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Under the Paving Stones, Its a Beach

I see ballerinas on the stage. As they perform their play gracefully, seeming spontaneous, a feeling of awe gently polishes my vision. The music is light and floats as they do. The music. It takes me outside, to a field thats warm. The harmless and rhythmic drones become the bass and I see the lilac they circle become the soothing violin; vibrant but bleached with sunlight. I think how the show is beautiful and feel the wings of a pale blue butterfly that could only live in the artic sweep my spine, its cold wings delicate but firm. The lights are soft but exciting, like the performance revealing itself before me. I try to lose myself in this moment, but I am an observer and observation cannot take precedence over experience.

I wish I were an actor. I would fly from my seat to join them and the only curiosity aroused would be why I was ever missing. I would let my script guide me, and the others would smile and nod to me as an old friend. The lights would blind everything but the stage, and I would often turn my head upward to feel the warmth soak my face. I blink; I could never remain focused on one thing for long.

I take a sip of my bitter coffee and stare into the glossy brown reflection. I see my reflection in a dark blob that is muddled with the other shadows. I believe I have neither the talent nor the patience for such a show, so I end my reverie and shift attention to absorb the whole situation. The coffee shop is mildly cold and unusually busy. Customers lose themselves in private stories with friends while workers seem to sleep standing like cattle until prodded by a customer. The activity in this small shop is almost overwhelming, and everyone acts as if the center, surrounded by only a few orbiting bodies as the idea of public space is dismissed to the particular space-time continuum of each occupied table. A woman laughs from behind, sounding something like a terrible cricket with schizophrenia, shrill, dissonant and caught between personalities. A man in his middle years with hair the texture of a robins nest reads a book. His eyes seem to push out of his skull like two white balloons being stepped on, as if he could absorb the knowledge of the text if his eyes smeared it like a sponge. Another man coughs with the sound of his body rejecting himself. Voices blur into one sound as frequencies merge within my ear and the sound of the dull music from the omnipresent speakers of God loses its earlier appeal. Sloppy and excessive, it now sounds like someone who, with an open-faced sandwich, is watching a cat being boiled in wax. The drab browns annoy me as they massage the mind that is gorged with blood full of two-dollar caffeine.

Looking more closely at the scene, like a jittery hawk, I notice two young women in the midst of a conversation. They talk to each other with the ease of experienced orators, seeming to treat the talent of conversation as something no more difficult than the skill of walking. The one with the auburn hair in a pony tail smiles as the one with her back turned finishes her words with waving flares of her hand, the fingers extending from fists like the jet propulsion of a jelly fish. If I were an actor, I would have a witty line prepared for me, and I would glide over to their table and entertain them with my scripted cleverness. The womens eyes would gloss, and their pupils would dilate as they attempt to take all of me into their mind. I wish that I could speak like they do.

I think how maybe I dont have to act, how I could speak to them like I talk to myself. The knowledge of science remembers how tonally expressing ones thoughts is only a matter of muscle and air. I can hold a conversation; Im doing it now. I whisper out loud with the faintness of hope that knows itself to be nave. I imagine how I could be on the boards, and my verbal dance would make the two women my audience. I picture four stage lights, and can almost feel the warmth. Lifting my cup and letting the last of the lukewarm coffee flow in an awkward bulge down my throat, I decide to engage.

Like a lion in the Serengeti, I dodge obstacles in which I am only semi-aware. My movements are quick and only register some time after their completion. A woman passes in front of me and blocks my advance, appearing as a phantom lost in the background. I dodge the person-object and near my goal as I slide into a chair at a dirty table next to the two women. Smiling, I anticipate how my impression will impact the two. They will ask for my phone number with blushing red cheeks and undoubtedly try to hug me before I leave, as if I were a celebrity with a shining white halo above my head. Deciding to begin lightly, and playfully, I begin my conversation.

I really like that sweater youre wearing. I say in a voice almost not my own. Did you buy that at the Gap?

Yes, yes I did. How did you know? The timid reply comes with a look of shy curiosity.

I have something very similar of my own. It looks good on you, compliments your hair nicely. I say.

Do you think so? I always thought the two contrasted too much. Comes the reply, slightly more confident.

Gliding my fingers through my hair, I smile and say, No, not at all. The two play off each other, like we do.

Fear seems to wash over me like a flood of liquid nitrogen, the cold sweat freezing my nerves as I realize how contrived the sentence must have appeared. I turn my head and glance at the two women to see if I look a fake. Their stares are so focused it feels as if a hole is being bored through me. I think how I must appear as some horrible octopus; foreign and unnerving with a sharp and threatening beak that slobbers more than speaks. I knew I had gone too far too early. I quickly turn back my head with jerky precision and laugh, resuming my conversation.

So what do you do? I mean, what do you do for a living? I ask hurriedly and with nervous edge.

I do freelance writing to earn my money, but Im writing a fantasy novel in my spare time. What about you? I mean, what do you do? I voice uneasily.

I also do freelance writing, and am writing a fantasy novel. I answer again. The conversation becomes dry, as I already know the answers and the questions. With face clenched in nervous expectation, I shift my eye to the corner of a tense socket to see if the women have become impressed, or are continuing to gawk at my conversation like a passing motorist would stare at a horrific car wreck.

The two turn to look at each other with mouths open like invalids. The one with the auburn hair murmurs Oh, my God while the other slowly and deliberately nods her head in agreement, though I am unsure what the agreement was affirming. The two gradually rise from their seats, lift purses, filled with their lipstick and life, and begin to leave.

I stand perplexed and frightened, looking as if just told I was adopted. Both of us dont understand. I softly say, as the breath is difficult to find. I lean slightly and grab the wooden chair for support. I fill my lungs with the slightly chilled air of the shop. Was it the line about how the contrast works like we do? Was I being too forward with myself? I say loudly enough for them and half the patrons to hear. The two women dont turn and I watch them continue to walk away, but now at an accelerated pace, like rabbits, only polite. I become frustrated at how they ignore my existence, at how they wish red, velvet curtains would drop before me and I would be silenced. Everything around me blurs and mixes together. I look down at my hand and can barely distinguish it from the chair; all I feel is the wood, not my hand, and it has the hue of the natural varnish. Lifting my head and unaware, I choke to the shrinking women I was going to be a ballerina! I think how terrible a line that must have sounded and swear one day to fire my writer. Within seconds, the whole store bursts with cruel laughter, the faces becoming mere caricatures of human beings. The lights press down upon me, seeming to weigh a thousand pounds. I think how I must be sick. The ground shifts and feels as if the earth was carpet and someone was slowly pulling it from under me. The walls swirl and corners dissolve into one giant ellipse. Yes, I say, Im sick. I fall. The lights disappear and darkness covers me in a blanket. I feel secure.



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Comments

The following comments are for "A short story on the conflict of the individual in relation to other beings."
by logikflaw

Confusion the Waitress
she said- don't go dark on me again.
she said.
she said- the silence and the silence I see you my confidence she said.
she said- loophole how are you now?
she said- oh no, once again the superstar?
she said- he loves you, but...can you name me his children?
she said- oh the god you lost again?
she said- the color of your boyfriend.
she said- get out of bed. answer the phone.

( Posted by: Beckett Grey [Member] On: December 28, 2001 )

Fantabulous
This is an excellent story. I must admit it's probably too deep for my shallow mind, but I loved it all the same. Great descriptions, great pacing, great everything.

I only regret that I hadn't read it sooner.

( Posted by: Richard Dani [Member] On: December 29, 2001 )





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