West Essen

By Asa Montreaux

West Essen nested over the falls proudly, quietly. There were few people on the streets. The patio was at the outermost of the city. It looked over the cliffs, down for a while.  They sat caught up in the hush.

‘Surely you are not going to leave from me all at once.’

‘Why not?’

‘Just don’t put me through that.’

‘I love all this from me. You can’t even say it.’

‘Well. Just sit with me through this food.’

It was only eleven now. They had been out for a few hours.  The town wasn’t listening right now.  It was hard to tell if there words were real. He looked off over the cliffs. He grimaced a little. He felt himself sweating a little.  They were in something of a mood. The air was very moist. She didn’t look very attractive right now, he thought. He could see her better when he squinted at the glare from the water.

‘I’m full.’

‘I’m going to finish this now,’ she said.

He didn’t say anything. He rubbed his face with his palms. The waitress came over.

‘Yes, I’m finished,’ he said.

She brought the check. He paid with a card, and the waitress said thank you.  He crossed his arms while she finished eating.  It was a while.

They got up and walked away, back to their place. The town was small. Most of the residents were in tourism, or worked in another city.  When they walked in he said, ‘I’m supposed to call that contractor.’

‘Call him later.’

‘It would be better if I called later.’

It was a little warm inside the condo. He turned on the air conditioner, and went out onto the balcony. He was getting to know the city better than her today. The contractor would be mad. He didn’t feel up for it.

She sat in the bedroom, combing her hair. She wasn’t joking when she said this. It wasn’t the first time one of them had said this. Usually they were angry.  She combed her hair briskly. They had been together for three years now.  Sometimes she loved him. Other times she thought it better to care for herself.  

There was a knock at the door.

He came through the glass door. ‘That is the contractor. 

‘I don’t think so. I think it’s someone else. ‘

It was not the contractor. She opened the door. It was a young man in plain clothes. She motioned for him to come forward. But he took a step back. She stepped out and closed the door. He stood near the glass door, wondering what was going on.

They were out there for ten minutes. He felt a little worried. When she walked in, he said, rather loudly, who was that?

‘It was no one.’

‘What were you talking about?’

‘He is just some friend.’

‘Whatever.’ He paced around, agitated. ‘If we’re not doing stuff today I have nothing to do.’

‘Go to the gym, go do something outside.’

“I’m like two steps away from the terminator.’

‘I hate it when you think.’

He still had his shoes on. ‘I’ll go for a walk. Let’s just see if I don’t think of something.’

It was embarrassing. It wasn’t like when he was younger. Each face was one he recognized. It made him grimace.  He found a cafĂ© he hadn’t been to and ordered himself black coffee. While he was in line he was searching through the numbers in his phone.  He got as close to calling someone else. There were several names he suddenly felt he should give a ring.  The worst thing is to be divorced, left alone, cast out of a cosy little shared world. He didn’t want to stay in there.  People usually liked to evaluate their word battles.  

He didn’t want to be frustrated; he didn’t even want to be angry. He really wasn’t that guy. But he was mad. He was even feeling alone. It just wasn’t the time to go and sleep with someone else.  He felt like a toy. He wasn’t even one of these people that worked. It was embarrassing. He didn’t even have friends here. They were on a bloody extended honeymoon. He didn’t want to walk back right now. He stood there and waited. A cab eventual came, and he told him to drive all the way back into the city.
          
It was still the afternoon. He stepped out at three. The area was sleepy. There was a little dust built up inside. He made tea and then went into the computer room, and sat there. He sent out a status update on his facebook that he was home for a few days. He didn’t have many emails. He went into the other room and turned on the tv. He watched soccer from time to time. He actually felt much better now, and he could just watch it.

After a while a few friends came around. They didn’t talk about her. He forgot about her. His mind wasn’t one to dwell. Most of the time he just thought about talking to people. He liked to talk. A lot of the time he just thought about the way he looked. If you asked, yes, he uses a tanning booth. He knew a thing or two about burns though.
            ‘You’re so self-involved.’
            ‘I am not.’
            ‘It just isn’t your decision. Everyone agrees.
            ‘We like how your skin shines though.’
            ‘I was in your bathroom looking at your products.’
            Sometimes people weren’t something he wanted to interact with.  It felt good to him to have bodies around.  We have ears to hear ourselves.

It was getting loud. A few people talking could be very loud.


