Their Last Supper

Missy met Daniel at a park while escaping a Frisbee flung at her head. Daniel fled to her side to apologize. His best friend Ace had lobbed it in her direction by accident. Missy glanced over Daniel’s shoulder to see this friend, in his bare-chested attire, waving at them. But Daniel was in no hurry. He had a gentleness about him, with his dark hair and olive skin. Missy wanted to touch him as soon as possible.

They were in each other’s pants days later. The shine of her auburn hair and blue eyes radiated heat. With their sexual energy barely contained, risky exploits followed. It was Daniel who nicknamed her Missy, short for Melissa, as he nibbled at her ear, pressing her hands against the wall in the hallway of his parents’ house with them only a room away sipping tea. ”I need to taste you, Missy,” he said, dropping her pants to the floor. “Missy” stuck after that.

When Daniel wasn’t with Missy, he spent time with Ace, and it wasn’t long before the three of them hung together. Missy thought “Ace” was a nickname too, but never asked. The truth was that you rarely asked questions of Ace. He was the abrasive sort, presenting his side, the only side, of an argument on the topic of the day. If you spoke, you hedged your bets on whether you’d offend or that your remark would be offensive enough.

Driving with him in his car in a simple jaunt across town was a death wish, his wide-set eyes on bold display. Ace weaved in and out of cars, flying down hills, speeding through busy intersections, a jolly good time. Signal lights were hit or miss; accidents with daydreaming pedestrians, near misses.

This wild side of his was held in check by a more cultured, tempered Ace, most noticeable when he worked in the kitchen. He cooked only with the finest ingredients, but he always referred to his meals as homey suppers. Missy’s mouth watered when she thought of his artichoke olive dip. When his girlfriend, Olivia, entered the picture for four solid months, his chivalrous side made an entrance as well. His Cioppino transported Olivia to an exotic Italian sea village, at least that’s what Ace reported to Daniel the next morning.

All was going swimmingly, until one evening, Olivia didn’t feel well and, apparently, never recuperated. Their relationship fell flat, and Ace deflated; his invitations to dinner all but vanished.

Wanting to return the favor, Missy invited Ace to dinner, confessing that her cooking skills could never match his. She made a strong effort with Hot and Sour Soup and Mongolian Beef, with rice noodles that exploded into threaded balls. Ace, with a beer in his hand, relaxed.

As Ace ate his soup, he got quieter with each bite. A few times he remarked that he liked the flavor and discussed his broth-making process.

“Missy just used cans,” Daniel said.

His eating slowed, and his speech diminished to one syllable words, before resting his spoon beside his bowl altogether, aghast that she did not slave over real broth.

He dismissed the main dish as well. Ace claimed that too many competing flavors assaulted his taste buds. Nothing could salvage this abysmal culinary fail.

Weeks later, Ace invited them over. He apologized for his previous behavior, and their reunion was off to the right start. The summer had just begun, and the mood was light. Ace slipped out of the kitchen, and the pantry door hung open, inviting entrance. Daniel pulled Missy into the pantry. They fumbled, adjusting to their small enclosure. Daniel buried his head in her bosom. Missy knocked over a box of cereal as she raised her arms to pull off her shirt.

“What are we doing?” Missy said.

“Who cares?” Daniel locked the door and shut off the light.

They giggled, their bodies finding each other in the darkness; her delicate hip bone and the hollow of her rib cage pressed into the grooves of lanky limbs, and they slid to the floor. He thrust into her, as a hot pan sizzled in the kitchen. Missy held back her moans of delight. They heard footsteps and froze. A jiggling of the door, a pause, and then quietly they finished.

Missy freshened up and joined Daniel and Ace at the table, a plate of steaming food placed before them. Missy took the empty chair, her face aglow. She saw Daniel’s hair feathered with flour and touched her own head to tip him off. Ace watched and snickered. He knew, and they knew that he knew. It was laughable to hide the evidence.

“This fish is the perfect flakiness,” Daniel said.

“I’m glad you approve,” Ace nodded.

“You never disappoint,” Daniel said.

“I am here to serve,” Ace said, piercing a piece of asparagus. “Your satisfaction is always of the utmost importance.”

“How generous of you.” Daniel could think of nothing else to say.

“Chez Ace. Mi casa es su casa.”

“How trilingual of you.” Daniel kicked Missy’s foot under the table.

Missy blurted out, “Oh, it’s so good, Ace. I’m famished.”

“You must have worked up quite an appetite,” Ace said, waving his fork, gesturing to random spots in the room, and finally marking the door of the pantry.

Daniel and Missy smiled, trying to gauge the reaction Ace wanted.

“A romp in the pantry,” Ace blurted out. “Nice.”

Daniel cleared his throat, “Just checking out the spices.”

“What did you think?” Ace glanced at Missy.

“Very spicy,” Daniel said, laughing.

“I can hear you,” Missy said, her face reddening.

Ace sighed. “I think it’s wonderful to express yourself. I wouldn’t want anything else for my guests.”

“It would be rude, otherwise,” Daniel played along.

“It would be rude,” Ace said. He dropped his utensils on his plate. Ace raised his glass, “A toast,” and nodded to them. “To rudeness.”

“To rudeness,” and they clinked their foamy pints.

Missy stopped chewing.

