Perfume

Elevator

I first caught her scent in the empty elevator. The tiny mechanical room was filled with her presence, wafting in the air as clear as if she were standing there’ right beside me.   I breathed her in letting her smell wash over me.  I  imagined myself a blood hound, picking out shreds of evidence from her aroma.  I imagined her: sassy and sophisticated, wearing boots, toting books, and GMO free groceries, into the tiny elevator just moments before me.  Serendipity and happenstance had made us miss each other by minutes, and all I was left with were wisps’ and mystery.

Her essence was ethereal and light like lilacs and cotton candy.  Not the heavy-handed perfume of a woman demanding to be smelled, like a trashy low-cut bodice with blossomed-bossoms exposed, expecting to beheld.  No, this was a woman of class and substance, full of culture and fine art that it left an indelible mark upon the world around no matter where she traveled.  Alas, I stood there in the tiny room with four walls, speeding upwards to my home –alone.

I scoured the elevator in the weeks to follow for any traces of her, finding only the smells of takeout dinners and groceries, the sweat of working men and other unpleasantries, but never her smell.  Some days the elevator smelled of cleaning solution, bleach and simple green erasing any trace of her.  Slowly, I began to give up and her sweet scent was almost erased from my memory.

One fateful day I was riding the elevator  up to my apartment, playing absently with my cell phone.  A figure entered the elevator, interrupting the solitary confines of my elevator ride.  So preoccupied was I, with my device I didn’t even bother to look up.  But suddenly the elevator was full of that wonderful familiar smell, the scent I had been searching for weeks before and had all but forgotten.   At last I had found her, and at last I would be able to confess all the love in my heart.  I glanced over:

“Sup”   Said the burly bearded hipster next to me.

“Sup.” I replied.

….And that became the longest, most uncomfortable elevator ride of my life.

The Orange Dress Part II: Cursed

I’m packing up my things.  The hampers I bought her now serve as baskets for me to haul my clothes away.  I see her orange dress, crumpled on the floor.  I scoop it up and shove it down to the bottom with the rest of my dirty laundry.  It’s a thoughtless gesture.  I know she’ll never wear it again.  I take it with me as a reminder, as a keepsake so I’ll never forget what it’s like to be cheated out of happily-ever-after.

I’m home, and in the days to follow I begin unpacking.  Funny the things I now have doubles of… two toothbrushes, two deodorants, two hair gels…  Now single… I have doubles of everything.  I have so much stuff, but I feel so empty.  My life is full of vast tracts of time where I sit and do nothing.  My life slips away from me, minute by minute.  Hour by hour.

The orange dress… it sits in a torn heap in the corner of my room.  There are probably thousands of dresses just like this, bought and sold around the world.  Dresses made out of the same fabric, produced by the same sewing machines and stitched together by the same needle and thread. Thousands of girls wore those dresses to dinners, parties, prom even.  Girls, who had their first slow dance in their dress, girls who got their first kiss, or even lost their virginity in their dress.  Not this dress– This Orange Dress is the shredded pelt of a slain monster.  It is the vile shadow that lives between the veil of sleep and awaken-ness, the bitter pain created by failed love This dress has been imbued with all the rage and violence of our a slowly dying relationship, and that anger has fermented and seethed into the fabric, filling it with sorrow and guilt.

I contemplate cutting that orange dress into strips.  I imagine weaving those strips into a thick braid, and those thick braids into a rope.  I see myself folding and bending that rope into a noose and lashing it up someplace high for her to find.  I can feel the scratch of the material against my cheek as I poke my head through the eyelet of the noose.   I can feel the coarse fabric against my throat as I position it just right.  I can picture the gradual weight of my own body pulling me downwards, with nothing but the thin rope of that orange dress holding me up.  I can feel the soft tissue of my larynx and windpipe crushing under my own weight, the sputtering choking sounds clinging to the very last traces of life in my throat.  The flesh of my neck flaying away like a slow Indian burn that pulls the skin from my meat like a roasted pig.  I imagine the world slowly going hazy, dim and dark as my body begins to shudder in its final thralls.

