Mirroreye was not like all the other girls.
She didn't bring her lunch to school, or had her hair all put together in a braid, she didn't go to school parties or had sleepover on weekdays. She kept to herself most days. Studied hard ALL days. And on some, very few days, Mirroreye would have company: at the library, at her weekly study sessions with Jason.
Jason was much like all the other boys.
He played soccer and basketball like everybody else, he played D & D when he would nerd out after school, and he'd spent most afternoons cutting school early to go to the arcade and to take a dip at the pool just by the school. Jason wasn't an A student, not even a B student, or C. But he was a student nonetheless, and when his parents threatened to send him to boarding school in Montana and kiss his friends goodbye unless he gets his grades get better - entered Mirroreye.
At first the two did NOT bond: Mirroreye would roll her eyes at any and all mention of a new flick Jason and his buddies were going on about, or some sport game she'd have no clue about, and Jason would yawn constantly at Mirroreye's long speeches about work ethic and being a professional and yada yada and yawn and yawn...
But here they were. Committed to get Jason's grades on track. Mirroreye needed any dollar she could get a hold of for her college savings account and Jason't parents paid well, so as much as it tiered her to work with such a - for lack of better words - dumb jock, she was down for the cause.
One afternoon, Jason didn't show up. Miroreye waited. And waited. And waited. Until quarter after three. When he didn't pick up on his pager (these were the 90s' after all), Mirroreye got on her bike and made her way down the street where Jason lived.
She locked her bike and zeroed in on Jason's window at the top right corner of the house.
She approached the door. A knock. And another. Finally, she heard steps and the door opened. Jason's little sister, four year old Billie-Jean, opened the door.
"Hi. I'm a ... friend of your brother. Is he home?"
Billie-Jean shook her head.
"Okay. Are your parents home?
Bilie-Jean shook her head. Mirroreye now noticed Billie-Jean's barefoot feet were quite dirty.
"Is.. anyone home?"
Billie-Jean shook her head again.
"May I come in?"
Billie-Jan nodded with a big smile, and closed the door behind Mirroreye.
To be continued...
'Are you sitting here?' She asked.
Our eyes met for the first time. Hers were hazel brown with a tint of green. They matched her unkept dark brown hair and olive skin. Her curls were hiding her eyes a bit, but I could see beyond the frizz. And in her eyes: an ache. A seeking. A wish. A yearning for love in a lonely world. Yearning to be swept away. To be taken a thousand miles away. A yearning to be taken care of. A yearning to not be alone. At night, she cries of this yearning. She cries but her tears are silent. She doesn't want her middle aged bitter roommate to hear. Maybe if her roommate would hear, she too would yearn for another love. Or maybe she would laugh at her unabashed sense of romanticism. After all, bitterness yearns for company, not love.
She had loved before. A love so great that now she yearns for nothing short of the greatest love she could endure. Her knight would be tall. He HAD to be tall. And funny. He HAD to be funny. Her ex lover was neither. And she didn't love HIM at all.
So she works in this cafe in the center of the city. 'Everybody comes here.' She thinks.
Yes, everybody. But maybe not tall and funny knights that would be her greatest love. She had been working in this cafe for over a year already. She worked through Covid. In isolation. In the winter. Through a storm. Through summer in the heat. Every day she greets people and every night she cries in yearning. Silent tears. But her eyes say it all. Her eyes scream for love greatest than the love she had endured before. Her eyes search for a listener in an ocean of talkers.
'Yes. I'm sitting right here.' I answered. And then her shift was done. I didn't see her again. But her eyes lingered on. Reminding me that I, too, yearn for love greatest than anything I had endured. I, too, was crying silent tears at night. I, too, was aching for a listener in an ocean of talkers. I, too, was a romantic no matter how bitter my persona appears to be.
She is Jerusalem royalty.
At a time when there is no monarchy in the city of gold. Once there were kings, queens, jesters, commoners, but now society has morphed into a chaos of sorts: the illusion of equality.
She walks the cobblestone streets with her invisible crown, oblivious to the rules that seem to affect everyone else. Such is the way of queens. They can only see down from the height they’re on. And the angle down is painful to her little pasty neck, so she chooses to keep it up high instead of bending down. And from that height: this Jerusalem royalty cannot see anything underneath her. Such is the way of queens: they are blind to what is underneath them. They are blind wrapped up in their illusion of kingdom. Even in a world where the kingdom ceases to exist.