“And now I need to clean my safe haven, my shrine to the cooking gods. The pantry is like my man cave. Do you think it needs a mop?”

Daniel and Missy were mute.

“It needs to be sterilized,” Ace said matter-of-factly.

“Sterilized, because of the fizzy lifting drinks,” Daniel said.

“What would Wonka do?” Ace belted out a laugh, thumping Daniel on the back as they rose from their chairs.

Missy still chewed, as Ace glared at her every time he returned to pick up a dish to clear the table. She inhaled her last two bites and hurried her plate to the counter.

The air hung as heavy as the food in their stomachs. Daniel would have liked to duck out for the evening, instead he met Ace’s request for a tidying up of the pantry with enthusiasm. At least it was a diversion from the rude talk.

Ace hurriedly supplied cleansers, a mop and bucket, and rags. “Well, don’t just stand there.”

Daniel stumbled with the bucket and mop, slopping water all over the floor, creating a bigger mess than the invisible one before him. Ace scooted them into the pantry.

Missy panted. “I’m feeling claustrophobic.”

Ace left them, looking past them as if invisible, and locked the door behind him.

“What a psycho,” Missy whispered.

Daniel applied a quick mop; Missy made sure all the containers lined up, shifting them in nano increments.

Seconds later. “We’re done,” they yelled.

They heard the water running, Ace washing pans, running the dishwasher, talking on the phone. He played music, too. All the while, they pounded on the door.

Finally, Ace knocked on the pantry door. “One more thing,” he said. “Remove your clothes and put these on.” He cracked the door and dispensed two pieces of black cloth.

Daniel stretched it between his fingers. Panty? Thong?

“It’s a blindfold,” Missy said. “He’s a sick bastard.”

“Come out sans clothing, wearing the blindfold, and you can leave.”

Daniel convinced her to play his stupid game, and get on with their lives. It was just naked bodies.

“What if he’s a murderer,” she cried.

Daniel looked for something to jimmy the lock, and that could double as a weapon, all the while bouncing around like a jumping bean.

“I have to piss,” he said, holding on the wall.

He begged Missy to hurry, and then urinated in the corner, turning the flour golden.

They stripped. Missy folded each item of her clothing, wanting to hide them inside of her. They banged on the door again. “We’re ready. We’re naked.”

“Do you have your blindfolds on?” They didn’t. They put them on.

“Yes,” they said.

“Hand me your clothes now.”

Ace stuck his head through the door, and they shoved clothes in his face. The door slammed and was then unlocked. They walked out to the sound of Ace cracking open a beer across the room. Their audience of one.

As they walked past him, he clapped, and then put a set of keys in Daniel’s hand. Daniel clutched the keys, then hesitated, wanting to beat the living hell out of his friend, his best friend.

But Missy sobbed and that was it. They ripped their blindfolds off and rushed to the car.

Daniel drove away and hollered, “I pissed in his pantry.”

photo credit: Salt and pepper via photopin (license)

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confessional.com


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She turned her wheel looking at me in my rearview mirror. What did she expect me to do? Who made eye contact for Christ’s sake? Doesn’t eye contact mean anything to anyone any more?

Bitch. My hands shook while I poured my coffee. Fucking bitch. I burnt my toast. My stomach grumbled. Fucking, self-serving bitch. Did she expect me to worship the ground she walked on? Or drove on rather?

As I thought it, I knew it was ridiculous.

It happened at the line of cars at the school drop off. Morning, people in a hurry to get to their next destination, shuffling kids around. I tried to let her go in front of me. She was in such a hurry, but then she got so pissed. We called each other names into our rear-view mirrors.

I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror. She’s probably forgotten all about it my now.

I thumbed through my mail. Abigail Tribly. I saw my name appear on bill after bill. No one called me Abigail, not even my parents. It was always Abby. Whenever I saw my name printed on a piece of mail, I thought of Abigail as the wrong addressee. Just who is Abigail? Could she let this whole drop off disaster go? How could I have lost such control in such a short amount of time?

If Doreen were here, she would make me feel better, the only decent person I could trust and who didn’t judge. Doreen Henderson, she’d tell me to buck up, thicken my skin, and drop it. If only I could hear it from her lips. I called her. No answer, so I left a voicemail.

An hour later, this woman’s face kept flashing before my eyes, even when I closed them and tried to meditate. Especially when I tried to meditate. I couldn’t seem to get away from her. She had that scowl, fuming at me, revealing the most uncomfortable expressions. Oh, if she could only see herself, she would stop making those expressions instantly, on the spot. Did she really think she was such a badass for yelling at me in a minivan packed full of kids. Way to set a good example for our youth; our promise for a brighter tomorrow.

My chest tightened when I saw her face. I exhaled deeply. Again and again. There she still was. Then I marveled and lambasted myself for wasting all my time on her; time this precious resource so easily thrown away. I could have confessed it to “The Confessional” by now and been done with it.

Doreen had told me all about it at her house over a glass of wine after the kids were in bed. The Confessional was an anonymous website where anyone could go to confess. It’s just like it sounds. So long as you’re at least 18 years old and have a credit card, and a pair of standard device glasses handy, you could sign up and participate. That’s the thing though. You must participate. You can’t sign up unless you agree to confess. Doreen made that clear. Besides, everyone was doing it these days.

