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What Happened When Reilly Woke Up

In Excerpts of Prose, WHAT HAPPENED WHEN REILLY WOKE UP on November 1, 2010 at 11:13 AM

XP0A0064

 

 

No One Was Supposed To Notice

She stood watching. Expression blank. Eyes soft. The wheel of thought behind them, turning. Wisps of blonde hair laughing; showing off for the summer sun, dancing in the afternoon breeze; gentle. They were beautiful, whispering inaudibly, “I have a secret.”

And in this, the eyes held the hidden smile of someone silent and in agreement. (Like the woman in that old oil painting. The one everyone recognizes immediately.)

For a moment, she became distracted by a piece of newspaper blowing past her feet. The front page of The Times, pausing for just an instant, pierced her vision with the fraction of a headline,

“…Hundreds Dead In Afternoon Bombing….”

The paper turned over and continued up 6th Avenue, scratching the sidewalk.

The eyes flashed, hardened and became sharply acute. The blank expression opened to reveal only a disruption. She bit her lower lip and sucked it back in, breathing, arching her neck upwards. A posture wired from ballet and modified over time to initiate a kind of physical alignment. She exhaled slowly. Focus. Then inhaled steadily, silent. Inside, conjuring grace and strength. It would soon emanate from her, almost tangible for those who came in close contact. This had become a shield, a defensive stance before engaging in critical action. She assumed it because she did not know what else to do.

The thoughts had resumed their slow turning, reviewing what had happened. What she had missed. What got her trapped in the first place. Do not go insane.

She had left off with the objective reasons behind the recent disappearance of a close ally. Vanished off the radar, there had been no communication. No response to recent requests for status reports or confirmation. In their language, he had chosen radio silence, done only once before and in a volatile predicament. Something had gone wrong. Something had happened.

Several blocks uptown a van turned into traffic. From the second floor office, a fax machine turned on, his vision was failing, but he could see her.

The woman standing vigilant, taught and tall. Long legs made longer by the narrow high heel of black designer shoes. Perfect legs stretching upwards, forever, meeting a slim A-line skirt several inches above the knee. Teasing but ladylike, they disappeared inside. The rest left to imagination. The body underneath the tailored, sliced grey suit.

If there ever was a time in life to be alive, this was hers. Rising in the ranks of the world, a young woman with a brilliant future, surveying the landscape from a hilltop.

He thought this as he watched her.

The van blared its horn in the midtown traffic. Someone wearing a red hat came out of the subway, blinded for a moment by the sun and the glare off of the avenue.

This is what you see with a lazy glance. Look closer.

CONTINUED HERE

She was in the middle of a war. The war that no one could see. Beyond the headlines, beyond the television, beyond the discussions on talk radio; the conversations in the car or at the dinner table or among strangers, all concerning the war people were allowed to see. Like her legs, revealed what was fashionable. The rest behind a curtain. Only select few experienced the other side, knew the whole story. No one else understood. No one else was supposed to.

Other men fantasized about her body; what it would be to devour her on a steamy, sweaty night; she, gasping underneath and surrendering completely. What it would be like inside.

Such fantasies could only touch the tip of the iceberg. Imagination is limited, especially concerning this woman and who she really was. Metaphorically speaking, imagination can only grasp what would be seen above an ocean. What lies beneath and what cannot be seen, is rich with life, treasures and the true beauty of her mystery. And like all oceans, she could turn deadly and devastate in an instant, take life away. The circumstances subject to natural elements and specific chain reactions.

Nearby someone kept screaming who no one was hearing.

He moved his gaze to the computer, typed quickly and hit enter, then returned to studying her. He knew the difference between imagination and what hides below, underneath and very deep. He knew what could really happen if certain things came to be. Dismissing the thought, he picked a recent memory and let it wash over him. He inhaled, almost smiled, savoring it.

The van sideswiped a cab turning a corner. The red hat was moving back and forth, a lost sense of direction.

In the war no one sees, the theories and the fantasies about what lies behind the curtain are not only limited, but an exercise in futility. Like a man imagining what it would be like underneath the tailored grey suit. If this came to be, presented itself in reality, the experience would prove alarmingly different; and ultimately, beyond anything the human mind could have predicted.

Look closer. The eyes were sharpening as the thoughts turned faster.

