There is no great genius without some touch of madness. — Aristotle
There were whispers all around. Why were there whispers? Where was he? What’s he wearing? The walls were white, but in the most uncomfortable of shades; so frozen and analytical like a hospital — was he in a hospital? Still more whispers. But from where?
There he sat, with dazed eyes and gaunt cheeks. His mind was silent and his eyes were glued to a slowly spinning record player in the corner of an empty loft. The music echoed eerily through the clear, sun-lit room; sounds of big band reflected off the blank white walls.
Surrounding him were beautiful paintings, all intricately scattered throughout the room. Yet like a web of misfit toys they sat still, unsuspecting, half-covered in large white tarps that were not necessarily dust ridden, but still far more dreary than intended. The room felt full but somehow leeched of life, a breath of color was hidden in boxes and stored in shelves high above.
He blinked as if forced, holding a stern, contemplative gaze. There was a dull glean that shined in his brown eyes: a reflection of the phonograph perched before him. He watched as the record wobbled and bobbed, continuing round and round, playing an old unforgettable classic that he couldn’t remember the name of. This man wore a blank white tee with dark black joggers that were ripped at the knees. He sat on a bed of black linens and pushed his hair back behind his ears; it was a clean cut wavy brown.
Enjoying the music deeply, he laid back with his fingers crossed, nodding his head in a solemn appreciation. In the narrow moments you focused on his wandering eyes. When the music faded and his vision trailed it was obvious that it wasn’t a depression that weighted him, but this grave hold on life, that shook away all illusions surrounding the notion of life. Something had tainted the mind of this wild haired debonair and for minutes that felt like hours, he sat in silence with those stone cold eyes, looking up blankly at a ceiling akin to a sea of space.
A look around would show the loft to be remarkably minimal, albeit incredibly chic. There were no colors to fill the walls, nor any formal sense of furniture to fill the open floor. Aside from the paintings and his bed, there were only black boxes scattered all over the ground. If you peaked into one, you’d find them filled to the brim with old vinyls, all neatly assorted and organized with care. There was no television either, the only color came from a wall of leather spined books sitting opposite to a windowed balcony; last weeks paper still sat open on the table.
It seemed a common trend for him; in these recent times back he felt content to lie half awake, completely baked, and mildly irritated for days on end. It became some sort of paradise to him, the game of losing himself to the sounds of music and finding himself when the world came knocking once again. Although fortunately for him, ever since he got back to this world there were not many things to call on him, and truth be told, he was content to keep it that way.
Most of the time he felt people were a drag and living, doubly so. Years back he would spend time away from the world in the pools of thought; their endless depth satisfied his insatiable imagination and cured his existential decay. Books were the most powerful, but he painted and loved as well. Today though he was of a different mind, and he sat quietly in a fragile state of disarray; dwindling in this peace induced, eternally lost, vintage soundscape.
Relatively satisfied though, he listened on with a distant nod, onwards to infinity — or at least until the music died. Naturally it always did. So when the record finally came to a quiet finale, there was a chill flicker that crept up his spine: a lingering demon whispers wryly, those black tendrils like a plague, souring the fields with a rancid sun.
The repetitive pulse of the black lined vinyl started to fill the room with an ominous silence and he could feel the claws scratch the wind, making the teetering weights of his mind wane with a breathtaking anxiety that he cared never to acknowledge. The longer he sat there though the greater the burden weighed on each thought… on each sentence… each word… each…
With a worried, uncomfortable smirk he jolted up and shuffled his feet across the floor towards that great wall of windows and turned off the record player. After letting a sigh of relief return solace he looked up for again, peering out at the dusk painted skyline that made up Chicago.
To his dismay however, today was quite grey and bleak, and the clouded sun suspended the city in lackluster light that scarcely traced the towers, leaving little to admire.
His phone vibrated on the bed and his eyebrow raised; he walked over curiously.
Lunch @ 2 down at Louie’s. I’m buying.
He looked back up at the cityscape and caught the shimmer of his reflection. You could see the grimace clenching his brow, it darkened the features of his chiseled marble and shadowed his olive skin. He ran his hands through his unkempt hair, pushing it over to one side, effectively calming him. After a few sighs he turned and dragged himself to another hallway.
He disappeared into a room and within a minute, the entire loft sizzled and crackled back to life, stirred by the wisps of an alternate world. Dreams danced on the walls to this new electric tune, and the once empty air exploded with a rejuvenating pulse that took his attention once again, lulling the shadowy beasts that clung to his feet.
Of the many perks he had, and he was given many, perhaps one of the best of all was his full surround sound system. He had them installed just a few weeks ago, a treat to himself on his return back. With an attention to detail that was growing more apparent for this fellow, there were speakers hidden in every corner of the loft, with sub woofers below cabinets and tall standing speakers placed expertly covert.
Finally fearing nothing, he turned the volume up high and let the sound of the cosmos quake the lumbering skyscraper.
The music slowly emerged from the depths of galaxies with a low-voltage current that began to grow and mutate fluidly, transforming into an upbeat, undeniably catchy chant with a melody that buzzed and swirled with this vibrant energy. The words seemed to rise up above the beat with a kind of protest; some artistic militarization that electrified him.
It was a call to action that he so desperately needed, too. Almost simultaneously, the start of the song animated his movements with a gracious, lovable vigor; complimenting his better nature. With a sway in his step, he continued on towards the master bath.
As the music slowly filled the house it no longer felt ghostly or lifeless, rather more luxurious and modern, carrying an avant-garde feel to it. When compared to the lifeless mortuary it had once posed as, it was now a bonafide paradise. The inner city digs for a mercurial dragon.
Despite the atmosphere, his style was still taped away in boxes and his flair was sadly sheathed in large white cloths. It felt like one had just moved in, but not exactly into a new apartment but rather back into their skin. Regrouping and tightening the grip on the life they lead. Socially, it had never felt that way, but the power was clearly lowered, or muffled… like the stove on its lowest setting. Some flicker of life still creeped back on occasion, whenever the mind was occupied. All in all, he was still largely unpacked.
He opened the doors to the bathroom now, revealing immaculate and sleek features. The marble countertops were streamlined and tidy with small white towelettes folded tastefully; they were all scattered thoughtfully throughout the room. Golden knobs and faucets gleamed with a sample of his extravagance. On the counter next to the sink was a wooden bowl of shaving soap that sat classy next to a straight razor, assorted oils gave off a deliciously relaxing blend of aromas.
In the corner was a crystal set filled with liquors, both amber and gold, and a small wooden tray with a large ‘O’ carved into it. Oliver, the name for which the O stood for, walked towards the counter, heading straight for the crystal set and wooden board. In his hand he carried a black, metal grinder twisting the top of it casually. When he approached the board, he unscrewed the larger middle compartment to release a flurry of efficiently grinded cannabis, which fell gently on the polished wood where it scintillated, speckled with purple and snowy frost — beautiful.
Oliver admired it for a moment and then poured himself a glass of the brown liquor, raising it high before him. He winked mischievously at his reflection and then took a long sip before placing the heavy glass on the counter.
There was some kind of macabre humor about the way he held himself, it was as though he were playing games, like the world around him was some sort of twisted trick. Perhaps it was, there was certainly something off, though one couldn’t exactly put a finger to it.
Underneath the marble he opened another drawer and pulled out a pack of rolling papers and a crutch. After that he turned around and went into the walk-in shower where he twisted the head and started the water, filling the room with steam.
As the shower rained, off to work he went.
There was a calm focus about him now, his hands and fingers worked meticulous and delicately, with an artisan’s touch. His deep brown eyes were lost again but this time you would not think lower of it, his eyes fell on his work — those fingers now sprinkling the fine herb in the folded crease of the thin brown paper with a delicate determination. It was like a master at play; Monet in deep concentration or Michelangelo on his staff-holding, lost in an that artistic fervor that had consumed men from all walks of life. He worked with such a still grace that one might think he belonged among the statues, a belief distorted only by the quick twitching of his fingers as they rolled the fine paper into a cylinder. He licked the gum lightly and enclosed the cannabis in a neat, almost pristine cone which he then packed down softly.
With all seriousness and respective poise, he twisted it off into an iconic joint.
There was something so relaxing about the process, no disturbances nor worry, it was a time to meditate on the art of a simple task. Few were humbled by such things these days. He paused what he was doing to take another sip from his drink before opening a little black box, which revealed an assortment of old match boxes. It was really quite intriguing, each of them were unique, with their individual logos and branding of different bars and restaurants from all over the world. He grabbed one of the boxes with little thought, and pulled out a match, striking it assuredly. As it caught light, he watched it flicker for a moment and then hovered it under a couple incense sticks, whose smoke trails started to dance in the steamy air.
He took a deep inhale, wafting the scents of sage and frankincense, letting a grin catch light too as he enjoyed the sensations. Eventually he pulled another out and struck it, sitting back now, guiding the tip of the paper like a rotisserie, letting the end glow bright orange.
Soon after the joint breathed to life he brought it to his lips and pulled a long hit in, letting the cherry emboss the contours of his cheeks with that warm orange glow.
When Oliver pulled the joint away, he let a thick cloud billow slowly from his mouth and then stared off in defiant reverie. Immediately there was a wave of relax washing over his senses, wiping away all the tensions that held him against his will so habitually. Why had he felt so uncomfortable earlier that morning… the silences had been far worse before, especially after he’d been committed. Yet recently they had become far more infrequent, there was something eerily disconcerting about the recurrence and it was certainly something to ponder.
He smoked on with a calm contentment, not delayed but rather focused. He breathed a great sigh of relief, thankful to be free of the irritants of thought. He placed the half smoked joint in a small ash tray and then promptly stripped down to nothing, walking casually into his walk-in shower. The smoke eventually gave way to steam as the bass thumped with a primal intensity.
Later, after he had dressed he went downstairs and across the street to meet Anton, a dear friend of some time though this would mark the first time in weeks since they’d connected. Outside it was cool but the wind was sharp and icy. There they met and cordially exchanged pleasantries before heading inside.
In the diner there were not many words spoken, at least not from Oliver. More rather there were nods to keep the conversation going and quiet mumbles in response to whatever Anton had to say, some of it was important; most of it was not. On a rare occasion there would be a glance upwards that marked an topic of interest. Some news on the next exhibition of a friend’s work, another update on a runway show Anton was putting together; assorted fancies, all of them.
When he did speak however it was as though he had not been listening at all. His mind, simply put, was never present and his eyes were never focused. He did listen, though only to take note for dates, but often times he looked lost in daydreams more visceral than the world right before him. He rarely even took any notice to the commotion around him either. The people shuttering by, conversations in flight, all of it was a blur of nothingness. Save for the bittersweet aroma of coffee that filled the diner — all other sensations failed to catch his eye, and so he remained quiet, caught in mid-conversation whilst remarkably not conversing at all.
She looked at him with longing, hazel green eyes, rubbing his neck.
Oliver blinked, a sudden state of euphoria crossed his eyes, coloring his cheeks. It arose an urge in him that had not stirred for several months now, maybe even a year. When it came though it took him entirely by surprise and he followed it without question.
Anton had not noticed, he was preoccupied in conversation, something about a girl. Today was something important, it had to be. He checked his phone, October 17. Right, it was the day he attended her art exhibit for the first time. They had snuck into the back room and made love before the show had started. What a lovely memory that was.
“You know, I think I’ll visit Anna next week,” He spoke suddenly and with an air of deep contemplation, his eyes were fixated out the window on the grey world beyond.
“Wait, what?” replied Anton obviously confused at the cut off, he had just been telling his story of a Swedish girl he’d met at some bar that had come from his home town. Oliver continued his thought without even a hint of regard, his voice was silken, like a sweet reverie.
She smiled ever so softly.
“I haven’t seen her in years,” He pursed his lips and crinkled his nose, a bit disgusted by the fact.
“She lives in Seattle still, I think.”
“Hold on, isn’t this the same Anna that you left, the Anna that you swore never to talk to again?”
Shattered ceramics were scattered across the ground, blood dripped in narrow streams.
Oliver shot a painful glance at him and then shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He looked out the window again and continued as if nothing had been said. Entirely rejecting all notions of any kind of issue.
“Seattle is beautiful you know, the trees, the weather; I’ve always loved the west coast.”
Anton raised an eyebrow.
“Oh and the mountains,” He looked up at Anton for the first time with real sincerity, “They must must be incredible this time of year,” His eyes darted and danced as if he were living in a dream, “Imagine once you get to the top, above the rest of the world — even the weather, all the clouds are someone else’s burden to… weather” he grinned at the pun, and looked back to Anton with glowing sincerity, “We should go climb them some day.”
Anton blinked and kept quiet for a moment, juggling these flurry of emotions that ranged from touched to slightly concerned. Oliver was always capable of these things, capable of coloring the world with such a charm that was impossible to deny. The way he dreamt, the way he spoke with such an offbeat luster; it was riveting. Yet he was like a lighthouse in that way, flickering on and off. Sometimes there were moments he was alive and captivating, and the words he spoke were enchanting, taking you away like a trip. But when the light turned back around, and his world was lost to the dark, it was like the clarity he had just moments ago was gone. Anna, as he had been told countless times by Oliver himself was strictly off limits for good. But still, it was just one those moments when the light shined that Anton couldn’t resist staying around to enjoy the shimmering reminders of an old friend. These days they were rare sure, but when they showed up? They were beautiful, damn it.
He kept quiet for a moment, choosing his words very carefully. He took a deep breath trying to regather his composure,
“You know you can’t go and see her,” He spoke gently, “Last time you two got together you.. you broke your knuckles punching a wall.”
He looked at his knuckles and wiggled his fingers with a child-like wonder. “It was just a spur of the moment kind of thing,” He clenched his fist, trying to remember what exactly had happened,
“You know how she makes me feel.”
Their hands were clasped tight, but eventually pulled apart; one longing, the other gone.
Anton said nothing, he knew he was right. But truth is, they were too hot — the fire they kindled was like a wildfire, bright and destructive. She inspired the hell out of him, more than life itself. And in return he showed her a world she never knew, this world of their imagination unlike any other. But like all great things it grew too much to bear and the flames that once burned in their hearts eventually licked at their feet. It was not long before eventually one of them got burned, yet Oliver would never let himself believe that it was he who bore the scars.
“You know she’s working with ceramics now?”
“Wait I thought she was a photographer?”
“She was, or well she is, it’s kind of like a hobby.”
“Is she any good?”
He pulls out his phone and starts swiping through various apps and searches,
“Look, here’s one. It’s a monkey hanging upside down on a vine,” He handed it to Anton with an excited grin, lighting up just at the thought of her.
“Look how intricate the finger work is, and the ink overlay she did on the monkey’s back and arms? The flowers are just so meticulous, it’s incredible — like the finest of china.” He swipes through a few more, proudly. Anton observes reluctantly enjoying life. “And that’s just the first few of her newest collection. Isn’t she amazing?”
“Yeah…” He trailed off, mesmerized by the work. Suddenly he shook his head, “But what about you though, when are you going to get back to your work?”
The light in Oliver’s eyes just went out. Lost again, and like a recluse he fell back into himself; cold now in the dark beyond the lighthouse. He shifted in his seat and spoke with defeatism.
“I can’t work.”
“I won’t. I don’t know. I want to, but each time I try it just feels wrong. I feel out of touch or off, or something. As if I’m not doing it right, which is idiotic because I’m the only one who does me right. I don’t know, and I keep messing up too… and then I get angry… I-I— I just can’t.”
“Hey,” he grabbed his shoulder and stared him down, deep into his eyes, “Don’t worry. It’s fine. Look you’ve been home for what, a few days now? Of course it’s going to take a little time to get back in the swing of things.”
“No it’s worse, I’m so afraid that I’ll… mmm,” He suddenly had a sour taste in his mouth and a sickening feeling about everything in this building. “You know, fuck it. Let’s get out of here.”
He jumps up and in one fluid motion, finishes his cup of coffee, slaps a crumpled ten down on the table and immediately walks out of the diner without any questions asked, leaving Anton confused, scrambling to put on his coat.
Outside it is still overcast and cold. Oliver walks down the sidewalk with his hands shoved in his brown overcoat pockets and his head down, fighting the wind.
“Yo, I had to make sure that waitress got your fuckin’ money asshole,” Anton yells in that gnarly Swedish accent of his. He chases Oliver down and the two walk briskly down the side walk, “Alright, so where are we going?
“Too get a drink.”
Anton stops and looks at his watch. “It’s noon?” He calls out surprised.
“Why do you care?” Anton shrugged.
Anyways, I’m thirsty.” Oliver turned back around, “You coming?” He shouted back.
“Eh, yeah sure, wait up.”
The glasses clinked with a cumbersome thud on the marble counter. In the dim, musty bar the well-cut crystal gave off a subtle gleam, shimmering in the low light. From a distance they glistened with an air of amber elegance that charmed even by the look; yet regardless they were to be sipped just the same. Anton picked up both in one hand and with the other, pulled out a few crumpled dollar bills from his pocket and left them in the tip jar. He smiled and nodded at the bartender and headed back to the booth.
“I mean it’s just a matter of principle I think,” Oliver continued in time.
“Oh do you?” One of the girls smirked.
Oliver batted his eyes playfully and then thanked Anton for the drink. He took a long, savoring sip and then responded quite callously, “Yes, our greed and intolerance have been painting the faces of our enemies for decades.”
She laughed rather insincerely, she had to be flirting with him, how absurd. She shook her head, “So you think capitalism is the bigger problem?”
An interesting suggestion, “It’s not necessarily the system of capitalism, but rather they way it runs these days.”
“Gotta love big business,” Anton blurted jokingly.
Oliver shrugged it off,
“It’s gotten overblown and callous, billions of dollars being thrown around just to keep control of whatever power struggle best suits their profits.”
Anton rolls his eyes, disgusted.
“But like, isn’t that what corporations have always done?” The brunette asked.
“You mean a never ending paradox of wasting our time to get a bunch of selfish shit done first. Well, yes. But in todays age the increase of mass production has gotten so overwhelming that all the power they have over us is astounding. They’ll do anything to keep a constant stream of complacent consumers eating out of their hand.”
Anton acted like a couch potato watching TV.
“Yeah, pretty much.”
The two girls were very quiet at this point, one of them, the blonde, seemed to be thinking a bit too hard on the idea while the brunette didn’t seem to comprehend it clearly. Typical. You find that fakes are always lagging after they hear truths. Its like some kind of glitch really, terribly tragic honestly.
Oliver rolled his eyes, “Basically stuff like reality shows and fast food were supported so heavily only to distract the eye away from the outside world and brainwash the sheep. It originated from rationing in the second world war but after that, we just got addicted.”
He saw her urge to argue, and pressed on, “The big businesses basically skyrocketed off all the mass produced industries and threw all their skeletons into the sea which muddied everything. Shit like plastic, what the fuck even is that. Instead of focusing on all the polluted junk they’re feeding us we’ve literally been feasting off of it, glued to all the fake reality dramas that have been delayed and overplayed just to keep our thoughts away from the actual problems.”
“What are the actual problems?”
“After awhile those at the top realized that capitalism will eventually implode and destabilize — an economy based on endless growth is unsustainable, the entropy increases and overwhelms. So, seeing how everything was paying the big bucks, they swiped it under the rug for years, keeping the hopes high and optimism ringing true.”
“Wait you’ve kinda lost me.”
“Capitalist pigs stalled the engine by feeding us gunk, clogging all the pipes. Advertising all the cheapest, unhealthiest options so it could lag on forever. In doing so they got drunk off of oil to keep the factories pumping out bullshit but neglected the repercussions of such reckless habits. Eventually ISIL emerged as the karmic venom of a very selfish and pious society that feeds on this gilded wealth that’s becoming cheaper and cheaper to produce by the day. Since the Middle East is so rich in petroleum reserves, the poison of the power struggles were so vile and toxic to that ecosystem that it corrupted and incubated an intolerant group of Islamic people to commit savagery in efforts to slowly dismantle this society built on broken backs.”
“Wait so you think ISIL are the good guys?”
Oliver shook his head no, “Darling you’re not really focusing on the right things here.”
Anton chimed in, “Nobody in this picture is the good guy that’s the whole problem.”
Oliver slammed his hand on the table, “Thank you.”
“See, we are living with the options of use cheaply or use cleanly… and for pretty much all the last hundred years we’ve chosen to use cheaply. Mostly cause of the wars. Eventually, it took a huge toll on us and it has been destabilizing this world ever since… people don’t realize that growing things on infertile soil makes for a progressively bad harvest.”
“Of course we had to climb the mountain and learn the hard way to find that out — and we’re still stalled even today,” He took another sip, “But being plugged into a Television for decades will do that to a human; after all, what sanctity surrounds the celebrity?”
“Oh god you make it sound so dreary.” One of them replied.
“Isn’t it?” Oliver countered.
“Well I guess yeah, now that you put it that way.”
Oliver nodded with hint of sarcasm, “Paradigms… paralyze us.”
He took another sip to save from saying any more.
“Okay, so is that what you were trying to express in your paintings?”
Oliver grinned and nodded, but again held his tongue. He was in no mood to explain his work in any further detail, especially not to these girls who could hardly fathom it. The depth flew over their heads and he was exhausted.
Anton noticed the trigger, “You know what! I think we have to go now my fair ladies.”
They both pleaded no but Anton just grinned, “It was lovely to meet and drink with you both, what were your names again Jessica and Taylor, right?”
They nodded ecstatically.
“Beautiful, yes that’s quite nice.” Anton spaced for a moment, “Right! We’ll be on our way—”
“Can we get an autograph before you go, Oliver!?” They both chimed in angelic tones.
As always the compliment superseded the complications and he smiled widely, pulling out his sharpie and signing a napkin for the both of them. After that, they all said their final goodbyes and promptly left the bar.
Outside the wind was harsh and the cold, piercing; the two swung their arms and popped collars to hide from the barren breeze. Oliver looked over at Anton with a devilish grin, reminiscing on the moment. Anton laughed out loud and broke the silence,
“We have got to stop preaching to fan girls.”
“All they want to do is take pictures and lose their moments.”
“But they’re always so cute though, you gotta give em that.”
“Mais oui, what do you expect?” Oliver gestured back to himself grandly.
“Whatever Narcissus, they’re still sucked into the matrix don’t forget.”
Oliver rolled his eyes, “The wind was around a long time before we learned to use it.”
Anton stretched back his arms behind him, “Yeah yeah, alright, I’m bored let’s go smoke.”
Oliver nodded and pulled out his phone, “I’ll call the uber.”
He struck a match across the red filament and it sputtered to life, bursting into a bright flame that he admired for a moment as it flickered and burned. He drew it near, letting the orange glow illuminate the contours of his cheeks before lighting the cigarette between his lips, it crackle neatly and burned bright. He breathed in a long drag and then pulled it away calmly.
His eyes were lost again deep in another world and he idled with no cares, toying with his cigarette casually. Anton was walking around aimlessly, peaking under sheets to look at the paintings or shuffling through the vinyls curiously.
He sighed, “This place used to be popping as fuck.”
Oliver said nothing, he only blinked hard and took another drag.
“You used to have the lights and the walls filled…”
He looked at him jeeringly, “I mean you really let yourself go.”
To this Oliver let out a defiant “HA”, such statements always tickled his wit.
“It’s no laughing matter, you need to hit the gym my friend.”
“I was at the gym for 6 whole weeks mothafucka, remember that?” Flashes of a white walled asylum passed by both of them.
Anton grinned awkwardly, “Must’ve skipped my mind.”
Oliver hissed and rolled his eyes.
Anton looked off for a moment, as if to escape the moment’s uncomfortable tension.
Then he returned with a jump, “But you’re back now, so that’s got to mean something right? They wouldn’t just give up on you.”
He weighed the possibilities in his head and then looked back at him. “Well, I’m no longer anorexic if that’s what you’re meaning.”
“Sheesh, way to paint a picture.”
“But you are good… right?” He asked, eying him with sincerity.
Oliver took another drag, deflecting the question with another question. “Do you think I’d be back if I wasn’t?”
“Well you say you can’t do your work…”
“Since when did they condemn someone for writer’s block?”
“So that’s all it is now..”
“That’s all it is.” Oliver said with an irritated slash.
Anton tested the waters, feeling out the silence between the two. It used to be easy to tell when he was unstable but these days it was not as simple. To ease them both, he dropped the topic.
Eventually the silence was broken as Anton coughed heavily, letting billows of smoke out as he pulled a glass bong away from his mouth. The residue of the last hit still rose lightly from the piece and it brought Oliver back to reality as he smiled at his wheezing friend.
“You’re going to cough out a lung one day, you know.”
“You’re—,” he gasped for air and heaved one last bark, “You’re one to talk, with all your damn cigarettes. Say, how’s your lungs these days?”
Oliver looked at him with contemplating eyes.
“Picked up a habit while away, did you?”
He put it to his lips and held it as he hit, pulling it away with an easy elegance. He looked back at Anton and smiled, “It makes me feel cool.”
“God, that’s the only damn reason?”
“Is there really another?”
Anton paused, “Seriously why? That shit’ll kill you.”
“I guess I just like the idea of having death between my fingers —” He stretched his arm out reaching towards the piece, “Pass me the bong?”
Anton nodded and complied reluctantly. There was always a witty banter between the two, it had been that way ever since they became friends. He played and teased, tested and chanced, it was always a game of dice and it had become addictive for them.
Ever since Oliver moved out into the city, which was about 4 years ago, Anton had been the closest thing to a best friend. He was still highly renowned for his art and the volume of new buyers was heavier than ever. Anton’s partying, lighthearted ways helped ease the stressors.
In fact, Anton was the first friend he ever made when the train came into station. He paused, now having to chuckled to himself as he remembered their first meeting. That Swedish dumbass had spilt coffee all over his pants when the driver slammed on the brakes, but of course, after smoking him out as an apology they’ve been quite inseparable ever since.
Oliver took a hearty rip from the piece, let out a cloud as white as snow and then gracefully melted into his seat; Anton got up to look out the window.
“Weather’s picked up again,” He looked back to Oliver, “Looks like a storms coming.”
“Good,” He sat back and put his arms behind his head, “I enjoy the rain.”
“You love anything that’s not blue skies my friend. Whenever it get’s dark and the winds pick up, that’s the only time you tune in.”
“What can I say, clear days are slow and empty. Nothing ever happens, nothing ever changes.”
He smiled and sat back, thinking back to all the storms he’d weathered in his life. It wasn’t just storms, it was every natural phenomenon. He couldn’t stand those days without a cloud in sight nor a breeze to be felt — he liked when things actually made a difference, it felt eventful.
“You finished with that yet? You’ve taken like three hits.”
“We’ve got plenty to spare, don’t get so wound up.”
“Haven’t you heard of puff puff pass? Hit it and quit it? Common courtesy for christ’s sake?”
“Now you’re just making shit up.”
“Whatever, all I know is the magic dragon did not stand for this bullshit” He tried reaching his hand out to swipe the bong but before he could, Oliver pulled away with a mischievous smirk.
They stared at each other, warring in silence, and Oliver — with a devilish grin — slowly struck another match and cleared the entire bowl in one long hit.
“Fuckin son of a bitch.” Anton exclaimed, “We’re gonna have to call another plu—” Oliver slid open a drawer and pulled out a mason jar filled to the brim with more weed.
Anton’s eyes went wide and he took a seat next to him. “Shit, I guess the day’s done for then.”
Oliver broke into a laughter that disrupted his hit making him cackle into a cough, letting clouds of smoke pour from his mouth as he tried to compose himself.
“Well, with the storm coming I doubt you’d have much to worry about anyways.”
Anton snickered, “True. I guess a little rain never hurt anybody.” The two nodded on agreement and went to work packing more bowls.
“Roll another joint too, let’s get more in rotation.” He looked at Oliver with a grin, fully aware that he had hit his soft spot.
“Well, if you insist.” He pulled out a few papers, some crutches, and began folding the filter.
Anton was quiet, mulling over something for a few moments.
“You know, if we’re gonna blow pounds, we should at least invite some others over.”
Oliver nodded but took a hit anyways before he responded.
“I remember that girl on the 7th floor coming over a few times. She was chill, and pretty cute too, what was her name?”
“Oh that’s Ally.”
“You got her number?”
He tossed his phone over to Anton.
“Oh and what about Matt?”
“Can’t, he’s at works today.”
“Shit, uh let’s see. Sara wanted to hang out the other day, did you ever get back to her?”
“Nah I um… I kind of forgot.”
The two laughed, “Fuck head, I think she likes you.”
“She’s dating someone man,”
Anton smirked, speaking in silence. Oliver’s eyes widened, shocked but not surprised.
“…and besides, we’ve already had a thing.”
“Ah that’s bullshit, you still like her I can tell. Anyways, you remember how she was all over you when we went to Coney Island.”
“I remember… We’re friends though, I’m just glad she moved up here.”
Anton let out a laugh.
He shot him a glare and then shrugged, “She’s just fun-loving I guess, I don’t think she’s even aware — I know she doesn’t care about how she acts when she’s having a good time.”
“True but I have eyes mate, and I don’t think that was the case,” he took a big rip from the bong and continued, “You told her she was your girlfriend to get out of that house party remember? And before you had told her it was nothing, she was practically giddy with happiness.”
Anton gestured triumph.
“But after I told her that she just retreated back into her shell and it was super awkward for the rest of the night. You remember that too, don’t you.”
“Tension… tension…” Anton responded playfully.
“Shuttup!” Oliver laughed, “Fuck. She’s cute but it’s man.”
He took a drag from the cigarette that he’d nearly forgotten about.
“There was that one time she and I smoked with Cali and I felt like I was floating again, like she was my girl, the way she had her legs crossed and we were talking about music. She was sweet and glowing, and so caring…” He took another drag. “But every time I try to get close theres something that happens to block it, she deflects or I get all hazy in the head. Ah… I really just don’t know what to make of it.”
“She is still dating someone I guess, there’s probably conflict about that.”
“Oh you think?”
“Well either way she’s a fun fucking time so you should call her.”
“There’s just no arguing with you is there, huh?”
“Nah, I always get what I want.”
“You’re high as fuck,” Oliver grinned with a laugh.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Anton smirked again, beckoning him with the phone.
“Fine, fine. I’ll fucking call her, asshole.” He got up to go grab something.
“Aye attaboy, I dig you two as a couple you know,”
“Lay off mate,” he chuckled, “You want a drink?”
“Tea if you please.”
“Oh, good idea.” Oliver left into the other kitchen to warm the kettle.
“Thanks babe, you kick ass.” He heard Anton call out sarcastically.
He laughed to himself and shook his head. He often thought about what made such an oddball pair work for so long. Anton was a klutz and a goof no doubt, always a bit too loud and a little too joking, he was a talented event organizer, definitely knew his work, but he was always out thinking of brighter things and always really thinking a bit too much period. Despite all of that though he was smart, damn smart. One of the smartest kids he had met in this city — and that was saying something — but what made him different, different from him even, was that he listened and he pondered more than anything. He indulged in life and asked nothing more from it. Maybe that was why he was so odd, cause he cared less than damn near everyone, well at least about life that was. He cared more for his friends and loved far more than he could ever help. Oliver smiled, the guy was a hopeless romantic and he liked that; it made him appreciate the things he often took for granted.
In the kitchen now, he flipped the switch to the kettle and then walked into the pantry, perusing through the different herbal teas. There was chamomile, chai, Oolong, even a few more unique brews with saffron and orange. He enjoyed tea, especially after smoking when all the flavors were the most intense and his throat was scratchy.
After selecting one, he pulled out his phone and clicked down towards Sara’s contact, calling it and putting it up to his ear.
It was ringing. He rubbed his eyes and tried not to think too much on it.
“Hey!” Her voice was warm.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Um just chilling right now, nothing much. What about you?”
“Pretty much the same thing, we’re smoking pretty fat right now.”
“Ooh really huh?” She let out a hearty laugh.
He couldn’t help but grin widely, “Oh yes, really.”
“Well I am pretty jealous honestly,” she admitted, “I haven’t been able to smoke all day…”
“Alas! The cure awaits…”
She laughed again, “Who’s with you?”
“Oh sweet, I love Anton!”
“Yeah! So what do you say, you want to come chief with us?”
“Yeah for sure, I’m so down!”
He smiled again.
“Now?” She asked eagerly.
“Of course, come on over whenever you can, it looks like a pretty slow day with all the storms rolling in so we’ll probably just be toking all evening.”
He bit his lip, thinking on that for a moment.
“Well that couldn’t be more perfect! Okay um, well let’s see I have to shower but I will come over as fast as I can, Okay?”
“Yeah that’d be great, I mean we’ll try and save some for you, but I dunno, Anton’s packing another now and you know how he gets.” Oliver followed up teasingly.
She played along, “Once he starts he never stops right?”
“Chicago went dry for a month last time we let him loose.”
She laughed, “Alright well in that case I’ll hurry then. See you soon!”
“Okay, see ya.”
The phone clicked.
He stood there for a moment, going over what just happened, reviewing what was said and simply smiling to himself. Right then the kettle started whistling and it curved his thoughts. Oliver walked over to turn it off, filling two cups with steaming water and let them steep.
“What did she say?” Anton called out from the other room.
“She’s gonna shower and then she’ll be on her way over.”
“Fuck yeah. Dude, I’m gonna turn on some music, cool?
“Uh of course?”
“Rad, alright one sec then.”
He pulled out another cigarette and lit it while the tea was cooling down. He didn’t have much on his mind but he felt there was something eating at him today, he felt too restless and energetic to just kick back and chill tonight.
He walked to the window and looked out as the sky began to grow dark. There was a growing fire in him and he was only feeling more alive as the world around him grew grim and sinister. The bass began to thud in the background and Anton returned to the living room.
“What’s on your mind bro?”
He took another drag and turned around with a cool grace.
“I want to throw a party, man.”
“I mean, unless you’ve got a better idea.”
He grinned at Anton and shook his head, taking another slow drag.
“Come on, don’t ask stupid questions. Of course we’re gonna throw it here. Get the word out, tell them it’s a house warming.”
Anton was suddenly filled with a ridiculous energy and shouted out with delight.
“Fucking finally!! Alright, here,” He picked up the bong and handed it to Oliver, “Let’s have some celebratory BRs then, yeah?”
The music began to take full stage as he lost himself in the hazy glee of the high, he was actually enjoying himself again and it felt as though there was no stopping him now.
“So we’ve got the booze, the bump and…” he pulled out two filled mason jars, “especially the bud (Anton cheered) — I think I’m feeling in a generous mood tonight.”
He placed the bong back on the table and let the rhythm of the beat take full force. He started to sway and dance with no care in the world, standing up between gasps of laughter to shoot his hands in the air, middle fingers up, and then shouted at the top of his lungs:
“That’s right baby, we about to turn the fuck up tonight!” He clenched his fists and held them up high, perfectly synchronized with the song’s drop.
He then pulled out his phone and sent a text to a few friends he knew would spread the word quick, afterwards he threw the phone on the couch and resumed his mania.
Anton watched for a moment, the seconds slowed to a stand still as all the atoms seemed to realign with one moment again. He was astonished to see all this life flooding back into his friend and felt the energy of the moment take hold of him. He felt his own flow pull him, launching him forward into his instinctual event planning mindset.
“Okay! Let’s get things straight, so Ally and Sara are on their way?”
“Sara is! I haven’t called Ally yet.”
“Alright. Alright, call her mate! You know she’d be down.”
“Mmm nah I think you got this one” He threw the phone at him abruptly. “That’s the hookup we should be talking about, I’ll even set you two up if you want.”
“Think you’re the only one whose got eyes, you two have been at it for weeks.”
“She’s got the hots for me, huh?”
He slung his arm around Anton and smiled, “All I’m gonna say is there’s a storm coming, and it always gets the girls in the mood. Don’t be afraid to go for her man.”
Anton was smiling, imagining his night and the glorious end it could finish with.
“Shit, it’s getting me in the mood too.”
“Ay, that’s what I like to hear.”
He took a sip of the warm tea and let the hot liquid run smooth down his throat. He sighed with relief, “Mmm yeah, it’s gonna be one helluva night.”
The elevator closed, it was filled with exceptional characters of all variety, beautiful women with their eyes painted and vibrant apparel fitting with a remarkable elegance; men dawning the years highest fashion and others with their own flair and touch, equally surreal. The little floating room was overflowing with energy — consciousness pressing out, seeping through the cracks in the door. They were all chattering to and fro without any real direction. Voices crying out about another friend on their way. Others taking photographs and laughing ecstatically.
“Oliver hasn’t had a party in a year. Seriously where has he been?” One questioned out loud.
“I heard he took a trip out of the country.” Another chimed in.
“Yeah I read that somewhere I think, Italy?”
“Dunno, I haven’t spoken to him in years.”
“Hey did you bring the molly or did you take it already?” There were conversations scattered throughout the elevator as they rose to one of the highest floors.
“Oh I have yours, we took ours earlier.”
“I read Oliver checked into a hospital for six months.”
“Oh is he sick?”
“Ha, yeah twisted in the head. Idiot, you don’t just decide to get sick.”
“Hey shuttup, I hope he’s alright now though.”
The elevator clicked open, letting a flood of clipped bass swarm into the small elevator that quickly distracted everyone; invigorating the party goers like an intoxicating pheromone. All down the floor were others, just as extravagant in dress and vibrancy — some were talking on phones while others were arguing, there were a few couples who came out to catch a breath or perhaps just to find space to be intimate.
“I think he’s doing just fine,” Commented one with a wide smile, their eyes were all glowing with intrigue and fascination on what the evening had in store.
Some of them shouted out with delight as the music and smell of marijuana got stronger and stronger the closer they got to the door.
“Take yours now Chelle,” One of them urged.
They knocked, doing their best to be as patient as possible.
It was a high-rolling affair; knocks on the door from new arrivals were barely audible even by 10 o’clock. With the pre-game only barely begun, it was already becoming one of the hottest scenes of the night. The bass was overwhelmingly powerful as trap and remixed old school hiphop filled the flat with an electric energy so vibrant and crisp — it was almost tangible.
People from all over the city had gotten the word and had begun showing up by the numbers. Finally the door swung open for knocks minutes before and a swaying Anton greeted the new party-goers with the half-slurred, half-cocky line of greetings that started with a bottle of Don Perignon in his left and a mostly smoked joint in his right.
“Good evening!” He shouted with a bombastic energy, and the new group roared as a few had recognized Anton’s face from one of the most recent GQ interviews. “Come on in loves… welcome… to la casa de Stanton!” He took another swig and yelled back to the already large crowd behind him, “The hardest hitting party in Chi-town aye!?”
They all raised glasses and cheered ecstatically, priming the new comers with a hysterical excitement who swarmed in with smiles wider than the door.
The lights were turned low. They flickered through the smoke which rose in like a frozen world seeming to slow the scene down to a distorted time slower than the electric crowd that jumped and danced with this irresistible vigor. Oliver, Sara and Anton had picked up some strobes and black lights earlier so the house was revived, alive and energized. The walls were painted bright in colorful haze of reds and blues that danced across the great wave of people. They shaded the faces of stylish elites and rich young artists alike. It was like the roaring twenties revamped with this modern flair. Everyone was dressed in the most fashionable attire; full of energy, sexy and ripe with life. There was this intoxicating buzz in the room and if it was before, it was really no question now, Oliver Stanton was back to his usual bag of tricks.
Anton led the group in and like a fanciful host, dodging dancers and off balanced partiers with an impressive grace. He showed them around with over-zealous glee, building up the new arrivals at every turn with his elated hysteria. He led them through the kitchen where finger foods, weed and glass pieces were set out for the crowds enjoyment. For some reason these parties were respectable enough to allow certain luxurious, complimentary gifts that weren’t abused, it seemed customary to provide his guests with the most enriching experience.
Some stayed behind but as he continued on he stopped by the bar, presenting it all like an african safari, “And if you’ll look to your right, please take notice to the cool beverages placed for your convenience,” he grabbed one of the bartenders who grinned as Anton continued, “This mate Zachary can make ANY drink you can think of, go ahead give him a try…” His slurs were hilariously obvious but his rambunctious behavior entertained and excited.
The bar was covered in bottles that had been set out and lined up with glasses, ready for the taking. No expenses were spared that night, and when they finally made their way to the main room it was beyond intense. Packed to the brim with illuminated faces and exotic light shows swirled around by bohemian women and men alike with glow sticks and hoops.
In the middle of the fray you could see him, wearing a tan sweater rolled up slightly with navy slacks and brown boots to match. He was surrounded on all sides, dancing in one eclectic mess of people who flowed back and forth harmoniously. An ever-present smile filled his face as he danced to his own accord, steadily leading the vibe of the party, unintentionally keeping it at maximum heights as the DJs unshackled all the tension with each euphoric drop.
He raised his glass as the music changed to a slower electronic pulse, bouncing in sync to the powerful bump, he spoke little and didn’t pay much attention to really anyone, letting his inner joy come out in full force. For this particular song he knew every word and was singing loudly while everyone cheered, singing and dancing along together.
Sara danced her way to him. “You’re having fun tonight, huh?” She shouted in his ear.
He slung his arm around her and smiled, “I’ve got reason to be, I mean look around you, this place is fucking alive tonight, it’s so good to see…” The music pulsed in and out with this powerful energy, Oliver closed his eyes for a moment, taken away, and then he resumed:
“…So good to feel!!”
She smiled wide and nodded, letting the groove of the music take her, shaking her hips and turning, raising her arms high in the air. Oliver downed his drink and shouted out with excitement, placing his hand on her hip and getting close with a thoughtless ease.
“I’m so glad you’re back,” she said back to him, “I was so worried—,”
“I’m alright,” he said with a calm smile, “You’ve got nothing to worry about.”
