Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 1 : The Dragon (Conclusion)

To read the beginning of Chapter 1, The Dragon, click here, (Part 1)

To read the previous section in chapter 1, The Dragon, click here. (Part 4)


 

…The will of the elements was a collective thing and the way he asked for their assistance could be described as democracy; all elements had their own, “free will“. In his meditation, he had to present a persuasive case with the world around him for protection or support. But it wasn’t a case of eloquence in speech it was a discipline of will. To enter this mode, he must slow down his thought and channel his thinking to the fractions of a second that make up that world. If he was too fatigued, or mentally indisposed his connection with the elements could fail and leave him exposed to a dire situation.

As he would make his case, he would garner the support from a few parts of the natural. They would unify to grant what request he asked. When these natural elements felt inclined, Hart would be granted and thus given the aforementioned ability of, for example, balancing himself atop a long stem of wheat, the most petite of flowers, a light zephyr or the wisps of clouds.

Hart breathed through his nostrils, filling his lungs, than exhaling a gust from his mouth that rippled though the air around him. Hart held a cache of rare and valuable tokens and baubles of the psyche for Nature was his greatest teacher and in this respect he was forever a humbled student.

Indeed, he claimed a godly mastery and it is true he did tower over men with what he possessed. “It’s easy enough for me.” He clicked his tongue and thought about those teenagers who would turn into bones and dust in a coffin, his lesson and their future was but the glimmer of dew in the morning before his first cup of coffee.

He smiled at what he was given but shook his head- inside Hart wished to expire like the rest. He didn’t want to feel any more pain, emotional, physical or likewise. He walked back down to where he was seated before but he noticed a glinting aluminum can that was left behind.

It was unnatural and it strained his concentration. He knelt down to pick it up, plucking it from the broken flowerbed then crushing it in his hands, he tossed it effortlessly into his open rucksack. By the freshly painted bench he sat. He pulled a pen from his breast pocket and a pad of yellow paper and thought about that setting so long ago. He began to recreate a setting made of prose:

“Lo, there is a country meadow where broad acreage holds in its clutches sweeping fields of golden barley. The wind, I do recall, is sweet and its hushed melody caresses the summer’s day. Mother Nature exhales a deep, contented sigh and the fields undulate under her breath; the coarse wisps of grain brush against one another. When I listen closely, I hear a rhythmic harmony.

I can hear her whispering, “I love you.”

Lo, the brook, how it babbles amongst her children, those smooth gray and red stones. Leaves are set adrift in these refreshing waters, too. They and I enjoy this gentle rocking that is the ebb and flow of life, of love. An infinite lazy stream follows a near endless border. Along its sandy banks, willows bend low, dipping themselves in this cool splendor. Then over yonder, where the brush does bathe, my feet do take me.

Lo, the butterfly, how it flits past to see what nectar the tiny bumblebee has discovered. A grasshopper sits, pausing in reflection on the petal of a noble violet. The smell of rich earth and fresh blossoms sensuously mingle. The aroma of daffodil and honeysuckle are most noticeable and seemingly cling together as friends do on a long stroll.

A sensation of ease and comfort greet those whom chance serenity here. The afternoon is quick to part though. I am left with a growing twilight, a melting sun and a color-seared sunset. At long last, the sun winks goodnight to head westward, past rolling hills, then further down into the valley on its ceaseless journey.

He chewed on the cap of his Bic. “This will do.” He thought.

Events of Foreign Sojourn, Collage

Events of Foreign Sojourn, Collage

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Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 1: The Dragon (Pt. 4)

(Continued from part 3, read it here.)
(Read the chapter from the beginning, here.)

Marcus addressed Hart directly. He stood a few feet from him, He opened his mouth, “Look here mutha’fu….”

His words were cut short as a slice of apple whipped into his mouth and lodged itself. He began to gag then fell to his knees.

“Anyone know the Heimlich?” Hart asked the group in a cold sincerity. The group looked at each other incredulously and in disbelief.

Holy shit!” One shouted.

The other called out, “He’s choking, holmes!”

“You know, a great man died once from accepting food which he knew to be tainted. The idea was that it is more important to always accept what is given to you.” Hart was standing and pacing like a professor, giving some lecture to his students. Marcus was spluttering and turning purple on his knees- the other 3 were in a wide-eyed panic, flapping their arms and shouting at each other.

He’s gonna’ die, dude!” At that, the ones who expressed their concern at the beginning, fled in terror.

With his hands behind his back, Hart repeated the words of Buddha,

…Who gives, his virtues shall increase;

Who is self-curbed, no hatred bears;

Whoso is skilled in virtues, evil shuns…”

He paced between the stupefied teenagers who were trying to help their choking friend.

Hart said, “Ok, class dismissed,” he lifted Marcus to his feet. “Behold the miracle of science!” He shouted and raised his arms up.

He braced the kid then administered one deft back blow, as if he knew exactly where to exert pressure; it was somewhere between the shoulder blades but it was accurate and spot on. The apple slice dislodged itself and sailed through the air landing, thick with saliva, at the feet of the others.

A loud squelching noise could be heard coming from the pants of Marcus; fear and his extrication from death made him defecate. His body shook and tears welled up in his eyes. The others began gagging and cursing.

They reluctantly grabbed their humiliated, dazed and soiled friend who was slumped once more to the ground. Hoisting him up and throwing his arms over their shoulder, they hurried out of the park.

He knew beyond assumption that some combination of boredom, inexperience and unhappiness drove this hooliganism. “Truly and ultimately,” he thought, “…Why stoke these fires? Wouldn’t they just the same, find themselves unsatisfied at the end of it all?

He thought about the original motivation of that noisy troop and guessed it quite easily and surmised three things: the intrinsically fragile composition of popularity, how material gain makes foolish people want excessively and that vanity, public image or ego are grievous burdens. Hart removed himself from these vices as best as humanly possible. His was meditation and the peace of balance.

He had succeeded to make his life whole and fluid with his surroundings; those who passed tripped, stuttered and went fumbling as awkward mortals Prophetically, he scribbled on a notepad he removed from a pocket, “The flowers that bud with a surge of sugar and such vehemence in spring soon wither and give way to the mild browns and yellows of summer.

His hands went rummaging through his rucksack searching for something edible to satisfy his stomach while he idled on human truths provoked by the encounters of the day. “When all is said and done, after a volley of malicious remarks and after perhaps a physical altercation, no party is the better, right? Isn’t it true that violence only begets violence, Gandhi?”

He wasn’t quite convinced. His hand found what it was after. He had tossed the remainder of the apple into the bag after launching a piece of it as a projectile into the teenagers’ throat. “This chaffing tension,” he continued, “…Surely only serves to bolster an ego at the expense of the target but all things considered, what good does an overinflated ego do and what vampirism has occurred to swell such a thing?”

