to be one’s own reflection
we spoke in the tongue
of the sun itself.
as the waves soaked
our pant legs,
in freckles and music notes.
when we, once,
stood on the edge of
the water and
the pliable air between us.
we wrote in
about each other, just
because we could.
we understood each other,
the sun and the air and the waves
grass stains under my fingernails
coconut rings beneath my eyes
snake skin trails across my collarbone
softest lips like fireflies
red scaled skin
brandy snap collar
with iceberg limbs
Darian TV Producer Russel
It’s approximately twenty-four hours since the best mistake I’ve ever made. I’m holding out hope that it wasn’t a mistake, and everything will turn out fine, but that would be uncharacteristically optimistic for me. Now I can only hope that it doesn’t turn everything I’ve ever worked for into dust.
Darian Russell is a charming man, and I’m an even more charming woman. Not to flatter myself, but we all know it’s true. So put two and two together. He texts me, we have wine, we end up sprawled across his hotel bed, all clothing and dignity long forgotten. I can only hope that, despite this, he still agrees to turn my book into a movie, what with him being a producer and all.
God, I hope this deal still goes through.
The waiter puts my salad in front of me, which I’m not very keen on eating, but I’m meant to look like some kind of polite, regular, not-falling-apart woman, and those kinds of women eat salads.
The two men across from me have finally moved on to talking to someone further down the table, alternating who asks the questions. Both journalists; I’d accepted business cards from them both earlier, with plans to recycle because I may be a bitch but I do have a green thumb. They had asked me questions about my upcoming novel, as if I know any better than them.
It’s a work-not-work happy hour, meaning I get told it’s not work but I get yelled at if I drink too many margaritas. It’s actually a networking event, and I’m stuck at the end of a long table full of potentially important contacts, as Bram put it, trying to make charming conversation.
Bram, always sticking his nose into my business, leans sideways into my personal bubble. His pasta dish has just arrived. “Macie, what’s going on?”
I sip my margarita, smiling pleasantly over the rim at nothing in particular. “Whatever do you mean?” Sometimes in my attempts to stay civil I begin to talk like a Dickens character. Or something. I haven’t read Dickens since high school.
“You’re checking your phone obsessively,” he hisses, flattening his napkin against his thigh.
I turn in my seat, accidentally bumping his knee. “Oh, I’m sorry, Mother. Is it no phones at the table?” I ask, setting down my glass and giving him a pointed look.
Bram purses his lips and breathes out through his nose. “It’s just that you’ve been making a face like you’re about to pass out for the last half hour.”
I face forward again, accidentally catching the eye of one of the journalists–either Houston or Riley, I can’t remember because they both had such awful names. He smiles and lifts his glass, holding eye contact. I quickly look down at my salad, which has not gotten more appealing.
“I’m waiting for someone to text me back,” I mutter to Bram, looking up just as Houston and Riley lean together, one of them whispering a word that sounds horrifyingly close to ‘smash’, as their eyes dart back to me.
“Can it wait?” Bram asks, stabbing at his pasta. They’re the bow-tie ones, all dressed up just to get eaten. Me too, I think.
“Hey, I wanted to ask, what inspired the The Lakeside Haunt?” asks one of the journalists suddenly. He’s got a little slug-like mustache, makes him look more like a Houston than a Riley. “It’s my favorite of your books,” he adds, leaning in.
I nod and take a dainty bite of salad, making him wait. Then I smile placidly and say, “Oh, you know. I think trips to the seaside as a kid was a big inspiration.” I twirl my fork in my salad. “What kind of writing was it that you said you did?”
I could hear Bram sigh next to me. Luckily most men don’t expect us pea-brained women to retain much. Houston says, “Gossip column. Fanfare Today Magazine.” This is new to me, actually. He hadn’t admitted that before, and that’s a fact.
“How fun! The gossip column, why that’s fantastic.” I smile stiffly as I turn to Bram. I cannot believe he thought a gossip columnist could be an ‘important contact’. I’m about to get a movie deal, for god’s sake.
Bram raises his eyebrows at me, which usually means behave. Instead, I lay a hand on Bram’s arm, which makes his body freeze up and his mouth twitch down. “Actually, Bram was just telling me an amusing story. Probably nothing as good as what you write, of course, but surely he’d love to tell it.”
