7.21.2015 Journal Prompt

Photo by Imogen Cunningham
Photo by Imogen Cunningham

July 21, 2015: Anything but this.

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2 thoughts on “7.21.2015 Journal Prompt

  1. There’s a voice in my head and it’s loud as thunder or gunshots, and it says ‘anything but this’. And I just don’t know. I thought this was what I wanted. What I’d always wanted – wanted it for so long it feels like everything and all the stars are falling out of the sky and falling at my feet. And he smells of oil and grease and green soap. And his lips are warm on my arched neck. Everything.

    But the voice in my head roars.

    And he says my name soft as feathers or breath and that is what I listen for. And he says it over and over, like a prayer said in church and said so quiet and so often that the words lose their sense and their sound. Over and over, so that is not then my name but a repeating song and almost like a holy song.

    But the voice.

    His hand under my blouse, not quick or grasping, but flat against my skin and still. Be still my heart. My beating heart, and racing. And surely he can hear it, feel it through his fingers. Like when we were children and up at the railway and he put his hand to the rails, lightly, and he said he was listening for the vibrations of a train coming, and listening was no different from touching, and he could tell how near or how far.

    Anything but this. ‘Unless you are sure,’ says the voice. Sure as eggs or sunrises or shooting. ‘You have to be sure, for there’s no going back from this and the whole world turned on its head and something to lose in the gamble.’ And I was sure – thought I was. And his hand stroking my breast and my breath coming short and fast and his name on my lips, the shape of his name, and the taste of it on my tongue – salt and sting.

    And why now and not before? All those years before, and growing up side by side. In the same street. And never once in all that time. Not in looks or kisses or touches. And didn’t he say, somewhere, sometime, that I was his only and his best? And he was meaning friend. And friends are forever, he said, too. And now, with this, we can be more than friends and less than friends, also.

    ‘Unless you are sure,’ says the voice.

    And I don’t know. I don’t. My head spins – think of coins tossing and ‘heads or tails’ and you could lose either way if you’re not careful. And I push him back from me, put a dark space between us, except that his hand still holds me, under my blouse. And he looks at me, all question and wanting and need.

    ‘Do you not hear it?’ I ask him.

    He takes his hand back and breathes deep and holds his breath. He runs one hand through his hair and looks away and then blows through the kiss-pout of his lips – like he’s had a lucky escape, like he almost lost everything and at the last second his number came up.

    And I still don’t know and my breast is cold and burns and my heart still runs, running like steers in a stampede, and I still don’t know.

  2. It was all fine. Like, I’d got my shit together and everything was straight in my head. First time in fucking years that had been so. First time in fucking years that I felt like I was me and I didn’t need no one to make me happy and I was good with that. Jesus, I was real good with that.

    When I think about it, I don’t know when I’d last felt like that – or if I’d ever felt like that before. All I could think was that there’d been Julie and wanting her to notice me all the time and looking for something in her to confirm what we was. Which, it turns out, was nothing. ‘Course I never got that. I thought Julie was everything and I thought she was the one. We was together for seven years for Chrissakes, seven years and some, and I thought that meant something.

    Then Julie was fucking this guy in our bed and I lost all my shit. Fuck, that was a low point. And even after I’d moved out, I still missed her, and I looked for her coming back to me or me going back to her. I saw her this one time in the street and she was with a whole other guy and she looked happy and we asked after how we were both doing and she said it was good to see me – but then she was kissing the guy and I just wanted to punch something.

    Next day something in me changed. If I was religious I’d say God talked to me and showed me the way. Or maybe I’d say it was my dead dad pulling me up by my bootstraps and telling me to get on with it. But I aint religious and I don’t believe in voices coming at you from the grave, so it was just me talking to myself and coming to a decision. And I decided that if ever I was going to be happy, then it had to do with me and not with nobody else and certainly not with Julie.

    And it took a short while after, but then I was like in tune with the world, and not looking for nothing or no one, and feeling just good, and strong, and feeling me. Like I said, my shit was together and maybe it was the first time ever it was.

    So, I’m in this bar, right – my local. And feeling on top of the world, which it must show in how I’m standing. And this girl asks if I’ll buy her a drink. She looks at me with these dark intense eyes and I shrug and say sure. And she drinks bourbon and drinks it like she’s drinking water or coke, which I mean is she drinks it easy. And I buy her another and we get to talking.

    Talking’s fine but she keeps touching my arm with her fingers and the barman winks at me and I check my wallet in case she’s lifted it already. And a part of me knows that I don’t want this right now and so I excuse myself and go to the restroom, planning on taking my time and hoping she’ll have moved onto another Joe when I get back. And fuck if she don’t follows me – right into the men’s, and she presses herself up against me and kisses me like we’ve kissed a hundred times before. And I taste the bourbon, sweet, on her tongue and she says her name is Claire and she don’t even ask after my name.

    And just when I’ve got my whole shit together, Claire’s unbuckling my belt and unbuttoning my pants and everything breathless and the world spinning in my head and I’m fucking Claire in the men’s room at my local bar and I tell her I’m not ready for this, but she don’t listen. And like that we’re both fucked, and all my shit is lost again or broken into pieces, and sweet it is, sure, but sour it is also.

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