werewolf

by PHOENIX

Below is a short piece of prose entitled “werewolf” that I wrote when I was 16. It used to be on my old blog, but since that was deleted long ago I figured that I would share it on here. To this day, it’s one of my favourite pieces that I’ve written.

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“Care to make a donation to help save starving children in Uganda?”
I am not sure how to feel about parting with what little money I hold within the pockets of my deep green coat. Even more so, I am unsure how I feel about the young girl, promenading about the busy New York street corner, with a picture of a sullen African boy in her hands, attempting to evoke pity from passers-by. The girl is wrapped in thick layers that protect her from the harsh, blustering winds and drifting snow. Meanwhile, the boy on the poster gazes into the camera with immense eyes, protruding from his emaciated skull as flies, and other infectious creatures, maraud his tear-sodden face. I wonder about the person who captured this image. Surely they allow the boy to remain malnourished enough to model for their alleged altruistic charity.

My flat lay barren, its atmosphere weighted heavily by an ethereal loneliness. Abandoned, unfinished oil canvases depicting various scenes of lost tranquility lay stacked upon one another, cracked and dirty. Most notably is a neglected Mother Mary I once lost myself in years ago during the peak of my artistic career. Its colours faded and indiscernible.

The walls are drenched in an uninviting tone of olive green. A shade reminiscent of rotting flesh, with traces of pulsing blood, leagues beneath its surface. Clinging to the bleak walls was nothing, save for a mirror, in which a ghostly apparition stood. Booted feet, bare legs, a woolen coat, a hat, perhaps. I concluded that the gaunt, expressionless face staring at me must be my own.

I remember having no voice as a youth. I remember relishing every moment of my self-induced solitude. Memories are difficult things to place value on. It is impossible to discern the exact worth of the time that has passed, the things you did and the people you held those memories with. With time, my memories have sentimentally depreciated and figuratively blended together. It is all a blur. Vaguely, I remember a park, a slide, some mangled swings dangling from the rusted frame of a swing set. I hang my head, cupping it in my hands, avoiding the face before me, as though it knows the direction of my wandering thoughts.

“Something the matter?” he asks.
“I’m just a little bored. Sorry.”

I’m bored, in all sincerity. I’m tired of the skulking mundanity that each repetitive day brings. I’m tired of going for coffee with men who can’t maintain my interest for an evening. I’m tired of the tempting bottle of pills in the forefront of my medicine cabinet.

“You sure you’re alright?”

Each word that seeps past his ever-moving lips plunges me deeper into my own thoughts. Not always a good place to be. His meaningless, insincere inquiries sound rehearsed and worn. As though his aging lips have uttered them an innumerable amount of times. Though, I cannot blame him. He is an escapist. Every chirp of his frail voice and faltering, unconfident tone acts as a means of escape for him. He is escaping the silence. Like a fish out of water he is frantic, he is flailing. Simply unable to silently stare at me from across the table for the remainder of the evening. “Leah?” he croaks, with a nervous edge to his voice. There he goes again, I thought, trying to evoke an answer from me, and trying to escape the encroaching silence that is bound to inevitably engulf our doomed conversation.

I look up. He’s different this time. Following my example and paying no attention to the conversation. Enrapturing himself in a far away land beyond the café’s window. A land of setting, fiery suns igniting fields of golden wheat, setting them ablaze in a triumphant and barbaric manner. A place where gargantuan larks would sing sorrowful swan songs. Or so I imagine. As he occupies himself with his nonchalant, insignificant musings I rest my right elbow on the wrought-iron table, placing my chin in the cusp of my palm. I begin to mouth the words that linger on the tip of my tongue, yet are unable to cross the threshold into the delicate, unknown, and undisturbed environment that lies just beyond the horizon of my lower lip. Instinctively, my mouth begins to move:
“You’re boring. Every colloquialism that you utter is charcoal to my soul. You don’t care about me, and you never will. Maybe I would dignify your petty insincerities with a response if you were able to assert yourself and show some bloody confidence-”

“Yes!?” His head jerks upwards, alarmed and urgent. “Did you say something?”

I reply with a blink of my eyes, surprised that he heard my silent slanders. However, I just dismiss his question as if he didn’t exist. He must have heard me stress the “-ence” of “confidence” on the back of my teeth. I feel like a boa constrictor skulking its prey, only to be stripped of all secrecy by the sound of its own treacherous hiss.

Biting my tongue behind the façade of my exterior smile, I drop my glance from his perplexed, curiosity-consumed eyes to that of the table. The scratched table that shamelessly displays evidence of years of abuse, sustained by the copious amounts of caffeine addicts and loiterers. I wonder how many lovers spent their evenings sitting here. For a fact, I know that this very table has been frequented an insurmountable amount of times between potential suitors and myself.

While distancing myself from the uncomfortable relationship with an acquaintance in a coffee shop, beyond the storefront window, I imagine a man I once knew.

Before I could feel anger, I felt something called love. The harbinger of my infatuation was a man named I thought I knew. I wanted to be your door in a room filled with windows. A door that would expose you to an enticing and adventurous path. It would be a road that would lead you to somewhere you’ve never been before. Through your tall stature and dark features, I was intrigued, and by your vexing personality, I was smitten. Upon mention of your name to friends and family, I would receive warnings. They would call you a demon. A sorcerer. A witch. I thought you were a wonderful man, though.