Queens are relentless in their pursuit of blindness. Queens are committed to being royal at all times. Even in times when royalty simply isn’t there. Or maybe it is there - but only to the queens in us.
I know her well, this queen. I am her shadow. I come in more often when it’s sunset, and she gets a bit too sleepy to notice me following her steps, her gaze, her twirls, her laughter, her joy, her pain. I follow like a shadow unseen by my own maker. After all - such is the way of queens: they are blind to what’s behind them. And when I am forward, her head is too up high to see that I exist. That I am like her in so many ways: I have her shape. I have her frown. I have her smile. I have her curves. I have her taste. I have her voice. I have all those, but she cannot see me, because she is royalty and I am a mere shadow. I exist only in the shift of light. And such is the way of queens: they don’t see past their own light. And their light is forever bright, like a beam lighting the way for the commoners. For the people. And for their shadows.
She is Jerusalem royalty and I am merely her shadow. Aching for her to one day embrace me, acknowledge me, feel me, sense me, touch me, hold me. So we both will envelope in the illusion of equality together. But royalty and shadow are like oil and water. They don’t mix. Royalty is simply to bright to see any shades beyond its light. Such is the way of shadows: we hide. We lurk. We wait. We suffer. Alone. Like rats in dark alleys. Like prisoners in a noir film. We only exist as a color and a frame and that is only to the very preceptive of us. The ones who see behind their own light. The one who aren’t royalty. Such is the way of the people: they see. They see what queens don’t.
Bird's eye view flying over some gorgeous landscape: mountains with some left over snow on them, early start of spring reveals buds of flowers and lush grass. Even the bees and butterflies are enjoying the scenery. This could be Switzerland, or the country of Georgia. Uninhibited and raw, but not wild and tropical as, say, Peru.
We stop on a small hill on top of a mountain. Lillies are growing out of it, tanning in the sun. Then... a GRASS COVERED DOOR opens, seemingly coming out of the hill. Out of it, exits a woman who hasn't seen the light of day in what seems like YEARS. She covers her eyes from the sun, her hand shakes in the attempt. It seems she has given all of her remaining strength to open the door from wherever it is she came from. But it also seems like in a different world, a more inhibited world, in a societal world - this woman would welcome the light on her. Her feet are bare but they seem dainty enough that in a different world - she could be wearing the fanciest slippers and most glamorous stiletto heels. Though her feet tremble from standing, in a different world she would be striding her way in avenues of society's chicest cities. She is wearing a simple and somewhat dated beige sweat pants and her nipples perk through her white plain tank top. But in a different world this woman would rock fuchsia colors and sophisticated patterned suits. There is a ring on her finger, the only remnant of a different life. The ring is a simple gold band. It shines in the light, just like the woman, even in her current state.
Breathing heavy, the woman begins taking her hands off her eyes. Her eyes are a blue color that seems to have gone bluer with the years, and they drop down like a woman who has seen some sorrow. But her crow's feet wrinkles reveal a woman who has also seen some joy. There is a scar near her lips, a chickenpox scar, perhaps. It adds texture to her otherwise symmetrical face. It adds mystery to an otherwise transparent figure of a woman in trouble, or perhaps a woman who has caused trouble.
She looks around her: no one in the distance. And the distance is wide: from this mountain one could see hundreds of miles of landscape and mountains.
Her mouth begins to falter, unsure whether it wants to cry or scream in rage. Her hand quickly covers it. If she could only hold it in place, maybe she would be in another place. Any place but this.
In her mind she already IS in another place: A memory appears of a hallway. Not an ordinary hallway, if there is such a thing as 'ordinary.' No, this hallway is not as royal as a palace but belongs likely to a wealthy establishment of some sorts. On the walls there are photos, but the memory blurs their faces. We move with this woman's memory, in this hallway, nearly sprinting through to the end of the hallway. Her heels clicking, we look down, the woman's feet are well pedicured in this memory, and she is wearing light summer heels. She breathes heavily, just as she hears a VOICE: Don't say any of this Margaret or the boys. I insist. She stops in her tracks. And we jump out of the memory as swiftly as we entered it. The woman on the mountain is shaking her head and mumbling: Margaret... Margaret... Maggie...No, Margaret... A tear falls from the woman's eye. It could be the sun or it could be the memory. She turns towards the door, looks at the darkness inside it, then turns to look back at the light of the sun. She turns again and enters the door.