Bram’s jaw is tightening, which means I’m breaking him out of his professional nonchalance. A personal victory to me. “I don’t think–”
“Oh, you know,” I goad in a sultry voice. “The one about the fisherman. It’s hilarious.” I turn back to Houston and Riley. “You’ll both love it. I’m just going to go to the ladies’ room real quick.” I wink at them, then pat Bram on the hand.
He glares at me as I stand, and I smile back.
The harsh light in the restaurant bathroom makes me look pale. Which should be impossible due to all my hours on the beach. I’m nothing if not tan. I check my phone again, swiping away notifications from my sister, who wants money again, missed calls from my friend Jamie, who probably has dating drama, and reminders for me to do thinks like laundry and buy shampoo because I keep putting them off. No messages from Darian TV Producer Russell. Not a single word from him since we’d slept together, which I don’t know how to interpret. Good thing? Bad thing?
The bathroom door opens, and a woman in a leopard-print jacket gives me a once-over, one white tennis shoe holding the door open. She looks out into the hallway and says, “Yeah, she’s in here.”
“Tell her to come out. Please.” Bram’s voice. My whole stomach feels empty, and not just because all I had was a single bite of a shitty salad.
The woman raises her eyebrows at me and holds the door wider. I close my eyes because my head is churning like a washing machine. I double check my phone. The woman shakes her head and enters, the door swinging behind her, and locks herself in a stall.
“He seems worried,” she says to me through the stall.
I sigh. “Sorry. Thanks,” I tell her, trying to sound sincere because I mean it. It’s not her fault tonight is shitty. Why is it so shitty? Not enough alcohol, maybe? “I like your lipstick,” I tell her as I’m leaving, because nothing says thank you like a compliment in a public restroom.
Bram’s got his arms folded, trying to make himself smaller in the space of the tiny, tiny restaurant hallway. He’s not doing a good job of it because when I come to stand next to him I’m close enough to smell the pasta sauce on his breath.
“You done hiding?” His eyebrows are lowered, and his hair is in wisps across his forehead. He’s exactly the kind of person that writers love to describe, because he’s got all the right features for it. Golden blonde hair and piercing eyes and cheekbones, yada yada yada. I’m annoyed with him.
I adjust my crossbody bag across my chest, but his eyes don’t leave my face. “Why are they here? Is there anyone out there that’s worth my time? Why am I here?”
Bram shakes his head. His posture is stiff but his voice is surprisingly gentle. “Do you have better things to do? What’s going on, who are you texting?”
“More like who am I not texting,” I reply bitterly, checking my phone one last time. Another text from my sister, and an email from my credit card company.
Bram straightens to his full height, which is about equal to mine because of my excessively tall heels. He’s very much in my personal space now, but I’m not backing down. “Well?”
The space in my head shrinks until there are no more thoughts, and I choke out a laugh. “Darian,” I tell him.
I jut my chin out so our faces are inches apart. I make sure to enunciate every syllable. “I fucked Darian Russel, and now I’m waiting for the consequences.”
For a moment I think Bram’s eyes are going to fall out of his head. He’s looking at me but not seeing me. He recoils. “What?”
The women’s bathroom door opens, and Miss Leopard Print walks out, stopping to eye us both. Bram and I press ourselves against opposite walls so that she can squeeze through the space between us. She gives me a single eyebrow quirk as she passes, which I think is supposed to be reassuring, but really I’m not sure.
“You didn’t.” Bram’s turned back into Professional Bram. His words aren’t even clipped; he doesn’t sound angry or disappointed. He’s just stating words. Like facts.
I hate to talk to him like this. Like there’s no reason or emotion to any of this, like following a specific path–shake that hand, say this, smile for the camera–and everything will fall into place. Maybe I shouldn’t have slept with Darian, but I don’t regret it. It was amazing and I’d do it again, theoretically. And I don’t have time to listen to Bram tell me that this isn’t the ‘right way’ to do things. Or that it’s ‘unprofessional’.
I give Bram one last look, chin still raised. “I did. But don’t worry, I won’t be taking any of the losers here today home, you can be damn sure about that.” And then, like a badass who just delivered a clever line, I walk away.
