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Contemporary Sad Romance

I’ve never seen her before, only in shards of dreams and slices of déjà vu. Oh, she’s looking at me. I stare at the table and try to remember where her face comes from. It’s rounded, sort of soft on the chin, the eyes grey and bright as they catch on my face. 

I know her from before. I don’t want to find where she’s from, I don’t want to find her face in my memory. It’ll stick and stay for a little, and then slip away like everything else. 

There’s a mark on the inside of my Coca-cola bottle. The dark liquid slides away from the mark and into my throat, and then back up toward the mark as the glass clinks on the table top. 

Across the cafeteria. The grey eyes stare back at me. Watching, wondering. Eyes like a hawk’s. 

Eyes like a hawk’s. 

Eyes like a hawk’s. Her eyes look like a hawk’s, staring at me. I shiver and stamp my feet on the hoarfrost. 

The man smells like a pickle and his voice sounds like the time when Mom made them and snapped them in pieces to fit into the mason jars. No one’s listening. This sewer, now frozen over, is where they found a dead body three years ago. The others know this; they tell each other that and whisper loudly and think about other things. 

My vision blurs. I’m remembering something. My head flashes, my eyes slide sideways, time falls in and out… my buddy, Steve, holds me up when I slump. 

Take care of him, Steve, Mom said. When he goes weak like that you just have to pretend nothing’s happening… I know, yes, well, we’ve spoken to doctors and you can only wait the bad spots out, they'll end eventually they always do… thanks again, do I owe you more?

The lines on our old kitchen table are deep, I discovered while listening to her. Deep like scars. She thinks I only see the scars, that maybe my ears are closed when my eyes are too. Sometimes I wish they are.

Steve holds me up. Steve’s my friend. He makes the hawk girl go away when she comes forward. He doesn’t understand she’s also inside me, inside my head, and even when her body leaves her memory doesn’t, at least not in my head. 

I shake my head slowly. The chilly, worm-riddled ground moves in slow circles around me. I gag. 

The hawk girl comes forward again. She says my name. Steve shakes her away. 

I want to say no but can’t. My mouth feels slow. She walks away. She smells like trees. 

She smells like trees. 

She smells like trees. Trees in warm rain. Green, blue, and the dirt.

My aunt used to, too, before she died and the warm dirt closed over her. That day in the shady graveyard was nice. A young woman with a round chin stood in front of a small grave on the other side of the yard. It was covered with many bunches of delicate, drooping flowers. Aunt Sadie’s only had one bunch. Marigolds. 

The hawk girl comes forward from her corner in the big clattery cafeteria. The table top fills my vision, the banging trays and breaking plastic forks fills my ears, but all I see in my head are her big netted grey eyes. Eyes like fire, eyes like a bird’s. 

Hi, Patrick, she says. Her voice is cheery and kind. I blink hard. 

“Hi,” I say. My fork slides expertly between my fingers. I flip it up and down, through my fingers, scratch the table. The table moves when she sits down. 

Patrick, she says, Patrick, don’t you remember me? Patrick, Patrick… 

It’s too late, my throat is throbbing, my heart hurting inside my chest, my eyes sliding white…

I glimpse her. Her eyes are full of tears. 

Her eyes are full of tears. 

Her eyes are full of tears. My eyes are full of white. It’s cold here, the doctor and his cold voice, the cold tile floor, the cold sterile equipment. I start humming just to pass the time. It buzzes from my throat, kind and comforting. 

Mom, Mom, I say. Mom, who are you talking to.

Her phone is pressed to her cheek. It’s cold too. Her eyes are cold, dripping tears. She calls the man on the other end sir, and I don’t know why. I’m flashing in and out, seeing Mom and the hawk girl again and again, scenes I’ve seen in dreams before. Mom and the hawk girl. I made them cry and see them cry all the time now. Their tears weigh me down. 

Mom says it’s déjà vu it’s only déjà vu nothing to be afraid of, and the more she says it the faster the slices come. It’s like staring through a piece of stained glass, beautiful carved stained glass, but stained with blood. I don’t understand it. 

Through the window slatted with plastic I can see the sky, framed with golden tree branches, green and gold in evening light. I just want to be outside. My feet start to prickle, hanging from the crackling paper on the red leather doctor bed. 

It’s just a condition, she whispers into the phone, Seizures and déjà vu it isn’t his fault. A piece of hair falls across her face. She sobs into the phone. She listens and gasps out, You don’t know that for sure—

Why did you even marry him, I say when she slides her phone into her pocket. Not asking a question, just saying. Why did you even marry him. Why. 

We wait in the silent room for a man to enter and say nothing. I can hear a clock ticking. It’s off, I can tell. 

“He made me happy,” she says. Her voice is quiet and dry, contrasted with her face. Emotions scream loudly from her wet face. 

I go over to her. My pale thin legs shine in the plastic golden light from outside. My shoes aren’t on so I climb on her lap. I’m young enough, eleven, to do that still. 

I flash in and out with the hawk girl. 

“He made me happy,” she whispers, even more dryly. She puts her nose on my hair and closes her eyes. Her hand feels good stroking my head. 

