One Page Love Story

"Do you think there are others," she asked, "with love stories just as good as our own?" "Yes," he said, "let me show you."

The Gryphon of Iping

            He was unnoticeable.

            Too ugly to turn a head. Too attractive to invoke novelty. He wasn’t in shape, but not gangly or obese. His curse was mediocrity.

            Waiters never came to his table.

            Neighbors never waved in the hall.

            Coworkers would pass his desk when looking for him only to leave packets on the wrong desk and walk away gabbing with friends. He was the beige of humanity with no family to fill the loneliness lacking companionship created.

            So when she spoke to him, his world erupted.

            The light of her sunny personality warmed him.

            She smiled at his philosophies, laughed at his jokes, opened up a kaleidoscope of emotions blossoming out of the earth of his loneliness. When they were together he existed in a new world. Love fueled his confidence and brought him out of the ambiance of life.

            Waiters came to his table.

            Neighbors waved hello.

            Coworkers stopped to talk to him and he, to his surprise, was happy to talk back. Invite them out. Attend their parties.

            She was beautiful in spirit and she made him beautiful by proxy.

            A year passed.

            She told him, with tears and sincere touches of his arm, why she had to leave. He didn’t hear her. The heart imploding drowned out the moving lips before him. Then she was gone.

            The old life returned to him. He faded into the background of existence. Waiters ignored him again. Cabs wouldn’t stop. Automatic doors wouldn’t open.

            He watched the world pass by him. When he reached out to touch it the tangible was always just out of reach. Right beyond his fingertips.

            Food lost its flavor. He didn’t feel the need to eat. Nor drink. Nor sleep – for only heart ache met him in the darkness and would cause him hours of ceiling-staring.

            Why did she leave?

            What could he have done differently?

            He began to haunt the same locations.

            Walking the same parks.

            Visiting the same restaurants.

            Hoping to catch a glimpse of her a glimpse of the happiness he held for a moment.

            What he finally saw was a mirror.

            And nothing looking back at him.

T. Joseph Lawrence is an exhausted thirty-something from Philadelphia who stays sane by writing about insane people and misanthropic cartoons drawn by his girlfriend, and eating a lot of halal.

TOXOPLASMOSIC

The cat was in the window again. The tail swayed side to side. Side to side. Side to side. Then in a circle and back again.

            She was in my bed again last night. Her hips moved up and down. Up and down. Up and down. Then in a circle and back again.

            A bird flew past the window. The cat flew past the ledge. Into the yard and out of sight. Out of sight. Out of sight. Chasing a thing it may not catch.

            The cat didn’t come back that day. She said not to worry. She knew it lived. Knew in her heart it lived, that it found another window, another bird.

            “Cats are capricious things,” she said.

            Then she left me.

T. Joseph Lawrence is an exhausted thirty-something from Philadelphia who stays sane by writing about insane people and misanthropic cartoons drawn by his girlfriend, and eating a lot of halal.

The Dream

            Time wasn’t going to stop the man from reaching something profound. What was discouraged as obsession was the siren song to enlightenment. Something serendipitous beyond uncertainty and fear which kept so many from completion.

            This was going to be something pure.

            An exploration past the edge of singular thought and into the collective of humanity’s dreams. The Palace of Meme where concepts become viral. Where sparks lit the fires of culture.

            His mind was beyond the mechanical hum of his years of work. He couldn’t feel the pains of the accepted reality he was used to contracting around him. Birthing him out of this life and into another.

            He came out dirty on the other side. Covered in the clear slick mucus that coats our world like egg white. He was in darkness. Though he couldn’t see what he walked in he knew it was cold and wet and thick like mud. When walking he would sink into it and have to pull with weary might to trudge through.

            Colors appeared like shuddering rainbows behind the eyes. Epileptic flashes and phantom shapes of the world he left behind. A siren call to give up on his quest and return home.

            To return to a while were she had left him.

            He closed his eyes. He shut out the images of family and friends. Covered his ears to block out the calling of colleagues and students. Fear was conquered and now antagonism took the shape of the life he was leaving to sway him from his crusade.

            The muse of his obsession guided him through. Uncertainty now a real building of pearl and standing tall amid the muck that made up so much of the world’s collective. A beacon of purity. The Palace blinded him. It burned away the mire that coated him and left his form nude and innocent.

            He felt joy over take him like the first time he touched her hand. He could smell her pumpkin hair wash. When he closed his eyes he could feel her hand take his and carry him up the twisting stairs into the white tower.

            Sarah had the strangest dream.

            In it she had been standing outside some sort of castle when her ex-husband appeared before her. He only said “I’m sorry.” Then she took his hand and together they walked into the castle.

            It had been years since she even thought of him. But deep in her heart she felt the love he still carried for her causing it to hammer against her ribcage.

            She shuffled into the living room to tell Mike about the dream. He was standing in shock in front of the television. Breaking news of fire at an apartment downtown. The apartment she used to share with her ex-husband.