Incapable of understanding the magnitude of forces operating around her, she had assumed it was just another job with a paycheck. Back then it was different. The world was different. She was different.

Her parents, amazed at her success, laughed as she shrugged her shoulders with ambivalence. She had demonstrated her brilliance with a flawless performance, too smart for her own good. Her innocence and ignorance made it all the more succulent and someone immediately noticed. The catalyst for where she stands today, a vulnerable fledgling in a world she cannot yet comprehend. One she never wanted to know about to begin with. She had been perfectly happy with daydreams.

The red hat bobs in the distance moving with the traffic uptown.

He sees the arrow flash on the computer screen. He clicks, reads, turns back to watch her, letting the message sink in.

She never imagined killing anyone. The idea deeply disturbed her. In order to survive, she would be forced to do things she did not like, of course. To adapt…. It suddenly dawned on her that if certain situations were to occur, the reins would be handed over to instinct. In accordance with a relevant natural reaction, she would kill. Felt it in her gut. Social Darwinism, Existentialism, the theories of Ruskin and Machiavelli were fact in the reality she was just beginning to make out.

She had followed the bait past the point of no return. Into the deep and finally, in too deep. She wondered if she had looked closer, paid attention, not been so young and given to daydreams; if only something, she would have been able to stop it from happening. The worst part so far, growing worse with each moment, was waking up and finding herself trapped. On the other side of the curtain, on the inside. One thing was for certain: this reality was predicated on Functional Design. She had to be not only useful, but cost effective and appealing to the eye.

Notice the woman positioned on the corner, oddly reminiscent of some great work of art. Voyeuristic and nervous pedestrians take a quick glance, maybe another moment.

The van is about to turn the corner.

The cell phone seized. Her hand slipped inside the breast pocket and she extracted the silver object, barely touching the expensive grey fabric. Snapping it open, she answered before the second seizure.

“Hello, this is Reilly.”

“Just let it happen.”

In a blur, she saw it appear next to her. She thought it would hit her. The cell phone dropped from her fingers. The rest too rapid and abrupt to remember. Just hands all over her, lifting her. She hit her head and heard the door slam. The world shut out completely.

The man hung up the phone and watched it happen. There was no expression, just a cold, objective focus. But he was not breathing. He was not aware that he was holding his breath.

Inside, darkness, moving. The van swerved. She put her hand on the wall to balance. Lying on her side. Awake and conscious, but in a panic, paralyzed; nothing was familiar or real. Vision blurred. Three men in the back with her. She backed away from them, using her feet to push, leaning her back on the wall for support. She took refuge in the corner, making herself as small as possible.

‘Maybe I can become invisible,’ she thought. One of the figures leaned closer. A large hand wrapped around her left arm. The grip made the intention perfectly clear. If she fought at all, the bone would snap. ‘Go somewhere else,’ she told herself, ‘disconnect. You are not here.’ Her long black lashes bowed respectfully down as the hand pulled her towards the second figure, leaning in.

“No,” she said softly. Then in a quite sigh, a whisper. “Just be gentle.”

The fax machine turned off as the van disappeared up the avenue, out of his view. Silence. It startled him. The armor broke open.

Look closer.

You could see him, naked, the truth and the devastation. He gasped, sucking the air in. Covered his face with his hands and bowed forward in frustration.

The red hat had bobbed back against traffic, wrong direction again. The person stopped on the sidewalk and took off the hat, scratching his head. The hat itched. ‘Don’t want to wear it,’ he thought. He flipped his old backback around and opened it, stuffed the hat in.

When he was finished, zipping it up, he happened to glance upward and saw something no one else was supposed to see. That is, no one who would take the time to look closely. A man in the window, looking out, fixated on something behind him. ‘What was he looking at,’ he thought, turning around to see if he could pinpoint it.

Look closer.

A van speeding through traffic uptown. Changing lanes, headed for the West Highway. The guy who was wearing the red hat focused on it, then turned back around.

The strangest thing happened. The man in the window had a split-second reaction. ‘What in the world,” he thought, before the man covered his face with his hands, bowed forward and pushed his chair around. Out of view. Without the red hat, he bobbled back and forth, lost direction, confused. Displaced by what he had just seen.