He seemed so sure and she couldn’t help but trust him in that moment, he was overpoweringly present and undeniably confident.
“Hey great fucking party Oli! Shouted a girl next to him.
“It’s all for you! Go enjoy yourself love,” He shouted back with a devilish grin. Before he could get back into the groove, he felt an arm around his shoulder.
“Yo, mate I need you real quick!” Anton shouted at him as he threw his arm around Sara also who laughed and played along. He then went over to whisper something in Oliver’s earn who nodded and spoke sweetly to Sara, “I’ll be right back, okay?”
“Okay.” She smiled, falling back into the rhythm.
He left her, weaving his way through the thick crowd, greeting and shaking hands as he went.
“So Ally’s here, eh?”
“Yeah she just got here.”
“Uh, okay let’s see… Oh right she’s over by the bar!”
“Right, alright well let’s get you a girl mate.”
He started towards the bar but paused for a second, feeling a subtle unease, something familiarly uncomfortable, but he shrugged it off and continued on. The plan was pretty simple, he would give them time in his spare room to connect and do whatever felt right.
“Allison! Hello you’re looking ravishing tonight.” He handed her a glass of vodka sour, which she took with a quaint smile she spoke some kind of cordial response but it was just a little too soft to hear. Oliver pressed on regardless,
“Hey listen, here’s Anton. I’m sure you two have met already.”
She smirked at him, obviously they had met, he was joking though and all of them exchanged pleasantries, grinning warmly. Oliver smiled, “Hey it’s getting pretty loud, you guys want to head back to the chi room?”
“The Chi room?” Ally asked curiously, she was very chill and no doubt meditated often. Her vibe alone gave off a very powerful presence, spiritually.
Oliver grinned and was about to speak but Anton cut him off, “Yeah, it’s this crazy beautiful room he uses for meditation, you’ve got to check it out, I mean I know how much you’re interested in that kind of stuff!”
She nodded with a wide smile and the three walked back across the room, making their way through the crowd once more.
The music had turned trance and there was a collective thumping to the room that almost felt choreographed. Oliver was enjoying himself so much, as he was making his way through the crowd he couldn’t help but get stopped by appreciative guests or friends and acquaintances, casually catching glances and dances alike, swinging freely with the entrancing beat.
Suddenly he saw Sara across the room and without a second thought started to head over to her, feeling some uncontrollable pull he was not inclined to avoid. She was so beautiful that night; wearing charcoal joggers and a black leather jacket with an Ibizia tee underneath, it all fit perfectly but what would one expect from a fashion model?
“Oli hold up bro,” Anton tugged on him. “Show us to the room real quick?”
He turned around looking at him, obviously conflicted. “Uh, yeah sure of course.” He turned around again but stopped, realizing all of the forces pulling on him at that moment. He paused for another second, feeling that same wave of discomfort slide down his spine, making him shiver, shifting in his shoes. He turned back to them and hurried through the crowd.
He opened up the Chi room and flipped on the dim lights that lined the ceiling and floors. The room was filled with blankets and matts, pillows and chests, all kept very earthy and natural, patterned with psychedelic prints and brocades. It was a very intense experience just walking into the room and he was instantly met with many memories of past meditations and thoughts that went on there; some were welcomed and some certainly were not. Yet regardless, they all snuck into his mind like ghosts.
“Hey do you have your chest in here?”
“Yeah it’s in the left corner, use whatever you guys want, there are no bad choices in here.” He smiled, looking at Sarah with a comforting gaze. She was already preoccupied with the styles throughout the room, perking up at the thought of a ‘chest’, whatever that meant.
He was glad, he knew the two had been flirting for weeks but they had never made any moves and it was beginning to slow, he felt he would help move things along a bit.
“Alright well I’d better get back to my guests, it was fantastic seeing you Ally, I’ll catchya.”
She gave a quick smile and then he turned to Anton,
“No messes, cool?”
“Yeah, yeah no of course,” He replied drunkly, but Oliver was sure he was fine. He was always there and knew what was going on even though he chose not to show it. He had more fun when he decided to just go with it. Even if he were drunk he’d be fine, Anton had saved Oliver from doing ridiculously stupid things plenty of times in such a state. He sobered when he needed.
Oliver turned back around, free of something at least. Beyond him the crowd was cheering in the background, calling out to him in this hidden celebratory language that he felt obligated to reply and he turned back around. However as he was walking down that empty corridor, he found it to be heavily uncomfortable for some odd reason; lovers kissed passionately and others whispered intimately. It pulled at his heart strings painfully and he was stricken with this exceptionally strange feeling, the same one that seemed to come and go all day. He started worry.
Now as he walked through the crowd there was an air of eery deception to it all, it started to get to his head and he felt woozy and a bit dizzy. Maybe it was from the drinks, he thought, maybe he had just had too much to drink. Though deep down he knew that wasn’t the case.
Fuck, was all he could think. The more he met gazes the more uneasy he felt; it all began to feel strange and frighteningly sinister to him. He tried to avoid it all but there was no fighting it, he knew he had to somehow get outside immediately.
Walking hurriedly now, he couldn’t escape it; he was a victim to his thoughts. He didn’t like it at all, every where he turned there were flashes of distant memories that passed in blurs, mixing nauseatingly with the lights and music that began to lose their buzz, feeling less like a crafted masterpiece and more like a collection of screeches and scratches.
He walked to the window and placed his palm to the glass, breathing heavily now trying to calm himself down. The world outside was pitch black and the glass was freezing cold. He had been working so hard to fight this, why was it coming back, why was it here now? He couldn’t let it get the better of him. Not here. Please, not now.
Suddenly he felt a touch on his shoulder, a familiar softness that put him straight at ease, yet when he turned around there was not one there. He dropped his glass and put his hand to his face, covering his eyes, deeply fearing what was threatening to come. Yet he pulled away, still determined to fix the issue, searching through the room for Anton only to remember that he was alone with Sarah, enjoying that moment he’d just set up. God damn it, he thought to himself.
He needed help right now.
There was panic in Oliver’s eyes, and he walked frantically, cutting through the hazy halls, through the crowds and blaring music, making a straight bee line to the bar. He hoped another drink might calm his nerves, or at the very least make him forget them altogether.
He poured himself an almost full glass of whisky and downed it immediately, feeling the warm sensation fill his stomach and he breathed heavy, trying to regain his composure.
There was no place he could go, no place he could sit to relax. Wait, his room. Of course. He headed back across the loft, making his way through the crazy crowd.
“Hey! Wait, Oliver what’s up?”
He paused, he knew that voice. He closed his eyes and shook his head, this couldn’t be happening, he couldn’t face Sara right now, not in this state. Not when he just told her he’d be okay. ‘Don’t be a bitch, come on get yourself together.’ he thought and then turned around with a half grin that was worse than no smile at all.
“Are you okay?”
He said nothing, only looked at her for a moment and then turned away.
“Hey, Oliver wait don’t turn away come here.”
He sighed and turned back around, he couldn’t look at her, he couldn’t look at anyone.
“It’s back isn’t it.”
He almost broke down, he wanted to but he didn’t. He stayed standing straight, feeling his knees wobbling slightly. He nodded with the same defeated expression like a dog with his tail between his legs.
She studied him for a moment. “Here come with me.” She grabbed his arm and the two hustled back to his room, leaving the vibrant lights and electric bass behind.
She walked in, her movements quick and lively, she turned and gently shut the door behind her; muffling the outside world. Now she walked hastily towards Oliver and took a seat at his side. He sat silent and in shock, shaking slightly with his hands covering his face.
Sara looked at him with soft eyes, rubbing her hand on his arm and giving soft words of comfort. He was fine just a moment ago, he was sure of himself, and now it was a travesty.
“I’m sorry,” he groaned.
“No it’s okay,” she spoke slowly. He looked at her and smirked, “No, really,” she replied, though it was less than convincing. She couldn’t hold his gaze and looked away.
“I said I was okay,” he sighed, moving his hands through his hair and looking up at the ceiling. He wouldn’t hold her gaze. “and I was wrong,” he joked to himself, “Clearly.”
She laughed a little and smiled, “I know,” she said, “You’re not all powerful, you know? Some of these things still get to you and that’s all right.”
“It was just going so well,” he stood up, his hands still on his head, “I don’t know what caused it,” He looked back at her, “And I’m afraid I can’t fight it once it happens.”
She hesitated, he took a breath continued.
“I’m better now though,” he bent down and placed his hand on her shoulder. She looked up and met his gaze, “Really, I am”. She smiled and hugged him tight. He felt a wave of warmth shutter through him and hugged her back, holding her tightly. The two stayed embraced for quite awhile, swimming in the seas of a nostalgic love that still burned like an ember in their hearts, struggling to catch a light.
As the time ticked by feelings of lust and attraction began to swim through their heads; it was an electric magnetism that could not be translated. There were thoughts of ecstasy and pleasure that were impossible to express and whispers of love so faint they could not be heard. She pulled away as the intensity became too much. He felt the flicker of longing thoughts still clinging to him even in her absence.
Sara looked away,
“You have to be more careful Oliver, people are always watching and they’ll tear you apart if you break down like that again.”
He smiled at her concern, “You’re right, I know,” he paused and looked at her with a grin, “I know it doesn’t look like it but I am trying.”
“You kinda suck then,” she replied with a laugh. He smiled and shook his head, she nudged him playfully and continued, “Come on, let’s go back out to the party.”
“Okay, yeah let’s go.”
The two got up and headed for the door, the music growing louder with each step.
Oliver nudged her back, “You know, this DJ is dope and all, but you should definitely go up there and turn this place up a notch.”
Her eyes lit up with excitement. He couldn’t deny it and nor did he want to, she was an amazing DJ and he often asked her to play for his parties, the only reason she didn’t play tonight was for the fact that Oliver wanted her to be a part of the party instead.
“Hell. yes.” She said, alive with vigor, thinking ahead to the rush that is to come; she darted out with haste.
“Hey Sara by the way,” She turned back around, “Thank you, for staying with me, it was really nice of you.”
“Of course, always” She said, responding with another long hug. There was something about it that sent him crazy, the way she rubbed her hand on his back and the other on his neck softly, or the subtle scent of her body underneath the perfume. In that short moment they shared he felt the most intoxicated he had all night.
“Hey! What the fuck is going on?” Shouted an angry voice from across the room. The two turned, it was Kyle — her far more intoxicated and extremely pissed off boyfriend. He pushed through the crowd and headed straight for Oliver who had only seconds to realize what was about to happen before it was too late. Kyle darted and slammed straight into his chest, ramming him into the door behind him, smashing it open; letting it swing loose on it’s hinges as the music blared and the lights strobed.
Inside the room there was total mayhem; the two struggled to gain control as they grappled on the floor, twisting wrists and grabbing throats. Finally Kyle maneuvered himself on top of Oliver, held down his hands, and clocked him right in the jaw. He threw a few more weaker hooks but nothing landed. Meanwhile Oliver wiggled and wallowed under the weight, searching for anything that could help him.
Just before Kyle cocked his arm back for another hit, Oliver managed to free one of his arms and grab a broken leg of the chair they had smashed on entry. He gripped it tight and swung, bringing it down on the side of Kyle’s head, dealing a massive blow and freeing him from his clutches. When he freed himself, Oliver rolled to his feet quickly, trying to take advantage of his opponent’s head injury. Yet, though Kyle was still dazed from the hit he barely managed to get out of the way of Oliver’s kick, missing it by inches. He then got to his knees and pulled a right hook that Oliver dodged narrowly. The swing had thrown him off balance though and Oliver countered with a crunching hook to Kyle’s ribs.
Though Kyle was obviously more muscular and taller than Oliver, he lacked the same quickness Oliver had, which gave him a chance. Oliver on the other hand was alive; he felt the energy of the fight in every movement, it was as though time had slowed and he felt clear and alert, certain of his every move. Despite the clarity, something in him felt wild and untamed, like a feral beast had been awoken, instinctually guiding and pushing him ever further. He fought with a furious desperation that held nothing back.
He couldn’t explain it or even think, there was something in him that charged forward like a locomotive engine. He felt no restraint, no weakness; like he could take on the world if he wanted. It was an incredible feeling but it wasn’t the only one. In the back of his head waned another unsettling feeling that haunted him further — though he would not think of that now.
Now was time for action. While Kyle still groveled on the floor in pain, Oliver kicked again, this time finding his mark, catching him square in the gut and knocking the wind right out of him.
He winced loudly and groaned, gasping for air like a lame animal. Yet Oliver couldn’t control it, something in him had snapped and he couldn’t go back. It felt like a sinking ship, and once the water rushed in, it was only a matter of time before it capsized. He watched helplessly as life sank down, deeper into that dark abyss.
Without hesitation he turned him over and continued to hit him senselessly, letting his fist fall like a hammer to an anvil. As the fight began to burnout and the end seemed near, Kyle began flailing hysterically in desperation, swinging blindly trying anything to escape.
One of which hit the target, catching Oliver square in the nose at which point he pulled back to grab his nose, now bleeding profusely. Kyle, limping heavily, his left eye swollen shut, charged Oliver again tackling him hard into a mirror that shattered on impact.
By this time, the fight had caught wind and people began to pour into the room, pulling out phones and shouting with a terrible enthusiasm. His vision, now tinted with red from all the blood, could only make out shimmers and blurs of people around him; they were all shouting words he didn’t have the time to understand. He twisted Kyle’s arm up and brought his elbow down on his back, knocking him to the ground with a thud. The crowd cheered with this somewhat misplaced glee, watching on as Oliver continued to beat the other man.
After a few more deafening blows the fight was finally put to bed as Anton and Sara came rushing in to restrain him before he was able smash a chair on his back. When he was pulled away you could see his veins throbbing and his eyes glowing bright with a foreign anger.
As the heights of the fight died down, he looked at his bloody knuckles in abject horror.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Shouted Sara, frantically rushing to the side of Kyle who was laying in a bloodied slump.
Oliver said nothing. He only looked on in a pale, senseless oblivion. His breathing was heavy and blood dripped off his chin like an icicle. Instead, he whispered something in Anton’s ear and turned around and headed to his bathroom.
“All right, everybody out!” Shouted Anton turning around to see the crowd, “Get your shit and go people, obviously the party’s over!”
The night was silenced as Anton corralled the remaining partygoers out of the loft. When he turned back around he caught Sara’s gaze, who looked back at him with eyes he knew meant trouble. She shook her head, tears running down her cheeks. He tried to give her a hug but she brushed it off, running out of the room. He sighed and then looked over at Kyle who was spitting up blood on the carpet.
“Oh for christ’s — fuck me.”
With a sudden surge the door swung open and the empty bathroom flooded with light. Oliver walked in hurriedly; his eye was cut and swollen and his nose was bleeding badly. There were blood stains splattered across his clothes and he was drenched in sweat, breathing heavily.
For a moment he stood still, shoulders rising and falling with each breath, staring deeply at his mangled reflection. There was a heavy look in his eyes —stone cold — that lay in wait beneath the blood and sweat. He analyzed his wounds with the apathy of a field medic, doing his best to waste as little time as he could. He brushed his hair back and felt around his eye, turning on the sink and wetting a small towelette as he went. He worked meticulously, kneading the blood out of the cuts and cleaning them lightly. He grimaced but the pain was slight. ’Fuck’ he thought, now realizing how much pain he must actually be in — considering the fight and all the booze, he reckoned he was only feeling a fraction of it. Oliver shook his head and stripped off his shirt, doing his best not to stain anything more as he continued dabbing his bloody nose.
After finishing up, he grabbed a glass from the counter; dropping in a few ice cubes, and then topping it off with a whiskey. Oliver downed it slowly, taking his time but finishing the entire glass with little trouble. He looked at himself again in the mirror, feeling sunken and ill; the cuts were clean but still open. There was slight bruising on his jaw but really nothing much he could do about that. He turned around and Anton walked in again.
“Called Micah to help take care of him, he’s passed out at a friends house now I think,”
Oliver didn’t say anything, though he looked like he was mulling something over in his head. Anton continued in spite of the silence now walking towards him,
“But whatever though right, who gives a fuck. You good?
‘Yeah, yeah I’m fine.’ Oliver turned and began to pace, “I mean what was he thinking anyways, that drunk bastard, he just fucking tackled me and for what, just a hug?” He shook his head, “Nah fuck that.”
Anton raised an eyebrow, “Just a hug?”
“It was just a hug.”
Anton studied him for a moment, and then shook his head.
Oliver looked up, “Nope what?”
“I’m gonna have to call bull shit on that mate, It wasn’t just a hug”
He stayed silent.
“It’s never just a hug,” Anton flung his hands up dramatically, pointing at Oliver, “you still have the hots for her and you know it,” Oliver said nothing still and he continued to talk, “…She may show it too even but either way, Kyle had a reason.”
Oliver looked up at him, visually offended.
“He definitely had a reason.”
He smirked and fell back into his chair. He knew the answer, he knew how he felt about her; he knew how fucked he was from the start but he kept on playing along anyways. Oliver shook his head, he must be so stupid to have missed something so obvious, of course Kyle would be at the party — they were dating after all.
“You’re right,” he paused still contemplating his next move, “So what now, am I going to get the girl or sulk away or whatever?”
“I dunno man, that fight was pretty brutal.”
Oliver’s face fell grave, “I couldn’t stop myself Anton, I don’t know what happened I —“
“It’s alright man, it’s just the adrenaline, you got caught up in the moment don’t worry about it.” There was a hint of hesitance in his words but Oliver chose to stay silent.
“Alright well I’m gonna start rolling a blunt, shower and come join us yeah?”
“Us?” Oliver said quizzically.
“Yeah, Sam and Micah stayed to help out and they want to match.”
“Oh. Yeah, yeah for sure I’ll see you in a sec” They both nodded and Anton left.
Oliver stood there back against the door and rose his hands above his head, taking a long, deep breath. He was still shaken from it all. Slowly he made his way to the shower turning it on and then turned around for a towel, accidentally catching his reflection on the way back.
He got lost in his own eyes for a moment, feeling the blood pumping in his veins a bit harder now as his thoughts suddenly began to race. Flashes of the fight and of Sarah crossed his mind, he closed his eyes and brought his hands to his head as it all became a bit too much to bare.
His legs became weak again and he shot his hand out to stabilize himself on the marble counter. The flashes seemed to come and go in waves now, this one however was finally seeming to pass. He closed his eyes and pinched his brow; his head still throbbing from the cuts and memories.
He was beginning to feel very weary and wasted now, the fight was leaving him and with it all the energy and focus too; he felt so drained. “Well shit happens I guess,” He mumbled, pouring himself another glass. He took a small savoring sip thinking it would calm him. But with one look back up at his reflection his glance shot back down to the glass in his hand where it stayed for a moment. He shook his head, battling inside. When he looked back up there was a twisted grin on his face that was more empty than emphatic — to be frank it was quite unsettling. Something was off in him and he couldn’t beat the welling discomfort.
“Alors,” he paused, raising the glass to his reflection, “C’est la vie.” he smirked sarcastically, downing it all. He groaned as it burned all the way down, feeling the warmth inside.
Oliver had turned away for a moment but in a sudden surge of frustration, like a thousand images flickering before his mind and a million pricks of pain, he shot back around and flung the empty glass as hard as he could against the wall, shattering it to bits.
His breathing was heavy again and his fist were clenched, yet instead of vicious rampage there were tears in his eyes and an overwhelming anger that he could not control. This time he felt the pull of gravity all too greatly, letting his knees buckled from under him and falling to the floor in a heap, he sunk his head in his arms and closed his eyes, finally succumbing to his fatigue.
White walls again. No whispering though, thats good. Who are these people? I can’t see their faces, where am I? It’s turning white… fading… it’s gone.
A desk. A man at a desk, who is that man, is that me? He’s wearing a white coat — that’s not me. There’s paperwork stacked but I can’t tell what it is. The whiteness is back, I’m gone again.
Anna? Where are you taking me? Hold on slow down. Wait. Where are we? Shattered ceramics. Torn photographs. Are we at home? But it’s so… cold. You look angry. I hear whispers again.
My hands, they are bloody. Is that… is that-that my blood? or is it… The walls… all the white walls are dripping red.
My bed? I’m waking up in a sweat. There’s something, there’s something in the room.
Madness is difficult to decipher. Sometimes it was obvious, and other times not at all. Other times it was nigh impossible to tell; you couldn’t see a difference — it only appeared. Some times the most stable individuals faltered and what could you do? Even they forget there was ever a problem. To escape it, that crumbling state of mind, some find that freedom, however misguided, by embracing it. After all, in total darkness it turned obsolete to search for any remnant of light. So simply put, you succumb to the shadows, believing you were found.
Of course it’s easiest to do when nobody knows you personally. They’ve nothing to compare you too, they just see the world you weave right here and now. Especially in the media’s eye — for everyone knew of you, they all knew your publicity and the world tied it together with bits of truth and scandal. Here and there, all glued together by rumor mills that color blank spaces in deliciously juicy shadings. All it takes really is a shift in the perspective; turning a grin sinister with the right lighting, or a phrase aggressive with the right writing. In a world as illusory and exploitive this was both a blessing and a curse — depending on whose perspective was being manipulated, that was.
In his time in the lime light, Oliver had become a master of manipulation, aware of the subtleties needed to turn a simple man into the evenings magnate. With the right company, a pauper to a prince, and a loving man to a gangster. There were textures required to present class, and colors needed to send the right message. It was eerily satisfying in a way. The smallest twist of words could write a script of rags to riches, or biblical proportions into pious perils, and in Oliver’s case, a tender artist to an extravagant lord.
Of course, it was more difficult when your own perspective started to shift beyond your control. That was when the world became a difficult game to play… when it felt like you were the one being played. Wars within your head raged like the ones outside and everything seemed to be uncomfortably interconnected, and it could all be brought down with the wrong pull — like a terrible game of Jenga. See if all the strings were tied with your own how could you pull one without meddling another? Perhaps that was why he opted for a cold heart, it was far too dangerous too much to warm back up, and after all, he had become too invested.
Nevertheless, he found that all things could be overriden. Enough power could persuade even the most stubborn knots to straighten out. In that case he had found his personal solace in a cocktail of high fashion soirees, power plays and party drugs. This was where Oliver could find freedom from the woes of his life, and though it was all induced he could escape from the clamor within his head, if only for but a little while.
Especially in light of that recent catastrophe, this was ideal. He had absolutely no desire to hear all of his thoughts burning and searing within him and he certainly did not want be in the states, no less in Chicago — at the source, the chatter would be far too loud and media wise, if it had not yet been already, we beans would surely be spilt. They always were.
So, by the time the morning light had peaked above the horizon, he’d already booked a flight to Milan, where Andrea, one of his closest friends, would welcome him with open arms. It was a not too often that this occurred, because of of Andrea’s corporations and Oliver’s commitments they weren’t able to be together all the time. However when their paths finally did cross, they both gladly put it all aside.
Ever since they were young, back when Andrea lived in the states, the two had shared great and vivid dreams of legendary power and prestige. One day they would ignite all those ideas akin to carefully rigged explosives — as if they’d been wiring them for years. Carefully tinkering until the time came to set them off. The two would always be discussing the future and all of their success as if it was assured, commonplace. Spending days and nights working out ways to slip into fame and fortune, always talking of a time when it would all really happen.
And believe it or not, everything turned out nearly how they planned it. The money came and it never stopped, Oliver had come up in the art world and funded Andrea’s startups which then too flourished on their own accounts. It was a beautiful evolution; they moved up and up, above the clouds, climbing to the top of the highest peaks they could find. Yet there was no telling what would happen after they had made it to the top.
All that money could really change a person. Oliver had found that out. Even now his time was too clouded to see past, and he never would’ve expected being in situation he was in now. Still there was a solace to be found in all this, and truly he was happy to see his old friend.
The time they spent now had been helpful too, though not exactly as he had hoped. In their many conversations he had hid a lot of his last few years and the two went on as though they were still kings of the world, which of course they were, but their kingdoms were in states far removed from each other. Illusion seemed to hold Oliver’s fickle world in bliss, but a lovely moment of ignorance was all it was, still he couldn’t help but cherish it, and loved every second.
Only, nothing held him long enough. They talked deeply on the subjects of the soul and of love, but Oliver separated himself from all of these things, giving truths that overarched life, rather than his own. It was a clever deception, saving face, but it was a move that damaged him so deeply — in ways that hid even from him. The boiled like bubbles in clay set to someday explode in the kiln. Aneurysms that threatened ominously, like ticking time bombs.
We have no idea the people we become after living a lie for so long, the details get twisted and colored so strangely that you begin to pick them up and carry them as if they’d been apart of you for a lifetime. The old life forgotten like the last traces of a dream the night before, wisps of a carefully crafted fantasy — a novel with many of the most important lines all blacked out.
In many cases, the problems that persist become our own and we justify them in the moment, as if they were unique to that moment — but nothing simply hurts you. Rather its the actions before us that place you in harms way, whether by another’s doing or your very own. However we are quite good at overlooking our own. Although, not nearly as good as blaming others. Sometimes we are so quick to consider the world against us, as though we want to fight — as though it would make things better somehow, waging wars.
Unfortunately, once you’ve chased the rabbit deep enough down the hole you have no choice but to keep following. Oliver had been living this lie for so long it seemed reality was second nature. After all, he could afford to look the other way till the end of his days, were that what he wished;
carelessly existing onwards; numb, sensual — and if he didn’t stop to breathe, even blissful.
Lively music. A silk coat. Tapered fit. Italian essence. He grinned, revealing nothing. Good music and electric crowds. They laughed and shook hands, drank and took dances. Ate beyond content and confided only to silence.
Several days went on like this, pure luxury wrapped in a a luscious illusion of paradise without a price; what a heavenly thought. It was sad in this case that it was just a thought. For Oliver found himself falling into deeper gaps of incredible sadness that he covered with corrosive chemicals until he no longer remembered the sadness. Whether he was swept up in the beauty of the place right before him, in the magnificent architecture, the eccentric culture and extravagant lifestyle; life ticked on with a compelling drive that happily moved on without him. He focused and it still filled his day with thoughtless glee. Yet no matter how much excitement, how much thrill, there was nothing to remedy the abject emptiness that clanged deep inside him. It was as though he’d left himself somewhere far back in the past and the farther he moved forward, it only became harder to remember — he grew more and more foreign each day. It was as though he was once earth, plant matter, so compact and fertile, but as the refineries pressed and pulled him apart he was turned into plastic and rubber; forms that bore no resemblance to that old organic kind.
Yet despite the harrowing transformations, and the pain it put him through, he merely convinced himself — as humans have become so adept at doing — that it was a product of progress. That the world had made him thus. And for a while he bought it. It passed the time, seemed to answer the question. He really embraced it too, feeling it was the hard truth that he, as all humans, must accept as a part of this cruel, cruel world.
What distorted bullshit. What a load of half-wit, brainwashed, over roasted coffee brewed up in the back alley dumpster of a pharmaceutical conglomerate that just signed a merger with the standard oil company during Sunday mass piece of bonafide garbage.
If it happened to anyone else, Oliver would tell you so. Oh, this was surely the greatest sign of distortion and dysfunction. He would give you hell and then crumple it all up with an elegant turn of tongue. I mean he’d rant so passionately that you would be compelled to bow, taken so aback by the enlightenment and the truth spewing from the mouth of this wise one you’d reconsider hatred. He would condemn all those weakened fools who began to believe life was nothing but a struggle, a painful place. In fact, his words would paint a picture of such beautiful proportions and scintillating wonder, exclaiming the magic of a moment, the art in time and how it can weave such powerful stories that you just wouldn’t believe you’d ever doubted in the first place. Woah. Get a load of that irony. Shit, you may even feel drawn to him, fluttering around him like moths do a flame, thinking he’d had it all together.
Yet alas, he was no more a wise one than you, who fell for his spiritual sensei mockery. Although as far as he was concerned, you’d never know… and neither would he. There was a time once whenever it was pure and sincere. He was worth the respect and helped a great many. However he had got hooked on the same line of diluted crap that they fed all the sheep. Worst part was though, he had done it to himself. All the lies, the fear and doubt — he always knew what he stood for and what this world was, but over time and toil he had forgotten the ultimate truth behind truth. You could never actually be if you thought about being.
Instead, he drove forward with ambition and prayers of a better tomorrow — they cleansed him of his pains and gave reason to the days he would trudge through like an ox carrying the weight of the Trail of Tears. In his delusions, he was as mindless as an animal, and how could a beast ever know what they carried?
Moving on. There was nothing here to focus on really, just a bunch of pitiful retrospection.
Anyways, some time forward… maybe a few days… you could find Oliver all the way in Ibiza, Spain. On the island of magical electronic music, and beautiful bohemian princesses. It was this tropical cornucopia of lavish and rhythmic exotica. The two casanovas had let their flow of fun carry them across the sea to attend the notorious ASAP Rocky’s birthday party.
By some stroke of universal magic or conceivable writing, Oliver was actually good friends with ASAP Rocky. It was an amazing coincidence surely, but by this point it was really all a blur of intoxicated socializing. He had always been corralling big names like a shepherd with sheep; it was something of a hobby for him and really an excellent form of marketing too. Ever since he was starving and now that he was striving, he had yearned to make connections in a world far bigger than his own. This evening even, many aristocrats and even royalty from those countries who still managed that way would approached and converse with him. Praising and applauding. Some tried to talk business, others to inquire on new collections, but most were really there to catch good vibes where the source seemed strongest.
Oliver only nodded and deflected with poise. At this level of highness these scenes were only flickers of reality — the brain making sense of whatever it could hold on to… which wasn’t much. There were other artists too that wanted to reconnect. Even ASAP Rocky himself had called on him to have a smoke and catch up. They talked on new projects and life in general, remembering old times when Oliver was a closer friend, finding shared interests in fashion trends and different art styles.
Interestingly, when he had first started to pick up headway, grab bigger paychecks and rolled on a higher buzz Oliver had gravitated to all of his favorite characters in celebrity life. Simply to make a connection or to contract them for their own collections. People like Brunello Cucinelli and the owners of Vice, other painters and even some actors. Although he always had love for this particular rapper, plus Rock, Rakim as it was, had bought a couple pieces himself actually. They moved farther apart when he started to spiral out of control but the world would coin that as busy lives keeping the good down. You know, presentation is everything after all.
It wasn’t sad though, they did have busy. enjoyable lives. Lives which made a bold entrance once again here too, and even though they cherished the chance meeting, the party took up most of the island and there were far more things prying at their attention. As it was, without any remorse or real care, they rarely spent more than a few hours together. Even still though it was good to catch up on each other’s existence.
Urban slang. Wise moves. Bodies glistening. Heavy bass with dips and dabs. Golden chains, and diamonds dancing in the haze. These psychedelic flows echoed through the walls until colors melded and meetings met themselves. Contours were carved like statues, as these intricate patterns pirouetted and sensations embodied everything; consciousness unlocked.
By this time, the weight was barring down on him with such a depressing force, it pushed him down, deeper and deeper into a hole that he refused to acknowledge. Which seemed a terrible trend. In response to this cataclysm he would turn up the scene higher and higher to keep him distracted. Ironically, the better the moment, the heavier the world became. Oh poor Atlas was beginning to grow weary again, but it just felt too good to believe it was doing any worse.
Before long, Oliver’s blissful, swirling haze became a beast of its own. Untamed, it carried him away, roaming to far off places unknown.
3 days later.
A vibrating phone. The sixth missed call. Today was not good, it got even worse tonight.
Another phone call. No painter could keep this up. Focus was finicky to begin with.
Calls came from downstairs. Why couldn’t he find peace. She couldn’t see him like this. Oh no, there were broken canvases on the ground around him. He was a mess, so stressed out.
Deadlines were literal weren’t they? He was so late for this collection.
Why did he even care? It made him angry.
The silence was disturbed by yet another vibration and it threw him off completely, he snapped like the brush that just swerved a stroke.
He hated everything, why was he so angry?
He threw the canvas and shoved a shelf.
Picking a ceramic piece off the floor to shatter, blindly enraged…
He awoke with a start, his eyes were wide with shock and his breath was heavy. Oliver sat still for a moment while sweat glistened on his forehead, trying to recollect his thoughts. ‘Another bad dream’ he whispered to himself, rubbing his hand on his forehead and running his fingers through his hair. He felt exhausted and but that was not what troubled him, after having a quick glance around the room, surveying the table and drawers, he came back with the very peculiar conclusion that he was in fact not in Ibiza anymore.
He laughed to himself, amused for a moment at how completely lost he was. Oliver looked back over to the bedside table to find a pack of cigarettes sitting harmlessly next to a box of matches. He grabbed the pack first, pulling out a cigarette and putting it to his mouth calmly and then grabbed the matches, lighting one with an ever elegant ease despite his shambled state.
He took a long drag and let it roll out of his mouth slowly.
“Okay,” He nodded and opened his eyes, looking up to scan the room, “So what have we here?”
The room was earthy and quaint, perhaps a bungalow of sorts. It was all made of some wood, a yellowish to dark reddish-brown. He sniffed. Beneath the smoke there were heavy traces of a spicy-sweet and musky fragrance that grounded the room. He raised an eyebrow. Sandalwood maybe. Furthermore there were many intricate rugs scattered beautifully across the floors too, and the whole house was filled with the sweet smell of incense. Sandalwood definitely but there was something like Frankincense too, he thought, the palette was so rich and eccentric with so many scents vying for power. There was a floral undertone that was quite subtle. Lavender that kissed your cheeks. He saw them on the other side of the room; leaving the trails of white smoke that danced exotically in the few rays of sun. There were no lights either but rather old oil lamps that flickered tastefully. They were lit dimly, bathing the room in a soft, warm light.
He nodded with a glance of intrigue,
To his surprise the doors to the balcony were also left wide open and from there the sun snuck its way into the room, but like a vignette it left the corners in a dark, cool shade. Now pairing all of this with the burning incense had made him fell certain there was someone still here. Who was it though? And what the hell had he done last night. Or the night before. He felt like the past 2 or 3 days were blurred in a haze.
“Okay, I’ve got to get out of here,” Oliver thought a little more urgently this time. He grabbed the covers to pull them off but quickly threw them back on upon realizing how entirely, and quite astonishingly naked he was underneath.
He shook his head and laughed, taking another drag, ’Where the fuck am I?”
The room gave off a very relaxed oriental atmosphere, and he could feel a very ominous spiritual undercurrent. There was a powerful entity within these walls.
“I see you’ve awoken,” spoke a soft, foreign voice. Too foreign. He looked up quickly, making eye contact with a beautiful young woman standing still in the doorway. She had on long, curly black hair that fell to one side and wore a long black robe untied, revealing a most gorgeous torso that flickered sensually in the lamplight. She carried a tray with a bowl, and two cups with steam rising from them. There were some clothes draped on her arm. He had never seen this women before in his life and held her gaze for a long, scrupulous moment; her eyes, unlike her robe, draped her in a veil of secrecy.
“Yes, and quite peacefully at that,” he managed adroitly.
She smiled, catching the sarcasm in his voice, walking a bit closer now.
He took a drag and then gestured towards the clothes, “Those are mine?”
She continued walking to the bedside table where she placed the bowls and cups,
“Yes they are, I washed them for you. They were quite dirty.”
She handed them to him and he felt the warmth of her hand brush by his. She continued on as if guided by a list of chores.
“Thank you, that’s very kind.”
He looked down at the clothes, thinking about what she had said, but the girl spoke in such a way that made him feel as though she meant something worse than mere mud or food stains, as if his clothes were impure or tainted by evil.
Nevertheless he pulled off the covers and stood up to put on the clothes, revealing his slender but still well chiseled frame that too danced sensually in the lamplight. He couldn’t help but notice how intimately she looked at him, at all things. He smiled, certain now the feeling was quite mutual; he looked back at her, curious to find out more.
“So, what I am I to make of all this?”
He threw over a well worn burgundy henley and a pair of midnight chinos. He took a relaxing sigh as the weathered cotton fell effortlessly on his burly shoulders.
“To make of what?” She did not look at him just yet, still sorting a few drawers out.
“Of this house,”, he spoke, looking around the room again, “Of these clothes…” he said now looking at his shirt, inspecting the fabric, and then he pauses to take a seat as if preparing for show, “And of you, whoever you are.”
She looked at him and the two exchange encrypted glances. He takes a sip from one of the cups and smiles, noticing a familiar taste of the Jiaogulan vine.
“You have excellent taste by the way” He spoke swiftly, raising his cup.
She smiled, though kept quiet. Perhaps still sorting out her words.
“You do not remember anything, do you.”
He shook his head, “I’m afraid not.”
Again she held her tongue.
“All I remember was the party on Friday night,” He took a sip of the tea and shrugged,
“Well, sort of.”
He then looks back up at her, “I remember my dreams though.”
She raised an eyebrow,
“Some were bad, very bad. Yet there were others… they are faint, but I remember I was being blanketed in this peaceful warmth, it was like laying in a quiet field of sunlight, there —“
She laughed lightly, looking at him again with those mysterious golden eyes.
“Am I missing something?” He asked curiously.
“You do remember,” She spoke with an elegant smile, he watched perplexed as she picked up the other cup of tea and turned back to him.
“Here,” she says softly, taking his hand, “Come with me.”
The two walk out to the balcony, where a light breeze whispered in, sifting through their hair and caressing their cheeks. He took a deep breath, breathing in the salty musk of the sea. He smiled warmly as if greeted by a pleasant stranger.
Suddenly and unashamedly this new enchanting world had overtaken him, it was still early in the morning and the sun’s rays were bright, radiating a warmth much like the one he had felt in his dreams.. Yet these were not those, and the place he entered was not like the one he had been in before he had arrived but it seemed to blossom beautifully, so he would take it as it came.
He walked forward, following her into blinding sunlight. When the light broke way and his eyes adjusted, he fixed his gaze on an aqua blue sea.
“When you came to me Olver you were in a very dangerous state of mind,” She spoke with an air of wisdom that was enchanting. “There was a darkness in your heart, one that I was truly worried I would not be able to cure.”
He was beginning to gather that this was more than he anticipated.
“For the entire night we channeled energies, embracing the evils that roam free in the dark recesses of your mind.” She looked up at him, “You are a dazzling spirit Oliver, but you have been terribly corrupted.”
He held her gaze but chose not to respond. How could he? It was perplexing to say the least. He only turned to the ocean, watching as the tide drew near; falling with a rolling crash that coasted smoothly in the sand before falling back to he sea from whence it came.
He turned back to her, finding her eyes upon him, and he spoke only to pass the torch.
“The coastline,” He said softly, “It’s beautiful.”
She glowed at this and nodded her head. Refusing to shed elegance, she spoke gracefully, “It is the most beautiful sea you will ever lay your eyes on,” speaking in such a way that made him believe it. He smiled and looked off, back at the foreign tides.
“It’s a shame I don’t know where on earth it is,” He turned back to her with a smirk.
“We are in Morocco,” She spoke with grandeur, “Just outside the city Nador.”
He looked at her for a long second.
“In Morocco.” he said incredulously.
“Yes.” She smiled, amused.
“I see,” He started to chuckle, “Right, yeah that’s funny.”
She remained quiet but looked at him with daring eyes.
He responds quizzically, trying somehow to make sense of this newfound information,
“But I was in Spain,” He began to pace, “Ibiza — I was at Ibiza with Roberto and some new friends… I-I…”
He looked back at her in search of relief but she remained steadfast.
“Oh come on.” He was beyond disbelief, “God I don’t remember a single bit of this…” He ran his hands through his hair and rubbed his face, obviously perturbed.
“In fucking Morocco?”
She smiled wide.
“Welcome Oliver,” she said cordially, “I am Narcisse Noir, but you may call me Nashira.”
He was speechless. Now completely and unequivocally baffled, he stuttered over his words, doing his best to piece together some kind of logical response, “Narciss— uh, Nashira,” he paused, studying her.
“How did I get here… h-how did you find me?”
She laughed at this, “Darling, you found me.”
He was so lost.
“You contacted me through Ernesto at the Souks in Marrakech. He is my eyes and ears there in the central square, he says you were in need of tasting eternal paradise. ”
He raised his eyebrow “What do you mean eternal paradise?”
She pondered her response, “Ernesto has a way with words that is sometimes… confusing. He says things that he does not hear but rather feels instead — although he is usually never wrong; something about you must have peaked his interest.”
This was a lot to take in, he was unsure on most of it but figured he would have to take all with a grain of salt. “And so this Ernesto, he says… I’m in need of paradise?”
“Yes.” She smiled warmly. “We all are. But you,” she looked at him with an intense and captivating gaze, “You are especially in need of paradise.”
He knew this to be true but he was still lost on the concept of paradise, what was she meaning by that and where was he going to find it? He was preparing a slew of questions to ask her but before he could even speak she grabbed his hand and spoke with a twinkle in her eyes,
“Come, I will show you now.”
“But my memory—“
“Oh do not worry, it will come back to you in time. The flower takes at first but whatever it takes it returns ten fold.”
“The flower?” She couldn’t possibly be meaning marijuana.
“Yes darling,” she replied, chuckling like a mother would to her curious baby.
He suddenly began to feel excited and adventurous, undeniably fascinated with this woman. Fearful of course, cripplingly so, but his curiosity trumped terror and he pursued her wherever she would go. Oliver watched as she walked into an open room very similar to his smoke room in the Chicago flat. He followed in as she turned on several oil lamps and lit a few sticks of incense, allowing the room to illuminate with an air of mystique.
He finally connected the dots.
“You mean Opium, don’t you?”
She did not reply, but instead turned around to face him, an intricately carved bamboo pipe resting firmly in her hands.
