Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guest Writer: Kim Farleigh

Condemned

Natalia screamed: “I don’t want your money!”
Patricia’s eyes were soft with pity, the silence denuded of tranquillity.
“I don’t want to speak to anyone!” Natalia screamed.
She went behind the bar to ring her mother, her left hand thrashing as she spoke on the phone.
“I’ll wait up for you,” her mother said. “Please don’t worry!”
Natalia gulped between outbursts.
“It may’ve even been someone I know,” she cried. “Someone I know may’ve even seen it!”
“Everything’s going to be fine,” her mother said. “Don’t worry. We can talk when you get here.”
Moist tracks gleamed on Natalia’s cheeks.
She put the phone down and dabbed the corners of her eyes with a tissue.
“Why don’t you have a place where people can put their bags?” she demanded.
“Sorry,” the bar manager replied, “but we can’t take responsibility for everything.”
“You don’t take any responsibility for anything! You let anyone in here!”
Even you, the bar manager thought.
“Can you go back behind the bar, please? We have to clean up.”
“You don’t care about anything!”
“Please; can you go back behind the bar?”
“Bastard,” Natalia muttered.
The barman yelled: “You deserve it!”
“Arsehole!” Natalia yelled.
David felt moral concussion. Good behaviour had never been a consciously sought-after characteristic in a partner. Most people just don’t behave like this! It had never even been a consideration – something just taken for granted.
The empty bar’s timber floor now seemed crudely exposed, like the bones of a decaying beast.
“The only reason I came here tonight,” Natalia told David, “was to see you. I want your telephone number. And I’m not interested in friendship. These people say anything behind your back; they’re jealous of you.”
Her throat sucked in, then pumped out, red tracks on her marble eyes.
“And,” she grimaced, “I’ve been robbed! Keys, money, ID, mobile, everything! And I only wanted to see you!”
They left the bar. It was drizzling. A serene darkness hemmed in the dampness.
“Patricia asked me how things are going with you,” Natalia said. “She wants a disaster. She loves you, but she won’t admit it; I’m sincere and bold: I can’t stand these cowards.”
David found positive self-perceptions baffling – even surreal.
“I come from a rich family,” she wailed, “and I’ve been well brought up – unlike some of those people!”
During his youth, David had shared a room with his brother and father, cheap cupboards, old clothes, and nothing else.
“And I respect certain values,” she continued, “not like them!”
He’d never noticed anything bad about those people; but he hadn’t been brought up well either.
“You have to be careful,” she said. “There’s so much jealousy. Personal comments can be used against you. You’re too nice to realise it.”
Incandescent reflections decorated puddles, reflections transforming the things themselves.
Human, faceless entities swarmed in a wet, sombre murk. Neon colours shimmered in the murk.
The fist-flying wind clobbered David’s face.
A taxi stopped beside them.
“I’ll ring you,” she said.
They stared at each other; then their mouths began swimming in silky contact. The rain, striking like soft nails, flashed in headlights. Their mouths swirled like aquatic creatures, dolphins in three dimensions, the wind howl-clattering, a haphazard-direction-swing wind.
She’s kissing an inferior being, he thought. And she doesn’t know it. Escape before she finds out.
She got into the taxi and waved as she left.
The wind and rain made David squint. Tongues moving like marine angels, David tried to forget what he was; she must get into a taxi now, he had thought.
People were huddled in doorways like penguins. Rain rippled the footpath. The need to escape had filled David’s mind like background radiation, the thought that she was going to change her perception of him inevitable – she’d already indirectly said that she couldn’t stand him. Unjustified admiration filled him with levitating emptiness.
The rain whipped its liquid lashes; a running woman accidentally clipped David in the face, the woman spinning and saying: “Oh! Sorry!”
He thought: What a night!
Sparkling, liquid-confetti drizzle, illuminated by a streetlight, resembled a radiant teardrop above a couple who were waiting at a taxi rank. The couple looked around, independently of each other, waiting in silence.

*

Nobody cares, Natalia thought, as she got out of the taxi. If Patricia cared would she have just offered me five euros? Of course not! She’s done well in business. She’s rich. Five euros! What was I going to do with that!? I had nothing! None of them could care less. No one offered to come with me to the police station. People stop listening when their mobiles ring. Everybody else’s problems are irrelevant. We’re all just individuals living alone. Alone! Love doesn’t even exist! It’s just an act! My own mother doesn’t even care. She just says: “You’re too complicated!” There’s no heart, no real emotion. It’s all about the fear of being alone, about escaping from inadequacies rather than confronting them.
David’s bedroom’s light intensified the uneasiness he felt about not having extracted joy from kissing beauty, his soaking hair plastered too heavily onto his head, like a burden.
Maybe I’m just overreacting, he thought. Although belligerent, unfounded certainty is a definite turn-off. It just feels wrong. I’ve never kissed a beautiful woman before and felt perturbed. It’s weird.
Natalia’s mother opened the door.
“What took you so long getting here?” she asked.
Her tone was pleasant.
“I was with someone.”
“Everything’s going to be all right.”
Natalia took her coat off and went to the bathroom and dried her hair.
It could have been Juan, she thought. He hardly said a word tonight! He just sat behind us with that cold look on his face; then he disappeared without saying a word. It might have been him!
And not the homeless man who’d entered after Juan had left.

*

David lay down on his bed. The agitation that had been stirring in his head began to turn to relief when he accepted that he had been too obsessed with exterior beauty. The agitation had been an unconscious sign. He felt a stabilising sensation of alleviation when he realised that he hadn’t given his real needs their due consideration. He hadn’t accepted just how much he admired sincere weaknesses until that night. Something, he thought, that’s definitely human. I can’t have a relationship with someone who’s convinced of their perfection, he thought. There’s no humour in that, no self-deprecation or sardonic self-analysis. It would just be complaints, self-righteousness, no awareness of the need for improvement; and little chance of seeing virtues in others.
He got up and went into the bathroom and began drying his hair with a towel. This craziness, he thought, this unsociable behaviour: its disturbing and obnoxious. Her beauty gets destroyed by it. And usually women look more beautiful than they actually are because of their personalities – not the other way around!
He lay on the bed again. And especially in Spain, he thought, where women can be as charming as it gets.
Feeling dryer he also felt lighter and fresher. The worse thing, he thought, is that you know that behind that blissful smile of hers, and behind that deep laughter, there’s something disturbing that’s just waiting to erupt. It’s like sailing over a smooth, blue sea, under a blue sky, knowing that the water is laced with icebergs as sharp as broken glass. You know that the peace is going to be disrupted by a sudden, hull-splitting collision with a chunk of bitter ice. Some men like the unpredictable excitement of this, but not me. Give me a smooth, glistening sea, free of reefs and icebergs, any day. I prefer beautiful simplicity. Madness completely shocks me. It’s much more entertaining observing it from a distance, not having it in your life.
She didn’t ring him anyway. There was even a moment when she had thought: I wonder if he was involved in a plan with Juan?

© Kim Farleigh 2011

Having a taste for the exotic, Kim has worked for aid agencies in three conflicts: Kosovo, Iraq and Palestine. He hasn't recovered. He probably never will. He's thinking of doing it again! His stories have appeared in several magazines in the US, Australia and Europe, including Whiskey Island, Southerly, Island, Haggard & Halloo, Feathertale and many others.

2 comments:

  1. This is a well-described relationship which is more than a little difficult to grasp (for David) but I thought the final summing up excellent and in tune with my thinking for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was very interesting. I don't believe I've ever read anything like this before. Each of the three had their own thing going and it WAS all about them.

    ReplyDelete

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