‘What was I doing? Which way am I going…’

The sleave was pushed up on the opposite arm. A lean hand grabbed her wrist and pulled, pressure from wiry fingertips on the veins above her elbow. Then, a horrible sting. Inside terror consumed the grace, the strength. Oh, she knew that sting. Hospital, pain, needles. The burning. She did not know if she cried out loud or wimpered when this happened. She then felt very nauseous, alien. ‘What is he doing,” she thought, before slipping into oil.

The guy decided to walk east. He crossed the street to the uptown side because the sign said ‘Walk.’ He waited for the busy avenue, the sun behind him, the glare gone. The air was cool. The breeze, a caress. The traffic stopped and the sign said, ‘Walk.’ He thought about how the city was so beautiful, full of life, full of mystery. He looked down and laughed to himself, shaking his head, smiling.

Look closer.

A silver cell phone in the street gutter. Suddenly distracted, the flash of a little green light pierced his vision. Focusing in, the camoflauge gadget took shape. ‘Someone dropped this,’ he thought, bending over to pick it up. ‘I’ll keep it so no one steals it. Try to find the owner tomorrow before the show.’ Happy, he almost skipped along the sidewalk. Breathing deeply, slipping into a daydream.

A short while later, the van coasted across the bridge, away from the city. The sun, beginning to set, lay an orange blanket behind it and reflected in the tinted back windows. A bird caught the reflected light. Birds have thoughts. It noted something we would consider peaceful.

 

Meanwhile, In A Different World, Downtown

The street lights snapped on. The manager waved at the busboy who flicked a switch on the wall. The red sign above the bar began coming to life, the last letter fading in and out, warming up. A kid on a skateboard lost his balance, distracted by it. Corner of another avenue downtown, the Village.

The windows on the second floor above the bar were open to let the summer evening in. Julian happened to pull back the curtain and look out in time to see the kid flip backwards, landing hard on the pavement. He hissed without knowing it, “Ow, damn.”

“What is it?” Kenny’s voice spoke through the telephone. They had been in mid-conversation.

“Nothing,” Julian said, “a kid just fell off his skateboard.”

“Oh,” he paused, “anyway, Kate and I are just sick of it. We’ve been here long enough and neither of us want to put up with it anymore. Besides, its just getting weird, you know?”

Julian had resumed pacing around the apartment, shuffling his feet. A habit from childhood. In the pause, he heard someone shouting on the street. The last bits of daylight were being swallowed into night.

Kenny continued, “Have you been up to Midtown lately?”

“Nooooo,” the name conjuring images of suits, the glares off the avenues. Concrete blocks spreading out and up into the sky. The smell of wealth and success, power and business.

Julian waited tables, served the City University brats at a vegan restaurant across town. Reaching for a pack of Parliaments, he got one out, lit it. He repeated something to himself, the same way many did, but no one said out loud, the habit in the habitat: ‘Feels better in the village. Don’t want anything to do with it, regardless of what it is.’

“Man, I am telling you. Those caravans are starting to really freak me out.”

“What are you talking about?”

“These big fuckin’ escort vehicles, big black SUVs, like six of them and a couple city cop cars, all in a caravan?”

“When was this?”

“This’s been going on all summer. You haven’t seen them yet? Shit. The freakiest part, the Secret Service, leaning out all the windows of the SUVs. They’ve all got those radio pieces in their ear, sunglasses, black suits; and they’re holding these huge automatic machine guns…”

Julian stood in the center of his living room and took a drag off the cigarette. He had three windows facing northeast, looking out over Avenue A and across to Thompson Square Park. Laughter coming from the basketball court. The sound of the ball bouncing. A rhythm. Count it: One, Two, Three, Four…

“I gotta go man,” Kenny said.

That snapped him back into it. On a sharp intake of breath, he refocused and then asked a question.

“Have you heard from Reilly yet?”

“Nope. I haven’t heard from her in awhile actually. I’ll ask Kate though.”

“Cool.”

“Keep it real, man. I’ll call you later.”

“Word.”

Julian hung up the phone. Night had come. He could feel the hum from underneath and it reminded him of cicadas. Nocturnal creatures stirring in the Village, the natural rise and falling together, every 17 years, the same buzz from a different generation.

He sat down at the table, looking out on the street below. All sorts of people, in all sorts of ways. No one was the same in the village. A collective of artists, musicians, miscreants; all of them haunting the bars and restaurants, coffee shops and vintage stores.

