fourzoas: (box)
[personal profile] fourzoas


A sturdy bridge connects his island to the mainland. I was terrified to drive over it, even though I was certain that the laws of physics weren't going to go against me that day. When I start a journey, things just seem to happen: planes take off and land, cars get rented, keys go into ignitions and I just drive to the destination, so weary from the entire drama of the travel that I sometimes forget what I was traveling to.

I stopped at the edge. The rented headlamps on the car illuminated the path before me. I could count each raindrop; I had time, after all, the way behind me clearly empty at 2 a.m. on the Wednesday before Christmas. White rain before me, red rain behind. I peered past the water to the slick oily roadway, a dark narrow ribbon swallowed at some point by the night. There was water beneath, and I imagined it churning up to swallow me and this crappy little tin box I'd scrimped and saved to borrow just so that I could cross this bridge. I put it in drive and drove.

###


I'd never seen anyone use one of those camp coffee pots, the percolators with the thick glass knobs and unburnable handles that my father insisted cooked the coffee past taste bud recognition. I marveled, then, at the first cup he poured for me from the pot, the shimmer on the surface of the black liquid reminiscent of the sheen on the roadway the night before. I drank the tarmac, toughening up my throat with each swallow. He taught me to drink it this way, his way, and I make coffee every morning in a pot similar to that one, except my surfaces aren't quite as slick and oily as his were back then.

###


The week was and was not what it should have been.

We tried to make a gumbo from scratch, each of us eager to prove our down-home credentials in this new space. I found myself locked in some strange competition, but embraced it as a way to establish something that we were together and in the end, that's what happened, I suppose: we were two people who couldn't help but burn a roux. It's tough to get just the right mixture of flour and oil, and once you get the blend right you have to be so very mindful of how you cook it lest it burn. We tried a couple of times, but something just wasn't clicking and the roux kept sticking to the bottom of the pot. We laughed about it. I think we had takeout instead.

There was a party with new work colleagues, the people who saw the life he was shaping in this new place. I wondered which of them, if any, would be my friends. There was shopping and walking and dinners and bedtimes. We had Christmas the night before I left. The wrapped box he handed me might as well have been empty since the gift said nothing of love and commitment and devotion. I'd searched antique shops before embarking on my island journey to find the perfect gift, a box with beautiful wood inlay, a place where he could keep his greatest treasures. The matronly department store sweater felt thoughtless in comparison.

I drove back across the bridge, this time during heavy traffic, the clear skies pulling me easily over placid waters. Holidays were ended. It was time to return to work.

###


I didn't hear from him for six months. By then I'd moved, not to his island, but to my own, a landlocked corner closer to our place of origin. He was married now--well, again--and she was perfect and blonde and not-me. It might have been raining that day, and I don't recall how the coffee was that morning. I sat in that house I was renting and just listened to the drops of rain falling through the trees onto the medium pitch of the shingled roof, counting what I could while his voice wove that ribbon of his new life into an oily slick bow.

###


I was thirty before I understood why I stopped at that bridge. I could see myself in that car, an empty box wrapped in pretty paper, a gift meant to be filled with whatever was meaningful or important to the receiver. Somehow even on that night I knew that I wasn't giving anyone anything they wanted because I wasn't really giving anything at all. Always hedging my bets; I hadn't even breathed a word of interest in a transfer to my company's office on his island because I was waiting for someone else to make the decision for me, to tell me that the island was ready to accept a new resident. No, scratch that: I was waiting to be told that I was the new resident, waiting to be given a role to play in someone else's life. I offered nothing and expected everything, the emptiest of gestures disguised as something like love and devotion.

