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Posts Tagged ‘Stories Told to be Forgotten’

It was one of those moments when perception was more like the vanishing point on a painting. A long, smooth, gray carpet rolled out from somewhere within the structure. Climbing stairs, walls that narrowed due to distance and size, and long rolling garden made the obviously huge structure look tiny. On either side small white crosses and old worn stones marked the otherwise innocent yard as a gravesite.

Above the endless deep blue sky of Kentucky signaled a beautiful day. A gust of wind pushed Clay’s straight as a board body toward the sprawling Monastery. The gritty sound of rubber tires slowing on tar notified Clay of a car behind him. One door opens, shuffling feet, then another door opens, more shuffling feet, then the trunk opens, bags hit pavement and finally a ‘thank you’.

The voice was suddenly next to him in physical form. A tall slender shadow torso stretched across the light gray walkway and deposited the head in the grass. The smell of dominance wafted from him. It was a strong, clean, spice. It was a scent Clay had smelled before on high end authors of stuffy nonfiction. He was inevitably wearing a clean black suit tailored to his body, a simple solid tie, and a white undershirt.

His suit was actually gray. The tie was blue. As Clay turned his head to observe this the man greeted him with sunglass eyes and extended a hand. Movement in his eye brow alluded to a wink. He was massive, manly, a 7 story mountain. He was clean shave, slightly tan, well kempt, and obviously confident.

“The name is Clay.” Clay said meekly extending his hand to be swallowed by his.

“You write those trash novels.” His voice implied a jocular sense of friendship but it was one of clear pity. The type of sense that an older brother has when he teases his younger sibling. It was five seconds into the conference and Clay was being pitied.

“Trash sells.” Clay fired back.

“I wouldn’t know.” The man said as he winked again and walked toward the monastery. Clay thought about saying ‘nice to meet you’ but he hadn’t really met him at all. The man never introduced himself, never eluded to his works or why he was here. He merely walked like he owned the place, a colossus straddling the world, with his feet in the clay and his head in the heavens.

Again the feeling of flesh and muscles were absent. It was middle school all over again. The wind past right through Clay and deposited his soul at the door of the Monastery. He was greeted by a man dressed in white with a black shawl. He bowed as two others took his bags. Without mass time meant nothing. Things became simple. He was inside. That inside was particularly warm and big. The inside’s roof was too high. He felt small inside. There was a big circle. Few people in the circle. The colossus was inside the circle. The room was white.

There were candles. There was an altar, a huge organ, a giant tapestry. It had what appeared to be saints in a Christmas tree reading. It had one word on it: “Caritas”. It was unbearably hot. More people entered. Some in the monochromatic penguin habits. Other’s in business suits. One was disheveled and wearing a Hawaiian shirt. He tried to smoke inside, the penguins surrounded him. He grinned, took a couple puffs, and then flicked it into a bowl of holy water.

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Typical. The rolling green hills that folded into each other. The arcing pine trees. The clear blue sky with small cotton clouds in it were all typical. The clear reflective water was typical, the bumpless road was typical, and the idiot driver blathering about the beauty of it was typical. The rather regular and utterly predictable man thought himself rather sophisticated as he pontificated upon the infinite beauty of nature. Clay, on the other hand, had long risen above such pointless adoration and was desperately trying to change the topic.

“I hear the Maker’s Mark distillery is around these parts.” Clay inserted this as the driver had digressed from the wonderful beauty of the natural surroundings to what seemed to be the history of Kentucky erupting from such beauty.

“Yessir. Finest whiskey the world wide. Nothing compared to the natural spring water though.”

“Or a woman’s kiss…”

“Well that neither I suppose.” The drive got that look in his eye that Clay knew and loathed. The look reflected in those blank siphon eyes were always followed by something like the words that then came from the driver’s mouth. “What brings you to a place like this?”

“Business.”

“I don’t reckon too many businesses are like yours then.”

“That is certain.”

“You write, don’t you?”

“Occasionally. Are you a fan?”

“Oh no. I keep to reading the bible and perhaps the life of the saints.”

“I see.”

“Do you?”

“Excuse me?”

“See. You said ‘I see’.”

“Oh yes. I mean I understand.”

“Oh. Well I just reckoned that you were here for the seminar on God’s place in literature that is taking place down here in Gethsemani.”

“A seminar?”

“Oh yes. Authors from all over are coming to discuss the topic. They say Fr. Raphael is the best at drawing out the soul and then puttin’ it on paper.”

“I find ink works better than soul.”

“You’re the author not me.”

“But where would I be without a driver?”

“Nowheres… that’s where.”

“Exactly, now if you wouldn’t mind the process of getting to know someone is rather intense and I have writing to do before we reach Gethsemani.”

“I bet this beautiful nature will sure help.”

“I tend to keep my eye on the paper.”

“Yeah but it must be nice to draw inspiration from all this.”

“All what? Some ancient trees that strive only for height? Grass that exists only to be cut? Water trapped in a cycle of purification? This is all purposeless, meaningless stuff that you only admire out of ignorance. Its just big and complicated. There is nothing beautiful about it.”

“I reckon you’re right. But I hafta disagree with you.”