When I get home I stare at my computer screen until I can’t see anything, then crawl into bed and dream about sea monsters dragging me underwater and watching me choke.
pt 1: https://theprose.com/post/642933/living-in-the-moment
dream it all
tastes like sandpaper .
fold me up a million different ways
and i'll always face the sun
that's what you come here for ,
that's why they made me .
tripping over my own feet
thousand eyeless rattlesnakes
under your skin and through your veins .
traded my skull for a
paper eagle , with wings of silk .
spilled mulled wine on
its feathers .
stained it all pink
like fog .
tore it up and swallowed the ashes .
only to dream it all over again ,
lost somewhere between the
turquoise air and the petulant ocean,
glass beads held between our teeth.
crows looking over our shoulders,
wormwooded snakes sliding over our feet.
moons like oceans,
circling like tidal pool goddesses:
they were you; you were me.
flutes made of the ocean,
cracked heartbeats strung together into
a dying song.
one last song.
worlds of words
paper walls and
illustrious words on
wormholes into other
universes and twisting
fantastical towers into
and mismatched lovers,
both known and unknown,
loping through restless
nights and lamplight
armchairs and long
tokens of travel and
trophies of our own
essential essences to
our bursting souls:
to read and also,
to be read again.
some kind of figment,
( balanced in purple hands )
in a dream world where
things are hazy and warm
somehow we've ended up here,
in the space of a breath
( how could our faces be this close together )
it's wrong and unreal and a
exist in a wide open space
with room to breathe, so far
in the right ways
you believe in me, i think
a dream is a dream is a dream,
and it doesn't mean a thing
( ? )
is it so wrong to think
She's picking at the skin under her fingernails, eyes on the corkboard ahead of her and leg draped over the desk, covering a half-folded sheet of paper. The corkboard is covered in postcards from her sister, places Shay will never go. Distant palaces, monuments, beaches, forests. All signed, love! ciera.
This isn't even her room. Shay kicks her legs off the desk, chews on the end of her thumb. Stares at the folded paper. It's addressed to her mother. Her mother's desk, her mother's corkboard shrine to Ciera.
The little letter sitting like a Pandora's box. Not a postcard this time, so it feels more permanent.
In Shay's room, she stares at her ceiling and lets her fan spin round and round and round, dizzying, as she listens to the ringing on her phone. She's on the floor, even though she never vacuums the rug. That used to be Ciera's job, so it hasn't gotten done in three years.
The line picks up and: "Now?" He sounds like he's got a mouthful of food, so she can't tell if it's an annoyed now or just an expectant one.
Fifteen minutes later Oliver is in her doorway, his round cheeks red from the walk down the street, his eyes looking around her room. Shay gives him a smile because he only knows it as it is, and never saw it how it was. He never knew Ciera.
"You need a beanbag or something," he says, something he tells her a lot. He adjusts his glasses and tugs on the hem of his shirt, then settles on the floor against the bed.
Shay's picking at the skin under her fingernails, remembering what it was like peeling the wallpaper off the walls when Ciera moved out. A room all to herself, she'd thought, finally a chance to decorate it in her own way.
It'd gone from floral pinks to white. The walls are bare, the desk in the corner is dusty with disuse. The carpet never gets vacuumed and the ceiling fan creaks and clinks when it spins. Mom tells her to clean up the piles of clothes on her floor, the overflowing closet. The discarded books and ghosts of hobbies that never caught on, like a flute and a skateboard and a set of blank canvases.
No one else comes in here, because no one else has to. Shay always thinks, maybe I should. Maybe try something new, hang something up, rearrange the furniture. But it doesn't matter when it's this close. This close to college or whatever else comes after graduation. She just has to be here, doesn't have to live.
"Do you want me to make peanut butter crackers?" Oliver asks. Shay's been having a silent conversation with the white paint on the ceiling on accident, instead of him.
"Yeah," she says, and listens to his footsteps leave. Her phone's still in one hand, and she holds the other in front of her face. Oliver always knows what's best. And if he doesn't, he at least knows where to find the peanut butter, which is a treat for him because his dad's allergic.
Oliver gets to see her room. He's the one exception, which sounds cheesy, but it's true. Some people just get each other, which is why she's afraid that he's been applying to so many schools. So many schools far away, without her.
Her hand's turning pale white, plastering itself to the ceiling and spinning in time with the fan, stuck up there, hanging, while the rest of her dangles. While her mom prods at her and wonders why she never does anything good enough.
