Floater (a story)
I'm sort of just getting into writing. I did get a premium for the workshop but didn't have time until my membership expired.
This piece is something that I've published but can't seem to get any remarks, reviews or comments on.
So I'd like to share this, being that so far this story is the one I'm most emotionally attached to. I would really like some comments and just to know that it's readible.
So, here goes:
David Allen White
You know what ethereal sunshine is? It's when the sun is bright but doesn't hurt your eyes, you don't even squint. It's when you don't feel the burn of heat and instead feel nothing but perfect breeze.
You don't smell things baking on the ground. You smell the rain about to come. This kind of thing, well, I've never seen it. It exists only in those mountains I've never seen before and probably never will.
Here I am, right now, knowing damn well I'll never see it. Maybe I'll dream it but I won't really feel it like I was supposed to feel it. I've dreamt it before, many times, but it was always numb like most dreams are. Like those dreams I used to always have when I was a kid where I finally figured out how to fly without wings or some kind of aircraft. I just thought it up, and thought hard enough about it, that I could fly. I'd hover around and then suddenly come back down to the ground because I couldn't figure out why this doesn't feel like flying.
I've never flown, but I know something about how it's supposed to feel. It's supposed to feel like gravity pulling you down but with each push up you feel the gravity less and less. That's what flying is supposed to feel like. It's not supposed to feel like standing in the middle of the air until you come down.
I'd wake up and there I'd be, all pissed off and disenchanted. Why did I have to remember that I was only dreaming? Why can't I allow myself to fly, even if just half way as it should be?
I float a little, then I sink. The sun rises a little, and it sinks. If I was a liar I could pretend that doesn't mean anything.
Came here by train. For once flying seemed "cheap." No hurry to get here, just wanted to get here and get here peacefully -- to get on the way with some time to sort out the pile of things in me before I arrived.
I don't know what I was expecting to find here. Something different, I guess. Sold everything off and abandoned what I couldn't sell, making a lot of people kind of pissed off I'm sure. People don't like this sort of thing that's why they almost never do it; they don't even like it for you.
I think if everyone from everywhere immigrated to somewhere else at random, we'd erase most of our bad history. Everyone should just get up and move. I don't see what the problem is. I don't see why my best friend got so vicious over it. Don't see why he told me I'm "careless and don't really give a fuck about changing other peoples lives for the worse."
Sweet sentiment. A mutual feeling, but not so much a sweet thing here.
I remembered, on the ride here, that after those flying dreams I'd always end up out in the middle of my back yard during the afternoon in my little girl dress and ponytail just standing there. Feeling what I would now call desperation but simply couldn't understand back then. Standing there, looking down at the grass for a while. Not understanding why it doesn't look right. Standing there, looking up at the sky and not quite getting why I can't feel it now either.
I'd do that, all day, until "Natalie" would be called through the back door and I'd be inside to do homework or eat dinner. I don't think my parents liked all the time I spent in the yard. My mother would always make up reasons why I shouldn't be there, like all the trees are going to fall on me. You know, after her telling me that all of the trees were going to fall on me I could never really enjoy it like I used to. I didn't dig, I didn't play with anything, that's really when I started just standing there.
Not under any trees or far reaching limbs that were just itching to crush my little girl head right into the clay of the earth.
That's when kids start to smoke pot and take a trip, when they just start to stand there.
Closing my eyes, lifting my head up from my book I brought for the trip, I sighed. I looked out the window into the trees and fields passing by in one long blur. I wished for a moment that I could stick my hand out the window, but there wasn't a latch. At moments like that on the way I almost started feeling the same again but the way things moved outside through the glass put all of that into a decrescendo, then it was gone.
Another drink out of the bottle I smuggled onto the train, in the form of a thermos. Potato Vodka, the best Vodka ever. Makes me happy.
"You love your drinking, I brought some bourbon." comes from beside me in an almost laughing voice.
"What?" I say. Acting like I don't know what this guy is saying, this guy that I really didn't care enough to notice for most of the trip.
"Come on, nobody dances their body around like that from a drink of coffee. Unless that's some really bad coffee, so why you drinking it?" he says to me.