He heartily bit into the remainder of the apple, its juice dripped down his wrist and the acidity of the pulp made his mouth grin and tongue salivate the more.

Nothing, it’s all for naught.”

The previously mentioned Indian cultural icons inspired a natural progression in thinking. Hart considered the cheapness and baseness of all violence. Crunching and chewing away on this green fruit and moving his jaws stimulated his brain in some manual, mechanical way. He was still in the throes of pontification, “…That they give so much of themselves away in compromise… those who flare wildly also expose a soft underbelly.

He furrowed his brow in a sudden start of pity for all the shortcomings and ineptitude of his brothers and sisters. He had found himself among the wild fields, rolling hills, sweeping plains, forests, streams, rivers and the vast ocean. His questions were always answered and troubles always quelled when he looked to these marvels of the natural world. “The same nirvana could not be said to have reached most, Siddhartha” He was talking to ghosts that rose up from pages of philosophy he had memorized.

He thought about his true power, his unexposed side that was reserved for himself- his immortality and the profoundness of what he had learned form practice and discipline. He walked now to a roped-off section of the garden, hidden by tall, live oak trees. The grass was uncut and spotted with wild field flowers; it grew up to his knees.

At that moment, he decided to close his eyes. The sun was shining directly above him. He was asking favor of the air in a deep meditation to lift his body; he wished to use the petals of a flower as a pedestal.

He put one toe on a slender stalk then another till he balanced atop its colorful summit. (It was only two minute steps but in their exactness, almost infinite.) Hart defied gravity. His body for all purposes became not weightless like a floating feather or the seeds of dandelions in the breeze but supported by the elements around him.

Not a single drop of dew was disturbed. He balanced his entirety on a nary blade of grass and felt a breeze reserved for the heads of barley and wild long stems on his toes.

This skill came from countless lifetimes of experience; time and all that fill its precepts taught him a secret language that wasn’t available in any university: he pioneered the vastness of his mind and its emotion. These contemplations and reflections awarded him a mastery to manipulate the fabric of the natural world around him…

(To be continued)

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Middle East FS

Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 1: The Dragon (Pt. 4)

(Continued from part 3, read it here.)
(Read the chapter from the beginning, here.)

Marcus addressed Hart directly. He stood a few feet from him, He opened his mouth, “Look here mutha’fu….”

His words were cut short as a slice of apple whipped into his mouth and lodged itself. He began to gag then fell to his knees.

“Anyone know the Heimlich?” Hart asked the group in a cold sincerity. The group looked at each other incredulously and in disbelief.

Holy shit!” One shouted.

The other called out, “He’s choking, holmes!”

“You know, a great man died once from accepting food which he knew to be tainted. The idea was that it is more important to always accept what is given to you.” Hart was standing and pacing like a professor, giving some lecture to his students. Marcus was spluttering and turning purple on his knees- the other 3 were in a wide-eyed panic, flapping their arms and shouting at each other.

He’s gonna’ die, dude!” At that, the ones who expressed their concern at the beginning, fled in terror.

With his hands behind his back, Hart repeated the words of Buddha,

…Who gives, his virtues shall increase;

Who is self-curbed, no hatred bears;

Whoso is skilled in virtues, evil shuns…”

He paced between the stupefied teenagers who were trying to help their choking friend.

Hart said, “Ok, class dismissed,” he lifted Marcus to his feet. “Behold the miracle of science!” He shouted and raised his arms up.

He braced the kid then administered one deft back blow, as if he knew exactly where to exert pressure; it was somewhere between the shoulder blades but it was accurate and spot on. The apple slice dislodged itself and sailed through the air landing, thick with saliva, at the feet of the others.

A loud squelching noise could be heard coming from the pants of Marcus; fear and his extrication from death made him defecate. His body shook and tears welled up in his eyes. The others began gagging and cursing.

They reluctantly grabbed their humiliated, dazed and soiled friend who was slumped once more to the ground. Hoisting him up and throwing his arms over their shoulder, they hurried out of the park.

He knew beyond assumption that some combination of boredom, inexperience and unhappiness drove this hooliganism. “Truly and ultimately,” he thought, “…Why stoke these fires? Wouldn’t they just the same, find themselves unsatisfied at the end of it all?

He thought about the original motivation of that noisy troop and guessed it quite easily and surmised three things: the intrinsically fragile composition of popularity, how material gain makes foolish people want excessively and that vanity, public image or ego are grievous burdens. Hart removed himself from these vices as best as humanly possible. His was meditation and the peace of balance.

He had succeeded to make his life whole and fluid with his surroundings; those who passed tripped, stuttered and went fumbling as awkward mortals Prophetically, he scribbled on a notepad he removed from a pocket, “The flowers that bud with a surge of sugar and such vehemence in spring soon wither and give way to the mild browns and yellows of summer.

His hands went rummaging through his rucksack searching for something edible to satisfy his stomach while he idled on human truths provoked by the encounters of the day. “When all is said and done, after a volley of malicious remarks and after perhaps a physical altercation, no party is the better, right? Isn’t it true that violence only begets violence, Gandhi?”

He wasn’t quite convinced. His hand found what it was after. He had tossed the remainder of the apple into the bag after launching a piece of it as a projectile into the teenagers’ throat. “This chaffing tension,” he continued, “…Surely only serves to bolster an ego at the expense of the target but all things considered, what good does an overinflated ego do and what vampirism has occurred to swell such a thing?”

He heartily bit into the remainder of the apple, its juice dripped down his wrist and the acidity of the pulp made his mouth grin and tongue salivate the more.

Nothing, it’s all for naught.”

The previously mentioned Indian cultural icons inspired a natural progression in thinking. Hart considered the cheapness and baseness of all violence. Crunching and chewing away on this green fruit and moving his jaws stimulated his brain in some manual, mechanical way. He was still in the throes of pontification, “…That they give so much of themselves away in compromise… those who flare wildly also expose a soft underbelly.

He furrowed his brow in a sudden start of pity for all the shortcomings and ineptitude of his brothers and sisters. He had found himself among the wild fields, rolling hills, sweeping plains, forests, streams, rivers and the vast ocean. His questions were always answered and troubles always quelled when he looked to these marvels of the natural world. “The same nirvana could not be said to have reached most, Siddhartha” He was talking to ghosts that rose up from pages of philosophy he had memorized.

He thought about his true power, his unexposed side that was reserved for himself- his immortality and the profoundness of what he had learned form practice and discipline. He walked now to a roped-off section of the garden, hidden by tall, live oak trees. The grass was uncut and spotted with wild field flowers; it grew up to his knees.