"Deep breath," he's telling her, and Oliver pulls her into a sitting position. He smells like peanut butter, and she knows he's going to eat all the crackers he just made, but that's ok because she doesn't want any. She'll just make them taste bland, and they'd stick in her throat and make it hard to breathe.
Her head's still spinning, but she leans against him. It's usually enough but it's just not quite, and she tucks her hands into her armpits where she can't see them or feel them.
Oliver's getting cracker crumbs on the carpet, and no one's there to vacuum it up.
"I don't want to go to college," Shay tells him, realizing she's sitting on the floor in pajama shorts, her legs covered in goose bumps.
Oliver chews. She's never told anyone this before. "Like a gap year?" No one's ever seen her room like this, blank and empty and just like her melting head. It's been like this for three years.
Shay leans away, eyeing his red jacket and striped socks. "No." She watches him push up his glasses. "I don't know."
He shrugs. "You don't have to. What do you want to do?" He doesn't say travel but she reads it in his eyes. She reads it in everyone's eyes when they're thinking about Ciera. Even someone who never met her. She rubs off on everything, everyone.
Shay blinks at her blank walls, blank room. Nothing, no one.
"I have no idea." She doesn't cry, doesn't feel any tears. But his jacket should be white. Or blue. Something to match the ocean of waves in her heart, because pretty soon he'll be gone. Gone too.
"We've got all year to figure it out. And the summer. It'll be ok," Oliver says sweetly. Always sweet. "Cracker?"
She shakes her head and wraps her arms around him, smelling his jacket. Shay's forgotten when Ciera smelled like. She can barely believe it. That she used to be in this room every day and night, and now it doesn't smell like her at all.
"She's not coming back," Shay says to his red jacket. He rests his chin on her head. "She wrote a letter to Mom. She didn't send me anything at all. She's getting married."
Oliver breathes in and out, reminding Shay of the rocking of waves. "She's written it to both of you. I'm sure you'll see her soon. She'll visit, or--"
"She hasn't visited once. In years," she reminds him, escaping his arms.
"Shay," he starts. He's sensible. "Ciera is going to do whatever she's going to do. It sucks, but it's true. But you--" he nudges her shoulder, and she huffs. "You've got to do whatever you're going to do."
"By myself," Shay adds. There's something under her fingernails and she's picking at the skin.
He catches her hands until she looks at the pinkness of his face, and the orange rims of his glasses. He's squeezing her palms in his. "You can't get rid of me that easily."
And it all feels like a lie, because she saw the white paint underneath her fingernails, remembered the feeling of scratching away all the floral remains of the wallpaper, and knows she's gong to have to do it all again. But still, for him, she smiles.
Living In The Moment
And somehow I'm sitting on the floor of a bar. It's all torn paper napkins and little plastic straws and sticky puddles and shoes ankles gum cup discarded vape pen. I suddenly feel my scalp, my hair's all tied back and it itches and I think I might cry or at least just go to sleep.
Red high heels. White tennis shoes, but they're grimy. Black loafers.
"Hey, you ok?" A voice from a million miles away, like a sea monster shouting through water and I can't hear it amongst the clanging inside my tiny submarine. Write that down, probably, I think.
Lipstick rolls next to me, touching my hand. Fallen out of a purse, probably.
Then there are brown eyes and black loafers and these high heels are blue, and I don't know what color I'm wearing. Somebody's arguing and somebody has their sea monster hands wrapped around my forearm.
Upright, face. Faces. Right, a question from a million miles away. I feel fantastic, I say but I probably don't. And there are eyelashes on someone and pink sequins and someone else, so many people, all the people. All the people in the world all here all talking in the same place.
On Tuesday morning, I'm sitting on the beach, wearing a $200 bikini and a wide-brimmed sun hat and bejeweled sunglasses. I hate the sunglasses, a gift from my mother, more than I hate her terrible new boyfriend, but they're very shiny and expensive. Two things that I like to be. Or that I pretend to like to be, anyway.
I don't know how I got back to my flat from the bar, but I wasn't killed. I still smell sticky, even after a shower. I can't remember much from last night except that I had some idea about submarines. I think I slept for three hours, my head's pounding in time with the ocean waves, and I'm planning on sitting still until absolutely necessary because I still feel unsteady on my feet.
I've got a notebook open on one of my tan thighs, and I squint down at the word 'submarine' written in handwriting that's less legible than a kindergartner's. I give up, close my eyes, and wonder why my bed smelled like someone else's perfume.
