Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chapter 3 of My Accursed Novel


Clark stood at the sink, silent and frowning. He turned the faucet on and off with deliberateness and force and slammed wet, shiny dishes into the drainer, Not hard enough to break them, but with enough noise to show his annoyance.

"Don't be like that, Clark. I was just saying . . ." Clark continued to slam dunk plastic cups and silverware into the plastic compartments on the counter.

"Clark, please . . .!" Maureen sat down at the kitchen table and stared at Clark as he wiped plates and rinsed them under the faucet. Her father's voice started to play in her ear. She had heard it through hundreds of similar silent treatments from her mother, pleading, "What's wrong? What did I do?"

Maureen tried once more to get Clark's attention. When he didn't respond, she put her elbows on the table and set her cheeks flat against her palms. Her father's voice became more pleading and loud sobs started to come from her throat. She stomach muscles pulled in and out violently and she gasped periodically, trying to take in air. A few times she thought she might choke, not be able to breathe at all around her crying. Her shoulders shook. Clark sat down in the chair across from her. His voice was flat--dead--and showed little concern. "It's just a fight over dishes. Come on, Maureen."

But by now she couldn't stop herself. Clark tried to coax her into talking to him, but she was unable to stop crying long enough to talk. Once she could control herself enough to move, she got up and went to her bedroom. She came out with car keys in her hand and her bookbag over her shoulder.

"Where are you going? Maureen, stay here and talk about it . . . "

Maureen looked down at the floor and the sobbing became heavier again. Without looking up or at Clark, she ducked out the front door. Clark pulled a glass out of the sink and slammed it against the refrigerator with full force. As it shattered, he stepped through the slivers, pushing around slivers with his toes.

Maureen pulled into the parking lot of an all-night supermarket. Numbly, she walked inside and grabbed a basket. She had managed to stop crying, with the exception of occasional sniffles or pulling of her stomach muscles. The muzak overhead was playing broken-heart songs, some original "oldies" and some quieted down remakes of top forty songs. She made her way through the aisles slowly. As she looked at the shelves, she felt disoriented. She couldn't make out the words on the products, or the labels or prices attached to the shelves. The college students, stocking shelves in jeans and t-shirts with aprons over them, paid little attention to her, and she was careful not to make eye contact. She knew what she looked like after an hour of crying. She didn't want to have to make small talk or explain herself to them.
She looked at everything without any sense of desire or preference. Nothingness. But not in the good, eastern way of transcending desire. She felt too empty, too wrung out, to want anything. The music and the bright lights and the sound of her disabled cart squeaking its way down empty, otherwise silent aisles, became too much for her. She abandoned the cart near a frozen food aisle and grabbed a pint of Rainforest Crunch ice cream.

After waiting a few minutes to be noticed at the check out aisle, she paid for her ice cream without looking up at the cashier. He tried to make small talk, asking her about her night, but got only a quiet "so-so" out of her. On her way out to the parking lot she realized that she had no eating utensils with her. She decided to stop by a fast food joint to pick up a spoon and maybe use the bathroom. Once in her car, she tried to adjust her eyes again to the dark night and the bright security lights and the white cement of the parking lot. Her eyes were still blurry from crying, which was not helping the process. Maureen started up the car and drove to one side of the parking lot, slamming on her brakes at the last minute when she realized she had come up to a curb, the same color white as the floor of the parking lot. She backed up and drove up a few feet, trying to find the exit. After several unsuccessful tries, she put the car into park and leaned her head against the steering wheel. She resumed crying, again in the same strong, violent sobs as when she had been at the house, arguing with Clark over whose turn it was to do the dishes.

She couldn't stop thinking about her parents. About the arguments over nothing. The scenes. Her running up and down the stairs, trying to reconcile them after a bad fight. She calmed herself again and put on the radio. Heavy metal. It wasn't her usual genre, but she knew there would be nothing to make her cry there. A little AC/DC was just what she needed right now.

When she got home Clark was asleep in their room. Maureen snorted and felt the blood rise to her head. He wasn't enough concerned enough to wait up for her. She sat down on the end of the bed, near his feet. She fought against the urge to throw herself on him and start slapping him. Instead, she leaned over and shook his leg gently. "Clark?"

Clark stirred and she shook his leg again. "Clark." Clark rolled over and touched Maureen on the arm. "Hi. You ok? Where did you go?"

"Clark, this isn't working."

