Pretty Flamingo
Derrick Cutter

 

Sitting on the patio, she studied her hands for a moment, saw that the blood had dried in the hot summer wind and turned a brownish purple. Flexing her fingers, she watched it crack and fresh blood, red and rich in oxygen, flowed from underneath the broken and clotted life fluid. Coughing against the searing smoke in her lungs and feeling the first faint stirrings of dizziness and disorientation that accompanied the painkillers and alcohol, she tossed down her cigarette and reeled around, pulled the front door open and went back inside. Lesson learned; do not get mad and drunk and smash mirrors with your bare hand, dumbass.
      Staggering slightly as she made her way to the kitchen, she unzipped her jeans and dropped them to the floor of the dining room, then naked, returned to the kitchen, where she picked up her pen and bent over the notebook and scribbled. She paused, read it over then added another line of verse. Straightening, she read it without satisfaction, yet realized it was, if nothing else, honest:
 
I’m not afraid to let it show
To let them see me as I am
I am too a human being
If they don’t want me I don’t give a damn.

      She often walked around her apartment in the nude, having lost about twenty unwanted pounds, had changed her hair style to a more updated look – a strawberry blonde. Now when she looked into the mirror each day, she could see that she now looked better than she had in years, and was proud of it, and couldn’t understand why she was still alone. She was no silver-tongued devil with just the right words, no thief of hearts, or a princess of lies. She was just her, and felt that should be good enough. She had always been a believer in the fact that beauty was only skin deep, anyway, and what mattered more was what a person was on the inside, a good heart, a clean soul. Inexplicably, this was the outlook that instead of making her more attractive to the opposite sex made her a miserable loner more often than not.
     She dropped the pen and it rebounded from the counter and clicked several times as it bounced and skittered on the floor. There were still forty some pills in her prescription bottle so she took two more, then crossed the room to the refrigerator and withdrew a bottle of Corona and drank it off in one long draught. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she dropped the bottle to the floor, bent and peered into the refrigerator before deciding on another Corona or a bottle of Tequila. Feeling another bout of depression coming on, she opted for both.
     She didn’t stay in the kitchen, not then. Instead, she chose to sit on the couch and stare blankly at the television, which was turned to one of her pay cable channels, which was premiering a new horror film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 3, and having always been a big fan of the genre, decided to see if the flick would keep her entertained for at least an hour and a half.
       It didn’t take long, though, for her to get that old familiar urge again, and she glanced toward the back hallway of the house, which was visible through a doorway leading out the opposite end of the living room from where it entered onto the dining room. The only door visible from where she sat was the one to the small bedroom. Staring thoughtfully toward it, she realized she hadn’t slept in her own bed for weeks. Taking another sip from the bottle, she choked back tears as she reminisced about the many blissful nights she’d spent in the bed with him
     Terri’s eyes were always bleary and filled with an inner sadness she would never openly discuss with him. Luckily for her he’d always liked her – more like loved her - regardless, not like some girls who wanted her only for her physical attributes and money and nothing more.
      For him, it was Terri’s face that mattered most. Terri’s face had always been her most outstanding feature; beautiful, silky blonde hair – which had earned her the nickname “pretty flamingo” - big, almond shaped green eyes, tiny freckles adorning her nose and cheeks - and an insatiable lust for the same things she enjoyed most now that she’d made her transition to fast living, loud music, alcohol, and sex, the latter two which they enjoyed to the fullest of their human abilities while their short fling lasted.
     Today, as Terri looked at the bed, there it was again…the memories, the twinge of pain and then the numbness. It was strange how the two sensations seemed to walk hand-in-hand when their very existence together had to be some sort of mistake. She bristled as the pain gripped her again and then just as quickly, subsided. She wasn’t going to say that any of this was her fault, but the person looking in on her pathetic life from afar would say otherwise.
      Topless, sweat was trickling through her cleavage and blood running from the glass cuts in her hands, dripping from her fingertips to plink onto the faux tile floor, stigmata style. Laboring heavily against the urge to just quit breathing, reading over the poetry she had just written, she felt a burgeoning darkness inside of her; the demon alcohol had won again, the first of many battles to come before it was all over. Outside, the rain was falling quick and silent. She had been out not an hour ago, had stood listening to the night, and heard the cars sloshing down the street a block away. All was silent on her street, no cars passed at this hour, only the soft hiss as the rain piled atop the seven inches left from yesterday’s storm.
     She walks back over to the bedroom door, looks in at what remains of her memory, which is now nothing more than an outer shell, the empty husk of a nightmare which has become all too real. She leans over him, kissing her passionately.
    Then, like always, he was gone, the only thing remaining being what was left of her most recent conquest, Marla, the faceless woman with the mouth frozen in a silent scream. She bristled as the pain gripped her again and then just as quickly, subsided. She wasn’t going to say that any of this was her fault, but the person looking in on her pathetic life would say otherwise.
      She’d been as careful as possible, and still she’d gotten caught.
      But it wasn’t her fault, really it wasn’t. She hadn’t asked to be born deformed, with craters in her skin, pock-marked patches that made her look like a freak in a sideshow.
      It wasn’t fair, and so she’d done what she had to in order to make it in the world. What was the old saying: “God helps those who help themselves?” Well, she had helped herself, and what had it gotten her? She looked out the tiny window of her room. Well, she couldn’t actually look out of it. She more looked up and wished that she could see more than her limited gaze offered her. She did see the moon, and the light bathed the padded room in a pale yellow. She was surprised that she’d even been allowed a window, as mental patients were supposed to be shut away from the rest of the world--were they not? That was how it had always been.
       Mental patient, her mind teased. The very word was a joke. She was not a mental patient! She’d known exactly what she was doing while she did it. It wasn’t fair, and if God decided to curse her, then she would fix it. She didn’t need to rely on Him; she didn’t need to rely on anyone! With the advent of changing times and humans becoming more self-reliant, she had what she needed at her disposal to make a difference. In the days of old, she would have been shut away in a room far from the rest of the family--or killed at birth. But times had changed, and no matter how much a family member was loathed for their physical shortcomings, there was no cold and dank room awaiting them in a forgotten part of the house, and no more circuses to shuttle them off to.