People stay where it is familiar. Like minds gather together, building kingdoms out of run down storefronts, wood floors smelling like stale beer, seats taken from old school buses and minivans. Crowning each other with aluminum foil, they escape, start fading away; until their eyes are as vacant as the scruffy weather-beaten grandfather, talking to no one, emptiness reflected in a hollow stare, alone on the park bench. And then, just like ghosts, they disappear. All without anyone noticing. No one to tell his or her stories. No one to tell his or her side of the history.

‘It is a choice we make,’ Julian thought. But a choice we willingly make? Looking at the old man on the bench, another empty shell of no real significance, it occurred to him that we never really know we are choosing in the end. It’s so depressing and redundant. He blamed this for his smoking habit, among other addictions on the depressing and redundant.

Shouts from a group of Punks walking around the perimeter of the park, in dog collars and chains, torn jeans and various colored Mohawks. One of them was imitating, telling a story and all the rest bobbing about, laughing and talking. They were children, really. You could see through the anarchy t-shirts and combat boots. They were so innocent, self-conscious and yet acutely aware. The image was armor, the first shell, the first steps to identity.

And the first steps to escape from a world found inexplicably alienating. All the different ways we take shelter and what it feels like growing older there. Stuck in a goddamn shell, scuttling about in the sand. Julian shook his head. It doesn’t matter when it’s all said and done with. Look too closely at things, start thinking too much, all of that just brings trouble. Fuck it.

He picked up the phone and dialed a number. Waited, counting the rings like counting the basketball bouncing. One, two, three, four—

“The mailbox you are trying to reach is full. Please try again later.”

An Email To A Dad

At 03:42 PM 8/30/04 -0400

Hey Daddy-O!

RNC has everyone up in conniptions and excitement. Those trying to create some semblance of control are running into a brick wall, coming close to resorting to Taliban tactics. Chet’s out of control. So funny. Sam was going to try to get me in tonight but I don’t know if that is going to happen. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I am plowing ahead. I know I’ve been out of touch but I want you and Mom to know it’s not for lack of wanting. I am in a really competitive environment, on top of living in this city. The combination of the two exhausts my batteries. It’s hard to keep on top of everything both personal and business wise. I have to make sure that my personal life remains as controlled and stable as possible, otherwise it drastically affects my work. Learned the hard way last week that I can no longer allow my ‘friends’ to ask for my ‘support’. Otherwise, I set myself up for unwanted, unneeded and pointless drama. As Sally told me Friday night over dinner: ‘Turn the tap off. You’re not being mean. You just have to be selfish right now.’ So this is the new course I am plotting.

Wish me luck Dad. THis is a big time for me. Trying to keep it all together: Work, Personal and that little bit of time I get to be social.

Its tough out here.

Love you.

And From A Father To A Daughter

Hang in there kid – there is one thing you should really know – you are

knee deep in the toughest game in town and you are too young to really know what it going on around AND with your own capacities. DON’T MAKE ANY CONCLUSIONS ABOUT YOURSELF OR THE GAME THAT IS BEING PLAYED AROUND YOU. Use your judgment – like you are – to keep as much control as you can. Burn as FEW bridges as possible. Get out before you are consumed by the fire if it gets too hot. I say all this because you will grow and you will get better at all this.

Love you

Dad

Time For A Hundred Visions and Revisions

RADIO ANNOUNCER:

Here we are reaching the half-way point of the hour, coming to you in this, blustery holiday season . Top stories include several bombings in Iraq and the wait goes on to see if the terrorists release, ____, the British Red Cross worker held captive now for 9 days. The temperature is 34 degrees, little bit of snow in the city and outer boroughs. This is WNZW and I’m Dale Wynand, coming to you at 6:30, this Tuesday evening. Watch out for the wind and here’s a little something soothing to start us off.

Reilly came in from the cold, the wind blowing through the door of the pub, scattering snow behind her.

Kate watched as she wiped her feet, pulling off the scarf and gloves, hat and heavy winter jacket. Looking at her, she could see the cold. She could also see Reilly still managing to lose weight. Not a good sign.

An expression crossed her face and Reilly caught it, smiling weakly. They had been friends for a long time; long enough so that Kate could tell and Reilly knew it. Too tired to put on an act, she welcomed the cherry wood by breathing it in, said something sly to Ronnie as he handed over the usual single malt and then came over to join Kate in the booth.

