Happy Earth Day

BEEP BEEP BEEP

“Did you hear that?” I asked my partner, the echo of both our breathing ricocheting in our bodysuits.

“Hard to miss the obnoxious beeping noise.” He responded, surly as usual.

“You obviously don’t know what it means, if you’re not more excited.”

“Things ‘beep’ in our biosphere often.”

“But, we aren’t in the biosphere.”

“So?”

“That means the Biological Plant-life Indicator triggered something – “

“In this wasteland?”

“This used to be the largest National Park in the Southern Hemisphere.”

“Well now it’s – “

“Look!”

There it was, breaking through the broken ground, reaching for the sun, life.

Makeup for Happiness

She opens the door with a radiating smile to accompany her greeting. I see it right away against her pale cheek, under the layer of makeup and painted on beauty. A trail of black smeared along her cheek, hastily swiped away in the direction of her ear.

But the smile is still there.

She makes us drinks with a practiced hand as I train my eye away from the evidence of her tear and its corresponding sorrow, away from the story she’s trying to hide.

Instead, I accept my drink and listen as she introduces me to their other guests.

I wonder if anyone else has noticed the dark line under her foundation or if her easy laughter is an adequate enough disguise. I look towards her husband too, smiling on the couch as his wife entertains. I wonder if he has had tears of his own today, only they’d be easier to hide without traces of mascara.

“We have an announcement.” Her words interrupt my search of her husband. All attention is drawn to her.

Immediately, I assume divorce. Immediately, I see their breakup playing out, only hours before, in this small room that now houses too many guests.

There is silence for a moment then the hint of new moisture in her eye. “We’re having a baby.”

And that’s when I remembered that tears have many origins, including happiness.

Capital Train

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Polite Company.”

The corner of his eye twitched with annoyance. The train was his time to sit, quietly, with his thoughts. The train was when he decompressed from work, when he let his eyes drift closed and used the train’s rocking to sooth away work’s inane stresses.

The synthetic seat cushion crinkled as someone sat down next to him. He heard a woman’s soft sigh and felt the brush of her leg as she swayed her feet.

“These train’s sure do get packed, huh?” The woman spoke. He clenched his teeth.

“It’s rush hour.” He mumbled because he couldn’t sit there and let the question hang in the air, as much as he wanted too.

“I always forget people actually, like, work here.” She gripped her museum bag more securely in her lap. “With all the sights and cherry blossoms.”

“It’s the nation’s capital…” He wouldn’t open his eyes or get pulled into the conversation.

“You work at the capital?”

“Different branch.”

“What?”

“Executive branch.”

“Oh,” she paused. “Him.”

“Yes, the President.”

She huffed. “Not my President.”

“I’m pretty sure he’s everyone’s President, mam.” His teeth gritted.

“Well,” she smacked her lips, “we’ll just agree to disagree.” Silence then, until the train pulled to a stop and the woman left.

The man leaned his head against the window feigning sleep as yet another tourist filled the seat next to him.

Bells on the Mind

The bell tolls every fifteen minutes instead of on the hour. It quarters her time, her life, her mind, until it takes fifteen minutes to eat lunch, read a memo, stretch her legs. The human mind is habitual and Sarah’s mind was no different. She allowed the nearby church bells to move her around her day like the hands circling a clock.

Then one day it stops. Nails are boarded over stained glass, the shingled roof caves in and the bell never chimes again. Except, of course, in Sarah’s mind. The paint starts to chip, the building is resold and refashioned, but for Sarah the song remains.

When new employees expand the company, they notice Sarah’s strict routine. One obnoxious intern sets his watch by it. Few are left to tell the story of the bells and to explain Sarah’s quartered life.

Some ask Sarah herself, why she puts her fork down with finality at the quarter mark, why she packs her bags to leave only as the hour turns.

As a reply, Sarah looks merely bewildered.

My Twin

I learned I was a twin when I was four years old.  It was during my first visit to the home of someone outside our small circle of family.  It was a place where no one knew the danger.

You see, up until then every home I visited had certain walls decorated with draped cloth. The cloths were so unimportant to my toddler mind I hardly gave them a second glance.  Though I knew instinctively, or more probably, I knew from training early on, that the drapes were not to be touched.

But there they were, consistently, in every home I entered. Until I met a girl at a park.

Four is too young to be at a park alone, so I imagine an unwittingly friendly babysitter or careless cousin was at fault.  Whoever they were agreed we should follow the girl home, to step foot into a house where no one knew about the drapes.

So it turned out, at the home of some random girl from the park, I first saw my own reflection.  Somehow I knew it was mine, the same dark hair I saw curling around my chin, same teeth missing. Only, it wasn’t just mine because as soon as my eyes met the ones in the reflection everything changed.

That was nearly twenty years ago.

I describe the feeling of switching much like the revolving doors I used to see in old-school horror or spy movies. The character steps onto a certain tile or pulls a lever or says a phrase, and the wall shifts around and turns into another room.  It is quite the same, only my secret room is my prison and my sentence is unknown.

We both learned early on to avoid anything that produced a reflection like people learn to avoid staring at the sun –we sense that it is there but, since what happens when I look at my reflection is worse than going blind from the sun well, we both avoid it at all costs.

We learned that time on the outside would last for as long as we could outrun a particular body of water or pane of glass. To everyone on the outside, to my parents and my friends, there is no disruption in the realms of existence. The Earth moves on like nothing happened. My family knows, though, can tell in an instant when it is me or when it is her.  It’s easy to read preferences from their expressions after one of us slips up and the switch occurs.

