Through the Fog

lewilliams's picture

Through the Fog

 

I thought I saw a girl wondering through the fog… not a girl a woman… a woman with milky white skin that could be brown or black as well. She could have been made of stars. I think her hair was the milky way, her wrists Serenity and her mind and eyes the fabric of the universe… protons and energized electrons… and photons… so many photons… swirling against antimatter and matter and everything that is and ever will be.

 

The radio was blasting Bach’s third cantata. I think there was a guitar player vibrating strings in the distance. I was driving. My hair was blowing in the wind, long and full, shining red and scorching under the August Sun. This was my life, my little red corvette.  He was there beside me. I stole a glance from time to time. He slid his thumb up my wrist. I slowed down and he sped up. He moved his hand up my arm. I was barefoot. I hit the pedal. He was kissing me. I wasn’t watching.

“Alex, stop,” I smiled and laughed a wide playful laugh and he knew I didn’t mean it. He kissed me again and I glanced at the open road in front of me, but I wasn’t really looking. Laughter was in the air. The wind was musical and as he slid his hand down my shirt and grabbed me again nothing was more surprising than the silence. It was instant, after all.  

I had slid down the seat just a bit. It was our vacation. We were taking a road trip all the way to Key West. We were almost there.  It was always so strange to see more and more palm trees at we got closer to our destination.  He was rubbing the lower part of my neck… gently.  I can still feel him touching me there.

It seems like I was looking at him then, when the silence came. His ocean blue eyes were looking at me, but suddenly it wasn’t ocean vacation warmth that they were radiating, but icy-cold-stricken terror.  I think the last thing I remember seeing was their transformation.  I left.

 

It was noon. The world was as it should be.  I woke up in the warm down blanket that I had always slept on, my tiger cat was yawing at my feet. I’d probably woken him when I jumped awake. I think I’d been dreaming, but of what I couldn’t remember. It must be Sunday. It felt like Sunday. I was currently the sole occupant of the paint-spattered room that I shared with my sister when I was visiting home. I had a mattress in the corner that was comfortable enough. I reached down to pet Tiger and he in turn flipped up his tail and jumped down, only to find that the door was closed. I had no choice but to lift myself up and do something to end the expectant feline glance toward the door.

It’s not like we had pancakes or anything. It’s not like I got up to smell banana pancakes as the warm summer breeze blew in from the window and I heard my parents and sister laughing in the kitchen dancing to whatever song might be on the radio or even their own if it suited them. It isn’t like I walked down the stairs to warm scents and the sweet clang of porcelain dishes colliding together and the sight of sunlight pouring in through the windows… but it might as well have been.  I tip-toed down the stairs and sat down in the living room with my mom working on class work for her college degree program and my sister watching TV and I might as well have sat down at the table for a lazy Sunday noon-time breakfast.

There was something lingering with me, from the night before.  It was almost as if I was in mid-conversation and something had happened to disrupt my train of thought… and I forgot what I was going to say. The phantom idea was lingering with me now. It had to have been that dream. Dreams are meant to be remembered lest they are just barely forgotten.  I said good morning, but both my mom and my sister were too absorbed in what they were doing to acknowledge my presence.  Tiger came and sat beside me, I stroked him and he began purring loudly. I felt like I was drifting back into sleep—I loved Sundays. There was nothing harsh about the silence of the day. There was nothing wrong with a quiet Sunday. Sunday was the one day of the week that had reason to be quiet.

I looked at my mom, absorbed in her work, her short blond hair was messy weekend hair. My sister’s eyes were darting back and forth in the direction of the screen. I could see the glare bouncing back from her eyes. She seemed to be enjoying the show.  I chose to look down at my cat. He lived in a world of Sundays. I was both jealous and felt bad for him at the same time. He always had the lazy pleasure, but he would never know how special it really was. It struck me, though, that maybe awareness wasn’t quite the gift that I was making it out to be.

