Excerpt 4 – Train Wreck

She lay there. Unveiled and motionless. My white t-shirt had ended its journeys on the dark oak floor. The window was slightly open, letting in a cool breeze that lustfully flirted sporadically with the draping mocha curtains.

Vanessa had a funny way of sleeping. One hand would be palm-up beside her naked thigh, the other would be venturing under her pillow in search of a comforting temperature and her body faced down with her head alternating between facing the window and her left where I lay. Whichever hand was not on a pillow expedition, it would find itself wondering toward me. Just to feel my skin. Just to know I’m there. I would feel the gentle stroke of the tips of her fingers. It was a comforting luxury.

She was a deep sleeper. But whenever I’d find myself encroaching in her territory, I’d be met with a warm embrace and a soft accompanying “baby… sleep”. I would tease her each morning and call her my Venus Flytrap. She had a big heart. Her emotions steered her quicker than her brain could keep up. Logic. Logic was an after thought. Well in most cases.

We were opposites. We weren’t the antitheses of each other but certainly dissimilar in our way of thinking. Everything I did was based on logical reasoning. The only exception, of course, was when there was alcohol involved. Other than that, nothing went past me without being thoroughly analysed. She hated that. But I couldn’t imagine being without her. She had become a part of my being. Life wouldn’t make sense without her. We shared everything. She had become the entity that balances my extremes. She was the last hope in a fairytale that gave my reality air in it’s lungs. She was my silver lining.

 I reached toward the bedside table for my phone. 7 missed calls. It was always a shock receiving any form of communication from my brother. We weren’t the closest of people. Certain things happen in life that turn your heart cold. People’s actions have a way of moulding your emotional disposition.

 

I rang the number back to find out what was so urgent. I don’t remember saying hello. When I really think about it, I don’t recall saying anything at all; from start to finish. My heart was racing. I stared blankly at the white walls. The call ended. I didn’t know what exactly to do. What to think. How to act. Vanessa woke up.

“What’s wrong hunny?”, she asked with her eyes still adjusting to the daylight, switching between an uncomfortable squint and closed. Mostly closed. She reached for my hand. When I did not clasp her fingers, she got up and rested her back against the headboard. Her hand was now resting on my chest as she stared at me pensively awaiting an answer.

“It’s – It’s… There’s been an accident”. I closed my eyes as I said it. Every part of me wished it was a dream. I wished it was a dream because I knew this is just the beginning. I knew it was merely the dawning of a storm that would eventually engulf my very existence. I wanted to open my eyes and wake up to just another plain, boring day. It wasn’t facing the situation that scared me. It was facing all the dark emotions, deep seated issues and psychological catastrophe this would unravel.

“Sam called, mum and dad had a car accident. He said the car veered off the motorway and into a tree. They have been rushed to hospital. Dad is breathing and just about talking but mum is still unresponsive”. My voice was monotonous and unmoved. I was still confused. Vanessa didn’t say much. She slid down from the headboard and laid her head on my shoulder. There is a lot I never had to explain to her. She knew exactly what this meant for me. She knew this would be far from a family problem and more accurately a personal battle.

It’s complicated. Growing up I was never truly close with my family. I had a normal childhood like most children, but at some point in the dawn of my teenage years there was a break. A break where everything changed. A break where life stopped being just life. What I once knew as family disintegrated into one distant memory of love, compassion and stability. I have a terribly vivid memory of when my mother washed her hands and severed her ties with me.

As a child you make mistakes and you hope to be judged as a child and bear consequences commensurate to your level of maturity. Well, let’s just say she thought different.

Through out this ordeal I was more concerned about my numbness than whether my parents were okay. I remember being disturbed by the realisation that I cared very little for whether they pull through or not. All I could hear was my mother’s voice telling me how much she was ashamed of me. How much she couldn’t stand the thought that she had given birth to this demonic child. How she was disgusted by the mere thought of what I had become. I was reliving the day I packed my bag and left home with no idea where I was going. I was just a child. I was a child bearing the weight of adult consequences.

I clasped Vanessa’s hand. Tears began to trickle down my cheeks. My heart was flooding with pain, pacing as if it was about to burst and spill all my emotions on this bed. A clasp turned into a clench as I grabbed her arm and fell on her lap. I cried like these tears would be the recipe to my antidote. I cried as if these tears would provide me comfort in my brokenness. I was a train wreck at best. I could feel droplets on the back of my neck. Seeing me like this crushed Vanessa. I tried to lie down on the bed thinking I would regain myself and take control of my emotions but it just ended with Vanessa and I now facing each other laying side by side both drenched in the bitter wetness of emotional anguish and seas of unforgiveness.