“You fight a daily battle with your demons,” she began, “the days are distracting enough but the nights,” She studied him, catching the bags under his eyes, the stress on his brow, he was almost certain she was clairvoyant but it was not hard to see, “The nights are most torturous for you, dragging you into ravenous dreams that torment and taunt you.” She ran her hand down his cheek softly, “You are riddled with the evil eye, Oliver.”
All of a sudden the shadows shifted and he could feel her powerful presence emanate throughout the room; the candles flickered and the incense swirled.
She handed him the Bamboo pipe and he held the piece up, admiring it’s craftsmanship, running his hands down the smoothed curves and fondling the metal bowl that was covered with incised calligraphy. He looked back up to find her very close, placing her hand on his cheek then chest; first calming, then empowering.
“Close your eyes Oliver, lie down. Take a deep breath my sweet.”
She placed a small oil lamp next to his cot and he put the pipe up to his mouth. Careful not to actually burn it, he inhaled slowly, letting the fire warm over the putty as he took in an incredibly full hit; exhaling billows of white smoke. He took another, watching the chunk glow red before letting out another thick cloud.
Flickers of a divine sanctuary.
Like a feline she watched him intently, her eyes piercing as they observed the events with assiduous and intoxicating allure.
It was a golden meadow, kissed by the sweet, setting sun.
He blinked slowly, feeling a great warmth starting to swell in his navel and then expanding throughout his entire body. The surge of energy was disorienting but euphoric, it jarred and pulled at him, succumbing his restless body into a peaceful sleep.
Colors danced and shifted, figures vague and familiar leapt before him, dancing a waltz in the ethereal spring pasture.
He could not speak, for the world around him was drifting away. Light from the lamps behind them all blurred together into a glowing fog that breathed in and out.
Now directing his gaze to Nashira he noticed that she too glowed vibrant.
Bathed in warmth, her presence was soothing but for a hint of deception.
Her eyes were unending, looking deep within him as he could see them probing; searching through the corridors of his shambled mind.
Suddenly she blinked and returned to the surface, her eyes shifting now to take the form of an exotic seductress, caressing him with sensual glances.
Her eyes transfixed on the remnants of his soul, every movement like the crash of the sea.
He watched on curiously as she mouthed several words that he couldn’t understand and began chanting phrases of a lore he could not fathom.
As he thought this, she arose with a regal swiftness, letting the robe slide off her, revealing the enchanting contours of her supple body as it swayed elegantly in the hazy blur. She let her hands rise and fall and he watched as they glided through the air, making games of the shadows and cutting lines through the streams of smoke.
Orbs of red and violet emerged above the trees so far away, they spiraled and pulsated.
He looked on, worried of nothing and questioning little as Nashira’s graceful movements helped him navigate through his cluttered thoughts, finding peace in this world of warmth. She danced for what felt like hours. She too, taken by the flower’s mystical vigor, performing rituals of healing and meditation that guided him to a restful bliss.
He now sat energized and entranced by Nashira, feeling a connection that enveloped the two in an ethereal veil, connecting them together. He could feel the energy she was giving off and could sense she was feeling his own; they sat together channeling the flow of energy between them.
Throughout the ritual he continued to catch signs of a deeper level of energy, a subtle power more subliminal than anything he had encountered before. He felt like there were moments when she was challenging him, taunting the fears inside and seducing his crippled psyche with an air of allure that begged him to move closer; daring him to take a step into her world.
Feeling for the first time a sense of complete mental control, he surged forward with vigor.
Entwined in a euphoric haze that engulfed them both in the depths of a dark, cool jungle. Now laying on top of her, both of them were bathed in a sensual red light that glowed bright in the mysterious rainforest.
All around them animals murmured and groaned, their calls echoing in the darkness while drips of sap oozed down the sides of trees. The amber syrup dripped to the ground like rain drops on a still pond, propagating waves that resonated deep beneath them.
There at the center of it all the two held the most intense of gazes, locked in a dream of primal desires that flared with a youthful energy.
Finally he mustered up enough courage to embrace her, bringing her close and kissing her with a passionate ferocity that she matched effortlessly. She was swift and sensual, pulling off all his clothes with an eager grace. He felt the life pulse through him again; invigorated as they fell deeper into the erotic clouds of ecstasy.
In the heat of the moment, though there was life and love he could feel the stirrings of worry, and of shuttering chill, like the feeling you get before a great storm; like going down a path he was not meant to follow. It petrified him with a sense of impending darkness, as if they were arriving at a threshold that they had not yet opened —one that carried the evil she spoke of.
He felt a wave of apprehension take hold of him and in this haze it twisted and tampered with his vision, disorienting him in ways he could not describe, sending him signals of pain and suffering.
The colors blurred in a frightening desolation.
He was paralyzed but Nashira however was alert and ready, she watched him with a sober and intensely studious gaze that penetrated him, communicating with all the energies within, interacting with the darkness, tempting it to reveal itself, daring it to arise.
The sky gave way to white, beginning to break apart, forming walls that closed in on him.
This was the moment she had been waiting for, she knew that in his most vulnerable state would the darkness haunt him most. She began chanting words of ritual in a tongue foreign to him, she swayed and moved with an exquisite glow that brought to life both of their auras.
Oliver felt a searing pain in his chest but he did not fear it, instead he embraced it and let it pass him like water through a filter, cleansing him. He fell into a state of illusion that blurred the lines between flesh and fantasy, creating a world that felt all too real and yet, more surreal than he could have ever imagined.
And reality was lost.
He was taken to another world, dreaming of a pond with waters that shifted and swayed, corralled by the moon and lulled by the breeze. There on a lonely island; he sat lightly on the beachfront, feeling the sand so damp and cool to the touch, smoothed by the waves. Beyond him the water seemed to be limitless, stretching out as far as the eye could see until it was engulfed in a grey, and ominous fog.
He sat in silence, hearing only the waves as they beat against the shore. In the distance the fog seemed to shimmer and shine, flashing bright colors like lightning in a storm. His eyes grew wide as more colors shot out above him, painting the sky. They danced before the stars in fluid and exciting movements. The colors rose and converged before him, coming together in mandalic patterns that swirled and collided, making the foundations of visions he’d seen somewhere before. Paintings emerged he’d seen only glimpses of, cityscapes seen from afar were brought closer and superimposed.
Shades of bright violet and deep blue echoed in the distance as cardinal reds and majestic purples swam above the surf.
He could feel her presence all around him.
Behind him was the source of these colors: a bright white light emanated from the middle of the island where, like a prism, the light broke into a spectrum of vibrant energy. Oliver grew near, wanting to peer closer, wanting to touch it and experiment with it, but each time he tried he was forced to pull away in searing pain.
Reluctantly he floated in the dark awhile, watching as the dancing colors merged together, becoming flashes of bright white light that united into a constant stream. It grew and grew, greater still until it was so bright it nearly blinded him. Eventually he readjusted and was just able to make out figures in the light, figures that gave way to familiar faces; and as time passed, those faces developed into people, and then places, evolving into visions —they were memories. He weaved through the his thoughts, recalling things he wished not to remember, watching helplessly as they flickered before him.
He saw visions of himself standing before a great canvas, memories from years ago surged forward and he greeted them warmly. In time though they began to flicker like a broken transmission; traces of a phantom menace began to emerge. It became most apparent in his movements and thoughts, and in the empty room he caught himself conversing with the emptiness of the room, building demons in the dark.
The next morning the room was still and calm, the windows were open and a soft breeze blew through the curtains; they fluttered lightly in the early morning grey. Oliver sat awake in bed, listening to the ocean’s steady flow, letting the tide soothe him. Nashira was laying next to him, fast asleep. She was a beautiful girl, her black curly hair fell in bushels on her head and her skin was a smooth tan that looked as fine as silk. He took a long look at her, admiring the divine sight that was a sleeping woman. He longed to wake her up just to see those eyes twinkle and her smile light up the room, but it was far too early for that unfortunately and so he continued to stare, turning his gaze now to the balcony where the ocean could be seen from a distance. He looked on to see a red sun was just beginning to stir, it’s warm glow was breaking the horizon’s fine line. There was an allure to the dawn that he was powerless to resist, with a lightness in his step he did his best to throw on a shirt and pants as quietly as possible, creeping out onto the balcony where he sat down in the chair and looked on as the morning took hold.
It was a perfect moment, pristine and enchanting but he felt nothing. There was something deep in his mind that held him at bay, that kept him tense and uneasy. He felt like he was restrained from feeling, as if the light had been pulled from him one too many times and he could no longer sustain a flame. Sure he felt that feminine spark, beautiful women had always been able to break him down but it never felt permanent, nothing ever did. They seemed to only prolong the inevitable silence that he couldn’t lie, truly terrified him. It was moments like these when he felt the most frustration, when he knew what he should be feeling — the calm serenity of early dawn or the smooth flow of simply living — it was nothing like that for him any more. A stream of negativity had risen where his happiness had once resided, he harbored these feelings of great despair and couldn’t express them. Feelings of distrust for his own psyche, praying each day to hold on to a sanity that was becoming all too elusive these days. In some ways, in a lot of ways, he felt that if he wasn’t constantly on the move, if he wasn’t always busy or distracted, he would relapse back into the abyss where the darkness would toy with him for eternity.
“You know you are always thinking so much,” spoke a soft voice.
He looked up. The girl had awoken and made her way out to the balcony, he hadn’t even noticed. She wore a black robe and nothing else, her sensuality was almost tangible and it intoxicated him every time he looked at her.
“I’ve got a lot on my mind,” he replied lightly.
“I can see that,” She replied with a mischievous grin, “What could be troubling you so?”
She came and sat on his lap, nestling close, running her fingers across his chest, her eyes were set intently on his sternum as if she were seeing through him. Honestly it would not surprise him if she was, this was her specialty after all.
“There is a great darkness in you.” She spoke solemnly.
“How very cliched of you.” He smirked.
“You are letting it cloud your mind for fear that it is too strong to fend off,” she continued, disregarding his comment.
He looked at her quizzically.
“You are very fearful of yourself Oliver, your body is in a state of suspense and your mind is unstable and over-compensating.”
She looked up at him, a very real worry in her eyes.
“What all did you see last night?” He asked, stepping lively through the topic.
“I know what you fear,” She replied, looking away from his gaze.
She looked back at him, “What do white walls mean to you?”
He looked at her hard, with a very real discomfort welling up inside. Pulling the sheets away he turned away and put his feet to the floor.
“They are a reminder of who I am.”
She said nothing, only moving closer, running her hand on his back. There were so many routes to take here, he thought, so many ways to spin the truth, hoping the facts would never find him.
“I feel it, wearing me down day by day, Nashira.” He said looking away with a pained gaze, “I’ve been living these last few months in a haze,” he confessed.
After a series of thoughts he surmised his fears with the resounding statement:
“I am terrified of my own mind.”
Letting the idea resonate for a moment, it only served to infuriate him further. He tried to get up and leave, hoping to escape before he lost control again. However Nashira was a step ahead.
“Oliver, Oliver” She spoke softly, trying her best to relieve his impulse to leave. “It’s alright… alright?” She searched for his gaze but he was reluctant. She rubbed her hand on his chest, “You are alright right now okay? Today, this morning, you are alright.”
He remained quiet for another few seconds and then looked at her long and hard, “So you want me to tell you what’s really going on in my head huh?”
She said nothing but her eyes pleaded with an wondrous curiosity.
“Alright then come on,” he said with a grin, “Let’s go for a walk by the water.”
She grinned widely at this and got off him, the two then made their way down the beaten path towards the sea. They could feel the cool sands beneath their feet and all that could be heard was the soothing crash of waves against the beach. Oliver watched as they tides rolled in and back out with a calming consistence. The waters were shaded in hues of blue and green that complimented the rocky terrain beyond the sandy coastline. There were cliffs on either side of the bungalow that hid the house in a fertile jungle just beyond the waterfront. It was a spectacle he had only dreamed of seeing, and never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined this. He now turned his attention to Nashira, who walked with an effortless elegance, she too lost in deep thought as the breeze trickled through her long curly locks.
“I was king once,” Oliver spoke with a tone that casted aside all possibilities of arrogance, Nashira could sense that he was sincere. “I had New York in the palm of my hand a few years back, I knew all of the hottest celebrities, was invited to all the parties, knew all the dirty secrets that the art world tried to keep under the rug.”
She looked at him as he spoke but his gaze was set far beyond the horizon, looking back to a place that now, aside from his memory only existed in old tabloids and magazines.
“I released my first collection when I was 19, back then I had no idea what I was doing — I was just a young kid who liked to paint, who dreamed of being rich and famous, like everyone else never really expected anything like that to happen. The day I got the call from the Rodney Charles,” He noticed her confusion, “He was an art dealer, like the John Weber of New York,” That reference too was lost, “Basically, he was mercurial, extravagant and above all things whatever artist he worked with you can be damn sure was going somewhere.”
“And he liked your artwork?”
“He loved it.” Oliver lit up at the thought of this, and she grinned as he came alive, “He said it was some of the most mind-bending and breathtaking work he’d seen in the last 20 years,” He paused as if reliving the moment, “I can still remember the happiness I felt,” He laughed to himself nostalgically, “It was just… so unbelievable; I was overjoyed.”
“But my life was never the same after that.” His tone began to falter and grew worrisome, “Every week I had at least ten new art shows to go to, there was money coming in from everywhere and I couldn’t even get on a social network without my phone crashing.”
He stopped walking, as if the very thought of it exhausted him.
“Charles was setting up curators and museum meetings, deals for new collections, I got a new PR guy that contracted me for advertisement deals, commercial appearances, you name it.”
“And so you lost your love for the art.” She concluded, connecting the all the dots.
“Yeah,” He looked at her a bit surprised but relieved she understood, “Yeah, it became so demanding… so draining… every event, every conversation, everything became another little menial task that I had to hurdle and when I finally got the chance to paint I felt so bogged down by all of the bullshit that I couldn’t think, I couldn’t breathe, they were suffocating me.”
“Eventually it got to a point where I couldn’t work at all, I mean I had released a few more collections but I didn’t feel it you know?” She nodded. “They were my works and it was my thoughts but it was becoming so hard to create, and I just got so caught up in all the glamour of the high life that I couldn’t slow down, I couldn’t find my flow — it tore me apart.”
“So what did you do?”
“Well,” He paused, piecing his words together, “I guess I shut down. What else could you do? When they back you into a corner the only place you’ve got left to go is deep inside, you shut the blinds and lock the doors in hopes that they’ll all forget about you. And I guess I started to like the darkness so much that I never left — even hell can get cozy once you’ve settled in.”
She held his gaze for a long time, seeing the pained reservation in his hazel eyes, and feeling she the restrain that had burdened him so greatly. She wanted to go deeper into him, explore the darkness that he surrounded himself with, and journey back to the time before it shrouded his beautiful mind in a veil of fear. He turned away now and continued on,
“Eventually I fell into a hole that I couldn’t dig myself out of, I fell so far into myself that the world around me lost it’s color, lost it’s glow. People grew grey, parties turned sour, and what’s worst of all was my own mind seemed to turn against me.”
There was a sudden shift in his tone, Nashira noted a fear in his voice.
“I don’t know how it began, I can’t place the straw that broke my back but it came to a point one day that the world was not my own, that there was something in me that wanted to break out — whispers, so many whispers — The only time I felt most alone was when people were around.”
“You are so strong,” Nashira spoke without thinking, too amazed to be composed. When she compared the man she saw before him with the darkness he kept within, it was almost unfathomable; so sturdy yet like a cancer it was eating him alive. Noticing this, he looked at her with surprise, but thought for a moment and held his tongue.
“And the white walls?”
He paused to take a deep breath, the kind you need to take before revealing the deepest secrets. “In that time of darkness I had developed a case of schizophrenia, and I had spent the last 6 months in a psychiatric ward, trying to rehabilitate myself.” There was a anger welling up in him that was almost tangible, “Sitting in those rooms, with the doctor questioning your every move, seeing your thoughts clutter before you and hearing lies whispered as sweetly as a lover’s.” There was a darkness I couldn’t fight and pain I felt I could never escape. He looked up at her, his eyes red-ringed, “Every way you spun it I was locked in a cage, poked and prodded like a fucking animal.”
“And so I learned to cope, learned to repress it and hide it, so much so that even I thought I’d done it, I thought I’d cured myself.”
Flashing lights, glimpses of blood on the floor. A flicker of himself in the window.
“I was so fucking close…”
He paused, thinking on his sins while she said nothing, intent to see the worlds unite.
“And then one night, it all came crashing down.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was stupid, I was fucking stupid.” He turned away, raising his voice, “I let myself fall for her again, I let her beautiful eyes, her-her enchanting smile lull me into a toxic love that-that…”
“Breathe Oliver, breathe.” Nashira spoke softly, “Who was this girl, what happened?”
“Sara, she was this girl I thought that I loved, we were close, very close. One night I had a bit too much to drink I guess, and I don’t know, she kept giving me mixed signals I couldn’t crack it but I guess I wanted her so bad.”
Nashira let her mind jump to conclusions, “What did you do…”
“No, no, nothing like that, I would never…” He drifted off in rumination,
“But given what happened, I guess I might as well have. It’d have been all the same.”
She listened; those perfervid eyes.
“It was an amazing night,” he admitted pridefully, “It was the first party I had thrown after getting back from the ward, nobody knew where I had gone so no one was aware of what was going on inside of my head except for Anton and Sara, but they’re my best friends, they know better than anyone what I’ve had to go through.” He paused, “And I guess too they understand how helpless they’ll be to try and protect me from myself.”
She imagined how hard that must’ve been for them.
“But I thought I could do it,” He recomposed himself, “I thought I could handle it, I thought I was strong enough to control myself. It was my decision, it was my choice to dive back into this world and why shouldn’t I? After all I was so damn good at living in it before.”
He smiled at this for the first time in a while, and she couldn’t help but smile too.
“I don’t know, I guess I wondered if the world would be welcoming, and I guess for all intents and purposes it was, but as it turned out it wasn’t the world that was unwelcoming… It was me.”
“I’m not a monster,” He said shakily, “But after what I did that night, I’m not so sure.”
“She had a boyfriend you know,” he said in shaken apathy, refusing to look at her,
“And in my fucked up mental state… I sent that son of bitch half way to hell.”
The two walked back to the beach house with a quiet affinity, neither of them felt the need for words but their presence alone was enough to charm the silence that only the sea disturbed. Oliver walked with eyes on the horizon, his steps were light on the damp beach but left little indents in the sand just the same. Nashira followed a step or two behind, still processing what had just transpired, her gaze set on the rising sun.
It would be a long time before the silence was broken. The two sat inside the house at a worn thatch table, each sipping an herbal tea Nashira had made. There were subtle glances and quick longing eyes, but neither wanted to be caught vulnerable, each of them still wanting to reconnect. Only problem was, they feared they had not the words to reestablish themselves.
As fate or probability would have it, their longing eyes finally met each other; sending shivers of delight down their spines but paralyzing them in nervous glee. Oliver mustered the courage to speak first, his fears had subsided though shadows of doubt still remained.
“For years I felt estranged,” He thought aloud, “That’s such a strange thought but it always felt like the worlds inside my head were home to me and the world outside was a madhouse.”
Her golden eyes washed over him like the rays of sun, she did not speak but you could sense her mind was in overdrive, thinking deep.
“Out there the people were simple to understand, but so overwhelming in temperament, I don’t know, maybe it was me that couldn’t cope.”
He took a sip of the steaming tea, and after quenching his thirst he continued,
“The world of a dreamer is a lot like the real world,” he paused to consider this himself, “I mean you have to think it up first don’t you?”
“ It seems that when I finally aligned the pieces I figured out that I’d much prefer my dream world instead, I realized the world out there was just too big. Now life before I made it, that was a dream for sure. I could do anything I wanted, there were no restrictions.
He sipped his tea, recollecting his thoughts.
“When the big companies took me over, they threw that beautiful world into a box that they packaged up and shipped out all over the fucking country. They wouldn’t ever leave me alone and the funniest thing about it was I was back where I started — longing for another world but stuck in one I despised.”
“You only appreciate the world you had when you can look at it in a different light.” She added.
He smiled to himself,
“And when you see it in that different light, you realize how great it actually was.”
“But you didn’t couldn’t leave, could you?” Nashira questioned with curiosity.
“Not if I wanted to live the life I’d always dreamed,” He laughed a little, rephrasing his thought,
“Not if I wanted money or luxury or any of that bullshit.”
“But there was no making art there,” His tone faltered; he looked away, “As beautiful a world it was you didn’t have any time for that.”
“I just couldn’t…” He clenched his fists, seething in his bones, “I just couldn’t think, I couldn’t wonder; not when all I had every fucking day was work and interviews and art exhibits or any other fucking thing they could throw at me.”
Nashira put her hand on his shoulder lightly, her smooth hands soothed him like a warm bath but they failed to cleanse his mind. He could feel the twisted thoughts sneaking their way into his mind, and the angrier he got, the more he thought about it, the more they started to creep in like parasites, latching on to whatever they could — he could feel the pain well up behind his eyes.
Flickers of an empty house, where a rainstorm wailed in the distance.
No, he had not had an episode in almost a week and he was not going to have one now.
Shattered ceramics were scattered all over, streams of blood weaved all throughout.
Before Oliver realized it, telling it no was the very worst thing he could’ve done and like a drunk looking to score, he felt like a helpless as it pressed up closer, looming over his head like a funnel cloud in Tennessee.
People. People were all around him, pulling at him from all angles.
He stood up. He shook his head. He couldn’t break the cycle. He shook his head and put his hands to his head so angry at himself. ‘No. no. Get out of my head.’ It felt like those seconds before a tornado touched down.
Nashira began to get very worried and watched for a helpless second as another Oliver waged a silent war before her.
“Do you have any idea hard I’ve been working?” He spoke in a degraded voice that was shrill, poisoned with a devastating undertone of wretched self-hate.
“When I was a kid I dreamed of my future like it was a paradise…” He looked away, thoughts raging through his head like a machine turned on highest setting. Then with a welling surge of pure rage he furiously exploded ripping the thatch table up off the ground and flipping it aside. The glasses shattering into pieces, shards now laying all over the floor.
He stumbled now, staggered by tremors of anger mixed with a pain of betrayal. Broken by this action his knees gave way and he fell to the floor leaning his back against the wall. When he looked up to her, all he saw was abject horror in her eyes.
She backed away from him slowly trying not to believe what she had just seen, she wanted to runaway but the more she went played it back in her head she found that instead, she couldn’t move, and a thought of aid was surging forward within her, there was a hope in her eyes.
He noticed her hesitation but stayed quiet, letting the thoughts of the situation wash over him as he felt the looming terror pulsate. As she watched him she could see the conflict within him, there was something more to this — to all of it, she thought, there was something he was hiding, something he refused to tell her about and she felt it was darker than he cared to admit. His brow furrowed and a look of loss loosened his jaw and weakened his gaze. He breathed heavy still, but whether it was from emotional or physical exertion she could not tell.
Inside, Oliver argued with persistent attrition, despite it’s wicked retaliation aiming to seduce, Oliver resisted the temptation to give in. There was great strife in his mind and he was riddled with a look of beaten and weathered weariness.
“I don’t want this,” He spoke in a tensed irritation. He had developed a splitting headache and the pain was beginning to set in behind his eyes.
“I don’t need this…” He paused and looked at her for a moment, “You can kick me out or whatever you’d like, I understand.”
He looked at her with solemnity. After seeing her hold her tongue there was a look of hope that flashed in his eyes; and he continued fueled by a longing to win her over again.
“But this madness, it—it isn’t me.” He paused, mulling his words.
“I just can’t fight it anymore,” he concluded with terrifying resignation, “…and I’m not sure I really ever could.”
He looked at her again but only momentarily; she sensed his discomfort. After what had seemed like an eternity, she mustered the courage to speak, though weakly.
“I don’t blame you Oliver,” She moved towards him, “I don’t blame you.”
Her hand fell onto his shoulder gently, immediately a wave of relax fell over his weary eyes and he looked back up at her but did not speak. It was like a waterfall had gone still and even he was astonished at this newfound peace. She looked at him again but this time there were traces of fear in her eyes,
“But you have got to fight it Oliver, you have to.”
She smiled at him, the sound of rolling tides were faint as they crashed calmly in the distance. She ran her finger on his cheek, brushing back the disheveled hairs that had fallen in front of his eyes in the wake of his attack.
“I know, I know.”
Birds chirped far off and the curtains fluttered with a somber ease.
“I guess you can imagine how bad it was before,” he spoke with disillusioned eyes.
“It got so bad that I couldn’t leave my house for a straight week.”
“Well you don’t have to leave this one either,” said Nashira smiling warmly.
Oliver looked up to meet her enchanting gaze, he was mesmerized and yet in shock. How could she possibly suggest something like that? After what he had just done, after what he had told her.
“I have dealt with the sickly and wicked, the depraved and despairing, and you too,” Nashira continued as if establishing a resume, “I have practiced the Tarot lore and studied many ancient teachings to be who I am.”
She stood up as if garnering power; her body remained the same, as beautifully as one could possibly imagine, but her presence grew so intoxicating it had nearly attained a certain feeling of tangibility. He looked in awe as she stared back with enchanting eyes more literal than he could fathom into words.
“We will work Oliver, you will defeat this.”
The two spent the rest of the evening picking up the broken table and all of the little trinkets that had been scattered. Eventually they had been able to return it all back to where it had began and the house was once again the sensuous estate it was commissioned to be. Candles were lit in every corner, and incense burnt slowly hanging in the doorway by the balcony.
Oliver sat out on the back porch again sipping tea and watching as the sun’s surrender casted an array of vibrant oranges and reds on the moroccan coastline. He felt invigorated by the days antics and at ease with the world around him, there was a stillness in him that quelled even his darkest of habits.
“Tomorrow we will go into town,” spoke Nashira, her calm and soothing voice resonated sweetly from behind. He turned around to look at her, her eyes on the hanging incense as she fiddled intricately with the dying embers, replacing the old with the new.
“What for?” He asked softly, equally as soothed.
Her eyes darted from the incense to him like a feline, her elegant visage dancing in the dim candlelight.
“You will see,” She replied, smiling with the look of a mischievous schoolboy, “I have planned out a day for us,” She walked towards him, swaying elegantly, “And you dear boy, will not complain.”
Oliver smiled and laughing lightly at this, “Whatever you ask, I’ll follow.”
She looked at him long and with daring eyes, still feasting on his intoxicating allure, she was just as baffled by his presence as he was hers. His strong, calming eyes; and his powerful jawline that seemed to cut with the same sharpness of his wit. Despite her yearning she looked away and instead remarked on his empty tea cup, opting to escape the tension that was all but overwhelming.
Oliver shook his head grinning, also entranced with a similar lovelust. What was it about her, actually about this whole venture as a matter of fact? So somehow finds his way to a Moroccan port city after partying on an island with god knows who — of course this was not uncommon, many times he had found himself lost. There was one time he was traveling to Italy to meet old friends that he found himself in Berlin, hungover, completely disoriented, and waking up in a old world hotel with a girl named Elizabeth from London.
He was prone to drinking and losing himself in the moment, prone to forgetting what he was doing or lacking the care to do it in the first place; often times it left him with such incredible memories and an absolutely splitting headache. The problem was that these memories were rarely connected, and some were stretched out anywhere from a couple hours to a few days. In this case now, he must’ve gotten particularly fucked up. To forget two whole days? He thought back, remembering time passages that flickered like a montage on snapchat; scattered but exhilarating, celebrating nothing at all with people he’d never met before and for all it’s worth, will never meet again.
At any rate, he was probably a broken record walking around a Moroccan city, numb, desperately hoping to be saved — He looked over at Nashira who was in the kitchen, organizing a set of dyes while the tea was brewing, and apparently he had been found.
He was hoping to hold on to these memories though, because for some reason his delirious efforts of self-sabotage seemed not to be so boundless after all. In fact the more he thought about it, he found that there was something inside that was not so comfortably numb as it had once been.
He got up to walk towards the living room, which was less of a spacious sitting area and more of an open smoke room. Intricate Persian rugs, each unique and beautifully woven were covering the hard stone floor. There was a hookah underneath a red oriental coffee table that sat next to a mahogany shelf which, to his surprise, held hundreds of cassettes and CDs; there was an old stereo in the corner.
He flipped through her selection, remarkably enthused and surprisingly fascinated by her music tastes — most of them were old 60s and 70s tunes — he smiled with delight.
He picked up an old cassette and turned around to see where Nashira was… she was still in the kitchen, her back turned. He grinned again and turned back to the stereo, pressing the hard plastic buttons that clicked with nostalgia; he slipped in the cassette.
After a still silence, a soft piano rift began to play. It was light at first but as time passed the elegant melody crescendoed in beatific fashion. Nashira was entranced by the soothing tempo. It was Al Stewart’s ‘Year of the Cat’, a timeless tune that rocked, rolled; jiving with a sweet, nostalgic sensibility. As the piano echoed in the small bungalow, Oliver walked with light steps, coming up behind Nashira and gently grazing her hips as they swayed; humbled by the rhythm and rhyme.
As if chosen with intention, his words melted on the soft soundscape in soothing reverie. His simple hooks conjured powerful images of seductive mischief in a world far removed from their cruel twisted reality. With a subtle twirl, she turned towards him, gracing him with a seraphic smile casted by a blissful eyes. The two began to dance with a simple sway that threw all worries in the wind.
Her hands were soft, but her presence was heavy on his mind; he could stay in this intoxicating spin forever. He felt a surreal sense of connection to her as the music played on with dreamlike innocence; they were losing touch with this slow dull world and entering another, one where time eluded them and fears receded. He could feel his heart beating fast, wondering if she could feel it beat as well; he longed to feel hers.
“I don’t know you,” he whispered with a pondering perplexity, “But that seems irrelevant to me… only here, only now, makes sense.”
It was spoken with such sincerity, from a mind so beaten and bruised, that you couldn’t help but realize how literal he was. Yes they were words of illogical emotion but the relevancy of his words to the state he was in struck a chord deeper than one might imagine and resonated with an intensity that she held on to dearly.
She could only embrace him with a passion of eros and the reason of pragma. Their magnetism overpowered all self-control; helpless as gravity took hold. She kissed him deeply, with the lust only a full moon’s gaze could conjure, and he reciprocated with a fire brighter than the sun.
Suddenly she pushed him away, her eyes wielding a potent allure that he watched with eager eyes. She grinned now, walking back towards the bedroom with her body rocking gracefully to a seductive beat, hypnotizing Oliver like a clock on a string.
She turned back now to face him and was immediately met with adorning lips, kissing vigorously as they stripped away clothes, pulling shirts and flinging socks until no more remained. He then picked her up from the waste, lifting her slowly as she draped her arms and legs around him, letting her head fall back with a sigh.
He set her gently on the bed, kissing her neck as his hands fondled her breasts, giving shivers of a promising delight. She smiled and let out quiet moans, breathing heavily as they spread out over the covers, embracing in the heat of the night; losing words to the whispers of the sea.
His hands dropped lower, running to the southern tip of her body with a delicacy of feathers against her skin; fluid and serene. His touch startled her but only ever so slightly, the soothing impression invigorated her and she gasped, arcing her back and gripping sheets. There was an elegant rhythm to his motions that flowed with a remarkably satisfying tempo that seemed to only intensify his movements more.
She wrapped her arms around him but only to keep herself from succumbing to the overwhelming tremors of pleasure. This however only seemed to encourage him further as he worked his fingers deeper, propelled by a ferocity one could compare to a lion but still gentle enough one might mistake it for a lamb.
Over time his head began to lower, kissing her breasts first, letting his sandpaper tongue glide over her sensitive nipples, and then going lower still while her fingers ran through his hair, twirling his brown wavy locks. This was however, before he substituted tendrils for tongue.
Her eyes went wide and her head shot back as his tongue flickered hot against her throbbing pink flesh. She pulled her hands back to grip bedsheets, letting out a cry of immeasurable pleasure he could only assume was his cue to continue. The atmosphere was ripe with a powerful and seductive sexual energy.
“Oliver please,” she could barely whisper, “Please now,”
Her desire to be penetrated was surprisingly rampant as his efforts so far served only as appetizers, feeding her hunger for the main dish. There was a lull for a moment as he pulled away but within seconds there was sweet relief and finally, they were one.
The entrancing pulse of his thrusts erupted a luminous ecstasy, freeing her from the weight of her mind. She fell away from the world for but a moment in eternity, shedding her skin as she walked in a world of pure euphoria, charmed and conquered. Soon midnight gave way to steamy bliss which carried unto dawn, when the dying embers of day finally rekindled.
The sun crept in early that morning through the balcony doors, it cut through the curtains that swayed calm in the breeze and nestled warmly on Oliver’s skin, moving further up towards his eyes where it gently stirred him from a soothing sleep. His eyes twitched and his nose crinkled as the day welcomed him once again. When his vision adjusted he could see the ocean from a distance, hear the tides, and watch as they rolled in with a peaceful rhythm. He drew in a deep breath before looking over to Nashira who slept gracefully by his side.
He smiled and ran his finger through her long curls, brushing them back behind her ear and revealing her beautiful visage, still at peace. Despite his efforts though, she too woke to the lightest touch and her brilliant amber eyes opened slowly, revealing a sharp, striking vibrancy that countered the sun, glistening in the light.
“Good morning,” she spoke warmly, still drowsy but pleased to awaken nonetheless.
“Good morning,” he replied.
The two stared deeply at each other before speaking again,
“It is our day,” She boasted with a satisfied charm.
“Indeed it is,” he whispered, wrapping his arm around her, “And what shall we do on our day?”
“I will show you the city,” she glowed, and suddenly there was much energy stirring within her, as if the mere thought of it conjured vigor and vitality. She moved swiftly from his arms and up out of the bed, her naked body like warm mocha in the sun. She threw on a black silk robe and began to speak with the alacrity of a Saharan cheetah, brushing over the details of the day like a tour guide would do the itinerary.
“Marrekech is so beautiful this time of year,” She said, speaking with vibrant enthusiasm, “I am going to get new spices, and candles, and I have to get more food too, I just thought of that, oh and new linens for the bedroom.” She gave him a quick, mischievous look and then continued, “Oh and we will have to get you a few things too.” She added grin.
“But I don’t need anything.” He said with a suspicious grin.
“Don’t you?” She replied slyly.
He threw his hands in up the air with resignation, “Well I guess we’ll just wait and have to see.”
“Well I hope you don’t plan on waiting for long,” she spoke slipping on her strapped sandals.
She was astonishingly already nearly dressed and ready to leave, her effortless beauty was surprisingly exactly that, no mincing words nor exaggeration; with hardly a second thought she had managed to prepare herself with the same beauty and grace of a model. She wore a sweet swaying, summer dress; yellow and decorated with bright patterns, intricately woven but simply designed. There was a unity that resonated all throughout her being, from her free flowing hair to her vibrant personality and dress to match, an earthy elegance radiated off her smooth skin.
“You better get dressed,” she spoke, breaking his concentration, “We’ll never get there if you’re staring at me all day.” She looked at him with a wink.
He got up, “And here I thought I was being subtle.”
He slipped into a pair of blue chinos and threw on a grey tee, covering it with a thin jacket and headed to the bathroom. He ran his hands over his jaw, and pushed his hair behind his ears, careful not to let any strays fall; though they always did.
To his surprise, when he turned back around he met Nashira’s gaze too, who, just as he did not minutes before, was watching him with a blatant fascination that broke upon realizing. Shaking her head she simply smiled and grabbed his hand, pleading, “Come on, come on, let’s go.”
“Alright, alright,” he paused to wonder and continued, “How will we even get to the city? I don’t suppose you’ve got a car hidden around here.”
He looked around just too make sure and by the looks of the landscape surrounding the house there was not much room nor enough well paved roads to support something like that.
“No,” she smiled, “Not a car at least.”
The two walked out and around the side of the house towards an old wooden shed with a metal sheet covering it. There was not much inside the shed save a few cans of petrol and a tool box still open from whatever work was done last. The only item of real, genuine interest was covered in a black tarp and sat in the middle of the overgrown garage.
Oliver stopped surveying curiously, letting Nashira step forward to unveil whatever contraption lay underneath the tarp. He was very enthused.
She shot a wicked smile back at him before pulling off the tarp and then slid it away, revealing a gorgeous old Triumph; his eyes went wide. It was a bit dusty sure, with a few scuff marks here and there and a decade old paint job but obviously still in great condition. A black leather racers jacket was laying over the seat and she slipped it on over her dress which she tied off at the end to give her more freedom of movement. The dress was thin enough to stretch without tearing, and just long enough for modesty’s sake. After that she pulled her hair back into a bun and looked at him with a dangerous grin.
“I think I just did,” he smirked, walking up and scoping out the heavy metal before getting on, he wiped his hand over the red fuel tank, “Bonneville 750,” he whispered admiringly, then looking up to ask, “What year?”
“Nineteen seventy-four” she replied.
He placed his hand on her waste gently and mounted, whispering in her ear, “I like this bike.”
She smiled but said nothing, switching a few nobs and feeling out the engine. She looked back at him for a moment and then gave a heavy kick, kickstarting the engine with explosive ferocity. It roared to life with the kind of power you only felt from internal combustion engines, growling low like a wild beast at the brink charge. She revved it a bit for Oliver’s amusement and then took off, speeding down the rubble path, spewing dirt like a roadster on the beach.
She kicked the stand out and let the bike rest, setting it between two old cargo benches, with a tarp draped over it. While the alley itself was quiet, a thunder of voices could be heard in the distance, they mingled and conversed just out of sight. Oliver looked around with a childlike enthusiasm; like his first time at the zoo. There were no words for the city, all around it was sprinkled with a flurry of colors so bright and warm like the morning sun.
Down the long alleyway were caravans selling arrays of beans and seeds, the vendors called out with fervent glee. Next were fruit stands, the vendors too, keen on selling their stock, were scattered all throughout, promoting their vibrant produce at the base of old apartments colored with blue window shutters and red stucco walls.
Just above, one could hear the chatter of neighbors and residents as they went about their daily lives. They spoke between chores, filling clothes lines and folding the clean garments while they talked about what ever. And though Oliver couldn’t understand them he could see the spirited lives they lead. With their colorful garments and careful smiles. They gestured with their hands and connected with their eyes. It was just like any other language spoken, but here he felt an actual sincerity to it all.
He was taken aback by the beauty of the coastal city, charmed by the lifestyle and Moroccan architecture. It looked as though the city was once a citadel, and long ago the villagers took refuge in the outdated defenses; carving out a life in those ancient walls.
“…And when the sun falls below the tower over there,” Nashira had been talking the entire time, “you can see the whole city become aglow with the light and it is…”
“Silhouetted?” He suggested, slightly embarrassed for not listening earlier.
“Mm, exactly,” she smiled, “The walls and buildings are silhouetted by the sun… It is very beautiful in the evening.”
He nodded with a smile, watching the walls like a time lapse, envisioning the effects of the setting sun on some building. He stopped walking and looked around, trying to take in all the remarkable scenery.
“And when will that —“
Nashira put a finger to his lips and spoke softly, “Shh I want you to see something.”
The two had come to a corner covered by a thick Persian rug; the designs were intricate but what was most striking were the lights underneath. Oliver said nothing but his eyes lit up at the thought of what was next.
Nashira took a step forward, peeked behind the rug, and then looked back; when she turned back around there was a brightness in her eyes like the fireworks on a clear night sky.
She turned back and reached up to the corner of the rug, unhooking a connector from the rod holding it up and let it fall to the ground gently; immediately revealing one of the most captivating sights Oliver had ever seen. It was bright at first like the entrance to a paradise but as their eyes adjusted the reality was even greater to behold.
Hidden behind the curtain was the great town square of Marrakech, and as the starting gates released the horses, so too did this unveiling; letting his eyes run free. With a dash they ran throughout the center, past the shops and stands, weaving through the crowded paths who kicked up dust or the incense that smoked heavy.
He was unable to contain his fascination, darting to each stand, marveling at all the intricate lanterns or embellished pottery. There were so many bright colors, all the reds and pinks and blues and golds, everything was lit with a vibrancy, as pleasing to the eyes as an Italian dinner was to the tongue.
They walked all throughout the city center, Oliver as talkative as Nashira, exploring the wonders of the Moroccan world through questions and quips. He would ask about the history of bazaars and quality of the stores, trying to learn as much as he could, perusing through stands and picking out all the interesting pieces he could find.
Nashira, as sweetly as Oliver was to her, replied with the same enthusiasm, alight with a pride for her city and people; spouting facts and details about her magical world as they went.
The two walked side by side, wandering through the crowd.
“I had no idea this was all here,” Oliver spoke smiling.
“You would be amazed what this place has to offer,”
“I already am.”
She smiled and reached for his hand as they walked passed a local storyteller; with little kids all around him listening intently. They slowed as they caught a taste of his silver tongued tale.
“The city has been around since the 10th century,” Nashira started, “It has lived through a great many tragedies and just as many glories, mosques were made, gardens were tended and the shops grew around the beautiful walls.”
She looked down at the storyteller and smiled warmly, speaking in reverie, “So many tales have been made of our sweet city, we are a beautiful people.”
Before Oliver got a chance to reply she continued, grabbing pieces of jewelry from a stand and posing with it on, “You see these, all of these were made by hand.”
She turned to the vendor and spoke to him in Arabic, Oliver could not understand in detail but the sound of a compliment is recognizable in any tongue.
He leaned against a wooden post and watched her glow, adoring her and every step she made, her movements were fast but she flowed with timeless elegance; making it seem like there was no time at all and that instead they were moving to a beat of her own choosing.
She came back, a pair of opal stones in her hand — earrings by the looks of it.