I smile at him. He's sitting there, really well dressed too poorly dressed to be a conservative type. Black and textured shirt, dark brown pants, golden haired. "Yeah, some of the clear stuff." I tell him. I try to crack a grin at him, in distrust.
He pulls out a soda pop bottle, plastic, and says don't sweat it. He takes a drink and makes that nasty alcohol grimace that some reason or another a lot of us come to appreciate after a while of simply being alive.
I laugh at him, in sincerity.
"Natalie" I say. "My name is Natalie. That must be the brown stuff." I'm smiling ear to ear.
"Paul, Paul Wilson." he says to me. I know he thinks he's important and wants to be remembered because he says his last name on my first meeting him. I bet he's totally fucking evil, like people with the last name Darling or first names like Chastity; fate has a way of fucking with your namesake, it just does.
Natalie, it means you were born on Christmas and therefore somehow Christ like and maybe if Jesus was like Willem Dafoe in Last Temptation, I'd understand. But, I'm not here to help anyone. This is barely the only thing I can do to help myself.
I'm not any kind of fern like tree with big red balls hanging off of it.
"Paul" I say "means small." He says "What the fuck?" with a laugh, wiping his mouth off from his bourbon. "Don't worry about it, unless you're worried about it."
"Well, aren't you cynical."
"No, it's just something I do."
"That's something strange to do."
"Why?" I ask. I take another drink.
"I don't know, just rhyming at random. That dog drifts in the fog, we never really know where he'll row."
You ever look at a bug like it's some kind of alien? That's how we're looking at each other. "It's like etymology." I assure him "You know, the meaning of names."
"Sure." he says to me, assuring me that the conversation is over.
"Montana, the long way." he just says. "That's where I'm going, where you going? How long we going to be beside each other?"
"Montana, the long way." I say, looking out the window. "Escaping, the better way."
"I'm sure the clear stuff is a better way too."
"Well aren't you cynical."
"Yeah, I guess I am." he says to me, looking past me into the blur beside. "Escaping what?"
"The fact that I feel like the 90's are a hundred years away and nothing feels right and probably didn't then either."
"Dump truck? Hah, and I'm random…."
"You just dumped a lot on me, that's all, really quick."
"I couldn't drop enough on you."
"You must have been a kid then. No crows feet yet."
"I guess I must have been."
I remember the first time I ever got my friend Brianna drunk. She must have been like 14 or 15 years old and we got some local guy to buy us a ton of beer. Those big honking boxes of 30 beers; four of them. It was funny, she kept spitting on herself after like three beers. She'd spit on her right pant leg, right on the thigh, then rub it in. Over and over. I look over and there she is noticing that I'm picking up on all of this, so she stops.
She stops doing it overtly.
She spits in her hand, rubs it on her pants and laughs hysterically like she's pulling one over on the entire world.
Until the morning. Until my grandmother was shouting "Do's ya think this is ah flop house!?"
Sometimes it looks bad, these moments where we're just escaping. Honestly when I was a kid I don't think I would have ever hurt anything had I ever been able to find some way to escape.
Maybe that 30 pack of beer was the best thing I had. Maybe if I hadn't done that my life would be a whole lot worse. Is it ever therapeutic to go crazy? If people knew it was, would they build insane asylums in the format of recreation centers? I mean come on we're all so god damn ripe for that, look at how narcissistic we are.
People like to kill the only thing you have.
"People like to kill the only thing you have? I'm not trying to be a kill joy for you or anything."
"No," I say "wait, what?"
I'm waking up, I think I heard something about being near Broadus city in my sleep. My stomach's hurting really bad. It's been doing this for a little while. It's like that one time one of your boyfriends decides to just slip in, uninvited, right through the backdoor. They really think that's the way to initiate it?
I've got to get up. Paul, he's sitting there reading my book. "Put down my book and get up, I have totally got to shit. Seriously guy."
Maybe that wasn't the best way to put it, he's too stunned to get up as quickly as I'd like.
"Like now, maybe."
He gets up, looking away from me like he just spilled a bag of shit on my white carpet. You so know that look, that guilt and embarrassment but that reassurance that it's so totally not that big of a deal.
But it really is, you asshole. Stop it.