“Like who?” I asked, dipping my pita chip in humus. Doreen was the kind of person who provided snacks with the wine. A decent person, as I said.

“I don’t know. A lot of people do it. Just people you wouldn’t expect. My boss did it.”

“Oh,” I was genuinely surprised she had known this intimate detail about her boss, even though I knew she was infatuated with him. Entirely innocent, of course. “Well…did you get any bits?”

Doreen’s eyes turned glassy, and she was absolutely still. She surveyed the room like it was new and unfamiliar.

“It’s not like anyone talks about it. It’s kind of secret. That’s kind of the point.” She poured more wine.

“What about murderers? Lurkers?”

“That’s not allowed,” Doreen said firmly. “That’s against the ‘Rules of Engagement.’”

“Is that like the Ten Commandments?” I teased.

Doreen pursed her lips. “Kind of.” She was deadly serious.

“So you’ve done it,” I said, surprised.

She didn’t respond with a verbal reply, but I saw it in her eyes as she greedily returned her wine glass to her lips. She’d done it, and more than once as I had suspected.

If she did it, why couldn’t I? Just one time.

I typed in “confessional.com” to a sea of happy, uplifted faces, posing by sailboats, riding bikes, and walking dogs. A family joined at a picnic. Everyone smiling, all ethnicities represented. It wasn’t the self-punishing, sinister, dark-alley confessional I had imagined. This was happiness, like fall colors or an ice cream cone enjoyed on the seashore with salt spray in your hair. A joy inflated with ear-to-ear grins. Something was unsettling, but Doreen had seemed to place so much value in it.

A yellow arrow indicated the starting place. One click and a video screen appeared. The presenter was a good-looking man, forties, wearing a business suit. He probably drank protein drinks every day, and his glowing white teeth looked like tall white shutters. If this guy accomplished nothing else in his lifetime, he would at least have this set of glossy veneers to flash for the screen.

He sat awkwardly on a stool, the background portrait studio tan. He spoke:

Confess it here among friends. Lighten your outlook on life. You are not alone. People are here, just like you, to get through a difficult time and to talk about how they’re feeling in the comfort of their own home. There’s no need to hunt down a therapist. If you’re here, I’m betting you have something to get off your chest.

A montage of more happy people and then a few testimonials from participants.

You’re going to love the Confessional. People here just want to share and help.

Since I’ve signed up, I rest easy at night.

Okay, I was ready. I wanted to just get it over with. I tried to stop the video and got flashing text: “It is highly recommended you watch this video. Opting out of the video requires you to sign a waiver to participate.”

Fine, I clicked to continue. A woman appeared onscreen now, Mr. Protein Drink’s counterpart, equally lovely, African-American, in a tan business suit.

This isn’t a gossip colony or a place to spread rumors like other websites. This is about you. Don’t worry. Your privacy is guaranteed.

More rambling about requirements of confessing, support groups, setting up a profile. I almost forgot my confessional altogether. The urgency was almost all but lost until the screen blinked, “Are you ready to confess?”

Had I not talked to Doreen about it, honestly I just as easily could have closed the site. I had work to do, deadlines, but I had already invested twenty minutes watching a video. I pressed on, as my confession loomed; but more than anything, I wanted to experience it.

Clicking the button brought on a whole new subset of conditions. I picked an avatar from a selection of homely looking cartoonish male and female characters. I could select from male or female and then dress them up with glasses, or ribbons, a tie, or a mustache. If desired, I could further accessorize with a dark cloak, much like a monk. A character was also capable of expressing emotion, indicated by emoticons on the screen: sad, happy, angry, fearful, or joyful. Just the five emotions.

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After I positioned the glasses device on my head and pushed the green “Start” button, I was inside “The Confessional.” It appeared as a maze of rooms with dark hallways poorly lit by glowing candles; more for effect than function. The tunnels and stone walls resembled a castle. We were all knights and princesses now? I thought of role-playing games and wondered if there was a different setting. Instantly, I felt claustrophobic, surrounded by columns and dark cloaks milling about outside the rooms.

A bubble of text flashed onscreen dictating my next move. “You may now choose a room.”

I vaguely recall this got a mention in the instructional video, although it was a bit fuzzy. I hadn’t expected so many bodies.

As if feeling my unease, a new set of instructions surfaced asking me to rate my confession on a scale of 1 to 5: one, being soft and five, severe. What was soft? Severe? What about a middle ground? A reference would be helpful, and then I felt ridiculous for playing along with this obvious scam. Once again, I was on the ledge of jumping back and quietly shutting my computer down. Something told me it wasn’t going to be that simple anyway. They had all my information.

I wandered into a random room, not knowing the assigned category of soft to severe. It didn’t help that every time I thought of soft, I wanted to lay down on a pillow. A rambunctious fellow in a hooded cloak and red tie was in my face gesturing some kind of sign language, and I wanted to crouch in a corner; I saw others had flocked to the corner like wallflowers at a dance, their hoods in the shadows.

A red light glowed on my screen and within seconds a queue of texts formed on a sidebar. Another item I had glossed over in the video was that apparently I could write my confession, which would appear as text; I could have it spoken for me, or speak it myself. Undoubtedly, users chose to have their voices disguised, as this was also an option. A male or female voice was a choice, similar to the avatar selection.

