The Underside revision continues. The funny things is, I can point out the exact sentence when I finally figured out where the story was really going. At that point, I sat down and made new notes about each of the main characters and their motivations. I wrote down a basic outline of what had to happen by the end of the book. The writing improved immensely from that point on.
That still leaves me with 20,000 words of Fail, but I’m not letting that stop me. Once I get past this first part, the revision should be smooth sailing.
With nothing more exciting to report, I have a short story I’d like to share, taking a page from Troy Blackford.
I dreamed that Klaus told me he was coming, and I woke up believing it. I took my shower with fear and joy in my heart, his message echoing in my head.
He spoke my language so perfectly, I only knew he was foreign because he’d told me so. Once I knew, it seemed obvious. Something about the way his O’s circle his tongue, the way his teeth cut his T’s at such sharp angles, they now seem to be neon signs pointing to the fact that Klaus is not from around here. I wondered, that I never noticed them before. Without them, he could be from anywhere, somewhere in this country that’s remote and far off, that I’ve heard of but never been to, so its way of speaking is unknown to me. That could be Klaus’s accent, if he was from my country. But he isn’t. He said so, and I believe everything he tells me.
I hummed his message as I rinsed my hair of shampoo, tasting the vowels, trying to say them just as he had. “I’m coming,” I repeated, over and over. “Wait, because I’m coming.”
My day passed me by, the way it did every day. I went to the bank. Customers came to the bank. I helped them, or I didn’t. They left, and then I left. Money changed hands a lot. None of it was mine.
Klaus didn’t come. After some reflection, I wasn’t surprised. A bank wasn’t Klaus’s kind of place. He was more a credit union kind of guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he buried his life savings in his back yard. I resolved to do the same, when I had savings to bury.
I ate my lunch in the park across the street. Peanut butter and lettuce on wheat. It was all I had, but I hate the grocery store. I’ll eat every bite of what I already have before I go to that place. I’d pay people to buy my food if I could afford it. Klaus wouldn’t be there either. If he went to the grocery store, it would be at three in the morning, with no one else there but a couple of drunks and an insomniac. I thought about grocery shopping so late, the aisles full of no one but stockers with their boxes and pallets, and me with my cart weaving around them. That might be acceptable. I might try that.
Klaus didn’t find me eating my lunch. I still waited. The message wasn’t exact. I knew he would come to me, whether it was that day or in a week, or in a year. He was on his way, but traveling took time. I was going to be ready when he did come, waiting for him with perfect patience.
I have a thing for men in trench coats, I always have. That isn’t because of Klaus. He has a shaggy trench coat of his own, but it defies something as ridiculous as having ‘a thing.’ It is its own ‘thing.’ Now that I’ve seen it, all other coats are just echoes of Klaus’s trench, mere shadows that it casts. Clearly, my attraction to long coats was a premonition of my attachment to Klaus.
I had a trench coat of my own, but it’s gone now. I couldn’t bear to own it anymore. I thought that it would bring me closer to Klaus. I wanted to be like him. But it felt like a joke hanging off my shoulders. It itched, so I buried it alive. I can’t match Klaus. I can’t be that close to him. I don’t know why I try.
It was because of trench coats that I met Micah. Micah’s trench was cashmere and black, trim, concise, even where the coat hung down it seemed spare. But I encountered it when I wasn’t expecting it, turning a corner. When I saw the trench I stared, smiling before the thought was filtered through that this was not Klaus’s coat. It was utterly unlike Klaus’s coat.
I still remembered the message. I expected him every moment. I saw Micah’s trench, when I expected Klaus. When I saw it was someone else, it was already too late.
Micah had a nice smile, and he asked me to step into the coffee shop with such calm it reminded me of Klaus. Maybe I went in because I thought he was Klaus, wearing another face. Maybe I just wanted to smell the coffee. I didn’t drink my coffee. I ate Micah’s cookie and listened to his life. I told him pieces of mine. He took the pieces and was satisfied.
It was decided we would have dinner together. I could wait while I ate my dinner, I reasoned. I could master multitasking.
Micah was clever. He left his trench coat at home, so it would not remind me, as if I needed reminders. But perhaps I did. As we talked, as we ate, as we walked in the dark, Klaus receded like the tide, leaving bits of flotsam and treasures on the shores of my mind. I shared some with Micah. Some I tossed back into the water. Some I treasured for myself.
Micah taught me about bands, about statements. He told me about the war. As we walked to my house, he told me about supernovas and black holes. He told me about infinity. I listened to him, but I had nothing to say. I don’t know anything about infinity.
Klaus was standing in the shadows on the porch when Micah and I arrived at the house. I didn’t see him standing there until he stepped forward. Micah fell silent. He could see that there was something about Klaus, maybe from the way I moved away from Micah when I saw him, but not towards my visitor. Maybe it was the way I stopped talking mid-sentence, and the way my breath all escaped at once.
Klaus looked at me for a long, awkward moment. I’d been waiting for Klaus to come, but now that he was at my door, I wasn’t ready for him. I hadn’t prepared. Micah was with me, and I didn’t know how to make him leave. I didn’t want to cut ties completely, but I’d been waiting for so long. I wanted Micah gone. I wanted Micah to come back later. I wanted Micah to stay so I had something to hang onto, in case Klaus evaded me again. I reached for Micah, but dropped my hand before he could take it.
“I see you’re busy,” Klaus said. “I’ll come back.”
“No,” I said. “Can you wait?”
But Klaus left. He was gone before I saw he really was going. A wicker chair rocked where he’d been.
“Should I go?” Micah asked. He was already at the bottom step, ready to leave. I saw him there and was afraid.
“No. Stay. Come inside, come upstairs.” My house had three floors, with garrets and a cupola that was my pride. I left the first floor mostly unused. I did my living on the upper floors.
“All right.” His chin lifted again. His cheeks were marble smooth. He smiled, and they bent, not so much like marble. He peered into the darkness on the porch. His smile stayed the same, so I can only assume he saw nothing.
Micah followed me inside, up the stairs, and up to my cupola. We had wine and toasted the infinite stars, or I did, while he helped me drink the wine. It was sweet and bitter at the same time, like Micah’s lips, and his tongue that did not curl his O’s. But Micah was there, and within my reach, wanting to touch and be touched. Wanting clothing to spatter across the floor like paint. When it was over, Micah slept in my bed under the single sheet, while I sat on the edge.
I looked out the window and wished I could see the stars. There was only a blurred light behind the clouds, betraying the moon’s position. The wind was whistling around the house.
Klaus had left. He would return, he had said so. Next time, I would be ready for him. Next time, I would go with him.
I heard Micah’s breathing change, and he closed his fingers around my wrist. “Come sleep,” he said. His words were heavy and tired. His eyes were still closed.
“Later,” I said.
“Hmmuma.” Micah rolled over, releasing me. I stood up, and I went to the window and looked out. The tree outside my window made a veil over the glass, showing me the lawn in tatters between the twigs. I thought I saw the shape of Klaus, against the grass, but when the twigs shivered in the breeze I saw I was wrong. He was gone.
I looked the shape of the man under the sheets. I’d stopped waiting, being with him, and started filling and killing the time. Klaus had found me not-waiting, because of him. I closed my fist and went to the stairs. Next time Klaus comes, I want to be ready and alone. And clearly waiting.
So I got the knife, and I used it. Now I can wait.
I’ll wait forever, if I have to.