At that moment, he decided to close his eyes. The sun was shining directly above him. He was asking favor of the air in a deep meditation to lift his body; he wished to use the petals of a flower as a pedestal.

He put one toe on a slender stalk then another till he balanced atop its colorful summit. (It was only two minute steps but in their exactness, almost infinite.) Hart defied gravity. His body for all purposes became not weightless like a floating feather or the seeds of dandelions in the breeze but supported by the elements around him.

Not a single drop of dew was disturbed. He balanced his entirety on a nary blade of grass and felt a breeze reserved for the heads of barley and wild long stems on his toes.

This skill came from countless lifetimes of experience; time and all that fill its precepts taught him a secret language that wasn’t available in any university: he pioneered the vastness of his mind and its emotion. These contemplations and reflections awarded him a mastery to manipulate the fabric of the natural world around him…

(To be continued)

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Middle East FS

Vol. 1, Branded Souls: Chapter 1 (Pt 3)

(Read Pt. 2 here) or from the beginning of the chapter: here

With the squirrel now gone, He sat alone. Silently, Hart convened with nature under her relaxed sky. She mused and offered billowed clouds as a measure of solace. The pastel colored tulips, brothers and sisters of pinks and reds, bobbed in rows, listening too to his thoughts. They swayed and rippled. Even the sprigs of cool wild lilac seemed to lend their lavender shoulders. He had slipped out of his boots and rolled cuffs into his denim pants. The grass was thick but without roughness or barbs.

He watched a bee moving along as if in a dream. It only gave attention and adoration to especially fragrant and bright flowers. Above him, a few birds could be heard warbling in the copse of the magnolia; the song and performance came direct from the pages of nature’s own play. Hart enjoyed the fare and he read along with a deft ear. He moved his toes like encroaching soldiers in the verdant turf and immediately began to feel better like a calm that comes to one after the acceptance of hard news.

Chatting idly, a couple passed along the way, perhaps taking a detour to the city that lay at the bottom of Booker Hill Park. At the sight of this shoeless, unshaven and peculiar man, looking at the sky, sprawled out along the bench, their conversation grew hushed. “Washington, D.C. is more conservative than you might expect…” He whistled between his teeth. His perspective and power wasn’t clear to a passerby or a friend because he kept it that way. It was evident enough to him. His outward appearance was maybe that of late twenties. He dressed in plain clothes but somehow, always seemed to stand out and draw attention. Hart appeared to be quite youthful but his mannerisms didn’t match his age. He moved slowly and spoke deliberately as though every word that came from his mouth had been purposefully drawn for a desired effect.

An unintended silence had pervaded as the couple walked towards him on the path; they had to fight their natural urge to set a queer eye in his direction. “Must be from out of town…” Hart smiled as their curiosity peaked. They glanced over to his direction despite of themselves. Hart noticed, smiled with one eye open, the other closed and nodded his head emphatically. They carried on just as they came, now passing Hart and taking to their course, slowly meandering down the tulip lined, redbrick path. “Good folks, good upbringing.” Hart chuckled and considered them as his eyes opened to follow the entwined figures, slowly descending and out of sight.Hart laughed suddenly, remembering the messy incident and the last group to pass by. That time it wasn’t awkward whispers or a hurrying by.

During that fantastic age of adolescences, ‘the illusion of invulnerability,’ as Hart called it, either plagued or embarrassed those having to carry its weight; to some, it emboldened ego, to others, it inspired foolishness, in the worst case, both. This group took gazing awkwardness to another level but still, Hart empathized- He couldn’t remember when he was at that age or if he ever was a victim of disillusion or vice a versa but he tried to observe everything with equanimity: “Perhaps I am just in some dream world, waiting to rouse from my slumber.”

This afternoon, as he was stretching before his nap, he could hear scoffing from across a hedgerow. A raucous youth had deemed Hart a worthy target. With his crew of equally young men, they hopped over a fence, demolishing a flowerbed. They took a few steps forward close enough to where he sat and established themselves immediately: they let fly taunts and insults meant to wound.

Sometimes I enjoy a jest- it lends itself amusement,” Hart maintained, “…But their angle could use some polishing”. They attacked and tried to undermine him as a homeless vagrant. They gave Hart the other end of it, too with a potluck of tree-hugging and homosexual clichés.

Hart rolled his eyes; his shield was iron, his confidence unbreakable. He understood, “the best medicine in the world is that of laughter.” But there was no laughter to be had with this lot, so he extended the axiom to fit.

“…The next best medicine is discipline. ” He grinned to himself, “Funny is what it’ll be, discipline is what they’ll get.

The most outspoken stepped up, “Hey, dumbass whatcha’ mumblin’ about, you drunk?”

Another shouted from the group, “You’re fucking up our park!”

Hart called softly, not looking at them, “Have you seen what you’re stepping on?”

The kid looked down at the trampled flowers and ivy and finishing a soda can, he dropped it then crushed it under his feet.

He shot back, “Well its our park and we can step on these flowers if we want- you don’t pay for em’, you fuckin’ slob!”

Hart surely passed for a vagrant or derelict at times but this he wasn’t-drifter perhaps, but not down and out; this was impossibility for a man of his talents. He considered his dress: a spotless though slightly wrinkled shirt and blue denim jeans without any holes or patches.

“My momma don’t do my washin’ boy, why don’t you go home and change you’re underwear before I make you shit your pants.” Hart began laughing to himself; he played along at their expense.

The group standing behind the aggressor snickered, “Ah, Shut the hell up!” He growled, “You want to start something, faggot or you wanna’ take a walk down to Dupont so I can tell all your friends how we’re gonna’ ruin your rainbow-lovin’ day?” Such jeers had no effect and to the vexation of the issuer, they landed without punch.

“Ease-up partner, it’s the 21st century we’re living in and my friends, in Dupont, would be equally upset if you ruined my day as I would be if you ruined there’s.”

“Wise guy, we’re gonna’ beat your ass stupid, right here.”

As he said this the 3 others stepped forward to join the ringleader.

“Look guys, I apologize, you’re a bunch of nice lads- you want an apple or share some of my sandwich?” He sat up and reached into his rucksack at his feet and proffered a green apple. The group looked incensed and was swearing menacingly as they began to approach Hart.

Meanwhile, Hart was unaffected and cutting an apple into slices. The motley crew took this unsheathed knife with suspicion and two stopped approaching.

“Hey man, this guy is out of his mind- I’m not about to be shanked.”

The other agreed and called up the ranks, “It aint’ worth it, Marcus, we’re in D.C. you don’t know how crazy fools are around here.” Hart stared at them emptily; his nonchalance unnerved them.

“…Those kid are bright.” 

(Continued here: pt 4)

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Middle East FS

 

 

Vol 1. Branded Souls, Chapter 3: A Drink, The Game

            “It is a surreal night.”