“If I am right, how can you disagree?”

“Thats easy. I just don’t agree.”

Clay’s mind tried to wrapped around the driver. It always offended him that others could be so simple. All this man wanted out of life was to drive and see nature. He aspired to no greatness, aimed at no virtue, and just sat and admired nature all day long. Though he didn’t harm a soul, his way of life still irked Clay for some unknown and secret reason… a secret even to himself.

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The maze of drunken perceptions had led him to the only place familiar to such a shadowed mind. He recalled little except drowning each word that rose from out his throat with alcohol. No matter, it was not as if they didn’t echoed in his head the same – Elle, why? He had made the error of all mankind, he tried to give beauty a name, confine it to a place, a time, a woman. He should’ve just left, when he felt that tell tale feeling. He knew he was in over his head – but he continued.

Rather than reclining next to Elle on the ancient oak desk he was sprawled as a disorganized mass across large granite steps in the shadow of a church. The familiar gargoyles had heard his woes before, always drunken, never heartfelt. The ritual was almost complete. He had started the chain of events which always led him to his computer to produce another book. The press would undoubtedly call it ‘ingenious’ and ‘inspired’ and with their permission the flock would unleash its gluttony onto every page – melting, swooning, blushing.

He thought of naming the main character Elle. What sickness he must have had in his mind to entertain such a notion. What perversion would he have been unleashing onto reality or onto fiction? The Created Lover would be the title. But such was not his style, he didn’t write tragedies. What he wrote was mockery, attempting honesty and beauty at the same time always falling short of actual experience. He was the tragic writer of the pitiful 20th century, and he had nobody to blame but himself.Greatness, this is what he pursued. What he got was popularity close enough in appearance to greatness to satiate him in his younger years. What other reason was there to do anything, if not out of some perceived greatness? What did throwing a hundred women to the ravages of their own mind mean when compared to greatness? Was it so bad to use other human beings if it meant fueling the pen which would turn the tables of time into the new era? Such was his attitude when he first found himself upon the steps of this very church, a decade ago.

Time had wrought an entirely different complexity onto his face. For as much as his desire for greatness had forgave his ethical dilemmas, nothing felt worse than realizing his perceived greatness was nothing more than illusion. What now could he offer to God as penance? What could be worse than throwing a hundred women into a lost lover’s despair? What was more damnable than using other human beings for fame? How delusional was he to assume to think that his works of straw would hold against the fires of time? He was a fraud.

Despite all this, he continued, for it was the only thing he knew. Was he free at all in the face of such fear? He knew no God, nor any comfort or love, but yet he returned to this place. A place familiar to him since childhood. Here is where people were forgiven, whether by God or by man or by self. He only needed to here three words. Once hearing those magic three, he would be free to write his magnum opus – whether for greatness or for self.

With this hope he rose. He was stripped of flesh, muscle, and bone; all lost in the labor of retreat. He was nothing, a ghost caught in the wind. Amidst himself he carried the book he had stolen after his encounter with Elle. It was heavier than his entire being, and pulled him low to the ground. Looming before him were the massive doors of St. Augustine’s Cathedral.

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He had lost her again. Not that he had ever had her, or known her, beyond some name – which was probably little more than syllables used to disguise. Elle, what sort of name was that? Clearly a fake name, a pseudonym, to hide some life she tried to escape from; little more than a desire for fantasy, no more or less than a child’s desire to escape into a world of pretend. Yet, she had escaped to him. In her fevered mind he had become a hero, a knight, or an entire kingdom for her to exist within, in the most purest of ways, devoid of any possible lie.

And he had lost her. Not her, in her body, as herself. But her in the fact that she was every girl he had ever met, or known, or not known, or even loved. He had made hasty retreat in the face of something unexplainable, something frightening, as such was a woman’s eye. He had not left without anything; however, from that dusty old study long entombed by an abandoned building.

He barely noticed that it was raining. Under his arms, half his loot was now getting damp. It was an old copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, complete with Gustav Dore’s illustrations, and a preface written by Aldous Huxley. His other loot could not get wet for it was well enclosed within a solid bone bell jar. Within the fertile soil of his mind a seed had been planted, a seed which would grow into a kudzu of words, growing and devouring the nutrients of the field until all but it had died. Then he would arrive to harvest his bounty, but for now he just let it grow.

That, after all, was why he did this. Why he held such treasures only to discard them. Why he insisted on knowing only a first name. He couldn’t trust himself to not know them deeply. Even now his skin stripped of his flesh in the face of an insurmountable wet wind. It dissolved like sugar in the rain, running in the streams along the side of the road back toward her. She was still there; he could make it back before morning. But then he would forsake the kudzu for a flower, for the two cannot share the same soil. To write, or to love. His mind was burning with toil.

To make things worse the nausea had returned. The nausea he had felt only once before, in the presence of one girl, before writing books was even an option for him. Back when his fallow fields had not known a seed, before he knew what a harvest he could yield. It was two years before the shared the same bed. It wouldn’t be an entire year before the harrowing. Madness returned to his mind, blinding his eye, and making all houses look the same – he walked past his house.