“What did we come here for anyways?” He spoke, smiling quizzically.
She gasped and laughed, realizing how caught up she was, “I still need to resupply, you have to go talk to Ernesto okay?”
“If I knew where Ernesto was…”
“Oh he is over there by the oranges, do you see him?”
A man in a beige suit stood hovering over the stand, he had black curly hair hidden under a matching fedora, wearing club-masters and brown loafers.
“The guy in the suit?” Oliver whispered with a sardonic smile.
“Don’t worry he is only a dealer, he won’t bite.”
“A dealer of what —“ Nashira cut him off before he finished.
“I’m sorry I have to hurry across the square, talk with Ernesto though he makes good company.”
Before he could protest, she grabbed his neck and kissed him with a passionate zeal, slowing time to a standstill as the people passed them by. Startled at first he slowly let his arms fall on her gently, pulling her closer.
When she finally pulled away, she whispered softly in an irresistibly airy voice,
“Don’t worry, I’ll find you again.”
“Okay,” he replied, powerless to say anything else.
“Good.” She stood back, her eyes flushing over him for a moment but she blinked and bit her lip, perhaps to hold back from her own wants.
“I’ll see you soon.” He spoke, watching her as she turned and went her way.
Now he stood in silence as the world went on before him, having no reservations of any description he carried on walking towards Ernesto, confused but persistent. There was little to think of as he walked, save for the past few days he’d spent here in Morocco.
The speed at which his life twisted and turned was beyond his control, he feared his mind was becoming harder and harder to ease and yet he had not felt as remarkable in quite a long time. Something about this place, about this girl, brought him to his knees.
It was one of those little understood realities that still took the world by storm, the breaks from the weird realities we lead, ones that get bogged down with normalcy or weighted by error, worry and decay. He had no idea what he was doing and on some occasions that was terrifying while others it felt all too liberating.
All he knew was the world he came from, the darkness he was constricted by and the ever persistent loop he called life back in the states. His world had come toppling down on several especially painful occasions and he’d worked so hard to keep a grip on whatever semblance of a life he had left. Every detail seemed to distance him further and the more he thought about it the more repulsed he became, overwhelmed by the idea of returning to his broken, half-finished script and intensely frightened by whatever this new piece had in store for him.
He had kept a grip on the past, clung to it with an ever lingering devotion like a shrine. He had praised the great heights as if there were nothing higher and remembered all the lows too, the ones that lurked in the golden reflections of triumph like a viper poised to strike. Venom seethed through his veins every morning, and flickers of a poisonous madness still burned like a dying fire that simply put, refused to die.
Still watching Ernesto with a half-interested attention, he fell back to what he had said to Nashira on the beach the other day; reminded of her as he reflected. He had told her a truth, though it was not the whole truth he had given her much to think on and worried whether it would be enough to satisfy her wonderings. Every fiber of his being held on to the truth, too afraid to reveal it’s full extent and yet desiring more than ever to be rid of it all.
Oliver thought of Anton for a moment, ’Where was he right now?’ he wondered, ‘hopefully doing alright at the least.’ He had left on such short notice just days after the infamous party; not thinking to say goodbye or make any arrangements, he left without a trace. Gone in the morning, leaving with a powerful yearning in his heart, some resistance to further disaster and a relentless hoping for new happiness.
Shaking his head he let these thoughts pass him, walking on now towards Ernesto. Being here in this place alone made things creep out a bit further, and become more apparent. He heard the faint rustling beneath him as his feet sifted the sediment, felt the heat of the people as they started to outline his peripheral. Before him the sights of the center took his attention and he watched the Merchants of many tongues cling to their wagons and carts, selling pieces of any description; rugs, spices, lamps and chairs; some painted bowls stood out to the left.
There was a crispness to it all that made it seem so real and raw, whether it were the underlying scent of meats and body odor, the trailing incense smokes or vibrant colors that lit the tents and pathways the presence of grounding could not be ignored.
It was one of those places that despite reality, despite civilization, you still felt the distinct signature of Earth; the natural cycles of it all becoming harmonious with the daily rituals practiced day in and day out by the city dwellers.
He scanned the fruit stand where Ernesto had been, but instead found him perched at a small table just beyond, reading the paper and having a beer. ‘Was he waiting for him?’ Oliver wondered as he approached, Ernesto noticed him, ’Well it doesn’t matter now.’
“Oliver, Oliver” He shouted across the tables to catch his attention, getting up rather hastily to greet him, “How are you doing, have you been good?”
He did not anticipate such enthusiasm, “I’m doing well, thanks.” They shook hands, and Ernesto gestured him back to the table.
“So,” He took as sip from his beer and started folding the newspaper, “You’ve been busy, eh?”
“Nothing too hard to handle.”
“Ah yes that’s good, yes good. And Narcisse is good as well?”
He took another sip of beer and took off his sunglasses, revealing the most disarming brown eyes ironically hidden behind the souless, tinted aviators.
“You know the first time I see you, you were drunk enough for three of me.”
“Yeah,” he laughed to himself, “I’ve been there once or twice.”
“Yes, yes,” Ernesto paused, “But you look much better now.”
Oliver nodded and smile warmly.
“But do you feel better?”
He looked up at him for a moment, hesitant to make a stance one way or the other. He shifted in his seat and changed the subject.
“Did Narcisse tell you I would be meeting you?”
“She mentioned you when she spoke of coming into town,”
“Here I’m going to get another drink, do you want one?”
“Beer if you please,” He paused, “What’s good here in Morocco?”
“Oh Casablancas, definitely.” He responded quickly. Oliver nodded and watched as he walked towards an out door bar.
His mind fell back to Nashira who must’ve been off somewhere on the other side of the city buying essence of the dark arts or some other more than shady roundup. It felt different to be here without her — all of it was so foreign.
Ernesto came back, setting a sweaty green bottled beer on the table before him. He fished in his pocket for something, pulling out a keychain with a bottle opener attached.
“Here,” he said, handing the opened drink to Oliver and then opening his own.
The two clinked bottles together and took long gulps.
“Now, Oliver, would you mind walking with me for a moment?”
“Not at all,” he replied standing up to follow him.
The two began to walk further out past the market square, nearing the edge of the perimeter where they curved their stroll. Ernesto began, his english distorted by a thick accent.
“So tell me Oliver,” He grimaced, his walk seemed pained. “Do you know what it is that I do for Narcisse Noir?”
“As I understand, you’re a supplier of goods,”
Ernesto shot him a sly glance,
“A dealer,” Oliver then clarified.
“I keep the flow of business for her,” he looked off, speaking as though telling a story, “ I send her clients, set up her meetings and find her patients.” He looked over, with knowledgable eyes,
“And yes, from time to time I am a supplier of goods just as well.”
“I am her dealer, playing the right cards to keep the game moving along.”
“You’re interesting to her,” he responded, “If you weren’t you would not have seen her.”
Oliver said nothing, mulling over his comment.
“She is a healer yes but do you know how many people would see her if it were up to them,” he chuckled to himself, “My god they would string her up within the week!”
“But, what about the—“
“The lovemaking? The opium?” There was a creasing around his eyes, his cheeks were rosy and his eyes benign, “She is a sorceress, a seductress and enchanter,” he took another sip,
“Her ability to entrance is what makes her so powerful.”
“Any thoughts, why opium?”
“Why did you and she smoke the flower, eh?”
“Because it was her ritual, it was her —“
“Her way of getting into your head, dear boy.”
Oliver looked at him with a foreboding glance.
“Don’t worry she is not sinister, this provides a much cleaner entryway into the mind.”
Still perplexed, Oliver pulled out his old pack of cigarettes, offered one to Ernesto who accepted one gratefully and then lit his own.
“So all of this,” He took another drag, “All of this was just to get more information out of me?
“If you want to twist it that way, sure, but your experience was your own.” He took a small drag himself, “And for all intents and purposes, she is interested in you after all.”
“Just never forget her motives, she wants to cure you Oliver.”
Ernesto paused, “And she will.”
He looked off, now slightly dejected.
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Part of her practice is teaching you that some things are needed, though they come in forms you may not understand.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“Even the negative emotions, like anger, fear and betrayal have their place in growth. Perhaps in her way she is subjecting you to these feelings so that you may learn.”
“Well, distrust and deception are the hallmarks of good medicine I suppose.”
“Healthy doses of the dark make the light a little brighter, eh?”
He nodded, seeing the point being made.
“What are you doing here Oliver?”
The question caught him so off guard but even still, the answer felt obvious to him.
“I’m running away from my mind,” he said blatantly, and then after taking a long look around at the city and all it’s splendor he continued, “And so I got lost.”
“But don’t you know you can never escape your own head?”
“You can,” he responded wearily, “It just doesn’t get you any place better.”
He paused, mulling over the weight of it all.
“No matter how you spin it, if you’re lost inside you’re lost all around.”
“And you’re lost inside?”
He nodded and shrugged, “I was.”
“Where are you now?”
He stopped walking and took a slow drag from his cigarette. Ernesto watched as he pulled away the cigarette, weighted by his thoughts. He first looked up out at the square and then to him,
“Well I’m right here, man.”
Ernesto nodded in reverence.
Oliver flicked the cigarette aside and the two continued to walk.
“So Narcisse Noir lies, does she?” His tone resonated with calm fury.
“That is what she does.”
“Her ways are unorthodox, clearly, but she is a different breed.”
“Oh of that I’ve no doubt.”
“I tell you this because you are not meant to love her Oliver.”
He did not respond. His mind was racing with flickers of their time together and all that he felt.
“She is a doctor Oliver,” Ernesto added, “Not a lover,”
His lip started to quiver as the rage began to boil inside him. Ernesto put a hand on his shoulder, and continued, this time with the utmost honesty.
“And you needed to be cured.”
At this, whether for the manner it was told or for the fire within, Oliver turned to him with a deathly cool stare, pushed him aside and walked off, ignoring his pleas.
He pressed on, cutting through the crowd and weaving between the stands and shops that decorated the square like a vibrant minefield. All the people surrounding him payed no mind, living on, unaware of the silent heartbreak that passed them by.
There were a few things he had to wrap his head around, and as he walked he tried to piece them together in his head, connecting the dots like a picture book. Some of it was still a bit of a blur, how he came to this city he could not account for. He blamed the Xanax for that. Even still, this time spent with Nashira was equally as hazy for him, not because of the memory loss but rather the situation itself. He had some how made it to a witch doctor, or sorceress, or whatever she called herself and had what he felt to be the most magical and enchanting time of his life.
Only to find out it was all a sham — a hoax.
‘Perhaps it was exactly that,’ he thought to himself. After all, all of the allure and energy — even her entire being felt immensely surreal and otherworldly. Her mind seemed to be encrypted and all her actions, doubly so. There was a thin, satin veil that hid her true motives from him and the more he reflected the clearer it became. How could he have been so blind and naive? ‘So what if she wanted to help me, that’s no fucking excuse for what she did.’ He felt sick. He felt confused. He felt wronged and yet, who could he blame? The witch for being a witch?
The trail of lies grew more and more dense, and the weight of it all took a toll on him, he was too perplexed by the motive and even more by his own feelings. He must’ve been wandering the streets for an hour or so in dazed confusion.
Guided by fate’s flawless hand, he turns to catch her eye and she walks towards him with a devilish grin and eyes that whisper delightful sin; she hugs him — and embrace no man could turn away from, and then pulls away, riddled with excitement.
“I’ve been looking all over for you.” She speaks, smiling wide.
“I’ve just been walking around really, soaking it all in,” he lies.
“Well theres something I want to show you,” she grabs his hand but pauses and turns around, “Something more to soak in.” she adds.
“Okay, okay” he says with a halfhearted laugh, making quick maneuvers as she pulls him through the crowd, determined not to lose him again.
“It’s almost time,” She calls back with an electric intensity.
“Time for what, where are we going?”
“You will see!” She says amidst her bilingual — maybe even trilingual attempt to weave through the crowd unscathed.
The two dart across the square, seeking a site unknown but pursuing it with the utmost alacrity. Despite his afflictions Oliver is powerless to avoid whatever it is coming his way, and after all, his curiosity is too overwhelming to disregard it anyways.
Now drawing comparisons to a wild goose chase they flutter down the orange alleyways, down past the wooden carts and across the mid-century balustrades. All the while her dress flowed with a liberating sensuality, resonating sweetly with her light footed African charm.
Soon they came to a red stucco building, the door missing but compensated by intricate strings of beads swaying casually in the breeze. She slowed to a more regal walk as they approached the building and then, without any hint or hesitation she turned to him and kissed him, pulling him close with irresistible passion.
She pulls away, “This is my favorite place in the city.” She adds, eyes bright with the joyous light of a child’s. He can only smile.
“Come on, come on!” She adds, taking him by the hand and entering the building.
Immediately upon entering the building they are met with a rickety staircase, fashioned as the main attraction. Oliver looked around, the paint on the walls was chipped and aged, bearing resemblance to an abandoned apartment complex. Yet traces of vibrant reds and blues casted subtle reminders of their foreign allure.
Up the steps they went, rounding at least 3 floors before they reach the final level; a corridor of blue doors. She pulls out a key from her bag and walks to the third door on the right, places it in the lock and turns it, stopping just before it unlocks to turn around. She puts her hands on his chest and looks up, her breath still heavy from the climb.
“What I’m about to show you, I’ve never shown anyone before,”
This he did not expect, he nodded his head, “Okay.”
Admittedly even despite his anger he was very interested to see what she had to show him. There’s no denying it; she was wicked, but damn fun.
She turned the knob of the door and the two were immediately met with a slit of warm red light flooding out from inside. As they walked in, Oliver’s eyes went wide with disbelief; the entire room was bathed in vibrant hues of the setting sun.
Nashira watched as he perused, eyes alight and glowing bright, “I come up here some days when I need to taste life.” She said, speaking in veneration.
The room was stocked with amenities and looked fully furnished, though he wasn’t too trusting of the structural integrity. At any rate the benefits of her frugal lifestyle amazed him. He walked out onto the wrought iron balcony and put his hands on the sun kissed metal, feeling the warmth on his palms. The city was silhouetted in a brilliant radiance he couldn’t take his eyes off.
Oliver turned around to her, “It’s beautiful Nashira,” There were so many thoughts racing in his head, thoughts of who she was and who stood before him; he ran his hands through his hair and looked smiled, “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
She grinned and giggled, making a square with her hand like a photographer, “Now it is.”
He finally broke, laughing and walking towards her. Oliver smiled and pulled her close, their stomachs pressed tightly against one another.
“You know,” she spoke looking off.
“What?” His voice muffled as he pecked at her neck sweetly.
“The bed here is big enough for two” Her tone suggestive.
Oliver’s looked up, his eyebrow cocked, and then went back to kissing her.
“You know,” Oliver’s tone equally as evocative.
He looked back up, meeting her quizzical gaze. “I always kinda liked this city.”
She laughed and buried her head in his neck, finding his lips a moment later. They began to kiss with an intimate passion, pulling each other ever closer. Oliver ran his hands down her dress and picked her up, wrapping her legs around him tight. He then carried her, kissing as they went, towards the open door where he leaned back, sliding it slowly shut behind them.
Going into this situation, Oliver didn’t exactly consider this possibility and even as he was doing it there were second thoughts and conflicting emotions rippling through him. This primal fight put weight on his every move, aggravating him and yet escalating him all at the same time; it translated into quite the pleasurable time not to mention. Nashira was riveted and lavished at points and ravished the next, his sensuality erupted with great magnitude propelling his every movement like a smooth river, gliding with ebb and flow.
As it came to a conclusion though he had found a great deal of communion, and solace with himself more rather than with Nashira. While he cherished her his feelings still remained in a dissonant state, he couldn’t look past the mask and felt no desire to try and salvage the embers that would most certainly fade as he moved to leave the darkness; pleased with the power she restored in him but weary of it’s toxic perils, he’d bare the poisons no longer.
Choosing to depart, leaving the country and what it offered him. He would leave it all only to come back if the reason persisted beyond a want. Knowing him, he’d figure out a way to catch another glimpse of this girl; she was no doubt an incredible woman whose intoxicating presence he intended never to forget.
He stared at her with a warming depth, “What?” She asked curiously, smiling; lost in his eyes.
He shook his gaze with a smile, looking away for a moment, “Nothing really,” he laughed a bit, “This was nice,” he spoke, looking back at her now, “I’ve not felt this good in a long time.”
There was a pause, she took a second to process his tone, it carried a peculiar sense of grandness, as if he meant something larger than this moment, ‘Did he mean the whole time?’ she thought.
“I’m glad,” she said warmly, “I hoped you’d like this place.”
“Oh this place is incredible,” he continued, with an unimpeded nonchalance, “The sunset hits the wall with such a vibrancy,” He looked around, “It really makes the walls come alive.”
“Doesn’t it?” She got so excited at the thought of it, “I feel as if I am in this orange box, the colors so warming and invigorating, radiate throughout and I am in the middle.”
Oliver grinned with a proudness, loving her flow, “I come here some weekends when I shop to stay and meditate, I feel like I am glowing, alive and yet all around,” she looked at him smiling, “all around you, and your being, I could tell you added another element tonight.” She said, kicking him playfully and throwing a mischievous look his way.
“Must’ve been my chakras,” he replied, putting together some good bullshit on the fly.
“Orange is the color of the Sacral Chakra,” He looked at her with teasing eyes,
“And we both know what that means,”
She shook her head, “What does that mean?”
“Great sex.” He surmised, the two laughed heartily.
The remaining time was spent mingling with warm words that were somehow distant in their deeper aim. They were sweet certainly but they seemed to lack the breadth and intensity they once carried. Both of them sensed this. However, their inability to articulate or rather fear of repercussion rendered them inert.
Instead they simply embraced the lighthearted atmosphere, and let it anger each of them more and more with every heartless word spoken. It began to wear on them beat by beat, and after a silent ride back to the beach house, it was Nashira who broke under the weight.
“You know I can feel your discomfort from a mile away.” She blurted, her back facing the kitchen counter. “I wish you would just tell me what was bothering you.” she said, still cutting bell peppers for their evening snack.
Oliver did not reply, he kept his mouth quiet and his eyes averted. His eyes were shrouded in thought, not from fear but rather patience. In his silence she continued, voicing her opinion.
“I mean I had an amazing time,” She began to pace, “I loved every second of it… but I’ve been sensing you don’t feel the same.”
He opened his mouth, beckoned to speak though nothing came out. He closed his mouth again and pursed his lips.
“Please talk to me.”
He finally looked at her, into those enchanting eyes and held the gaze for a long while. After a deep breath, he spoke with the utmost clarity.
Her face was still.
“…All this time… you lied.”
It was spoken with such a depth that Nashira spent no time in wonder, “It was meant to help.”
“It doesn’t matter, and you know that Nashira.”
There was a shock in her eyes, he continued.
“I don’t think I can trust you anymore,”
“Oliver,” She stepped to him impulsively.
“No. No, I can’t.” He responded, grabbing her wrists to keep her at a distance.
There were tears in both of their eyes. She turned away.
“I have to leave Nashira,” he spoke out.
Her eyes were shifting in thought as the gears turned in her mind also.
“Even when you lie too?”
“You’ve been hiding things from me too Oliver! Don’t think I don’t see it.”
He remained quiet, the tables now turned.
“You tell me it was a party, you tell me it was a fight, maybe drugs but you know, and I know, that that’s not what it is.”
Still he said nothing.
“I asked, and you lied.” She pressed on, sensing the shift in morale.
“My methods are what they are yes, but at least they were helping!”
“—I was engaged once before this.” He blurted, resigned to ease the tensions.
She raised an eyebrow, listening intently.
“Her name was Anna,” He breathed a heavy sigh as he reminisced.
“She and I were perfect together really,” His eyes drifted off.
Green eyes, like clovers they charmed; blonde hair falling all around round, rosy cheeks.
“Well, we were perfect.” His tone solemn, filled with regret.
On his knees, he kisses her naval lovingly; feeling a kick back.
Oliver looked back up at her, tears falling, “She was pregnant you see,” His lips were trembling, “And one night…” He fought back choking remorse, “I was working on my art collection…”
Shouts. He throws a jar of brushes at the wall, shattering them.
He shook his head, “I was so stressed,”
Anger and rage, embedded deep. His shoulders are burly and stern; held tense and hostile. Though trying to nurture, he shoves her away. She rightfully retaliates but cannot match his strength. The blind rage — a concoction of tension, stress and depression — ensues with a vicious, primal aggression. Pushed back against a wall of ceramics, they all fall.
“I pushed her into a supply shelf,” He said with abject disgust.
He rubbed the scar on the right side of his head, one just barely hidden by his long hair.
“And it fell on us both,”
“And the baby?” Nashira then presumed, following the storyline.
He did not speak, but the light in his eyes went dim.
She put her hands to her mouth, eyes wide with a look of empathetic horror.
“I.. I.. —” She hugged him, there was nothing more to be said.
The embrace was a tricky one to describe, as it carried none of the passion and seduction that had ensnared him before. Nor did it carry much meaning at all for that matter, it was powerful in it’s ability to silence their thoughts; their worries and sorrows, and when the words became far too visceral to imagine there was a warmth still that enveloped him. In that short moment they were suspended in air, feeling as though they were caught in a stillness unlike any staleness or silence they had ever known — to their surprise, it felt like harmony… it felt like peace.
When they separated they said no words, still captivated by the enchanting quiet; it held their tongues with a patient understanding, impossible to express.
The two held a long gaze before Oliver turned away, lines of thought tracing his forehead as he chose his words carefully, “That’s why I have to go.” he spoke solemnly.
“I’ve been running away for so long,” he admitted, a deep awareness in his words, “After a while, I started to build a life on top of the lies I’d made myself believe.”
He ran his fingers through the whicker chair, choosing his words with diligence.
“They poisoned every thought and dream,” he gripped the chair tightly, “and I had always told myself it was the world around me that kept me down.”
He looked up at her once again, his eyes dipped with melancholy, “I have to start over Nashira, there are things I need to change, if you understand, you know why I have to go…”
“…I have to fix this.”
She stood quiet and shocked. It was Nashira’s turn to make sense of it all, and as the two stood in the doorway of the kitchen, they toyed with the unsuspected silence.
“Where will you go?” She said, no louder than a whisper.
“Back to America,” he said, watching her eyes fall.
She bit her lip and began to stammer some jumbled mix of worried words,
“And.. and will you, I mean —”
“I don’t want to forget you Nashira.” He cut her off, sifting through the bullshit.
She looked at him and smiled now, blushing with fondness. Yet as the reality of it all began to settle in, it started to weigh heavier on her conscience. As she looked upon this man, still riddled with pain deeper than the bone, her feelings for him seemed reluctant to wane, keeping her trapped in this labyrinth of logic and love.
“I don’t want to forget you either,” she finally managed to surmise.
It was a jarring conclusion without a doubt, and one neither of them expected at the start of the day when all seemed so right in the world. They had been so securely situated in their web of lies, so infatuated with their secrets, that it never occurred to them what the truth might bring.
“And I honestly don’t know how I got here,” Oliver started, “but you were a sight for sore eyes, and truth be told there was something in me that needed this more than anything in the world, something in me that needed Narcisse Noir.”
He caught her eye, smiling as he said it.
“I’m still lost in my own fantasy,” He continued, “Still scared to death of my past and still blaming the world for the problems I can’t face.”
There was a sincerity in his voice, “But I’m going to make it right.” He said nodding, as if to reassure himself more than her.
“The first night we spent together was always my favorite,” Nashira reminisced.
Oliver laughed with a soft smile, “Oh the night I don’t remember? Yes mine as well.”
Nashira shoved him teasingly, “Yes, yes, but you were something else that night if you recall,”
Oliver glared at her, “Okay fine spill the beans, what was I like?”
“Very drunk and on.. what were they called? Xany I think you said earlier?”
He let out a hearty laugh at this, “Xanax yeah, yeah I was fucked up.”
“You were,” she laughed.
The beach party was a casual and light hearted affair, as the torches burned and the soothing tide rolled in the bonfire burned high and the music filled the air. Drinks were made and things were smoked, the atmosphere was saturated in substance.
“And somehow you liked that?”
“You were very charming,” she admitted nodding, “Although in a very slurred kind of way.”
She smiled and laughed as he waved his arms in dramatic fashion, recanting stories from years back as the two shared a moment sweeter than the berries they were eating then. The two sat on the sand at the edge of the shore where the water swayed in an out just beyond their toes.
“We talked a lot about your Mom, and about your home in New York, and your new concept art and many, many more things.”
“About my mom?” He asked in surprised wonder.
“You told me how strong she was, and how you’ll always admire her for how hard she fought.”
Oliver looked down as memories flooded his mind, brushing against decade old scars.
“We danced on the beach and lived with freedom in our hearts.” She said poetically.
“Never before have I been with someone so alive.”
They spun in the sand, hands clasped as the music played from the house, dancing and singing with a contentment foreign to the common man.
“And then one moment, you got quiet and sat down alone.”
Oliver said nothing, listening intently.
“It was more than a tired break, more than a getaway from the party, you were hurting.”
“About my mother?”
“No, about yourself Oliver”
She began to recant their first night, and that one particular moment that would intertwine them in a riveting, but ever-elusive love affair.
“I’m not okay Nashira,” he spoke, his gaze away and distant. He was emotional and his voice carried all of the arcs of genuine feeling. The way he was speaking, how close he was it was as though all the barriers were broken between the two; as though they were lovers even before they met, or perhaps maybe this was who Oliver was behind the mask. He speaks clear, with flickers of irresistible emotion riddled in his voice.
“I don’t know what we’re doing,” he ran his hands through his hair, “Sipping, smoking for no reason, I don’t really know where I’ll be tomorrow,” There were hints of lucidity, “I’m not okay Nashira and I want you to know that because I know who you are.”
She said nothing.
“Ernesto told me, he told me what you do.”
Again she was quiet, riddled and torn.
“I know what this means, I know how we feel together. But I’m a case though Nashira, I’m just another patient for you to cure and I know that’s what you really care about.”
They held hands in a quiet lull, sitting in the sand by the water. The bass beat softly in the distance, all muffled by the slow rolling tides that came in, hidden by the night. She wore a beautiful sundress understated by the many dim torches lit across the beach but he could never forget how gorgeous she looked that night.
This night is gonna go hazy soon, and my mind is on you, but I need you to know now,”
He kissed her.
“I’m sorry, I wish we could be just who we are.”
As he recounted the story in his mind, he was still at a loss for details, unable to remember it all in full detail. The only thing he could recollect though was how totally stunning she had looked, and he held on to that dearly as he reclined in his chair, resting his eyes on the plane.
The memories of the last month flickered past as the plane left the cloud cover, he could still feel the touch of Nashira as the scintillating New York City skyline emerged. Despite this, he was greeted with another flurry of emotions as the urban sprawl triggered visions of his last night in America, the pain in Sarah’s voice and the look in Anton’s eyes. It was a surreal experience to think that just two weeks ago he was here, trapped in this decaying world of irreverence and debauchery. He caught glimpse of the Empire State building, there were still worries inside about a relapse, still hesitations about this change, and every evil power within him worked tirelessly to change his course, but still he pressed on.
The sheer power of New York City, its scope and allure, was enough to pull him away from his thoughts and his troubled mind, giving him the strongest urge to paint the town. Perhaps it was all the energy inside that still sat dormant from the 12 hour flight or maybe it was the energy of the city itself that invigorated him so much. Either way he considered this urge with cautious patience, unwilling to let this night get the better of him as it had in the past; he knew he wanted — needed to change, but if the change forced him to completely redefine his lifestyle what good was it really doing for him? He loved to explore the city, to see all the life and culture it radiated, but often times he indulged too deeply; getting tangled in webs he should’ve never weaved, left to fend for himself in the neon caverns with venomous creatures of every description.. If he was determined to fix himself — and he was — he decided tonight would have to work his way, and his way alone. If not, then it was clear what needed to be done.
After the plane landed, it took about an hour for him to get his luggage. Now leaving baggage claim, he wore a blue long sleeve polo tee, tan denim joggers that had an earthy brown trim and leather boots he had bought in London during his layover. His eyes were cooly hidden behind black wayfarers with a hint of a smirk curving his lips.
A familiar figure stood near the wall towards the backside of the departure exit, he was casually flicking through something on his phone; there were headphones in his ear. Of course though it was incredible to see him again, the last seven days had been a rift in their friendship he was worried would never mend back again. Fortunately Anton responded to the twenty something texts Oliver had sent to pick him up from the airport — he despised the option of bus as every normal person might; never trust the bus. He tapped Anton’s shoulder,
“Oh holy shit,” Anton started with wide eyes; Oliver laughed, “What the hell, sneaking up on a guy like that, god damn.”
“Be more alert next time,” Oliver teased, gesturing to his headphones.
“I was just- whatever fuck it,” Anton shrugged, shook his hand and hugged him, “It’s good to see you man, but before anything else, why?”
“Why what? Why did I leave?”
“Yeah. Suddenly the moment you’re able to stand you start popping Xanax again and you’re gone for another week partying at some European estate?”
Oliver looked at him, a bit perplexed, “Which country was it in again?”
Anton looked at him for a moment, “What, is this for your memory or for mine?”
Oliver dropped his head, “Those first few nights were very, very hazy.”
He shook his head, “You said Switzerland.”
Anton didn’t say anything.
“I didn’t spend that long in Switzerland truth be told.”
“Yeah I figured, parties don’t tend to last the whole week.”
Oliver’s eyebrow raised.
Finally he nodded, “Well in this case you’re right, it didn’t last all week.”
Anton let out a laugh, “So where else did you go then?”
Oliver hesitated, “Morocco?”
Anton laughed out loud, “How the fuck?”
Oliver shook his head, “It was about a girl,”
Anton hissed, “Must’ve been some girl.”
“As a matter of fact it was,” he looked at him, “I don’t really remember how I met her actually,” he slowed, “…or how I arrived in Morocco for that matter either.”
“But it’s okay. I’m fine, see?”
“You know it’s not my fault,” He put his hands to his head, “I see a doorway and I just walk through it; apparently I took the trip to Europe and made friends who went to Morocco…”
“What do you even do in Morocco?”
Oliver shrugged, “We partied at a beach house owned by this woman — a sorceress.”
“What the fuck? A sorceress?”
“Right?” Oliver mused and then continued, “A beautiful, elegant, radiant, Moroccan Sorceress named Nashira,” He grinned, “or Narcisse Noir as she likes to be called by her clients.”
“and which one did you call her by?”
“Oh Nashira, I was a special kind of clientele.” He said winking.
They grabbed their bags and began to walk on towards the doors, “And so what you explored each other in the depths of some meta/physical realm?” He emphasized the slash.
“That’s not a thing An quit trying to make it a thing.”
“The metaphorical world of the mind and the world of the body melded together into a single coherent experience, a metaphor/physical experience — meta/physical.” He was verging on hysteria, “That’s what it is I-I don’t know how else to better explain that exactly.”
“Okay I know, I get what you’re saying, but that word means something else man, whatever though, it doesn’t matter.”
Anton nodded, “But did you?”
Oliver nodded, “Oh hell yes, it was so fucking incredible.”
Anton grinned, “Wicked.”
“… So why’d you ever leave that place?”
Oliver shrugged, “It made me realize that I have some changes to make back here.” He looked up at Anton with a serious conviction, “Very big changes to make.”
Anton bemused, “How very soul-searching of you.”
He shut the trunk and they got in the car.
“Really though, it was an immensely surreal experience.” Oliver commented, not wanting to focus just yet on the soul.
“Yeah, lots of psychedelics and sex for days, I’m sure you were melted to oblivion.”
“That’s not her normal routine though,” He paused on that thought, and then shook his head with reason, “Of course how should I know, she did it all for show anyways.”
“What do you mean?”
“The emotion was her key that opened the gate into my mind, like soul work she would observe my musings and reactions, my worries or anxieties and pinpoint the problems at my core.”
The flow of traffic was surprisingly smooth.
“After opium trips or long walks on the beach she would ask me so many weighted questions and spark deep inner wonderings in me, it was quite prolific in truth.”
“So she weaved her way into your head, and picked at your problems?”
“In a loving way, yeah.”
Oliver thought on this, it was a key component to what made it such a magnificent work of sorcery. Her ability to fuse such an impressing bond in no time, with no remorse or second thought until she deemed the time ready to let the truth be known.
“At the precipice of the bond, when my vulnerability was highest; her dealer told me the truth of her actions and why she was the way she was.” Oliver took a breath, “Later she would admit it was by her command he told it to me.”
“And you were heartbroken I suppose.”
Oliver hesitated to look back, “Yeah, I think I was.”
“And consequently, after one is gashed so devastatingly, her sway was most potent.” He looked at Anton quite disturbed, “She began to ask questions about my past.”
“Because you were bringing out her skeletons she brought out yours.”
“She wanted it the whole time but she knew that she had to wait until the moment when I would willingly give it to her considering how emotionally vulnerable I was from the week long volley of intense self-examination.”
“No shit.” Anton said with a mind blown expression; they both took a moment to grasp it all.
“Well the procedure worked.” Oliver eventually surmised.
“I figured out my true problems, it became apparent to me… as she made certain of.”
Anton looked out, his brow furrowed and is mouth contorted. “So this was of her own devising, something she made herself.. to cure you of your various issues.”
“On one of the first nights in Morocco, I don’t remember when exactly, I think I contracted her to give me a consultation on my problems.”
“And boy didn’t she.” Anton responded, laughing lightly.
Oliver contemplated and nodded, “I never expected her to take that route.”
Anton laughed heartily, “I mean, I don’t know what you expected.”
“Well, we’re in New York for the night. You want to go grab something to eat or hit up a club?”
This was the same question Oliver was considering earlier.
“I could go for both.” He said, balancing a scale with his hands.
“Good cause I know a DJ playing tonight and I say we go check it out after dinner, bet we can even have drinks with her after too.” He shot a glance at Oliver who smiled, quite intrigued.
The room was bathed in red, completely red. Unless consumed by shadows, all you saw was red. The music pulsed like blood through the atrium, beating on as red lights strobed and the raving crowd flickered in and out of existence, dancing in deafening silence.
Among the dancing, in fact at the center of the dancing, was Oliver. Since the moment they got there it had been a sell out event. It was not to say they were the light of the party — no not by any means — but there was a certain charisma about him that calmed the atmosphere and kept the machine running smoothly, almost like clockwork. He moved from place to place throughout the club, meeting a select few but never connecting, not in a personal way at least.
His connection came in the things he did; in dancing with no fear of judgement and talking with whomever without a doubt in his mind. His conversations struck the chords just between daring and decent, right in the middle of sensual and sarcastic; casting this mysterious shadow over his true intentions, well, save the one true and undeniable fact that he was there — and only there — to have the best time possible. .
No issues, no drama, that was never his forte. He avoided tensions regularly. doing everything in his power to let the good times roll. He sought something deeper than those enraged emotions, something akin to the force, it was a vibe — a rhythm. It flowed if you let it, if you found the right groove and kept riding.
Anton followed his suit with impeccable consistency, only catching a drink or smoke with Oliver for but a few minutes throughout the night, moving on when the vibe came back around. They were aces in this respect, after living as large as they had it was just a second nature for them; one both of them wanted to be first.
As was the case it was never they themselves who took control, they only stirred the pot when it needed flow and seasoned it when it needed spice. It was the collective itself, radiating life like a living being of it’s own. Only the tick of time could tell where it went. With some luck though, and help from a certain few, perhaps the soup would go unspoiled.
In this red room however it was some other type of beast. The new music was resonating with a potency that struck Oliver in a different, better way. He felt a deeper frequency, it anchored him to his primal senses and reminded him of his first time with Nashira — a flashback to his trip.
As time blurred he found himself dancing with a beautiful Latina girl; her hair short, wavy and brown moving her hips with some serious rhythm. As enticing as it was, it was a better fit as a distraction, letting him fall back to his thoughts of Nashira.
The question was though, would he go back?
At first it seemed impossible.
After time? Perhaps.
He thought back to the last words they spoke to each other.
Whilst walking down the shore, “You know, you are always welcomed..” she said, stopping him, “I know this hurt you, but you know there was a part of me that felt something more.”
Oliver said nothing but did not push away when she hugged him, instead he listened intently as she rose to whisper in his ear, “and perhaps maybe one day you will come back?”
When she pulled back too look in his eyes, the searching hope captivated him and her fleeting wishes did not go unheard. He nodded with a smile, “Perhaps one day, yes.”
She smiled wide and the brightness of her eyes radiated out onto her cheeks where they glowed with an almost irresistible beauty.
He blinked now, the dance now over and the music slowing to a lull as the set ends. The girl he was dancing with began to kiss his neck but he looked off, still bemused. After a few moments she leaves frustrated. Oliver sighs but cared little truthfully, for love should never be given out when it cannot be returned.
He left the room, strings of thought still clinging to him, and went in search of Anton. The night was waning but he felt too energized to call it off. Fortunately Anton shared this mentality and when he finally came across him, that Norwegian bastard was sharing drinks with all the DJs, exactly as he had said.
“Ayy Oli man, how are you doing?”
He was functioning at a level of drunkness that Oliver could not fathom, speaking in accented slurs at high volume, moving with a precarious sway that was in and of itself quite charming, although hilariously uncoordinated at the same time.
“I’m good,” Oliver shifted his gaze to the other 2 DJs, “How are you both? It’s been a long time since I’ve last seen you two.”
“Tired,” The girl responded first, her eyes were heavy but her voice was soft and sweet.
The other nodded, “Good to see you Oliver, last time I saw you was at Ibiza last year right?”
“Probably,” Oliver laughed bashfully, “You know those nights were a blur.”
The male DJ laughed in agreement, “I’m surprised I even remembered!”
They both laughed heartily before Anton cut in, “Another lovely run in with Xanax I bet,” blatantly raising his eyebrow at Oliver who rolled his eyes.
The girl chimed in, “Bars would be so nice right about now.”
Oliver smiled and raised his arms, “Nooo way, none for me.”
“Forgot your whole summer did ya?”
“More or less,” Oliver replied with a humbling sincerity.
“Well I can wait,” The girl said, looking over Oliver warmly, “Where are you headed tonight?”
Oliver shrugged and grinned, “Wherever the wind takes me bab—”
Anton interrupted again, “He’s going to get breakfast with us when the sun comes up of course!”
He threw his hands up, “Apparently my plans are made.” Oliver spoke sarcastically, sending a wryly grin and Anton’s way.
“If you’re trying to tell me you’d rather call it a night…” Anton’s slur slowed, “Well I guess we’ll just go to sleep then, oh well.”
There was great dissent from the crowd, even people unaffiliated with them chimed in to dissuade any thoughts of giving up the night before dawn.
“Oh come now I wouldn’t dream of leaving,” Oliver said, patting Anton who smiled and nodded like a little toddler still too giddy to control himself.
“Unless we’re walking to the diner,” he looked over at the girl, “In which case let’s just order take out, yeah?”
It was a good effort, but in a little less than ten minutes they were out on the street and heading to the best diner they could find; talking loudly, walking with purpose.
“Hey Anton,” Oliver slowed, trying to talk with him one on one, “I need your help real quick.”
“Yeah sure mate what’s going on with ya?” He was still looking down at his feet, doing his absolute best to stay level.
“I can’t remember her name,” He revealed with embarrassment.
Anton shot back a look of utter horror.
“It’s on the tip of my tongue okay, I just don’t know for sure!”
“It’s Mary,” His voice raising, “Say it with me, MAARRYY.”
It was so loud that he actually bought Mary’s attention who turned around with curious eyes.
“How are you doing tonight Mary?” Anton called out with little forethought.
“Just fine Anton, yourself?”
“Oh just fucking wonderful Mary I’m glad you asked, hey you wanna know something funny?”
Oliver smirked as the conversation went on, it was about time he got reintroduced.
Anton whispered in her ear the words he told him, and her eyes shot up to Oliver immediately.
“Isn’t that just tragic?” Anton said with misplaced dramatics.
“Oh indeed,” She looked at Oliver with a sly tease in her eye.
He looked on, ‘Good. She got the message,’ he thought.
“It’s alright,” She said with a wry look, “I doubt he’ll forget it again.”
If there was anything in life that Oliver was vulnerable too, it was a seductive woman.
“Oh never, Mary is a name to remember for sure,” He replied, throwing a flirtatious glance.
Fortunately their banter was taken as nothing more than what it was by everyone around them, but to him and her there was a layer deeper than the surface that they played on, like a tennis match they served back and forth with a deliciously covert rhythm.
It was not for another 10 minutes before they had made it to that diner. The group thrived on the obnoxious tangents and rambunctious tirades Anton took them, on other than that, nothing much was said lest revealing true motives. Oliver and Mary had linked earlier and the tension was becoming out of control the longer the walk took.
Throughout this whole experience Oliver did not think once of Anna, perhaps it was a lack of patience, conscience or otherwise, but regardless he pressed on still. This was to be noted, for demons never left his world — he was the one who went on hiatus. Returning to this would be another battle to take on. Naturally, he never realized something so significant, it must be the benefit of an observer’s perspective. We see the real story.
Later that evening after the food had finally succumbed Anton into a drunken daze, the two finally got their time together. It was such an electric experience that wasn’t particularly uncommon for he and her; they were long time friends after all.
True enough, the two had known each other since college. It was an unusual relationship though, they were very experimental and one of the things they would do is pretend they had never met each other before on every chance occasion they could find. It was her idea, she came up with that after they had pretended it once at a party to fool one of her friends. Anton knew the two occasionally hooked up but he never guessed it was this deep, he deferred to ignorance.
The way it worked was quite simple, each time one of them would have to initiate the meeting by asking for their name in order to begin getting intimate, and for some strange reason, tonight he pursued her this time; a very odd occurrence indeed. It was almost always she who asked him for his name eventually, but on this night he acted first.