     But she’d thought Marla’s face would have changed all of that. He would want her then, wouldn’t he? Marla, with the beautiful face and long auburn hair and big almond shaped brown eyes? She wishes now she could have used her eyes, utilized the total package. But would he have seen right through her façade? She would have had to tell him who she was sooner or later, right?
     The last of the new skin she’d been wearing hadn’t taken, and was rotting away. Without new skin to replace it, she’d gotten a terribly repulsive infection, which caused even her good facial skin to putrefy and ooze.
     Leaving Marla to rot, she walks back into the kitchen to indulge in more Vicodin and Tequila.

#

Once again she awakes, and finds herself locked in her lonely embrace, both arms wrapped about her abdomen, hands resting restlessly between the curve of hip and waist. She crushes her solitude against her chest, a grotesque parody of a lover’s hold rendered all the more pathetic by the fact that she is alone, and she is not alone. He is in her head, but her bed lays cold and barren. She squeezes herself tighter, her arms a poor substitute for his.
     The quality of her bedding has improved. The threads her Egyptian cotton sheets number in the thousands now. Their silky softness mocks her, forming white dunes in the flat expanse of bed that lies empty beside her. There is something undeniably humiliating about a queen size bed for one. In a twin, perhaps, she would not feel his absence so keenly; but how can she deny the wrongness of her situation, gazing at the moonlight soaked bedside that taunts her?
      Him.
      After draining the bottom of the Tequila bottle, she pulls a sleeping mask, black silk, over her sleep deprived eyes, and tries to flee from him.
       How strangely ironic it is she can imagine hiding from him in the darkness.
      She shudders awake, and rips the sleeping mask from her eyes. She flings it violently away from her, and gazes about the room with wildly darting eyes. She ventures a glance at her hands, and finds them clean and unsoiled. She half expects to find the bedside soaked in mahogany blood, but the white dunes of Egyptian cotton are all that peer back at her. She stares back at the empty bed with a mixture of relief and longing. She is alone, and she is not alone. He is in her head, but her bed lays cold and barren. And yet, when she dreams, he lies beside her.
      She climbs out of bed and fixes another glass of Tequila and lime.

#

She awakes late, climbing out of bed sluggishly, hits the showers first, needing desperately to wake up. It’s not that she dreads her dreams, thinking of him, but with each passing day, with each new dream – or nightmare – she finds herself becoming more distant, more confused, and soon surely her job performance at her farm business will begin to suffer.
      She checks her mailbox now, finding nothing but junk mail, then at the very bottom of the pile, a large, manila envelope, with a familiar scent and signature.
       He’d found her again.
       The letter has been printed out in standard, eight by eleven format, ten point Palace Script font, having abandoned his signature hand-written style in favor of one that won’t be as traceable. She opens it slowly, carefully, as not to damage it in any way, and begins to read:

My dearest Terri;
       I imagine by now you have scoffed and turned your nose up at the very thought of any part of your thoughts or any part of your body ever belonging to me again. The word “love,” doesn’t seem to exist in your vocabulary anymore, does it?
      But we both know the true meaning behind that simple word, Terri. It’s a horrible truth that you try to so eagerly and unconvincingly hide from me and from the depths of your tired mind. Your mind; I will always be there, and even if the thought is a negative one, you’ll still want to see me again. I know you must despise me for so easily picking my way through your past and personality, that I so carelessly – but successfully – captured everything that you are, or will ever want to be.
      Why do you evade me so, Terri? Keep trying to avoid fate? Each time you’ve done this before, you paid so dearly, yet you continue to tempt fate on a regular basis, don’t you? Yes, I’ve been watching you, from afar, but I have been. I know your daily schedule – which is always mundane at best – I know your every move, from daylight to dark, when the lights go out, and those dreams start in again.
      What about the simple act of sexual compassion? Just a simple, loving one night stand between two old friends? Has this thought ever crossed your mind? If so, was I included in your thoughts, Terri? Be truthful now. You know I know you better than you know yourself.
       I still think about you often. Isn’t it funny, how the human mind works? Such a short time spent together, yet we both cling to those memories as if they are a lifeline to our past – and maybe even our future? We cling to the effect that the other person has on your brain and your heart, clinging to the decadent hope that should the two of you ever meet up again, the feeling will remain?
       Do you still dream of me? I think so.

