Story Time: Shirt to Skin, We Sit Together

We sit. His back pressed against mine. His scarred skin flush against the thin fabric of my shirt. His head is bowed, and his snores are light. He is warm against me.

Late into the night, we sit like this. Passing a tepid cup of coffee between us. He drinks from one side. I from the other.

Sometimes we break, and we are parted. But never far from touch. We step outside into the grass, looking into the night sky. Fingers brush as a burning stick is passed back and forth.

But we always come back, smoke in our lungs, to our pads of paper and pens. He writes in blue, I in red. And we take up space again on the couch.

His back against mine, his head leans back as he looks to the ceiling. Brown eyes tired but filled with thought.

I turn my head, I smile and pass him a scrap of paper. He brushes my cheek with his fingers before righting himself and getting back to work.

Through all the years and all the tears he is my best friend. Through heaven and hell we’ve trampled, and still we stand together.

It’s times like these, the quiet times, when pens scratch paper, that I’m reminded that I’m not alone. Because we’ll always be alone together.

His head droops forward, and the night wears on. My own eyes start to close.

And still with backs pressed together, here we will always sit.

Story Time: A Ghost Story

In honor of the upcoming candy grubbing costumed holiday of Halloween, have this little diddy I wrote back in 2010.

       It crept upon me, in this room. The very shadows stirred and stretched to snatch me from the warmth of the blankets that hid me from the world. Their hands, like sharpened blades, scratched my skin. My beautiful, pale flesh was a cross-hatched enigma to the minds of the men and women gathered around me, poking and prodding with their latex covered digits… I blinked, and the stark memory of when I had last seen this room was gone. With my head tilted, I listened to the soft spoken words of those who’d come to see the man that stayed here.

“How did this happen?”

“No one knows.”

“When was it?”

“Two, maybe two thirty. It’s hard to tell in this light.”

“Who was on duty?”

“I’ll call the orderlies from last night.”

“Don’t bother. Riggs is still here, taking a double shift.”

“What about the other… what’s his name?”

“Garret.”

“Yes, that’s his name. Wasn’t he in last night?”

“Well, yes. But he-”

“He what Silverman?”

“He couldn’t have heard anything. We were restraining Victoria last night. She wouldn’t stop her fits, even after we tried to sedate her.”

I looked up at all the faces, fraught with worry and consumed by curious thought. Silverman was lying. Her right ear twitches when she lies. I saw her, with Garret, last night, just across the hall in the room that has been empty for months. Of course Garret couldn’t hear anything, not with her lips pressed to his ear and her voice rising in pitch as he stuck it to her against the white wall when they both should have been making their rounds.

“Call up Patterson, we’re going to need the cart.”

“What about the family?”

“He was alone, for the most part.”

“No parents? No relatives?”

“None. His father died just under a year ago. Liver failure they say. His uncle lives in Europe, and no one was able to get in contact with him, or anyone else.”

“It’s a shame. He was such a nice young man. He was always so polite…”

“We’d better get this one bagged and tagged. Call the local priest.”

“Whatever for?”

“He was a deeply religious man.”

“I see…”

I sighed, standing up and brushing off my knees as I watched them. Their expressions changed, slowly at first, from serious curiosity to pity, and finally sadness. I crouched beside him, and examined his face very closely. He was smiling, his eyes open and his head turned slightly, as if he were glancing out the window. I touched his forehead lightly and straightened his hair. He had a lot of visitors today. It wouldn’t do for him to look like such a mess. I touched his hand as he was lifted, and my fingers trailed along his arm as they took him from the room. I followed them, and stood in the doorway of the room.

“Where are they taking me?” he asked.

“To the morgue downstairs,” I replied.

“Really now? I’ve never seen one of those before.”

“You aren’t missing much.”

I smiled. I looked down the hall, where the doctors that once had poked the man with their rubber clad fingers spoke amongst themselves. When the eldest of them followed out the doors where the body disappeared, the others returned to where we were.

“Did you hear?”

“No… what happened?”

“I don’t care what that old boff says… that poor man.”

“Wasn’t he the one with the brother that…”

“He was. He didn’t handle the loss well, and…”

“I see…”

I sighed, and turned to him, holding out my hand. “This place is boring,” I said. “Let’s go find something better to do Aaron.”

“I don’t want to… can’t we just look around a little? Please James?”

“Oh… alright. Just for a few minutes,” I said, reaching out my hand. He slipped his in mine, and it felt as if the two fit together like a puzzle. “What did you think about when you died?”

“Remember the summer uncle took us all over Europe to follow his favorite soccer team around, and that one game where this guy took your seat when you left to go to the bathroom?”

“Yeah. What about it?”

“Uncle didn’t punch that guy, I did.”

“And you let him get carried off by the police!”

“Yeah… We had a lot of fun… what did you think about?…”

I smiled. “When we were six and dad accidentally drove the car into a stop sign, and the police officer wouldn’t believe him when he said he was sober, but blind.”

“Where do we go after this?”

“Dunno. I’ve been waiting for you to croak so you can come with me. You’re not mad are you?”

“No. Not really,” he said as we stepped through the door and went down the stairs to go watch the mortician dissect the cold form that was my brother. “Did you ever get your belly button pierced like you wanted?”