Welcome to short story Saturday, where hopefully, every Saturday, I share a short story. This story originally started as a poem.
Laying naked on the cold tile floor. Skin prickles, with each hair rising, goose bumps spread like plague, causing chills to radiate. Shaking bones, twitching muscles, and the body slightly quivers. At first the cold tile stings the skin, unprepared for the shocking sensation. But as time goes by, the body becomes numb and the floor warms. Her boney finger slowly trace the cracks in tiles, watched by her pale green eyes with flecks of yellow, following the same pattern, lost in a hypnotic rhythm, repeating the infinite motion. Flickering candle light creates a silhouette of not only her body but the old four spoke facet handles on the sink and curved water spout. Together they dance and play across the bathroom wall. Sunlight trying to join but masked by the thick, bubbled, opaque glass and drawn dingy curtains that at one point might have been maroon but is now a sad pale off reddish color.
The coolness from the tiles against her damp skin. Water beads on the surface of her body. Tiny drops cling before rolling along the curves forced by gravity to pool on the icy lake surface below. Getting lost in the grout that has begun to pull apart from each tile, smooth jagged edges reach upward, away from their once secure home.
Her body too weak to move. Muscles fatigued. Motionless. Like a discarded piece of clothing. Too much indulgence. Lack of nourishment. Too little movement. Lack of sleep. The constant push to keep up. The body has given up, surrendered. Each part screams for life to revitalize it. And in protest it lays lifeless, like a leaf ready to be caught by the wind. Much like the bathroom. Once a lush oasis of retreat and renew. Now, abused by years of use and wear. It too cries for attention as it slowly fades awaiting demolition.
She enjoys the feeling of the cold tiles against her skin. The arctic touch was refreshing. It was new. It felt alive. Like stepping out from the warmth inside to a cold breeze that assaults the senses. Awakening and jolting the body. Reminding her that she was in fact human. Connected to her body. Feeling its reaction to the frozen substance that jerked her awake and yet calmed her and allowed her to slow down. The coolness slowed her breathing. Allowed her to focus on the sensations of her chills and prickled skin. The feeling of each water droplet cascading off her body, pooling on the floor only to slowly be trailed away lost in cracks, creases caused by missing grout that pulls away from the tile it was meant to hold in place, no longer water resistant creating the slightest mildew smell. The once silver drain, scratched and scuffed from years of abuse secured in the middle of the floor waiting to consumes the waste, the discarded, the drips and drops.
It was real. Perhaps the only real thing. Real like the smell of coffee in the busy coffee shop, the enticing roasting coffee beans that invigorate and sooth. Like the smell of rain. The rich dirt and green trees, the smell that enlivens the senses and sings to the soul. Real like the feeling of sunshine against the skin, warming and radiating. Or the soft blanket that eases and lulls the body to peace. Real like a baby’s first cry after leaving the mother’s womb, the wail and gasping for breath, as one reality changes to another and life has begun. Real like the tears at a funeral of a departed love one. The salty tears that burn as they stream downward, soaking all they touch. As the soul leaves one reality for another one. Real like the faint smell of bleach seeping up from the floor that she adorns. Real like the tucked away seedy, secluded hotel room she rented for the night.
She could cling to this. Her notion of reality. The feelings of her body conveyed that yes, this was real. As the coldness penetrated her body, she knew the goose bumps, the chills spiraling through her bones, the clench and release of muscles. Reminding her that she was alive. The moisture beading against her skin and slowing rolling off. The feeling of tiny streams of water traveling her body. Connecting her to the sensations of her.
This feeling. The feeling of wet skin against cold tile. The connection to her body which she had lost long ago. Her body which had become an object. An obsession for men and women. Her obsession. The pressure to have the perfect body, to be the perfect image of a woman. Thin, rib cage protruding, no breasts, no muscle, no meat. She had failed this battle and lost her body. Her collar bone and hip bones protruded, yet she couldn’t see her ribs. And now, bone against floor causing the slightest of annoying pains. Her breasts round and definitely not flat. No she was not heroin chic. She was an average woman.
She could enjoy this moment. The moment she connected with the elements. With herself. With feeling something other than nothing. She had worked so hard to stop feeling. To stop the pain. To stop life. And now, she was numb and longing to feel something she could control.
This moment. She controlled this moment. She gave herself permission to be present in this moment. Allowed her body to connect to the floor. Herself to feel each and every sensation. To focus on the now.
This brief moment which offered relief. In this moment, in her focusing on her body and each sensation it felt, the smell of lavender from her shampoo, the goose bumps raising and causing her muscles to tense and relax, the chills that caused her to quiver. The feeling of her fingers tracing the cracks in the tile. Being fully present here, allowed her to escape the madness of her mind.
Relief from life. The thoughts that caused her stomach to clench, her throat to tighten. Her pulse to raise and her heart to beat as if it was running away. The thoughts that made her question herself and her decisions. The thoughts that keep her awake, running in circles that showed under her eyes. The need, the pressure to keep up and keep doing that left her drained like a car that ran out of gas and deserted on the side of the road.