I'm clinching my stomach muscles tight, trying not to run to the restroom at the end of the train car but fast enough so that no one wonders why I'm all in a cold sweat; white carpets, everyone, white rugs.
I make it to the restroom door, you know these things are single occupancy. So there's that single bitch that's in there probably doing her makeup. I do a little tap-tap on the door.
No one responds, probably because if she says anything that would be acknowledging that maybe she might have to hurry. She would feel bad for being a liar if she had to break that promise of "one second."
I jiggle the little handle. Locked and still no response.
"You…. You're taking a piss. You're doing your lips. You're pissing on your lips, maybe, I don't fucking care. Just make it snappy because I've got to shit."
"Ok! Bye!" I saw in one of those voices that's like half a scream and half a whisper.
I duck off somewhere and arch my back a little, pulling my abdomen even tighter. Maybe I can crush to death whatever's doing this.
Sweat and little electric swirls in my eyes.
I guess she figures it's been enough time to get out of there without me standing near by and that there's not enough time before I return, but this permed bitch walks out of the bathroom.
"Piss lips!" darts out of my mouth and she gasps and steps forward out of my direction really quick, never seeing me behind her.
I slip right into the restroom and lock the door.
I plop right down onto the toilet seat and crunch up into a little ball. My shoes slipped off, my heels pressed against the edge of the toilet seat. I'm trying not to cry.
I mutter "Body hates the person…." once or twice, randomly, and then I'm suddenly glad no one's around to watch me say brain salad like that. Not that I'd want them to see me shit.
Nothing's coming. Such a rush for nothing.
It must be something like 10 or 15 minutes until anything peaks out and it's tiny, I can tell by the way it hit's the water. At least I'm not hurting anymore.
But then there's the issue of wiping. I'm the type that I have to look every single time I wipe, just to make sure. Make sure of what? Nothing, usually.
But I've been bleeding a little here and there lately. Not like my period or anything, just a spot or two of blood. Don't know why. It's not like I'm cleaning myself with excessive force or in obsessive amounts.
I bring up the paper and there's blood again, except more. A lot more. The type of blood loss you see when you say the words "I think I might need stitches."
Suddenly I'm emotionless. Not panicked, just detached. I'm thinking to myself maybe I'm actually on my period this time, I look down into the middle of my panties and there's nothing. There would have to be something in there if I were flowing this bad.
I whisper "double checked for accuracy." and I stick my middle finger into my cunt. I slip it around inside a few times and pull it out. It's a little damp, but no blood.
Breathe deep, wipe again.
More blood. I keep wiping, it keeps coming.
I wonder how I would manage not dying on a train form internal bleeding, deep in the wilderness of Montana on a small trail of train track surrounded by woods.
I push and it just comes out like I've been eating pints of blood for a month. This routine goes on for about an hour. Finally it sort of goes down to just a little bit here and there.
I stand and keep looking down, for a while. A while after I've pulled up my panties, straightened my blouse. After I've gazed down into the mess and flushed. Then I turn around towards the mirror and look up. I don't look sick, I just look like someone worried sick. All those veins you never see otherwise suddenly make themselves evident in your cheeks and under your eyes. My face is a green and blue roadmap.
I'm splashing water on my face, trying to get my skin to come back to life.
Back by my seat, I step up to Paul. "Excuse me small" I say in a rude voice "I need something." Almost lunging over him I grab my purse and swiftly make my way back to the restroom as to not have another incident.
Door, shut. Tampon, on hand.
Tampon, up ass.
Back to my seat.
"You loose on the meds, huh?" Paul kind of snarls at me, swirling a drink around in his hand and looking down at his lap.
"No, sometimes things are just too bad for politics."
I tell him "That's not an armchair, that's a passenger seat. Wax on someone else about it." trying not to be drawn into him and, disgustingly enough, his thoughtfulness.
"You'll never get anywhere if you don't stop trying to fight off truth like it's a disease. Not all things that are hurt mean you're sick or wrong."
"I'm sick and I'm wrong."
"No, I think you're just childish."
"Thanks small, exit stage left please." I lift up my book again, in anger and pretend to read. The words are all just black dots. The paper is almost invisible to me. Just dots and the sensation of this guy being way too close to me.