Momentarily, the thought occurred to me that I could have a male avatar and select a female voice, not that anyone would really know. More blinking lights than a ride at Disneyland flickered on-screen. I laid back in my chair and watched. Showtime.

More text streamed and then one-by-one, a series of confessions:

I pissed on my sister’s plant.

I masturbated out in the parking lot.

I’m in love with my boss. I flirted with him in a meeting. Now everybody knows.

No doubt a sexual theme permeated this room. The “time remaining” ticked away and I clicked in another room worried about supply of minutes. In this new room, I noticed a change in mood with the voices more edgy and tentative.

I stole money from my mom again for a fix. She thinks it was for a doctor’s bill.

I stole underwear and pajamas. It’s not my fault if they’re not paying attention.

My confession was like a tickle fight on the playground and dwarfed in comparison to these maniacs. I wanted to run for the door, except there was no door. I was tempted to disband the eyewear and then a blinking button appeared as if a personal message, “Are you ready to confess?”

I slipped into yet another room with fewer participants, and for this reason, felt more calm. With less confessions, the time in between seemed more relaxed. There wasn’t this big jump to reveal your innermost secret. It appeared as if these confessions were a bit more drawn out, more conversational, more personal is how I would describe them. Here avatars were sitting on a couch as if in therapy. I listened in:

He doesn’t have to cry about it. It’s not my fault if the team lost the game. It’s just a goddamn game. Whoever thought people would let it rule their lives?

And then a few activated voices, most likely disguised but wavering.

I’m tired of my life. I want a happy Facebook life. I’m almost forty and got nothing to show for it.

This seemed more of a life crisis than admittance of any wrongdoing. I paused to look on the screen for more clues, still familiarizing myself with the dashboard.

I want to sleep with my therapist. What should I do? I need to be in therapy because of therapy. Therapy is never going to work.

This was juicy soap opera fodder and my mind referenced people in my own inner circle. Did I know anyone going to therapy? Was it someone I knew? Probably not, since these people could conceivably be from anywhere. On the other side of the world perhaps…or were they?

Another warning button flashed and then a voice articulated, “Confess or prepare to pay a penalty. Time remaining: two minutes.”

I clicked to the grey queue area and, within seconds, it was my turn. After all that listening in, I was completely unprepared to throw my confession into the ring.

I clicked for the voice option since my hands were shaking too much to type; my confession felt stupid and pointless. What did I want? Validation for confessing? Support for being a dumbass? I almost wanted to make up something else, something better, but my ability to form coherent thoughts was questionable. I could do nothing but go with my gut. What was the saying: if you told the truth you don’t have to remember the lie.

Here goes nothing.

I selected “Male” to generate my words as I spoke into the microphone on my computer. There was a slight delay in projecting my words to the group of avatars still posed on the couch, which gave me the sensation of speaking into a cavernous room, the voice echoing. It was unexpected and threw me off. I couldn’t even think straight, but the words left my lips:

I flipped off this woman in the parking lot at my kid’s school this morning. She got so pissed. We yelled at each other in our rear-view mirrors and I…I..I

my voice echoed….

I lost it. I called her names.

That was it? All this trouble and this was all I could muster? I continued, even though it looked like my turn was over.

I wanted to wring her neck.

I improvised that last remark, although certainly I had felt that way. Had I not? A group of five or six avatars nodded, and I felt reassured by their bobbing heads. No one expressed silly emoticons.

I clicked for feedback when the session was over, buying additional time as needed. The few that remained said things like everyone has their best intentions at drop off in the morning and that it could happen to anyone. It really could, too. I felt my face ease in a more relaxed position. I may have even been smiling.

And then there was this exchange:

I was a bitch this morning, too. I don’t even know what happened. I wasn’t being myself at all.

A pink heart landed in my avatar’s hand that said “hugs.” Could this hug-thrower actually be my accused? The woman I wished to inflict bodily harm upon only hours ago, and mentally bashed with insults? Could be or might as well be. Wasn’t it enough? Could it be enough?

How I could feel liberated by a bunch of pixellated images identified as mere numbers was beyond reason. It had felt like the most transparent exchange I had encountered in some time. A camaraderie of the spirit, of being human, of acceptance.

I felt cleansed, ready to take on the day.

I felt something else, too. I recognized it right away.

I wanted to do it again.

photo credits: Anglepoise Apple iMac and Windows via photopin (license)Karim Grib (Le Lab) via photopin (license)

News at Your Fingertips

I enjoy The Huffington Post and usually explore the headlines on my smartphone. Many of my blogging friends have had articles published on the HuffPo, and when that happens it’s a truly special day. Celebrities are in my midst, mind you, celebrities who will talk to me. Special, like I said.

But on a typical day, I attempt to read what seems like a countless stream of headlines. Where is the end of these stories, I ask, only to discover in total bewilderment moments later, I’m still not at the end. This begs the question, what are the headlines these days? They are whatever you like them to be, silly. Don’t you know? You decide what’s news, what’s important, and how you want to spend your precious time.

In the interest of time, and those nifty “Quick Read” buttons that HuffPo has with each article, getting through the news has never been more efficient.

Much of the story, for example, can be garnered through the headline alone. Let me show you. As far as selected headlines go, work with me here. I never said they were highly valued, significant headlines. Who cares about that? The important thing, friend, is that you are satisfied.