“Hi there,” Kate said, then paused, wrapping her hands around the lingering warmth of her tea. “You look like shit.”

“I hadn’t noticed.” Reilly laid her head down on the teak wood, stretching her arm out underneath it. She looked away and then looked back at Kate, “I suppose part of the reason has to be the fact that I have not seen the sun in a whole year. It’s not making the winter any easier.”

“Yeah sure…” Kate wasn’t buying it any more than Reilly was selling it. “How’s work?”

Reilly just looked at her. Enough said in the silence.

The two young women studied each other, one trying to figure out the long ignored problem and one waiting to be told which version of the story they were in. Eventually, both sighed, not wanting to give in but neither knew what to do next.

Kate was older and had been out in the world longer. She appreciated Reilly’s idealism more than the others. She remembered how growing up became something different. She understood how Reilly didn’t quite ‘get it’ yet, not because she was incapable.

Far from it, actually, because Kate watched her find her own way, in her own time. That’s what growing up was. Not something you can explain, only a subjective experience unique for each person. So, as Kate cocked her head to the side, Reilly took a long drink, finishing the scotch and shaking the ice around in her glass, “Fuck it,” she said, getting up, “I’ll be right back…Ronnie, loohve!?”

The Irish bartender with the red hair laughed at the blonde who could drink the best of ‘em under the table. Kate took her glasses off and rubbed her eyes, refocused and saw she was definitely right about the weight. Now, she was actually concerned.

Reilly came back and sat down, half her drink finished already, “What?”

She asked almost as if threatened, for a moment catching a glimpse of herself in Kate’s vision, in her concentrated expression. Which version of the story was this again?

“Dammit,” she acquiesced.

“So what the fuck is going on with you?” Kate asked.

The mahogany wood absorbed it, the warm light holding it in close to them. Not many questions came from a place so honest. Reilly barely knew what to do with it. She had to laugh at the seriousness.

Kate, in turn, shook her head and managed a semi-chuckle, then looked up at her friend once again, “You’re still losing weight. No one sees you anymore. I’m just saying…”

Reilly took a deep breath and held it in. She looked directly into Kate’s eyes and into her reflection, the young mind working furiously to sort out words, to find phrases. She found nothing, only air she couldn’t breathe, shrugged her shoulders. Her gestures reminded Kate of a flounder, a fish out of water.

Almost the way he did when he was exacerbated. Talking to her. Telling her things he shouldn’t, Reilly thought. She felt herself imitating him without meaning to do it.

At the same time, Kate realized this was new; a shade of Reilly she had yet to see, as if her friend had been dipped into shadow, a muted color; and the stain was starting to seep through.

Reilly bowed her head towards her glass and took a self-conscious sip, averting her eyes.

Kate now studied her friend in a new light, troubled by the contradiction brewing in the difference.  Instinct began mixing into a familiar sense. Kate knew from experience and Reilly didn’t. The feeling that she now held in the pit of her stomach; the one Reilly had felt for some time but had no context, no framework for understanding it. It lay just beyond her fingertips.

Reilly watched her friend, with slender hands wrapped around a teacup, grasping what she couldn’t get yet. She saw Kate’s face became heavy. Her gaze opened to look at Reilly more completely. In the warm light, the two old friends shared an epiphany. In a moment, something happened.

Nodding her head, Kate acknowledged it, steadily, as it began. A sudden feeling in her stomach signaled the play was already set into motion. The beginning of another story. But a story you didn’t know could happen or would happen. One you cannot stop from happening.

The only way to know when this kind of event happens, know this uncomfortable sensation enough to identify exactly what it is; a person needs at least one prior experience, several versions of it even; a vision and then a revision, each from start to finish, a natural cycle. Its part of what makes the young and old in the game. Adaptation and precision, growing up and changing, all depending on circumstance and environment.

Reilly chewed on her pinky nail, nervous, naked, unprepared to be so intimate. What the hell did Kate know that she herself, couldn’t figure out?

“What is it?” Kate asked, before Reilly could change the subject.

Knocked off balance, she hid behind her scotch. Wished she had the ability to keep the truth to herself. Embarrassment bringing a blush to her face, “I can’t talk about it.”

“Obviously, or you would have said something. You’re not that good at secrets.”