"Thanks for the fantastic drama, Christmas Tree." he says to me and snorts.
The dots become words, my hands descend to my lap to lay the book down and my lips pucker to the right. I ask him, all monotone, "How'd you know that?"
"The woman across the isle was reading a baby names book. You know, to name her babies with inventive and meaningful names."
He does that little quotation thing with his fingers when he says inventive.
"Yeah, Christmas tree." I say to him.
"You don't have to be so hostile you know. Some of us, we just see people as people. Some people, if they can speak with some kind of majesty and a little bit of brains might be worth helping regardless of who they are or what their story is. Endangered species work."
"The pine is not endangered."
"You're an agitating fucker."
"And you're endangered."
"Keep up this tit-for-tat and you might be too." I say angrily, forcing myself to keep the words I should have stuttered together and I just sounded like a five year old instead.
"Just trying to be small, for you."
I look over at him. I don't think I've made eye contact with him this whole time, but I just glair into his pupils now. They're wide. I'm grasping for something to say to him, something to say I'm sorry. But there is no sorry. He doesn't want that. He wants my head on a plate.
Then I hit zero. I close my eyes, and my tongue starts rolling around in my mouth. My entourage of brain salad comes.
I hate to hit you with so many biblical names, but I think you're Jezebel. I think you want my head for pleasure. Because it appeases you. But, you know, not everything I do or say is on the plate as your main course of analysis.
For your good guy badge.
You're a real good guy, you are.
But you know, here's some spit in your eye fucko and that's all you're gonna get from me.
That whole ordeal with me being rude to you, I'm shitting blood. I shat blood all over the bathroom in there. I've shat it for a week or two, in smaller amounts. I'm dying and the first thing that lets me know I'm dying is my asshole.
My asshole has cotton stuck inside it.
My requiem is the sound of me yanking toilette paper off the roll. That makes me feel horrible. I feel like that's the crux of my entire existence.
The best thing that will come from my death is less biohazard going around in public restrooms because lord knows I haven't been tested in forever. I'm just too damned bohemian for that kind of responsibility.
So maybe I'm tired of being polite. Maybe I'm tired of taking advice from this people-world that's kept me from soaring over anything higher than the ant pile. Kept me from feeling anything but dead, looking down into lines in my stomach for hours.
Maybe the best thing I can do is go out here, to see something the way no one does anymore. No one finds the world around them to be their temple anymore, if they say they do they're usually just those god damn ego obsessed and entrenched morons claiming they're going to reach Nirvana one day. Yeah, reach Zen between doses of westerner created psyche meds to help them "meditate" and yuppie cups of coffee to help them feel tasteful.
Maybe I'll die in my natural environment. You were witty enough to use that whole endangered species thing. Think that my habitat ever existed? I don't know, don't think it did. Who's ever going to go all the way into their thirties still enthralled by doing art in the dirt and not making same lame ass statement on the impermanence of the material? Which one of those people are doing it and aren't some goofy "novelty" hobbyist that makes their house look like a giant chicken so they can get into all the "WORLDS WIERDEST so and so…." magazine articles?
I'm consumed. Everything is filthy, corrupted and idiotic. You talk about "talking smart" but the only smarts we're making anymore are in order to sustain a system of monkeys with button press devices. I don't give a damn about that. I don't care if someone can even so much as do long division, they just have to be able to feel and live profoundly.
That doesn't mean doing drugs and dying quickly, thank you to the academy of music sub-culture that hasn't got the message yet.
Yeah, I'm out here without a dime or a clue just to find something different. I'm going somewhere the cards never said I would go. I'm going here with that feeling that "I shouldn't be here" because that's my big rebellion.
Maybe I'll find all of that peace that I've never been able to have because I've always been too damned soft and in love with fantasy to give a shit about body language and "stuff."
And here I am, being brave, and my butt-fuck-alarm-clock suddenly comes on and gives me, excuse the god damn pun, the red flag that I'll be dead sooner than later and I'll have lost more than I ever gained in this life.
So my life was a waste, is a waste, and don't tell me that somehow every life is useful and good. Some lives are just completely lost. They never arrive at what they should have. "Should" applies.