            Mike didn’t understand why Sarah began to weep. 

T. Joseph Lawrence is an exhausted thirty-something from Philadelphia who stays sane by writing about insane people and misanthropic cartoons drawn by his girlfriend, and eating a lot of halal.

Pilgrim

The train was taking its sweet sweet time crawling from Rahway to New York. It would lurch forward, slither a ways, then come to a stop again between green fields and urban blight. Sometimes unfinished construction would break up the monotony and drive the imagination to consider what would have been if not for the recent economic collapse.

Then she sat in the seat across from me. A woman whose shape defied the modern norm. She was a woman who, from broad shoulders to wide hips, held an hourglass form. She was exotic. Traditionally African in feature with a full round face almost matched her hair in complexion and was accented with bee-stung lips, a broad nose, and two large almond-shaped eyes – all this giving her the image of some dark beautiful cat in hideous clothing.

The train shuddered forward. The rocking motion wanting to lull me to slumber. A slumber I would have welcomed prior to Mama Wata coming aboard and forcing my will to climb from wariness to worship her visage.

She crossed her legs and I pretended to be fascinated by the view outside her window. I can’t say what was outside the window. I was enamored by the fullness of the woman’s chubby limbs. A zaftig form we would never see on a magazine cover or on T.V. telling us to desire. In reality her form burned a desire in my soul that broke my heart knowing she would never be mine.

Or could she?

I closed my eyes to summon my courage. To first best insecurity and self-doubt. To find confidence. To soothe myself with the balms of an imagined future. To dream what I could be with her.

“Now approaching Penn Station.”

My eyes shot open. There was a bustle of humanity shuffling up and down the aisle disembarking. The woman was gone. I shoved my way through the crowd. Through the door and past the conductor. I was too afraid to wipe the sleep from my eyes as if, in that moment, I might once again sleep through a chance at her. She was gone. I was lost. A sinking ship called love falling under the waves of people of the New York subway.



T. Joseph Lawrence is an exhausted thirty-something from Philadelphia who stays sane by writing about insane people and misanthropic cartoons drawn by his girlfriend, and eating a lot of halal.

Noise

            For the first time in many years the voices came back. They were on the edge of perception. The peripheral of audience. Yet more distinct than I remember. They weren’t talking to me, or about me, nor did they seem to realize I could hear them. It’s like being in a crowd surrounded by ambient noise: cars, phones, the shuffle of the populace down Chestnut Street at lunchtime. Then, for no reason, you pick up snippets of conversations around you.

            They’re muffled. Only a few key nonsensical words can be made out. Raymond. Tomorrow. Then something about how it always rains on sad days. There was no narrative. Each word was a sentence apart. But the mind of man strives for order from chaos. It creates from atoms a new reality then assumes it to be true. Pareidolia of the ears that made me sad for Raymond since the forecast was dreary. I bought a new umbrella just for this occasion.

            I found myself worried about Raymond. Tomorrow could have been something special for him. Perhaps he’d finally paint the shed a nice rosy color to match the bushes Elaine put in before she passed. If only they caught the cancer earlier. Maybe then the kids wouldn’t resent him. He shouldn’t feel that way. It was just the rain getting to him.

            The voices were getting to me. As I sat in my living room watching my umbrella across the room I realized I can’t sleep. I was too upset over a man who didn’t exist whispered in to reality only by a voice on the wire between my imagination and psychosis and teetering on the abyss of my loneliness.

T. Joseph Lawrence is an exhausted thirty-something from Philadelphia who stays sane by writing about insane people and misanthropic cartoons drawn by his girlfriend, and eating a lot of halal.

Making The Day

            The night before would always be remembered. It was one of those most perfect evenings flavored with her smile, accented with her laughter, and punctuated with her form pressed against his as they tumbled towards the bedroom.

            He woke up at noon.

            He pulled the sheets from his still-weary form. He realized a profound truth. He loved her. He wasn’t exactly sure when this feeling started. He only knew that as the night before progressed he found it harder and harder to imagine a future without her.

            Today, he would tell her.

            But she was gone.

            Memory weighed down his aspirations. She had told him at the beginning of dinner she would be out of town for the weekend visiting family. In his the euphoria of affection he had forgotten.

            He retrieved his phone from his crumpled jeans on the floor. The sleep in his eyes, the excitement in his hands, he fumbled attempting to call her.

            It rang.

            It rang.

            Voice mail offered to take a message.

            He couldn’t leave a message. His stammering voice. His inability to find the right words in perfect succession. He would sound like a fool.

            He rolled onto his back and held the phone above him as if the divine would channel through the small object in his grip and aid his thumbs like it did to the poets who wrote in the past:

A star doesn’t see its brightness. A flower doesn’t smell its aroma. Nor do you know how much you mean to me. I always remembered my father saying the important things are never easy. This is important. This is easy because you made it so. I love you.”

            Send.