Clark sat up. "It's just dishes, Mo. Come on. You're tired. Come to bed and we'll . . ."

" . . . talk in the morning. No, Clark. We both know it. It's not working. And it's not just dishes."

"Maureen, not now. Come on."

"If not now, when? We both know that this is not working. I can't do this anymore."

"Do what?"

"Be your 'better half.' I can't fulfill your fantasies of what you wanted to become anymore."

"Is that what you think is happening here?"

Clark and Maureen sat still, looking at each other in the dark. Clark reached for the small lamp near the bed. "No," Maureen said quietly and put her hand out to stop him. "Admit it, Clark. That's the appeal. I'm you 15 years ago. I'm what you thought you would become. I can't be your complement anymore. Some men date their students to recapture their youth, to show that they can still get young women to like them. You . . . you seem to do it to remind yourself of what you were."

Clark sat quietly until Maureen was finished. "What do I say to that? That nothing I do is good enough? We've been through this fight a million times."

"And it never gets resolved."

"That's not my fault!"

"It's not anybody's fault. I don't want it to be anyone's fault."

"That's just another way to say it's not your fault."

"Fine. It is my fault. Ok. It's all my fault. I don't even know why . . . maybe I do expect too much. But this is how I feel, ok? Whoever's fault it is, the bottom line is that we aren't fitting together anymore. If we ever did."

"Don't do this. Don't rethink our whole relationship. I love you. This is just a rough spot."

"Do you? Or do you love what I represent, Clark? And I'm just wondering if maybe I didn't romanticize what we had. It's very romantic. And I've loved it."

"Loved it? Don't speak for me. I love you. Not the it, not the notion of our relationship."

"Then I guess that makes you a better person than me, doesn't it."

Clark started to cry. "Why are you being so cold like this? Do you really mean that you never loved me? You need to hurt me that badly?"

Maureen touched Clark's cheek and wiped away the tear that was running slowly down his cheek. "I don't know what I think. I don't want to hurt you."

"Then why are you doing this? Why are you saying these things."

"I don't know. Maybe I just need to go away for a while."

"So, will you come back?"

"I can't say right now." Maureen jumped up, her speech and movements becoming agitated. "I don't know, Clark! I just . . . need something different. I just need to go away and think."

"I can't believe this. We have a fight over the dishes and now you never loved me?"

"I'm going now, Clark."

Maureen stood up and picked up her bag from the foot of the bed. She bounced down the stairs and out the door. Clark did not chase her down the stairs, which she made note of. He ran his hand through the front of his hair and went downstairs in time to see her pull away. She had taken only the clothes on her back and what was in her knapsack. Probably some books and notebooks, her check book and ATM card.
Clark walked into the kitchen, where the clean dishes were stacked higher than the refrigerator, balanced precariously upon one another. He slowly and carefully maneuvered a plastic cup from the middle of this house of cards and poured himself some milk. He was too tired to work on anything, even to think clearly, but couldn't go back to sleep now.

Maureen would have to come back. All of her things were there. She would at least have to come home and pack, and then he could talk to her. He took his glass of milk into the living room and hunted for the remote. After a few minutes he located it under a seat cushion near the coffee table, where Maureen had been stuffing envelopes earlier in the evening. He settled himself on the couch. His arm straight out, with remote in hand, Clark flipped through channels until he fell asleep, his hand dangling down the side of the couch, and the remote fell to the floor.

Maureen had already been at the hotel two days. She replayed the fight in her head. Her parents. The groups she led. Her job at the bookstore. She shuddered, literally trying to shake them off of her. I am NOT responsible for the whole world, she told herself. Just this once . . . maybe I need to be responsible to me.
She looked at the clock. 11:50. Checkout was in ten minutes. Clark would be in class right now, unless he had called in sick, worrying about her. Don't flatter yourself, she thought. She picked up the phone and called home. No. She picked up the phone and called Clark's House, she reminded herself.

Hi, this is Clark & Maureen. We're out in the trenches. Leave us a message.
Maureen hung up the phone. She felt the bags under her eyes, felt as if she had been crying for several hours. That she had been doing the kind of hard sobbing that made your shoulders shake and your whole body fold up. It had been days since she had really wept that way, but her eyes still held the memory in the extra flesh that swelled beneath her eyes.