But most of all, I imagine Her… finding my blackened bloated body hanging in her room, and the look on her face and the noise that comes out of her mouth at that very moment when she realizes what I’ve done.

Eventually I shove the tattered orange dress into a drawer.  Surely this dress is cursed.

Bump it with:

The Boy With Off Switches, and the Girl who Refused Stitches

He turned it off because it pained him,
flipped the lever and erased them
every intimate moment they shared,
every night in her bed.  

Footprints along beach walks, 
and early morning wine talks,
they all disappeared the next time
he opened his eyes.

 And She bled from the wound left gaping,
refusing treatment or sutures,
fingernails clawing to ensure scars,
hoping, maybe  he’d never came back.  

And he forgot’ her
as she lay wounded on the floor.  
In shock’
from the lack of the knock
at her door
or the call to her phone.  

He simply left her alone’
because all he saw were closed blinds
and locks to the place he used to put his key,
to the pillow where he used to sleep,
and her last. haunting. words:

“stay the hell away from me”

— So he did.

A Mouth Full of Hot Air

Every once in a while you meet a person whom you never want to hang out with again.  The problem with me is, over time I allow myself to forget everything that was horrible or annoying about that person, and I find myself hopefully optimistic the next time they want to hang out.  It’s like getting a whiff of something particularly foul smelling… like blue cheese; you want to take a second sniff just to be sure that yes, it was in fact as horrible as you first thought it was.  Tonight was my second whiff, and it was equally as foul.

She’s pretty like I remember.  Especially in pictures on her social media pages, she knows just the way to tilt her head and angle her breasts to make herself look stunning.  She’s perfected presentation on the two dimensional stage that is the internet.  She gets in my car, still pretty, still equally as glossy and made up and as elegant as those photos.  Then she opens her mouth, and then the night begins to crumble.  The car ride is only fifteen minutes, but by the end of it I am exhausted.   She goes through my ipod, commenting about each artist or song.  “This artist sucks, I can’t believe you have this”  “These guys used to be so good.  What ever happened to them?”  I open my mouth to answer, and she’s already on to the next band “My best friend dated the bassist from this band.  But then they broke up”  The band or the couple? I ask.  “I dunno.  Oh my god I haven’t heard this band in years, play this”  She bounces through my playlist in the same rapid fire succession, playing each song for fifteen to thirty seconds before skipping on to the next.  The entire car ride is a series or previews, both of conversations and of songs, nothing meaningful or interesting, just little starts with abrupt ends leading into little starts again.

She gets down to the local music, she seems to know someone from every band on the island; it’s like playing a one sided game of seven degrees to Kevin Bacon, but I am completely oblivious to the names she is dropping or the people she is mentioning.  I nod my head absently, waiting for a break in the carpet-bombing cascade of language.  There is none.

We park and walk to the bar.  She’s still talking.  I marvel at her cardio; her mouth has been going practically non-stop and she doesn’t seem even close to being out of breath.

“You’re cute, do you wear makeup?”

“No” I reply.

“Good you shouldn’t, makeup is for fags.”

The couple walking opposite of us on the sidewalk glares at us angrily.  She is oblivious to the toxicity of her own mouth.  And continues talking.  Her vocabulary is littered with colorful pejoratives, “This girl’s a bitch” “That guys a cunt” “This girls a slut” and on and on.  There are about five mutual friends between us.  These colorful euphemisms are used to describe all the people we both know.

We end up at some seedy bar in the heart of the sprawl (at her direction), where apparently she knows everyone there and can get us in for free, and get us free drinks.  Neither of which happens.  The bouncer she is  “super good friends with” is really more of a casual acquaintance, like a person you pay money to when you’re getting into a place.  Not a super good friend, unless the guy who bags my groceries sometimes is my super good friend.    I pay our cover charge.  We get in.  Nobody she knows is there working.  In fact it’s almost as if nobody knows her here.  She glances around the bar:

“Oh there are a lot of black people in here.  I’m so tempted to say nigger when there are so many black people around.”  I think it’s important to note, that in this type of situation when mentioning a taboo word, one would normally say the taboo word in question, softer than the other words.  Nope, she blurts it out louder.  Eyes turn to us.

