write on edge
showed up without a plan, just a little design I had scribbled on a scrap of paper. I asked a few questions about the needles. “Lady,” said the man at the counter, “we ain’t interested in spreadin’ diseases.” Jed, the newest apprentice, was available. I agreed. Jed would be fine. What did I know? I wanted a tattoo….
Working on my fiction! This week’s prompt spoke to me so I decided to give it a whirl. We were asked to let a character be inspired by music. I had to show in 400 words or less how my character responds to a piece of music.
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The music rolls upward in smoky circles toward lights covered in red-cellophane. On the floor below, a man and a woman sit side by side at a tiny round table. Dressed in black, they look sharp together. The two have had several bottles of wine, and the woman has draped her bare legs over his thighs. He pushes against her and something rises inside me, a longing perhaps to be touched like that. And always, the music, it pumps.
While the drummer fans his cymbals, I watch the woman teasing her man, and I feel like I am watching some kind of primitive human mating ritual. From out of nowhere, she is shouting. Her voice rises over the music, and her fingers open and close as she clutches the air around her.
Suddenly, he pushes her legs off his lap; he is on his feet, taking long strides towards the back of the club. I look to see her reaction but I can’t see her face because her hair blocks her eyes. I see now that she is drunk, that she is crying, choking on her sadness. Help her, I look around wildly. Someone help her; she is too beautiful to cry.
The waitress comes and whispers something in the woman’s ear. For a moment I can’t tell whose ear is whose; they are a collage of interchangeable body parts, two women, two strangers come together in the darkness. The woman owes for the bottles of wine, and she takes out her wallet to pay. A few papers fall on the floor, but she doesn’t notice or — if she does — she doesn’t care.
The waitress leaves, and the woman dabs at her eyes with a cocktail napkin. She checks her watch, but never turns around: never turns to see where he might be. Or where he might not be. After what seems like an eternity of jazz, he returns to his chair as if he has only been gone a moment, not some small eternity. Staring into the dark hole of the horn player’s trumpet, he taps his foot to the beat.
The music quiets. The man says something I can’t decipher, words that cause the woman to rise. Tall and curved, she reaches for her purse. When she looks for him, he is three-paces ahead of her. Teetering on too high heels, cigarette smoke swirls around her and, for a moment, she recognizes the toxic funk she is in, a low vibration or a blue note from the bass player’s strings.
How do you feel about people who are drunk in public?
We took his motorcycle and drove for two days straight never stopping to shower, only to refuel and refuel and refuel at small convenience stores in quaint little towns where even the fat counter girls looked beautiful to me. Somehow we ended up tip-toeing in the middle of some farmer’s field where the corn stretched tall and sweet to the sky and roots spread underneath our feet, and I felt safe and believed in magic when he clapped his hands once and — without even having to say abracadabra — thousands of crows lit and seeded the sky like a million dark winged moons.
As he held me, they squawked our names, and he taught me how to decipher the screechings of birds, and I was so sure that love like that could never fly away.
But it does and it has dozens of times since then.
But before the pecking and the clawing there were kisses behind a crumbling wall, flowers sent with secret messages, green turtlenecks and green chairs and the whole fucking world was green with possibility and if I died in an hour no one would know that still I hold these memories, hoard them like chocolates I won’t share, sweet and delicious caramels oozing with my youth fluttering daily away from me on bird’s wings, and I can’t bear to part with a single one; they are all my favorites.
I need only breathe and we are there, his feathers… feathers flickering radiance.
And no one need ever know I sacrificed that kind of love, chose the warmth of a yellow comforter and a rye bagel each morning over the chill of late September rain on my shoulders, something less dangerous than a motorcycle and the uncertainty of a thousand crows screaming our passion overhead.
This week we were asked write about a relationship we knew was doomed from the start in under 400 words. Click on the button above to read other stories about love and loss.
Tell me about one of your doomed relationships: with a lover, a friend, a parent, a child, a celebrity.
I remember you mornings mostly, emerging from showers: towel-clad, shoulders bare and water-speckled.
Wrapped in the orange glow from overhead heating lamps, enveloped by thick bathroom mist, you shined, luminescent. Poreless, your skin, bronze and pure, and I noticed you (as if for the first time) golden curls, heavy and weighted with water, still catching light and reflecting syrupy-sweetness.
So solid, you stood like some kind of crazy tree, and like the long-armed, wobbly-kneed tomboy I used to be, I wanted to climb your branches.
Wanted to become part of your limbs’ history.
Wanted to climb your sweet boughs, surrounded by soft reds and browns and gold, press my nose to hair which I remember smelled like autumn, musky and damp.
Everything about you reminds me of Fall, a time that, as a child, I called “tree-turn season,” a time that reminds me of a drum beat, or a heart beat, or some kind of gentle pounding, like a child’s fist on a brass knocker at Halloween.
(Was this why I loved you?)
There were more reasons, I’m sure, but in that moment, time spilled through air, an emptiness filled, and I scooped up fallen bits of my reality, throwing them invisibly overhead like the crinkly leaves of my childhood, as golden drops of water slipped down your back and you moved behind our bedroom door.
I didn’t recognize it then, but I should have known that winter was coming.
After apple-picking and pumpkin-carving and Halloweening, what do you remember about autumn?
This week writers were asked to use the weather, or a photo of an autumn day to inspire a memoir piece in under 300 words. For more wonderful pieces, click on the button above.
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It was out of character for me, but I showed up without a plan.
Just a little scribble on a scrap of paper.
I asked a few
million questions about the needles.
“Lady,” said the man at the counter, “we ain’t interested in spreadin’ diseases.”
Jed, the newest apprentice, was available.
I agreed. Jed would be fine.
What did I know?
I wanted a tattoo.
So I dropped my pants and allowed a stranger to drag needles across my skin.
As I laid on the table, I listened to the rain that pummeled the tin roof over our heads.
And through the open door, I watched the rain sweep cigarette butts into the sewer.
Any other day, I would have been sitting cross-legged on the futon in my apartment grading student papers. Lying there, I was grateful I didn’t have a dog that needed to be let out at any particular time. I remembered how – before I was a teacher, a role model — I liked a little spontaneity.
Eventually, Jed finished.
I couldn’t wait to see it.
I had shown Jed that initial sketch, but he had taken some liberties.
And he left me with a permanent lopsided heart.
I paid seventy-five dollars in cash for my little act of rebellion.
Initially, I was annoyed by its wrongness.
But I quickly grew to love it.
And twenty years later, each time I look at my tattoo (that has become even more crooked over time), I remember a lazy day in New Orleans. An in-between time, when I was neither wife nor mother but dangerously free.
My tattoo reminds me of a place I love fiercely. It reminds me how love without patience and care can become unbalanced. Most of all, my tattoo reminds this Type A control-freak that when a person acts impulsively, sometimes the results can be pleasantly imperfect.
What do you think about tattoos? Art or self-mutilation?
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I so rarely have time to do the fabulous prompts from Red Writing Hood, but this week, it spoke to me. The assignment: Write a piece in which a tattoo figures prominently in 300 words.
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