After all, the universe had placed her in his path of all times for some reason, he just couldn’t pass up a rare opportunity as this, and besides, after being in a third world country for 2 weeks living without those spacious American luxuries, the bass of the high class club and Mary’s loft were treats to be treasured in his eyes. Of course nothing could compare to his experience with Nashira, but it was apples to oranges and he’d enjoy both flavors with the same appetite.
Besides, it felt really good to be in the linens, to feel the cold marble stone under his feet. He was captivated by privilege, sitting on the this leather couch, very early in the morning before the sun could light the room. The smart glass was already active by then and he sat comfortable rolling a joint while the information of the day flickered past him in futuristic LEDs that jumped across the room like a 70s sci-fi flick.
“Play Nocturne No. 8 in D flat by Frederick Chopin.” he called out to a phantom processor.
Within seconds the piano hummed softly, echoing throughout the loft with a reverent and rather airy signature, it mesmerized and charmed with a touch of intellect. Oliver began to sway as he finished the final touches to his joint, stuffing the remaining grinded herb in before twisting off the end and nodding satisfied.
There was a tray on the table with two cups of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal and blueberries for them to share — she was a vegan (obviously the couch was faux) and it was one of the things he liked most about her. Her kitchen was practically a market; each piece a delicacy more exquisite than before. The coffee was imported, the fruits and produce were fresh and ripe. It made him desperately miss his life with Anna, he was vegan too for a time before the incident but had thoughtlessly given it up afterwards.
He struck a match and watched calmly as he burned the paper’s end with methodic rotations, it began to smoke and soon the paper gave way to the earthy aroma he knew and loved. He took a deep inhale and held it, letting a thick white cloud fall back out. He put the joint in his mouth and picked up the tray that carried the coffees and oatmeal, walking back to her room which was becoming lit as the morning grew ever brighter. She was awake although still in bed; she was swiping through her iPad.
“A king-size joint and breakfast in bed?” Oliver shook his head teasingly, “You’re so spoiled.”
“Hey, I pulled my weight last night if you’ll recall.” She shot back with a grin.
He placed the tray between them and handed her the joint which she took, smiled and then promptly hit, exhaling with a thankful sigh.
Oliver took a sip of his coffee, exhaling an equally as satisfying sigh. The redolent aromas were tickling his senses. She passed him back the joint and spoke with a compelling rhythm,
“So where have you been Oli?”
He took a hit slowly, “I’ve been out of the country, had to take some time to clear my mind.”
She pulled him close, her fingers running through his hair. “Oh what a surprise.”
“It’s so good to see you Mary, of all the people in the United States I never expected to see last night, I’m really glad you’re were one of them.”
She kissed him in thanks, “Anton gave me a call and told me you were coming back, he didn’t say from where but it didn’t matter.”
“So he does know, eh?” Oliver shrugged. “When did he figure out we were so close?”
“The last time I was in Chicago,” She began to laugh, “He was still trying to hit on me and I had to tell him the truth.”
Oliver chuckled, “What you don’t want to be with Anton? but he’s such a sweetheart!”
She hit his arm and crinkled her nose, “Oh hush, you know I don’t want to be with anyone else when you’re around, that’s the whole point.”
He shrugged again, as if weighing in the options. “I mean I guess that makes sense.”
Then he kissed her and smiled, “and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
She smiled and grabbed the joint back, “So you have been painting lately, yes?”
He shook his head.
“Goodness, something’s really got you riled up now doesn’t it?”
Oliver held his tongue for a moment, looking out into a sea of thoughts beyond him. Finally he opened up and confided, “I need your help Mary, I don’t know what to do.”
She looked at him, waiting to hear.
He looked off again, “There’s nothing for me in Chicago anymore.”
She handed him back the joint, “You’ve had a hard time there?”
“More than you know,” He hit the joint and paused.
“I just know now that the life I’m leading there is not mine.”
“Who’s is it?”
“A runaway’s fantasy… A prisoner’s nightmare.”
“And you’re neither of those?”
“Actually,” he laughed, “I’m both.”
She looked at him deeply, eyes searching out the truth.
“Well until you figure out what to do next, you can stay here as long as you like.” She smiled with a sincere generosity.
“You mean that?”
“Oliver please, we’ve been friends for 7 years. Of course I do. You’ve helped me more times than I can even remember, if you need revival, I’m here to light your fire.” She said grinning with a lighter in her hand.
“Come on baby, light my fire…” He teased, holding the joint to her as she sparked it. It light and he took in a hit before continuing, “I couldn’t thank you enough Mary, this place is a like a sanctuary to me, I could stay forever.”
“What’s mine is yours,” She smiled. “But know that I’ll be out late almost every night and also, in a few days I’ll be leaving to Berlin for this tour… but as long as you keep the loft tidy and the kitchen stocked then I’ll be a very happy girl.”
He grabbed her and pulled her close, kissing her with a loving passion.
“Oh you’ll be a very happy girl alright.”
He moved the tray out of the way and she wrapped her legs around him, her graceful touch was a lightning bolt of nostalgia to him. The two smoked the remainder of the joint in a hazy, steamy affair that needed no explanation to proceed.
Her body was painted with tattoos, they scattered across her porcelain skin like an art gallery, she was a full girl too, her long brown hair waved behind her with streaks of black and blond cutting through with slick coolness that gave this enchanting illusion that her body was closer to a piece of art than a human.
After taking a look around the room, seeing all the aesthetic qualities and unity that surrounds it all, you’d begin to realize that her life was an art. That’s why he cherished her so much, she was basically a living masterpiece and it was reflected in all that she did. Especially her music, which was a soulful and entrancing, electronic trip. Even the live performances were choreographed with lights and mist — all handpicked herself.
He soon picked her body up and the two went to the bathroom where he drew a bath for her and turned on the shower for himself; she chose the music while they waited.
“I’m going to Seattle soon.” He declared steadfast.
Mary considered this for a moment, “Will she take you back?”
“I don’t know,” He looked at her with the heaviest eyes — speaking a thousand words in a mere flicker of time. “I’m going to try though.”
“Does she still live in the same apartment?”
“I don’t think so,” He said still trying to wrap his head around the scope of it all.
“A mutual friend told me she got her own place on the outskirts of the city.”
“Oh how lavish of her.”
“It’s something I have to do Mary, it’s been eating me alive and I can’t go on anymore.”
He looked off, “I can’t paint, I can’t think, and the more I run away the worse my symptoms seem to get. This is the real problem I have to fix.”
“The last time you talked to her Oliver you were too drunk to even speak a proper sentence.”
“I know,” He closed his eyes in regret, “I’ve been a fucking idiot.”
“Hey come on,” She comforted him, rubbing his back softly, “This doesn’t happen to just anyone, it was a fluke accident alright?”
“It was my fault, Mary, and I just couldn’t suffer the blame.”
She looked in his eyes, expecting a weak fear that she was so used to when they spoke of her but instead there was a maturity and self-awareness that replaced that poisonous, debilitating fear. It startled her a bit and made her wonder what it could’ve been that made him so different now.
“Anna is the love of my life, Mary.”
Nothing was said.
“I’ve always been sure of it, but ever since we broke up I’ve told myself to move on and I never should’ve done that.” He said, speaking with the most sincere conviction.
“I knew something had changed about you,” she commented, “You’re hopeful now.”
He smiled, “I’ve got a reason to hope now.”
“Get in the bath with me Oli, please.” She smiled and grabbed his hands with a friendly tug.
“But the shower!” he said with a dramatic reach, laughing as he succumbed.
“Leave it for Anton, after last night I’m sure he’s gonna need one.”
Oliver suddenly broke out into a hearty laughter.
“He’s still passed out on the floor by the Hookah.”
Mary jolted, “Did he put out the coals??”
Oliver shook his head, “Don’t worry I did last night,” he laughed, “But he’s still got the hose in his mouth though if that makes you feel any better.”
“That really does,” She said with a smile as a wave of great relief washed over her.
The loft was exquisite, and much better than his in Chicago. It was deep in the heart of New York City where you could see the Empire State building cut into the horizon, standing tall and resilient, stark against the morning light.
The design of the apartment was industrial and modern, with a touch of these old Middle Eastern sensibilities that kept the loft feeling organic and earthy despite the futuristic appliances. A large glass hookah sat ever so regally in the corner of the living room next to a wall filled with ancient tapestries and paintings.
It reflected Mary well, her interests and personality came through in vibrant shades. She was an Iranian by decent and traveled there as often as she could though he wasn’t islamic, yes she still respected the culture and views with reverence but she found her own beliefs were much more complex and they stemmed from the electronic lifestyle she lead as an international DJ.
Oliver smiled as he watched her play with the bubbles in the jacuzzi bath, he still remembered way back when she was a freshman in college. She hadn’t yet made a career in music but her love for it by far the strongest link they shared. Mary had been making music since she was a little kid but it was not until her junior year that she started getting serious recognition. Oliver was still in art school at the time and were it not for her, he would probably still be a starving underground painter, wasting money on supplies. In truth it was Mary’s success and his deep friendship with her that brought him his own attention. The more time he’d spend with her the more others started to take notice in his work too.
He could never express how thankful he was for her, it was too hard to put into words. Even still though he tried to show it every possible moment; in the things he did for her, how he listened to her problems and how he made her feel. She was one of his closest friends honestly, but sadly they could never be together — their lives were just too scattered to make a go of it.
They both knew that of course, and for some reason it made their friendship stronger, fuller and more sensual. Nothing was off the table and they liked it that way, they were like kids again, so innocently in love, and regardless of the depth it was a true love, and he would never trade that for anything, it was something too difficult to define.
Sadly though, it had been almost 2 years since he had last seen her, the events between he and Anna had severed him from his old life and his old friends. Seeing her now though was like a cup of coffee to him, waking him up with an ambition to rebuild the life he once had.
“I never forgot how quiet you always were,” she said, splashing water on him.
“I think a lot,” He smiled, splashing her back.
“Like what?” She said with daring eyes.
“About you, if you really want to know,” He said, looking over her soapy body.
She through bubbles at him playfully, “Oh come on you know I always want to know.”
He laid his head back and put his arms behind him, looking up thoughtfully.
“Do you remember back when you dragged me to that fashion show?”
Her eyes flickered, “Oh I know where this is going,”
“That old man,”
“Oh my god! No!!” She splashed, breaking out in laughter.
“He was the greatest part of that show!” She blurted still gasping for air, “He was so perfect!”
“You couldn’t stop laughing!” Oliver replied, having a laughing fit himself.
She just shook her head, still unable to get a breath in.
“You were almost in tears!” He continued, “You had said, said — what did you say it was something like… “That’s true fashion…”
“— The dude would abide!” They both finished.
Yes! yes, yes.” Oliver applauded, his smile wide.
“He looked just like Jeff Bridges I swear! He was trying to sit in the front row, and looked so ridiculously out of place it was amazing.”
“I’ve never seen you so in love.”
“He was wearing an old tracksuit in a sea of gucci’s fall collection,” She rebutted, he laughed and shook his head.
“It was yellow, he looked like a boxing coach!”
“Morning chums,” Anton said dryly, irritated and hungover.
He was already smoking a joint, and passed it to Oliver when he walked by.
“Good morning Anton,” Mary said sweetly.
“Yeah, how’d you like that hookah?” Oliver chimed in to tease him.
“Fuck off, that was not one of my better nights.”
“On the contrary,” Oliver responded in-between hits, “Check your instagram, I think you broke something around 400 likes on a picture?” After ashing it he looked up with a wryly grin,
“Truth be told, it was one of your finest nights yet.”
Anton’s splitting headache broke surface, “You did not.”
“Baby, pass me the hookah,” He sang rhythmically.
“Fuck!! God damn it Oliver!” He shouted storming off.
The two of them just laughed, “Oh my god that’s good, did you really post it?”
“No, no,” He shook his head grinning.
“I just thought of it then, but I should’ve eh?”
“That would’ve been so funny.”
“I know” he said handing her the joint.
“You know,” She started as things began to quiet down, “When you brought up the fashion show I didn’t expect you to mean the old man.”
“You expected me to talk about Anna.”
“That was the first time you had introduced her to me, of course that’s what I expected!”
“It was one of my favorite moments.”
“I think you want to talk about her.”
Oliver held her gaze and then looked off, “Mm, maybe I do.”
Blonde, blue eyes, and elegant. Like a princess soon to be a queen, with a daring look of adventure and a sensible fashion that exuded self-confidence and a demand for respect.
“She looked so beautiful that day,” Mary cut in, reminiscing.
Her smile was soft like her skin, or the silk she wore. Her voice was airy, and accent: French.
“Yes, she really did.”
Her dress was a lighter shade of blue, bathed in a reverie or dyed in the summer sky, draping effortlessly down her shoulders and falling below her knees with a modest nobility.
“I still have no idea how you managed to get her interested in you,” She teased, smiling sweetly.
“Oh you know me, I ramble on until I find a groove.”
“You do,” She nodded soothingly, “And she was lost in you the moment you spoke,”
“And I was lost the moment I saw her.” He added softly.
Mary watched him as he fell back into a wistful daydream.
“You know I didn’t asker on a date for another week after we first met?”
“No, no,” Oliver laughed, “I was closing the deal with those Nigerians and had to accompany them back to their homeland for a few days.”
“Oh my god, how did you two get back together??”
“The night we were celebrating the deal, when she came up to me at the club,”
“Right, right the first time you two met.”
“Well she had given me all of her information thankfully.”
“She wasn’t bothered by the lateness?”
“In truth I think she almost forgot about me.”
“Oh stop! You know she didn’t.”
He sat there so happy and prideful, thinking back to how lucky he was to be with a girl like her.
However he was hit with a myriad of emotions immediately after.
“And then I went and fucked it all up,” he trailed off, letting time tell the story.
“It’s okay, you were so young.” She grabbed his hand. “You were afraid.”
“I was stupid.” He admitted.
“I should’ve never left, that was my first mistake, I wasn’t thinking I was scared and everything just toppled all over me.”
The mood stayed light as the bubbles nullified any further aggression or anger. Still though Mary played her hand with a careful touch.
“Oliver, don’t destroy yourself.” She spoke with an outstanding declaration.
It was so perfunctory that Oliver couldn’t form any kind of response.
Fortunately, Mary continued. She inched forward, “You were still finishing ‘Ra Tzu’, it was your hardest collection yet, you were worked up about it; it’s alright.”
“I earned 12 million off of ‘Ra Tzu’, did you know that?” His eyes were up and away, his tone: rather distasteful.
“I bought an Aston Martin and an I8 on the same fucking day.” He continued, “I mean what is it all really for anyways? I drove both of those cars probably a total of what, 5 times maybe? There’s nothing that speaks to me the way I heard it back then.”
He paused for a second, “That was the last collection I’ve made.”
“She took your spirit, Oliver.”
“She didn’t take it, I gave it to her.”
“… and then I hopped on a plane and never looked back.”
“You’re looking back now though Oliver, and you’re regretting every mis-step and mess up.” Her eyes were directly on him.
“No, no.” Oliver countered quickly.
“I’m looking right in front of me Mary, the things I’ve been through, what I’ve learned these past few weeks, they have given me the perspective to wrap my mind around this all. I’m not casting some shadowy glance back through my history, reliving my greatest mis-step, I’m simply seeing it with a realization of who I was back then, like a picture before me or a movie at the theaters.”
“I’ve come full circle, and I’m going to get closure.”
She had not seen him since that fateful year, but on the few occasions when she did, she couldn’t recognize who she saw, it wasn’t the Oliver she had known — he was dark and broken. His cold, calculated ways made him seem more like a machine, and one on the lowest settings at that.
Yet now she saw him and again his presence wasn’t foreign to her, but it was different. The way he operated seemed beyond her and yet he still felt present. His thoughts were consolidated and he spoke with an articulation that made her feel… intimidated; she could sense his power and it exhilarated her — but still, it was something she could not explain.
“I’m going to travel to Seattle instead of going back to Chicago.” Oliver declared.
Mary looked up from thought.
“I’m going to rent a loft there and try and get myself together, a new world, new faces it’ll be like a clean slate again.”
“And what about her?” She inquired.
“When I’m ready I’ll find a way to talk to her.”
“Do you think that she’ll hear you?”
“I don’t know Mary, I hope.”
Anton walked back in again, “Wasn’t even uploaded ya son of a bitch.”
He threw off the towel he was wearing and stepped into the walk-in shower, “Next time you bullshit me though make sure it’s post shower, please.”
At that, Oliver got out of the bath — his naked body still dripping soapy clumps.
He picked up a towel and began drying himself off as the other two enjoyed their solitude. The bathroom had already been furnished with Oliver’s belongings before they arrived; Mary had them sent up while they were eating. Apparently the loft she was staying in was just across the street from their hotel room, nothing more than a simple walk was all it took.
He looked at his naked body for a moment though, it was so clean and bare. Aside from the hair in the obvious places he was sleek and cut. After running his fingers down the side of his ribcage, it was clear his mind was made.
“I’m going to be out today, I’ve got some errands.” He called back to them both.
“That’s fine I’ve going into the studio for a few hours today so I’ll be out too,” Mary called back.
“Nah it’s cool this hangover is the worst one yet. I’ve got a few joints rolled, I’m chilling today man!” Anton shouted out blindly.
Oliver nodded to one and disregarded the other, continuing to dry off as he walked back to the closet to rummage through his bags. There were some things that he still needed to do.
On that calm mid-august day, Oliver walked up and down Manhattan with a restless intrigue. For hours he cut across town, walking down the sidewalks as the taxis honked and the endless drone of footsteps and constant chatter beat on.
There were stores that caught his eye on every street, after weaving through the morning crowd on 5th Avenue Oliver grabbed an herbal tea and picked up a new book. He made his way on past the ice rink towards Central Park where he read on a bench, swept away as the indolent New Yorkers bustled by to their own agendas.
His day was slow and drawn out, like a work of charcoal he drew in the details with a meticulous eye, patiently shading and smudging, taking his time without a hint of hurry. His influences were all around, in the smell of the maples that surrounded him; the sounds of people, the sight of the cityscape; its imperious vigor was intoxicating, and it gave him a sophisticated and empowered sense of identity.
He turned the page and kept reading with an admirable stillness, only tuning away when a bird flew too close or a loud family walked by. He had been reading for a little under an hour now and the day was waning. But before he left back to the loft, he had one more thing to do.
Closing the book now, he got up and started to walk. Leaving the park now it all felt impulsive, his steps were quick and his eyes were far in the distance. It wasn’t an impulse though, for this restless nature was a symptom of his excitement, and consequently nervousness. After all, he’d been walking towards the best tattoo parlor in NYC.
This was something that had been on his mind for years, but ever since his time with Nashira he was now seriously considering this new art form. Oliver had been contemplating the design since he left Morocco, it would mark the first sketch or drawing he’s made in a year, barring any trivial attempts. It was a huge step forward in terms of productivity, and hopefully it would compel him to even go further than that. Who knew?
All that he could think of in this moment was just that he was feeling good, better than he had in a long time and there was a freedom he felt now that he just couldn’t hide away. In his mind it was better this way, nothing was holding him down or keeping his hands tied behind his back; his wingspan was expanding, his claws were sharpened and his mind had awakened from that deep slumber he induced long ago.
It was for this reason, and the pure style of the tattoo shop, that made him stagger with wonder. As he walked in his eyes shot up and all around; entranced by their culture and couture. To him this place was a monolithic cathedral of art and expression, music echoed all throughout those high-ceiling rooms and as he took the tour, he found the design of each section to be more vibrant and authentic than the last.
When he finally sat down to draw out the tattoo design, he felt the most surreal sense of serenity wash over him and it hit him with the soothing touch of a light breeze that calmed and kept him poised. With this liberating sensation in mind he put the pen to paper and began.
The lines crisp and smooth; his pen gliding like a dancer on the ice. Lightly he engraved emotions in the white space and carefully carved out a vision of his own personal plight.
As he drew there was a look of patient focus that painted his face. It came in the tension between his brow and the curve of his lip as he turned and twisted the paper to catch a better angle. It was in the look in his eye as he stared at the piece with reverence, humbled by the vision but efficient in construction; pursuing his finish with an exactness, and embodied by a concentration that was almost tangible.
The makings of DNA begin to form, as he continues the helix twists and arcs, merging into the flower of life that converges at the feet of a Mongoose and a Cobra who grapple violently, beautifully intertwined in their endless dance of death.
As he finished, he picked it up with an admiring eye.
“Venom Vitae,” He whispered to himself.
Now looking up reverently, “The bitter life.”
It was an excellent antithesis to him, in his mind he always saw the uncertain stretch of time known as life to be a blessing. More or less. It contrasted the venom and cruelty that infested the world around him.
Consequently, if there is a bitterness that surrounds us, it must only be a reflection of the bitterness inside. In essence, where there is darkness light must emanate; otherwise no shadows could ever be seen.
He nodded at this conjecture and shuffled his papers back into his sack, capping his pens and rolling up headphones, taking a few deep breaths before he looked to the door. He wasn’t necessarily terrified but the prospect of ink engraved in his ribcage was unsettling; nothing kept him back though it was merely something he just had to do. There was something propelling him forward and it felt right to do this.
“Excuse me,” Oliver began as the receptionist looks up.
“Can I help you?” She was an attractive young girl with bleach blonde hair, a few piercings and a hoodie.
“Yes. I want to set up an appointment to get this tattoo done.”
He showed her the design and watched with a hidden smile as she inspected with fascination.
“Wow, these are really good.”
“Thank you,” Oliver replied with casual sincerity.
“You’re welcome.” She slid back the designs with a longing eye. “So do you have a preference?”
“To draw the tattoo, do you want anyone specific?”
“Oh, yes.” He cleared his throat, “The best artist you have?”
She laughed, “Luckily for you I think Armondo just finished his last client.”
Oliver raised his eyebrow intrigued.
“Armando Vashon,” She smiled warmly, “He’s the owner of this shop, and one of the best tattoo artists in the world actually.”
“Did he do one of your pieces?”
“Yeah, do you see this one?” She pushed up her jacket and showed him her her sleeve.
“Wow,” he inspected with a fascination, unintentionally changing his tone from peer to peer to something that more closely resembled a curator and his new shipment of pieces.
Her arm depicted oriental art styles of calligraphy, and Koi fish meticulously swimming up her arm, woven cleverly into a larger net that broke in several places giving way to beautiful colored waves swirling heavenly throughout the scene.
“This is incredible work, did you design it yourself?”
She laughed, “No, he made this one for me. I could never make something that incredible.”
“I wouldn’t sell yourself short.”
“No believe me, I’m so bad.” She continued unashamed.
Oliver laughed and shrugged.
“So how long will I have to wait for him?”
“Uh, let me give him a call okay?”
She picked up the phone and pressed a number, waiting a few seconds before she started speaking in a rapid fire tone.
“Armondo when do you think you’ll be done?”
“I have a client here who wants to get a tattoo,”
She broke off and looked at him, “Where?”
Oliver pointed to his ribcage.
“His right ribcage.”
“No, he doesn’t seem like the type.”
“Okay I’ll send him to the back.”
The phone clicked off and she looked at him with big green eyes, he had not noticed the before, they were very pretty. “You can go back.”
He nodded, “Okay, thank you.”
There were large wooden doors that separated the actual design rooms from the drawing room, the art gallery, or anywhere else inside. As he walked on, past several other artists — some still working with their clients and others on their own designs, he began to get a very good feeling for it.
The way the building was set up, how they ran their business, it was a far more respectable and actually stylish establishment than he first expected. Then again he had only seen the rural and suburban shops back when he was a child. He’d never once thought of getting any tattoos in Chicago, and before then there was never any urge either.
This was such a bizarre craving in truth, but he wanted it now more than ever so it was only fitting that he went to the best artist in New York City.
“Yo over here!” Oliver turned around to see an average sized black man wearing a denim jacket, a pair of black leather pants and leather monkstraps. He wore glasses that reminded Oliver of Rich Homie Quan and had a swagger that most closely resembled Gary Clark Jr. They shook hands and he smiled warmly,
“Hey man, how’s it going?”
“Great, great. You must be Armondo?”
“That’s me man, Armondo Vashon, pleasure to meet you. And you?”
“Stanton?” He pulled off his glasses with a shock.
“The Oliver Stanton?”
“You’ve heard of me,”
“Oh I’ve heard of you, yes.” He shook Oliver’s hand again with enthusiasm, smiling wide.
“I’ve been a huge fan of your work for years,”
“Fuck no, you’re work is incredible man. I’ve been trying to get ahold of the ‘Mind the Primal’ collection for almost 6 months now. Did you see my art gallery?”
“I walked through it earlier, it’s a pantheon man, truly, I was impressed.”
“Thank you, thank you,” He put his hand to his heart, “I hope to capture that elusive soul, it’s beautiful truth is hidden beyond the canvas.”
“But found in the spoken word though, that was a beautiful line.”
He smiled, “So is this the piece you want to get done today?”
“That’s the one,”
“Oh man this is classic.” He looked over it, marveling. “This has your style written all over.”
“Venom Vitae, I call it.” Oliver commented.
“A poisonous life, indeed.” Armondo followed, translating it.
“Okay if you could just get comfortable on the table. I can get to work.”
He immediately went to the desk, pulling out inks and guns that he started putting together in scrupulous fashion, something you come to expect from a hardened professional like him.
“I’m going to scan this in,” Armondo started, “Then I’ll get it pressed onto your skin and I can begin.”
Oliver lied on the table calmly.
“So have you been working on anything lately?” Armando asked.
“Nothing right now,” Oliver replied, “I’ve been on extended vacation.”
“Oh yes sir that’s just fine too, where at?”
“Boy you’ve been around.”
Oliver nodded, he was worried this would be another long and arduous trek through fan powered questions of his personal journey through life. He hoped Armando would be different though.
“That is impressive… So is that where you get your influences for your work? I mean some of the ideas you conveyed on ‘Mind the Primal’ were deep. I mean deep.” He said, brow raised.
“Uh well actually, I had not left the country prior to ‘Mind the Primal’, most of those ideas I picked up in high school and college on my own.”
“What were you trying to go for?”
“I wanted to express this deeper relationship we have with the animal kingdom, the teachings we learned from them and how they influenced our cultures and even creations.”
Armondo nodded, interested.
“If you look back, at the dawn of our intellectual expedition there was very little of true internal intelligence, by that I mean no inherited learning or actions that could define what a human being actually was. It was a very abstract idea at that point, in its infancy, in fact it was one of the first ideas ever had by mankind.”
Armondo commented fascinated, “Yes I see, I mean you cannot very well think of anything unless you’re aware of yourself thinking first.”
“Exactly, and at this point we were just beginning — just starting on the blueprints of who we actually were as an existing consciousness — and it was through this endeavor that the humans began to learn by the way of the world around them. Taking the details of the place they saw, and integrating it then with how they thought and acted themselves.”
Armondo began impressing the drawing onto his ribcage, you could tell though he was listening with full attention — or as much as he could spare.
“Through this you see the cunning of the Fox and the pride of the Lion, the elegant power of a Tiger, the patient planning of the Preying Mantis, and so on. Their way of life influenced and inspired generations of humans who revered them as earthly deities.”
Oliver paused and considered this thought, “And why shouldn’t they?”
“That’s some real shit… and I see it too, like uh you know the ants and how they organize themselves,”
“Thanks, and yeah,” Oliver followed, happy to talk about these kinds of topics again.
“Well,” He paused in-between working, “Like you say we could’ve learned these complex systems from the way the animals keep their species in check.”
“They served as a foundation we built upon,” Oliver surmised. “Over time we have tweaked and adapted our ideas for the modern times but the roots remain organic.”
“Roots remain organic,” He laughed, “That’s a good one man.”
Oliver laughed to himself and nodded, “It was an idea I wanted to convey to maybe rebuild that spiritual relationship we once shared; I think we still have much to learn from them.”
“It’s nothing that can help us build, but the teachings are deeper than that, it’s a mental power and prowess that has left the modern human. If we can take the elements of the primal and blend them with the mind, the things we could do, the places we could take it — it’s limitless.”
“I hope you don’t mind this,” Armondo started, nodding with a reverent approval, “But I might be asking you more about your work as we go through this.”
“Oh not at all man, I’d love to.” He paused for a second, “It’ll give me something to keep my mind off of the pain too, eh?”
Armondo laughed, “Yeah you’re a brave one I’ll admit, this one won’t be too friendly.”
“What, is that supposed to be some sort of irony?” Oliver responded wryly.
“Irony? Oh because of the name right? That’s a good one,” Armondo slapped his ribcage lightly, “Don’t worry it won’t be a poisonous bite, but it’ll be worse than the bark I’ll tell you that.”
With a click, the relentless buzzing of the gun began.
“What ideas inspired ‘Perspective Respective’?” Armondo inquired wisely, trying to keep Oliver’s mind off the tattoo. But to no avail. Oliver winced and furrowed his brow in pain, doing his best to formulate some sort of response despite feeling such an excruciating sensation.
“It was an LSD experience,” Oliver barked, unable to feel ashamed.
“Oh?” Armondo beat, not bothering to look up from his work.
“It was a long time ago, back in my freshman year of college.”
He grit his teeth, “4 to 5 years ago maybe?”
“What was it like?” He asked calmly, closely resembling the family dentist.
“Enlightening,” Oliver replied, biting his lip.
“I listened to an album, learned the balance of things and natural orders of life.”
“Just an album? That was easy.”
“There was a lot of thinking on my part,” He gripped the bed tightly.
“A lot of inquiry,” He breathed heavy.
“You know, feeling my way through.”
“Wow that’s very interesting, so it gave you the vision to make the pieces?”
He lifted up the gun momentarily to let Oliver regain his composure.
“No not exactly.” He ran his hands through his hair, “Sure it gave me the tools to create it, but it was not until much later that I was able to turn these insights into a collection of paintings.”
Armondo nodded, following along intently.
“The paintings arose after I applied this model to the real world.”
The gun clicked on again, “What do you mean?”
“Well,” Oliver winced as Armondo began again, “At our core, like DNA, there are natural patterns in our development.”
“Predictable reactions, occurrences that are predestined by time — the tendencies of human nature show up time and time again in our actions and the events that occur.”
Oliver nodded pleased with his explanation so far, “And these elements are all pieces of the same puzzle, its as though we are all adding pieces bit by bit.”
“So you painted the puzzle?”
“I painted the possibilities.”
“Of what the puzzle will look like?”
“And how to solve it.”
“There’s a reason your work sells for millions, goodness gracious man.”
Oliver laughed and smiled.
“I mean thinking on it I can really see how you implemented that, I can see the ideas now.”
“How our choices through time defines our future?”
“And how there are so many different avenues to choose from,”
“But only one of them is the right one, that’s the thing.”
“Sure, there’s only one angle that keeps things running smoothly you know, it’s kind of like the way you get through the atmosphere, only it’s in terms of theoretical space-time rather than the literal one up there.”
“So you’re saying for the other ways we’ll burn up?”
“Eventually, yes.” Oliver grimaced but the pain was more tolerable this time around.
“Certain methods can take you further, but they will only last so long. There are thresholds that we must pass in our evolution and all things are governed by time; the question is, what can we use that will push us the farthest before time kills it, internally or externally.”
Armondo slowed, listening closely.
“And it is our Human nature to push it until the verge of death. If we’ve learned enough.”
The two continued talking as the procedure went on, Oliver spoke his long winded tangents in broken breaths and Armondo took every word in with a reverence. He would ask questions that went far deeper than the normal interview questions, and he rarely even met let alone talk to his fans — they were mostly exclusive buyers and rarely went in person at that, sending proctors in their place to the gallery shows.
He had learned a lot about his new friend Armondo, he was from Mallorca, Spain and was a practicing muslim. In the moments they weren’t talking about art they were having in-depth conversations on the power of spirituality and the misconstrued power of religion. He would listen intently, learning much about the history of Islam in Spain and the ancestry of Armondo. It was an enriching experience, and especially so given the work being done.
Throughout this little interaction, perhaps further propelled by the adrenaline of the tattoo, Oliver began to feel a certain motivation that had long been absent. It wasn’t the sort of energy he was used to though, there weren’t any jolts of energy or bursts of life but like a beating drum that would never stop.
Hearing Armondo’s responses and being able to really, deeply explain his own works helped realign him with why he started doing this work in the first place. It was to explain that which couldn’t just be told to you — that which you had to perceive and feel all in one go. His paintings attempted to capture that soul you could feel; it was in the cathedrals, and in concert halls, in the spirit of adventure and in the graceful dance; passion emanates from all things and the force is strongest when whole. He chased that elusive color and lively shade, yearning each time to add another piece to the puzzle.
It was this feeling, this immense wave, that he searched for in all things. It swayed at dusk and rose at dawn, rolling like a ball on the pitch or a smokey afternoon where the beauty was deep underneath the surface and blossomed like the first spring.
As the hours went by his head spun with new ideas and possible concepts; genius sparked like an old radio and started broadcasting a new frequency. This one familiar, but nothing like the last, it’s smooth melody awakened gears that grinded long ago.
“Alright hold on one more second,” Armondo urged, rubbing away excess ink and a bit of blood off Oliver’s ribcage.
The piece was nearly complete save a few more finishing touches, Oliver had grown quite accustomed to the pain of the gun and had entered a deep state of meditation. From above it was already Armondo’s best, the intricate dot work coupled with Oliver’s concept yielded a polished gem, one that implored wonders of depth and style, masquerading the plight of man as a venomous battle of wits.
“Done. Be careful not to touch it or irritate it for at least a few more days,”
Oliver looked at his ribs in the mirror behind them, he was mesmerized with the intricate ink work Armondo added to give the piece depth and substance. He was fascinated with the way the ink lines curved and contoured on his body and how stark the black was against his skin.
His eyes were wide and kept looking over the piece with a disbelief, amazed both in the creation and the fact that he got his first tattoo period. He would turn to Armondo again and again, smiling wider as each passing second made the realization more and more apparent.
They shook hands and hugged, a bond made from the respect they each shared.
“If you are in need of any more work done, don’t hesitate to come on through now.” Armando said with genuine sincerity.
Oliver nodded, “I won’t,”
“And if you do decide to create another collection, my gallery will always have you.”
They both nodded.
“As-Salaam Alaikum,” Armondo spoke, bowing his head. A reference to an earlier topic.
“And peace be with you,” Oliver bowed in return.
He left that shop, heading into the New York City twilight, invigorated with all these brand new thoughts and a happiness for the start of this new life. Thanks to this, there were a few more errands he had to run now.
The house was quiet when he entered late that night, but he had a feeling they were around because there were a few lights still left on. It was the tell for Mary, whose OCD kept the electric bill at an all time low most of the year. It could’ve been Anton but even he was pretty good at keeping the lights off.
He heard laughing in the back, a soft bass line and the faintest smell of weed, he smiled widely. This was exactly what he needed, whatever it was. A good joint, some really good sex, well, that is only if he could even move his body by the end of the night; the numbness of the tattoo was slowly beginning to pass and the stinging was starting to build up.
“Anyone home?” Oliver knocked on the open door.
“Oliver!” Shouted two voices from the back.
He opened the door and walked in, seeing both of them lying on the bed smiling; the music was pulsing throughout the hazy room. Mary was nearly naked in her black lace, looking liberated from a long day. Anton was quite stoned, wrapped in a comforter on the other side of the bed where he sat over a small wooden coffee table, rolling up another joint.
“How was your day?” Mary asked drowsily.
“Really good,” Oliver respond, reminiscing all the antics of the day in his mind.
“Same here mate,” Anton called back without turning his head.
“Yeah I can smell,” Oliver teased back wryly.
“He’s been smoking all day, Oli.” Mary added, although she looked equally as high.
“Been aiding and abetting have we?”
“Well not exactly “we”, she has, that’s for sure.” Anton responded, getting up to walk slowly and heavily towards the rest of the group, still fondling the joint meticulously like origami.
Oliver snagged the joint from his hands, “We?”
“Oui oui,” Mary laughed.
Oliver grabbed a lighter from his pocket and lit the joint, satisfied with the day’s finale.
“I walked into my room today and the hotbox was so real I couldn’t even see.” Mary said, giggling as they resumed their dialogue.
Oliver took a hit, “Please, some days I would come back to the apartment in Chicago and the whole place would be fumigated.”
“Hey I better not be hearing any shade,” Anton snapped, “I’ll take that J back real quick.”
The two laughed, “Here take it, I don’t want it anyways… shoddy craftsmanship that is.”
“Aye fuck off, you came home to a joint yeah?”
Oliver raised his hand in surrender, smiling widely.
“And where were you all this time anyways?”
“I read a book out at the park,”
“Well I hope you had a flashlight cause it got dark like 4 hours ago.”
“…and then I left to get a tattoo.” Oliver added quietly.
“Holy shit!!” Both of them shot up immediately.
“Where’d you get it?!”
“What is it of?!”
“Come on, show us!!” They begged in unison.
He lifted up his sweater to reveal the new art piece on his ribcage and they all flocked to get a better look, the redness had not yet subsided but it had become a little clearer after an hour or so.
“Now that’s sick.” Anton exclaimed.
“Really though, this is incredible.” Mary added marveling.
“I had finished the design in Morocco and I’ve been wanting to get it done ever since.”
“Bet it hurt like a bitch, eh?”
Oliver nodded, eyes wide and grave.
“You’re a dumbass for getting it on the ribcage your first time,” Anton smirked, “I would’ve been crying like a little baby no doubt.”
Mary laughed, “He probably wouldn’t have even finished yours Anton.”
“Yeah no, probably not.” They both laughed merrily.
“It was actually really fucking cool, the tattoo artist slash owner of the shop was a huge fan of my work, and he wants me to design something for his gallery some time, too.”
“Woah that’s dope man, was he interviewing you the whole time or what?”
“It wasn’t that bad,” Oliver mused, “It actually took my mind of the pain.”
“Well that’s good and all… but did you tell him you retired?”
“He’s not retired!” Mary snapped back.
“He might as well be, he hasn’t made a piece in a year.”
“He’s just in a creative slump nothing else…” Mary said, defending him.
“Fair enough,” Anton responded, “Either way this tattoo design is a surprise.”
“I’m gonna go get a drink, I’ll be right back.”
Anton shot a wryly glance at Oliver who nodded. After he left he added, “He’s right Mary, ‘retired’ was a pretty accurate term for this past year, I just wasn’t in the right headspace.”
“Does that mean you’re not going paint anymore?” Mary asked in a worried tone.
“Well I wouldn’t go that far…” Oliver said winking with a grin.
“Will these surprises ever fucking end??” Anton shouted out.
Mary’s eyes flickered and she ran out of the room calling after Anton, “What? What is it?”
When they all walked back into the living room, Anton had his hands around several big white bags which he held up in adoration. Oliver smiled wide, seeing the look in their eyes; it was their eager excitement and compassion. This was why he did what he did — because it made people happy.
“Ladies and gents, I present to you…” He threw his hand into the bag and rummaged around, pulling out a pack of paints, brushes and new canvases, “The return of Oliver Stanton!”
Mary clasped her hands around her mouth, her eyes wide and wondrous. She looked at Oliver who smiled and nodded as if to assure her that this was no dream.
“Armondo inspired me,” He paused, “Well Nashira inspired me really, but Armondo pushed me out the door.”
“So you have a new idea? You have a direction you want to go in??” They asked in this near perfect synchronization.
Oliver simply nodded, the grin on his face was too hard to wipe off and the visions that raced behind his soft hazel eyes were riveting, deliciously teasing him.
Their eyes were all wide, enveloped with excitement and an eager warmth you usually felt when waking up on Christmas morning. They barraged Oliver with questions which he deflected and danced around like a politician. There was no way he could really explain what he was truly feeling yet, the idea was present no doubt but it was stirring; only time and heat will develop it into something incredible.
In this sense, he equated his work to creating a diamond. As the days go by he builds on top of the next with new details and characteristics that personify it with greater accuracy. The heavier the idea became, the more pressure it garnered, and soon it’s fruition becomes inevitable. After all that was his goal, to capture that elusive soul in the bristles of his paintbrush; to make a diamond from the weight of his brimming dreams.
All throughout the night Oliver and Mary talked, discussing their days in full grandeur and the paths they were following. The goals and dreams Mary spoke of had entranced him like a vivid film. All her love for music shined through ever word spoken. She wanted to make an album, one that played to all the shades of the world, both physically and psychologically. The world she lived in was so colorful and vibrant, the shades of colors were never discriminated or judged, instead they flourished and bloomed with lively hues that to her, trickled down her spine and dripped in her ears.
“I want to make music that paints a picture is mind-boggling as yours Oliver,” She said intimately, “Something that’s beautiful and profound, speaking to the mind with a depth that plays to the these wonders untold.”
Oliver listened to her admiringly.
“The feeling you get when the music ripples through you, and then the incredibly thoughts you have when all the fingers point to an answer you hid inside.”
She was magnificent, she really was.
“That’s what I want to do, that’s the feeling I want to show the world.”
“We are friends for a reason,” Oliver said, speaking in a tone of pride and love.
She smiled at him, and the attraction of light brought them close again where they began to kiss with a platonic passion that did not feel romantic, but rather expressed a love that they simply couldn’t convey any other way.
It was a surreal relationship they shared, when respect and love were shown through pleasure and joy despite the labels or commitment. It was a friendship he relished, although time had broken them apart there was little one could do to stop the chemistry when they reunited.
In some ways, in a lot of ways, he felt that he could never settle down with her. It was not because of this openness they shared but because anything further would change what they had together. The way they lived and dreamed, they could never be together for ever and they both knew that.