The hawk girl clicks into view, like a slide pressed into a View Master toy. My breathing is heavy. I cradle my head in my clammy hands. 

Why, I croak. Why me I’m not even here, I’m barely here, why are you here. 

She touches my face and her lips curve up, above her rounded chin. I watch her smile and don’t look away from watching. Her eyes catch mine and hold them, like she’s holding my head. 

Patrick, she says, Patrick. I’m here. It’s me. 

“I’m sorry,” I say slowly. My head pounds; the back of my skull, like someone behind me hitting me with a club in time with each pump of my heart. “Who… are you?”

This time her eyes stay dry. She knows me. I should know her. I’ve never seen her, not in this memory. Maybe I met her once, but I’ve never met her.

I like you, she says. I like your face. You make me happy. 

My head pounds. I see Mom’s face. Her crying face, talking to Sir on the phone. The hawk’s hair is golden like the sun through plastic slats. The world is purple, blue, and red; prism colors. Please, she says, look at me and say it’s okay. Please, she says, it’s okay. Please. 

I watch her eyes. 

Come with me, she says. Come with me, we’ll get coffee, we’ll talk. I like you, I want to talk to you. You make me happy.

The world flashes around me like it’s drunk. Like I’m drunk. 

“I’m sorry,” I say, gasping. “I don’t know you.”

Her eyes look hit. But I haven’t touched her. Her eyes bloom hurt like my mom’s face, the bruised hurt feeling. She leans back a little. Her hair ruffles like hawk feathers in the wind. You don’t know me, she asks. 

I know your face, I say, I’ve seen you before. It’s déjà vu, past and present and I’ve met your future right now and it’s my dad and it’s me and I can’t do that to you. And I can’t do that. 

Can’t do that. 

Can’t do that, Mom’s voice says, words bleeding over into my room. I’m blurred again, blurred and sick to my stomach. For the first time in a while I remember where I am. I am eight and sick on bad milk and Dad has hit her for the first time. In my head I am eight years old and in my body I am fifteen, staring at the table and in pain while the beautiful hawk girl watches me, tearful and in love. 

Can’t do that. I can’t. She won’t leave him for me. 

“He made me happy,” she says in the future. Dad hits her and as the purple blossoms on her face and he screams Get out of my house, my head reels that special way for the first time. The View Master toy has a new slide; I’m five in my head, eight in real life, and hearing Dad scream Get out of my house at her. I slide back into eight and they start telling me Stop crying, stop screaming, Patrick, you’re okay, look she’s fine, we’re sorry… 

He was never sorry. I’m eight again and now I’m fifteen and

The girl with hawk eyes is sitting in front of me again, her hair framed around her face like trees around the sky. She asks me softly again, I'm happy here with you. Won’t you go out with me? Talk? Please. 

I shake my head slowly numbly. She touches my hand and I don’t pull away. I don’t say yes but how can I say no with those grey gold hawk eyes holding my own, just watching, just holding. Her lips tug up and I watch them, she watches me watch, keeps my eyes in hers. Those gold grey bird’s eyes. What is your name, I say. 

Would you even remember, she asks, Will I have to tell you again. 

Yes probably, I say. And so she doesn’t tell me, just holds my hand and my gaze and smiles and smiles and I stay there with her, fifteen and nothing else for a little longer.

February 18, 2021 17:48

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33 comments

11:25 Apr 06, 2021

Is the title here a paradox, a n irony, or an understand, simply to drive home the tinge of regret of a life less lived. Of what could have been. Your writing is slow poison, slow yet sweet poison. It gets a while to get the hang of the initial pungency but once we ride through, it is sheer delight. Prose and poetry combine to give a unique sensory experience. The characters become rounded and that's the hallmark of good writing. Loved this story immensely, Zilla. Hope you take time to read my second submission on April Fool's Day. Your cri...

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Tom .
22:09 Feb 23, 2021

The language and style here is really powerful. It is an engrossing read. I did get lost a little in the middle and found myself still a little confused at the end. Although maybe that was supposed to happen. I think I have to think about it some more and come back and have another read. Which is a good thing, right?

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Yay!! Hi Tom!

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10:42 May 31, 2022

How I Got My Ex Husband Back.. Am so excited to share my testimony of a real spell caster who brought my husband back to me. My husband and I have been married for about 5 years now. We were happily married with three kids, two boys and a girl. Four months ago, I started to notice some strange behaviour from him and a few weeks later I found out that my husband is seeing someone else. He started coming home late from work, he hardly cares about me or the kids anymore, Sometimes he goes out and doesn’t even come back home for about 3-4 days. ...

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20:48 Jan 12, 2022

your story is fine i am ten years old

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Jarrel Jefferson
13:46 Sep 05, 2021

I love how it’s not directly stated what’s going on with Patrick, but the reader can tell that something’s wrong through your method of narration and punctuation. I found myself hoping for more insight into Patrick’s condition and who the hawk girl is. By the end, you gave me neither. Perversely, I like stories like that. This is a great read.

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Zilla Babbitt
16:29 Sep 06, 2021

Thank you, Jarrel. I wrote this after reading Faulkner for the first time and thought I should try it out. I too like stories that are sort of ambiguous at the end :)

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