You acknowledged my imprisoning silence and set me free. Exposed me to foreign places not yet uncovered by my careful, naïve self. For you knew that my bashful expressions and impish laughter were caging my soul. All of my anxieties knotting together like a childish game of cat’s cradle. Across a room flooded with people, you fixed your gaze upon me, and you read my lips. In that instant, I thought I had found love. Slowly, I remember how you approached me, and how I pled with my eyes:
Unravel me. Free me from my callow confinement. Release me into your sophisticated realm of classical poetry and jazz music. Enchant me. Enlighten me.

For several months, you were my inspiration, my muse, my obsession. Initially, I was unsure if you were real, or simply an illusion of my flourishing, childish imagination. Regardless, I began to recognize what I learned to be your silhouette; I started to follow the vexing sound that became your voice. You would laugh at my juvenile dramas, turning my tragedies into comedies. Enveloping me in your welcoming arms as we would embrace until the minutes blended into hours, hours to days…

Then, the fated day came. The day you took me by my wrists, gently coaxing me out of the comfort of the coffee shop we usually spent our evening hours within. Together, we ventured through the drifting snow. You led me to the forest. There, you told me how every tree bore a unique indication, representing a memory, a feeling, a piece of yourself. You also spoke of the wind chimes, the ornaments, the birds and the squirrels that decorated these same precious trees. Though, your descriptions were not necessary. I was able to marvel at the forest’s magnificence without your narration, however, I liked the sound of your voice and let you ramble. The sound of your deep, raspy voice was soothing, I cherished every word you exchanged with me. Letting go of my delicate wrists, you allowed my hands to fall to my sides, and urged me to drop to the frozen forest floor. Listlessly, we fell like the snow around us.

Once again, you laughed. Confused but loyal, I trusted you, believing your intentions to be honest and true. Soon, I discovered that the falling, fragmented, frost was no longer made of crystalized water. No. The flakes that fluttered in front of me were made of betrayal, deceit and bullshit. They turned your caramel-coloured jacket a shade darker, and flushed your face a shade of red so vivid, so startling, not even Van Gogh himself could have replicated it. Before my very eyes, you became a monster, a wolf, a merciless beast of the steppes.

Without even noticing, without even thinking to remember me, you drifted away. In search of another young fool such as myself, or perhaps you fell into the grasp of a malignant bitch. A malicious woman, one with intentions far crueler you could ever comprehend. Meanwhile, you left my heart to freeze and my mind to wander, as my body remained lifeless on the icy forest floor.

You may never read my journals or hear my thoughts. But you continue to soar past me. Everyday, I look for your traits in the silhouettes and personalities of lonesome men that flock the city streets. In my dreams, I reside in a utopian society infested with the feelings expressed in our former relationship. Whenever I hear footsteps, I imagine them to be yours. I hope that once again, you will come to my rescue. Just like you liberated me from the social incarceration that manifests itself within all introverts, I hope your footsteps will find me and notify me of your return. That you may save me from the bitter, miserable soul that I have become. Once again, bringing me into your arms, lulling with something of yours I miss so dearly: your laughter.

The other night, while sitting in a coffee shop we used to frequent, on a date with a frantic man, I caught a glimpse of a man who resembled you. Instantaneously, all the walls that I had built since your departure, along with my jaded, harsh façade, fell. Not only did they fall, they cracked, crashed, and shattered. Nostalgia broke them down, years of work building up my exterior suddenly evaporated, and for a moment, it was as though I was a youth again. I felt naïve and vulnerable. In that instant, I became a little more mortal. More human. I was closer to death.

When I met you, you were the sole apple in an orchard of barren fruit trees. You were a rarity, an artifact within a ravaged mausoleum. Meanwhile, I was a slab of pristine marble, anxiously waiting for someone to chisel me into a human being. I was young and curious. More than anything I wanted to feel loved. To feel something that would captivate my soul, and to be held by someone who could evoke such sentiment within myself. I wanted to embark on a journey. To be whisked away by an alluring tide, pulled into somewhere new, unknown and undiscovered. Instead of floating upon a melodic tide, I was plunged into a whirlpool. Forced to view the world from an inverted perspective. Everything became cruel and repetitive. From that point forward, life was nothing more than an incessant stream of continuous disappointments, accompanied by uncomfortable interactions with transient bodies. Was wanting to grow up, wanting to fall in love, really so much to ask? Because of you, I lost every ounce of optimism within my being. I lost my former self.

Once upon a time, I met a girl on a street corner…

“Yes, I do have some money, but that isn’t the issue here. Instead of asking of something from me, I would like to ask for something from you.” Ever so slightly, she recoils from my words and opens her mouth to speak. I cut her off. “From you, I want something precious, something of value.”

She nods with a vacant expression in her tiny eyes that hide behind the cropped fringe of wispy charcoal coloured hairs that linger on her forehead. Clearly, she doesn’t quite understand my intentions, but I press on anyways.

“In your tiny, minute existence you hold the past, the future, feelings, thoughts, memories, but what I need from you right now is the present. A little span of your life that I can carry with me until my heart ceases to beat. My parents are dead, my sister is lost in the tirade that is the city’s crime scene and I know that my soulmate was never truly born. In every aspect, I am just as alone in the world as you are, as the dark-skinned child that you parade about on a piece of paper is. But, let me tell you one thing. That African boy which you are trying to help, even though he is young, he understands this life a lot more than you and I ever will. He was never sheltered. He knows the hardships, turbulence and disappointments of life more profoundly than most people ever will.”

Confused, the girl continues to stare attentively. I realize that my words are being wasted on a puerile mind, unable to fully comprehend my demands and preachings.

“Needless to say, on this planet, we are all similar. We are all starving and we are all lonely. Give or take a few cents.”