Short Story: NOWHERE MAN

Have you ever looked at a staggering figure on a beach and seen someone so utterly alone: an anonymous man swaying to the waves with shoes slung around his neck, linen slacks rolled up to his knees, shirt unbuttoned to his navel?

Have you seen a man like that?

I have. That’s me I’ve just described – or, at least that’s what I think I look like viewed from, say, the bungalows behind the palm trees.

What am I still doing here, why am I not some place warmer, more settled? I ask myself.

It’s the off-season and the beach is dead, wrapped in a sallowness that makes you want to just give up. But this is Stone Town, there’s always something to do, even in the off-season, which this place has been in since October. Since the fire…

This short story was published in today’s Kalahari Review. Find the rest of it here:
http://www.kalaharireview.com/fictionpoetry/2015/7/24/nowhere-man.html

WANDERLUST– an extract.

House of Dyes is what should’ve been my second novel, I wrote 98k words of it, about two thirds before I burnt out, and got kinda stumped at the possibilities. Even now, after say six months, I still don’t know what it’s supposed to be.

As with everything I write, I usually don’t know what it is until it’s done.
I abandoned House of Dyes and embarked on a YA novel working-titled SUICIDE CLUB, wrote 50k words of it and abandoned it also, favouring to start a new project, but I’ve showed great restraint these last few weeks for not beginning something else (pats self on back) Another YA dystopian thingy.

I figured at this rate I may never finish another book so I sat down and buckled up and revisited House of Dyes, hoping that am in a better place and a better artist to take the story to its final conclusion. (Fingers crossed)
First of all, House of Dyes is going to be another long one, not as long as Silhouette of Shadows (885 pages) but long, I think around 680 pages. My main intentions for it was to write 5 interconnected stories dealing with different themes but talking the same inner demons (P.S. Am yet to figure out what– nothing has to be perfect, or that coherent even — it’s a first draft) I’d written three stories so far, BAPTISMUS PER IGNEM, a tense dystopian mind-fuck of a revenge saga, DREAMS OF FISH, about a blind senile disgraced writer’s delve into existential crises, and ECHO’S LAMENT FOR NARCISSUS, loosely inspired by the Ben Johnson poem by the same name I was particularly taken by the line “Our beauties are not our own” (Oh wait a minute, hmmph, could this be the main theme of the whole book?

Anyway I need two more stories to wrap up this book, hopefully it’ll turn out something less recognizable to the way the Ice-truck Killer wraps stuff. So, I started this story, YA, of course, titled WANDERLUST, about well, wanderlust. It’s not a coming of age story, or one where the characters attain some sort of actualization at the end, it’s one of those stories about a trip going terribly wrong.
Meet Sally, seventeen, beautiful and dangerous, literally– her father is a mob-enforcer and her mother’s an addict, then meet Liam her bestfriend who’s had the biggest crush on her, so he obviously wants to tag along, mostly because he has nothing left for him in Pierstone, their bum-fuck of a ship-yard small town. He’s mother has just died and he’s never known his father.

On their trip they meet another boy, who apparently has relinquished all claims to his name, citing, “All my life, I’ve been defined by my (father’s) name, I just want to see how long I can survive without it.” And that’s not the only thing that’s weird about him, he makes Sally and Liam miss their bus, and well, he offers to tag along to drive them anywhere in his stolen school bus. (Did I say stolen? Yes. Stolen)

‘No-name’ is trouble with alpha-numerics, but Sally and Liam go with him… That’s the story so far…

Here’s a small snippet,  (bear with me, it’s a very raw first draft)…

They’d graduated into pseudo-adulthood—face-first into the twilight evening glare—the nativities of their youth, consummated by back-seat grope-fests and broken prophylactics. Their first ‘I love you’ and ‘I think am ready’ being the net that fished them out of their stale miseries—the tallied days grown crooked in  their journals, diaries and book of days—word’s crowding together to form hollow stories of hopes and dreams interweaved and spread across the gory obscenity that been their lives.

Them running away, their actions soon to be scorned and lauded in equal measure, this was going to be the best thing that might never happen to them—it was a sweet uncertainty, the reverse of an Esprit d’Escalier, because if they didn’t wait for the time to be right, they’d never have to struggle to find just the right words to say.