Settle in, but don’t worry…this won’t take but a minute. Included in this list of headlines are, wait for it…Actual Headlines. Here they are:

1. How To Feel More Relaxed This Week

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All right, this is a no brainer. Lay on the grass and you shall relax. Oh, not so fast. When I click on this news story, I find another headline, and it’s this: 7 Ways To Feel Less Stressed Using Brain Games

That’s a bit misleading, huh? I have to activate my brain now and play brain games. Excuse me, but I can’t think of way to feel more stress.

Next.

2. “Nobody is Truly Ready” for Sea Level Rise

Florida Coast Line At Greatest Risk Of Rising Sea Level
Inside scoop on the next page. Guess what? It’s a no brainer. ‘Nobody Is Truly Ready’ For Rise Of Seas

It’s confirmed. Nobody is ready. Not you, not me. We’re all falling into the ocean.

Next.

3. A Formula For Making Any Relationship Thrive

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This one is simple: More sex. That is the formula. Does this couple look happy? Yeah, yeah, it’s sex.

Inside scoop: There’s a video and, better yet, it’s Dr. Phil. So, I went straight for the “Quick Read.” Dr. Phil has this to say:

If all you ever deal with in a relationship are problems, you’re going to have a problem relationship.

Let me see if I got this straight. If you have relationship problems, your relationship is a problem. Shall I dig deeper, because certainly there must be more.

Dr. Phil also has this to say:

The formula for success in a relationship is a function of the extent to which it’s based on a solid underlying friendship, and it meets the emotional needs of the two people involved.

As I said, more sex.

Next.

4. Dingaling’ Puts Glow Stick In Microwave, The Obvious Happens (VIDEO)

There is no need to watch the 4 minute video, although I’m afraid I tapped into it, and I wished I hadn’t. All you really need to see is this bit here. I do feel pretty bad for the “dingaling” with the awesome shirt, who happened to have a glow stick explode in his face. The father cared but a whiff about his safety, but I did learn the following from HuffPo. It’s this:

The chemical inside most glow sticks — dibutyl phthalate — is low in toxicity and causes only minor irritation if swallowed or in contact with the eye.

Good to know.

Next.

5. These Foster Kittens Love Being Bottle Fed So Much They Can’t Stop Wiggling Their Ears

Things have deteriorated rapidly. Just under the exploding glow stick are the kitties with the wiggly ears.

FYI: These foster kitties, known as the “breakfast bunch,” are named Waffle, Pancake, Muffin, Hash Brown, and Biscuit.

Of course, you will watch. How can you not? I won’t tell.

[Sorry, the video has been deleted. Trust me when I tell you this kitty was darn cute!]

Do you get distracted by news that is less than important?  Relax, but I wouldn’t recommend any brain activity games unless, of course, that’s your thing.

Photo credits:  jacilluch via photopin; What else? Huffington Post

Potions of Love, Wandering Minds

Dear Reader: Previous installments of this continuing story are here. 

Part 1: Tessa Takes a Walk in Her Party Boots
Part 2: The Man in the Fedora Hat
Part 3: Tessa is a Messa
Part 4: Joelle Meets the Guy from Last Night
Part 5: A Walk Down Memory Layne
Part 6: Hacking with James
Part 7: Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing
Part 8: Coffee, Tea or Lipstick
Part 9: Remi Presents A Business Card
Part 10: Field of Dreams

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Remember, we last left these two love birds in a dusty field where Remi proclaimed to Tessa that he was a scientist and that “Science will save the world.”

If you like, you can catch up or just jump in and enjoy the moment. I think I’ll just have ONE MORE after this one!!

The story continues…

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“You mean like cure diseases,” Tessa said.

“More than that. Expand your mind, Tessa.”

Remi fell silent and chewed on a stick of grass. Several times, Tessa wanted to get up off the dirt, but Remi kissed her before she could speak. Another ten minutes would pass, more kissing and shoulder rubbing. Tessa’s coffee was long gone and she needed another, and her final cue to make a stand to leave. Coffee could be made fresh at his place, and he wanted to show her something.

They walked past the coffee house on the way to his car, an old beat-up sedan not long for this world, and drove to the nondescript warehouse where she spent the night before last. Inside it was stuffy and smelled like rubbing alcohol infused with a pinching sweet, synthetic odor, obviously not edible. Brown boxes and the recent headlines of newspaper peppered the surroundings as visiting objects, not quite settled in. A concrete floor dressed with a shag carpet the color of cream invited a guest and framed a black leather couch, the only real piece of furniture. She remember the egg crate next to the bed and the mattress in the corner of the floor, only this time it was covered with a black comforter. The place felt oddly clean, and if Tessa peered behind the brick wall dividing the space, she would have seen shiny, scientific equipment churning neon colors.

“So, you live you here?”

“Don’t you remember it?” Remi grabbed her from underneath her ribs, lifting her ever so slightly off the ground in an embrace. His stubble rubbed against her cheek to mark the only passage of time, and reminded Tessa to call Joelle. She would be worried and had probably made herself sick already. She left the house early to fetch coffee and left no note. It had seemed like weeks ago.

Tessa borrowed Remi’s phone, the memory of his old phone well into the past, as if she were living some parallel existence in this warehouse; whatever came before outside does not enter into their newly shared space together, lounging on the couch, drinking inexpensive wine, ordering for take out. The hours passing between them as if no one else existed.