*

She stood up after a while. She had stared at her face, screwed up her mouth some, checking her lipstick. She felt everything was a little silly. She had a few things to do even. He was becoming so aimless. She refrained from telling him what to do, but maybe she would say something. He always seemed to be drinking something, he still seemed to be getting stoned sometimes. She made a call to see if they need her in the store. They thought there might be some things for her to oversee. She took the elevator to where her car was parked and drove over. It was nice he wasn’t texting. She felt guilty about texting and driving. She had some young women working there, teenagers really. They sure did a good job. She supposed it wasn’t very hard. All she had to do was pay them. But it took a lot of time to speak with designers, and product distributors. Sometimes she felt self-conscious, they made her feel she would fade someday.
            There were a few packages she had to say what to do with, to go over and make sure they were still something they wanted. They weren’t sometimes. She looked over one of the girls. Mostly just her face. She was much taller. She had a bit of a dumb smile on her face. ‘Well. I’m going to go over revenues. I won’t be here long. It is amazing how much I trust you two on your own.’ She wasn’t smiling. Then she thought she ought to. She smiled very brightly all of the sudden, jumping up on her tippy toes, rocking down on her knees. She rushed off into the back of the store and sat at the desk, with her hand pressed to her forehead. Her eyebrows furrowed. 
            She read all of her very important documents for her store. No one ever thought she could do something like this. But they said don’t worry; we really are just going to do these things for you. She never felt quite that she was their Helen of Troy, however many arms of labor, and petals of grey matter, someday she thought she would pave something of her own road. She was even starting to make a profit. It was weird. When you were older it was harder to be a part of things. Work was the one way she kept meeting people, except at the bars. Life just seemed to be the same friends over and over. Later that evening, she elected they would not go out again.
            ‘I was just thinking this afternoon, how we are doing this same thing over and over. I wish we could do it differently this time. Let’s just stay here. There isn’t a reason for us to do anything but have some wine here. We never seem to have anything other than a million things to talk about. I cannot meet any more men tonight, regardless of where Reynold is. I feel as if I should say my back hurts, or at least that my feet hurt. I just don’t want to go outside right now. I’m aware that I’ve ruined our plans.’
            ‘We can stay here for a while. Surely later we will be too tired to go anywhere else.

*

After the game was over and it was about nine o’clock, he was all alone, and he really had drunken a few. He felt strangely woozy, it didn’t happen often. He walked to the balcony, and women passed, groups of people passed, sometimes there were loud young people, kids, who he regretted he did not know.  It was funny. They might actually be getting closer. He’d lost his enthusiasm for seeing other girls. His phone book just seemed to need to feel dejected. He didn’t even feel strongly connected to any of his friends. Lately, he thought maybe they were getting lonely together, and that he didn’t seem to need to be able share a bond with anyone else anymore. If he wrote a story it would be about all these different people he knows well. But he was getting older. There wasn’t really a divide between the young and the old, you just had to decide to stop being a teenager one day. He wasn’t sure there was such a thing as a twenty-something. Since he turned twenty, he felt life was all on some messy ratio, a beginning and an end, and some god-awful in-between space in which he was always stuck with these thoughts of his. What he wouldn’t give to have someone else’s thoughts. And that was what he was thinking. His friends’ thoughts weren’t enough. He sure hoped her personality was on the other end of some spectrum binary, because he wanted to lose it completely. The convenient thing about being back here was he had pain pills stashed enough to keep him unconscious for years. Usually he did this, went out, and woke up somewhere outside. There was no reason to go out this time, but when he woke up, he would feel much different.
            He felt very dehydrated, still very stoned. He felt different every one of these mornings.  He stayed around until the high wore off. He decided to drive back then. The sound of music was starting to get to him, and he turned the music off less than halfway through the trip. The traffic truly was a whole another headache.  Approaching Wessen, the rocking, water-side quality made him feel better. They had a good life, and aside from this, he thought they were getting closer.
            When he got there, she was still in bed, asleep he hoped. Earlier than when he thought he was supposed to.  He wasn’t one of these times to figure things out people. His throat was scratchy.  He got a bottled water from the fridge and waited until she awoke.
            When she came out, she looked perfect to him. Her bedclothes looked more normal, he felt.
            She scratched her head. ‘Oh. You didn’t tell me you were leaving.’
            ‘Figured you’d understand.’
            ‘You were going to go longer.’
            ‘Yes.’
            ‘Came back though.’
            ‘Yes. I’m an enthusiast of you.’
            ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘Can you go get coffee?’
            She went back to bed.
            When he came back, he went into the room, and she had managed to move to the desk, trying to answer some email. He didn’t think she could function with only one, usually she had many more before he even tried to speak with her, but she had only asked for one.
            Sometimes like when he was home he felt so dumb. But when they were together they could be so much smarter. And he cared for her so much more now than he had the other day.
            They could spend forever together, if they kept getting a little closer like this time, and that would help him. He needed someone that looked like her. He needed her, he guessed.
            He circled around and thought about leaving the room. He had no aim today. He felt quite happy. He stood there with her and the time passed.
           
           









           


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