Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Faye

Seen at Fullerton station waiting for the Red Line to 95th

Once upon a time there was a girl named Faye whose hair was so long that you could still see summer growing out in its tips. That summer was a magical time for Faye; she experienced a love deep and true, but he was there and gone like the flick of a cat’s tongue. Autumn stole him away, and Faye found herself back in the cold city, alone.

One day, as she waited for the train to take her to work, Faye was approached by a pale young woman in a fur coat.

“You ooo un-appy.”

Faye removed her headphones. “I’m sorry?”

“I said, you look unhappy.” The stranger spoke with a slight Eastern European accent.

“It’s just cold out.” Faye started to pop her headphones back in, but the young woman stopped her.

“That is not why you are unhappy. You miss your lover. If you are cold, it is because your heart no longer glows from his adoration.”

“How do you—”

“You can win him back,” insisted the woman, laying a gloved hand on Faye’s cheek. “He waits for you on the very train you will be taking to work. But in order to attain his love, you must face three challenges. They, too, await you on the train.”

The end of her statement was almost drowned out by the rumble of an incoming Brown Line train. Before Faye could question the woman, she shuffled to the other side of the platform and hopped on. The doors closed, and she was gone.

Faye was still trying to sort out what had just happened when a Red Line train zoomed in front of her eyes. “Whatever that was,” she thought, “no matter how crazy, I still have to go to work.” She slowly filed on with the other commuters. More filed on behind her. And more. Faye moved into the aisle to make room, but soon she was wedged in just as tightly as she had been near the doors. She grabbed the back of a seat to steady herself; its occupant glared at her when her purse banged into his shoulder. A young college student leaned against her back, and her breasts pressed against the chest of an old priest with foul breath. The air in the car was warm and unforgiving and relentless. From somewhere behind her, a hand slithered up Faye’s thigh and squeezed her ass.

Faye knew she couldn’t stay there any longer. “Excuse me!” she cried, shoving her way past the other passengers. She continued on though the gauntlet of bodies and murmurs; angry whispers slipped into her ears: “Ow!” “Bitch!” “Fuckin’ whore!” Many of the people stood strong and firm like soldiers determined not to let her pass. Somehow she wound her way through them all. At the end of the car she even had to duck down and crawl beneath someone’s legs to reach the emergency exit. As quickly as she could, she passed through the shaking, empty space between cars, careful not to look down as the train rattled along its tracks.

“Well, that’s one challenge down,” she thought bitterly as she entered the next car. Faye took a deep breath, and immediately regretted her decision. She had never smelled a scent so putrid. Or was it scents? She looked around to find the cause of the odour and quickly stumbled upon one source. A young man with wiry hair leaned against the nearby doors. His eyes were red, and the skin around them was baggy and green-tinged. Everything in front of him—his chin, his chest, his feet, the floor—was splattered in vomit. Chunks of undigested food rolled across the ground with every lurch of the train. A small stream of the stuff was still gurgling out of his mouth.

Disgusted, Faye leapt over the puddle and ran to the other end of the car. There she found two homeless men sitting across from each other. One was urinating, inefficiently, into a plastic soda bottle. Faye averted her eyes and stepped to the side to avoid the spray. She focused on the other man, who appeared to be covered in lint. Moving lint? She leaned closer and saw dozens of maggots creeping across his body. “What’s the matter, little lady?” he asked with yellow, rotting teeth. “Never seen a bug before?”

Faye did not even think of replying. She rushed through the next emergency exit door without fear, as steadily as she would if she were strolling down a sidewalk. Once safely inside, she sat in the nearest seat and caught her breath, enjoying the much clearer air. She glanced down the length of the car, and there he was. Her love. He was just standing there, lost in thought, looking as handsome as ever. His skin was still tan from last summer.

Faye stood up and began to talk towards him, when her eyes fell upon another familiar face. It was the young woman with the fur coat! Only now the coat was slipped down around her shoulders, revealing a long, thin neck and a low-cut top. Before Faye could even begin to wonder how the woman managed to get on this train, she noticed that the woman’s long-lashed eyes were staring up at her love. And he was not, in fact, lost in thought; his eyes were staring right back, adoringly, a slight smile showing above his dimpled chin.

Doubts began to poke and prod at Faye’s mind. “If he’s been in the city all this time, why didn’t he call me? Maybe he doesn’t want to see me. Maybe he doesn’t even remember me. I should sit down. Talking to him would be stupid. Ours was just a summer fling. Nothing more.” Her confidence dipped low, and she started to sit back down, when the young woman’s eyes glanced back over at her. The orbs burned with such cruel, merciless triumph that Faye was galvanized; she couldn’t let this stranger win.

She marched over to her love and grabbed his arm. When he saw who it was, his grin blossomed, and his eyes blazed with sunshine. He couldn’t believe it. 

Whoa! An extra-long story today. It's actually slightly over 1,000 words, which technically means it's not flash fiction. But just barely. 

If you have nothing to do tonight, I recommend you head on over to Ace Bar at 8 p.m. to hear Bittersweet Drive play some folk music. It's going to be good. Promise.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Madame Refuse

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:45 a.m.