Though that never deterred them, and in fact if anything it actually strengthened their bonds. They came together with a love that was limitless, it was a kind of love they never strived to sustain because the truth of happiness was not life maintained, but life overflowing. If they yearned to thrive, they knew this to be true and lived by the flow wherever they went.
“Being with you is a rush,” Mary confessed in a lull from the kissing.
“I couldn’t agree more, it feels too hurried.”
Mary laughed, “Shut up! You know what I mean.”
Oliver nodded, “I feel the same.”
“It’s different now though, I feel like there’s more control in you.”
Oliver looked at her with a devilish grin, “I’m never in control, sweetness.”
“Touché,” She conceded, “Before though it seemed volatile and dangerous.”
She paused, grinning wide, “I mean not to say that that wasn’t ridiculously hot either.”
Oliver laughed, “But you were still worried.”
“I was! I really was. I was really scared for you Oliver.” Mary took a heavy breath, “After the accident you weren’t yourself, and from then on you were never the same person.”
Oliver replayed his past as she spoke.
“I was worried Oliver wouldn’t come back…”
Oliver smiled and brought her close,
“He’s back.” He rubbed the back of her head softly. “He’s back.”
He closed his eyes, there was an undercurrent of fear that pulsed through him as he had said those words; it was as if some scanner had examined every single facet of his being, checking every crevice and crack — desperately searching for anything that could counter his defiant claim and ruin him once more.
He could feel the anxiety creep down his neck like a student watching the teacher grade his work. It felt like ants on his skin.
Suddenly though he felt different, the silence persevered; thinking started to become clear. It had felt as though a bomb was supposed to explode just then, after he had declared his truth, he fully expected dark contradictions to remind him of his rampant hypocrisy, but instead those seconds of silence lingered on, longer and longer until they seemed limitless. Each moment making the realization evermore apparent until tensions inside dissipated like clouds rained out.
The grading was complete it seems, and for some reason deep down he always knew he’d pass. The class was far from over of course but for the moment he had survived. Unlike that archaic proverb he had been weighed, he had been measured and yet, against all odds he had been found sturdy; like the cement that founds the cities beneath our feet, or the complex metalwork that scraped the sky above them, he found himself structurally sound once again.
It was not a test of survival though, nothing that would take his breath or demand a kill, it was a test for optimization, efficiency and integrity; he had survived the test sure but the test was to determine whether or not he was thriving.
“I want you to tell me all about it,” Mary pleaded, looking at the canvases as she ran her fingers through his hair.
“In time I will,” He replied with a patience.
“There’s nothing I can do to speed up time?” She asked teasingly, running her hand down his chest with a seductive tenderness.
He smiled and shook his head, “It’s still in it’s infancy right now,”
Mary shrugged and grinned, “Baby’s are cute.”
“You want a full grown man though.”
Mary rolled her eyes, “Not when you’re around.”
He looked at her hard, “I’ve just got my roots dug in, no stems or flowers yet it’s all just a concept, you know how that goes Mary.”
“Every new movement was a concept once.” She mused.
“The motion has started sure, but it’ll take a long time before it becomes a movement.”
“You amaze me sometimes Oliver, the pictures you paint.”
“It’s Atoms to Adams baby, the bigger the painter the bigger the picture.”
She looked at him like he was a vibrator in the store, impossible to describe in any other way; his words put her on her back better than any man ever could. The way he pieced together his sentences paralleled his suits, and those were always cutlets of high fashion. With his smokey stare he grilled them medium rare, blackened to perfection.
“Alright I’m gonna go take a shower now,” Oliver grimaced as the soreness of the tattoo reemerged underneath the high.
She swore there was an ellipsis at the end, and the look in his eye beckoned her to follow. For a piece of that brilliant mind? She would gladly butter down the pan.
After all, cooking is what they were best at.
And so they hopped up, chasing each other like puppies on the range, playful and innocent, thoughtless about the future. Whether together or without, they only lived now. It was a simple life for what it was, and it’s always been that way. Their cooking was also as such, a concoction of spices and sweets mixed together like a ferocious delicacy. Reminiscent to the orchestras that composed the masterpieces still revered today; similar to the congregations that amassed in the Vatican or the surfer in the tunnel of the thunderous sea. It was the feeling we all searched for, that made you tense with a fear that it was too good to be real. The experience that gave reason to all the answers so desperately discovered, and when they fell from grace — it was the reason we still searched on.
They had discovered this power in an old apartment, west of campus. The water sputtered to life, a real waterfall drawn to scale, dripping as the steam clouded the room. It was a late night, where the parties corralled even the heaviest drinkers into comatose. They had stepped into that room where all the walls breathed and the colors danced, where music sounded like a paradise beneath your feet; trickling down your spine like the water that fell down Oliver’s now.
She ran her hands on his skin like a glaze; silken and soothed, Oliver mirrored. The night glowed like a neon sign collaborated with Starry Night, the most subtle of movements amounted to these cinematic moments equivalent to euphoric prose. As the water fell down their sultry vessels they escaped into the realm too surreal to describe, captivated and capsized by sensuality.
In the heat, it played out like a dance; a give and take that relinquished the pleasure felt for the power to please, for the gift of a painter was not the vision but the stroke. As if to brush away indecision, that cold night encouraged his moves, mind games playing on the flesh; their warm tendrils the knights and queens that commanded the battlefield.
In the midst of the mind, water and wonder clouded the lines between the heavenly and the primal like the elegant twirl of a ballerina whose grace seeps into the space between spaces until it falls again, crashing like the majestic sway of a decorated corsair, striding beyond the tide.
So studied and well-versed they became, sifting through the annals of metaphysical sensuality in their dream lit room of that small apartment. So much so that even today, those feelings nigh impossible to replicate, found their match in the steamy drizzle they now embraced.
His game was refined to a point, anointed king only by the cheer of the crowd, whom he served. He dribbled with the power of James, regal in his temperament like Ronaldo, and magically blurring the reality of senses until his powerful touch was softer than the weight it carried
— so clean it had to be Messi.
Their smiles whimsical and winsome, teasing just the same despite the contradictions they had imposed, their love was devout of depth and in one way — in a lot of ways — it was still deeper than the marinas purely because it requested nothing more than love itself.
Perhaps it is their inability to be that is why they can never be less. A suspension dependent on the lives they led but paramount to the love they felt. In that room so many years ago, a bond was sealed whether the universe condoned it or not. Powerless it was to stop the uninhibited love affair that promised, by it’s very definition, to never become more than this.
The water shut off, revealing the heavy breathes that a blind man would’ve mistaken for runners, and why should he not? The outcome decides the income. Oliver stepped out and looked at himself in the mirror while Mary walked to the closet; her supple curves glistening, barely hidden by a white towelette.
He lifted up his arm to see the new ink still crisp but tender on his ribcage, it really seemed to complement him in a way deeper than a mere visual satisfaction. Something about it just completed a mental image that stuck with him since childhood.
Even as a kid he had always seen himself as a human being, not in the way that most envision but a true, divine beast; a creature both delicate and powerful. One unique for being the only being in existence to take advantage of both qualities in one. Sure there were instances of it harnessed in animals and plants and all creatures, but it was not taken to as far of extremes. Neither mentally nor physically was it ever expressed as complex as we today.
Thinking back, it was the Aborigines and Native American tribes that inspired him first, they all existed with an artistic disposition about the world around them — it was imbedded in their view rather than a piece of it. It made them free of reasonable limitations, and created this fantastically terrifying world of love, power and fear that played games of the shadows they chased. It was a magical world in their eyes. This true freedom that he found absolutely beautiful. The way they painted themselves, creating masks and armor of color and mind, representing the courage and valiance that empowered them to uphold their ancestral legacies and put forth their own.
Of course though he admired many other cultures as well, and that element of primordial beauty was in all corners of the globe. It was in the intellectual elegance of the Greeks and Romans, the Persians as well. At the pinnacle of their power they had meta-physically sculpted a magisterial world, one capable of capturing these age old conquerers in a light that charmed and inspired, imploring glory and reverence; after all it was a kind of prosperity and love they protected.
In the same breath he felt the poise and depth of the mind that epitomized the dragons of the east, that staying power that only arose from explorations deep within the psyche. Imagine a sacred warrior in such deep meditation training to slow the fatal blade to a crawl, lost in the depths of each breath, emerging from that sea of the alone only after that creeping blade was conquered through patient wit and agility.
He looked at himself as a culmination of these elements — and they became him, a being of this immense wealth, not only in the physical world but in the one that preceded him. A master of his mind and a guardian of his body in a way that let him see the flickers of a future flame, feel the heat of his own, and sense the embers of those that had come to pass; still clinging to life, desperately gasping for air.
So he became a combination of the ages, revolutionary and yet tolerant in a paradoxical sort of way that seemed to fit in the most dynamic fashion. He readapted his time to the stars above once more, rather than the world before him. It helped him anticipate a higher game of chess that he felt was a cleaner, clearer way to operate and abide. It was possible too, that this mentality had offered him the life he gladly indulged in now but even still he focused only on the moment.
It was for this that the tattoo invigorated him so, it was so clean and crisp like the discipline of the Phalanx that swept through the classical world, and yet it was one with all of the animalistic energies that had lectured the human pupils for centuries before the weight of words corrupted them and hubris took hold.
That respect and admiration was most prevalent in the east, and in more primitive civilizations which had studied and learned from the true masters, observing the true hunters in this world. Beasts of no mans land who lived to survive, giving all they had at every moment for a lapse would surely spell demise. This was the true way. He felt the energies manifest in him like a vicious battle of dares and dreams, for no matter, we carried a touch too much.
It was a simple posit of human nature, the desires that drove us forward were doomed to throw us off the ledge eventually — the question was whether we were prepared to take that leap.
If you make the jump before you’re ready, what is there to stop you from failing? Countless lives have been lost in such a hurry, tests to mark an ever progressive acclimation to life’s challenges until one day, the collective mind spawned the brush, or better yet, the painter, that would paint the right picture. A phenomena impossible were it not for the mortal sequence of events that carved out a path beforehand.
Fingers suddenly curled on his shoulder and the warmth of her cheek touched his neck, biting on his ear. He smiled and turned away from his thoughts to embrace her further.
Whether it would be a parachute or a jetpack that sustained them, he could not be sure, it was whatever the time determined and at the moment, his own was too preoccupied to tell.
“You know it’s hard to win a staring contest with yourself.” She smiled, teasing after pulling away to handle a vinyl for the record player.
“I’ve done it a few times,” he smirked. “The trick is to realize that you could never lose against yourself.” He blinked. “Though I am a formidable adversary.”
Quaint music, reminiscent of a lazy Parisian cafe, began to warm the air, and it crackled to life cordially. She walked back to him, wearing a silken lavender robe that glistened with every elegant side she took. It was quite mesmerizing.
She smiled at him, but another thought had colored her cheeks, “When will you be leaving?”
“What, you want me gone already?”
“No, no,” She laughed, slapping his chest with a smile. She then kissed him deeply and looked up to him, “I just don’t want to wait another year to see you again, that’s all.”
“Who said you had to wait?” There was a hesitance, “You know life is a waiting game but don’t make me your patient.”
“I’m not, I’m not, I know who we are.. I just wish we could be that more often.”
He pulled her close with a smile, understanding her without a shadow of pity.
“I know, I know,” His voice was calm, “I just have to see this through.”
Mary looked away with slight reservation now, “She will take you back.”
Oliver smiled, “You’re so certain?”
“Of course, you’re different now. More sincere and in control, it was 2 years ago anyways.”
Oliver envisioned seeing Anna again, her long blonde hair braided back behind her ears and her crystal blue eyes glistening above that pearly smile. He had been thinking about her for days now, wondering how it would all turn out; how she would react to him.
“I haven’t spoken to her since,” Oliver noted.
Mary grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the bathroom, “It’s okay, you’ll know what to say when you finally get the chance to.”
They jumped into the bed together, their wet hair casting drops on the pillows as they snuggled close underneath the sheets. She nestled cozily on his chest, his eyes were up and lost in thought.
“I want you to be happy Oliver,” She spoke, not bothering to look up at him, “I hope that you can get her back, really.”
Now she turned to him, “But I want you in my life still. Friends, of course.”
“I don’t think you’ll have to worry.” He replied.
She said nothing but her eyes darted from right to left as she tried to piece together his meaning.
“These past few weeks have been so life-changing for me, and I would be lying if I said seeing you again didn’t make me happier than I’ve been in a long time.” He paused again, choosing his words with artful cadence. “You came into my life at a time I could’ve never expected; before this we hadn’t spoken in years and yet now I feel as though we never stopped speaking.”
She smiled, the blush of her cheeks colored her face warmly. “I want to see what you’ll become now Oli, there’s so much potential and I’m excited.”
He grinned at this too, “You’re right, I’ll be making a lot of steps forward now.” He said, thinking about the future he had left on simmer.
“And no matter what,” Mary’s conviction was irresistible, “I want to be apart of it somehow. Any way we can. I mean, we were good friends, all three of us, before this. Please, let’s be again.”
“Oh I’ll make sure of it Mary,” He looked at her with stellar eyes, “You will be.”
She kissed him now with a sweet passion, grateful for his company.
“Goodnight Oliver, dream big.”
He smiled and wrapped his arms around her tight, “Goodnight,” He whispered, “Dream better.”
The next morning he woke before her and slipped out of bed as quietly as possible. The dawn had yet to arrive and the world was still left in a petrified blue that promised a future but still clung to the shadows.
There was a cold shock when his feet touched the black marble floors, it jolted him awake and beckoned a second step. As he walked through the quiet loft he felt a subtle detachment to this wonderful little place; his path was beyond the high-rise lifestyle for now and just like a sailor too far inland he yearned to return to his long lost lover, the sea.
Were there any reasons he should stay there? His friends were considered but what had they to offer in terms of his pursuit, was it worth another night in New York City? Another night of the same suit where they stirred relentlessly beneath the soaring towers? It was not within reason.
As result he sat on a barstool in the early morning grey, rolling another joint because time, for the moment, was obsolete. After a moment of silence he licked the paper closed and turned his head towards the large bags of art supplies.
He struck a match, still pondering his day, and watched it burn luminous before lighting the joint. What was he to make of this day? He took a deep inhale as the orange glow erupted with vibrant vigor, and blew several thick O’s while he continued his meditation.
He liked to think that smoking was a catalyst for mindfulness, the relaxation was one thing but the very act of smoking seemed to slow his world down and clarify issues. It reminded him of those great middle eastern kings and lords who would sit for hours smoking on hookah, lost in deep thought about their next moves in warfare, diplomacy and life itself.
The game he played was no more complex than the one they played a thousand years ago but certainly no simpler than theirs either. Though the moves were his own, they mirrored those made with armies at the ready and many cultures and world’s at stake. The scale was only a matter of power and for now he had no desire to play that big.
After all, his own affairs were in need of assortment. He took another drag and watched as the smoke trailed ever upwards in silky stocks that swirled and danced, at peace, in the quiet still.
Whatever his decision was he could not take his eyes off of those supplies, if there was anything to be done today it would surely be that.
And so a decision was made; perhaps to prolong a greater question or to wait until a better one appeared, but nevertheless he would paint. Now was a good time he felt, as it was 20 minutes from sunrise and the shade of the sky had started to take on colors of reds and pinks, mixing graciously with oranges and blues as the greatest painter of them all stirred the radiant brush before waking it’s indelible creations.
Oliver stood up out of the stool and begin gathering materials for a makeshift studio, he grabbed sheets from the closet and pulled out a new easel he had just bought. It was about this time when most artists dawned a look of nervous temperament, contemplating ideas for their creation to be. Even if it were already pre-conceived, even if it were in the final stages of development there is always a nervousness to be had. He felt it was a necessary stage for creation; thoughts of what it would become, of how to begin, flickered across his mind.
Before long the paints were set in an organized fashion, placed neatly to the left and right of the easel where a blank canvas sat ever so teasingly. He spent a longer time fiddling with the brushes than he did setting up, each one was crucial to him.
When the sun had finally peaked above the skyline he was standing before the canvas with the eyes of a marked sprinter. He looked around the room once more before taking a deep, loving breath in the silent, smoke filled condo.
Synonymous to the moments before playing a concerto, as everyone knows, he simply began.
The strokes came quick and in bushels. In some cases they prickly and rough, darting place to place like a vagabond and in others they were composed as a sensei’s step; sliding gracefully across the polished wood floor. He saw painting like an instrument and heard all the keys and notes play like a symphony of colors before him. In some ways they spoke to him with the sophistication of an orchestra; he could hear and feel the timbre of each brush, the soulful emotion of each paint, and the beautiful articulation that became.
What a rush it was, what exuberant power he felt. This foreign blade had not felt his grip in a long, long time, and he was eager to test the waters. With the fortitude only understood by he, Oliver relearned the subtleties of this primordial art. He was beginning to move with comfort, constructing with a familiar ease.
As the picture began to take form, he even cracked a smile once or twice. In this world he was master and commander; the sway of the sea would never bow to him of course, but the turns of his ship and the magic of perspective were diligently conjured and fine tuned, respectively.
Before long the others were awake and the once quiet, gray room was bustling with a vigor as vibrant as the dance of smoke not long before. They hustled close, peering over his shoulder, astonished by this newfound artistic fervor. It had been years since either of them had seen Oliver produce any new work, and for an artist of his calibre, it was something to behold.
His talents came back to him like riding a bike: they had never left. The simple movements he turned to habit still charmed even him, and like the cool wind that blew through your hair on a bike, they had never felt so crisp, no matter how many rides.
It was that sort of wonder that he longed for in each and every aspect of life, this unquenchable thirst so characteristic of humans was rarely matched but when it was, you could be damn sure they did their best to never let go.
This was why he loved painting, one way or another it never ceased to amaze. The remarkable creativity of painting was limitless, so long as your hands didn’t give way or your mind cave — though bets could be made that even then there was no stopping the painter from painting.
The same could be said for cannabis, or marijuna or whatever they called it; all health benefits and addictive free qualities aside he could always without fail, get higher. It was a spectacular feat of nature that baffled him and so many alike; the fact that this seemingly benign plant was incapable of killing you, but wholly capable of taking you out of your mind and relaxing you beyond compare on every single occasion.
Both of these qualities led him to door number three, the most elusive chase there was in his wonderful little life. Women. No seriously, they were constrictive, and mind-bending… more insatiable than the most ravenous beast and yet despite it all, they were the most captivating creatures ever to walk this fine Earth. Their grace and elegance was unmatched, the way they sway; the way they soothe; their power to embody all that was beautiful and then somehow manage to articulate it in prose, poise and passion. A masterpiece.
He found himself on many occasions lost in thought, daydreaming about these elusive souls and then reminiscing on the times he was fortunate enough to catch one, and he had caught one once. To him there was nothing more satisfying than pleasuring a woman beyond belief, than making her happier beyond her wildest dreams, and seeing them truly enjoy themselves, free of any vulnerability. Magical.
Of course the man was just as capable, but with a millennia of weight weighing down on them their mentalities often bore Oliver in ways he could not easily explain. That’s not to say that the women in this world were not as equally incorrigible but when you’ve been in power for so long there’s not much around to convince you to broaden your horizons. Unfortunately that meant the Earth would not be broadening their horizons anytime soon either, but that idea was for another day and a far stiffer drink.
When he finally took a break to let the paints dry, Mary had left back to the studio and Anton was out with another girl he had met at the club the night before. Promiscuity seemed to be a pattern in their lives, he realized though that it was probably more a problem of love lost rather than searching for another.
Nevertheless, Oliver had the entire loft to himself and he couldn’t be happier. He sat back on the cream pleather couch and started picking the stems out from a batch of herbs. In the seconds he had to spare he swiped a few times on his phone and turned on some music; a piano concerto, a nocturne by Chopin, to be exact.
The soft keys echoed in the room softly, playing off the walls with an eclectic soul. He loved the height of the living room ceiling, it was nearly as high as his own loft. It gave him the space he needed to think deep, and he loved it when the swirling smoke rose up ever higher.
Speaking of which, he packed a bowl into Mary’s glass piece and caught the hemp wick on fire; hovering the flame over until the green glowed orange and her piece filled white. It was such a beautiful piece, and he thought admiringly when he pulled away; it was a personal work made for her by Rezen; a professional glassblower stationed in NYC. He was famous for his marble cut ceramic pieces but this one in particular was a hybrid mix of ceramic and glass that felt, looked and smoked like a true high fashion bong — he chuckled at the thought; it would probably have been made by Hermes or something, that olympian always flew high.
When he sat back the world had slowed to a pleasant tick, each second flowing into the next with a patient persistence. He breathed deep and meditative; resonating with the hazy, music filled room until he had become the very room itself.
If you listened close enough you could feel the sway of the music, the passions and pains of the pianist as the notes flowed off his fingers in a flurry of true scintillating brilliance. He melted in intricate soundscapes that tickled his spine and dripped behind his ears; there was no greater melody than a piano concerto, he thought.
To him he believed that the even the grip of the brush dictated a certain degree of creation, it was delicacy of the strokes, the temperament of the colors, and their flow on the canvas. When you created work, any kind of work, Oliver believed you should equate art to that of a symphony, immense and grandiose with each instrument working in tangent to birth voluminous sound.
Of course, Oliver also believed that everything we do in life was an art to be mastered, and that even the tie of a shoe lace could be done with dignity and respect. Over the years he could see how this mentality was lost in translation; after his disastrous fall from grace he never really regained that same composure. Well, until today that is.
Were it for his rejuvenated mind or simply his return to base, his penchant for mastery never left his veins and like a rider on his horse or surfer on the waves the balance between powers was a habit never forgotten lest a careless mind incurred demise. What a revealing thought he noticed, oh how his mind deteriorated and atrophied after that day; or was it a neglect that arose only by the energy of the roots below?
Powerful were these thoughts, and they clarified his judgment. As he took a glance back in time he began to highlight the moments of incredulity that, like termites, weakened the stilts he stood so high upon. And his collapse was all but obvious now, tracing back the lines of time until he could see the culprit clear as day. Fame and fortune, a lust for power that overwhelmed even the bearer; but wasn’t that fateful progression the ultimate truth?
Yet in still the question that arises to the mind was whether the circle was truly complete, was resurrection the final metaphor for the hero frayed by power? If it truly was his revival that completed the venomous loop, what was the next step — or is evolution more than a mere moment in our timeline?
Surely the next step was a new beginning of some unseeable sort, but did it ever really end?
He lit the bong and took a long savoring hit, pondering these thoughts with a calm, meditative awareness; nearly relaxed to a point of sleep, but only just. He let out a long winded trail of smoke whose wisps kissed the ceiling so sweetly.
Never mind the depth, his preferred moment was here and now; he stood up with an energetic composure and faced the painting, still a young babe in this instant. What would it become he thought? He had a clue but in truth, only time would tell this age old fable.
With the soft concertos surrounding him, he played a rhythm of his own that complemented the the elegant compositions. In some ways the two blended together; the music the atmosphere to his masterful antics. Synchronized like four steps, the measures matched and the scales begged another dance to be had. It was times like these he felt helpless to the flow of life, and he loved every second of this guiding light, directing his moves not by the force of thought but by the momentum of the past now before him.
Piece by piece he strung them together like laces to his cleats, pulling them tight until he tied them snug to his foot; not even the knot was overlooked. Now on the move, the colors curved and kissed, receiving his brush like the pass of a ball, the touch delicate but calculated with a carefree precision that a younger mind would never understand.
Though care was never far from his, it observed and directed with a gentle nudge, seeing out the whole picture through an eye above his own. He predicted the next step but never aimed further than the stroke at hand, allowing the flower to blossom at it’s own pace for it could flourish no other way; patience persisted.
In time the moment came to relinquish his power, and though he understood such a thing in this world it was only now that the parallels arose. When he set the brush down he looked upon the work with the proud eyes of a father, the daring caress of a lover and an intuitive ambition that only the mother could conjure. It was not finished just yet, but at what point can momentum derive that fate-driven conclusion?
It is true, time tells all tales, but only the writer determines what is to be spoken. Through history and ours, the truth can be found. After all what is life but the conflict of opposites, the creations between lovers; the life and death and energies that empower us. The complexity of time has made such things hidden from the naked eye; lines drawn centuries ago govern a world too evolved to adhere, but even the dreams told then are but mirror reflections to those we still envision today. It seems at the heart of all life, we yearn for collaboration, innovation and congregation; constructing a vision that only the writers have defined.
For the words on a page, there are no limits but the margins we operate in, for the human within an infinite universe, what limits are there but our own minds? Such is the case when one talks about the ailments in life, for the shortcomings of one person are but the aftermath of those indulgences, whether by his hand or another’s.
Eventually time builds these ideas into great peoples, whose selfish moves close doors not before them but in the futures of those yet to make such strides. One day Oliver hoped that their steps may be lighter than the darkness of desire. For those heavy steps quake worlds beyond sight; unfortunate souls burdened already by their harrowing plight just the same, they yearn for a future but a fraction of the heights truly attained, unaware that they are but scavengers in a wasteland already ravaged by the pioneers before them.
He shook his head, thoughts for another day. His own concerns were more along the lines of his plans tonight; where would he go and what would he be doing? When you operate limitless it often becomes apparent that you must then limit yourself. Otherwise the reckless steps could jeopardize really anything, there was a degree of poise needed in these situations and it was usually met with an astounding style. Oliver felt this tonight especially, whether it was for progress made or to relish in the linens of luxury he cared very little to know. Perhaps it’s actually both for all he knew, oh well, his night was his to enjoy.
He decided to call Anton for lunch, the two had not spent much time together lately and it had started to trip nerves on both sides. It was nothing entirely overt and neither of them felt any serious personal affliction but you gotta see your friends every once and awhile. Bad things happen when you neglect your own friends.
“Ay mate what’s happening?”
“I’m done painting today, you want to grab something to eat?”
“I’m at this thai place with Sandra and Maria,” He could hear his muffled voice calling for some more drinks, “Come meet us? We haven’t ordered yet.”
“What’s the name?”
“I’ll send you a pin!”
Then he hung up the phone and Oliver grinned.
“I haven’t had Thai in ages.” He thought to himself.
He grabbed his phone and made a few clicks and swipes, within a few moments the sound of Guns N’ Roses started stirring all throughout the silent halls.
It was a live concert version that played through a television off to the right connected by video playing from the playstation setup underneath. It was breathtaking and power driven, especially when it echoed all throughout the house; the reverb was simply riveting.
It started with this subtle thumping, the beat of a heart, a fragile flow supported by the slick grin of a sinister bass line that shook you to the bone. As it started to build, all of those bones were snapped by the heavy hitting percussion, igniting the song to life like the turn of the key in an fearsome engine. He walked to the beat, energized by the life of their waves and of his own.
Soon the crackling voice of Axl Rose sounded off like a high octane overload, blitzing through the airwaves, cutting so crisp afore the roar of a crowd driven to insanity by the seductive touch of Slash as he toyed with a devilish riff that howled and moaned, stirring the whole arena into pure hysteria. Oliver bobbed his head, caught by the mad rhythm, gliding and dancing his way throughout the house towards Mary’s bathroom; where even there the electric sound thrashed with a hyper drive devil may care sort of attitude.
The air was stale and lifeless to him; dozens crowded in to sit and enjoy their lunch but despite their cheery dispositions he found himself in a position of surprising discontent. This life was rather dull, he thought. Not necessarily to those accustomed to such antics, but to him — one with a mind fixated far away — it was fruitless.
The palate of this restaurant was elegant, the architecture cut with a razor’s edge, and the lighting dimmed to complement the culture. The food was savory as well, spices and sauces scintillated like fireworks in his mouth but nevertheless his heart failed to engage.
“And they looked at me,” Anton made a jeering face, “Like that see,”
The two girls laughed, giggling with the signature of a bit too much alcohol.
Anton was of the same suit, talking a bit too loud with an issue of balance keeping him in a constant swaying motion.
“It made me kind of think back to myself like ‘huh, I guess American culture is not as widely accepted here’.”
He was referring to his trip to Vietnam when he crossed his fingers to his hostess after he had finished his plate of food.
“and here I was just hoping to get another serving!”
They all laughed with jolly inebriation. Oliver himself though had heard it far too many times to enjoy it again and it only seemed to push him further from reality. Aside from the food, which they had already eaten.. why was he even there?
‘He was his best friend’, he thought.
Unfortunately, for the first time this was not a comforting thought to him.
“I’ve got to go,” he said placing his napkin on the empty plate.
“Oh what you’re leaving?” Anton turned with a look of shock.
“I have to go finish my painting, anyways I just came out to eat something. Besides, don’t bother worrying, enjoy your company.” He looked at the two ladies and grinned with a respectful nod.
“Right, ok then,” Anton replied, wasting little time to return to his train of thought.
He stood up, patted Anton on the back, and then left without uttering another word.
Outside the weather was warm and crisp, he felt uplifted within seconds of leaving the restaurant and stretched out his arms in a new satisfaction. He had felt uncomfortable the whole time really, nothing about those girls were particularly inviting and truth be told, he felt the farthest he had ever felt from Anton during that lunch.
It was no shock to catch him drunk in the afternoon and usually it was even less surprising to find Oliver there drinking with him. In fact it was often Oliver who suggested that they start drinking so early in the first place. Maybe his old ways had rubbed off on Anton, or maybe nothing had really changed except for him. Earlier Oliver would’ve stayed there, no doubt probably filling up his drink a few more times with thoughts of body shots in the future.
He shook his head, some wild thoughts.
Where was this new Oliver going though with such a purpose? He had been walking down streets with no real destination but still felt there was reason to move. It could even be that walking alone was the reason he needed; the idea of rambling on usually stuck in his head whenever there was a problem present. It was the beauty of movement, like a great Galleon sailing across the ocean. Even if you were knocked off course, just as long as you kept on pushing forward, kept on striving to succeed, then eventually you would get back in line.
Success is a funny thing really, after all it is the completion of a task isn’t it, and though it was never really defined people always believed it to be a static constant in all their daily lives, the satisfactory bar that they would never reach. The interesting thing about it is that it you define success for you and you alone. Whether that is a mutually agreed level of output, the solutions for some small personal problem or the endgame to some nefarious plan.
He took a step and grinned, every step equaled success as far as he was concerned.
Suddenly he knew what he wanted to do. He pulled out his phone to make a call but paused for just a second, there was conflict in his eyes and he hesitated to unlock the phone just yet.
‘No, no,’ He thought to himself, ‘I need to actually see her.’
He put his phone back in his pocket and looked up at the street signs trying to reorient himself, and then he laughed to himself lightly; pulling out his phone to open up a maps app. Against a device of such versatility… Twas a battle he’d almost certainly lose.
It was always a treat to see Mary in her zone, her work was somethings of a mystery to Oliver and to see her put the track together in real time was an astonishing feat. She had been working on this particular song for a few days now; the final product was starting to show bear fangs.
When he walked into the recording studio he could see her turned away over a computer with headphones around her neck. He watched for a moment, a light grin on his face, as the sounds bounced from wall to wall; intricate little beats, some sweet and others powerful, played with resonance all throughout the room.
She was like a composer to him — she was a composer — the way she chose to layer and place all of the samples, how the sounds harmonized and came together like a symphony. She had yet to turn around but he didn’t mind, as far as he was concerned he could’ve stayed there all day just to listen to her work.
“Alright, let’s check out the full introduction yeah?” Mary shouted to another DJ doing work in the room adjacent.
He nodded and then gave a thumbs up.
She smiled and played it. Immediately the whole room was filled with the voices of a great choir, there were eerie passages of synths that supported the voices on either side. She started to press buttons and flip switches on one of the turntables; different beats began to cascade around the voices until they slowly disappeared from earshot. The resounding fable slowly gave way to powerful waves of high voltage riffs that started to build on top of each other, making the stirrings for a master class drop.
Oliver couldn’t help but nod and bounce to the beat, the authenticity was too overwhelming for him to stay put — not to mention the intoxicating rhythm which held a firm grip on his entire being — swaying him about sweetly.
Suddenly the beat cut off, a few traces of sound lingered for but a few more seconds until the silence returned unanimously.
“Not bad,” Oliver spoke with a golfer’s clap.
Mary turned around and ran to him with a grin, recognizing his voice in an instant.
“It’s a major improvement from last time,” She said, pulling away from a hug.
“It sound’s incredible M, I can’t wait to hear the rest of it.”
She smiled with such sincerity, “What are you doing here?”
“I was eating lunch with Anton and his friends,” He paused, not liking the sound of that, “I don’t know it wasn’t very enjoyable to be quite honest.”
“He’s become almost as reckless as you lately,” She said with a humorous touch of worry.
“Oh but he still can’t party as hard as me though,” Oliver teased.
“Nope, no fights yet so far..” Mary added with a daring grin.
“Did he tell you about that?” Oliver spoke, putting his hands to his hair in embarrassment.
“Looks like Oliver doesn’t play nice with other boys hmm?” She said giggling.
“Oh, he looked at me the wrong way,”
Mary laughed, “And it’s not a good idea to look Oliver Stanton the wrong way, huh?”
He shook his head and cocked his eyebrow with a wry little grin.
“Will you be staying for long?” She asked with a curious hint.
“Not too long I don’t think,” He turned, “I just wanted to talk to you before I left.”
She raised an eyebrow, “Left?”
“I need to leave here Mary,” He could see her break.
He put his hand on her cheek, “It’s just, every day I feel further and further away.”
She looked up at him with a melancholy that didn’t destroy him, but left him pained. She knew what he had planned to do but he knew it would hurt nonetheless. It always hurt.
“I have to find out what my fate is,” He said with an ominous tone.
“Say no more, say no more,” She sniffled subtly.
“So how soon will you be going?” She asked trying to regain her composer.
“As soon as I can,” Oliver responded calmly, “There’s a flight late this evening; it’s a red eye.”
“I’ll keep in touch Mary, I promise you I will.”
“You better.” She nudged him, beginning to warm up.
They hugged again and there was a long and comfortable silence.
“You know, Mike is leaving in 20 minutes or so.”
Oliver smirked, “You trying to test out these sound proof rooms?”
She laughed, cocking her brow, “Maybe.”
The two toyed around for another half hour; he would listen and comment as she mixed and matched different beats together, some from the current song and others from projects still in their infancy — too young to see the light of day yet.
Their chemistry was unmistakable, lovers of a description one could scarcely separate from the real thing, only their connection was as set in stone as any friendship. The only difference here was he opted to separate the body, mind and spirit; seeking to pleasure her without risking the platonic bonds breaking. It was a risky venture that the both of them took on simply to enjoy their company to the fullest.
By all accounts they were lovers, but of the most unique variety. It was for this reason that he was able to feel no remorse despite the strong ties he felt to Anna. She had no idea he even wanted to see her again let alone he was still alive; there was nothing to stop him.
As such, their aim to please each other to the fullest at each core was key. To stimulate the body, to uplift the mind, and to be the souls they needed. When you felt it to such a degree, it seemed logical to be this way. No obligations mandated by an outdated system, no toxicity save that which they kept to themselves — though they rarely kept it to themselves, and why should negativity be hidden anyways? It only festered in the shadow of the eye.
No, they were honest and loving as human beings should be. At the end of the day, when he pulled her hair back he loved only the feeling it gave her, for pleasure’s sake.
“You’ll finish the painting there?” She asked, still breathing heavily.
He was quiet, still putting on his pants and straightening up,
“I think so.” He finally spoke.
She began to put her bra back on, “I want to see the finished product, no better yet, I want the finished product… think you’ll give it?”
He shot her a glance, the audacity of such a question.
“It’s already yours,” He spoke with a curve in his voice.
“It is?” She smiled widely.
“I planned on selling the whole collection at discount to the Armando’s but then again, I figure one could take a different route home.” He looked down at her warmly.
She hugged him and kissed him sweetly, “It’ll go right on top of my mantle, I swear.”
He laughed heartily, “Oh you know I don’t care where you put it, just make sure you remember what it really means okay?”
“And what is that?”
“Building character,” He looked at her with his deep hazel eyes, “We build from the ground up, our past defines our foundation but from there on out, we make it up as we go along.”
“We were always great storytellers weren’t we?” She smiled, knowing how deep it was to them.
“Ever since that day, we decided to make it all happen and haven’t looked back since.” He nodded with heavy set eyes.
“Never will.” She grinned, hugging him again tightly, this time for a long minute.
When he finally said goodbye the day was starting to descending into dusk, the sky had taken on a pastel orange, dabbed with pinks and reds like watercolors on the canvas. It was a scene he’d remember the city by, something so grandiose and yet so deeply heartfelt. What a world it was, when changing for the better made you sacrifice an amazing thing.
Hopefully the horizon ahead would be more picturesque, but when could you ever be sure?
All he knew was there would be another horizon tomorrow, and if he played his cards right it could be even more beautiful than the one before him… but the gamble was never easy.
The next few hours were a blur. Even to him, the methodical routine of packing had become something of a ritual; especially therapeutic in times of stress. Folding each article of clothing with a gentle precision, the work eventually melted into a mind numbing monotony.
He had already booked the flight; it was scheduled for 11PM and after a few layovers it would probably get to Seattle late next morning. It was invigorating to even think about really, all the emotions were welling up inside of him like tidal waves; they lurked and lingered, rolling to a deep murmur that thumped patiently for the next light of day.
Despite the relatively calming chores his mind was otherwise ablaze with thoughts and wonders, hoping and dreaming of outcomes he could never ensure, praying — though he didn’t believe in such a thing — that it would be alright.
What was a prayer after all? If it was made in the wrong name was it moot? It could not be so, it spanned so many religions; so many beliefs. If it was not owned by any one entity then it was surely a universal concept. The blessings he beckoned for were simple after all.
Another chance, another moment caught in her melting gaze, one more opportunity to prove his worth and regain the trust of a woman he had surely devastated. It was such a painful thought to reconsider again and again; now that it was present in his mind it hurt more than it ever did.
Before it was pushed aside like the toys in a child’s room when cleaning was to be done. It hid in the dark reaches of his mind and warned like ominous thunderstorms lurking in the night. It’s the power of unsolved problems that truly take a toll.
He slowed for a moment and looked out the window; the images had become a bit too much for him to bear just then.
Her eyes wide, those blue crystals shattered into pieces all over the cold floor.
It was his own mistake that brought him to this harrowing moment now.
Gasps of pain, light and quiet — the silence that terrified — she grips her stomach.
What was he thinking just then, what now?
Red lights from the window. A phone in his hand. Her head in his lap.
For the first time in years there were tears welling up in his eyes; they started to fall loosely down his cheeks as the images ensued.
A clear plastic mask with tubes. That bracelet. Her hand in his.
Oliver felt no fear, not this time. He only felt the sheer pain of sorrow, of terrible, terrible sorrow.
The operation. A pale doctor’s condolence.
He fell down to the ground and sobbed, uncontrollable but he knew he needed every last ounce of pain inside of him. It needed to surface, it needed to bare its fangs and bite down with every venom at it’s disposal.
The rest was all too real for him. So much so that it was a blur even in his own memory, there was nothing he could think or say to try and capture the shell shocked horror that exposed the weakest fibers at his core. Like cutting piano chords with a jagged blade, the visions yanked mercilessly at his heartstrings.
A hooded bus ride, eyes cold and broken.
It was in this moment that he felt a surreal anger well up, a deep seated pain sparked the fire of an even greater rage. At himself, at that scrawny weakling sitting in the back of the bus with no understanding of reality or honor.
How could he do such a thing? Did the trauma blind him so much that even the love of his life was as expendable as his own? He left it all behind without a single shimmer of hesitation, his whole life, and everything in this world seemed to condone it.
His fingers clenched like they did in Nashira’s kitchen, the same fury he felt then was beginning to resurface now. Just as the thought emerged the flashbacks of the table and her worried eyes…
No. No, it would not be so.
He could not fall, not after working so hard, he could not resort to the same hate and regret that destroyed him so long ago. It worked at him like a master sculptor, trying to cut away at what little soul he had left inside. Yet the blade dulled.
His hands were shaking but regardless, he thought of a brighter time.
Her golden hair swayed with a turn, a smile wide and eyes alluring, she danced merrily.
A smile threatened.
Grabbing his hand, she pulled him close, daring him to trust her. Those eyes like honey in a coffee too bitter, melted his reservation.
It was an overwhelming light.
The music was soft and soothing, but nothing to her smooth voice; only but a mere after thought compared to her white shimmering smile.
His own teeth emerged in a resounding triumph, tears still rimmed his eyes but they were falling for a different reason this time around.
A twirl as the crescendo gave way to finale, he let her back arc gracefully and then pulled her back to him; an electricity buzzed without a touch.
Oh what power this happiness was, it shuddered like waves of healing all throughout his body.
With hands locked and fingers intertwined, they rose as the song fell to a silence. To be in the vicinity was as intoxicating as a kiss; to kiss her was more euphoric than pleasure… and to pleasure her, well, words always fell short.
Surprisingly, but not out of line, a laugh began to surge from deep inside of him. It cascaded all throughout his body, making his core tense and his mind glow with a tingling euphoria. This is by far the happiest he had been since being in her presence; what a glimmering reminder.
He on his knees; ‘Yes… yes’, she said in tears.
He moved his head back, letting it rest on the window behind him. His eyes were closed and a slight smile, warm and sincere, colored his face.
Nightfall had come but the light had not escaped the city. If anything, it actually became brighter, the neon world crept from the corners of the day. Streets were lit with signs and indolent people milling about, swept away by the city’s grandeur. With the last of his clothes packed and the painting equipment all neatly put away, he sat down on the couch finally able to relax.
There were 3 hours left, the time ticked away with slow solemn beats that he didn’t mind much in this moment. He knew he was about to be lifted away to another world and allowed his mind to clarify and empty his stress.
