Your fingers would not be enough to count all the things you would want to try.
It’s why you would have created a bookshelf deep inside your mind with ledges made of shallow ambitions and bookends sculpted like wolves blowing kisses to the moon. Sometimes you would sit and close your eyes, running your nails over the intangible books labelled with all your abandoned hobbies, an uneven skyline of neglected ruins. And there they would remain stacked, shivering under cardigans of spider silk and blankets sewed from shadows.
There would only be a few hobbies lining the top shelf of your mind, that you would dust regularly, licking your pointer finger and dog earring the pages. But your hands would waver and you’d quickly move on to dabble in new things.
Cooking would be something you could do with a blindfold rolled over your eyes and a butcher’s knife weaving between your fingers. Olive oil would dance across the frying pan like frightened woodland animals, the steam twisting into claws of predators. Hacking the thighs and legs of a whole chicken, you would run a pinky through to the joints and slice off the wings.
“Dice and mince and chiffonade and Julienne cut,” you would recite, chopping the carrots and broccoli and Swiss chard and cucumbers.
Cutting would be an art, one that you would know all too well.
Eventually, the empty spaces in your mental bookshelf would beckon and tempt, and you would search for a new skill to master. Sitting on the back porch, you would hold the gaze of the woods and wonder if you could carve your name into every tree and pretend they’d be your puppets.
Your bungalow would be a humble one, seated on the line where the forest would dip its toes into the sleepy town beyond. You would have lived there once, but not anymore. At times, you’d remember the orange streetlights that would drip into rain puddles or how the alleys would smell like crystal balls and cheap graffiti. Other times, you’d wonder what would have happened if you would have stayed.
“It’s better this way,” you would nod your head and return to your imaginary bookcase.
The chisel would be in the drawer with the expired nail polishes and bracelet charms. After a handful of YouTube videos and overdue library books, you would be carving branches with patterns and etching mountains into bones — left in your yard by black bears, you would lie to yourself. With some practice, your hand would fall into a mellow chorus and compose intricately carved ballerinas and painted doves.
All immaculately arranged on your dresser, like the perfect crime.
Soon your carvings would not be enough to satisfy your solitude, and you would spend the evenings watching the snow melt and the wildflowers pierce through cracks in the cement alongside needles of grass. People wouldn’t wander into this part of the woods, so you would get very few visitors. Those who would come, either never came twice or would stay too long and become lost to the earth. You would tell yourself it was because of the eerie whispers that came from between the trees when the stars gathered in clusters to gossip about death.
You would almost believe it.
“What to do now?” would become the words pasted to your lips, a periodic prayer that would trickle through your teeth without you realizing.
You would take strolls through the forest to forget these questions and the wolves would shrink away from you. You would laugh at their silly behaviour, extending your palm with leftover scraps and they would consider you their own.
You would only think of them as unusual pets.
When the loneliness would swell into a tidal wave, you would go digging through the shed and emerge with rounded spades and packets of hibiscus seeds. Gardening would become the newest hobby to land your top shelf and you would buy four types of fertilizer to feed the dirt. The sky would lend you its wet hands and rain would soak into the dark red flowerbeds. But your topsoil would be infertile, so nothing would grow.
As the scent of rotten flesh and browning mushrooms would filter through the dead plants, a sliver of space would open on your bookshelf and you’d go to purchase wax and essences from town. The essential oils would marble into a solid base and you’d add the vodka and water with a glass dropper. On medium heat, you would burn soy wax and insert wicks through Mason jars. Within a few days, notes of pear and vanilla and pine cologne would sneak through your sitting room, but the slightest odor of copper would still linger in drafts from the garden every now and then.
When autumn would ride in on the breeze and the leaves would bleed the colours of revenge, you would turn your attention to the lake. Your heartbeat would flutter and gasp in your collarbone every time you’d imagine how deep the waters ventured or the skeletons and naughty secrets that could fit underneath.
And so would be born your newest idea. It would take a couple days to perfect it, but in no time, another hobby would appear at the end of the shelf.
You would run your pinky over a flat pebble. It would be a good one, shaped like a caution sign with layered rings that would remind you of the solar system. Testing the waters would be the first step, twining the lake around your wrist and letting it suck your skin into prunes. Balancing the rock in your seesaw grasp, you would think for a moment what you would have liked to paint on its smooth face. Blue moons and butterflies.
Then, without a second thought, you’d launch it sideways and watch as it would press craters on the surface of the lake, like gentle fingers over a lyrical keyboard. You would wish you could plug headphones into the muddy banks and listen to the harmonic notes of the stone echoing over the ripples, taking its time drifting to the bottom.