'Why live in a shell?' Asked the curious ten year old of the old snail.
'There's a whole life outside. And people! I mean... other animals to spend time with. To be with. To get to know.' He looked intently at the snail, his eyes begging for a logical answer. The innocence of this ten year old pierced through the old little snail. He pointed his head out in a circular motion: 'See all that? That's a world where anything can happen. Sure, it may mean adventures, and stories, and new friends to get to know. But it also means darkness that you haven't seen yet, kiddo. Animals that don't wish to get to know little old me. Animals... and people (!) that see me as a nuisance and would rather shove me aside at best, and ... massacre me at worst.'
'I mean, yeah! I know it's not always easy. But what good is it to get old if you never get out of your shell.'
The old snail took a long breath, and long at the child intently.
'You know, when I was your age - In snail years, that is - I planned to conquer the world. To get out there and face every fear imaginable. And for a while, I did just that: I went as far as that corner over there, by the big rock. You have to squint to see it. I even climbed on a coconut once, and played in the water. It was... remarkable. Truly was. But I missed home. I looked for it everywhere: under sea shells, in the trees, in the sand. I even thought it was with the army of ants that always lurk by the tilted palm tree. But then it hit me - my home was on my back. It was there all along, and I never visited once. I spent years - snail years - running away from the home on my back. I thought it would always be there. And then it hit me: I AM the home on my back. To feel at home, I would actually have to be at home with myself. IN myself. I am my home. And the outside world may be exciting, and enriching, and full of possibilities, but what it lacks... is an entry to me.
So I go out every so often, meet new friends like you. I even go as far as the piece of shipwreck in the sand. I go and I explore. But I always remember to go back home. Back home to ME. Such is the life of a snail. We might be small. Or useless to the changing face of the world. But we have something that many long for: home within ourselves. You are still young and have many more adventures to tackle, but I hope that you also - will one day find a home within yourself. It may not be in your back, but rather - in your heart. Such is the way of the humans.'
The child was a weaver: She had woven herself a blanket to help her sleep at night.
A dress to show up to the world with.
A bag to put all of her possessions.
A pair of socks to keep her warm.
With a thread of rainbow colors, she had woven herself a life.
That woven life of hers was colorful, sure, but it wasn't aligned properly, and there were some tears in the corner. One hole even got bigger and bigger with time. Every few years she would sew it back together, until it would unravel again. She wasn't good at sewing. But weaving was her gem.
So she added more and more layers to her imperfect life.
She'd use thick rough yarn, or delicate silk threads. It didn't matter as long as it would bend to her liking. Once she had even woven a long strand of grass into her life.
A taste of wild unkept nature to fuel her as she went along her handwoven life.
Occasionally, she invited guest weavers on her journey. Beginners, always.
Ones that she could teach and groom. Sometimes they would outdo her with their weaving skills, other times they would get bored and reach to video games instead.
She had a weaving buddy also. A 'best weaving friend'.
They would sit together, hours on end, weaving their lives away and sharing stories of their worst tears, or their most glamorous works of arts. They would flaunt each other's handwoven life with pride, and ask for help with those pestering imperfections that a handwoven life would bring along.
One day, the child hand-woven herself into her life.
She started with her feet: The sharp needle pierced through her pinky toe so easily.
'Ow!' The child shrieked.
But a moment later, she no longer felt the pain.
The thread was in her, they were intertwined, tangled up, woven together.
She waited a while, to roam free in her newfound body.
A body of bones and flesh but also now -- of thread and needles.
She tiptoed, stretched , hopped and felt the weight of her newfound self.
It was natural, as if she was never anything else but a handwoven piece.
She continued with her ankle. It burns a bit. But only for a moment.
And after a few breaths she was good to go, and so she went: she had woven her legs, her thighs, her abdomen, her back, her breasts, her neck and lastly: her head.
She didn't need eyes to see, because she could feel in every movement the millions of fiber threads in her veins. They now would lead the way.
She only needed her arms, so they could keep weaving.