“I’d like to think it’s not a secret. It’s not anything. So there is no use in talking about it.”

“Bullshit. You’re better than that.”

Reilly nodded and met her with an adolescent silence.

Kate shook her head again and sighed, “You think that none of us have noticed what has been happening to you? You think that Julian doesn’t, Kenny doesn’t…it’s gone on long enough. The weight loss in and of itself…. Something’s up.”

Amazing how the world works in opposites. Like the 100 pound waif in the booth who was heavy, overweight and thick despite a small figure. Sometimes people reveal themselves only in their antithesis. When it comes from within and when we try to keep it hidden inside, after enough time a person has to release it, either all at once, or in bits and pieces. A kind of reproduction. Survival of the fittest.

Reilly clung to her silence, drowning in the pressure coming to surface.

Kate waited, patient. For this reason alone, she was the only person Reilly could tell the story to without confusion, share enough details, so Kate could put the pieces together herself. But even Kate would only get a vague rendition, enough parts to start the puzzle, keep the cycle in motion; to tell the story enough so it moves forward in the process of evolution.

After several moments under Kate’s patient stare, Reilly was losing her grip, taking in big gulps of air, heaving it out and gulping in more. But it was already too late. The pressure had been building inside her, heavy enough and her body weakened to the point where she could no longer breathe.

“I’m in too deep,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“At The Channel.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I’m in too deep,” the release snapped the lid off emotion. Kate watched her friend break open, exhausted, free falling.

“What the hell is happening?” Kate leaned in with the cherry wood and warm light to soften the landing. “What’s going on inside this world of yours?”

Now it was Reilly’s turn to shake her head. She could not bring herself to say it in the simple way she needed to say it.

“When did it start? When did you first notice it?” Kate asked, holding her up in the familiar struggle and slip, trying to help her regain the balance.

“This past summer…”

After a moment, Kate prodded her along, “…this past summer…what?”

Reilly covered her face with her hands, “Oh shit…I didn’t want it to happen. I just…standing outside on the street in Alphabet Village….’”

Reilly laughed at the irony, another opposite, “I had no idea this would happen. He chose me. Oh fuck, stupid shit…”

“Reilly,” Kate was beginning to understand, “WHO is it?”

“I can’t tell you that. You know I can’t tell you that. You know I can’t talk about this!”

“Is it…?” Kate began to discover the language, the way you discover Shakespeare; only she was in the preliminary stages of exploring new text. She would need more to really see it.

Reilly was just shaking her head, trying to pull herself together and, out of pure coincidence, thinking about Ophelia and Prince Hamlet. How no one ever plays the truth that lies hidden in the text of the Nunnery Scene. How Hamlet and Ophelia intentionally play their antitheses, revealing the truth to each other and no one else. Youth is wasted on youth, he had referenced once; while she argued that Ophelia holds more purity in her contradiction than Joan of Arc ever can, even if she does have conversations with God; noxious, too Christian and obvious. ‘Goddamn guilty, sadomasochistic, Calvinistic, Puritanical…’ she thought.

“Stay with me,” Kate said, leaning in to pull her out of a nosedive. Thinking carefully, she reached across the table and took Reilly’s hands. Shit, they were freezing. Kate rubbed them briskly, trying to bring the blood back into them, the life, they were like stone. Her friend was becoming a statue, an empty shell…

“Reilly? Hey, it me…Okay… We’ll refer to the ‘woods you’re lost in’ as Loch Raven…an allegory, you with me?”

Reilly sniffed, “Yeah. Okay.”

“Now, no one else knows this exists.”

“Nope… YOU know, and you don’t even know the half of it…”

“Does he hurt you?”

“No,” she said quickly, her eyes getting really big, frightened and insisting, “absolutely not. I love him. Goddammit, I love him so much…”

“Oh shit Reilly…”

“I’ve gone too far. I’m in too deep,” the floodgates were opening, “…and I’m seeing things I shouldn’t see. Hearing things no one is hearing…no one is supposed to be hearing…I’m fucking terrified….”

And then Kate watched as Reilly caught herself, sucked the air back in, closed the gate, running back into the woods, “I shouldn’t be telling you this.”

Kate snatched back, just missing the ball with her fingertips, “Yes, you should be telling me this. Someone’s got to hear your side of it–”

“No, I’m done. I’m not talking about it. Forget I said anything. Just forget it–”

Reilly looked like a deer in headlights, slowly freezing in time.

