Malcolm James Furst

Words, words, words

We met at a bar.

We met at a bar. We’ll we didn’t meet, but I saw her, and she saw me, and we were in the same, group out celebrating the end of the week. When she saw me, she looked away, and I looked away when I saw her.

And then we met again at another bar in the same group, and we talked and laughed, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, but I did because I didn’t want things to feel awkward between us. And she talked about her exes, none of whom live in Texas, and the conversation was so self-revelatory, beyond what people usually say in public on first meeting or in second, but the conversations felt like a baring of souls of sorts, as in “you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.” 

So we connected on social media, commented on each others’ lives, then exchanged phone numbers, or rather so we could text because it would be so much easier. When could we see each other again? She wanted to get to know me better. She needed to get to know me better.

We set up another date, and we made small talk and big talk and talked with the people around us like two birds in a cage for all the world to admire. 

I leaned in and spoke the truth: it was as if God who knew me so well had made her for me, with her long, silky dark hair, broad cheekbones, deep brown eyes, and peevish smile. 

And she smiled back. 

Our next date was at her apartment in the city, and though I suppose as I was visiting her, she should have tended out to me, I tended out to her, holding doors, pouring wine, lighting cigarettes, washing dishes, picking up Thai take-out. 

I never thought or wondered whether I should do any of this. I simply did it. For the first time, I felt compelled to take care of someone else, and to do so without thinking about the balance of give and take in the relationship. 

If she had asked me to move in, I would have. 

If she had asked me to sell my house, I would have. 

If she had asked me to marry her and take care of her in this life and beyond, I would have. 

But she didn’t ask any of those things, and she really wasn’t into me. 

Even though when she looked at me, it felt like she was gazing at my bare soul, she just wasn’t interested. 

Rage within

For those who think peace is the lack of war, I say joy is the lack of pain.

In this world, there are but two poles, rage and emptiness.

Oh, there are those who may look happy, but they are just smiling vainly to deny or hide their hostility that rests just within reach. 

Such powerful evil

That face, marked with lines of age and framed in gray, not silver, not white, reveals in a flash the anger, the hatred, the enmity that lays within. The only thing she lacks is the strength to force her ill will, of which she has more than enough. 

But there is no disappointment in her eyes even though she knows that she no longer has the muscle, the sinew, to act on her malice. She did it before, once with an axe that not on the first swing, not on the second, or the third, but on the twentieth or thirtieth cleaved bone from bone.

And she dropped her first-born, a she-thing that came too early, into a crevice in the stone along the shore, a deep crevice into which the child became wedged, then died either in the fall or in the tide that rose later. 

And she smothered her father with a pillow when he had pneumonia, knowing that everyone expected him to die, and that she needed what was left of his money for herself, not for doctors and hospitals. 

She did it many times before, and so it was enough for her now to plant a bitter seed with one look of such powerful, powerful evil. And she knew she had planted it in fertile ground. 

A slow, wicked smile spread across my face.

Guess who?

I’m drinking a cup of coffee in a shopping mall food court. 

“Guess who?” I hear as long fingers and warm hands cover my face from behind. I reach up with my hands and feel her arms, strong, but soft. 

“Hmm…” I mumble as I stroke her warm skin. And then I drop my arms to my side and behind me to reach back to her legs and pull her closer. The tight denim feels good in my hands, and she takes her hands off my face and leans into me wrapping her arms around my shoulders and crossing them across my chest. Her hair tickles my cheek, and there is magnetic heat between us as she squeezes me tighter. 

“Guess who?” she says again. 

“Nobody knows I’m traveling,” I say, and I turn my head to the right brushing my lips against hers. 

“Traveling?” she says as she sees my face and realizes that I am not who she thought I was just a moment ago. 

She lets go and tries to pull back, but I hold onto her arm long enough to say “That was lovely. If I’m ever in Dallas again…” and I smile.

Bloody kindness

It wasn’t rage that filled me just before, but a sense of kindness, charity, knowing that he lives a miserable life even though he might not know it, and that I will relieve him of that burden. How he couldn’t know it is beyond me, though. Look at what he’s wearing. Those fucking loafers with gold tassels are out of place anyway, but with cargo shorts, a long-sleeved pin-striped shirt, a polo with a popped collar, and a hoodie? Holy shit, he’s lost here. Look around, ass wipe. This is  fucking Tremont, Maine. 

He looks relieved when I come to help him, and his voice is sweet and compliant. I change the tire while he watches, and when I finish, he comes closer to look at the lug nuts, which I tell him he’ll need to tighten later. 

When he bends over, I bash him on the back of his head with the tire iron, and his head hits the tire, he slumps to the side and rolls onto his back. He has not been relieved of his burden yet, but at least he’s out cold. 

I wish I were Wolverine and could reach into, no through his abdomen, grip his spine, and shake his flesh loose from his bones, but physics and anatomy make that impossible. Instead, I push my fingers into his gut, then beat on his chest, and as he starts to rouse from sweet, sweet slumber, I jump onto his chest and listen to the ribs crack and the air rushing from his lungs. 