Hart took note. Some trees are still barren and the image of winter lingers, reminiscing to days of frost and penetrating wind; their shadows seemed like fingers following and stretching towards him. “Tonight is thankfully different.” He exhaled softly. “The air feels heavier with new warmth.” “It is without wind and soft…” He looked upwards at the moon and sky “…Soft and nostalgic.

He walked further down the road, continuing his musing. “What strange warmth accompanies me this evening!” He couldn’t keep a smile from his lips. The combination of good feeling and fair weather also carried the flavors of freshly blossomed trees and the savory aroma of pizza. Hart peered into the shop that sold it by the slice and imagined himself with a hot and greasy one. Excited, he checked his pockets but frowned when he came up with lint and some pocket change. The smile that Hart had, half slipped from his mouth but it soon found its place again.

“At least it is a wonderful evening and nothing can take that away.”

He felt the uneven brick and cobblestone underneath his boot. They centered his thoughts between romantic reveries and reality. Passing by, he saw the dreamy, intoxicated expressions of others. They mirrored his, indulging in the atmosphere. Smiling faces from behind a busy ice cream shop window were working diligently as the university students lined up outside. At the Italian place down the block and across the street, a waiter on the patio looks distantly as he clears a table. His face is one that is drifting between remembering an order and dispelling a lazy daydream.

“I know someone who owes me a few cold drinks.” With his expression and smile restored at the thought, he proclaimed, “I’m heading for a drink!” He beamed broadly as he sauntered down a dimly lit alleyway. A solitary streetlight stretched his shadow, making it appear much taller and more threatening. This doppelganger trailed at his heels. He whistled distractedly down the garbage filled alley then turned sharply at a black painted, metal safety door. He hopped up a set of 3 steps and knocked on the steel entrance. A pair of eyes looked at him from the slat. He grinned and flashed a loose thumbs-up. The deadbolt from the other side opened with a grinding noise, unlocking the door. It was pulled open by muscled guy with a cigarette in his mouth.

“Hey, you got one of those for me, Ken?” He gestured with two fingers imitating the action of smoking.

“Of course-where’ve you been these days?” He said gruffly as he flipped open his pack and tossed him one. “Thanks again for taking a look at my car the other day.”

Leaning into his lit match, Hart puffed on his newly acquired smoke.

“Anytime.” He said offhandedly

“Thanks as always, Ken.” He then replied to the bouncers inquiry with shadows and smoke, “Nowhere really, drifting, you know?” The bouncer nodded and didn’t press further. As they exchanged some friendly sentiments, he followed him inside. They headed down the steps into a smoky, poorly lit bar. He put a hand on Harts shoulder as they stepped into the basement and said, “If you need another, I’ll be out front.”

A few tables with some patrons sat laughing, conversing and drinking with the heaviest hands found around these Northwest streets. He walked up to the bar and an old man with gray hair greeted him.

“Well now Hart, what will ye’ be havin’?” He adjusted his glasses then picked up a mug and polished it with a white dishrag.

“Could you spot a cold one, Tom?” Looking at him in earnest, he spoke softly, “I’m a little down and out right now.” Hart placed his hands on the dark stained oak bar, “I’m just so damn thirsty all the time, I dunno’ what it is!” He smiled and the barman shook his head but he obliged the request. He produced not one can of lager beer from the fridge but 5 in a bucket full of ice.

“You gonna’ help me out with these dishes or mopping up when I need ya’?” Hart raised his hands shoulder high with his palms flat and as an oath said, “On my honor as a gentleman and a friend!”

He snapped off a cap from another bottle with a lightening quick hand. They both raised can and bottle and chinked them together “Here ya’ go, boy.” They looked at each other in understanding and grinned. “I hope all is well with you.” The old man guzzled his brew, smacked his lips then wiped his grizzly white beard with the rag he had been polishing the mugs with.

Hart walked over to the billiard table, where he struck up a conversation with a familiar face. He was a student at the gated university around the corner. His manner and thought were sharp beyond his age. He also had a deft hand at pool. This blonde, straight-haired guy wore framed glasses and a turtleneck and brown corduroys. He seemed sorely out of place in this smoky dungeon.

Damn, you’re stackin’ up them wins, eh?” As always, Tom refused most winnings and just asked for a drink or two.

Hart sat enjoying his frothy and cold beverage on a stool against the wall and watched how the games were progressing. This kid thoroughly trounced them at the game; some went hysterical and others just laughed. Either way, he stood as he always did, hands in his pocket, leaning against the wall and smiling in an unapologetic way. He saw Hart and left his not-so-collegiate company and shook his hand. Wordlessly, they went over to the pool table.

The pool balls rolled out from underneath the inner workings of the table and he set them on top in a perfect triangle unaided. Like thunder, the cue ball cracked the triangle, splitting it into atoms all across the table. They began to speak casually; their conversation mostly hovered around philosophy, abstractions, music and the like.

“I don’t know what I’m trying to find.” He pulled on a cigarette pressed between his lips.

“I can’t even consider myself searching.” Hart was watching the ceramic balls splash against the others. “It just isn’t as simple as words would define.” He blew smoke up towards the low ceiling, making the billiard lamp shed a different and temporary light. “I have a pulling sensation, an eager flame that wishes to seek.”

“Seek what?” Hart questioned and looked up from the table. His expression was contrasted from the darkness of a smoke filled room and the glow of the hanging pool lamp.

“I can’t say for sure. An ocean of fragments and half formed notions crowd up here.”

Hart tapped on his head with his knuckles. “Well, it’s you and me both, brother.” “It seems,” he continued, “That when you have an excess of pockets, you have an excess of want to fill those pockets.”

The college kid took a long draught of his liquid gold and readjusted his glasses. “Strictly speaking chemistry that is, beer is a solution and can certainly fill enough pockets for a time, Hart.”

He smiled broadly but something darkened his brow before he could relish his wit. There was something tragic in his words that both parties understood. Hart drank to a familiar unrecognizable sadness and laughed heartily. It startled Tom.

The college student scratched the cue ball uncharacteristically. Somebody picked a strange and melancholy tune on the jukebox.

 

“…And a roving young fellow I’ve been,

So be easy and free when you’re drinking with me,

I’m a man you don’t meet every day,

I have acres of land,

I have men at command,

I have always a shilling to spare…”

 

He lifted the ball up and handed it to Hart, whom accepted it and placed it back onto the felt of the table. He struck with a well-chalked stick and the pool balls themselves went searching for pockets.

 

“…So come fill up your glasses with brandy and wine,

Whatever it costs I will buy…”

 

Hart couldn’t conceal a yawn and the night was getting on. He turned away from the table before his turn completed itself; 4 stripes sunk pockets. He turned back to the table, nodded and called the corner left pocket. He struck at the 8-ball. It banked two sides of the green felt table, slowed, and then fell into the desired corner.

