Eli A. Haddow
The white sheet sang a chorus heard by one. Waltzing to the melody, the pen spilled its red blood onto the paper staining the page with life. The maestro paused, strained his eyes to read back his prose, and continued the scribbling.
The desk lamp cast a wan light, while the muted television behind flashed pictures. It bathed the wall before him in red, blue, and green altering the mood of the room and, therefore, providing sole company.
From his window he could see the valley descend into the bay where the lights of the boats bobbed gently upon the vast darkness. The open window channeled a salty breeze that stiffened the hairs on his neck, and whistled through the blinds awakening the page with a rustle.
Running his fingers along the grainy wooden surface he noted the white light reflected by the page. Yet, as the pen danced across, its reflection dulled and the pure sheet was sullied. The bloody ink a sanguine professor recounting a romance in the thousandth different way.
He felt a sudden chill and reached for his glass of whiskey, but it eluded his grasp. His right hand fumbled aimlessly, while his left continued with the deluge of ink to paper.
A familiar plot spilled into the leather bound emotional repository that night. It was about her, of course, the pebble lodged into his stream of consciousness. She was a virulent pestilence; the kind that the doctors tell you cannot be cured, but inhabits your body and slowly destroys your will to live. He could not see her or smell her, but she lived every night in the density of the pages before him. And if not for his will to be with her, she would remain an idea, a dull light in the bleak expanses of his brain.
Why could he not let her go? He thought it was because she made him happy, but what could that mean? Could happiness be bought, sold, traded, derived, financed, hedged or repossessed? Maybe it could be. Maybe that’s what he was missing in this entire scenario. Maybe she was meant to buy him happiness. Even if she was, he could never profit from her.
The words flowed so easily as he pondered the situations, the possibilities, and the stories that he had not yet explored. He paused. An idea flickered in his brain and suddenly the pen resumed its waltz and composed a new song.
He had met her at his nightly watering hole where he was calm amid the surrounding juvenile commotion. He spoke to a lot of women there and often took them home without absorbing a word of conversation. He would pass a wanton gaze that animated them, but he knew they could never satisfy his passionate zest for life. He often wondered how many he had made cry.
She was different, though. She had a thorny demeanor that was hard to penetrate, but inside there was a swell of sanguine desire. He was defenseless, and when she approached him from across the bar every word sank into him like the bourbon that had soaked into the floorboards. They conversed for hours on how the world had gone to hell and that there was nothing anyone could do about it because they were too immature.
He brought her home that first night and when they woke up he was in love and she was, too. So they continued to spend evenings huddled in that dark corner, always locked in conversation, while others around them ranted and raved. It was a strange affair the two of them had, but they agreed that it had been the best month of their lives.
He had always felt that she was been unpredictable, even though she was there, waiting for him each night. But still there was some kind of darkness inside of her, something that she would not talk about for the sake of their rapport, and after a few attempts, he had given up trying to unearth it because he feared the risk of losing what they had for a morsel of truth that was probably unimportant.
Nothing was apparent until one night that he was drinking whiskey and she red wine. For the first time, they went to her apartment, and he saw the crucifix above her bedroom door. He asked her if she was religious and she said she was in the daytime.
So she admitted to him that she had been to the same bar every night for the previous year and would return home with more than she had left with. Apparently there were thousands of dead presidents hiding in her mattress.
He gazed into her deep green eyes, then, saying nothing.
When he woke up, he was still in love and she was in the bathtub listening to Beethoven before the music came to an abrupt end. When he entered the bathroom, it was dark and water gathered in puddles on the tile that soaked him when he fell to the floor.
Sitting at his desk he lurched into what happened after, and the song of pen and paper continued. The red carnage grew and the sheets filled up to accommodate his loathsome feast.
He paused, found his glass, and downed the remaining whiskey. The hairs on the back of his neck settled and now he composed a calm melody. He chose each word like he was etching it into a monument of self-fulfillment, carefully crafting a poetic end to a pathetic story. Then, suddenly, it was finished, and for the last time, she was dead.
He leaned back, poured himself another glass of whiskey, and enjoyed it in the serenity of his sacred, quiet corner. He replaced the glass without crushing it and a single droplet ran down the outside. It rested on the wooden surface, then slowly absorbed He switched the light off and the room became illuminated solely by the shifting images of the television. He stared at the crucifix that glimmered in the changing above his doorway and watched it stay the same until he sank into a dreamless sleep.
A week later he was alone at the bar, and as he traversed the bourbon-soaked floorboards, he swore he could hear them cry in agony. The only familiarity was the face of George, and when he approached him he was greeted with the same smile he had known for a decade. The shriveled hand extended as he took his seat at the bar, three spaces down from the Schlitz sign that glowed at the end.
“The only thing I’ll ask is what it’s gonna be tonight,” said the jovial bartender.
“No rocks, they get in the way of the bourbon.”
“One of those nights, then?” he smiled.
“Yes, one of those.”
He watched as George turned and reached for the bottle on the top shelf, and then watched as the bourbon leaped into the tumbler. He opened his palm, and when the glass slid into it, his fingers closed and felt the intricate grooves. As he lifted it toward his lips he could smell the sweet nectar that could calm him with one sip. And so it did.
He nodded and George turned to refill a wine glass for a pretty, brown haired girl toward the opposite end of the bar. It was the dark end, the part that he hoped would have been altered or destroyed but was still there, staring at him like the beast itself.
He thought about sending a drink, or even approaching her, but he feared being too forward. Besides, there was something wrong about her. Something about the way she held herself, like she was looking for a bedroom instead of a conversation.
His eyes turned away and he looked down into the pale amber, still in his glass. He smiled at his wavy reflection then looked back down the bar toward the girl, but now she was gone.
For ten minutes he agonized over his failure to make the slightest contact, then finished his bourbon and with the last sip slammed it down on the bar.
Just then she sat down next to him.
“You know it wouldn’t hurt to ask,” she said, looking him directly in the eye.
“Ask for what?”
“My number. You’ve been staring at my empty seat for the last ten minutes.”
“What makes you think I want your number?”
“You look lonely. I think that you need someone to talk to.”
“Alright then,” he said with a childish grin, “let’s have it.”
“You haven’t even asked my name.”
“You were throwing out numbers, I thought the name thing would come naturally.”
“Well okay, John Doe, here’s my number, you can ask my name later. Just make sure you call me.”
“Oh, you’ll be hearing from me.”
He watched as she walked away, her slender body clad in all black. She opened the door and looked back at him with a menacing smile. He could swear she winked.
It was less than ten minutes and another glass of bourbon later that he picked up the white napkin she had passed him. He squinted to read the red writing, and then put the numbers into his phone. It rang three times before his grin subsided.
A voice answered but was saying something purely unintelligible, so he hung up, and staring into the empty glass, he noticed one remaining drop. He looked back at the white napkin and withdrew his own pen. He wrote in his blood red ink: “Saturday, 3/9/13 9:39 p.m. Bourbon. Bar. Woman.”
At home he scrambled to record the exchange. The room went quiet and a melody came on in the background, one he had heard before but he was not sure when. He knew it should have brought an image to mind, yet his memory was hazy. But then there she was, except not alive before him but a distant figure living in the leather journal book now shut. She was dead now, after all, so he glanced down at the empty page gleaming before him someone new flowing through his brain.
About the author:
Eli Haddow is a student and writer at Louisiana State University. He writes columns in The Daily Reveille, the university's student newspaper. His interests include politics, college athletics, film, and, of course, reading and writing. Even though he is majoring in history and English, he hopes to be something other than a lawyer when he gets out of school.