He could smell her still on him. Some mix of exotic flower essence and distilled spirits. He needed to get her off him. Her weight had stripped skin from his bone. The hollow banging sound of his legs brushing together accompanied the wind howling through his open ribs. Beneath the once opaque calm sea was a violent muscle floor showing its labored work. Such footsteps that he made were the heaviest to make and were the footsteps of giants.

His transparent body made people passing by fear what thoughts raced through his mind. His eyes darted around, looking for something to explain or to understand, but found only blind colors. Answers were hidden to his eyes like the fish of the sea, like the leviathans in her eyes, like the words in her mouth. Strangers understood his confusion, and knew it well, as the mark of a madman who wanders around the streets looking for prey.

By the time he reached the bar all vital organs, all muscles, veins, and tissues had left a trail through the raining streets. He was an empty, hollow skeleton save for two objects: a brain, and a barely beating heart. He put the book on the table and motioned for a beer – since all words had left him.

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The unfurling sky known only as ‘Elle’ hung over the world of things briefly as her once vertical body had become a horizontal mirror to their reality. The hanging white sky had patch work clouds made of shadows mocking the objects around the room on her back. The distant and unknown mockeries of real things grew bigger and in so doing, marked the acceleration of a woman caught in gravity plummeting onto the world of things.

The desk was alive with passion and heat. What objects were lucky enough to roll of the edge could only imagine the reality of those left under the soft flesh of the fallen sky. The lamp tipped, landing on its switch, and turning on with a flash of brilliance. Meanwhile, the only thing standing on the desk was the globe who supported an upside down atlas on its brass top. The pages marked where some forgotten traveler once peered allowing the waters of the Mediterranean to become alive to his eyes, before turning them over and making them the sky atop the globe, whose base now found itself intimately close with the nape of the young woman’s neck.

Beneath a rolling white sky the spines of several books cracked. Sweat caused thin pages to stick to flesh – Shakespeare’s Tempest clinging to the posterior of the whispered ‘Elle’. Her head gently forced up by a thick anthology of Plato’s complete works. Her back arching over volumes of assorted poetry. The rest of her bed was too dense to be described here. The still erect bronze sun stood over her, reaching his fingers down to pluck a single page from a book, pinned while escaping, just out of reach of her left bosom.

He read aloud: “I have awakened from the death of absence, my Elle! my spirit arises, strengthened, as from sleep”. His other hand ran over soft stomach and rested on her hip. It was now, as she hanged limply over the antique desk like Dido, that she gained the strength of Antaeus. The leviathan’s again awoke and met the man’s eyes.

She whispered: “A sin so sweet, I think I shall indulge twice”. The two lay together. A day had passed, and now a night. The room had only one inhabitant again. On the second day the morning appeared in the window of the old study and the woman was alone. As if it had all been a dream, but it had not. She turned the paper in her hand over, and read aloud: “‘Silly! what is parting?’ she whispered mysteriously, with the smile of an immortal”. She allowed the paper to float to the ground. “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

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Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. In…

From underneath the horizon a hand latches onto the nape of her neck. Her breathing is cut short by the emergence of another body. The life giving in and out, the gentle airy wind, now filters through another mouth. Again silence lays heavily on the world of things below the spectacle. What splendor, what sorcery. From one body arises another as if called from within her.

She closes her eyes, and the world-gorgers disappear as if turned inward. They hide under the surface of eyelids and lashes. Who knows what other worlds they feast on. The hand around her neck slips off, allowing her to emerge over the leveled desk. Her once large proportions suddenly becoming titanic. Rising like a mighty tree whose canopy cannot be seen. Her once intimate details are no longer visible as endless curves flow toward the heavens.

The ivory landscape is uninterruptedly smooth save for a small divot whereupon hung a metal loop still within reach of the desktop world. The gemmed whole hung like the moon, a dark hole in a white sky which appeared to suck in the viewer as if by gravity or some other natural force. Yet its contents where obscure, forcing the untrained eye to dart about the fleshy horizon out of shame.

Her sunrise fingertips run along the desk, writing history in the dust. A single wave ending at a small ornate bookmark that bisects the plot of a hefty Russian novel, one typical to the snowy tundra – a handful of lovers, tormented by their own minds, and subject to a fate written out as history by the narrator. The bookmark would never know the end, probably for the better, it had been abandoned by the reader who got bored of reading about a hero confined to his couch.

Her right hand was not so worried about the world of things, it grasped for a companion still hidden from sight. She motioned, and a new horizon emerged. The landscape was rocky and tough. Compared to her, its ground seemed muddy, red, and infertile; but strong. He too had eyes – dark endless eyes that cast shadows over the world. They were deep like calculation. They moved back and forth with purpose and determination, leaving footprints wherever they trod. They were the eyes of naming.

He was a striding colossus beset on the world. He towered even over her as the night sky towers over the setting sun. His worked soil stretched a hand and covered the jeweled moon.  The other works with the strands of hair that taunt the mighty leviathans by hanging out of reach. She turns to embrace him, separating the sky into two halves, as if a painter had created dusk by separating the best of night and day then resetting them next to each other.

He whispers “Elle” and for the first time, brings name into the world of things.

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