"Macie, it's so good to meet you," the woman says as she shakes my hand firmly. I give her a smile and try to make sure I'm not making a bitchy face, because that's usually how people see my smile. I don't know if it's my smile, really, or just everything else about my that comes across that way. I'm already regretting wearing my low-cut white jumpsuit. I'd stood in front of my closet for two hours before arriving at this dinner, wondering if it was going to be fancy or formal or business casual. I'd gone with formal sexy, with an open back. This woman's gone with a turtleneck blouse and pencil skirt. Just differences in personality, maybe?
"I am so sorry, remind me of your name?" I ask as she seats herself.
Bram gives me a look over the top of his menu. I'm sure he disapproves that I don't already know who I'm meeting. I'm tempted to make a face back at him, or snap it's your fault for not briefing me on this. He may be my agent, but often he feels like my surly personal assistant. I decide to not say anything, because I'm an adult and I can tell when my irritation is the result of a hangover.
"Tessa Livingston," she says, glancing at Bram.
He gives her his 'sorry' eyebrows, which are always directed at other people and never at me. I decide now is a good time to narrow my eyes at him. "Thanks for coming, Tessa, Macie's been working tirelessly on her new novel. I think she only got, what, three hours of sleep last night?"
His blue eyes meet mine and I wish he wasn't so goddamn handsome, with his tousled golden curls and nice eyelashes. I wish I had a glass of wine, because I've got nothing to do with my hands but consider strangling him.
I laugh, like we're all in on the same joke. Like I'm not trying to do the mental math to figure out whether Bram might've dragged me home from the bar yesterday night--this morning. "I can't help it, you know, when inspiration strikes," I tell Tessa with a shrug.
She gives a moderate smile, which I'll take as a win. I don't really need her approval. Once she'd said her name I remembered Bram telling me over the phone last week that she's the producer's assistant. I want the producer to like me, not her. Now I'm just racking my brain trying to remember the producer's name. Russell, I think. Derrick, or Daryl. Damien?
"Ah, Darian! Mr. Russell, a pleasure, as always," Bram says, spotting someone and standing from his seat to greet him. Tessa's eyes flick to me, which means she's not an idiot, points to her. I'll be having words with Bram after this dinner. I easily could've remembered Darian Russell's full name without his help.
Darian, who's the big-shot TV producer that Bram has been so adamant that I meet, is not exactly as I'd pictured. I'd sort of just assumed he'd be some large middle-aged white man. I, after all, am the stereotypical thin white woman, and all thin white women need the approval of larger and older white men.
But Darian is a young, fairly small black man. He smiles wide at the sight of Bram and they shake hands, then do that thing where they pull each other in for a bro-hug. Tessa twists in her seat to give Darian a wave, and then I find myself standing, because that's most polite. Also because a little part of me wants him to see my jumpsuit in its full glory. Take that, Tessa.
He raises an eyebrow. "This is the Macie Clements I've heard so much about?" For a moment we consider each other, him in his perfectly fitted plaid suit, and I in a stupidly expensive, very revealing jumpsuit and big, shiny, dangly earrings. I'm towering over him in my heels, and I'm itching to sit. He's made no move to shake my hand.
"Great to meet you, Mr. Russell," I thrust out a hand, eyes bouncing from his warm eyes to the shiny watch on his wrist as he takes my hand.
"Let's all agree on first names, yeah, Bram?" Darian's still holding my hand and Bram's standing behind his chair, waiting to sit, and Tessa's staring at her menu. I nod. Darian pulls out his seat and sits in one graceful movement. "Mr. Russell. Honestly, Bram. I've known you for, what, six years?" Darian laughs and unbuttons his suit jacket, and I relax and laugh too, because it finally feels casual.
Bram purses his lips and I give him a very, very wide smile even though he's refusing to look at me, and both of us sit. Darian smiles charmingly at me. I can't confirm it, but for the first time I'm thinking maybe I will get a TV deal. In fact, I'm suddenly in such a good mood I think my headache's fading. That's right, no more bar-floor Macie. From now on it's Hollywood Macie.
Or something like that.
pt 2: https://theprose.com/post/708516/darian-tv-producer-russel
thinking of you again, today.
if not when, when?
- or why, then,
when skin ice head numbing wheel spin
that's not heart heartpounding