That night she did dream of him, the last night she’d seen him up close and personal.
      He’d bent down and removed her shoes, caressing the soles of her spoked feet as he did so. His hands moved up her calves and over her knees. He stopped with the tips of his fingers just under the hem of her dress, and glanced up at her with a smile of pure deviltry. She would remember that moment for the rest of her life. A small chuckle and he smoothed the fabric over top of her thighs, smoothly rising as he did so. His hands circled her waist, almost spanning it, before moving down to caress her hips and buttocks. He didn’t linger, but stroked her bare back, bringing a wave of warmth after the cold of the bedroom door. She did nothing to stop him as his touch moved to circle her throat and then up into her hair. He brought his palms back down to her cheeks to hold her head in place as he smiled into her eyes.
     “Sometimes, Terri, silence is more telling than words,” he informed her before his lips once again smothered hers. This time, however, the kiss was punishing, as if he were venting his disappointment in the situation. He forced her lips open and plundered the depths of her mouth with his tongue. When he finished and pulled back, her eyes were closed and he could tell that it was only because he was holding her that she remained upright. He waited till her eyes fluttered open, and he once again commanded her gaze with his. He savored the resignation and disappointment in her eyes as he walked out the door without even so much as a backward glance.

#

But that was long ago and far away now. First things first; get rid of Marla’s body.
Terri ran her fingers down to the fold in her chenille robe and parted the front. She leaned into the bed where the body lay, still and very dead. She let the robe drop from her shoulders. It made a muffled sound, like that of a swan's wing flapping, as it hit the floor. She looked down at her breasts, then at the slowly graying form. She made herself think about the outside, the bus stop where people were waiting for their lives to begin again, exchanging lies and wary glances. She listened to their distant voices, knowing she would never be able to fit into society again.
      She was becoming bitter and hateful again. Suddenly the acrid stench of urine overpowered her. There was no ignoring it now. She put her face close to hers. She could smell the familiar alcohol. Sour. She covered Marla’s lips with hers, only to feel the coldness of the grave. She was beginning to stink. Like shit. Like spoiled canned vegetables. Like mold and piss and sweat and vomit and sickness.
   “Does it feel good? You told me that pain and pleasure were so close. So close. Does it feel the same to you?” she spat, putting a cigarette out in Marla’s navel. “What did you know? You just wanted to mark me for life so no one else would want me. You made sure didn't you? Now he won’t even want me!”

She filled the six bags with the now simplified body, the bed sheets, and her robe. She knotted the tops. In the kitchen, she washed off the knife and put it back where she found it. She then took a long hot shower, dried off, dressed, packed three suitcases and began to straighten up.
           She looked at the clock, high above her so she couldn’t reach it. . .to break the glass and kill herself, of course. It was almost time for her next round of antibiotics. They were supposed to be keeping her alive. . .but she’d stopped taking them, hiding them in the corner of the room where no one ever looked.
      She smiled as a tear slid down her cheek. “I can endure. I will endure. I reached my goal, and for awhile, I was just like everybody else. It’s time to go now; it’s time to just let go.”
      
#
Instead of the courage to end it all she finds nightmares.
     “What do you see?” His voice, she sees the tones sinewave towards her and bounce off forms in the room. It washes into her like she is the beach and he is the sea.
      Everything, she says. A wave pours from her towards him, not like a tide, but like a feather blown by the wind.
     “Are you hungry?” he asks.
      I want to watch a sun die, she says but knows not why, though she imagines it more satiating than anything that her mouth could consume. He smiles at her but she sees not lips and cheeks or even teeth; she sees his ball of light flicker a bit more luminous and she senses warmth and tenderness spreading from him to her. He extinguishes the candles in the room one by one and she stares hungrily at every flicker. With each wick that turns from fire to smoke, she writhes with a pleasure unknowable. The light rips from the candles; ravenous in the bed, she tastes the fire of the dying light fill her wondering if it will ever be enough, if the bliss will reach a new plateau.
       In the blackness of the room, she sees only where the light of him mixes with the dark. She soaks in the pleasure of the dead light and keeps writhing with ecstasy. He comes to her and he is inside her mind, filling her brain with unspeakable horrors.
      Then, lost in that eternity between dusk and dawn, her mind again went blank. She lay sprawled atop the covers, visions of inevitable death flooding in upon her. She went to work immediately, seeking to banish them in the manner she always had.
      But there was no moment of peace, no pleasure, nothing to make it all worthwhile.
      He had taken it from her -- the one true moment of existence.
      Her dichotomy was laid forever to rest.
      And in her mind, where before there had been peaks and valleys, there now stood only a single, vast, unending and barren plain.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Derrick Cutter
Published on the World Wide Web by "www.storymania.com"