She was after all - a weaver. And had to live up to the name.
Even when there was no longer any air and she had suffocated by a million tiny threads.
Even then, her arms kept weaving. A weaver is always -- a weaver.
Lady Gilda was sitting on a bench overlooking Central Park. It was by 57th street and Park Ave. On her right she could see the city types walking up and down the avenue, hailing taxis, rushing to make their millions, and on the left she'd see the park at a distance; a row of trees that have been there long before Lady Gilda was even alive. She named the trees Monroe, Sinatra and Holiday and she'd greet them every morning. Even in the snowy days, when New York's finest would shiver back at their tiny apartments, Lady Gilda would brave the freeze and make her way down the block and to her favorite bench. It was always vacant, waiting for her to occupy it. It was hers and it knew it well.
One cold morning, Lady Gilda arrived at the bench, and noticed Park officials were hovering around the ole' Holiday tree. It was white color and yet it wasn't snow season yet. 'Must be some fungus.' She thought to herself and she was right. A week later, Holiday was chopped down, leaving Monroe and Sinatra trailing behind. The thing about fungus in the forest - is that much like a virus for humans, the spread spreads like a California wildfire.
And so fast forward a few weeks later, and Lady Gilda was looking at the empty shells that were once Monroe, Sinatra and Holiday. Her heart burned like a California wildfire, but she kept coming to the bench to greet those trees, even when they were no longer there. Because like those trees, she had no children. No one to remember her once she would be gone. The bench was all she had. One day she came by and a park ranger was waiting by the bench with a big New York smile. 'Surprise.' He said, and presented a new addition to the bench: an arm rest made from pieces from the ole' three trees. So Lady Gilda could rest her arm on her beloved three, while looking at their empty spaces.
And so she did. She came to the bench day after day until her very last day. Resting her arm, and resting her eyes.
And if you pass by a bench near 57th street and park, look for the carving M, S & H, and send a little greeting to Lady Gilda. Because her memory is always there, even if SHE is not.
Billie made her way through to the front of the bar. Giggling, she sat down her diamond studded purse and tapped on the bartender's shoulders. 'Makers and soda. Neat! See that grey haired lookin' Grandpa behind me? He's gonna pay for my drink. Watch.' The bartender tended to the confident bubbly figure in front of him -- in an instant. He was trained to be the fastest drink-shaker in all of New Orleans -- her drink was ready before the next Jazz musician even got to clear his throat.
'I like how you play with that fiddle, honey.' Billie tipped the bartender, and reminded him 'Grandpa got me, 'member?' And then she moved through the crowd like a gamer who had played this level over and over again a hundred times, and disappeared into the patio. The bartender signaled over to Grandpa but surprise, surprise: the man didn't rush to open his wallet. He was waiting for his wife to return from the restrooms and did not even chat with any golden haired vixen at any point of the night, let alone agreed to buy anyone a drink. Anyone but his wife of twenty years, that is.
She got me. The bartender shook his head in disbelief. She really got me, that one.
Billie appeared thirty minutes later like a fairy sparkling in a dark forest. 'Makers and soda. Neat please! See that chick by the door with the long braid? It's her treat!' But the bartender was no fool. Once? Maybe. But twice? Nah... He took a step back to get a better view of the door: there was indeed a woman with a braid there, and she was waving to him. 'I'm happy to make you a drink, but see... after the last one? I will need to be paid upfront.' The bartender made a 'I gotta do what I gotta do' type of a gesture, which made Billie flaunt her pouty lips like Lindsey Lohan in her Hey Day, but he was NOT going to be fooled twice no matter how much she'd pout. 'You're no fun. But 'kay. Take my purse! I think it should cover it.' Billie sat down the purse again on the bar. It thumped and nearly rattled the glass of bowl of pretzels. It was heavy, it seemed. 'Ma'am, no need for... a card or cash would do. It's twelve for this one, and the last one... forget about that, all right?' 'I don't have cash or card with me. Take it! I'll come back and we'll trade then, 'kay?' Billie flashed her trillion dollar smile. A smile sometimes stores more power than any words. Reluctantly, but curiously, the bartender followed along, and made the drink. 'Oooohh thank you for the extra bite in there.' Billie sipped and made her way to the door. The bartender watched as Billie conversed with the woman with the braid, making her laugh uncontrollably. Were they laughing at him? He wondered. He then took the purse into his hands. It was heavier than expected. Why do women always carry heavy items with them? He wondered.