Written in response to the Topic 1 prompt at [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol: Empty Gestures.

on 2009-10-19 10:46 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] stormkitty.livejournal.com
This is very sad and poignant. It makes me want to reach out and give you a hug.

on 2009-10-20 03:27 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks--the topic sort of lends itself to melancholy.

on 2009-10-20 12:46 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] alycewilson.livejournal.com
I really like this. Very evocative.

on 2009-10-20 03:28 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks! So glad you enjoyed it.

on 2009-10-20 01:07 am (UTC)
ext_43: proust quote: let us be happy to those that make us happy.  They are the constant gardners that make our souls blossom. (Books & Flowers)
Posted by [identity profile] drho.livejournal.com
*Hugs* This is haunting.

on 2009-10-20 03:29 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks; it was the story that wanted to be told this week. I'm hoping for a more upbeat prompt next go round.

on 2009-10-20 01:47 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] poppetawoppet.livejournal.com
I really liked how this flowed. This was very well done.

on 2009-10-20 03:29 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you; I'm glad that you enjoyed it!

on 2009-10-20 02:30 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] beautyofgrey.livejournal.com
This is utterly lovely. I love your descriptive imagery.

on 2009-10-20 03:31 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you!

on 2009-10-20 02:56 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] cacophonesque.livejournal.com
I like the roads/coffee imagery playing off each other throughout.

on 2009-10-20 03:32 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
For some reason those were foremost in my mind; I'm glad you enjoyed that.

on 2009-10-20 03:59 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] beloved-tree.livejournal.com
Oh, my God, this is beautiful. It's so filled with the poignancy of past relationships and lost time.

on 2009-10-20 01:38 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you--I found this oddly liberating to write and relive. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

on 2009-10-20 09:26 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] tamaraland.livejournal.com
Nice entry. Very interesting style.

on 2009-10-20 01:38 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you.

on 2009-10-20 06:24 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] jenandbronze.livejournal.com
I could "see" myself with the emotions that you were experiencing throughout this entry. The words were very powerful and held me to continue to read to see the end result.

on 2009-10-21 01:09 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you--I'm so pleased that the piece held your interest!

on 2009-10-21 01:20 am (UTC)
shadowwolf13: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] shadowwolf13
What an interesting entry. Thank you so much for sharing.

on 2009-10-21 01:09 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
You're welcome! Thank you for reading and commenting!

on 2009-10-21 02:09 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] crimsonplum.livejournal.com
I had an exceptionally clear picture of what every scene looked like, and that is a huge thing to me! Beautifully done.

on 2009-10-21 01:10 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you! This was a bit of an experiment for me, so I'm glad that the scenes were clear.

on 2009-10-21 10:30 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] baxaphobia.livejournal.com
So sad and dark. The imagery is very haunting.

on 2009-10-21 01:10 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you; the topic seemed to lend itself to a bit of melancholy and sorrow, although in the end I came out the better for it all.

on 2009-10-21 01:48 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] zia-narratora.livejournal.com
I really liked the way you portrayed everything in short little scenes and the sense of distance that the island brought to the piece. Really nicely done.

Also, perfecting a roux is a tricky thing! I sort of liked how that played into the piece, what it said about your relationship.

on 2009-10-22 08:52 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading and for the feedback! The roux bit was a sort of late addition (well, a late remembrance, really); I'm glad that it seemed somewhat related.

I must admit to now using pre-made roux from a jar. Much easier when I'm in a hurry!

on 2009-10-21 03:15 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] oldscratchx.livejournal.com
Sad, but a good post.

on 2009-10-22 08:53 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you!

on 2009-10-21 11:24 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] onda-bianca.livejournal.com
My heart just feels a bit sad after reading this. Life gets sad sometimes though....nice entry.

on 2009-10-22 08:53 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you. Sorry to make you sad; I'm hoping for a topic that leads me to something a bit more upbeat next time.

on 2009-10-21 11:27 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] oneonthefence.livejournal.com
Very beautiful, and very haunting. Well done.

on 2009-10-22 08:53 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you!

on 2009-10-22 04:03 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ohmy.livejournal.com
This is absolutely fantastic. I loved it. You have my vote :D

on 2009-10-22 08:54 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks--really glad that you enjoyed it!

on 2009-10-22 10:26 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] agirlnamedluna.livejournal.com
I really like your melancholic voice ... seems like such a sober recollection with a bittersweet melody.

on 2009-10-23 12:47 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm hoping for less-somber inspiration on the next post!

on 2009-10-23 12:56 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] monkeysugarmama.livejournal.com
Your metaphors are stunning :) Comparing your relationship to a roux - wow.