She huddles there, buried beneath piles of her beloved garbage. She inhales the manufactured smell of the plastic grocery bags. The recent spike in temperature has increased the pungency of the rotting food inside them, creating a fragrance that perfectly juxtaposes the repulsive and the intoxicating.

“I should bottle this,” she thinks. “I should bottle this and sell it. ‘Madame Refuse’s Eau des Ordures: One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure.’ I’d be rich!”

But if she were rich, she couldn’t live this way. She would be excised from the filth, and no amount of fur coats or down blankets could make her as warm or as happy. Besides, she is a jealous woman. Right now this particular scent is hers and hers alone. Why should she share it with an unappreciative public? Each day they scoff at her; they sit as far away from her as they possibly can. She never deigns to speak to them, or even look at them. She burrows her head deeper into her decaying haven, and her back lumps into a posture that insists: “one man’s trash…” 

Yep. Bag lady on the train today. 

I am getting very excited because Leta is coming to visit ON THURSDAY! Just a few days until we can have our super awkward, super complimentary discussions IN PERSON. I have missed her indeed.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Carmen

Seen on the Metra train to Chicago at about 7:50 a.m.

How do you comfort a crying baby when you have to take him to a dirty apartment because some old white male judge says so? How do you comfort your son when he barely knows his father? When you know his memories won’t consist of hugs and kisses but tobacco-stained fingers and an empty fridge and, if his father gets angry, a leather belt? How can you find the will to comfort in your heart when your heart is bitter? You have to, though, because your son’s heart does not yet know bitterness. How could you ever allow it to?

A sad drabble today. Got back from the burbs this morning. Super tired because I have to get up at 6 a.m. to make the train back. Mornings are not my thing. You know what is my thing? RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE! New season starts tonight. Wine and Drag Queen Nights are back, my friends.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What Does It Matter?

Seen in the Financial District of Manhattan at about 1:30 p.m., January 21, 2013

He lived in the shadows of the Financial District; he slept against the New York Stock Exchange. All the money in the world changed hands here, yet nobody had anything to spare for him. They walked past his open palm without so much as a glance, their shiny black oxfords and patent leather heels clicking importantly on the city sidewalks. “White trash!” he shouted at the people who refused him, though he knew they were not that, they would never be that, just as he would never be wealthy or happy or worthwhile.

And that, my friends, is my last story from NYC. Depressing, but what can you do? I'm going to the suburbs this weekend--I need to cuddle with my dogs and rest before the madness of birthday week ensues. I hope you have a lovely weekend, too!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mark

Seen at Obscura Antiques & Oddities in New York City at about 2 p.m., Sunday, January 20th, 2013

I’ve never seen her before. Her hair is perfect, but colored hair alone doesn’t make for good TV. She might be new in the neighborhood. Or she might be a tourist. Probably a tourist. She and her friend don’t look like they’re searching for anything in particular. Still, if they are…. When in doubt, flirt. “Hi, ladies. Is there anything I can help you find?” Damn. Her smile makes her even better. She really would look great on camera. “Thanks. We like the show, too. So you’re from Chicago. What’s the store like this called there? The Wooly Mammoth?” Yeah, this isn’t going to work. They clearly don’t know anything about collecting. What a shame. I think she’s into me, though. Still got it. “That’s just a prop gun. It was probably used for theater and the like.” She’s a theater kid? I should have known. “Right, it’d probably still be difficult to get it on a plane.” I’ve dated theater kids before. They’re bad news. They’re insane. They make a big deal out of everything. What’s that phrase? Mountains out of molehills. I mean, Mandy broke up with me just because she found out I wasn’t going to be on camera on the show. It’s not like I couldn’t have hooked her up, but she left anyway. Ungrateful bitch. “The small bat is thirty-five, and they go up from there. The skeleton is fifty-five.” Yeah, I was all wrong about her. Petrified bat? How stereotypical is that? I hate people who live for shock value. “You’re going to go with the pin-up-girl glasses? I like these a lot. Make sure you don’t put it in the dishwasher, though, or the sticker will come off.” Ugh, she’s still smiling at me a little too much for my taste. Better put some distance there. “I know. I have a collection of shot glasses that I get whenever I travel, and I came home once to find my girlfriend scrubbing away at one, and she’s like, ‘I’ve been trying to get this gross stuff off the rim forever.” But it was a gold rim! It was supposed to be there. She totally ruined it.” There, that should do it. “Okay, that’ll be seventy all together. Cash or credit?” Too bad. She’s just weird-hot enough. The producers would have loved her. “Hot chocolate? You could try CafĂ© Pick Me Up. It’s just a few blocks south on Avenue A. Has a cool atmosphere.” Well, at least I could help them get an AUTHENTIC NEW YORK EXPERIENCE, or whatever you want to call it. Good deed for the day: completed. “Thanks again, ladies. Take some postcards on your way out.”

I feel a little bad about this story, because Mark was a really nice person, and this story makes him seem like a jerk. I don't think he is a jerk. But I wanted to write a story in the form of someone's inner monologue, and the fun of inner monologues is that they say things we'd never say out loud. Meg was the girl with the cool hair and I was her friend, obviously. Does this format work? Could you figure out that it was his inner monologue and the portions in quotations were the things he said aloud? Feedback is always appreciated.