He felt especially motivated to meditate now of all times, this kind of clear thinking encouraged it after all. However before hand he wanted to roll up another joint, to sink him into a beautiful haze of within his mind.
Grabbing some papers he took a moment to pick through an especially large flower, pulling the bristles and stems apart. It crumbled in his hand like it was meant to fall away, longing to share the wonders of it’s biochemistry.
It was fascinating wasn’t it? That little crystals on a flower of one of the fastest growing plants in the world, could hold a key to our minds capable of unlocking such peace and comfort. In some way the natural processes of nature coalesced and converged in such bizarre and unpredictable ways to concoct this masterful blend of organic elements.
After sprinkling the last of the buds onto the thin paper he rolled the paper together into a smooth cylinder that came together in a crisp, streamlined shape. He pulled it close to his lips and let his tongue glide over the small gum, now rolling it closed tight.
Oliver sat back, making sure to keep his back straight, his head up and his feet firmly planted on the ground, preparing for meditation. He flicked a lighter and slowly twirled the tip of the joint under the flame, pulling away just as it started to glow that comforting orange in the dark.
Now taking slow, deep inhales between intermittent hits just as deep. His body started gathering weight in a calming relax. The soles of his feet cut through the floor he stood on and with his eyes closed, he could see and feel his energy travel down through his feet and down below, making its way to the core of the Earth.
At the same time he willed the energy above his head to swirl and manifest at his crown, still deeply breathing in a balanced rhythmic manner. The cannabis lulled any points of stress like flutes for cobras, masterfully playing that unsung tune to draw the stirring giants back into a slumber where they would sleep for a thousand years.
If he could help it.
The stillness of his mind began to radiate outwards, and the strings of his life started to resonate with the world around. It was a form of meditation he had learned long ago, soon his mind would expand out beyond his physical boundaries — though his body was firmly planted in this reality and healing with each loving breath.
We are all vibrations of energy, at our core and at the touch of our hand, from every movement we make to the senses we all share, they are frequencies of light and energy that cascade before us with a vibrant realism. Our awareness and our ability to comprehend these phenomena are merely constructs of a mind observing the body; movements and actions made mixed with analyzation and curiosity at our center.
The waves flow at levels so minuscule they can shift in and out of existence, and also at levels so gargantuan they can devour galaxies and ignite them just the same. In our world, the waves touch us in some ways we know, and in others we have only just come to grasp. Whether it be the crash of the waves on the beach against your legs as you walk or the crash of expectations and desires on the soul one they depend on so dearly.
It is the love we share, the anger we express and the sorrow we feel. As Oliver breathed smoothly the images of this expansive world flickered before him with a visceral beauty. He had begun to melt away from this world and fell into a oneness; a glass of water poured into the sea.
He swayed with every breath like the smoke surrounding him, one with the atmosphere in which he thrived, battled and braved — but we always were. From the dust that stirs at the gust of wind we are like plankton in an even bigger sea. Insignificant, seemingly, but alas our quest to conquer the far reaches of the unknown are paramount for the grander scheme. For the universe seeks to know itself, and as the only sentience it is an endeavor befallen to the idle hands of humanity.
Whilst now they wallow in petty fights, warring amongst themselves over beliefs they cannot control and over things they believe they can, there species has thrived and raged on despite nightfall and the shadows that lurk deep within. In the era he took his first step, he was but another minnow in the murky pond.
Today he has left a lasting impression on the face of this world, giving a testament to the beauty of the mind, and the creations they are capable of. A simple look across the reaches of time will show the same incredible feats mustered time and time again to redefine these visionary beasts. Their contributions carve an existence in the greater expanses that our minds are only just now starting to grasp. As we play our part, the play begins to take shape.
He breathed in deep, the relativity of his mind slowed to the pace of a floating spec, riding the waves of his own heart beat with a gratifying awareness. In this stillness the world was quiet, undisturbed but always in motion. He would carry the weight of his mind until his very last breath and hope he touched enough souls to make his own glow brighter.
It is gravity now, that empowers people. The mass of ideas and the momentum they gather, shape and redefine our worlds, sending ripples deep below — attracting light and dark. Depending on how and why, the gravity of the situation can shape a world, or many. As a master of waves, he must remember to focus his energy not on gravity but the direction. The greater an ego grows, the laws of physics demand that it succumb to it’s own weight, whether that be by their own doing or by the lines they interrupted it could not be seen. For Oliver however, it was more important that the lines remain undisturbed, so that he may grow uninhibited.
Yes that implies the honest path, nothing short of it. However when one realizes that destiny is decided by the destined; like setting tracks before the moving train, it becomes apparent that obstacles and gaps are unsavory nor desirable. When the constellations tell of fate, they say nothing of the route one takes to acquire it, and without further ado it must be said that the destination is irrelevant, for the form of voyage is the only true test.
As the knight moves into checkmate, when was it made certain that victory was within grasp? The answer lies 5 moves before the execution, for the action is but a million thoughts made simple by a more momentum wave.
Speaking of which, he exhaled with a passion. Drawing in another deep breath to secure one more moment within the waves. If his passion was life, would it not be a wholistic breadth? Every move made was one with his heartbeat in mind, that became apparent now.
For whom did it beat, and what does the tempo imply?
Plans were made to assume the position, for that one position meant everything in life.
Who he was, what he did and why he did it, the power he carried and the pillars that sturdied; they were questions so ancient, so intrinsic to the human, especially at a time when their only concern was to be. Nowadays our lives are not so simple, time has played the blueprint to oversee great strides; ideas built into beliefs, beliefs into systems and systems into those untouchable pillars that defined an age solely focused on Earth.
We are not those people anymore, and though hallowed be the nature of these creations, there is another word left to conquer. The one infinite and limitless, within and without. Oliver saw each era as a building block to ever prepare the humans for the reckoning soon to come. Then it was biblical and at a distance; now it is in the hands of the powerful, who play with millions like pieces on a chess board.
If we have come so far, achieved so much, evolution would dictate that our capabilities are more powerful than ever before; yet why we seek to destroy our species and those around us remains nothing more than the tendency of an dying mentality still vying for life.
Little did it know that it’s time had come to set down the power, that the masculinity of humans must be balanced by an ever-evolving dynamic; a force that moves and shifts with the flow of tides, blending the energies to create a new being. One never seeking a seat, but a world of its own to move and thrive within. We are artful, expansive creatures with a love of beauty and a patience to oversee growth. We are understanding and forthright, allowing life to flourish with our gentle guidance, preying on our own dreams rather than the living. Evolution has brought upon a new era, one where the only challenge left is the mastery of the mind.
Perhaps we actually can save this dying mentality.
He opened his eyes, feeling refreshed and at peace with both himself and the world — though arguments could be made that they are the same exact thing. An hour and a half had passed by since he began his meditations and he could not be more satisfied with the time spent.
He stood up and stretched, taking one last look around the apartment before grabbing the trolley that carried everything he could need. He took another deep breath, nodded with respect, giving thanks to the unseen energies that called this place home.
Without a second thought, he walked on out.
I want to take you to a world of light and love, with life so luscious and foods so ripe. Bask in the soothing sun like a goddess and then run with me, chasing dreams till the night falls. When the light lingers like warm water colors, would you envelop me like the jungle lulls the beast?
Passions painted so sensuous and divine.
A feint light crept under burgundy curtains, it colored the little specs that floated aloft in the early morning grey; these subtle rays painted the house with silent strokes. With an easy rhythm all the sounds of life began to sway and stir as the day beckoned them to rise once again.
As the sun’s curious beams crept further into the indolent room, it fell upon ruffled bedsheets and perched itself on the strands of golden hair. The tips of which fell heavy, scintillating on the soft beige sheets underneath.
With the morning now dawning brighter shades of day, the streams that cut through the curtains fell upon her. They kissed her soft skin sweetly, as if to welcome her back from this long nights sleep. Within moments her nose crinkled, tickled by the lightest of feathers. Sounds of sliding linens echoed throughout the quiet room as she stirred slowly, picking up the drift of life left from the day before.
Finally now she rose, as beautiful as the flower. Her blonde locks fell before her face but she pushed them back behind her ears, still blinking awake her sleepy eyes until they shined and glistened, iridescent like the morning light.
In this moment she was alone but certainly not wanting; a relax radiated in every move she made, making it thoroughly obvious that it was for the moment alone that she lived in, not anything before her nor behind; she was simply fluid.
As she slid out of bed the light traced her silhouette in the wall behind her head. There the fine contours of her nose and cheeks cut the wood like an architect’s blade. Yet despite the lighting she moved on, stepping swiftly on the cold wooden floors, listening intently to the soft echoes coming from the pads of her feet. While she strode, the shadows outlined her supple frame in black, and elegance fell upon her like a robe of satin or silk.
Soon the silent halls of the spacious house began to come to life. Hints of sound trickled in from all corners; speakers were set up all throughout. Yet it was not so much music as it was natural, for the soothing songs of birds whistled cordially, and a running stream persevered behind.
The house itself was more of a warehouse by design, it was large and extravagant but simple in its architectural structure. The ceilings were high, letting sound echo with a delightful resonance, and the walls were geometric with expansive windows; most covered by the burgundy curtains seen earlier. Speaking of which, she spent several minutes walking around the room pulling all the curtains back and tying them off on drawstrings.
Now that the light flooded in with little resistance, the character of the house was illuminated in all its grandeur. It was obviously and very authentically an artist’s home. The colors were earthy and calming, toned with a certain feng shui that let it flow smoothly from one place to another.
Her workshop was simply apart of the living room, large gray slabs of clay sat ominously and shavings were swept into a corner basket on the ground. Everything had an air of disheveled organization that gave a very accurate appearance of work ongoing.
A great kiln was also situated in the far wall but it laid dormant for now, a slumbering giant that stirred only when the master called. This was all to the left of another hallway which one could only assume led to the kitchen or assorted guest rooms.
* * *
Across from the workshop, and past the indented lounging area where stairs on all sides took you down to a ring of couches surrounding a magnificent hookah, she was sitting in meditation.
Her eyes were closed and her hands formed the mudras for the root chakra, her energy source for balance and grounding, one of the seven chakras she meditated on. Her poise was exquisite, and it showed off the remarkable physique of her back; she was not yet wearing any clothing.
It was an incredibly enchanting house, now that the light had been let in, tapestries hung from the walls and carpets were scattered throughout the floor. Each designed with exquisite intricacies that were surely handmade and no doubt imported from somewhere. This was all embossed beautifully by the sounds of nature, playing seamlessly in the background.
This woman was a token of relax, her steps were trusted and her mind was clearly calm and at peace with the world around her. For another half hour she meditated on each chakra intently while the sun rose ever so slightly; pulling shadows to and fro.
By the time she opened her eyes it was late morning, but she was in no rush, she merely got up, rolled her yoga matt back into it’s sack, and placed it back on the long stone countertop which underlined all of the windows on that particular side.
Whether by design or pure fate, at the exact moment she turned to head back to her room, all the sounds of nature died out and within seconds an actual instrument began to play. It was a guitar, and the player of which strummed it with the same organic rhythm of those songbirds. Within moment’s it had enchanted her so, bringing out a smooth latin sway that gyrated her hips and invigorated her body from head to toe.
As she returned back to her room, she headed on past the bed towards the walk-in bathroom that was beyond any line of sight upon first entry. It was immaculate, and designed just as elegant as the woman who owned it. The dark chestnut floors and black cabinets mixed sleekly with a very industrial styled allure — a recurring theme throughout the house. Within a moment there was the sound of water surging to life, crackling until it crashed on the tiled shower floor.
This beautiful woman stepped in, letting the warm drizzle fall down her skin with a pleasuring sensitivity. She ran her fingers through her hair, now turned brown by the water, and lavished herself with organic soaps, essential oils and other things. It was a natural ritual, one that she devoted a patient discipline to, taking her time in cleansing.
There were sketch pads riddling the space; a table was cleared off where a bunch of paints and a cup of brushes idled. The curtains were pulled back and tied off, letting overcast rays peer into the melange of artistry and assorted dishes, newspapers and books.
A simple black stereo was echoing the airy flicker of a remastered Beatles track, whispering the stirrings of political rallying as Lennon’s raspy tirades rippled through the still life. The room looked lived in, better yet it felt embodied — assimilated.
The shower shut off now and he walked out, still drying himself off. He stepped into the brightly lit bathroom of a luxurious hotel that was situated in the heart of Seattle. He had been living in this suite for about a week now and was adjusting well to his new routine. As a part of his new world he was enjoying a flurry of various activities and was quite understandably spending his morning with an incredible ease. Before the sun had risen he had already went for a run that followed a light workout and sauna to follow. After that he treated himself to a continental breakfast, courtesy of room service.
Oliver walked out in towel, droplets on his broad shoulders; his new tattoo proudly on display as he opened a drawer with thick woven socks and silken drawers. Next to the chest of drawers was a black leather portfolio with assorted canvases which peaked out with an intriguing gloss.
He had absolutely no plans today and didn’t intend on making any, in fact, this past week was the most freedom he’d experienced in years quite honestly. Let me refine that, it was not merely time to himself with zero obligations, it was a time where his mind was finally able to appreciate such luxuries again. Sure there were many days where he basically did the same thing, but today felt less like a sin than the others — he felt somehow matured; wiser.
He looked at himself in the mirror, pushing his wet wavy hair back with a healthy satisfaction..
As it were there was an excellent selection of apparel sitting on the bed, already made and creased with a personal diligence that was not as cut and dry as the official folds that made everything feel pressed and lifeless. It was no matter to him, merely a sort of fulfillment he assumed in his new place of habit. Anyways, he slipped on a worn grey tee, a wool brown sweater and a pair of fitted grey trousers.
Everything in the room seemed to carry a sort of precision to it — it was all in it’s own sort of place you see, the caricature of a mind molded the world around it and these were all the inner workings that represented half-finished projects, habitual trappings and the semblances of solace befitting the lifeless room with an appropriate degree of vigor. He swung on a well fitting black overcoat that hugged him like a lover, and turned to the marble countertop where the accents of society waited patiently. There he strapped on his watch, grabbed a sketchbook, a mechanical pencil, his wallet, and his phone, confidently left the hotel room in calculated shambles.
Outside the foggy morning was just beginning to clear. It was still cool and each breath felt crisp; the sun only cut through the clouds sporadically though, leaving parcels of shade that speckled the Seattle skyline in clusters of grey.
In the early afternoon there was still little movement throughout the city, it was peaceful and felt half asleep despite the occasional runners and cyclers that booked by. Few businessmen were on the prowl at this hour, mid morning it was, and he was especially content with that detail.
Oliver enjoyed the space and took it with an eager step, making his way down the blocks purely for the pleasure; he knew where he was headed but wanted to get a feel for the city that day. It was some sort of ritual he followed. Enjoying the breadth of it’s industry and culture. This time the collected crispness reminded him a little of Atlanta on a calm day mixed with the taste of early morning Chicago, a very modern but comfortably slow flowing city with various scenic and architectural sites to sit and marvel at.
He was nearing his destination, taking lofty strides with an elegant casualness that felt neither hurried nor lethargic. It was peaceful to say the least — nothing was out of place and he was finally beginning to feel like a piece to the puzzle again.
The door opened and rang an old bell; The suede upper of a capped pair of oxfords stepped into a dim lit room with stained wood floors and many mirrors. Oliver observed the place with a sense of wonder. To his left were leather chairs and couches, a wall of jars took up one side; boxes of cigars and tobaccos whose eclectic aromas tickled his senses were placed on shelves with this classic style, complementing the vintage atmosphere.
An old man in a herringbone suit and umber cap sat comfortably in one of the chairs bobbing his head to a rock n’ roll tune playing softly in the back ground, a wooden pipe in one hand and cane in the other. He was as integral to the moment as the ferns and lamps cornered about the room giving cadence to a timeless adagio.
At the front of the shop, in the corner of a window, was a swirling peppermint pole with stripes of blue turning with that intimating touch reminding the world of the owners occupation. In a few seconds following, an aged man stepped in the frame and spoke into Oliver’s world.
“Welcome back Oliver, ready for another shave?”
He turned back to the old man and shook hands, nodding cordially.
“We’ll get you a situated over there, third chair over.” He pointed over, and followed Oliver as he turned the chair and sat down, “A hot towel, head massage and trim up first I assume?”
“You know me best, Luis.”
He nodded, and the warmth in his eyes as they creased at the edges already gave such a soothing air to the venture. He had already grabbed a couple towelettes from the back and placed them on his neck, and then gently coiled one over his face. Now in a comforting haze of heat, he drifted off as the whistling acoustics of Guns n’ Roses nurtured his dream-casted escape.
In a whirlwind of sensations his mind was captured in the strings of another world, a barrage of visions stirring into a seamless memory…
“Where are we going baby?” Anna called out after him.
He only grinned back as he pulled her onwards.
She laughed, unable to hide a smile as they ran through the empty streets of a midnight colored quarter in the great city of Paris. The grey cobblestone beneath their feet was coated in dripping streetlights that danced in black puddles. Small cars and scooters sat indolently, glistening too underneath a clear night sky.
On their right, where the couple finally slowed to a stop, was a steel grated wall covered fully in posters of advertisements and well worn graffiti. To the left, however, was a small hotel with an electric sign hanging named L’hôtel de Rêves — a remarkably quaint section of building that bore a rather droll demeanor, despite the riveting name.
“Oliver?” She questioned with incredulous tone. Her smile still remained, but she was a bit unsure about this hotel’s… integrity.
He spun her around, and kissed her sweetly. With a delighted smirk upon his face, he lowered his head to hers and said softly, “Don’t worry my love, we won’t be staying the night.”
“So why are we here?” Anna called back as he turned.
It was too late, he had already opened the door for her. Beckoning her in gently by the hand, his charming grin condemned her; she had no choice now.
“I made a deal with the manager, Ann.” He spoke as he let her pass, following her in to this old, resoundingly boorish hotel. Reluctantly, she nodded, letting him take her on an adventure as he always had. Even though it looked more like a cheap place for prostitutes and drug deals than anywhere he’d ever take her.
In truth, she had been spoiled to expect hotels of grand stature, well, if they even stayed in a hotel that was. Often times he had his own place in whichever city they stayed. Anna felt a resentment towards that thought and shrugged it off, letting expectation take flight.
“Bonjour Stefan, les clés s’il vous plaît?” His accent was infallible, and incredibly attractive.
The old man behind the counter, a Parisian no more than 50 or 60 wearing an indigo cap and a tan windbreaker, handed over a set of copper keys with a very wide grin. God knows how much money he had been paid to be so jubilant and forthcoming.
‘Where was he taking me?’ Anna thought to herself.
He turned around and smiled at her, giving her a rush beyond any mere description. Taking her hand in his, they walked up a set of rickety stairs, and then another flight… and another… and another — 5 flights of stairs they climbed — until they were met with a very ominous door with brass handles that Oliver casually slid the key into, turning the lock with a steady twist.
Before he opened the door however, he looked back at her with a scintillating gaze that made Anna more excited than previously possible.
“You know I love you more than anything in this world, right?” He said with a sweet conviction.
She nodded, feeling emotions of vibrant joy erupt in her throat and swirl around her like waves on a soothing shore. He grinned again and slowly swung open the door, letting a stark bright light cut into the dim, incandescent stairwell.
It was not so much blinding as it was enchanting, as though it welcomed her with a magic that made her feel like she levitating up and out of her tender, supple frame. Taking a moment to breathe deeply, she followed him out the door…
Her feet sifted through the gravel, which rustled under each step, grounding her underneath the most miraculous moonlit moment — where a pale lunar glow showered all that she could see in the stuff of dreams. Surely she would have floated away, up into the twinkling heavens above if she had not been holding Oliver’s hand so tight.
She simply could not fathom all that her eyes regaled. The expansive plots of constellations complemented this swollen harvest moon and then beneath it all, the shimmering sea of the Paris skyline swayed as an ocean of lights below.
It was endless from either horizon, infinite in scope and beauty. She clasped her hands over her mouth now finally able to make some kind of reaction. It was all so stunning that she had been too awestruck to even respond, but Oliver had not minded even in the slightest. He merely watched on, pleased as the love of his life marveled at his gift.
She had yet to even look down, perhaps for fear of fainting, as he had set out a floor of blankets and pillows — all with colorful, intricate patterns that seemed to be just as vibrant as the two worlds which were still vying for her eye even then.
He knelt down, opening a box of matches and striking one, lighting several burgundy candles which illuminated a scene of absolute romance. Baskets of baguettes and fruit, bottles of fine French wine from all across her gracious country and slices of cheeses laid out on a cutting board next to wooden trays with silver dishes placed on top of them.
“I… Oliver… This is amazing…” She was awestruck beyond words, but managed to get out a few to at least let him know how pleased she was.
“I had them bring it up a couple minutes before we arrived so its all still fresh,” He replied with this incredibly caring tone. Oh what he would do for her.
He led her then to sit down, pulling out one of the bottles of red wine for her to inspect.
“Oliver this is a Château Pétrus…” She could barely utter the words.
“A merlot,” He continued for her, “A Pomerol, Bordeaux blend.”
“This must’ve costed a fortune…”
“Well it was no bottle of soda I’ll tell you that,” The both laughed.
Then she turned to him, “Open it baby.”
His grin widened to a smile, “Oh oui, oui ma cheri.”
There was a bottle opener in the basket where the baguettes were, he moved one of them and grabbed it. He was fiddling with the bottle as Anna began to speak.
“How did you find such a place anyways?”
“I was staying there,” He pointed to a much more luxurious hotel to their right.
“You preferred this one?”
Oliver laughed, “I was feeling stressed, and the balcony for my own suite was facing away from the city. So I spotted this place, and came out here for a smoke.”
“I still don’t like that you do that.”
“I haven’t touched one since I’ve been with you my love.”
“Yes, well I’m not to be your only crutch, alright?”
He nodded his head, “Alright.”
He would gladly do anything for her. The cork to the bottle came out with a tug and to both their excitement he poured them two glasses with poise.
“Why were you stressed?” She asked, continuing where she left.
He was swirling the glass of wine in his hand, “I had arranged a meeting for the sale of one of my collections, but the buyer had not kept in contact all day.”
They both took a sip then, and shot lively glances at one another as they marveled at the taste.
“It’s amazing, Oliver.” She spoke with such a genuine tone.
“It is really good.” He agreed, as if he were expecting less though she suspected relief.
He continued, as if acknowledging her thoughts, “I’m glad you like it Anna, it wasn’t so much the kind that mattered, I just wanted to have a perfect night for you.”
“It would have been perfect with or without the wine.” Her eyes were so warm and mesmerizing, he smiled delightedly.
“All of it is so beautiful, so magical,” She set the wine glass down and gestured for him to lay back on the pillows comfortably.
She then curled up next to him and rested her head on his chest, looking up at the iridescent skyline and the sky itself.
“And this buyer,” She continued, “Did he ever get ahold of you?”
“No, and I read the next morning in the paper that he was indicted for tax fraud that morning.”
She flinched but did not respond.
“I spent the whole night out on this rooftop watching the clouds cross the sky, and then when the sunrise came I finally headed back to my hotel.”
“Oh Oliver, can we see the sunrise please?”
He nodded, grinning at her enthusiasm, it was one of the things he loved most about her.
“I know I said we weren’t staying the night but—”
“We can make an excusal for this particular suite.” She cut in with a smile.
“Indeed,” He responded, moving his hand up to her hair where he stroked a lock back behind her ear lovingly, “I’d hope you would consider staying.”
“Oh please, you always knew that I would.” She responded, calling him out.
“I mean of course, just look at this place — it’s awesome!” He concluded, making both of them laugh softly. She nestled closer to him, feeling the warmth of their love.
“I really love it Oliver.”
He held her tightly and kissed her forehead, thinking to himself, ‘not too bad for a four month anniversary’. Which was what this was. Shockingly it felt as though years had gone by, when they were together time was beyond comprehension and they only based it off of sunrises, sunsets and dinner reservations.
They rarely left each other’s sides lately, which was surprisingly healthy for the both of them in ways they had never expected. He was always doing some bit of work, or reading, or thinking, and she was just the same. It was remarkable how easily the two were able to harmonize in solitude, together. They had far more difficulties being apart and simply found it better to stay close instead, which neither of them ever objected to.
The midnight sky still twinkled above them, where blackened clouds crept like marauders in a solemn garden, cutting past the large harvest moon which creeped across the cosmic land in similar fashion. It was a captivating sight to see and held both of them in wondrous suspension for most of the evening.
“When we first started dating,” She started,” I had always dreamt we would someday travel together, I’ve been to Paris many times but it’s different with you.”
“The world is different with you,” Oliver suggested, “I’ve done my own bit of traveling too but it doesn’t compare to experiencing it together, not in the slightest.”
“We have done the most incredible things, I never knew you wrote poetry.”
“Ah, I really even impressed myself there too.”
They had gone to a cafe where poets were giving recitals to a small evening crowd, Oliver had signed up at Anna’s teasing which she never expected to mean. Yet in the time it took for all of the other poets to give theirs, he had written and memorized one of his own. It was a beautiful piece professing his undying love for her… that made her entire being ripple with a euphoric glee that sent shivers of delight throughout. She could still remember every word he had spoken, his French was still so much better than hers.
…Oh my love, what it is, embodies you as dreams do our sleep…
…Bathed in blessings, your wonder and charm does seep…
…Into my head, and my heart…
…Into my soul, my art…
…Lingering like the scent of your sultry essence…
…More rather the grace of your presence…
…For cherishing you is my ultimate desire…
…And I relish each second, like wood for the fire…
…Yet ours burns beyond the embers…
…Beyond the stars and death; you are so, so tender…
…Forever now and always yours…
…this soul serenade sings as the lion roars…
…Let it soothe…
She would never forget it so long as she lived, it was hers to hold on to always, meant for her and no one else, crafted in a moment of pure truth where one did not have time to waiver, it simply thrived like their love had. It was a testament she never needed, yet regardless it had proved wrong any lingerings of worry or doubt. This comfort stayed with her long after the soft flowing words left his supple lips, and even though he would never know, it was the love of these little moments in their world that would hold him in her heart throughout all the wickedness yet to unfold. These were the strings of gold, immortalized beyond tragedy, impossible to sever.
Luis was placing in the razor as Oliver returned to a relative state of being; his face was warm and he was exceptionally well soothed. The slow beat of classic rock still echoed underneath everything but for the most part, there was a blissful serenity about the room.
“Ah, I thought you might not have woken up.” Luis commented, cleaning his blade.
“Well if I had, I could’ve went peacefully in my sleep after you slit my throat.” The humor danced between dark and mischievous.
“Boy, I haven’t nicked a soul in over 40 years.”
He began lathering up without a hesitation, his work undisturbed by any mere banter.
“What happened to the last one?” Oliver asked curiously.
“Oh I got the son of a bitch real good,” he gestured a finger across the side of his cheek.
Oliver raised his eyebrows with a chuckle, Luis continued, “It was my old man too.” They commented, both laughing lightly. He was spreading the lather over his face now.
“Had a vendetta did you?”
“Not even close! I was scared shitless.” He made the first gliding cut.
“See, it was my first time.” The patience and focus on his face was remarkable, his precision was simply magisterial.
“But he never let you live it down.”
“Oh no. No, he took it to the grave that man.”
Luis stopped and eyed him seriously, “But it was a blessing too. It’s because of him that I am the barber I am today, when you pass it down from generation to generation, theres a lot of tricks of the trade you don’t catch on your first go around.”
Oliver blinked in reverence.
“I knew next to nothing then, but it never stopped him. I proudly gave him a shave every Sunday morning for 20 years.”
There was so much love and respect in his voice, and if he focused closely enough he could feel it in the shave. The attention to detail was unprecedented. Luis made a few more broader strokes before cleaning up on the corners of the cheeks and underneath the chin.
“Nearly finished.” Luis spoke in a trance.
The moment beat on presently.
“Alright.” He wiped clean Oliver’s neck and jaw, untied the black sheet and raised his eyebrows as Oliver inspected.
“40 years gave you quite the magic touch.” Oliver commented quietly. As he stood up he looked back at Luis with a caring glance, “Your father really did a masterful job.”
“What else can a master do?” He grinned, as the two shook hands warmly.
“Watch proudly.” He replied with a smile, “Thank you again Luis,” He placed two twenties on the counter and waved goodbye, “Until next time!”
“Ay, I’ll be seeing you.”
Oliver nodded and left. Immediately he felt cleansed, not just on the skin but all throughout his being, his soul felt rejuvenated. Out there in the crisp air he could sense the closeness of the shave and it was remarkably satisfying. He continued walking without a care, enjoying his moment with tremendous pleasure.
Eventually, and without searching, he came across an open park with a large grass field and what looked like an amphitheater where musicians were playing. There were people out on the lawn too, they were eating and passing soccer balls around; he couldn’t help but feel drawn to it.
“Mind if I join in?” He called out to a few of the kids playing, feeling gleeful again.
They looked at him slightly shocked but over joyed to have another older player; the dad was clearly struggling to keep up their pace. He nodded gratefully as the other kids excitedly called him closer to play. Oliver grinned and took off his coat, the clothes were nothing more than big names and the possibility of staining never really bothered him — unless there an important reason to keep them clean. Which these days, there usually weren’t.
He took the pass and felt the touch, the weight of the ball was like the voice of an old friend, never unfamiliar and always comforting. He made a few passes before he started dribbling around with all of the little kids.
It was so invigorating, the way they laughed and cheered with such jubilant life and moved with this seemingly limitless energy. Truly, it was astonishing how much life was pulsating through their veins — perhaps not, perhaps it was the sheer power that life provided all things but the mind of a child was the only thing capable of embracing it whole heartedly.
After all, as time grew the mind, the complexities of life begin to clutter that once harmonious connection with the divine. An example being the child: never really getting stressed about its survival, or babies: never considering morals or principles; they only laugh and cry, feeling all their own natural emotions with such intensity because well, they had never felt them before.
Isn’t that so fantastic? As he played and kicked the ball back in forth the idea stuck in his mind with such a profound impression. These children were human, they were all that we are today, simply… newborn. They feel all we feel today and think as naturally as we once could have, were it not for all the dogmas and matrices that entangle and depress our minds with these psychological boundaries, imprisoning our creativity like birds in a covered cage.
These free thinking, wonderful souls though, moved with liberation. Such an open enthusiasm; so unrestricted and so pure — like it should always be. They had no idea what the next year would bring let alone the next week, they simply lived here, now — as all things should.
Imagine a world of humans capable of defining their own mindsets and perspectives without breaking the natural flow of things; if their growth could move forward without oppressing others or neglecting the things that truly matter in life. Lives led through love, defined by a destiny chosen by their own mind.
If only it were that simple. In these times the energies of expansion and conquest are all too present in our minds, poisoning the growth with a karmic negativity. Of course it was what humanity needed to survive and build up, but as we entered an era of modernity with these medical and technological achievements so rampant, why do we wallow in these lowly — primitive — tendencies that seek only to isolate, oppress or overpower?
He passed the ball away and walked now with a moment of realization. For the human being, especially in the western world, had for so long been driven by a body of lust and desire, and directed by a mind too primitive to understand the most efficient pathways to succeed in life. Fortunately time has provided the information through innovation and ingenuity, but why go through such trials and tribulations only to trade salt for shade? Oh, that all too elusive soul beckons another reckoning. Perhaps it has been redefined again and again over all this time simply to chip away at doubt, till time tolls, and a true value emerges, one we all can see.
Perhaps it is the combination of the mind and body, an internal control of these rampant energies inherent in each of these concepts. A collaboration if you will, through the balance of these old entities, could be the key to unlocking a cleaner source of power. After all, these powers that be have long been deciding and dictating such concepts with selfish and even malicious intentions, masquerading as a power for good. Oh but what did they know of “good” then, it started out true, only to ensure survival — but after the fact, a light was hidden by flags and codes, and what was their “power”, save this lust driven craving for more life than the next. Good was surely hopeful but this kind of power could not sustain such a journey.
He splayed with the ideas as he played with the children, simple games and simple moves, there was only so much to account when the nature of the sport was kindhearted.
At large though, this world was not so clearly cut. We still operated with the same ideas — some nearly 2000 years old— with motives were more complex and efforts more clever, more cunning and more spiteful. Those they control: the ones bogged down by monotony, have been taught to believe that they had no choice, that to be the mindless grunts of the industrial age was thee part they were born to play; only in this day, its not their job, but rather their very existence that has become that torturous experience.
What pity you could have for a mind in such a cage, like a beautiful blue bird cursed to never fly free, or a stallion tied off, never to run the open fields. Yet it was this blinded potential that was imposed by these systems in place, reinforced by that same mind now incapable of pressing the limits that evolution begs to be broken.
He suddenly felt worried for these children, would they be doomed to follow the same misguided path of their predecessors or were they to be given the freedom they were born with? Allowed to let it grow unadulterated and with the purity they felt now.
Sadly only time could tell that tale. He yearned though to let them in on the secrets of life, like an initiation into an exclusive club you’ve never heard of or even thought of for that matter. It’d be something of an illumination that would change not just the way you live but what you’d do in your life also — it’s a transformation of awareness that reveals of our intrinsic abilities to be those great dreams we once desired to embody.
Alas it wasn’t his place to teach them and nor should it be, the task was upon those who brought them into this world and no other. Of course it was a gamble giving the reigns to a generation so retarded by a lack of technology, but eventually the world will recognize the necessity of certain freedoms of thought, and one day it will be a mainstream concept by adulthood. At least that’s what he thought, but one can only do so much to spark enlightenment.
He took a break now, laughing as he talked his way out of the bunch of excited children who all begged him incorrigibly to stay and play some more.
“I’m just taking a breather don’t worry!” He said trying to ease the energetic rascals.
He finally sat down on the cool grass and took some deep breaths, recapping on the moments he had shared with these children. It was so unexpected in truth, when he walked through the lobby of the hotel he wouldn’t have guessed — not even close — that of all the possibilities, he’d be playing soccer with kids.
He especially did not expect the thoughts of their minds to arise as they had, these thoughts had been exceptionally eye-opening in truth; the perception of children had always been a strange one when trying to figure out how they think. Now that you think about it though there was really only one way it could happen, you just have to account for relativity.
After all it made sense to think like that didn’t it? What a wonderful phrase, thought can only function if it makes sense. Otherwise you are experiencing rampant creativity with no kind of system in place to sustain the growth; alternatively you can become so handicapped by the overwhelming monotony of such systems that you fail to harness creativity whatsoever.
It’s a balance that is only learned through time or tempo, because the right mindset will allow it but the variety of time will ensure that it is so. A child has no understanding of the concepts of systems so it thinks with a simplistic creativity that is often ineffective given their lack of true mental development, however the matured adult can also be so blinded by their developments that they lack the creativity to take advantage of them.
What a perplexing conundrum. He would surely ponder on this throughout the rest of the day but for now he felt compelled to move on, to be taken by the wind wherever it may lead. Oliver then stood back up, throwing back on his jacket and patting himself down. The breeze was slight but it carried him on, whispering wonders in his ears as it cut through the buildings above him.
There was a pleasant gust; it soothed him once more and suggested he explore his senses further. Naturally he abided, never one to doubt the wind, and retired to his thoughts, turning now to consider this woman. Anna had been heavy on his mind all week.
It was a thought he often pondered personally but when it really came down to it she was surely someone to him. Wasn’t she? Yeah, it felt like it was a new beginning. Things were shining and there was potential in this movement. Truth be told it was a close call with all the shit he had been through, but still, he had made it this far.
Now he sat on the grass in a park of Seattle, with work to do of some sort it seemed. He had a dream of this woman, true time had made it faint, but it was a feeling that felt all too familiar, and was once his own — if that were such a way to speak. Their chemistry was of color and sound, with a touch of simplicity and green breaths of fresh air; it was a space to be free.
He remembered that fondly, way back, when that was his.
He could feel now that a time like that should come again, and that it would receive him as he is.
At a first glance he is striking but the second glance leaves you guessing, not in attraction but in a sentimental vibe, it feels more comfortable than you can imagine but the conversation is not on him, its about this woman. He knew he could go to the farthest depths with her, he has many times, and so it was no coincidence the connection was drawing him back to her.
But for the moment his day was empty and free to become whatever it should, he had a perfect shave and just kicked the ball around with some kids. He was hungry for more. Some kind of food or drink maybe? he wasn’t sure. He knew was hoping he’d see her on every street corner and in every building. If he was simply in the same place at the same time would there be a connection that a mere infinite truth would finally stir up? He wished the universe would take him back home.
He walked on. There was now a sudden thunder in his step and a surety despite nothing more than a name to stand upon and a presence to be made. Of course make one he would but it was never about that, remember, she must take him back and it must be mutual.
It was something he was doing to discover himself or salvage some morsel of what was once him and rebuild it into a new wonder. This was a point where he took off for his own but would he do it with her or without her now?
Last time he let her slip as he let his own world slip; that was not a problem now.
It would not be so this time, well, if he had his chance that is.
All he needed was one moment to be himself and it would be something of an expression too great to really comprehend in mere words alone. It was a yearning that was absurdly driving.
What was he to do, he needed nay craved it and it would be her if he could manage it. However there was not much of a chance given the world at large and so he flew on with the beat like a songbird feeling the warm wind at each flight.
But still, he had power; even this far west he had a presence. It had been a long time since he was on the pacific coast and truth be told, it had a different slant to it…
In a long untold love story, two dragons danced in a delirious love affair. With wings wide and hearts divine, they sought to chase dreams like fireflies; filling empty jars with those electric moments meant never to be forgotten.
In the midnight jungle where light lurked but never stayed, they crept like beasts bewitched by the feverous night show, a tiger lounging above a creek; a jaguar stalking his prey. While peril filled the air the Jaguar hunted, daringly stepping forward with a coat speckled beautifully in black; enticing all who looked upon him.
The tiger too was intriguing. She was royal long before her stripes marked her nape, a princess of the jungle destined to rule as an empress one day. She was never swayed by the games of the night and ruled her little kingdom with a firm grip. That is, until he crossed into her lands.
With a flash of teeth, the lightest step of his paw, his movements had enchanted her in a ghostly embrace that she longed to resurrect. Unavoidable, she let him step into her world and brighten it like the sun did the day.
After time, it was decided that he should stay with her — not by their choosing but by their inability to be separated. For as the wind whispered through the kudzu vines his presence tempted and delighted so smoothly, it threatened to put her mind at ease and truthfully she wanted desperately to let it take her away — to let night come.
When nightfall finally arrived, she took the dive and the empress soon to be, impressed by this daring show of pride and purpose, immersed herself in the pool of dreams where they danced together, in and out of the most blissful reveries.
It was a colder day, the day they met, but it was unforgettable as all of their moments hoped to become, especially to her.
For this fantasy of a tale took shape in a smoky warehouse, where the animals took to two feet underneath the hazy light show above and let their colors shine. The music pulsed and rippled like stones in the creek that shifted and painted the scene with incredible influence.
A large second deck, where the whales of fame and fortune beached, was perched just above the DJ’s stand. It overlooked the club like a court of lords and ladies in their lavish midnight glow; bottles popped and sprayed in frozen seconds, dollar bills fluttered like little black silhouettes cutting across a sea of color so vibrant and crisp.
The evening was grand and exuberant, filled with joys and elations too great to put into mere words alone; the experience simply riveted. Yet in the highest court, beyond the party’s pulse, there sat the hidden gem — the reason for the parties impressive dazzle.
Rich and eccentric playboys of every variety flocked to her and ruffled their feathers in the most luxurious show of hands many women would melt to even imagine. To her, it was a tad overkill. Every time she wanted to go out it was the same basic event, of course she was flattered beyond any expression but it often numbed her to the world she dreamed of experiencing.
Her eyes, much like the jewelry she wore, were golden and iridescent. They matched her hunter’s green dress, grounding her like an illustrious ore in the mountains, beautiful and enchanting but nigh impossible to mine — for she was elite.
Only a princess at this age, and as the fable had told, she was soon to be an empress if she were to find the emperor fit enough to be at her side that is. Though none yet had captured her loving gaze and in truth, none were worthy. She was an artist of exceptional caliber, a photographer of international prestige, and rightly so, she would not let her heart be taken by just any man.
Her work was put on show and nationally recognized when she only 19, and now that she was 22 her world was as high paced and high fashion as any one would expect an elegantly beautiful girl to make it. She was smart too, once she started making money she made sure to invest and invest until her future was not possible without being rich. In the four years of high life she ensured her life nearly 4 times over financially — in short, she was done worrying about money.
So here she was now, the queen of the art world as it were and without a doubt one of the richest members of this high status society that partied so hardly above the party. Yet she was still utterly and entirely bored out of her mind though. Her friends consoled her but there were all too busy letting all the birds court them off.
She on the other hand hardly took notice, to anything for that matter, the party had been leeched from her as the stench of money and drinks over flowed. In truth she probably would have left if the lights had not been flickered at that exact moment…
Louder cheers broke the still air, something was going on below.
Strobes patrolled the walls and drew her closer to the edge, peering over to see what happened.
Before her the crowd rolled and roared, several men had entered and immediately bottles were being popped and sprayed. Two of them were black, they wore brightly colored cultural outfits that dazzled, bearing exquisite brocades with golden trim that embodied a tremendous wealth and impressive luxury, but that was not the most interesting feature; for they were more than ecstatic and appeared overjoyed with this other, white man accompanying them.
That man was the happiest of them all though, it was clear to see. Yet as well his fashion was just as intriguing; wearing an exquisite tunic with purple trim on black fabric. It had a modern touch to it but still fell right in place with the garments the other men wore.