Not everything is subjective. Not everything is all in how we look at it.
"Smile and the world smiles with you" is a damned lie.
It's solid fact that our lives aren't as profound as they should be. Look at the over-compensation. Look in a museum, look in a retail store. Our guts hurt and we don't believe it and you were right, you shouldn't fight off all pain just because it hurts. We forget why it hurts after a while.
But, Paul Wilson, I really don't care to be helped by words that don't change these facts. I don't care for the assholes on this bus that are all going to their destinations for less than "dramatic" reasons, like Ms. Piss Lips that hogged up the restroom with her primping.
I'm getting to my destination and I'm not going to see ethereal sunshine, I'm going to be doubled over in pain because my intestines are faulty.
Now, if you'll please just leave me be for the rest of this ride we won't be awkward and I won't be rude. I am sorry.
"Got that, Paul?" I say, clinching my teeth and feeling like I'm waking up.
"Paul?" I say again. I open my eyes and look over beside me. He's not there. His bag, everything, gone. The bus is stopped at a station, I guess it's time for a pit stop or something. Maybe the train almost derailed somewhere way back there, I'm thinking.
I get up out of my seat, almost leaving my purse behind. I bend over the seats and pick it up and I see out the window, and light hits my eyes softly.
I think "shooting star" as a bird flies by at just the right spot in the air to block the sun from my view almost completely.
Off the train, I step outside and it's kind of cool even though it's summer. I guess that's the whole northern thing that I don't know too much about.
"Nice to see you can walk with all that weight!" Paul says from the side of some vending machine or something somewhere. Sounds of an engine approach.
There it came. Right into my chest, I don't know why. All I know is one train was going one way and mine was boarding then the glass on one of the windows of my train explodes. That's when I hit the cement ground of the station. That's when my head falls back from the sun setting in the horizon in front of me and back into the clouds behind me; then up to a bunch of really, extremely curious people.
"Oh my god."
"Was she shot?…."
I lay there, confused. I lay there feeling the same thing I felt when I got a sewing needle through my big toe walking around barefoot in my gravel driveway when I was a kid. I guess I left it there after stitching a doll or something stupid. I guess it feels like having something stab into me and stay completely still, but feel like it's endlessly pulling out of me really slowly.
The pulling, this time, must be the blood coming out of my chest. It's not going slowly from how sticky I feel.
I'm fading in and out.
"I don't think I was shot." I get out of me as loudly as I can and it's barely a whisper. Just too dazed to speak right.
"No one is near enough." I say. No one's saying anything to me. No one agrees that I wasn't shot.
"Someone shot her!"
Time gets really different. Really unique.
"Then it's all your flashing lights, on your ambulance. I'm here beside you. I just want you to hear me is all."
"Ma'am, do you have any allergies?"
"I wish you'd stop asking me these questions about blood type and allergies. I forgot all of that shit ages ago."
"Ms. Wawsic, you need to relax and try to save your energy. You're going to be OK."
Waking up, time is very the same. The hospital bed is so not in the position I'd have it in.
I clear my throat. "Who's the agitator that positioned this bed?"
A nurse peaks through the door with suspicion, maybe apprehension, then here comes Jess and I really don't feel like seeing the guy that told me I'm "careless and don't really give a fuck about changing other peoples lives for the worse." just for trying to be happy.
I say "you got here quick."
He says "You didn't. You've been out for three days."
"Any idea who shot me? Agitators, they insisted I was shot."
"The train shot you."
"They build them with guns now?…. What practical military application…."
"No, Nat." he says, sighing and then laughing in a sympathetic way. "The train ran over a loose spike. It managed to fling it off the track and through the other car and into you. They had to do a good bit of surgery, but you're fine as far as that goes."
"As far as that goes?"
"There's just more to talk about, medical stuff, things you told the paramedic."
"Yeah," I say "things I told the paramedic. You know you're not immediate family? Why do you know this?"
"I guess I'm in no condition anyway, agitator." He just smiles at me.
"Listen, you should be out in another night. Maybe two. We've got a nice van rented to get you back to Memphis."
"Me and you're folks, they went out for lunch. They hadn't eaten for a while."
"Back….." I whisper.
I fall asleep.