I've been spending most of my time struggling with my fiction (that means trying to write some) and haven't had the chance to do any fun blogging. So, I'm posting a little snippet of fiction today, just to keep things fresh.
She was ripping the stitches out again, yanking at them with great powerful sweeps of her arm, the tiny yarn fibers sticking to her sweaty palms, accumulating in the lines of her hands like mint green silt. Another failure, she accused herself, ashamed. No matter how hard Ann concentrated, no matter how sure she was that this time she was doing it correctly, evenly, that this time it would look like the picture in the book, each time she stopped to look at it, it was always wrong. The stitches were too close together, crowded up against each other; they were too slack, sagging like loose skin; they were jumbled up, seemingly at random, knotty and hopeless. She had concentrated so hard; how could this have happened? Still there it was.
Ann couldn't understand how, no matter how hard she willed it, she could not command her hands to do what she wanted. Her body was a mysterious enemy; she could never predict how it would next betray her. She sweated profusely, and for no reason; heavy, dark half moons of sweat formed under her arms. She stammered in normal conversation, her mouth unable to synchronize itself with her mind, like an unwieldy puppet. Strange pains and sensations haunted her; odd noises emanated from her stomach, her throat, was she sick, was this normal?
She felt a knot in her chest; it moved to her belly, down low. It was warm, then hot; she sat back in the big wing chair and tried to decide if it was pleasant or annoying. It felt heavy and dark to her, but that was as much as she could gather. It happened this way every month, and every month she had no memory of the sensation the month before.
She put the knitting aside, a kinky green mess, and decided she might go to Vida's for a drink. It was a neighborhood place and Ann knew everyone there, and they knew her. If she went there she could forget the dull heat in her belly, she could stop wondering what it was, she could gulp down something warm and sweet, make her own heat to drown out the foreign sensation, forget it.
She hurried the few short blocks to Vida's and as she opened the heavy padded door she was greeted with the familiar smell of Lysol and stale cigarette smoke; Eminem was playing on one of the TVs; he was pointing into the air with his finger, his mouth working, his eyes sharp and bright with anger; he seemed to be accusing her of something, but what? Still, there it was.
The sound on the TV was turned down and the jukebox was on instead, playing the Four Tops.
A few heads turned as she entered, some of the other regulars nodded at her in recognition. The bartender, Hal, said, "hey Annie, how are you?" She sat down on a stool at the end of the bar, away from the TV and ordered an Amaretto, drank it in one swallow, ordered another. She stood up to go to the bathroom, and saw a smear of blood on the stool. Her period. She felt the heat surge up now, up from her belly to her face and shoot out her limbs to the tips of her fingers and down to her feet. The tightness came back, too, the knot, making her shake. She wobbled to the bathroom.
Jeanne, one of the waitresses, was in there, fixing her face. Not taking her eyes off her own reflection, she sang out, "Hi Ann." Ann thought it sounded like she was mocking her, making fun of her name, the way she said it, dragging out the "a"sound, like she was talking to a baby or a dog. Ann headed shakily for one of the stalls. "You got blood on yer skirt!" Jeanne yipped out as she saw Ann's rear in the mirror. "Don't cha even know when you got your period?" Jeanne was ready to laugh, her lips curling, she was squeezing her eyes together in disbelief, mascara wand in her hand, looking at Ann like she hated her. Another failure, thought Ann. How was that possible? Yet there it was.
Without realizing it, Ann had begun to cry, the hot tears sliding down her cheeks, burning like lava. Jeanne gave a little half laugh, and said, "Oh come on, it's not that bad. It's so dark out there no one'll see it. Here, take your sweater off and knot it around your waist." She was reaching for Ann's sweater, pulling at it, shoving it up over her stomach. Ann stumbled clumsily forward, toward Jeanne and the mirror. She stood mutely, like a child, while Jeanne tugged the sweater up and over her head, "good thing you're wearing a t-shirt under this, right?" She laughed outright now, asking, "How many have you had, anyway? Didn't you feel it?" Ann opened her mouth and pushed out some air, but no words formed.
She hadn't felt it. As a child, Ann had pulled her own baby teeth, to the horror of her mother, as soon as they came loose, tugging them out in one motion, without so much as flinching. She claimed not to feel it. Her own teeth. She'd fall out of a tree she was climbing or land in a heap at the bottom of the sliding board and not even realize that she was hurt till her mother ran over and started wiping blood away.
Jeanne was pulling the sweater around Ann's waist now, all the while stealing glances at herself in the mirror, not looking at her hands and the knot they were tying in the arms of the sweater. Ann marveled at how she could do one thing with her hands, while at the same time studying her face. Jeanne stepped away from Ann and continued to talk as she pressed her face up to the mirror, "do you need something, I mean you know, a plug or something?" She was making small movements with her neck, moving her eyes over every detail of her skin, her eyelashes, her hair. Ann stood there staring at Jeanne, wondering what it would be like to know your own body so well, so check every detail in a mirror and know what about it was right and what was wrong. When Ann looked in the mirror she saw nothng, an empty frame. Jeanne was still talking, not waiting for Ann to answer, telling Ann not to worry, that no one would know, that the bar was dark, all the time not looking at Ann but at herself in the mirror.
Ann mumbled a thank you to Jeanne and marched out of the bathroom. She stopped at the bar to pay Hal, grabbed a few napkins and swiped at the red-brown smudge on the seat, stuffing the crumpled napkins in her bag. She was mortified to see a faint brownish outline of the blood spot still remained. She turned and began to walk toward the door. She glanced up at the TV. The news was on now; they were showing someone who had been arrested as he was being escorted from the squad car to the station house, wrists handcuffed behind his back. He walked proudly, carried himself as though the handcuffs were jewelry, smiling to the cameras. He was accused of something, how could it be he showed no shame? Still, there it was.