The previous night’s shenanigans got the slightest mention, “Did we?”

“No, Tessa. Who do you take me for?” He collected her feet in his lap for a rub.

Tessa shot off a quick message to Joelle that she was all right, not to wait up, and that she would see her tomorrow.

They fell into bed soon after, Tessa awash in a sensual glow of Remi’s perfumes dabbed on her wrist, her neck, her stomach, her ankles. Remi’s hand brushed her upper thigh, “Am I forgetting something?” A fruity cornucopia of love potions made Tessa heady, rubbing thick liquid on every inch of her skin, exposed and revealed in the candlelit cove of the corner.

Remi’s brushed the curves of her body lightly as if not to leave a trace, letting his fingers fall where they may in non-rhythmic pulses like feathers. Tessa’s moans of delight barely noticed and were only afterthoughts to Remi’s wandering mind..

He positioned himself on top of her with minimal movement, his sexual exploits a learned method similiar to his scientific endeavors. Before Tessa fully opened her eyes, Remi climbed inside of her as if her body were a cave healing a wounded animal. His breath hot on her cheek, and his silence observing her like a cold presence in the room, calling out to her to respond.  She wrapped her legs around his slim hips, engulfed in his deep, rhythmic thrusts, her moans an uneven match to his quiet calm. Remi grunted, and pushing himself into her warmth, and collapsed on top of her, sticky and depleted. Tessa observed the sweat dripping down the side of his face, glowing in the flickering candlelight. Remi rolled off Tessa, and they laid side by side staring at the ceiling in darkness, smiles stretching across their faces. Their fingers found each other, clasping for a squeeze.

“I’d say we did it that time,” Tessa said, regretting it for its shallowness, but had nothing else to share.

 “And it won’t be the last, I hope.” He laughed and kissed her softly, but cut the moment short, by turning on the light and pouncing out of bed, even though there was no bounce to be had in the mattress.

 He quickly dressed as if he were going somewhere, but wouldn’t stop talking; Tessa strained to get a word in. Each time a moment elapsed, he slammed her with idea fragments and too rushed to allow himself to finish; his mind working faster than his lips could move. Their coupling opened Remi up in ways that Tessa hadn’t expected, divulging information about chemical reactions and ionic displacement, and the endless possibilities of makeup. It was a witch’s brew unleashed and Tessa’s head felt murky with extended details. She fell short on enthusiasm and let him ramble on.

 “Let me put it this way, Tessa,” he said. “Just imagine, a blink of an eye could open a door. A kiss could do damage. A kiss could set off fireworks, and I mean real fireworks. Even fingernails, your skin or even a series of a few facial movements can be programmable actions, setting in motion a series of cascading events. Think about that. It’s like Google glass without the glass. Understand what I’m saying?”

Words escaped her. She recalled the mini explosions that happened in the presence of the lipstick, but had difficulty connecting the dots, as she fought off sleep.

“And the lipstick on my lips,” she murmured.

The only explanation she really wanted was her head on a pillow, and silence.

photo credit: Mykl Roventine via photopin cc

Once, I lived in Isla Vista

As a college student I never would have believed that a mass shooting in Isla Vista would prompt me to write this post. Of course, we had no social media back then. UCSB is my alma mater and I lived in Isla Vista, or IV as we called it, for three years as an undergraduate. I have fond memories of living there. When I first learned of the shootings in California in an online article and saw the photo of the familiar brown sign that read “Isla Vista,” my heart sank.

The street, Trigo, where I lived my sophomore year, was a crime scene. My husband’s street of Sabado Tarde, also a crime scene. I haven’t returned to Isla Vista since I graduated decades ago, and perhaps I never will, wanting to preserve my memories and keep them safe.

As a freshman living on campus, I couldn’t wait to live off campus in Isla Vista. It is temporary displaced living to the nth degree. It was not uncommon for people to shuffle around and rearrange themselves each year with new roomies and new living quarters. You may not even know all your roommates. Students are stuffed to the gill into these apartments with little room to breathe. There were 18,000 students living in the square mile of Isla Vista; now it’s 23.000. I can’t imagine where an extra five thousand students live.

My senior year, I lived in party central on Del Playa. I had six roommates and because I wanted my private space, lived in an actual closet, a small closet. It was a “single.”  I had a skylight and could climb onto the roof that overlooked the ocean. How many college kids could say they had a skylight that allowed them to sit on their roof with the Pacific ocean before them?

The view from my rooftop.
The view from my rooftop.

Isla Vista was a unique experience and its own subculture. Students rode bikes or walked everywhere. I didn’t have a car and, when I shopped for groceries at the market, the same one where bullets were fired, I brought all my groceries home on my bike. The student population back then was wealthy and white. I don’t know what it is today. I’m guessing it is similar. Upon arriving on campus my freshman year, I’d never seen so many tan and beautiful people. As I later found out, I grew up poor. My fellow students experienced the luxury of ski trips and a more privileged life.

Yet in Isla Vista  we all paid the same exorbitant rents for our beloved squalor, and accepted sticky floors spilled with beer. Isla Vista was the great equalizer. I didn’t realize this at the time, we all just hung out; we didn’t get hung up on what we did or didn’t have, or where we were from. Parties were open to all, and I had a lot of great times. It was reckless abandon and we procrastinated together, probably a little too much.