Kate realized that she had never experienced this version. She had no idea. A daisy in the path of a bulldozer. The first picture that scared you when you were a kid; that image, that feeling, never shaken from memory. The first of haunting. Burned deep into the skin. What Wrong is as you first begin to experience it. The shape of the story suddenly loomed over them, expanding like spilled black ink over white cotton.

Her friend was getting farther and farther away as Reilly shut her out. Stone cold, survival of the fittest.

Kate sat across from her and realized this was a version much larger, much deeper and more complex than she had ever experienced. With no way to gauge it, she could only trust her instinct. Never mind the conspiracy theories and newly released documentaries, her gut was telling her.  This was a bigger bag of tricks than even the best players would not know what to do with. And Reilly was not only in it, she was a part of it. She was being fed to it, bit by bit, wasting away before everyone. With this thought, Kate put her hand over her own mouth without realizing it, “Oh fuck me…”

Reilly came back to life for an instant, with a force that made Kate jump back. “Don’t you fuckin’ tell anybody. Don’t you dare. Goddammit, I never should have told you, forget I ever told you because even by just knowing that I told you, you’re involved…Fuck all. We never had this conversation. Don’t you dare tell Kenny. Don’t you dare tell Julian—“

Kate made her last call, meeting her face to face, staring her down, “Reilly, don’t YOU dare. Don’t you dare let this be who you are. Get the fuck out, now, before this gets any bigger, do you get me? And you can’t do it on your own and you can’t trust anyone behind the curtain and goddammit, yes, you should have told me because if something happened—“

“We. Never. Had. This FUCKING CONVERSATION.” Reilly pushed herself out of the booth, running away before Kate processed what was happening.

Her back turned, taking several quick steps away, she then pivoted, sharpening her eyes at Kate, “It’s already too late, you get me? I’ve forgotten already.”

With that, Reilly left, opening the door to the cold and disappearing in a cloud of snow. Ronnie yelled after her, laughing at the outburst, “Weh-hell, foohk yah too then! Dhon’t wawh-hree aboaht the friggin’ check or my friggin’ tip!”

“GO FUCK YOURSELF, RONNIE,” Kate felt like she was watching a movie in slow motion. Or like she was breaking a glass, paralyzed as she registered the domino effect. The bar had gotten suddenly quiet. It took Kate a few moments.

“…ghod-dahmn Ay-rhesh-Sc-hottis-Amerihcan-Sou-tharn blood in tha’ girl. Whadjya go an’ say to her, Katey?”

Kate felt herself sink into the story already underway. She thought methodically, making her first defensive play in the game. Covering their tracks before anyone else caught the scent.

“I’m sorry? Were you saying something, Ronnie?”

“Yah friggin’ goh’ her awhll rhiled up. Sheesa fiesty bitch when sheh wahnts to be, eh?”

Kate really hated these rules, really loathed this game; but hated being on a defensive play even more. She ended it the best way she could, silencing him, the eavesdroppers and throwing a fifty dollar bill on the bar.

“I reached up under her skirt…and slipped my fingers up…inside her sweet PUSSY…” And then Kate laughed and winked, flirtatiously.

You could have heard a pin drop, even the floors hardening up.

That’s the cue, the coast is clear, no one is looking, get out of here.

‘Exit. Chased by a bear.’

Kate wrapped herself in her coat and hat with one movement, opened the door and disappeared into January. She blinked in the daylight night of Times Circle. Welcome to the anonymity, the jungle that is the city.

‘And indeed there will be time,’ she thought, as she pushed past the holiday tourists, ‘To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet. Time for you and time for me. There will be time to murder and create….’

In that moment, she caught her own reflection framed in a window, just below the red ticker tape…makes for an odd light…

‘Just walk to the train, Kate Finch,’ putting her head down, pushing through the crowd, ‘Time for a hundred visions and revisions…’

Oh fuck all. I’m with you, kid.

I don’t know what version, or which story we’ve ended up in.

All I know is that we’re still at the beginning, close to the bottom of the food chain.

Click here for Part II

 

Copyright 2007 by Kimberly Cox

Originally posted, 1-November-2009, 18:13

 


  1. Thank you for reading and I encourage your feedback and comments. I look forward to sharing this story with you.

    Like

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