“Please don’t.”

“Does that ever happen to you?”

“No.”

“Don’t you just want to yell it?”

“No.”     …because I’m not a seven year old child.  I have self restraint and I know how to behave myself in public around people of different races and cultures…  This seems like a lot to explain.  “Please don’t.”  I repeat.  Her eyes dance, intrigued by the fact that she’s been able to shock me, or nullify me into silence. I don’t remember what we talked about much.  I don’t think I was an active participant.   Still we drink, hoping the alcohol will somehow lubricate things.

She runs into an old acquaintance who actually was from one of the bands we were listening to.  He chats her up, and I am left on my own to watch the TV.  This actually makes me very happy.  Her rockband friend, senses he too has  made a terrible mistake and begins to try to engage me in conversation to break away from her.  I prefer the TV.  My responses, though friendly, are cursory at best.  We go through two more rounds.  Maybe it’s the beer, but her  friend is actually quite nice, a lot more fun to talk to than her.  His stories are interesting, about crack addicts and break ins and about how aging affects a musician’s ideology.  She keeps interrupting, trying to pull the conversation in another direction.  I pay for our tab and we leave.

“I’m hungry.” she complains.  I myself was actually a bit hungry, and buzzed enough to believe that forty five minutes of this couldn’t possibly be that much more harmful to my health.  I was mistaken.

We arrive at a takeout place in the odd hours of the morning.  Drunks like us stumble in, order their food and make their way over to wooden tables to eat.  We sit down.  She’s rambling about music again.  The fact that I had five bands on my ipod she recognized somehow makes us kindred spirits.  She pulls out her phone and begins playing music on her phone.

“This is the song I was telling you about.”  She pokes at the tiny screen, as her tin-thin speakers rattle out their brittle rendition of whatever piece of music she wanted to share.  It’s muddled and sharp, bouncing off the walls of the dining hall.  “Don’t you like it?”  Other patrons look over at us in irritation.

“Maybe you can show me that later.”  I gesture at the couple sitting five feet from us, separated only by a narrow wooden partisan, now sharing my personal hell “It’s kinda loud.”

“But I want to show it to you now.”  she insists.

I touch her hand and lower the volume on her phone.  “Why don’t you show me pictures instead?”  Her paperclip sized attention span is redirected and she begins thumbing through her phone.  I must confess, my intentions were slightly nefarious here.  She seemed like the kind of girl who would keep nudes of herself on her phone, or at the very least something of her in skimpy lingerie.  No such luck.

Instead I subjected myself to a slideshow of her friends, her co-workers, her pets, guys she is stalking, things she happened to take pictures of, some rocks on the ground, dirt, accidental pocket shots.  Each picture comes with a personal narrative and back story.  This is not a conversation mind you, but a presentation, a non-stop assault of words in rapid succession, leaving no room for comment, question, or discourse.  I made the initial mistake of thinking this was a conversation.  Slowly, I was pared down and reduced to single word answers.

“Yep.”  “Uhuh.”  “Interesting.”  “Cool.”

And when her presentation became too overwhelming, I started simply grunting.  I finished my food.  She had barely touched hers.

“Wow you eat so fast.  Everyone tells me I eat so slowly.”  I had so much time to eat while your mouth was moving for the past fifteen minutes.  

She talks about music the whole drive home, listing all the bands she’s seen and the people she saw them with.  Mind you, we still only have the same five mutual friends in common, none of which are the people she is talking about.  These are just people, a long laundry list of empty names to me.  Perhaps she’s unaware of how friends, or individual human experiences work.  The stories shift rapidly.  I’ve given up on trying to follow them long ago.  My mind wanders.  One of the video games I play, has the option to surrender during a match if the other team is winning by a significant amount.  The players on your team need to agree to surrender for it to happen, and then you just sit back and wait for the game to conclude itself.  I feel myself subconsciously clicking the surrender button.  I count the streetlights as they pass overhead.  I imagine what I will eat for breakfast tomorrow.  I imagine this night being over.