She kissed me. She stared into my eyes as our hearts decelerated. The way she stroked my face with her hand spoke a thousand promises. “Don’t worry, you have me. I am your family” she whispered, choked up by the nakedness of my heart.

Blood is thicker than water they say. Then you wonder, so what? So what if it is thicker than water when family has never lived up to the fairytale? Vanessa took me as I am. I was her everything even when I had nothing to give. And she always had the option to walk away when she wished. She never did.

Later that night, Sam called again. Mum didn’t make it.

Excerpt 3 – Life’s Elixir

I always saw him from across the room. A somewhat distant figure. I never bothered to make the awkward eye contact that precedes the manly nod, or better yet the slow raise of the palm that somehow translates to a silent hello. I would peer over my computer screen and glance at him sitting sternly in the glass walled meeting rooms.

There was something about his aura. His greying hair, deep green eyes and pale skin told stories of a thousand misfortunes. I heard excerpts of rumours. Nothing concrete.

One week I was in the pub after work with Stacy doing our usual Friday catch up when she brought him up in conversation. It was almost as if she had anticipated my curiosity. “Mike… Mike is an absolutely great guy” she said. I lifted my glass and swirled the melting ice around its bottom surface. The pub was unusually empty that night. There is usually a swarm of bodies displaced around its antique furniture and half empty pint glasses scattered around its chipping window seals. “The good ones always have it worst you see, Dean” she continued.

Speaking to Stacy was always an experience in itself. She had a strong middle class ‘posh’ accent and the most animated mannerisms. It was like watching theatre.

“The poor lad has been through it all. A few months before you joined the Audit team, we had a work soiree. It was meant to be just a brief dinner but a few of us decided to go over to the new indie bar in Shoreditch – It’s the only place that closes at a bloody decent time.” She tilted her head towards the flickering mock-candle lamp that gracefully swung above her head, ran her hand through her silky blonde hair then curled its ends wrapping them around two fingers. “Mike was once married. They had been together for 3 years when he realised he had been caught in a web of lies. I remember the look on his face when he told me, Dean, his poor soul broke before my eyes.”

She waved at the bar tender and ordered another glass of red. Cabernet Sauvignon – She called it ‘Life’s Elixir’. “The moment that put the nail in the coffin was when he found out, oh excuse me…”. Stacy’s phone began to ring. She flashed the screen at my eyes showing  an unsaved mobile number. “Hello” she said. “Oh hello darling…”. She was an incredibly attractive girl. Each day she would be draped in designer brands and her beloved collection of J.Crew denim jeans that painted her curves revealing her slender yet hour glass figure. She was no stranger to attention but she cared very little for it.

“I do apologise, where was I again? Oh yes, Mike found out his best friend from Birmingham was in fact the ‘girl friend’ that she had been visiting every month spending 2 and sometimes 3 nights with. How sick is that, right! The worst part is how this retched whore showed no remorse.” The way she exclaimed the word “whore” was Audrey Hepburn in the flesh. She paused to take a sip and before her lips were off the glass, she continued, mumbling the first sentence “the boy is a mess! Absolute mess…” She gasped in a heart felt exhale, almost as if she was describing herself – “but he is slowly recovering. Tragic!”

As she was speaking, all I could think about was Vanessa. It’s funny how we have no idea how to gage the extent of our plight until we hear of someone else’s tragedy. At this moment, I found peace in accepting that the difficulties I faced with Vanessa were just merely inherent with being in a relationship – the same way paying for insurance is a ‘matter’ inherent with owning a vehicle. It doesn’t mean it’s a problem per se, nor does it indicate anything is wrong. It’s just part of love.

I looked at Stacy and smiled. She smiled back. I swiftly picked up my coat, kissed her on her pale rosy cheeks and headed for the tube. “You are a sick bastard you are” she exclaimed, spinning round her bar stool to face me, running her finger over the rim of the glass.

That night I couldn’t open the door any faster. I began to remove my tie, shoes, belt yelling “baby, babe…” right from the door all the way into the bedroom. Vanessa was already home in bed watching her favourite show. It was something about a group of young, teenage suburban girls hunting for clues regarding a person called A or B or something to that ring. I took the laptop from the bed, closed it and placed it on the floor. “Hey Mister” she greeted me, smiling, reaching for my face with her soft, open palms.