It should all be mine, every single morsel of time. I was the one they chose on the birthing table after the curse landed on our family. It was me they decided to save. But then they met her because of some stupid girl in the park who was ignorant of drapes and left reflections on nearly every surface. A vain girl with vain parents who needed a mirror right when they walked into their home, they were the reason it was all taken away.

Once they met her, they “loved us both” and the word share took on new meaning.

The longest I have waited in the prison behind the glass was a year.  “A year” was my family’s mercy, their one rule. If it hit a year without a switch, my parents would force us to stand in front of a full length mirror to trigger it. It was the only way, they said, to let us both live.

But what type of life is this where I enter into it over and over to see someone burn down every decision, every long term plan I’ve made?  What type of life is this where my own body is used without my consent?  A reflective food tray in the hospital once triggered the switch after she decided to undergo cosmetic surgery.  A sequin bikini once led me into a hot tub with three naked women and one happy man.

And what have I lost?  Countless moments that mattered cut short because unknown reflective surfaces.

This is no life to lead. I am twenty-five years old but only experienced fifteen of them.  The girl in the glass will continue to leech my years, stunt my life.

I learned I was a twin when I was four years old.  Now I have a job offer in my inbox and a marriage proposal impending and I’ve decided, it’s time to kill her.

I am standing in front of the first drape I ever saw. It’s the heavy velvet one in our living room, a dark slate gray that complimented our burgundy rug.

There is this moment during the switch, a mere second where the mirror is empty.  I caught it two switches ago.  Then I thought about it for the entire three months I waited for her to catch her reflection.  I am better at it than she is, I can, and do, usually go the full year.  She has lost her free pass to the world mere days after she has stolen it from me. I am usually the one in control, rightfully so but still, the thought is enough to make me reconsider my plan. To maybe…not murder my sister.

No. I deserve all my days and the plan already in place.

I formed a theory that in that moment the mirror is empty, whichever of us in transit is vulnerable. During this time, I still remain in my body to see and process that the mirror is empty so, maybe, she wouldn’t have a place to settle. Maybe if I destroy the mirror in that moment, I will destroy her along with it.

The crowbar is cold against my palm. I reach down to lift the corner of the drape, pulling it slowly up my reflection forms first in the shape of my jeans, the belt around my waist, the t-shirt along my stomach and up my torso. I pause at the neck, adjusting the weight of the drape more securely in my fist. I lift the crowbar up and poised to strike.  The reflection’s chin appears, the mouth turned to show my own determination.

My breath had caught somewhere along the way. I settle my nerves with a deep breath before moving the drape one last centimeter.  Our eyes meet, I still dictate the reflection and I see my own resolve tighten the skin around the edges of my stare.  I wait, the seconds stretching to minutes as I focus on the flickering reflection in the mirror.  Then, she is gone and I strike the crowbar down.

There’s a moment when time comes tumbling to life again, speeding up as I step back. The crashing glass is quieter than I thought it’d be, softer than even the crowbar hitting the wood floor and…if I had known those would be my last thoughts outside of my prison, I may had thought of something more important. Because in the next minute I am staring through cracked glass at a slate gray drape, counting the time as passed again.

The Kleptomaniac

It’s the rush that brings Anne back each time. The sizzle of adrenaline that pushes through her veins, igniting them like nothing else ever would. It’s this rush, she likes to imagine, that clears all the clogged arteries acquired with age.

She waits for the woman to step out of the room, off to get refreshments in the direction of the kitchen and pulls her Census baseball cap securely onto her forehead. Becoming a surveyor was the easiest way Anne had found to enter, invited, into another’s home.  Sure, it only came every ten years but after three rounds, she looked forward to the fourth. Anxiously awaiting her forty-eighth birthday in a way few others do.

Anne had eyed it the moment she had breached the doorway – her target.

An inconspicuous silver bunny figurine. It was on all fours, small head nudged to the side and it reminded Anne of the farm she used to visit in the summers with her family.

It was easy to lean forward, the cool sting of the metal against her palm and with just a shift of her body the figurine dropped into her purse. The action took less than a minute and passed completely unnoticed.

She lets the feeling buzz under her skin throughout the interview, living in the fleeting moment.  She shakes the woman’s hand and is ushered to the door, confident that she would be quickly forgotten. In her decades of surveying, the nation’s people had only filed four complaints.  Peoples clutter all too easily becoming her trophies.

Truth or Dare

“Truth or Dare?”  Sally asked with her nose tilted towards the ceiling, as if the entire game were beneath her almost-ninth grade sensibilities.

“Dare.”  Jake spat.  He crossed his legs so their knees brushed and added, “only chickens choose Truth.”

Sally had chosen Truth.

Despite being a year older, Jake knew she had the romantic experience of a fifth grader -as in, none at all.

She blushed, eyes meeting his for a moment before dashing away just as quickly.  He smiled as he watched her squirm. They were only playing this game because Sally had questioned him after Jake called himself “Daring”.  As if his love for skateboarding and habit of questioning authority failed to settle his reputation in the eyes of his next-door neighbor.

So now, it was the two of them, face to face and pushing each other’s barriers.  Now, through this game, Jake knows that Sally thinks he’s cute.  Her Truth settled, unmentioned, between them.

Sally’s eyes kept flickering from the ceiling to Jake and back towards the closed door.  He knew she’d pick something lame.  Her fingers kept turning into her sweater sleeves and he wondered if she’d make him run around the neighborhood naked or do all of her homework for a week.  No, Sally wouldn’t trust someone else to do her homework.

She bit her lip, eyebrows drawing together and he tried to read her mind.  When the blush reddened on her normally pale cheeks, Jake knew she settled on a dare.

“Kiss me.”  Sally said flatly.  Her eyes stopped their dance and drilled him with a stare.

Jakes jaw dropped as he realized he wasn’t the only daring one in the room.