We get to her place.  Please leave.  She thumbs through my playlist, again playing fifteen seconds of several songs.  She talks about the bands again.  Please, just leave. And then, she leans over to kiss me; it’s an over eager kiss where her face makes forceful contact with mine.   I feel her tongue at the seam of my lips.  I turn away coughing, pretending to have something caught in my throat.

“You’re really cute.” she exclaims as she tousles my hair.

“Thanks.” I reply. Please just leave.  I’m a little surprised by my own aversion to her.  Somehow her mouth has nauseated me beyond what her body can offer. Please just leave and get out of my car.  I drum my fingers on the steering wheel anxiously. She sits there, toying with her seatbelt awkwardly, running her fingers don the length of the strap.  It sits pressed between her shapely breasts, like a silver river of safety.  Am I really saying no to this?  She opens her mouth.  Yes I am.  She fidgets with the buckle.   Oh god is she stuck?  Am I going to have to free her like some trapped animal trapped in a snare?   Finally she unbuckles her belt.

“I had fun tonight.”  She smiles at me.

“Me too.”  I lie.  That’s what you’re supposed to say right?  Even though it was a terrible evening?  Me too.  Fun.  Yeah.  Please just leave and get the hell out of my car.  She kisses me again, I evade it with my cheek.  Sensing the evening is done, she leaves.  And I am alone in silence with my thoughts for the first time in the evening.

I get home.  My wallet is significantly lighter, and my self-esteem more battered than before.  I was almost face raped.  This is what it must feel like to be a girl on a shitty date.  She texted me some gibberish later on in the night.

I’ve yet to respond.

…Man, I hate being single.

The Orange Dress: Part 1.5 Purse Strings and Bologna

He wasn’t inside of me for long” she says.  “That’s always been his problem, lasting I mean.  And we were very drunk so he was kind of soft…”  It’s weeks later.  I’m not sure why she thought these would be comforting.  The sex they did have was, not as much as I imagined it to be?  She only cheated for a few minutes, rather than a couple hours, so that somehow makes it better?  He still fucked her.  She’s still cheated.  These are the facts.

I study her lips.  Sometimes when we’re making love, sometimes when she’s passed out after a night of binge drinking.   I had a friend in elementary school who had a nervous habit of tugging on his earlobes whenever he felt anxious or self-conscious.  As an overweight asthmatic in a school full of kids who loved to play dodge ball every recess, this happened often; so much so that by the time we hit the sixth grade his earlobes were angry red waddles, stretched out and flopping against the sides of his face like one of those tribal women in National Geographic photos.

Her lips were like that: an inelegant mismatching of flesh, a medieval purse with the drawstring pulled taught, but the extra material still spills out between her legs.  Or a sandwich with too little bread and too much bologna and melted cheese.  Yep, how’s that for imagery.   Somehow I know His intrusion in there has left an indelible mark beyond the psychological torment that’s been etched into me.  I scour her, like the Salem Witch Trials, for any proof of her heart’s true intentions.  Any Freudian slip, any trace of him.  Each turn of phrase, each sideways glance, each time her phone goes off and she saunters to the bathroom to check it, gets another tick mark added to the indelible chalkboard of my mind entitled “You Fucking Whore”

Call it deep seeded insecurity, call it pathetic… though he is miles away and their encounter was weeks ago, I am convinced he has changed her.  Because I. have. changed.

The corruption spreads through me.  I imagine myself as Peter Parker, being slowly overwhelmed by the black symbiote.  It covers me; it colors me; it seeps into every aspect of my life until it is the only shade left.    I don’t know if I love her or if I want to kill her.  Sometimes I wake from fitful nights of sleep, dreaming that I’ve strangled her to death and I wake white knuckled to the steady rhythmic rise and fall of her chest. I’m grateful that she’s still breathing.  Grateful I didn’t kill her accidentally.

I could never forgive myself if I slept through it.

The question lingers: can I do this for the rest of my life?

I’ll try until I can’t.