We kissed our problems away. She had on one of my plain white Ralph Lauren t-shirts. Nothing else. Usually, I would have complained about her painting my t-shirts with Bobbi Brown but that night I could not have cared less. I went atop of her. She straddled me with her legs locking her feet around the back of my thighs. Amidst the passionate kissing, we locked eyes. The dimmed crimson bedside lamp created a glimmer of sparkle in her left eye. We paused. “I trust you”.

I said these three words not because I meant their conventional meaning. I said these three words not to reassure her of my trust. I said these words as a plea. I was pleading with her heart. Like a scared child, I was asking her to carry herself the way that a trustworthy person would. It was a question. Will you love me enough to be honest. Will you care enough not to hurt me. Will you be true enough not to become the very thing you fear in me and destroy me the way you pray I never destroy you. Will you?

I have come to the belief and understanding that the thing that we fear most in others is the very thing we fear most in ourselves. If we did not realise and recognise our capacity to lie, cheat and hurt the person we love, we would not worry about that person doing those things to us. If we did not realise how near and possible the decision to be selfish is within ourselves, we would not spend our lives in worry that one day our lover would slip and fall into the wrong decision that breaks our heart for eternity.

Someone once told me, the day they cheated on their boyfriend was the day they became the most damaged and insecure lover. She told me every day she imagined him cheating with every girl in his phonebook. Every day she kissed him she imagined she was tasting the lips of the girl from his office… or the pub, the restaurant, the tube. As I watched her break down, she told me it was never because he was a bad person. It was never because he had cheated before or had a reputation of womanising. He was lovely. He was a diamond. It was all me she said. My mistakes made me expect the worst. My mistakes made me realise how easy it was to tear apart a beautiful thing. I embedded my wrong doings in the capacity of his nature.

“I trust you too”. I had no time to unscramble her words in my over active mind. All I could think about was her lips.

Excerpt 2 – Orange Moon

“Mmmmm…” she hummed, holding a pitchy D-sharp with a sustained smirk and a diminished squint across her eyes. Well, at least it sounded like a D-sharp. She tip-toed in the kitchen like a ballerina, her arms flowing and floating across the room. “I’m an orange moon” she sung. That morning she woke up extra early, wearing her white satin kimono atop her black curve-hugging french lingerie. The beautiful scent of fresh bread from Billie’s Bakery and a full english was swimming through the air.

“I am an orange moon” she continued, skipping past the tall metallic fridge, headed toward the granite kitchen island where I was seated. Behind me was a large bow window that overlooked Kensington High street. The sky was grayscale with a slither of pale sun rays. She took baby steps, one foot in front of the other – almost feline-esque, as if she was preparing to pounce, arms still gracefully waving and flowing. She wrapped herself around me, arms gently around my neck, fingers interlocked, eyes closed and continued “…I shine so bright because I reflect the light of my sun.” By now our faces were touching. The flutter of her eyelashes on my sealed eyelids. The warmth of her forehead pressed against mine. Our lips nervously brushed.

Each kiss felt like the first. I still felt jitters in my stomach like a toddler on Christmas morning. I still felt the tingling sensation of nerves before a live performance. I still felt like two worlds colliding, the amalgamation of universes and galaxies apart, the coming together of two broken souls.

As our lips engaged, I felt a wetness on my cheek. Warm tear drops. “Vanessa… what is it?” I asked. She smiled, slid her index from the contours of her nose to the lobe of her right ear. She pivoted her head and stared at her feet. Her toes were freshly painted. Oxblood Lacquer she called it. I could almost still smell the polish.

“I’m a terrible person” she whispered. She always had a very calm nature. It was almost unsettling. I always imagined she would be the type to whisper and stride her way out of a burning building. I didn’t want to panic but I would be lying to myself if I said my heart was not beating outside my chest. I had a thousand and one possible sins I was about to hear her confess to. Of course, it’s our nature to think the worst of a situation and pray it isn’t so.

“I met Alex last week” she exclaimed. My heart froze. What does that mean? Is this when I kick off and lose my mind? Is this when I ask for an explanation or is this when I grab my plate and ask about her views on Plato and Aristotle’s fashion sense?

 “It was nothing. We bumped into each other in Leicester Square and decided to grab a coffee. A lot of people meet in Leicester Square. It’s normal. We just talked. Talked!” she reasoned. At this point I still had not figured out how to respond. I did not know whether to question the veracity of her account or accept that ex’s can meet and be platonic. I mean, a lot of people meet in Leicester Square, right – I grabbed my plate and quizzed her about Plato’s robes.