These were also mixed-up times for me, too. I might be at a party in full swing, and had never felt more lonely and isolated. I remember being rejected, oh many times. I’ll never forget the frat boy, who, after I declined his invitation to sleep with him because I wanted more than a one-night stand, told me, “I’ll see you around campus.” There was no, “I will call you tomorrow.” Rejection can run deep. I remember hoping I would see him, and hoping he would call, even though chances were slim.

The moral code was loose, but nowhere near what it may be now with today’s hook-up culture, where I imagine it is normal to ignore, avoid, or dismiss emotions altogether as they relate to sex. But the physical sex, that, they may be talking about, oversharing about and flaunting. I could see how someone might think everyone is having sex and having so much fun. That it would drive someone to hate with malicious intent to kill is horrifying and sad. I’m not suggesting what happened is as simple as this.

After digesting social media and reading many articles online, I finally braved reading a portion of Elliot Rodger’s manifesto and watching his video. All of it sickened me. Clearly, he was a misogynistic madman, capable of harm, seething with hate and anger. I could feel the hate as I watched. He talked crazy shit, which although warranted a visit by the cops, did not result in a search of his apartment. Elliot Rodger’s intent was to slaughter and kill as many people as he could as an act of revenge. To realize that the whole massacre could have been prevented, there are no words.

It’s also crazy that in these times a man can show up at a park filled with children and wave a gun around, and be protected by law. Does this make sense? To anyone? Once again, as with all shootings, we must think about guns in this country.

To all who have lost a loved one in this tragedy, you have my deepest sympathy. When a person inflicts such a senseless act of violence and then self-destructs, I think we need to look at ourselves as a society. Why does this keep happening? When will it stop? We also need to look inward, and exercise compassion, humility, respect, and civility. I am on the side of the human race, and I still have hope.

photo credits: sharifelneklawy via photopin cc; doopokko via photopin cc

A Walk Down Memory Layne

 

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“Go to the Crush much?” “Much” came out “mush,” because her mouth felt like cotton. Tessa’s attempt to bolster her impression rapidly declined. She had already fallen flat, literally, and flatter still.

“Uh, no,” Layne said. He didn’t seem deterred; a smile still lingered on his face. He looked more puzzled than anything. His manicured fingers cupped his chin, displaying smoothness and good hygiene. Even his eyebrows were expertly shaped. On closer inspection, he appeared to have shaved and applied a generous splash of aftershave. Was it for her, she wondered. Tessa hoped it would at least mask her organic scent of mud and sweat.

“So, what, uh…In a hurry this morning, I guess.” Tessa sighed, audibly. Her head spun as she rose from the floor, and focused on a black dot that said “Sexy Hair.” Was any of this really happening to her? She walked unevenly, attempting to regain composure. The harder she concentrated, the more she wobbled with each step.

“Yeah, I usually am,” Layne followed close alongside her.

“Coffee would have been nice,” Tessa said. “I see you had some.”

“I can’t live without my coffee,” he said, looking a bit puzzled. He took a few steps in front of her to face her, and held her at her waist, stopping her. “Look, we can do coffee some other time. But right now–”

“That was pretty rude, you know. And then I had no way to get back. How could you just leave me out there in the middle of nowhere?” Tessa rattled off everything except the one thing that gnawed at her. She was hard-pressed to say it aloud even though the words drummed inside her head all morning. Did we have sex? Did we do it? She only whispered, “Did we, you know, did we–”

A lady in a cotton-candy pink sweater with graying hair walked by, her shade of lipstick a perfect match to her ensemble. The elder woman limped along, hanging on to their every word.

“I almost don’t recognize you,” he stared at her lips, seeming genuinely concerned. “What is it? It’s something with the–” and he gestured with his long fingers in a circular motion across his face. “I, I don’t…you look…your face. I don’t know if you realize this. It’s a bit smeared–”

“It’s a before and after. One side has makeup and the other, without. Which do you like better?” Tessa’s pre-work makeup preparation blurred into a hodgepodge of creamy reds and runny blacks. “No, on second thought, don’t answer that.” She looked at him head on now, even though she felt like a freak show no one wanted to see. “Oh, my God. You don’t know, do you?” she whispered.

“Uh…it’s hard to say,” he squinted his eyes at her, his smile slowly fading.

“What do you mean? Don’t guys know these things?” Tessa tidied up shelves by pushing all products to the front and then to the back again.

“Look you have something of mine…from last night.” He got quiet and a look of determination settled on his face. He crossed his arms, and took a stance as if he’d wait until the sun went down.

Tessa’s mind was too muddled to focus, wanting only an answer to her question. He took the trouble to find her, certainly he could manage a “yes” or “no.”

“It’s pink, but darker than hers.” Layne gestured toward the gray-haired lady walking towards him, making no effort to hide her eavesdropping. The old woman stopped flat and stared until Tessa frowned at her. Layne scanned the store, with a concentration on the exits.

“What? I need an answer.” Tessa said, raising her voice. Bianca and Joelle held a steady gaze from the front of the store, their heads still.

“Keep your voice down please,” Layne said.