This topic DOES lend itself to sadness, reminiscence...I now look forward to reading something happy from you too!

on 2009-10-27 02:42 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you for the kind words---and for reading! I think the new topic will lend itself to some much less melancholy moments all around.

on 2009-10-23 03:31 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] phoenixejc.livejournal.com
A wonderful piece! I especially love this: White rain before me, red rain behind.

Very moving and well-written! Thank you!

on 2009-10-24 09:17 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] majesticarky.livejournal.com
Very much enjoyed this. Your writing style is very unique in this entry. I really liked how fragmented it was, yet still told one story.

on 2009-10-24 09:51 pm (UTC)
Posted by (Anonymous)
I marveled, then, at the first cup he poured for me from the pot, the shimmer on the surface of the black liquid reminiscent of the sheen on the roadway the night before. I drank the tarmac, toughening up my throat with each swallow.

I always enjoy a good metaphor, and this one lingers on the tongue, thanks to you.

Personal subtext meaning to me: this is the first cup I drink of you this competition. Mmmm. I'll be back. I will cross this bridge again. Unlike the narrator. (But 'tis a different, and much easier bridge, for me; all I need do is read and pay attention.)

The entire work, even as short as it is (short enough to attract and keep most livejournal readers: I fear we are in the age of 15-second spots), is still too large and pregnant for me to adequately critique or even respond to as a unified whole. Yes. A whole piece, even though it appears broken, like its subject/character. For, although it is very much a pastiche of pieces, it, like a mosaic, comes together as a whole (and thus obeys old Mr. Elliot [insert here my little rebel *sigh*]...).

Ahem. Suffice to say I enjoyed it. And yes, I read it more than once. That too, says something good.

Gracias, profe. Felicidades (congratulations).

on 2009-10-24 09:52 pm (UTC)
Posted by (Anonymous)
well gosh darn it I forgot to log on... danialtravieso

on 2009-10-24 09:54 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] danialtravieso.livejournal.com
Yes. This guy here. For the idol contest at least. My regular, "competition-avoidance" page is tijuanagringo.

Am looking forward to seeing more of from you!

on 2009-10-26 05:28 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] karmasoup.livejournal.com
There is a certain hint of mystery in this, like there's a surprise ending waiting to jump out at the denouement, being told in first person, wondering who YOU are... it compels. I didn't find it quite so terribly sad, though... perhaps just a bit wistful. I might have been reading into that, but, seems to me more reflective on the circumstances in a way that perhaps even surprised you on some level, but came as no surprise once you stepped back and reexamined... sometimes in life we do that... we keep our foot on the brakes subconsciously because our heart knows something intuitive it has not communicated with the rest of us... the love we feel is not enough to sustain that particular relationship in the long term. The good news is, the rest of us will eventually catch up with that revelation, and, it frees us to realize we actually CAN love that person, as much as we ever did, and be happy that there is a new life of happiness for that one without requiring any responsibility from us to maintain it. I hope you get there, if you haven't already.

on 2009-10-27 02:46 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thanks for the response; I think it did surprise me when I had that realization, and while I understand why so many seemed to read sadness from this, I'm pleased that you were more inclined to see this piece as even somewhat wistful.

And I have moved far past this moment in my life and wish him nothing but the best.

on 2009-10-27 01:36 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] intrepia.livejournal.com
This was beautiful; you are a talented writer.

on 2009-10-27 02:43 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
Thank you; I'm so glad that you enjoyed it.

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