But I’m thrown off balance, and I slip and fall between him and the car, scraping my head and bleeding. This red stain marks me. I am kindness personified as I have removed him from his misery—his shallow, desensitized fractional life with the hope that he might be reborn as some invertebrate and know his place in the world.

Clackety-clack

The clackety-clack 

clackety-clack 

clackety-clack of the train cars on the rails hypnotizes me. 

Boom boom. 

Boom boom. 

Boom boom. 

The rhythm

regular, 

regular, 

regular, 

disappears, becomes as ordinary and unremarkable as the chatter coming from other cars and the sound of my own heart beating in my chest or the sound of in-breaths and out-breaths.

So ordinary, 

ordinary, 

ordinary, 

ordinary that no one hears it anymore. 

Except that with one of these

clackety-clacks, 

I feel the heat of his gaze on me, 

so I look up. 

While most people exchange glances like relay runners handing off batons, the steadiness of his gaze surprises me, so I look back down at my magazine. 

Clackety-clack. 

Do I felt threatened by him? 

Clackety-clack. 

No one would try anything with all these people around. 

Clickety-clack. 

Maybe he needs something from me. 

Clackety-clack. 

Maybe I knew him long ago. 

Clackety-clack. 

I return my gaze to him, and he is still looking right at me. 

Clackety-clack. 

I look over his head feigning absent-mindedness. 

Clackety-clack. 

What am I afraid of? 

Clackety-clack. 

I look into his eyes once more. 

He is still looking at me, and I keep looking at him. Is he familiar? No. Is he a threat? No. I smile. He smiles back, then looks away. 

Clackety

clackety

clackety

clackety

clackety

clackety

clack.

And then the moment is gone,

and he is gone,

and I wonder how much time passed and where he went.

But those eyes, brown with gold and green flecks, are burned into my memory, as if I have been staring at him the whole time, memorizing him and that faint smile that slowly spread. 

Those eyes are locked in my mind like the clackety-clackety-clackety of the train

and the rising and falling and rising and falling of my breath

and the waboom, waboom, waboom of my heart.

Prince Charming in Reverse?

So, we all know the fairy tale. A woman with a heart of gold is overlooked by Prince Charming, who is distracted by more glamorous beauties who are ugly on the inside. He eventually sees her for who she is (on the inside). Who knew this could happen in reverse? In the fairy tale, they live happily ever after. I’m hoping for a fairy tale ending.

I’ve been going to the same hairdresser for almost a year now, and when I first saw her, I was a bit nervous because she is glamorously beautiful. Now, you might expect that from a hairdresser, you know, the long, rich, colored hair, a spray tan, make-up, tight, fashionable clothing, heels…, but the overall effect doesn’t just make you think “hairdresser who looks good because it’s her job to look good,” it’s more like “Hollywood, red carpet glamour.”

Not really my type.

And I’ve gotten to know her over these many months, well, as much as one can in conversations in the chair. Here’s what I’ve learned: she had a difficult youth, but her grandparents were a rock for her; she is hardworking (it’s her salon); she’s a health-conscious vegan fitness buff; she’s not the party girl you might expect of someone so glamorous and young, in fact, she’s a bit of a home body; she loves to garden and grow her own vegetables; she has lots of pets, some of which she’s rescued from tough spots; she has a bit of a temper; she values communication; and she longs for the kind of lifetime commitment her grandparents had. She is in so many ways exactly what I’m looking for, except

She’s not really my type.

The last time I visited, we had a real conversation about our relationship challenges, and when I left, I wondered why I couldn’t get over the fact that she’s not my type. After all, she’s right for me in so many other ways, and as I often do, I talked to myself to try to figure it out, and here is why I think she didn’t seem to be my type.

When I was a boy, I absorbed a lot of feminist messages in television and movies, and those messages said, among other things, that men focus too much attention to the superficial, to hair and makeup, to clothing and body type, and that they should pay attention to a woman for her smarts, her heart, in short, for who she is on the inside. Growing up surrounded by women, I became a believer in all those messages.

I learned that a woman could be beautiful on the inside OR on the outside, not both, probably because of the tendency of 70’s television to portray caricatures of people, not real balanced men OR women.

And then it hit me. All these years I’ve been prejudiced against women who are beautiful on the outside because of this mistaken understanding. That’s why she wasn’t my “type,” whatever that means, and I realized that I hadn’t decided for myself what my type might be from experience. I’d let someone else decide for me.

Then, it occurred to me that I had never really seen this woman. Oh, I’d looked at her, but my prejudice kept me from really seeing her. Though another man might have been attracted to her glamorous appearance, asked her out, gotten to know who she is on the inside, and found out that they weren’t compatible for deeper reasons, I had the opportunity to discover who she is on the inside, to discover that she is an amazing, driven, compassionate, loving, open woman with whom I share a lot of values and interests, and to learn something about myself.

And now I see her. I see the beauty on the inside and on the outside.