 

I took out my dog and him I did shoot,

Oh,

Down in county Kildare…”

 

“You are the only one who wins against me, you know that, Hart?” He poked with two fingers at the wire frames of his glasses; they were drooping to the bridge of his nose. “Who are you?” Hart pulled his jacket on and waved to the bar tender.

His voice was trailing behind him as he spoke to Tom almost as dismissively as unsure, “I dunno’…till next time, friend.

 

“So be easy and free when you’re drinking with me, I’m a man you don’t meet everyday…”

Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 2: The Beautiful, The Awkward

She pointed her thoughts towards the many visitors while she unwrapped her Italian hoagie sandwich from its white deli paper. Lest, she be absorbed in her own thoughts she mused for a time at the awkward ensemble of typical tourists ambling about; waist packs, visors, too much sun screen, brightly colored city shirts and aggressively styled hiking boots. It was drizzling outside but still, the sun shined. The light rain speckled the dusty foot lanes. The tourists walking here on the National Mall’s strip of turf and gravel lanes were prepared as such. Many paused for photographs, a few jogged by fresh from a business meeting across the bridge, several sat leisurely pointing and striking up conversations while children went on laughing and chasing about to the tune of dogs barking and pigeons softly pecking at crumbs.

To her left was the Capitol building and its reflection pool that had been drained for renovation and to the right was the National Monument, as white and phallic as ever. She gave little thought to her left and right for what she held in her hands was an excellent creation of man and it was lunch time. She looked down at the baguette; it was a freshly baked hard-roll and it was stuffed with all the traditional fixings that encompassed an Italian sub sandwich: Capicola ham, Genoa salami, Provolone, hot peppers, sun dried tomatoes and thinly sliced red onions- to her great satisfaction that little Sicilian sub shop in Cleveland Park always topped their creations with a healthy amount of virgin olive oil, barrel aged wine vinegar and oregano.

She had to restrain herself, she was famished. The Italian sub sandwich was halfway finished before she could even take her eyes off the thing. She paused and dabbed her mouth with a napkin and resumed the airs of that dainty beautiful thing that had not missed breakfast and lunch. The sun was sinking low and in the setting sun, the monuments glowed regally. “This is what spring is all about- the sunsets, the smells and tastes and equally the distractions.” She lovingly thought but a shadow darkened her brow. “It had been a long winter with little income and heaps of depression-all that is beyond me now and what lay ahead, I will greet with open arms.” Seeing so many bright, optimistic faces on a satisfied though very full stomach rejuvenated her.

She laughed to herself at a group of Segway motorist whirring by with guarded self-importance. “What a peculiar site.” She took the last bite of her sub and was pleased as always with the sheer brilliancy of her favorite meal. She smiled at herself through a pocket sized cosmetics mirror and touched up her foundation, checked her teeth and applied red lipstick. She glanced at her watch and snapped from a food induced daydream. It was just reaching 5:45 in the evening. “I’m late for the group meeting tonight.” She let out an audible breathe, stood, brushed some crumbs of her skirt and departed.  Pulling a cigarette from her purse, she pressed it to her lips, lit it with a match that was fired after a quick strike from a matchbook and walked across Constitution Avenue.

“What is wrong with me?”

“No, nothing…” He stopped himself. “…still, I cannot get a grip on my unorganized, scattered thoughts.” “They seem to come from everywhere…not to mention those urgent and pressing, flights of fancy.” He toyed with that peculiar word and thought about how much he wanted to prove himself, to show everybody- to be capable. He pushed along these self-deprecating thoughts that were picking at him like a cloud of gnats.

“The doctors said, that drugs would help, those calming blues, and perky reds but I doubt that likely.” Scowling, a mistrust of society and authority sat on his chest. He was running his hands through his hair, twirling black tight locks around his finger. “I’m not so different than any others in my grade, I’m sure of it.” He wasn’t sure of it. The skinny teenager paused his thought, than inwardly expelled the rest. “I believe that throughout the whole bleeding history of humanity, everybody who had once crawled then walked has felt the slights and vexations that come from, ‘having to conform’- to fit accordingly.” “I’m not alone and this is natural, right?” He sat shaking his head. Why have I always felt confused and uncertain? He began to shout at his reflection in an advertisement framed in glass under a bus shelter.

I can never explain myself-even to myself!”

A gray wolf spider moved across the carpet into a ventilation system that lined the Metro cabin. His eyes absently followed it. “It’s a shame, a damn shame that ease of mind cannot be found in the young, let alone me.” He drummed the backs of his long, boney fingers on the window and tried to still his ceaseless mind. “Alas, question marks dot my life, that’s just the nature of things, I suppose.” Pillon Rehavya continued but this time, voiced himself with the ink of a pen. He thumbed through a cloth journal that he retrieved from a cargo pocket in his shorts and began to write:

I am no exception. Within the cogs of time and the machinations of men and all that is esteemed of sex and desire- I am no exception.” “Desperation and confusion have played as a rule in my life.” He mumbled as he wrote. “Wouldn’t it be great to masquerade about with such a mask of opulent confidence!” He peered over at the seat to his left. “Look at that guy, look at his coiffed hair, his 5 o’clock shadow and look how comfortable that girl who sits with him is.” He sighed shallowly as the girl of 20 or so wrapped a caressing and affectionate arm around her intimate. Pillon’s rambling broke off into another tangent “Wishes seldom come true and success is subjective but who gives a shit about a wish?” He tried to reassure himself that this was a temporary reality. He ruffled his black curly hair with a loose hand and scratched at an itch on his nose with the open palm of the other. His blue clothed journal remained balanced on his lap and the ordinary black pen with a chewed end rested in the center of the binding.

He stretched his fingers and thought dejectedly of all the beautiful women that would be destined to pass him by if he could not find resolution within himself.

I’d love to be romantic, and heck, If I could just relax.” His hands began to shake and his heart grew tremulous at the mere suggestion he had made. “These notions wouldn’t have to just remain in dreams but wrapped in the silk of sheets.” He wrote that down and shut the journal and returned it to his backpack at his feet. He put the pen behind his ear.

His eyes darted around him; he could have sworn someone was looking over his shoulder and reading along but that some shadow had retreated.  He looked out the window breathing a momentary fog onto the pane. As he readjusted his glasses, he sat longingly anticipating his first girlfriend.