An hour passed. And no Billie or a woman with a braid have come along to claim the bag. An hour passed and now it was close to closing. Soon the bartender will have to count the register and tips and close for the night. 'Damn, she was good. She got me that one. She got me good.' The bartender thought to himself. He reached for the bag and figured 'I might as well see what's in there, maybe there is an address I can mail this bag to.'
He opened the bag, and to his surprise - there was something in the bag: A GUN.
In timing straight out of a film noir, the door opened and there walked the grandpa from earlier and the woman with the braid. They came rushing in waving guns in their hands, demanding the bartender give them all the cash from the register. The bartender was fast with his hands, after all - he was the fastest drink-shaker in all of New Orleans - and he now had a gun of his own to tackle these robbers with. He swiftly got hold of the gun from Billie's purse, took a single shot up to the ceiling - a shot that will scare off any invader and notify the crew from the police station next door. Grandpa and the woman with the braid didn't see the gun coming. After all - they scouted the bar all night and a gun was not a part of their plan. Nor the fastest shaker in all of New Orleans. The freaked out and fled the bar.
They made it only as far as the entrance before the were arrested by the cops from the station next door.
The bartender put the gun back in Billie's star studded purse. Who knew that would be far better than any cash or card would. Who knew... Billie. Billie knew.
'Sometimes when angels stop by to protect ya, it may be in unexpected ways.' The bartender thought to himself. And Billie? Billie sent her wink from the heavens. She never did return for that purse. She never did pay for those two drinks. But she played her part like a pro.
"Howdy. Name's Bugsy. Bugsy Steel."
It can't be. Bugsy Steel was the biggest silent film star in Hollywood! Why in the world would he be in my dad's local gas station in the little town of Effrinson, Missouri? Julie stared at Bugsy's moving lips. She stared so much she forget to say her name altogether.
"I didn't mean to... frighten ya, kid."
But Julie wasn't frightened. She was starstruck for the first time in her life, and seeing Bugsy Steel right there in front of her register buying a pack of Chester Fields and some beef jerky was the highlight of her day. The highlight of her year. The highlight of her young eighteen year old life.
"I know, I know. I'm a long way from home."
Bugsy winked. And Julie's face became a rather dark shade of tomato. He reads minds. He reads minds! She pulled herself together just like what she learned to do in debate class when her fear of speaking would make her fingers tremble, and in a soft high pitch voice said: "You are Bugsy Steel!"
"Shhh. Don't tell anyone."
Bugsy pulled a cigarette out of his fresh new pack.
"Got a light?"
Julie looked down at her hands. Uh-oh. They were trembling just like in debate class. Breathe, Julie breathe! She took the lighter and tried to light it up, but her anxiety went rampant.
"Ya gotta get those fingers checked, kid. Here, gimme."
Bugsy took the lighter and lowered his chin with the cigarette in mouth to light it.
His brow frowned as he inhaled and his lips grinned when the fire beamed out of the lighter and into the cigarette. In that moment Julie knew: she was IN LOVE.
She was in love with a movie star by the name of Bugsy.
In her head, a soft dreamy tune played as she spent the next moment envisioning a lifetime with this man in a true silent film genre: He would bring her flowers, she would blush, the title card would say 'Who, me?' And Bugsy would drop to his knees and lower his hat down. 'There is no one else but you, my love.' The title card would say.
Julie wasn't the most imaginative when it came to romance.
How would she be? She has never seen a love story in real life. Sure, she had her grandparents, but granny was sick of Grandpa and Grandpa was sick of himself, so love wasn't in abundance between the two of them. And ever since Julie's ma died from that horrible disease, pa had to take care of the shop and didn't have time for any love affairs. And the boys in Effrinson High were as interesting to Julie as a pile of bricks. So to Julie, love only existed in fairytales, or in dreams, or in movies. The silent ones that came by the little town of Effrinson. The ones starring the same ole' Bugsy Steel.
Bugsy handed Julie the lighter, and for a brief moment - their fingers touched.