She couldn’t help but wonder why they were so excited, they had driven the crowd positively mad with the free alcohol and intoxicating presence. It was magnetic she couldn’t deny it and surprisingly she felt this immediate impulse to feel the music and dance again. There was just something was about these men that peaked her interest; she wanted to know more.
“Do you know that guy?” One of the girls behind her asked.
“No, should I?
“What? Yes!” She grabbed her hand, “Anna that’s Oliver Stanton.”
She nodded, and smiled, “And he is gorgeous oh my god—”
“Ok ok stoooop.” Anna said, calming her down.
The two simply quieted down again and went back to watching the men.
“You know his art is really amazing,” Anna said to her quietly.
“Those men are probably his clients” The other girl suggested.
“Well, that would explain why they’re celebrating.”
“He must’ve sold a piece?”
Anna nodded and began to move, as she left she whispered in her ear,
“And you’re right, he is very cute.”
The two stepped forward with a regality not too distant from the old world nobility, if their fashion allowed it they probably would’ve had maids carrying the tails of their illustrious renaissance gowns. Though this was a modern world and a scandal of that time period is practically child’s play in this era.
She couldn’t deny though it was riveting to leave the dull court and venture down below where the paupers played princes. This was especially so when you saw how dumbfounded all of the eccentric birds appeared, all squawking now in hysteric desperation as their prize gets away.
Her eyes however were beyond the obvious melodrama, they were fixated heavily on this new enchantment, the daring king who seemed to care not for status or reputation but rather for the sake of good times and joyous celebrations.
She almost felt petty to be apart of that grandiose bunch that stood above them, flaunting their riches with — from this perspective — exceptional distaste.
The lights that were coloring the walls flickered vibrant upon their faces as they stepped lightly down the winding staircase that acted as a partition. She couldn’t deny that her heart began to flutter with each step as the intrigue rose; the pulse of the club started to take hold of her.
Her hips swayed, needless to say she was alive.
As they finally took their steps onto the main floor she was lifted off her feet by the entrancing music and intoxicating energy that roared with ecstatic delight. Everyone was dancing with a remarkable freedom that immediately liberated her boring melancholy.
Her hips started to sway and bounce rhythmically as the bass of the music took her on to a new wave of emotions she had not truly felt in a long time. Her elegance opened a path as the two swayed through the boisterous crowd fluidly.
Finally she spotted Oliver, the man responsible for this exciting endeavor. She had this urge to test him, to see the lengths of his majesty. He had not yet noticed her but as they danced closer and closer, the energy became too much to hide. He turned his glance, letting her know that he was on to her… the chase had begun.
Oh she’s caught scent of his web; how deep it may actually be. How masterfully crafted, and beautifully spun. Oh it’s devilishly clever, a play set and the pieces in motion. She spends the night with her friends, overjoyed that he came to her. Already, she feels more than she’d ever really felt for anyone else, even family. It was like they were one soul separated in the world, casted from the paradise of their company, now coming together again — lovers, infinitely bonded but born apart — its been so long since she’s seen me.
But she knew right away.
After all her mind was racing, why is she feeling this good ? This good. The moment he entered the room it was as if a messenger pigeon had flown in to perch just before her; a letter tied to its tiny little ankles. She pulled the string and grinned as the trimmed parchment unfurled.
Nothing. Not a single word, not a hint of anything more. There was only a name, a mere name. One she had just learned, one so ominous and deep. It haunted her like a house on Halloween.
Oh how deliciously inviting.
With a second to reflect, she blinked with a subtle smile and realized suddenly, it was to die for, this chase. This absurdly addictive, madly puzzling maze that colored her with the shades of a Monet and blinded her with the beauty of a Dali. Truly he was the devil, surely.
How could he offer her something so grand? For time had taught her the fallacy of coincidences; it was written in the stars — every step. So to be in her presence was enough, surely, to make her an offer she couldn’t refuse. It was something she yearned for, something so much more than any word could ever express.
Oh and then it struck her again, was this the dream she built? Was he the real face… the face to a figure of divinity… that would sweep her off her feet? She had rid the darkness inside all herself, and yet now he arrives, with wings of black, a venomous smile, and gave her a kiss of death; that silent gesture to come closer, to lure her like a prey, beckoning her to die romantic.
It was the greatest of sins, to live out the most epic of dreams as if it was written before their feet and printed after they pass. Had he really orchestrated all this? Built this grand world and waited for her alone, so that he could resume it. Everything seemed to point to yes.
How long had it been paused?
How much pain had he suffered?
Surely as much as she, for they were destined long ago, and the pain she felt certainly reflected his own. If we pulled away from the moment for but a cosmic second: the drug addiction that tore her apart, the withdrawal that severed her from the world — from his life, and from her illusions — it only mirrored his own reality of hell.
A hell where he substituted the elixir of love for a tonic far more vile.
But they both had survived, narrowly, and he was here now, with that soul invitation
She tried hard not to think of it but…
In the deepest part of his mind he was absolutely stunned, no, entranced — captivated, by this woman who appeared out of nowhere. She emerged from the dark like the sun, and though the layers of celebration and poise had hidden it, she’d captured his attention.
From the second he had seen her walking down the stairs, to the moment he allowed her the pleasure of his glance, he had wanted to get closer — to explore whoever she was. This day already carried so many surprises and amazing experiences that he felt inclined to let this miraculous flow take him further.
He soared in dance, too happy to describe, allowing the music to carry him ever higher as he reflected on his ever-changing enigma of a life. These men, Chiagoziem and Ekene had just purchased three of his pieces from his most recent collection and they had just arrived from Nigeria to pick up their newly acquired paintings. He had connections with them before but never artistically, he had met them one night in a club in Chicago; they were there visiting extended family and he had hit it off with all of them quite marvelously.
He loved those people, their culture, the unbridled love of life they felt and how openly they expressed it, too. It was truly relieving to get a taste of life from another world, some places thankfully still flowed even, untarnished by societies rigor mortis — rigorous mores.
At any rate, they were all here celebrating the purchase, but after seeing this woman he had a feeling there was more to enjoy than mere libations. There was an air of separation still that remained only as a formality, she was dancing with her friend and he was dancing with his companions just the same. They only exchanged heated glances.
Truth be told he was so zoned in on her, every move he made felt directed towards her and in some instances he could feel she was doing the same. They were choosing their steps with a delicate precision, careful not to give too much away but tactful in what they did reveal.
It felt like a game of chess, or a dance of dragons that flowed and flickered with a fierce flirtation that brought out artist in them. After all there was an art to it, a beauty in the skill of attraction. She tested him like a knight presenting his stature, and like a geisha girl he marked her poise with an artful eye; intimacy was beckoning.
With every second a new play was made, bringing them ever closer to the moment they would finally speak — a moment he was beginning to yearn for. Her beauty was simply unmatched in this realm, it wasn’t just her looks; while they scintillated in the neon lights, with her contours embossed in the colorful dream, it was her presence that truly intoxicated.
They way she moved, the way she swayed, her movements cut the air like a katana and kept his eyes entrances like a snake charmer playing his flute. He was powerless to avoid her, so natural was her call that he felt like a bird pulled by it’s instinct to migrate.
Though he could not give in so easily, for he was a king after all and it was not his place to drool over her. So as result he kept his intentions to himself and instead turned to the DJ and requested the next song, placing a nearly full bottle on the table as a barter. The DJ nodded with a grin and Oliver turned back around, receiving his foreign guests like a gracious host, raising his arms up and shouting out to the heavens to thank it all for this new, empowering love.
When the last song came to a resounding end, the next emerged and caused a surge in the crowd that turned everything up a notch. What he did next he could’ve never anticipated but there was no fear in his movements, he was compelled to take the high road; to one up her.
He cleared himself a circle and gestured to her through dance, stepping in perfect sync with the beat and keeping his eyes on her in an uninterrupted transmission of affection. She blinked and then her eyes fell with an amorous satisfaction. It only invigorated him further as he stepped to her with confident determination.
She felt she might’ve loved him right then, the way he took charge for her… it melted every inch of armor she had left. His smile, his eyes, the way they took hold of her and held her like a work of art — like a masterpiece. She was drawn to him like steel to a magnet and wanted desperately now to fall into his arms.
With every step, with every breath, he was winning her heart and she couldn’t be happier. It was a game that was nearing completion, she could tell, and soon they would be together she could feel it now more than ever.
When he emerged from the crowd to dance to her, it was the final play that called checkmate on her masterfully crafted game of chess. He had played her at her own game and now it was up to her to accept defeat. Which she accepted most graciously.
She swirled and crumped, making her way to him like a fish on a hook, being reeled in by the master fisherman. When they finally connected the crowd closed in back around them and she draped her arms around him as he grabbed her waist passionately.
In the flicker of lights the world fell still as their intimacy slowed the seconds and they came close, the warmth of their breath on each other’s neck. She wanted to be taken by him now regardless of the world around them, it wasn’t even physical, it was a spiritual connection nothing could compare to. She had had her fair share of casual hook ups and knew when sensuality overtook the body but this was a different experience altogether.
It had all the steamy intensity of the most ravishing love affair and yet a degree of trust that calmed her and made her heart pound. Even the slightest of touches sent shivers of delight throughout her body and made her body tingle and erupt.
“What’s your name?” He whispered in her ear.
“Anna,” she replied in an airy breath.
He smiled — the kind that flattered without a word.
“My name’s Oliver.” He spoke softly.
She smiled and whispered so irresistibly, “I know.”
He pulled back from her and looked her in the eyes with a grin, his eyebrow raised. She only nodded with a clever wink. He grinned wider and then spun her around, guiding their sway uninhibited and in perfect sync with the beat.
She melted into his arms as his hands fell protectively over her stomach and his chin finding the perfect angle between her neck and shoulder. She closed her eyes as their energies sparked and riveted her every sense.
They moved in tangent, connected together in an infinite moment where the structures of time fell apart and their remnants only resembled the heavy breaths that sustained the next moment ensuring they could be together for but a minute longer — in a world where a minute was a lifetime to the both of them, they cherished it.
Even in the oblivion of infinity she couldn’t take her mind of her mystery man, she wanted to dive into his mind and find out what made him tick. She wanted to swim in the endless waters that flowed through his moves and let them drown her in a sea of serenity.
She wondered for a moment where his friends were, where her friend was, and then realized that none of it mattered. Nothing could hold her mind the way he did in this moment and she couldn’t be more grateful to be saved from the monotonous drone of courtship.
As if reading her mind, he kissed her neck gently and unlocked the world she’d dreamt of ever since laying eyes on the man. It enthralled her and lifted her feet off the ground as he kissed up and down her nape, leaving traces of love lingering on her silken skin.
She turned her head now, unable to keep away from him, from his lips. They embraced now and kissed with a passion that a night of provocations had beckoned from the start. Her hands ran up his neck and caressed his cheek as he traced lines of light across her stomach.
They were suspended in a reverie, lost in the magic that their lips let loose and sustained now only by the music — their only hold on the reality the once existed in. Though that world was now a figment of the imagination; the past.
Oliver blinked, returning now to the indolent coffee shop he had been sitting at. He had fell into a deep daydream while he was sketching earlier on, this city had an impressing energy that was nigh impossible to resist. It called to him in the moments when he was most at peace and let his mind wonder with the most gracious ease.
Now especially more than ever his mind wandered in wonder, seeking out Anna in a dream, as it seemed she was in everything now. This was her city after all, and he was a victim of it’s power, drawn to the light he knew she radiated.
Though she beckoned to him in his mind, he was strong enough to stay resilient, strong enough to maintain a dignity and poise. Although he knew that he had better work fast to figure out how to find her, he was planning at a comfortable pace.
‘Maybe he would find her at the club like the last time?’ He thought to himself, ‘or perhaps he would go to see her, maybe send her a letter or a text to meet him.’ Yet he turned these down without much objection. It would be different now, history never repeats itself exactly and sending her a message left the opportunity to be denied prematurely.
No, no, but there must be something he could do though. He took a sip of his coffee and sat back, returning to his sketches, hoping they would help him think more clearly. Oliver always found that he thought the clearest when he set his focus on something. It let his mind wander with assurance that his ego would not interfere.
He continued on now, tracing abstract figures and jotting down notes on the ideas, structure and placement; he was contemplating another collection, you see. The events of the past few weeks had given him much to consider and he was feeling a powerful motivation stirring inside again.
There was a light that he was able to take grasp, one that had for so long felt out of reach; in truth it felt to be his own soul — should such a thing be as tangible as it had appeared. Perhaps in his past self he was not as hospitable as he should have been, and his soul wandered out elsewhere, searching for a place to lay itself to rest once more.
It seems that Nashira had returned his power back to him, or better yet, shown him that it was never out of his hands. Rather he had convinced himself that he was beyond saving, that there was nothing to be done about his dwindling state.
In retrospect he was disgusted but understood that he was but a mere shadow of his former self and there was nothing to be done now about the past he left behind. Instead he kept his focus on the here and now, although in the past few hours he had found himself thinking more and more about a different here and now… another world that moved at the same pace.
Suddenly a tray fell, splattering cups of coffee onto the ground before his feet. The barista looked at him embraced, exclaiming apologies profusely. Though he merely laughed it off and stood up to help her clean up the mess.
At that exact moment, whether by a fate too ostensible to understand or a coincidence far beyond any sort of reason, she turned the corner and nearly froze where she stood. There before her was a face she had not thought to ever see again. So much so that she immediately hid behind the wall with eyes wide, her breath heavy and her mind racing.
The very thought terrified her irrationally, the sight of him stirred emotions so deep inside her she felt weak in the knees and almost even lightheaded. Thoughts sprinted past her conscious, ’How could this be? Why here? Why now? Was he here for me?’ She didn’t have the answer although something inside her still yearned for him without question.
She wanted to go to him immediately and confront him, and at the same time she wanted to runaway and never return. These emotions conflicted inside her so heavily that she couldn’t breathe let alone think clearly.
Instead, she impulsively peaked her head around the corner to see him.
She gasped. There he was, still. So it was not some kind of ghostly apparition, nor a figment of her imagination like she had let herself believe. He was really there, in the flesh. Still helping a young barista pick up what looked to be spilled coffee.
‘He’s still as handsome as the day I met him,’ something inside her thought, despite her urges to think logically. There was a craving and a pain inside her too deep to comprehend, flashbacks of the moment that broke them apart curdled her stomach and nearly made her sick; and yet at the same time images of their time together flickered just the same, combatting the negativity with intoxicating doses of a true love, or what she believed was true.
It just didn’t make any sense, she had lived in a misery for months after the accident that had left her in a hospital and crippled her dreams of their future together. In the weeks that followed they had tried to reconcile but ever since that moment he had been different, he was changed.
She believed he had blamed himself for everything that had happened and when he finally gave up and left, as much as it had broken her heart, she knew it had shattered his twice as badly.
What had changed though? Why was he back? It was true she had never found another man that was capable of loving her the way he did but she had grown above that need. She taught herself to live for her own love and to find the happiness she sought in the beauty of her world.
There was a spark surging inside of her, that she could not deny, but she couldn’t run back into his arms as she had before; her armor was too strong. While her heart had not yet settled down she had decided that she would go and confront him. He was once the love of her life after all and he deserved that much from her.
She took a deep breath, bringing her composure back to her, and stood up tall, checking her reflection in the black marble wall beside her just to be sure. She was still a radiant beauty, fortunately that had never changed.
She walked around the corner now but to her surprise, found herself eye to eye with Oliver who had left the coffee shop and was walking down intersecting walkway. He was immediately met with the same intense conflicting that froze him where he stood.
The two stood directly before each other, suspended in a moment of total indescribable emotion; blending a soaring affection with a horrifying confusion that was a product of this improbable circumstance that was now their reality.
Oliver wanted to speak but when he opened his mouth he could say nothing, he only smiled his eyes alight with a force of conviction he could not put into words. She too was also speechless, incapable of putting any words to this moment.
At that second they moved to each other in unison, embracing with a complicated but ultimately undying passion that had only strengthened in their time apart. It seemed to melt the ice that had left them motionless and frigid.
“I… I don’t know what to say,” Oliver finally admitted.
“What are you doing here?” She asked, her tone striking the chord between fear and curiosity.
He was quiet for a moment, his eyes lost in hers, “I-I came for you, Anna.”
She was at all loss for words now.
“I’ve had a hell of a few years,” He continued, she watched as he painted this painful picture in so little words, “but recently I’ve had a change of heart,” he paused and rephrased his words, “Well, I guess you could say I found my heart.”
She looked at him so hardly, love and anger mixed inside her beautiful eyes in such a way that made it seem as though she could kill him, kiss him or break down any moment.
“…Oliver,” She spoke in a broken tongue.
He could only bring her close, wrapping his arms around her as they embraced once more.
“I know… I know…”
When the pulled away again, he searched in her eyes, both of them seeing memories flickering by so fast that you’d think they were the same mind. She had to keep her guard up though, it was imperative that she keep her guard up… oh god she missed him so much.
“Is there a place we can go? Somewhere we can talk?” He asked.
In truth, the only place she felt comfortable was her home.
“I have a house just outside of the city” She spoke softly.
She could see in his eyes that he had no intention of taking advantage of her, and felt that he would be strong enough to talk so intimately. Regardless she had to see more of him, it was impossible to explain all the surging emotions inside her she just wanted to sit down and let everything settle down.
“Did you drive here?” He asked.
She nodded, “My car is this way.”
There was an intense awkwardness that radiated between the two as they walked, it was quiet but not uncomfortable — merely difficult. How do you begin again after something like this? Could you even begin again? She knew she had to be patient.
Only time would tell whether they would merge back together again, but in this moment she was unequivocally happy, despite all the other emotions running rampant inside.
The two walked, mixing small talk with moments of life that recessed back into the strangeness of it all, she listened as he spoke about the past few years and could tell that he was brushing over a lot of the little details but she couldn’t blame him. When she spoke of her time she revealed little just as well; both of them had their guard up still.
Even still there was clairvoyance about them that seemed so comforting, a natural vulnerability between them that never died. They could feel the longing, they just didn’t quite know yet how to express it to each other.
He helped her put her groceries in the back of her Range Rover and the two got into the car, inside their souls yearned to break the tension between them but despite it there was a quiet calmness that still remained.
The car unlocked and the back door swung up as Oliver sifted through a pile of gear and grabbed two back packs which he slung over his shoulder. He shut the door and locked the car back up, turning to head back to Anna, who was waiting nonchalantly at the opening of a trail. High top hiking boots with laces tied around the ankles, layered sweats, a thick brown winter jacket and red woven beanie — she was perfection, Autumn’s pride and joy.
He smiled as the two met eyes, the snow was crackling underneath his step; it was still light and powdery but some areas were thick. This afternoon was a perfect day for a climb, the weather wasn’t too heavy, only overcast with a slight breeze. Overall it was majestic and serene.
“Here baby,” Oliver spoke, slinging one of the backpacks over her to her. They both put them on and clicked the belts around the waists.
The two stood together now looking up for a moment, observing the peace of the natural world and the beauty they were about to enter into.
“I’ve been waiting for this all day, I can’t wait till we reach the spot.” She said, speaking with so much excitement. It was a pleasure just to listen.
“Oh I know, you woke me up at 7 this morning just to remind me.” He replied with a wry grin.
“Well of course I did silly, we had to have breakfast.”
She started forward with such enthusiasm, he followed like a dazed lovesick fool.
“But we didn’t eat until 10?” Oliver gave a gallic shrug, “Well not food at least.”
“That’s not my fault, you couldn’t resist.”
“Oh it’s not mine,” He said giving her a loving jolt, “I’d say it’s inevitable.”
“Oh yeah?” She said with a smile, looking at her feet as she jumped from stone to stone.
“Sure, let’s spend longer than 10 minutes in a room and see what happens.” He called out.
“Aha, no. I don’t want to be trapped in a room with you.”
Oliver pinched his brow, visually offended. She let out a vigorous laugh.
He grabbed her arm and spun her back to him, “Take it back.”
She crinkled her nose, “Never,” then spun back out of it and continued.
He was helpless to follow.
The scenery was breathtaking, if she didn’t do it, the snow kissed evergreen ensemble of Birches, Junipers and Firs certainly managed it. They were so still, so pristine and catatonic — exemplary with their leaves clean and crisp like replicas. Better than replicas, naturally, but it was so hard to believe how beautiful they were.
Up above were layers of hilly terrain, some cliffs peaked through the fields of wintergreen while larger white capped mountains overlooked them all with an ominous wisdom. The world felt as ancient as it probably was. Copious stone and forestry speckled the earth and it all seemed to observe them, this primordial cortege that watched in solemnity.
In this igneous range they were but ants. Humbled by elders that had been watching over the world since before time existed; scraping skies far earlier than any challengers could dare. It couldn’t be described so well as it could be felt, there was an energy to these parts —some unmistakable undercurrent. For a while they were silent, enjoying the world at large.
The couple traversed with a daring step, lovingly swinging from stone to boulder, up above the trees they went. Taking hands to pull above the ridges, guiding over loose sediment with a care that stretched over creeks. There was an airy serenity that flowed between the two, a lofty mist, some soulful bond that carried them — more rather cradled them in some sweet, soothing dreamlike haze; protecting them.
Not from harm, though surely it did that too, but from disruptions in general, if that were any way to speak. There was a fluidity that was superimposed, the way they both continued on in their own ways without break in thought or hesitation. It was a trust of the most universal proportions it seemed. Love.
The power was intoxicatingly beautiful, they were so connected it was as though a large dance were choreographed between the two in this mountainous terrain. Step for step, word for word, one held the other in a suspended gravity. It was beyond communication in any physical sense, any time she needed his help he had already thought ahead to give her his hand, or in fact also, before she even needed help, any obstacles were cleared for her.
It was cunning chivalry on his part, and exuberant grace on hers. For she walked with superlative elegance that seemed to defy time and space and exist in it’s own dimension, carrying physical properties, a gravity of its own, that mesmerized and magnetized. She walked forward and the world persisted, it felt not as though she were engaging within a world, but rather the world revolved around her.
Not egocentrically, but rather as if she were a piece of the world itself, moving cohesively with the universal ordinance, adhering to it with a precision that made it very hard to differentiate what was actually conceived and what was purely impulsive. That was the intention after all, their moves were passionately streamlined; compromising contrition to act in a harmonizing cadence that complemented in a seamless interaction. Their roles were molded by energetic strengths; a patterned giving and taking that traded fluidly, balancing between just enough strength to be soft, and the right amount of poise to still be spontaneous.
It was not really something that you noticed right away, but like a tower swaying in the wind or a sky of clouds swirling in and out of forms above your eyes, it was always there, and before long it would mesmerize and entrance.
They were a lot like that you see, in love in the simplest terms, but Ethereal seemed the perfect word to describe it — the definition itself will do:
Extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world.
Ah, yes. That would do the trick quite nicely. She embodied that you see, and he obliged.
This was important, paramount actually, it was the obligatory nature he persisted on with that ensured it would remain as such. She was naturally so graceful, but he gave her a space to flourish in, effortlessly, which made all the difference.
Anyways, the two had managed to trapeze their way up to one of the higher ridges in the region. Certainly not one of the mountain peaks — they were not so perilous in their pursuits this time, however this ridge was still relatively high, and they peered over a sea of evergreen, speckled with foam of snow that was enchanting. Beguiling. Enthralling. You could stare out over the earthen ocean and marvel at it’s extensive majesty for days it felt. Oh what a moment to be present for, he thought, what couldn’t you appreciate here? He took a deep inhale. It was incredible beyond words, so he merely savored his breath.
“Alright,” He turned to her listening intently, “Come here baby.”
She took his hands.
“Meditate with me?”
He only grinned and nodded.
They sat facing each other, hand in hand, eyes closed, breathing at a patient pace. There were no words between them but energy rippled from them — it was almost tangible. There on a smooth sheet of bedrock they carried a depth indiscernible to the naked eye. Would they ever know that above them hovered their docile energy states levitating in a reverent, undisturbed peace. Surely, also, it was beyond their recognition that these two spirits were aware of each other in the same plane as well and no, they would never consider the two of them were interacting within the thoughts of these beings conjured above the bodies below.
That was certainly far too deep, wasn’t it?
Nevertheless they operated presently, healing each other there in the space between spaces where they traded cosmic energy to each other with a fluidity similar to water bending, if it were liquid. In their minds eye they spoke with soft understanding, they gifted and received abundant energy that rippled throughout their bodies in these rejuvenating pulses.
This was a common method of meditation that they practiced together, actually. The two had done many forms in the years they were together and mastered many techniques in arts of Chakra healing, Reiki and deep mind meditations. This one in particular was a cleanse, it differed from the other forms as this particular style was developed by themselves.
They bathed each other in love, longingly caressing their souls with bushels of ample life force energy that soaked through stressors and washed out tensions with magisterial potency. This is something that had to be allowed on the deepest levels and it took a love as strong as theres to navigate to those far reaches usually kept away and hidden from nearly all those beyond one.
Simply put, she was as much a part of him as he was her and it was because of this mirror of energies that they felt each other so intuitively — the intensity was very powerful and it had always comforted their doubts as it had made it very easy to follow the sensations they were feeling during the sessions since the presence was so strong.
Oliver’s brow furrowed suddenly, not heavily but there was a degree of discomfort emerging on his face and it rippled to her as well. The meditation was not broken but something had deeply disturbed him and his concentration was waning.
It was a tension that started to leak out, seeping through crevices and overflowing boundaries, Anna was doing her best to assuage him but it seemed that at this point it was best to return to reality for a time. She opened her eyes and he opened his simultaneously. Though she was still able to trace the lines of pain in his forehead and the remnants of a scowl were redly etched into his cheeks. She brought him to her and embraced him without a word.
It was his parents’ death, she knew this instinctively.
This was not the first time their passing had disturbed him, he had carried it with him for so long that it upset a lot of his energy settings and imbalanced him for a time — he was a brilliant soul and an incredible mind so he was able to operate despite it but even still, it was a serious issue that bothered him heavily and could even take the sense out of him completely. He was very prone to emotions and they took him quite vigorously sometimes. In truth, that was one of the reasons she loved him so deeply. However it had the capacity to run rampant and especially if problems like this remained in him.
“It’s alright baby, I know.”
He did his best to smile but it was a fool’s errand.
She knew he blamed himself, and it was hard to explain to him that she didn’t mind when this happened — she cared for him so deeply it was not going to deter her from loving him but he simply couldn’t bring himself to accept it regardless. She understood this.
Anna stood up and pulled on him with a smile, “Come on, let’s head back down.”
“Alright, alright. Okay.”
He stood up, and she kissed him passionately. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer to him, embracing with such a loving, pain stricken intensity. Their kiss was an infinite moment trapped in time, and they yearned to hold on as long as they could. Sometimes they could manage it for days, though in this instance but a second more would do.
He looked at her with warm eyes and she whispered, “Oliver, I love you.”
“And I love you, Anna.” He said, holding her a moment longer.
Without further ado they turned back, heading homeward.
In the time to follow she would spend months working out the trauma and leeching the negative energies within him. It worked too actually, before long the pain had subsided and the memories drifted far away. He was eternally grateful, and yet, his emotions would still carry him beyond control from time to time. It was hard, but this was something they dealt with whenever that problem would arise. She knew his nature, but loved on, fearlessly.
Inside the car he was quiet, but inside his mind he was alive with a thrilling happiness that he was trying so desperately to contain within him. He had found her, she had come to him in a moment that he will probably never be able to understand but he was here with her.
That was all that mattered. No matter how much those painful thoughts clawed at his door he fought them off for now, though he feared if there wasn’t some sort of closure, it would begin again and time would take it’s toll on his wandering mind.
The car ride was not entirely silent, and there were many moments in fact when they came alive with brilliant and stimulating conversation about the state of the world, the state of their worlds and the new developments in both their lives. It seemed that no matter how long they had been apart their chemistry remained.
In fact, there were a few moments where he had even made her laugh, that reviving sound that tickled his very being. His heart still fluttered just at the mere sight of her and he could tell she felt the same way about him.
It wasn’t hard to tell, it was just hard to capitalize on, especially in the early goings, he wanted desperately to open up to her and profess his undying love but he knew he would have to wait and play the game carefully. At least though, their old game had finally begun once again.
There was no doubt the energies were tense, after all this time you’d be surprised if there wasn’t some kind of wall built up between them. He was used to a fluidity, a kind of warmth in the air that calmed and energized at the same time. This electric chill that sturdied the weaker parts of your bones and calmed the strongest muscles in your back. He feared it was too hidden to find, but the more she laughed — the more she smiled, he felt it was only a matter of time before those walls came crashing down.
Feelings were one thing, but he fully intended to pry each brick away with his bare hands and channel that love he felt rush through him every second they continued coexisting. To breathe her air it was invigorating.
He looked at her driving for a long moment.
Delicious locks scintillated in rays that cut the blotted cotton sky.
She was alive.
Eyes darted and dashed past the wooded scene, deliberate and determined.
Oh she was so confident and radiant.
A style erupted and steamed like lava spilling over the coastline.
And she looked good. Really good.
Suddenly she looked over at him, their eyes held for as long as the winding street could allow and they spoke without a word. Her eyes pulled on his strings so sweetly.
“What?” She spoke with a charming allure.
“Oh nothing,” He laughed to himself, “I was just admiring you.”
She smiled, he blushed, and then he sat further back in his seat; melting into their new moment with an irresistibly attractive laissez-faire attitude. She had no idea that even silence was perfect to him — so long as it was hers. She did not remember that far back, no expectations of such a depth, though it was all coming back to her, in time.
“You’ve turned your world into a masterpiece, I can already tell.”
Silence, she would not give him the satisfaction of complete relax. Not just yet.
“I’ve been keeping track of your artwork too, seems the parallels are all aligned.”
He was playing all the right moves, the bastard. Even though she wouldn’t admit it yet she felt it, as foreign as it was it caught her immediately — that deadly hook. When he stood before her at the corner of happy and healthy… Walgreens… she felt weighted again, back in the presence of a dragon. There was gold in his eyes, he marched to his own drum again.
She bit her lip without a second thought, considering his immaculate features that extended far, far beyond his beautiful jawline. There was fear in her heart again, was this the end? Would his armies overrun her kingdom?
‘Ah but where’s the king, eh?’ A voice called back, even in her own mind he teased her fears.
Finally she spoke, taken by the thoughts that overpowered the rationality of her mind — she was simply too excited to put up a fight.
“Just wait till you see my house, Oliver.”
He grinned widely and nodded, assuming the position, ready to be floored. Soon they drove into a clearing between the trees that gave way to a house… he gasped.
Yes, he actually gasped.
A blend of industrial grit, fluid frames of modernity and lumber cut with the oriental ways in mind — it was absolutely stunning. Oliver looked back at her but she only grinned, he was beginning to get hysterical; as giddy as a schoolboy.
“You designed this yourself?” Was all that he could muster.
“No,” she laughed, “I’d be lying if you didn’t inspire it, I had Francisco build it for me.”
They held a long, long gaze and he electrified her with a warm kiss — one just on the cheek but enough to invigorate the them both. Fransisco was one of Oliver’s long time friends. They hardly talked now, he had moved out to Thailand with his fiancé and they only exchanged post cards or absurdly infrequent video calls. He missed that wild haired Mexican.
On another note, he really loved the Japanese architecture and to hear that she had gone to him, above all others — he was the best, no doubt — but Oliver had introduced the two and it was something extra special that she went to him for her house; he felt a part of it somehow.
His suspicions were confirmed, she had definitely been holding back with him.
“Goodness gracious Anna…” He marveled a little longer before he continued.
“You’ve got to give me the grandest tour, I want to see it all.”
“You’re in luck, the last tour starts at 5:30.”
He looked at his watch: 5:12
“What the hell, that’s twenty minutes away!?”
She laughed, “18 actually but you were close.” His theatrics only ensued.
“I mean what are we going to do? How am I going to survive? You realize this is torture. Surely you know you can’t do this to me. ME. Of all people you—”
“Shut up already,” She shot him the sexiest glance he’d ever seen in his life, and for the next few moments he was the best damn mime on face of the planet.
“You still smoke, don’t you?” She asked with a wry smile, teasing him.
“Aha, do I still smoke…” He said lightly, turning away to look at the forestry beyond the house. Then his eyes went wide and he laughed turning back around.
“Oh yes. 5:30 will do. 5:30 will definitely do.”
She began to grind it, turning the wooden capsule with a relaxing fluidity. The two sat out back on a wooden patio that overlooked a running stream breaking through the forest. The deck was propped up several meters above the water and there were intricate waterfalls designed into the landscape that merged with the stream.
Oliver kicked his feet back and sighed, taking in all the beauty this moment had to offer, see he never really rolled, not with her that is. He looked over at her as she poured the bud out onto a rolling tray and began to pinch at the pile with her fingers. It was as if he were watching a clone at work, but more beautiful.
The way she rolled, exactly how he taught her, was immaculate and so calming. He could only stare, lost in the charm that was her very presence. Images and memories were flickering back while he watched on. Her hair, braided down on one shoulder, sparked a thousand thoughts of their first date and how she wore it then. Her lips, the perfect shade of rouge; natural but ripe, reminded him of the first time she kissed him back. She pulled on his collar and brought him closer with such a confidence that he would never shy away from her. It electrocuted him as though lighting had made a direct hit.
Her eyes though, were the most extraordinary pair he had ever seen. More riveting than galaxies and deeper than any ocean could ever be. They shimmered like rare diamonds and enchanted you like gold did the world. Even when they were almost hidden by her eyelids, he could not resist looking into those windows and stealing a glance at the light of the universe.
She licked it closed, and looked up at him with a warm smile. It was so disarming and made him smile too foolishly. She only laughed, twisting off the remaining paper.
“Do you have a lighter?” She asked.
“Matches.” He replied, with a wry grin.
“Better.” She said, catching the box as he tossed them over to her.
Anna struck the flint and dipped the joint like a candle until it caught. Then like her own birthday she blew it out again.
“Did you make a wish?” Oliver asked warmly.
“Even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.”
He raised an eyebrow, “Oh really.”
She grinned, there were so many things she could’ve said but she yearned to give him the one he loved most of all. It was almost second nature for her, effortless and natural. The words jumped off her tongue before she had the chance to even consider them. Though she loved the taste as they flicked of her lips.
“You already know what it was anyways, there’s no use jinxing it.”
He eyed her and sat back, pleased with the answer.
Anna began to take in longer drags, breathing to life the orange embers that glowed and crackled neatly now. Immediately there was a wave of relax that washed over her and if one were to pay close attention, which she always did, it even seemed affect Oliver who melted deeper into his pose. They were linked there was no denying that.
She passed the joint to him and he grabbed it, certain to touch her fingers with his — if only to remind her of his voltage, which rolled through her like a tsunami wave. She batted her eyes, taking a heavy breath as she continued to readjust to his power.
It had been so long, no man after him could ever make her feel the way he did just by breathing, it was uncanny how synchronized they were. He took a long drag and looked out over the water. He was obviously changed though, she knew that from the moment they met. It was clear to see he was stable now but still, his eyes were heavier and his voice was lower. He walked with the swagger of a hardened veteran, rather than the primed renaissance man she knew he was.
It took some consideration, from the second they had met she had allowed him back into her world without hesitation. It was almost forced that way, but she still had to do some thinking, before any decisions were made she had to gauge it. Anna had spent a long, long time healing after the miscarriage and it hurt her so bad to be left alone through it. She knew how badly it devastated Oliver but she couldn’t lie, in the early stages there was a hatred for him.
Only time would take the pain away and over the years it did diminish and she regained her happiness and love for life. Towards Oliver she could never make up her mind, she heard all about him in the news tracking and always kept an eye out for him but whether she would forgive him, whether she would let him back into her heart? That was an entirely different, incredibly more difficult question to answer. However, when they met it was like lightning; whatever doubts she had seemed to be dispelled in his presence and the answers were made abundantly clear. She still needed to make adjustments, to adapt, but for the most part the universe had given her the answer.
“What happened to you?” She asked with concern.
He took another hit, ashing it before passing it back.
“I lost my mind Anna,” He looked at her, she could see the pain and fear that loomed in his eyes and it made her shudder slightly.
“It was terrible.” He rearranged positions to face her.
“There were nights where I clung to the light of my existence,” He blinked with a cold, dejected stare that frightened her, still though she listened on intently, “…when the walls melted to this deathly black, and Death clawed at me with a vengeance.”
“Nothing could help me, no one could understand. I told no one about this, and there trapped in my mind, my world quickly unraveled day by day until I began to get tangled in thoughts and nightmares that muddled with the fabric of reality.”
He beckoned for the joint, a necessity at this point in the story.
“What did you do?”
“The only thing I could do to keep sane… I checked myself into a mental institute,” He took a long, long drag. Breathing out now Oliver continued, “I spent 4 weeks in the looney bin and let me tell you that sobered me up real, real quick.”
“Nights I laid awake, listening as they knocked on doors and banged on windows.”
Anna closed her eyes, disturbed. She knew “they” were not real and it pained her so much to imagine him going through this … she really couldn’t bare any more of it.
“I fought my way out of it though,” He said to her with those steely brown eyes.
One look, and she believed him.
He took another long hit, “Believe me it took a long while… but I clawed my way back to you with all fingers and toes.”
Her eyes were on him every second, he looked away though in pain, “I know… what I did was wrong.” There was so much pain in his voice, and it rippled throughout, striking deeply at her heartstrings with a tragic timbre.
“It took me so long to see that I was dying inside Anna… the moment I left you, I was completely dead.” He spoke with a terrible sincerity.
“…and the more I ran away from my fears… from you… the deeper and darker my grave got.”
He grabbed her hand, she could feel his warmth.
“I cut out the lies of my life and traveled around the world to figure out how to be strong enough to come back to you… to ask you for forgiveness…”
He lowered his head and continued, “I know its not going to be easy, I know it may take a lo—”
“I forgive you, Oliver.”
He froze completely, looking up with an absolutely dumbfounded expression. Her eyes were watery and her lip was trembling but she was steadfast.
He hugged her.
This was no mere hug though, this was a gargantuan, swooping hurricane of a hug. He took her in both arms and squeezed tight, picking her up and spinning her until they both began to laugh, letting the tears run down their cheeks as they shed the last of their fears.
When they pulled away she hovered her hands around his head, thumbs tracing the lines of his jaw slowly, lovingly. They stared deeply at each other until the seconds fell off the clock and nothing mattered much more than the beat of their hearts. The only tell of time. At that point there was such intense magnetization that it was overwhelming. The pull of love drew them closer and closer until all hesitation fell away.
They locked lips and kissed as if a Volcano erupted beneath them. As if the ash would bury them in a moment and this was their last chance to love each other. Explosions of energy shocked and shattered all illusions, the succulent touch, the careers on the skin, it was measured in joules but calculated in breathes. Painters, musicians, writers, all of them through the ages tried desperately to capture this elusive light but even Oliver’s own brush, and the words that carried them, failed to bring justice to the sensuality that transcribed a love now transcending them both.
They had risen above themselves, loving in space as their bodies melted into one another while their powers coalesced beautifully. They pulled at each other, ripping clothes and clawing like vicious animals. A savagery known only to true lovers, years built yearnings like monuments, bringing to life all the untapped dreams they had kept dormant and hidden.
Years poured into seconds, every touch was delicate but ferocious — sensuous and yet divine, when he moved to her it was sacred and when she pulled him closer it felt raw and organic, it captivated and groomed, blessing sinfully.
Finally, they were able to settle down, only to catch their breath as their finite bodies spelt the limit to their infinite love.
“Some things,” Oliver spoke, still breathing heavily, “Some things never change.”
She pulled him in and kissed him again.
“I missed you so much.” She whispered in his ear, biting and tugging it as she closed her eyes.
It was true, even though he had left her in shambles and the baby had shattered her moral, she could not hate him forever — she couldn’t bare to. She spent months in an exile away from the world in hopes that he might return, but he never did. Even still, she never went a day without thinking about him. She built walls to protect herself from any other, she doubted and dared to never love another. She let go of all of the negative emotions and found serenity in her soul, a fondness in the beauty of the world that would heal her from her core in ways that nothing else could ever hope to do. She was far wiser than Oliver and always was, it was no competition though it was love. She knew he was hers and she was his deep down somewhere, it was a sensation she could never define — only knew.
Coincidentally, or not at all, today was the first day she had not given him serious thought, he had seemed to vanish from her world. It was the first time in a very long time that she was not reminded of him in some way shape or form and yet, when all hope had seemed to fade… here he was, back in her world once again.
It made no sense at all, though in this life, not many things did. Maybe he had left her thoughts because he reentered her world. No one could ever say. All she knew was that she’d never let him leave ever again, he was here to stay for good.
“I love you Oliver,” She could barely speak, her voice was so airy and soft. “But you hurt me so badly… you know that right?”
He came back up to her, kissing her before whispering, “I love you too, Anna.”
He paused for a moment, “I know that more than anything, and it hurt me so deeply, more than I’ll ever describe. I can’t bare to think of it without feeling the pain… Please know that I will think of loving you only from now on.”
They both smiled and she rolled him onto his back, she grabbed the joint from the table and the box of matches. She stuck the box between his teeth and he held it tightly as she struck another match and relit the joint, toking on it until it burned bright again.
“We’ve got a lot of catching up, baby.”
“Well,” He spit out the matchbox to smile, “We’ve got all the time in the world.”
“You’re home now,” She spoke, looking deeply into him with a smile,
“No more running away.”
“Believe me,” He laughed, though the severity was nevertheless present and powerful,
“I learned my lesson the first time.”
She smiled and kissed him before laying her head on his chest. Up above, a calm breeze weaved soft whispers through the leaves, and peace resumed as two melted into one.