I have always been awkward with confrontation. Growing up in a household where arguments and fights were the norm numbed me to the appetite of firing a response. I just wanted it to stop. I just wanted the clouds to clear so we can be happy again.

Vanessa ignored my efforts to sway the subject. “I’m sorry I did not tell you” she responded. The tears continued rolling down her eyes. I remember staring at her thinking the reason those tears flow ever so smoothly must be down to your perfect skin not the sincerity of your heart. See, what hurt was not that she did not tell me, it was that she felt she had reason to keep it away from me – enough reason to conjure a tearful remorse. Was there more to this story?

If a bird flies through your window – Not because he wants to, but he broke his wing and lost his way. You do not know the first page of veterinary but you are determined to fix him because you fell for his pretty wings. Does that make you a terrible person?

I knew she was broken when I fell for her. Something always told me I could fix her. But how do you fix something with broken tools? How do you heal something when healing is a foreign phenomenon to you? How do you save a soul from drowning when you do not know how to swim yourself?

Can love truly conquer all?

Excerpt 1 – Good Intentions

She was beautiful. Beautiful soft radiant skin. Her dark brown eyes would sparkle with each smile. She had the thick, dark, luscious flowing hair of an Egyptian empress and the facial curvature of a goddess.

Her heart. Her heart was the centre of all her beauty. However, what she saw was a phenomenon riddled in complexities and the scars of a dark past. She saw a heart laced with a veneer of vulnerability and insatiable distrust; a fortress of walls high enough to kiss the lapels of the heavens and gates that no locksmith could fathom – a gorge of visceral fears and doubts.

I was not blind to this. Not at all. I saw all these flaws. But to me, her flaws created the greatest canvas. A portrait of perfection that surpasses all reference. All I wanted was to give her my rose tinted Ray Bans and let her see the beauty of her being – Through my eyes.

I remember one night, the rain was dancing on her window. There was no one else in the room but her and I, the darkness and a small vista of sapphire-blue moon light that gently pierced through the hem of the curtains creating a subtle motif of highlights on the arch her back. The pale white sheets found rest just below her waist. We laid there, skin to skin, her head resting on my chest whilst I laid on my back running my fingers through her hair. Her left hand laid flat beside her face, her index finger swirling and tapping a slow paradiddle, mimicking the beat of my heart.

“How long is forever?” she exasperated – her light spacey voice breaking the silence. She asked me almost as if she had just lost a battle to her logic, her indulgent doubts and insecurities. “You said you will love me beyond forever… How long is forever?”

I paused. Not because I did not have an answer. Not because I doubted the veracity of my own words but because I had come to the sudden realisation of what my words actually meant. I had found a love so deep my dreams began and ended with her. A love so deep her existence reversed my rationale and her imperfections became the very thing that drew me closer to her being. I had found a love in her so deep I would pass on heaven just to spend three eternities with her in this very room holding her in my arms.

“Forever is when life stops giving me reasons to want you. Forever is when loving you stops making sense. I will love you through the bliss and I will love you even when it hurts. Forever is not dependant on time because when I think about what I feel for you, time is not an object nor a factor”.

I never knew what love was until I found her. Let me explain. Of course I had been in love, I had an idea of what love is. Just like you. But I had never known the depth of true love. I had never known the joy nor did I know just how much true love can hurt. The thing with our mentality is we see love as the gentle, sweet-tempered emotion and automatically assume hate to be the antitheses; a vicious, grave emotion. It’s only until you fall in love that you realise just how much of a myth that is.

Love can burn you from the inside out. It can make you feel pain you never imagined was possible outside the physical context. Love is the emotion that propels your very being. Love is the emotion that connects your physical to your metaphysical. Love is emotion.

“Don’t ever hurt me”. I can almost still feel her frosty, delicate breath on my chest from when she whispered those words. The vulnerable sincerity of her tone spoke volumes beyond those small four words she uttered.

If you close your eyes and taunt human nature, you are twice defeated. Better is the one who stumbles into open flames unintentionally than one who intentionally closes their eyes, hopes for the best and walks into a furnace.

Love belongs to humans. With humans, inherently, comes human nature. With human nature comes the great capacity to fall short of grace. Imperfection makes us human. This is why we make promises based on intentions and dismiss negative probabilities and potential human errors. Unfortunately, none of us are judged by the grace of our intentions when those negative probabilities claim victory – No one gives a damn about your good intentions.

I could never have predicted what happened next…