The journal was a thing, not a person. The journal should not have feelings, wants or desires. The journal should not speak, should not dictate.
But it did.
It was alone. It was surrounded.
It was hers, it was a guide to no where in particular. It did not tell the future and it was not meant to make her fortunes better. It was no decades old, passed down from mother to daughter to improve luck and win the lottery, there was no ritual. It had been made partially by hand, partially by factory, bought by the mother in a bookstore long ago.
It had dreams of being the conduit to the next great American novel or keeping the secrets of an heiress which would later become a memoir which would later become a movie on Lifetime. But it was empty.
It had been full of hopes and dreams and words that the mother had collected and saved from magazines written in the dark light of the morning or overheard in the grocery store. The words had fallen away and continued to fall away into the books that washed over the girl, her dark hair splayed on the couch, the cat purring itself in contentment. The words were never to be seen and would not be seen except sometimes the journal liked one.
It liked pennies.
It liked the light way it glanced off the tongue and how tiny yet important the shiny coper pieces were. It liked the double ns, the way you could let the eeeeeeeis slide up or down into light or dark or be as crisp as a autumn apple. It liked the word
So it kept it. It kept it from sliding off the page into the books collected about the ramshackle apartment like a hoarder or nothing but paper and lost love.
The journal cried for the girl who had been heartbroken twice over, somewhat by her own device. The journal cried words and sniffled punctuation marks. The journal lay alone, surrounded by the other books that did not feel as it did, did not talk did not cry words did not hold hopes and dreams just words printed on a page once written by a man or woman in a cabin or hotel room hoping that they had written the next great novel hoping that maybe the advance would be enough to pay the rent. The books were not like the journal. Not at all.
This is not a story to make anyone feel better and maybe there are no fairy tale endings here, but there is something. The wash wash wash of the words and the spilling of letters onto white can ease. There is no moral, there is no overt struggle.
It is not easy, it is not hard. This is a story. Just a story about a girl, a boy, another boy, a journal and a life. Maybe there will be more people, maybe less.
Stop reading now if you want to leave with a better view of the world.
It was perfect. She looked at her three jars of pennies. Perfect.
She leaned back on the couch, putting her book down, awash in words of a fantasy novel – she smelled the leather and heard the clink of metal the sweat and the bodice around her ribcage. She lay down on the couch and let the words float there, like waves washing over her her as she stared at the pennies, shining copper in the afternoon light it was a mental health day or actually a day she just wanted to take off for no reason other than she could and something told her to.
She breathed in the hot air, the stray cat who now waited for her every night outside her apartment door purring as he lay on her feet. He looked up as she looked at him hoping she would not get up and then realizing she would not fell promptly back asleep but not after stretching the full length of his body.
She placed her hand on the catcalling him purr and then leaned back, the book on her chest and closed her eyes.
It was perfect.
Kevin looked at her, the brunette at the bar.
She reminded him of something. Someone. He was old and tired and was not sure why he was at this bar full of twenty somethings trying to climb into each other’s beds, but he was here.
He drank his whisky slowly, savoring the spice.
She looked like….it was not her but the look in her eyes, the nothing. It was not a vast emptiness of lack of intellect, he could see the sparkle of intelligence, but it was a nothing a nothing he knew in eyes once years ago in the girl he first loved and who left without a word. A girl he somehow knew in his gut had been something special.
He remembered her dirty blonde hair, the look of her body unclothed in his button down shirt, the ends skimming her thighs in the light.
“This will never be, you know,” she said. He had not believed her. A man who did not love but had loved her. He had later married and done his duty, love his wife, loved his children but never loved again like that.
He had them to fill the space.
He remembered her wild hair, the nothing in her eyes, the intent nothing.
He looked at the brunette, laughing.
He downed his whisky, unable to be near her anymore. He walked out into the night, back to the hotel to call his wife.
Jack was not quite happy. She was not unhappy either. She was nothing.
Sorry, I desperately need to catch up on these.
He called her again, hoping against hope this time she would answer. He told himself it was because she was now unattainable that he needed her, he missed the smooth curves on her body, soft isn the right places and hard underneath.
He waited. He slept with other women, looking for what he did not know. He acted the same toward them and they fell in love with him. They fawned and called and sent texts asking ambiguous questions about his corporate life hoping he would come over and the shine was gone. The shine of being needed was completely gone.
Once his friend persuaded him to go to a boxing match and he caught sight of her near the ring, other fighters leaning over to whisper in her ear and he knew she must have forgotten He walked behind her later as she walked to the bathroom drinking in her scent and he realized he must miss her. She would return texts sometimes, never asking to see him.
He did not know what was wrong with him.
He stared at the blonde staring at him down the bar and he sighed. Might as well.
