unwritten. Meditations incomplete. My screen beeps with your messages for hours sometimes, but I've got just enough left in me to set myself as "Away". Because I am. Away. It's not the gift. It's not the losses. I'm not sad.

I just am. Away. So yeah. I save people. I work hard to be the big, bad, burly son of a bitch.

And I flinch when you look at me like I'm the bad guy. Because if I'm the bad guy? Well...

Then what the fuck is all of this for? What the fuck am I here for?

It's okay if I'm a hero. Heroes aren't allowed to be happy. If I'm a hero? Then I'm okay.

I can get up. I come back. I smile. I remember that you love me. I remember me.

Prompt: An amnesiac Anonymous asked me:

Forgotten.
(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins. Seeking writing prompts, questions, attention, exposure, and more.