The bus ride was long and she slept right through everything, granted there was nothing good outside to see out there, but this was the first time either of them was leaving Pierstone, really leaving, or maybe it was a good thing she didn’t look, she didn’t want to remember her way back here. Liam just sat there, with all the time in the world, to think, to dwell on sinking feelings of betrayal, and he was careless—he’d sink so low into a darkness of uncertainty whose depths flared as he went towards the core of it, to this secret fathom, because even though nothing would come close to making him as happy as he was here seated next to her, nothing would also make him sadder.

Not for everything he’d left behind, which was little, and insignificant, but for everything that was already taken care of, back home he was somebody, could be somebody—this notion of being anybody hadn’t taken root yet, and this far out, he feared it probably wouldn’t.

He was home-sick already, not missing what it was, but what it could’ve been—what it ought to have been, (if only he knew what that was supposed to be?)

Sally roused in her sleep, turned from the window that had misted with her breath, and leaned against his shoulder, making the slightest purr—Liam felt golden, infinite, vindicated like the two of them were reasons songs like Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car were ever performed.

He stared at her sleep, her eyes twitching, her breath light as a sigh, and he looked away, his eyes caught the glazed glass and he paused a beat and smiled, saying to himself what the hell?

He stretched across and wrote on the window, like he was leaving a message to the beautiful night outside, a message for all to see, except her whom it was intended, he wrote, “Our journeys are not our own, we only decide which path to take.”

Cosmic Love.

When I think about you, and what could’ve been (when am not thinking about what I coold”ve done different) I tell myself this lie.

… That once upon a time, we were two comets hurtling through the vast space. Our orbits orbits us in their firmamental spheres, drawing us closer and closer together. A magnetism we fought, knowing all too well that it was futile to fight.

And across the emptiness, the fluid blackness of space, through the distance between what was impossible and improbable shortened, with us in love. Magically. Nothing mattered. For we dreamt of each other as we went on with our comet business, hurtling closer to the sun, towards predestination. Our trails tracing the evidence of our love, a dark force yearning the light of something other than prudent indifference.

But like Icarus we flew to close to the sun that our wings, our graces cAught fire and we panicked. And we led our trajectories to weave the same fate, our demise entangled.

And when something other than our bodies touched. The last free space of consequence closed between us, our fates sealed. And we burned. Burned brighter than the sun. Brighter than hell.

Our individual fires too bright for either to hold, so we split, inconceivably, obeying the diminutive laws of physics and pushing farther apart scorching everything in our wake, burning everything that couldn’t rein in our yearnings. And the distance widened, the stars fell from the stars and the way to each other got lost in the blackhole of infinity.

We touched for a moment. But it’s consequences lasted eternity. Lasts still. In that reaction we separated each other inexorably and forever.

The only question is, with no other comet able to contain our individual fires, will we spend the rest our lives searching for each other or  will we burn out like an old sun and fall off the face of existence?

A Rose With No Name.

I walk down the hallway, unsteady on these familiar legs. The counter is empty, but for the numerous cheap perfumes in the air. The counter is empty, but for her. She’s still here. She’s always been here. The way she looks at me, she’s been waiting. She uncrosses her leg, and looses her scowl, she swirls her index around the brim of her sherry glass. She looks up and what tender smiles tease about the shadows around her.

I approach. She calls me. Not by my name, but the one I use here, the same way her name’s not really Daphne after my childhood crush.

Our monikers are adapted out of wariness. The past, here always comes in the form of he who can’t forget more than your face. We don’t look for anonymity when we choose to remain nameless, had we been we’d probably be more selective. I’d chose anything other than Merrick.

This is the only place where aliases and monikers are currency. The only place were you can look past the cage of your name and the lie doesn’t make you feel like a cheat or a fraud.

The first time I lied about my name, the first time I came here, I was plain, transparent like the veil that swung shut behind me. I listened to a few names and practiced some myself, in the bathroom. After some toil I came up with Merrick. It has some potency to it, doesn’t it.

I thought it charming when my time came to introduce myself, everyone just shrugged, they’d heard better. What they hadn’t seen was someone capable of complete detachment. A complete anonymi. I didn’t know I had it in me, but I’d swirled so long in the chaos of a less than ordinary life and still hadn’t found my place within the humaneness of rut. I’d always known that human labels were inseparable from humanity. And until that moment when they accepted me as one of them, all I’d ever wanted was to hoard myself in Walden, my adeptly named abyss and wait for the darkness to consume me.