Relief from suffering. The uncontrollable anxiety that ravished her mind like an insatiable appetite. That caused her heart to race forcing her blood to rush faster through her veins like the subway at rush hour. The fear that keep her stuck, like a deer frozen and waiting for the lion to leave. But the lion never leaves, so the deer fakes death, hoping. It’s never enough, her fear that keeps her paralyzed, motionless, like the deer trying to out wait and out wit the lion.
Relief from thoughts, feelings. To stop the flow of people on the train, to stop the lion from attacking. To stop her body from betraying her with each emotion and thought.
The world. The over consumption and lack of compassion that caused her heart to cry. The wars, internally and externally. Too much and too little. It killed her. Slowly ate away at her. Like time to the elements. As her mind indulged the thoughts that wore on her body.
She laid there, relishing in the feeling. Her cold wet skin again the cold tile as her skin began to prickle and her body shivered. Of being in this moment. Silent thoughts forcing her to focus on the sensations of the body. The icy cold against the skin, creating a chain reaction. Prickled skin, muscles involuntary moving, chills throughout and the pearls of water collecting and leaving.
This feeling for a moment stopped everything else.
Until slowly, everything started to invade her world again. Sirens. Voices. Madness. The assault against her psyche. The rush and hurry of the world. The sirens of pain and rescue. The voices of anger, lack, pride and selfishness. The madness of the world, that had forgotten it’s humanity. Driven by false needs, the idea that consumption was the way to happiness. The pursuit of more while destroying it all. Leaving nothing. Caring for no one. The emptiness of each person lost in their fight to be the victor of false ideals, the king of morals and righteousness, in the name of modern religion forced upon the masses and eaten like a thanksgiving dinner. This world that had lost its soul. Long lost the ideas that all life matters and is precious. This new world she hated.
If only she could hold on a minute longer. A second longer. To stay here, to ease the pain that raped her entire being.
It was too late. Life had made its way back to her. All the crazed, frantic, never ending downward spiral of a world had penetrated her sanctuary.
She opened her eyes. Candles flickered. Shadows danced against the wall. The tile looked grey in the darkness. The light trying to force its way into the room from underneath the door. Smashed down once brown shag carpet, showed the years of stampeding feet and the mangy fur of a dog offered protect of the invading world outside the door.
She stared at the door. The light outside, the fuzzy dog, listened to its snoring. Focuesd on splintering of wood from years of use.
Wishing somehow she could sink into the floor. Disappear. Vanish. Retrieve was always fleeting. Her body longed to remain motionless. Her soul dreamt of peace offered by this moment. To be still like a tree, alone in the woods. Her mind began to race as she knew life was beckoning, calling her back to it.
She could hear the footsteps approaching. His heavy breathing. Her heart sank. She could feel it beat in her stomach. The vomit that rose up into her mouth in repulsion. Her throat clenched. Dread swept across her body. Her breathing became shallow in anticipation. She wished, she hoped, she prayed, and she wasn’t a religious person, she had given up on it years ago and she still prayed it wasn’t him. In her mind she wanted it to be someone else. The man she once loved perhaps. Briefly, for just a moment, she was swept back to another time, another place, where he would have softly laid down next to her and held her. Allowing, her to stay motionless in her brief moment of peace. For just a moment, she could feel his touch, his breath, she could smell him. She closed her eyes and breathed in this memory. Reality crashing in she chased him away. There was no room for memories in her world. She reminded herself they only bring grief. She thought of her brother and a piece of her wanted it to be him rescuing her from her. It’s what they always did, rescued each other. Again she pushed him away. She didn’t need him now. Yet, for a split second, she felt love of being able to fall into someone. Her brother, the man she once loved. Those men she could tolerate. Those men she once loved. She shock them from her mind. Thoughts of them, could only make this situation worse and she needed to be free of their love. This man, approaching the door, she despised, he was like her mother, like her mother’s boyfriends. Like her father and his lovers. Useless. Wastes of human flesh.
She forced herself up. Now enlivened by call to action. By the need to pretend that yes, she was okay. She had to snap back to this world. This reality. Her body ready for action, ready for movement. One last chill radiated through her body as her now damp hair fell against her back. Her eyes glanced over to the sink, the bone handled pocket knife brought her comfort and relief. To towel rack that she had neatly placed her clothes. Quickly she looked to the back of the toilet and the dingy old lumpy off pink towel that concealed a 9mm. And the box of black hair color that sat on the opposite side of the sink, all reminding her she had work to do and she’d need the room for another night. As she gathered herself, she found herself annoyed that the dog guarding the door hadn’t barked, that’s what happens when you give a stray a warm bed for the night. No loyalty, just expectations.
She grabbed a towel and begin to do what she did best. Pretend.