He leaned his head against the window and gazed out at the gray rainy day. “During my slumber and during late, listless evenings, I see a deep, life affirming truth.” He tried to describe this glowing vision to himself, to put it to pen but he failed. He reached for the journal once more but stopped himself. It weren’t a goal or a path but some shining golden thing akin to the warmth of the sun. “To find and have a single truth and depend on and toil all of my days in its peace, watching its growth; the sprouting of a stem, the unfurling of a new tender leaf…” “That is my desire…with this, I imagine, everything else would fall into place.” He was worried and weary. He glanced over his shoulder once more then slouched on the bench and extended his feet in front of him.

His feet had felt heavy, but now rested and near the end of his excursion, they felt much lighter. He wanted to go for a walk. Deliberately, his shoes crossed. The scuffed brown leather that canvassed his feet began to wag to an unheard tempo. They continued in this fashion intermittently.

Strangely, Pillon felt the carpet shrug. It drew his attention downwards. The thin covering of the Metro cabin floor was indifferent to the abuse it was subjected to and consequently, designed to handle. Through its dereliction it seemed to tell an interesting story, a hazy recollection of itself and all its abusers. The pink-orange, faded and striped floor was pretty beat up. There were spots of gum, the guts of a cheap cigar, half eaten animal crackers, black scuffs and a variety of strange and sordid stains. The floor, with all of its proof, had a sort of indemnity against those who have crushed its dubious youthful beauty. Pillon could’ve sworn he heard it sigh.

“It is decidedly odd to have this connection with an inanimate object.” Pillon agreed to himself as oft times he had when an object decided to reveal itself to him. He concentrated on looking out the window of the cabin though a black tunnel with service lights illuminating dirty subterranean tracks were all he could see. Details wanted to speak to him at times, like some strange fever that came on- an irrational fit or stress based anxiety he concluded, parroting the thoughts of his psychiatrist and mother. He had an oddity that he couldn’t quite understand or get his mind around. It felt more or less normal to him though he was used to fighting it with trained mental exercises. What resulted was a view of life from very peculiar perspectives. Descriptions came like narratives from all manner of inexpressible things at what could be guessed, random times. For Pillon, it was almost a normal occurrence, an occurrence that professionals had recommended a cocktail of strong pills.

He pushed the stories and tedious analysis that plagued his beleaguered mind past and into the back of his mind. Eventually, the clamor of what was around him died away. Pillon could almost forget the situation until he chanced the next fever and the next shouting park bench or down-and-out crumpled tin can would command his attention.

The train had stopped at Metro Center and the normal rush of people surged on board. He was still to himself and his thoughts and declared aloud,

If there were powers beyond mortal ability, then I was given the damnedest and most frustrating!

He drew glances from the stranger that just alighted and a passenger to his nearest left who, perturbed, shifted uncomfortably giving Pillon the sanity check, that is, eyeing him discreetly. His extreme youth was a saving grace. As the metro car lined up at the next platform it lurched forward, rattled a moment then stopped abruptly with a squealing sound of grinding brakes.

A beautiful woman grabbed Pillon’s attention as she stepped from the grey marbled platform into the cabin. Her presence just socked him in the face and his mind reeled from the concussive force of the strike. Her stunning presence crossed the threshold of the two sliding doors and moved towards him and the open seat adjacent to him. She seemed to float over the filth of the floor that seemed all together silenced. She calmly sat down in the seat next to his.

Pillon’s mind raced. He could feel himself sweating like an awkward Robert Crumb sketch but a black and white cartoon this was not. The Metro cab jerked forward and began to speed along towards the next stop. He felt his heart beating like a hammer and was convinced that everyone could hear it. Perspiration built on his forehead and his cheeks turned red. “It feels like bombs are going off inside me, this is way too much!” He was frozen in anxiety.

As does a person who is on fire, Pillon jumped from one place to another, in his mind that is. “She doesn’t notice or doesn’t care; is it relief that she doesn’t notice or is it dread to think that I’m not even a blip on her radar!” He turned his head mechanically towards her and flashed a toothy smile but he couldn’t sustain anything more than that. Before she could reward the gesture with the brilliance of her own pearls, the dimples on her cheeks and the gold of her sparkling eyes, Pillon shot his eyes towards the floor. It laughed at him. That piteous carpet with such a sardonic attitude lay as smirking witness to his frustrations. Pillon drove the heel of his foot into the floor.

I’m drowning on land!” He yelled inside his head.

After practiced breathing exercises a strange quietness came over him. He took several more deep breathes to control himself; to wash away this biting and harassing anxiety. He managed to get his heart rate down from an Allegro to Moderato; Damned if it didn’t feel like thunder and damned if ol’ John Henry weren’t tearing up a mountain with a hammer inside his chest.

She was wearing a silk and cotton sundress that seemed to shimmer about her. Her black hair hung loosely about her shoulders, it radiated and filled the air with the aroma of honey and oranges. Her waist was slim and her legs were long dressed in black stockings. Pillon gawked as he hadn’t an inkling of subtlety; obviously she noticed. Smiling to herself she scanned the current issue of the Gazette newspaper. She flipped open the style section with a routine precision. Her skin was of fine alabaster, not in paleness but of a pure, blue-veined whiteness. She appeared as the ivory statue of Pygmalion but keen, modern and chic.

In his naiveté and hot-blooded excitement, Pillon gave birth to a half-baked epiphany:

“This woman is a walking testament that real beauty is truth!” He brightly concluded this idea in his head that, “It’s alive, wild and loose in the women who pass alongside mortals.” He divined her goddess of truth and love-insomuch as Pillon had ever known. He suddenly knew what he needed to do in order to battle and contest his dramatic and youthful outpourings. His ramblings formed new meanings and clarity came to him as if amidst a natural clearing. What he had to do was simply to speak but alas, his courage skittered in retreated back into the woods.

Doors opening, this is Farragut North” a tired, heavily colloquial voice buzzed in from a speaker above him. He drew his eyes away from the hypnotic trance of the woman. He gathered his coat and stood quickly but he lost his footing. The snickering floor broke his fall. He jumped to his feet once more before the train stopped and it threw him violently again but this time, against the metal bracing pole. “Fuck!” He grabbed his face in pain and his eyes darted around the train.

To Pillon time had completely stopped and for him the worst thing that could have happened came to pass: everyone was staring at him. After what had felt like a lifetime of embarrassment and pain the car halted. The doors slid open and he hurled himself of the train and onto the platform, cursing himself all the while.

His heart was about to leap out of his throat and blood was streaming out of his nose. He sat down on a gray stone step, removed a handkerchief from his coat and held it to his face. Onlookers smirked or shook their head as they remarked to one another. He muttered profanely to himself for a few minutes before standing upright on the platform. He collected himself and exited the underground station. A sad inspiration came to him and he pulled a scrap of paper from his journal and jotted down his thoughts:

“Emerging from that dark tunnel,
To be defeated by this evening mist,
The clouds are too heavy
The clouds are too low,
Moving upwards,
Slowly forwards,
The escalator screams nonsense,
Car exhaust meets burning rubber,
Crisp and clean as it may seem,
That while these people beam,
I stand here and bleed,
…Bloody obscene.”