Bugsy's thumb was rough, hardened, warm. Her petite small hand was tingly when she touched his. She felt a rush of warmth right down her body, down her spine and right to her fiery womanhood. Her sexual appetite in those days was just beginning to blossom, to find itself, and a random encounter with a real life movie star was all Julie needed to feel a brief moment of real life pleasure. Wow. She thought to herself. Wow.
"You have a pretty braid, kid. That's a very pretty braid ya got."
Who, me? Julie asked with her eyes. She must have gotten better with her silent communication skills because Bugsy responded timely: "Yes, I'm talkin' 'bout you, kid. I don't see anyone else here." He read my mind AGAIN. Julie's face has turned into a plum now. She shook her head dismissing the compliment, hiding shyly her uncomfortable face. "Forgive me, I been calling ya a kid, but now I see. You're a lady."
Julie perked her head up. Bugsy lowered his hat just like he would in her silent film fantasy. He lowered his hat and uttered the words:
'Have a good day, lady with a pretty braid. Have a good day."
And just like that, Bugsy turned around and opened the door like a movie star would open a tavern's barn door in a western. Julie's eyes followed him out as he entered his black shiny mustang. He drove away just like a movie star would, with fire smoking out of his engine, and a rainbow appearing in the sky. Julie sighed a sigh of relief, of a lived up dream, of a once in a life time unforgettable encounter with a real life movie star. She sighed like a woman after her first pleasure, after her first crush, after her first real love. She sighed just like a movie star in a silent film.
And the title card would say: 'The End.'
The hour was seven thirteen in the morning.
The kind of morning you'd rather sleep in and let pass. You'd open the curtain to see the skies looking faint as the evening before. The kind of morning you'd hit the snooze button oh so many times.
The hour was seven thirteen and the station was packed.
Click-clacking heels and ruckus, wheels turning around, and conductors announcing arrivals and departures. A place of transitions, of movement of constant flow. A place of hellos and a place of goodbyes.
The tracks were glistening through the misty light, and Sarah rubbed her eyes to see more clearly. But she couldn't rub the mist off of the scenery in front of her.
There, through the misty blurry air, her lover James stood holding his carry-on in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other. James was about to embark on a journey without her. And Sarah couldn't be more prepared.
Sarah loved preparing for monumental events in her life. Her tenth birthday, her graduation, her publishing date for her first books. She was well-versed in preparing for special days, and today was no exception. She wore her favorite pantsuit, and tied a bow in her hair. A bow James used to wear back when he was Lisa; a woman of small figure and intense hunger for knowledge.
Sarah and Lisa met in a conference event in Chicago years before. A decade has passed since then. A decade filled with love, with friendship, with career changes, with moving, grieving, building a life together, with marriage, addiction, rehab, with crisis, and another, and another, with sex change, and realization, and rejuvenation, therapy, and job opportunity overseas, with struggles, and decisions, and finally - with the acceptance that they must go their separate ways. Maybe forever, or maybe only for a year.
Like any other monumental event in her life, Sarah was prepared.
She was prepared for mixed emotions of excitement for James and sadness for herself.
She was prepared to sport her biggest smile yet, and transmute only 'happy thoughts'.
Only happy thoughts on this mixed bag of a day...
But Sarah wasn't prepared for the mist that tickled her forehead, and that made James look so ethereal in front of her, so majestic and lovable. So much like the first day they met, back when they both were other people.
'It's the mist!' Sarah proclaimed when James was giving with his eyes the obvious 'Why are you crying?' look. 'It's just the mist. It's all it is. It's all there is right now.'
James nodded. He too was blaming his tears on the mist. Not on the years of togetherness, and this moment of goodbye. Not on the distance between them that grew wider as the years went by. Not on the other people that have come in the way. Not on the challenges that changed them for the better, and not on the ones that changed them for the worst.
'It was only the mist.'
They both proclaimed, squinting their teary eyes so to not miss a single moment of seeing one another. Two friends together, two friends soon to be apart. Two lovers in marriage, two loves lost in divorce.
A mist passed between the two.
And then the train arrived.
And the Goodbye.
It was the mist. It was all - the mist.
In April 2020, while experiencing her first ever global pandemic, Tamar Pelzig pledged to write something every day, even if it's only a word, so she welcomed to the world a daily blog to keep her creative writing wheels rolling.
Header Art: Daniel Landerman