Now, years later, I still sit at the bar with a studied nonchalance, trying not to look too hard and too long at my reflection in the mirror. Coz this place is a hall of mirrors, not for people searching for their essential selves, but for those who have already realised there’s no essential self.

Tobey, the bartender nods, and it looks like all of them just did. He has kind but unforgiving eyes. And a name I wish I had stolen. Daphne won’t tire of calling it out.

Daphne: “Tobey… Tobey…”

It sounds like razor blades in my ears. How I envy that fool.

Tobey leans in. She asks him what he thinks of me. And am here, that’s another thing about this place. Everything is said to your face. This is where you kick your addiction to taking things so personally.

Tobey gives me the once over, as he wipes a glass. I can’t tell whether that’s a snarl or a smile. Most of us, here, are about as expressive as frozen heads in Idi Amin’s freezer.

Tobey: “Honestly, I think you were meant for each other. But also you weren’t.”

How every conversation with Tobey turns into some kind of Catch-22 dickhole squirt.

His eyes, still on me. That look… that look I can read. Pity. “Merrick is Merrick. He’s good natured and wickedly handsome, if you take to that rugged leaning. But can he offer you what you want?

“Can he give you all that you’ve spent your whole life not wanting?”

She looks at me. And I want her to see me, see me beyond the veil, beyond the man, see me the way I see myself when am curled inside Walden.

I want her to see me for my vulnerable strength, my misguided piety. I want her to see that if she denied me her real name I’d go deaf for nothing else would be worth listening to. I want to see that she can trust me to stay in her cage with her longer than she needed me.

I see. She says. She drinks her drink. “But a girl can be right in her wrongness, cant she?”

And even without knowing it, am blushing. I’m seeing something in my reflection that I’ve never liked. That uncertainty before an epiphany. That leap before the abyss. That thing that doesn’t terrify me anymore. Promise.

I shudder.

Mostly because I’ll never know what I’ll never be in her eyes. She sees me as she wants to see me see myself.

And I make contact. And Tobey buggers off. And she just plays with her sherry. Twirling and twirling her index. The same way the anticipation is doing me. The charade is too much for me. And if I could I would tear her name from her throat. And sing it to myself like I own it. Perhaps someday.

But not today. Today I sit and just wait. Her breath so close. Mine so far retreated am barely breathing. Only one of us is alive. Essentially. Only one of us here is aware of self. And it isnt me, if it was I would not keeo my hands only to myself.

Her drink over, she gets up to leave. And I stand up too. And in her eyes, I can see that she’s forgotten me in an instant. The way we’re supposed to forget how to give in to those who want more than they’re willing to lose.

She leaves.

And if I could I’d call her back. Call her to me.

Perhaps someday.

Perhaps today. Perhaps now.

I call out “Daphne!”

And she turns.

For the Love Of Writing…

The love of story-the belief that your vision can be expressed only through story, that characters can be more “real” than people, that the fictional world is more profound than the concrete. The love of the dramatic-a fascination with the sudden surprises and revelations that bring sea-changes in life. The love of truth -the belief that lies cripple the artist, that every truth in life must be questioned, down to one’s own secret motives. The love of humanity-a willingness to empathize with suffering souls, to crawl inside their skins and see the world through their eyes. The love of sensation the desire to indulge not only the physical but the inner senses. The love of dreaming-the pleasure in taking leisurely rides on your imagination just to see where it leads. The love of humor-a joy in the saving grace that restores the balance of life. The love of language- the delight in sound and sense, syntax and semantics. The love of duality-a feel for life’s hidden contradictions, a healthy suspicion that things are not what they seem. The love of perfection the passion to write and rewrite in pursuit of the perfect moment.
The love of uniqueness-the thrill of audacity and a stone-faced calm when it is met by ridicule. The love of beauty-an innate sense that treasures good writing, hates bad writing, and knows the difference. The love of self-a strength that doesn’t need to be constantly reassured, that never doubts that you are indeed a writer. You must love to write and bear the loneliness. But the love of a good story, of terrific characters and a world driven by your passion, courage, and creative gifts is still not enough. Your goal must be a good story well told.
                                     — Hallie and Whit Burnett (A lot of Love)