“Oh, you never cease to amaze me…” He sighed dejectedly. Unsatisfied, he folded the paper into his pocket and stepped off the escalator.

Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 2: The Beautiful, The Awkward

She pointed her thoughts towards the many visitors while she unwrapped her Italian hoagie sandwich from its white deli paper. Lest, she be absorbed in her own thoughts she mused for a time at the awkward ensemble of typical tourists ambling about; waist packs, visors, too much sun screen, brightly colored city shirts and aggressively styled hiking boots. It was drizzling outside but still, the sun shined. The light rain speckled the dusty foot lanes. The tourists walking here on the National Mall’s strip of turf and gravel lanes were prepared as such. Many paused for photographs, a few jogged by fresh from a business meeting across the bridge, several sat leisurely pointing and striking up conversations while children went on laughing and chasing about to the tune of dogs barking and pigeons softly pecking at crumbs.

To her left was the Capitol building and its reflection pool that had been drained for renovation and to the right was the National Monument, as white and phallic as ever. She gave little thought to her left and right for what she held in her hands was an excellent creation of man and it was lunch time. She looked down at the baguette; it was a freshly baked hard-roll and it was stuffed with all the traditional fixings that encompassed an Italian sub sandwich: Capicola ham, Genoa salami, Provolone, hot peppers, sun dried tomatoes and thinly sliced red onions- to her great satisfaction that little Sicilian sub shop in Cleveland Park always topped their creations with a healthy amount of virgin olive oil, barrel aged wine vinegar and oregano.

She had to restrain herself, she was famished. The Italian sub sandwich was halfway finished before she could even take her eyes off the thing. She paused and dabbed her mouth with a napkin and resumed the airs of that dainty beautiful thing that had not missed breakfast and lunch. The sun was sinking low and in the setting sun, the monuments glowed regally. “This is what spring is all about- the sunsets, the smells and tastes and equally the distractions.” She lovingly thought but a shadow darkened her brow. “It had been a long winter with little income and heaps of depression-all that is beyond me now and what lay ahead, I will greet with open arms.” Seeing so many bright, optimistic faces on a satisfied though very full stomach rejuvenated her.

She laughed to herself at a group of Segway motorist whirring by with guarded self-importance. “What a peculiar site.” She took the last bite of her sub and was pleased as always with the sheer brilliancy of her favorite meal. She smiled at herself through a pocket sized cosmetics mirror and touched up her foundation, checked her teeth and applied red lipstick. She glanced at her watch and snapped from a food induced daydream. It was just reaching 5:45 in the evening. “I’m late for the group meeting tonight.” She let out an audible breathe, stood, brushed some crumbs of her skirt and departed.  Pulling a cigarette from her purse, she pressed it to her lips, lit it with a match that was fired after a quick strike from a matchbook and walked across Constitution Avenue.

“What is wrong with me?”

“No, nothing…” He stopped himself. “…still, I cannot get a grip on my unorganized, scattered thoughts.” “They seem to come from everywhere…not to mention those urgent and pressing, flights of fancy.” He toyed with that peculiar word and thought about how much he wanted to prove himself, to show everybody- to be capable. He pushed along these self-deprecating thoughts that were picking at him like a cloud of gnats.

“The doctors said, that drugs would help, those calming blues, and perky reds but I doubt that likely.” Scowling, a mistrust of society and authority sat on his chest. He was running his hands through his hair, twirling black tight locks around his finger. “I’m not so different than any others in my grade, I’m sure of it.” He wasn’t sure of it. The skinny teenager paused his thought, than inwardly expelled the rest. “I believe that throughout the whole bleeding history of humanity, everybody who had once crawled then walked has felt the slights and vexations that come from, ‘having to conform’- to fit accordingly.” “I’m not alone and this is natural, right?” He sat shaking his head. Why have I always felt confused and uncertain? He began to shout at his reflection in an advertisement framed in glass under a bus shelter.

I can never explain myself-even to myself!”

A gray wolf spider moved across the carpet into a ventilation system that lined the Metro cabin. His eyes absently followed it. “It’s a shame, a damn shame that ease of mind cannot be found in the young, let alone me.” He drummed the backs of his long, boney fingers on the window and tried to still his ceaseless mind. “Alas, question marks dot my life, that’s just the nature of things, I suppose.” Pillon Rehavya continued but this time, voiced himself with the ink of a pen. He thumbed through a cloth journal that he retrieved from a cargo pocket in his shorts and began to write:

I am no exception. Within the cogs of time and the machinations of men and all that is esteemed of sex and desire- I am no exception.” “Desperation and confusion have played as a rule in my life.” He mumbled as he wrote. “Wouldn’t it be great to masquerade about with such a mask of opulent confidence!” He peered over at the seat to his left. “Look at that guy, look at his coiffed hair, his 5 o’clock shadow and look how comfortable that girl who sits with him is.” He sighed shallowly as the girl of 20 or so wrapped a caressing and affectionate arm around her intimate. Pillon’s rambling broke off into another tangent “Wishes seldom come true and success is subjective but who gives a shit about a wish?” He tried to reassure himself that this was a temporary reality. He ruffled his black curly hair with a loose hand and scratched at an itch on his nose with the open palm of the other. His blue clothed journal remained balanced on his lap and the ordinary black pen with a chewed end rested in the center of the binding.

He stretched his fingers and thought dejectedly of all the beautiful women that would be destined to pass him by if he could not find resolution within himself.

I’d love to be romantic, and heck, If I could just relax.” His hands began to shake and his heart grew tremulous at the mere suggestion he had made. “These notions wouldn’t have to just remain in dreams but wrapped in the silk of sheets.” He wrote that down and shut the journal and returned it to his backpack at his feet. He put the pen behind his ear.

His eyes darted around him; he could have sworn someone was looking over his shoulder and reading along but that some shadow had retreated.  He looked out the window breathing a momentary fog onto the pane. As he readjusted his glasses, he sat longingly anticipating his first girlfriend.

He leaned his head against the window and gazed out at the gray rainy day. “During my slumber and during late, listless evenings, I see a deep, life affirming truth.” He tried to describe this glowing vision to himself, to put it to pen but he failed. He reached for the journal once more but stopped himself. It weren’t a goal or a path but some shining golden thing akin to the warmth of the sun. “To find and have a single truth and depend on and toil all of my days in its peace, watching its growth; the sprouting of a stem, the unfurling of a new tender leaf…” “That is my desire…with this, I imagine, everything else would fall into place.” He was worried and weary. He glanced over his shoulder once more then slouched on the bench and extended his feet in front of him.