She did not open the journal again for months. Instead she filled her time with work and the few friends she had gathered from the job. She spent weekends at the beach, alone, reading book after book and remembering some of the words she just moved her eyes over but not many in a trance she lost herself in other worlds of the author’s construction the words washing over her verbs and adverbs it never mattered what the book was about but it did matter that the words called to her.
She trolled flea markets and used bookstores, stacking the books by the side of her bed and on top of her TV, eventually obscuring it.
When she was not reading she looked out windows or over hills as she hiked, looking for the same smells and plants from Montant and smiling a little bit when a bird or a leaf reminded her of that week.
She went to prizefights, watching boxers dance in the limelight, people shaking their hands in excitement screaming name and curses and more. She watched the boxers dance around up over left right down each other and then one fell back with intensity and she watched. She went tot he bar where the hung out afterwards, friends yet enemies, swinging back tequila to nurse their aching jaws and sore arms. She talked to them and they fell in love with her grace which was funny because she had been seeking grace for so long and here it was in a chair next to boxers who smiled at her with slightly crooked teeth and broken noses and bruises. They told her secrets and gave her free tickets to more matches though she never went home with any of them they kissed her in moments of passion unable to hold themselves back and she smiled at them, looking at their lost eyes, hoping she would be more. She would hold their hand, letting their fingers and calluses slip through hers, hard spots remembering the gloves and wraps they had just been released from.
They loved her and she loved them and she walked home alone every night, picking up pennies along the way.
He looked out at the cattle, moving slowly in the morning light.
He looked down at his hands holding the reigns. He caught a glimpse – a shining long hair in the sunlight. Brown and lonely, clinging to his sleeve in the wind. He stared at it and flashed on the memories of past hesitating to touch the hair because maybe if he did so the memories would stop flooding his mind with remembrances of something he wanted to cherish for the rest of his life. Part of him wanted to chase after her and part of him knew it wasn’t meant to happen – it wasn’t meant to be what the movies said it would be not the kind of love that stays by your side forever it was the kind of love that is fleeting in it’s intimacy the kind that burns a whole in your soul forever.
So he stared at the hair shining in the sunlight and he hoped she was well and smiling like he remembered. So he stared at the hair grasping for him and remembered her grasping him back arched mouth open clinging to him in the morning light. So he stared at the hair and waited. He watched it lose it’s grip and in a floats he moved his other hand to grasp it and held the hair between his fingers, rolling it and his nose was filled with her scent sweet and salty and lingering and then he let go. He watched it float away from the cattle, into the sunrise.
(I’m considering calling this thing Penny Collector. What do you think?)
He shall reman nameless. She decided never to put his name in her mind again. He kept calling, texting but she would only respond selectively to random queries had felt like responding to.
He would stay that way because because because she hated who she had been with him. Jack had loved him or tried to she had turned into a crazy woman. The need for his breath in her ear the need for his cock inside was beyond just physical there was something cathartic that came with him that made her want to explode and leave the world behind but then she lost herself she lost the person she had been inside of him as if with every orgasm he took more and more of her away, dissolved her insides and soul and built up someone some thing else. A person she did not recognize when she would look in there mirror and see the look in her eye, the quiet desperation to be in his arms to be touched or touch him for even an instant and the pain and desolate openness that would result from his leaving her to the point where she old go mad in her pain and need of him and try and hold it back texting innocuous questions about his corporate comfortable life needing wanting god she did not know this person.
She did not know herself as she slowly dissolved underneath him. And yet she needed that as if she were addicted to his presence. She fought with herself until she could do it no longer and then she would run and come back, tail between her legs the need for his touch growing so fast with so much pressure like a balloon in her chest that she could not help but find a way to reconcile and forget he was who he was because somehow she had convinced herself that he would grow change or hurt her less this time and he would make false promises she could hear it in his voice but still she accepted them and they went to bed to fill the addiction she needed.
Jack stared at the word more.
Not nickels, dollar, dime quarters, bills coins just pennies. The smallest least worthwhile form of payment the forgotten little coins that everyone loathed to carry, weighing down pockets and purses.
She generally disliked them and left them behind in trays and on tables, though she did have a habit of picking up pennies that were face up.
“Find a penny pick it up and all day long you’ll have good luck,” she murmured to herself. She went to the kitchen and opened her bare cabinets and looked at the tiny morsels of foods that were still left then pulled down a jar of spaghetti sauce she had bought on sale last week opened the jar and dumped out the contents into the sink rinsing it all away with water from the tap. She rinsed out the jar and rummaged through her purse. Six pennies.
Jack dropped them into the jar one by one clink clink clink.
WIth that she began collecting pennies. Many of them. Hundreds, thousands millions. She did not go out of her way to get them she just saved her change and the pennies she found on the street, slowlyassuredy. when one jar was full she would buy another jar of the same spaghetti Saudi and empty it into the sink, rinsing the sauce away with tap water and then the jar and then placing the pennies in one by one clink clink clink.