Coffee time. I found myself pouring the hot, steaming liquid into my favorite red mug and sprinkling a little cinnamon on top. I could feel the steam hit my face before I even touched the glass to take a sip. It was so warm and the taste so deep and mature; almost sensuous.

 

I felt my dream coming back to me. The Sunday Silence lost its meaning.

            I was in bed and I was screaming. This was as close as two bodies could get. My legs wrapped around, toes pointed. He moved within me; around me.  

 

 

There was a high-pitched buzzing on the train, playing along with the low ca-klinck of the tracks that reminded me of a horror movie. Any minute, some black-cloaked man would push aside my luggage or the train would crash and the day I left home would be the end of my story. I thought any minute the noise would abrubtly end, there’d be a scream, and then silence. Moments passed and no ill-fated terror became part of my story. Looks like I’ll have to actually live with leaving. The day was gray—gloomy over the few buildings and open fields that I could see through the small train window to my right.

            “Feet off the seats please… off the seats please.”

            I looked up to see a tall, annoyed man looking over me and pointing at my feet relaxed on the seat in front of me. I immediately jumped up and sat up right.

 

It was about 2:30 AM. I couldn’t be sure of the exact time since my phone had died sometime during the course of the early evening.  I was surrounded by glossy-eyed people, some nearly asleep and some who might as well be asleep.

“Where are you, from?” a gorgeous young woman curled in the arms of a quiet, older-looking man inquired, with slightly slurred speech.

“Bryn Mawr, “ I answered hesitantly but positive that it wouldn’t hurt to answer anyway since I obviously would be exiting at the Bryn Mawr station.”

“That’s nice,” she answered, looking away as if the conversation was finished and had come to some kind of point.

I looked down at my phone, forgetting that it was dead. It was something I did habitually, like some kind of acquired tick. Looking around, I saw three others doing the same.

 

“I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.”

 

 

I could see the glow of the “hooka” sign on the sidewalk as I glanced over Becca’s shoulder. The “h” had burnt out, but the sign still served its purpose. The rose aroma was light and the place was packed. So packed that it was a little uncomfortable trying to ignore the table beside me—one of the men was nearly touching my elbow every time I adjusted myself on the low, pillowed booth.

            “What flavor is best?” he asked just as I was summing up the situation in my mind. Becca and I both had a tendency to be reserved. When we looked up our faces must have been some sort of hilarious—he immediately started laughing.  “What’s wrong? Did I scare you?”

            “Well, personally, I like the rose,” I piped in quickly, embarrassed and deciding that something could come out of this situation if we made the most of it.

            “Sounds a little feminine.”

            “It’s the best, trust me.”

            The server, an annoyed looking woman, walked up to his table and the inquisitive fellow-hookah partaker glanced at me and then, “Rose, please” and the woman stormed off, seemingly upset at being bothered.

            What was awkwardness turned into laughter and two separate tables became one. His friends joined us, loud and obviously intoxicated.

            “Come to our apartment”

            “It’s okay, it’s just a block away and we’ll pick up pizza on our way.”

            After the proper hesitation I found myself following the three guys and two of their girl friends that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere to SoHo pizza—apparently the best pizza in the city. At 3AM the line extended down the street and a big, dark man that appeared to be a bouncer stood in front of the door allowing the line to move in when others moved out.

            Becca looked at me and whispered, “Best pizza in the city… better be the world.” We both laughed and he glanced at me then the line moved in and we finally found ourselves inside.

 

“Across the sea, a moonless night”. What if there were merely stillness in the grey? The clock chimes, calling noon amongst the windy, raining day that surrounds me looking in through the windows. If mermaid songs permeate across the sea and voices only wake so that we drown, what could be the harm in looking down? A half-formed wish, and you sit solely by the window sill, a force of reckoning, cold and bright. A kettle calls, I trip over books lying to the right. Should the tide forget us all?