“Are you embarrassed?” Tessa dragged him into an aisle.  “Why don’t you just tell me what happened already?” She waved her finger in front of his face and he grabbed her hand, pulling her to his chest and dropping below eye level like a sunken ship onto the floor.

“Shhh. Calm down,” he whispered.

“What are you doing? It’s not like no one sees us. Huh?” Mostly no one was there. He held her hand to the floor, pressing it. “I just wanted to know if we…Did we have sex or not?”

A laugh escaped his lips. “Oh,” and he shook his head. “You’re a little confused.”

“Oh, you don’t know, do you? You have no idea.” Tessa scowled.

“I’m not your boyfriend. Look, I don’t have time for this,” although sitting on the floor, he appeared to have all the time in the world. “I need it back.” He rose and straightened his pant legs.

“Need what?” Tessa asked. “It might help if you told me, don’t you think?”

“Shh.” He turned on his heel. “I’ll be in touch.”

He made his way to the front of the store, returning his shades to his face, and walked out the door before Tessa resurfaced from hiding.

Joelle ran to her side, “Girl, what is it with you on the floor this morning?” She dusted Tessa off and embraced her. “Well? What did he say?”

“He said he’ll be in touch,” Tessa said, putting her head on Joelle’s shoulder.

“Oh good. We get to see him again.”

“I don’t care if I ever see him ever again,” Tessa said. “He says I have something of his.”

“And?” Joelle pursed her lips. She just loved juicy gossip.

“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” Tessa held back tears.

“Could it be this?” Joelle revealed a smart phone. “I was gonna give it to you, and then I forgot. Mr. Hotshot was kind of a…a distraction. Well here. Maybe it’s his.”

The android phone was black with not a hint of pink in sight. “Well, it’s the wrong color. But let’s have a look.” She clicked on the button to find it was password protected. “Damn. No dice.”

“Found it at the Crush,” Joelle said, rubbing shoulder to shoulder with Tessa. “I saw it on the bar and put it in my purse. I wasn’t really thinking. I guess I just thought it was yours.” Joelle raised her eyebrows. “We could return it.”

“Or,” Tessa gave Joelle a few slow nobs. “Or–”

“Awww. Or…we could ask James to look at it.” Their neighbor and resident hacker enjoyed pitching in when he could, although it might cost them a pizza and his favorite beer.

“Just a little peek,” she said. “Maybe there’s a pink picture in here.” Whatever it was, she really hadn’t the foggiest idea as she stared at the walls of Sultrix and all its glimmering products.

Pink was everywhere.

photo credit: Plonq via photopin cc

Joelle Meets the Guy from Last Night

Joelle’s bold attempt at cheerfulness assumed the look of a constipated mannequin, only she had a jacket at her feet and a warm body squirming underneath it.

The guy with the baseball cap nosed around the store, pausing at the intersection of each aisle, looking left to right.

“He’s coming this way,” Joelle reported, although mystery man was simply making his way to the end of the store where Joelle stood in the corner. Having just opened, the store was mostly empty of guests.

“Does he know where you work? Hmm? He doesn’t seem interested in purchasing any products. What am I asking? You don’t even know if you had sex with him.” She lightly kicked Tessa’s side with the toe of her shoe to warn her, “Here he comes.”

The guy with no name played it cooled with a delicate smile. He carried himself like a trained athlete, not someone who had been up half the night. Joelle watched with suspicious delight. He took a bigger step to greet Joelle, as if had attained his final destination.

“Can you please tell me if Tessa is working this morning, and if she is, where I might find her?” He said, his head poised for an invisible pillow, and then his eyes shifted to her feet.

“Huh?” Joelle said. “I don’t know.” The morning’s events unfolded at an alarming rate for a Saturday.

“Strange. That clump on the floor,” he waved to her feet, “appears to be breathing.” He took off his shades, and looked directly into Joelle’s eyes, leaving her breathless. Joelle envisioned hopping on the back of a motorbike with him and shooting down the highway with the wind in her hair, her body snug against what could only be taut muscles under his button-down shirt. Certainly Tessa could forgive a little sightseeing.

A click, click, click invaded her morning daydream. It was Bianca’s heels forecasting doom, or at the very least, her presence.

“Hmm,” Joelle shrugged, and a smile spilled across her face. “So it is.”

“And this is a common?” he played along. A wave of hair hung over his dark eyes, framed by long lashes and a hint of wrinkles that endeared Joelle to him anymore. She placed him at late twenties, so he was older, and she reasoned, more mature.

“Um, yeah. It happens. I don’t know. It’s strange,” she nodded. “I usually don’t question it.” Tessa stirred.

“Joelle, I need you at the register,” Bianca walked by, clicking on the tile, without missing a beat. “Tessa, off the floor.”

Tessa sat up, the jacket draped around her head like a veil, exposing Joelle’s before and after makeover visage smeared to a non-distinctive mess.

“Ah, Miss Tillsdale. I had a feeling you were near,” said the stranger before her. Tessa ignored his outstretched hand, and pushed herself off the floor.

“Joelle,” her roomie eased in. She had a knack for good timing, and shook his hand. “I’m sorry we haven’t met. And you would be?”

“Layne,” he said, with eyes only for Tessa. “Ring a bell?”

“Of course,” Tessa shook his hand, but it was as if she was meeting him all over again.

photo credit: david.dames via photopin cc