            Satisfaction carried him through a late breakfast. Happiness through a day of house cleaning and grocery shopping. By the time Mad Men came on he realized it had been hours since he sent the text. Hours she didn’t reply. He dismissed it at first. She could have been busy driving. Maybe left her phone off during the journey?

            Love’s cruelest trick is turning logic into nightmare. He began to panic: Did his message scare her off?  Would announcing his new found love or her backfire? He paced about the room in silence trembling that in his haste he had pushed happiness away.

            He didn’t eat dinner. Bed time came and he found himself cradling the pillow she slept on while staring at the side of the bed where she laughed last night and told her stories of her childhood cat, Manny.

            The phone rang.

            “Honey!”

            “Mom?”

            “I just got your message.”

            “Mom. I didn’t…”

            “I know you didn’t mean to touch me like you did. But it was just so nice to hear from you after so long and to hear such, such touching words. It really uplifted my spirits.”

            Relief made him smile.

            “It’s okay, Mom. How’s dad?”


T. Joseph Lawrence is an exhausted thirty-something from Philadelphia who stays sane by writing about insane people and misanthropic cartoons drawn by his girlfriend, and eating a lot of halal.

Incomplete

            I kept going back to her. She never seemed whole. I would work and toil and torment with my hands and back and nothing seemed to make her complete.

            Had I wronged her?

            Had I sinned?

            Was inadequacy my punishment?

            Could I not compete her because I myself was not complete? Was I lacking in some supply?  In creativity? Or was the primal masculinity within me inept to engage the primordial feminine?

            Will my clay-stained hands bring life to this visage that has brought life to my flesh? A purpose of construction. Aiding beauty to manifest. But do I lack the divine to breathe life into my creation?

            She stares at me as I gaze up to her.

            I feel the weight of inability pushing down on my heart.

            Failure.

            My failure.

            My love miscarried on the pedestal before me.

            “Why don’t you love me as much as you love her?” She asked from behind me.

            “This is you.”

            “That was me. Do you hate that I have gotten old?” She asked from behind me. My eyes remained upwards at the feat of clay looking back down.

            “No.”

            “Then love me as you love her. Mold me with loving hands. Whisper to me your fears like you used to.” She placed her hands on my shoulders. I felt her hair. I felt her sigh. I felt her love me in a way the image before me couldn’t.

            Excuses failed and old truths whispered:

            “I’m afraid of failing you.”

T. Joseph Lawrence is an exhausted thirty-something from Philadelphia who stays sane by writing about insane people and misanthropic cartoons drawn by his girlfriend, and eating a lot of halal.

I Was Someone

            He thought it was morning. The sun was up. Came in through the windows somewhere to the left of him. Close enough to reach out and touch the curtains. They were soft. It was harder than he expected to sit up. Muscles were tired.  Bones ached. Unfamiliar pains.

            Unfamiliar Bed.

            Unfamiliar room.

            An unfamiliar woman next to him.

            His heart hurt. The pounding drummed in his ear. Made his heard spin. Felt nauseous. Breathing was harder too. Like he’s been running through a snow storm.

            The woman told him to calm down. She’s older. Grey hair. Blue veins, but bluer eyes sparkling with affection. Understanding. Immortal acceptance that eased him back down onto the bed.

            She kissed his forehead. The woman told him to rest. That she’ll bring him breakfast. Then she yawned and climbed from the bed. She shuffled from the room with slow arthritic steps.

            Mornings were always the hardest.

T. Joseph Lawrence is an exhausted thirty-something from Philadelphia who stays sane by writing about insane people and misanthropic cartoons drawn by his girlfriend, and eating a lot of halal.

Here

            You were there. You were everywhere. You were on top of the world. You were any place I looked. I saw you on T.V. I read about you in the paper. They quoted you. You said you were in a dream. That maybe, if you kept working hard enough, you’d never have to wake up. And they all talked about you. At work. How you were their favorite. That you were so good in this, even better in that. I thought about the first time I saw you. You were better than anything I’d seen before.

            You were everywhere. Everywhere it seemed, but here.

            And I remember, you asked, right when it started. You might not be here much. The schedule is hard. And you might have to go to Tokyo or to Vancouver and to Miami.

            Do you remember what I said?

            “It’s okay, I’m here.”

            And now you are everywhere.

            Just like you said you would be.

            I want you to know how proud I am for you. That I hope you never have to, “Wake up.”

            Keep going. As far as you can. I’ll still see you, everywhere.

            And if you ever need to see me.

            Just like I said I would be.

            I’m here.

Rich Walls is the author of Standby, Chicago and One Page Love Story. He hopes you are also awake in a dream of your own.

Names

            I have called you The Girl

            I have called you my crush

            I have called you Beautiful

            An angel, my muse, The One

            My lady, honey bee, and pretty thing

            Sweet pea and heavenly

            I have called you so many things

            Love of my life

            Now for the first time

            Let me call you

            My wife

Rich Walls is the author of Standby, Chicago and One Page Love Story. He is kind of a big fan of nicknames.