           

            If…

For one moment, you and I lay lying, lying, on the bedroom floor, the shutters closed and the sheets a mess… could I stroke your chest, would you protest?

 

I was supposed to be visiting home, but instead I was making a three hour drive on the interstate. I’d never driven by myself on the interstate before. I was terrified. Every few minutes I wondered if I should turn back. What am I doing?  Every minute I imagined that the car zooming past me might be the last thing I see in this life. Madonna was singing So Sorry and I turned the radio up.  I was going to visit Darren at UT Knox, hence the Madonna. Madonna was something the two of us had in common. She saw us through our first visit to New York and now she was the driving force in one of the craziest decisions I’d made in my life. My parents thought I was just stopping over at his house for the weekend, they didn’t know he was already in college. They would have died if they knew I was doing this.

I looked at the speedometer to see the dial on 90. Well if I’m going to crash speeding isn’t going to help anything. I gently rested my foot on the break and took a deep breath. I was going to do this.

 For a minute I thought I saw a woman on one of the looming hillsides that guarded the flat, black road. I thought she was smiling.

 

 

 

 

 

               

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It would be an ambitious project to take on the evolved self in one story… much less a three to four page short story… and it would be foolish of a writer to suppose that even one of her intentions were fully conveyed to the reader.  I hope, though, that what I write here, describing my intentions with this short story and their relevance to the class, makes at least the faintest sense with what I’ve actually written. I really hope that I will be able to continue working on this, but if I’ve completely missed my mark feel free to ask me to swear off this project for class purposes and start from scratch on the last project with an eloquently (decently) written critical paper on the mergence and convergence of literature, the aspects of nihilism in the last snow scene in Hustvedt, or why all writers should swear off writing and remove themselves from the world for comfortable monastery life. 

My intentions with this short story were to combine themes that we’ve recognized in evolution such as mergence/convergence  and consciousness/ unconsciousness with the search for meaning while describing events that shape a “self”.  Here, I suppose, is where I have to explain myself using examples… at least maybe this, too, is a way to be Against Interpretation .

Like Whitman, I chose to include some rather obviously literal portrayals of merging (please forgive me if they’re awkward).  I think these are obvious. I represented divergence in several different ways as well, such as with leaving home or with the feeling of disconnectedness.

Consciousness and Unconsciousness were meant to be represented in the tone of the passages and with the uncertainty or certainty of phrasing. I wanted to portray a contrast in conscious versus unconscious, but with the text leaning toward unconscious. Drunkenness is a common theme that is meant to reinforce this image.

Meaning is meant to be the part of the reader. Usually, when a story is read, the reader expects the story to come to a conclusion. A story is supposed to wrap itself up or make some kind of point. I wanted the story to allow the reader to form his/her own meaning out of what is said or to allow that maybe there isn’t one.

 

 

Comments

Anne Dalke's picture

repeating the experiment

I appreciate your experiment, and encourage you to go on with it…
like several of your classmates (see both
Old and New: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/4188
and Roots of Sky: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/4194 ) you’ve taken the risk of not just interpreting Whitman, but trying to understand what he was doing, and how he did it, by actually trying to repeat his experiment from the position of a contemporary American woman.

I like especially the juxtaposition from “nothingness” to “everything” as you move from the first vignette to the second; your thoughts about your cat’s experiences of his life, his “world of Sundays”; the alternative scenarios you play out while riding the train (how much we live in our fantasies, and how real they seem!); the dance of consciousness and the unconscious throughout (with the use of drunkenness as an avenue to the latter); and the use of leaving home as a trope for the sort of disconnection most familiar to your own generation.

I have some trouble w/ your use of archaisms; a question about how you see this project (or its explication?) as “a way to be ‘Against Interpretation’”; and some larger questions about what this project has taught you, and what contribution you think it might be making to our shared project of understanding cultural evolution. How have your new text extended what our old ones have taught us?

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