His feet had felt heavy, but now rested and near the end of his excursion, they felt much lighter. He wanted to go for a walk. Deliberately, his shoes crossed. The scuffed brown leather that canvassed his feet began to wag to an unheard tempo. They continued in this fashion intermittently.

Strangely, Pillon felt the carpet shrug. It drew his attention downwards. The thin covering of the Metro cabin floor was indifferent to the abuse it was subjected to and consequently, designed to handle. Through its dereliction it seemed to tell an interesting story, a hazy recollection of itself and all its abusers. The pink-orange, faded and striped floor was pretty beat up. There were spots of gum, the guts of a cheap cigar, half eaten animal crackers, black scuffs and a variety of strange and sordid stains. The floor, with all of its proof, had a sort of indemnity against those who have crushed its dubious youthful beauty. Pillon could’ve sworn he heard it sigh.

“It is decidedly odd to have this connection with an inanimate object.” Pillon agreed to himself as oft times he had when an object decided to reveal itself to him. He concentrated on looking out the window of the cabin though a black tunnel with service lights illuminating dirty subterranean tracks were all he could see. Details wanted to speak to him at times, like some strange fever that came on- an irrational fit or stress based anxiety he concluded, parroting the thoughts of his psychiatrist and mother. He had an oddity that he couldn’t quite understand or get his mind around. It felt more or less normal to him though he was used to fighting it with trained mental exercises. What resulted was a view of life from very peculiar perspectives. Descriptions came like narratives from all manner of inexpressible things at what could be guessed, random times. For Pillon, it was almost a normal occurrence, an occurrence that professionals had recommended a cocktail of strong pills.

He pushed the stories and tedious analysis that plagued his beleaguered mind past and into the back of his mind. Eventually, the clamor of what was around him died away. Pillon could almost forget the situation until he chanced the next fever and the next shouting park bench or down-and-out crumpled tin can would command his attention.

The train had stopped at Metro Center and the normal rush of people surged on board. He was still to himself and his thoughts and declared aloud,

If there were powers beyond mortal ability, then I was given the damnedest and most frustrating!

He drew glances from the stranger that just alighted and a passenger to his nearest left who, perturbed, shifted uncomfortably giving Pillon the sanity check, that is, eyeing him discreetly. His extreme youth was a saving grace. As the metro car lined up at the next platform it lurched forward, rattled a moment then stopped abruptly with a squealing sound of grinding brakes.

A beautiful woman grabbed Pillon’s attention as she stepped from the grey marbled platform into the cabin. Her presence just socked him in the face and his mind reeled from the concussive force of the strike. Her stunning presence crossed the threshold of the two sliding doors and moved towards him and the open seat adjacent to him. She seemed to float over the filth of the floor that seemed all together silenced. She calmly sat down in the seat next to his.

Pillon’s mind raced. He could feel himself sweating like an awkward Robert Crumb sketch but a black and white cartoon this was not. The Metro cab jerked forward and began to speed along towards the next stop. He felt his heart beating like a hammer and was convinced that everyone could hear it. Perspiration built on his forehead and his cheeks turned red. “It feels like bombs are going off inside me, this is way too much!” He was frozen in anxiety.

As does a person who is on fire, Pillon jumped from one place to another, in his mind that is. “She doesn’t notice or doesn’t care; is it relief that she doesn’t notice or is it dread to think that I’m not even a blip on her radar!” He turned his head mechanically towards her and flashed a toothy smile but he couldn’t sustain anything more than that. Before she could reward the gesture with the brilliance of her own pearls, the dimples on her cheeks and the gold of her sparkling eyes, Pillon shot his eyes towards the floor. It laughed at him. That piteous carpet with such a sardonic attitude lay as smirking witness to his frustrations. Pillon drove the heel of his foot into the floor.

I’m drowning on land!” He yelled inside his head.

After practiced breathing exercises a strange quietness came over him. He took several more deep breathes to control himself; to wash away this biting and harassing anxiety. He managed to get his heart rate down from an Allegro to Moderato; Damned if it didn’t feel like thunder and damned if ol’ John Henry weren’t tearing up a mountain with a hammer inside his chest.

She was wearing a silk and cotton sundress that seemed to shimmer about her. Her black hair hung loosely about her shoulders, it radiated and filled the air with the aroma of honey and oranges. Her waist was slim and her legs were long dressed in black stockings. Pillon gawked as he hadn’t an inkling of subtlety; obviously she noticed. Smiling to herself she scanned the current issue of the Gazette newspaper. She flipped open the style section with a routine precision. Her skin was of fine alabaster, not in paleness but of a pure, blue-veined whiteness. She appeared as the ivory statue of Pygmalion but keen, modern and chic.

In his naiveté and hot-blooded excitement, Pillon gave birth to a half-baked epiphany:

“This woman is a walking testament that real beauty is truth!” He brightly concluded this idea in his head that, “It’s alive, wild and loose in the women who pass alongside mortals.” He divined her goddess of truth and love-insomuch as Pillon had ever known. He suddenly knew what he needed to do in order to battle and contest his dramatic and youthful outpourings. His ramblings formed new meanings and clarity came to him as if amidst a natural clearing. What he had to do was simply to speak but alas, his courage skittered in retreated back into the woods.

Doors opening, this is Farragut North” a tired, heavily colloquial voice buzzed in from a speaker above him. He drew his eyes away from the hypnotic trance of the woman. He gathered his coat and stood quickly but he lost his footing. The snickering floor broke his fall. He jumped to his feet once more before the train stopped and it threw him violently again but this time, against the metal bracing pole. “Fuck!” He grabbed his face in pain and his eyes darted around the train.

To Pillon time had completely stopped and for him the worst thing that could have happened came to pass: everyone was staring at him. After what had felt like a lifetime of embarrassment and pain the car halted. The doors slid open and he hurled himself of the train and onto the platform, cursing himself all the while.

His heart was about to leap out of his throat and blood was streaming out of his nose. He sat down on a gray stone step, removed a handkerchief from his coat and held it to his face. Onlookers smirked or shook their head as they remarked to one another. He muttered profanely to himself for a few minutes before standing upright on the platform. He collected himself and exited the underground station. A sad inspiration came to him and he pulled a scrap of paper from his journal and jotted down his thoughts:

“Emerging from that dark tunnel,
To be defeated by this evening mist,
The clouds are too heavy
The clouds are too low,
Moving upwards,
Slowly forwards,
The escalator screams nonsense,
Car exhaust meets burning rubber,
Crisp and clean as it may seem,
That while these people beam,
I stand here and bleed,
…Bloody obscene.”

“Oh, you never cease to amaze me…” He sighed dejectedly. Unsatisfied, he folded the paper into his pocket and stepped off the escalator.