One day, after a week of skipping stones, you would hear the barking. Of course, you would think it to be nothing, attributing it to coyotes or the wolves that would bow at your heels. But when you’d catch the smell of spoiled blood and decaying limbs, you would stomp into the backyard to investigate with frustrated trepidation.
“I’m sorry!” someone would say.
Your eyes would narrow at the upturned bushes and splendid array of bludgeoned arms, dented skulls and pieces of ears dug up in the yard. You would shake your head and sigh. Your masterpiece of misdirection! Your garden of graves! Ruined!
The voice would belong to a man with a shiny head and a nylon leash looped around his thumb. The collar would be empty and its owner — a German shepherd — would stare up at you with grimy paws and a virtuous smile splattered with red smears shaped into live hearts.
“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to trespass in your, um. . .” His hands would quiver, you'd note.
“Garden,” you’d inspect your nails, “my garden.”
“Right, yes. Your g-garden. I was just riding my bike with my dog, s-see?”
“Seems the wolves have been burying their leftovers,” you’d lie to pacify him. “Goes to show you shouldn’t be out dawdling in the forest late at night.”
“Ah, t-the wolves. . . thanks for the tip. And I’ll pay for any damage, of course.”
It would be people like these — although innocent — that would wreck your creative efforts. Nosy folks like these that would constantly have you skipping through the shelves inside your head trying to invent new pastimes. Oh well, you would have enough hobbies to accommodate this lovely guest.
“Join me for dinner and we’ll call it even.” You’d gesture to the house. “I’ve got a new cooking knife I’ve been dying to try."
"On onions," you'd add as an afterthought.
The man would step closer to his dog, still shaking and stuttering. He'd wring his chalky fingers into thin birch twigs and the dog would slowly recoil its gums in suspicion. You would just roll your eyes and place a reassuring hand on his arm, but he'd gulp down shards of glass.
“No, I-I think I’ll be off now. Please. Have a nice evening.”
“Oh, I insist. I make a mean stew.” You would wink coyly.
When the man would remain rooted in place, as fear would crochet a cloak around him, you would fist his shirt and half-coax, half-drag him up the front steps. His chin would swivel like ping pong balls and weathervanes back at his dog.
“No dogs inside,” you’d instruct.
“But. . . please!” he’d scream and you would know that he’d have reached his breaking point. That he’d feel axes severing his organs and his heart pumping up his throat. They all would, more or less, just from your sharpened smile. “Help! Someone, please help—”
And with that you’d shove him inside, mapping out all the hobbies you would require tonight.
Your cleaving knives would already be pre-sharpened, ready to bury into tender skin. Your door, you’d think, would look in need of some spice. Some delicate wind chimes carved from bones with the chisel should do the trick. Your backyard would be in tatters anyway and you’d have read an article recently that dogs make excellent compost.
But hell to pretty flowers when you could be poison ivy. Closing your eyes, you'd flick the gardening book off its shelf, so it could join the forgotten hobbies and reach out for dust specks with crinkled pages.
Clicking your tongue in annoyance, you would remember the smell that would follow. But another trip to town should garner enough supplies for wispy perfumes and romantic candles to cover it up. Like always.
You would practically fly across the threshold in giddy anticipation with a different plan you’d hope to test this time. Something more daring. You would glance over your shoulder at the lake and it would stare back with a gleaming wink. The stone skipping would have proved useful in discovering that its depth would indeed be a wonderful prison for skeletons and naughty secrets.
“Miss, please let me go! I promise I’ll never bother you again!”
“Of course you won’t.” You’d lock the door and the man would hiccup. “For now, make yourself at home, please. And do be quiet.”
You would pace, wondering what on earth to do about the dog. Ah! You could lure it into the woods! The wolves should be hungry tonight, you could hear them calling to the sky even now. As you’d knit a cotton gag through the man’s raw lips, causing his restless chokes to build up on the inside instead of spilling out, you would forget about now and think about what would come.
Through the window, you’d catch sight of the man’s bike with ivy leaves and crocuses impaled on the spokes. You’d wish to feel the handlebars wrap softly around your throat and hear the sweet ring of the bell. But for now, you’d focus on the task in front and finish knotting the man’s bindings.
Inside your head, your bookcase would be rattling and your heart would join in howling into the night. Because all at once, you’d realize the rubber tires would make gorgeous decorations and the bicycle chains would no doubt serve a future purpose too.
Well then. Time to find a new hobby.