Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Old Habits

Greg's words limped from his mouth, smelling of Dewars and the Benson & Hedges menthols. Feeling fine, he let one butt fall to the ground, and immediately reached for the shiny gold and green pack in his shirt pocket. He fumbled with the pack intentionally for a moment, drawing Lisa's attention to it, letting her see he wasn't smoking generics like he used to when they first met. She did glance at his muddling fingers, and when she did, he snuck a glance at her chest thinking she wouldn't notice.

"Jesus, Greg. You're such a boy." Lisa muttered, turning her back to him and stepping further out onto the sidewalk, further out into the rain. Rain is a strong word for this, she thought as the mist swirled around her, making everything damp but not quite wet. It had been doing this since she crossed the state line and didn't seem to be showing any signs of stopping.

"Sorry, Love. Old habits."

"Growing old is getting old." Lisa muttered, turning back to him.

"What's that?"

"Nothing."

Greg felt he had missed something, but he missed lots of things when he was around Lisa. He ran the fingers of his left hand through the black milk of his hair, tucking its length behind his ear, and then ran his hand over his face, wiping across his closed eyes and down over his mouth. He opened his eyes to find her watching him and flashed a smile at her. It was his smile, the one that only she would recognize. Lisa smirked and shook her head.

"You're drunk."

"Working on it, yeah." He let his eyes close again and leaned the back of his head on the cold brick wall behind him.

He's just like this city, she thought, watching him waver in the thin streetlight glow. He looks so good from a distance, but when you get up close it's all burger wrappers in the streets, cigarette butts collected in the scrub grass alongside stop signs, and everything smelling of spent batteries. From the sky though, it's just an orderly series of golden glowing squares stretching to the lake. It's a special kind of punishment to get fooled by what you see, she thought.

"The Chinese were the best at it, you know."

"Hmmm?"

"Calling something by a real nice name, especially when it was for something more terrible than you could imagine. A good old fashioned verbal bait and switch."

Greg managed to tip his head forward towards where Lisa stood. It was the sound of her voice breaking with anger and sadness that brought him back to the stoop, his cigarette, and his ex-wife. Not saying anything, he waited.

"This is the 'Frame of the Furrowing Eyebrow', Greg. That's what the Chinese called it. They'd strap you to a bamboo stand, leaving you to kneel for hours while they tighten the slats that went across your fingers, toes, balls, and neck. Nice and slow, just a nice steady pressure until pieces of you start to give out under the weight of it."

Greg dropped his eyes to the pavement between his feet, and followed a crack that ran from the tip of his dusty boot to where she stood wiping the last of the dozen tears she let herself cry. They stood, listening to the highway rumble and the sounds of Wednesday giving up to the threat of Thursday.

"C'mon Leece, let me buy you a drink."

"Yeah, sure. Just one."

1 comment:

Jesse said...

This is good! Very visual. More to come I hope.