She began to pack up her meager belongings and went to the front desk to check out. She walked down the street to the ATM machine and took out $300. Then she hopped a city bus to the greyhound station and bought an unlimited travel pass, then studied the bus schedule to see when the next bus was leaving. She would have to be out of town by early evening, or Clark would probably have tracked her down and would be trying to talk her out of this. She couldn't do this if she talked to him right now, and she knew she really wanted to do this. At 2:15, there was a bus headed for Omaha. She stepped into the snack bar for a burger and a Coke. She sat down at the counter, reading the remnants of the newspaper someone had left behind, trying as hard as possible to find something interesting among the business pages and the sports section until it was time to climb onto the bus.

Maureen ambled onto the bus and looked at the faces around her. Some people were still getting settled, trying to take off their coats, or fit their suitcases into the overhead racks. A couple of mothers were fishing out plastic bags with raisins and orange peels to keep their children quiet for the long bus ride.
Maureen took her backpack off and turned it sideways in front of her as she walked to the back, trying not to knock anyone in the head. She headed straight to the back seat. The back seat was like riding the bus on a sofa, if you could get it to yourself. It sat three people across, instead of the usual two, and anyone who was traveling cross country tried to angle for that seat, so that they could stretch out and sleep when they needed to. The downside was that it was right next to the bathroom, and on a hot day, the smell of the disinfectants could be overwhelming, even nauseating.

She settled in and leaned her head against the window as the bus started to pull away. She felt a know in her stomach. Maybe she should have left a message for Clark. What did he do that was so terrible that she should just disappear like that? She tried to shake these thoughts out of her head, but all she could see was his sleepy tear-stained face, the question over and over in her ear you never loved me? Maureen resolved to drop him a postcard at the first stop they made, just so he wouldn't worry. She settled herself back down and watched familiar streets and buildings pass by for the last time--ever? She kept asking herself why she was doing this if it was hurting her so badly. But she sat perfectly still, eyes on the houses and cars to her left, as tears rolled down her cheek. She brushed them back, wishing it were Clark's hand against her face.

She looked at everything one more time as the bus drove out of town. Buildings were reflected in one another. (Elaborate on description here.) This doesn’t have to be goodbye, she thought. And she knew it wouldn’t be forever. She didn’t know how long she would be gone, or what she would come home to, but she would make her way back.
Maureen missed clark already. As the bus passed the downtown park where they’d had lunch just last week, she wanted to jump up and beg the driver to let her off the bus, the way a squeamish child screams to be let off of a carnival ride that’s become too scary. Maureen fought off the feeling and settled back down into the seat. She breathed deeply and remembered the grocery store three nights ago. She couldn’t stay right now. The panic kept coming back and she breathed deeply and audibly, trying to fight it back down.

She looked at the people around her. The back was full of young dudes. The heads in front of her were all white, curly, manicured. Everyone under 60 was in the last five rows of the bus, stretched out with bags on their seats, like a fence around them, protecting them from seat seekers who would join them further down the line.
They rode past the capitol with its big bald dome head, wanting, really, to be the Vatican or some other mystical center, with an echoed hollow rotunda and its eyelid domes shadowed and outlined with paintings -- cherubs and fleur de lis. There were the ghosts of Clark and Maureen and all the crowds they had joined on the lawn, the invisible monuments that she saw more clearly than the immortalized founding fathers. She tried to remember how many state capitols she had visited. How many times she had stood inside, rubbing her palms on marbled banisters, climbing and descending, dropping banners from the center and raising placards toward the ceiling. With no definite plans ahead of her, neither did she know how many more of these she would pass through.

When the driver stopped for the first meal break of her trip, Maureen picked up a newspaper. She did this wherever she went--large cities or small towns. She shuddered to remember flipping through her own hometown paper, with news of people’s trips, names of those who got to meet the governor or congressman, the mayor’s arrest for peeping into sleepy bedroom windows.

Afraid she would miss the bus and lose what few belongings she had with her, Maureen did not linger in the truck stop, but got her food to go. She climbed back into the coach and spread out her hamburger and fries on the seat beside her, trying to leaf through the paper as she ate. Truck stop food was going to get too expensive to eat all the time. She was going to have to figure out a better way to do this, or her trip wouldn’t last very long at all. As she finished her meal, the white haired people and the dudes reentered the bus. She reached for her Coke, which started to spill when the bus lurched off onto its way.

Mo looked over the edge of its bus as it made its way up the ramp and back onto the interstate. The bus was too tall to be able to see the railing and she became disoriented, looking at the freightyard below which seemed only a tipover or a slippery wheel away.

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