Second & Division

Second & Division

A Story by Maeve Andrea
"

It is dangerous to be seen with me, and you are too much of a daredevil. One that runs counterintuitive to me. One I love too much for my own good.

"

It’s nice out.

The night is mild. I’m addicted to the chill on my skin, a fool for the feeling. I am a fool to many feelings, I suppose- and all of them are related to you. We can be found on a rooftop in the city above Second and Division overlooking the sights that are so much bigger than us, but who would look for us?

I suppose the anonymity is something I should be grateful for.

You light up next to me. I suppose my words about it being a bad habit only served to make me look too well-mannered, but I appreciate how you point away from me as you do.

You have a habit of poisoning yourself and a bigger habit of ensuring that you take no one with you.

I cup my hands over my mouth. You notice and cackle. I suppose I am too well-mannered for my own good. Still, I’ve given myself the confidence to stand next to you. I consider holding your hand but I have long felt it something I shouldn’t try. It’s more instinctual to pull my hand away before it starts than holding it ever would be.

I know myself, but more importantly, I know you. Loving someone like me would only accelerate your reckless tendencies. Your desire to crash and burn would outweigh your desire for me but would tremble in the wake of my desire for you.

You take a drag and joke about getting me a gas mask next time. I smile performatively, the desire to make as few waves as possible encoded into my DNA. I respond about how you shouldn’t get any ideas, which I suppose is my advice for you in general.

The wind chill from a thousand feet in the air overpowers me, and you offer to loan me your jacket. (I suppose tights and a summer dress is not the best city-watching attire, but unfortunately, beauty has taken over function in my mind.) I hesitate because in my most ideal fantasy I would rather borrow your arms and place them where the jacket should go, and my greatest fear is that you would oblige. Still, I take it with a thank-you-kindly and a glamor girl smile because I am satisfied with half-measures. Fifty percent to me may as well be two-hundred.

The jacket has your scent and I like how the brown leather accents my style. If only I were not such a coward and did more than the little I am obligated to do. I am so much already. Too much and I would be set off like a powerful and wayward firework as you have always wanted to be.

The preparation for launch is a powerful look.

If I wanted to leave the world a lovely corpse, I would steal your plans.

---

You are a college dropout in a city far lovelier than the sticks you were born in. You play in a punk band and style yourself to match. Were you equipped with a word counter I believe a good quarter of the things you say would make my instructors blush. You take pride in your transgressions, in how women are not supposed to be like you, but you are like you.

Take this not as a criticism- though, from me, you never would. Perhaps it’s as simple as the fact that I am a transgression with such natural flair that you envy me- misguided, but kind. Not many people want to get to know me, which is something you never feared. Knowing you has been the glue that has kept the pieces of my heart together. You are so kind, so understanding, and so fearless, and what goes unsaid is how well it blends into the graceless, unhindered, suicidal parts of you.

You let me style your hair. It is quite the adjustment to do so when I am so used to styling myself in quite a lovely and inconspicuous manner, knowing you hate the idea of being those things. Still, your latest gig is less than an hour away and I would hate to make you too late. You often tell me that the patrons of whichever dive bar you’re playing at will be too drunk to care about you being punctual (they’re all the same to you) but I’ve conditioned myself not to be the reason for inconveniences.

After I finish (your short hair sticks straight up- none of the half measures I hide in) you thank me for a job well done. You tell me I’m always so damn good at doing what I do. Even if you know why I am, I blush at the compliment like what I do is natural talent and not so precociously planned. You’ve sat in the chair as I molded your hair for perhaps too long, but you are always so patient and gentle with me.

I watch you leave and reach for a wig that rests on the vanity. I am too precise and practiced putting it on. I am nothing like you, but I was never meant to be.

---

The appeal of you has emerged in many ways. The one relevant now is how vividly I can replay your voice in my head days after you perform. The title of leading lady describes how you take prominence in every room around you, and how your screams and growls consume the places you perform, suffocate them in your grasp. Would I appreciate such cries were I not enamored with you? In a word, no. I would not because, in my mind, you are more than an emaciated coyote who howls at the moon.

No simple coyote would smile as warmly as you do, or brush your hand against my skin with careful, incorporeal tenderness that I haven’t convinced myself isn’t a fantasy. No simple coyote would throw their bass guitar into the back seat of their pickup and blush at the dash as they drive, asking if I had a good time or if anyone bothered me as though, with my full attention on you, I would notice if they did

I always respond affirmatively. You never push me.

In the quiet spaces of our conversations, I hear you howl at your own aggression- no simple moon- and wait for your voice to caress me in reality once more.

---

I tell you about me, not that I’ve much to tell. You’re such an open book that I feel as though I owe you that not-much. You’ve such a refreshing lack of judgment that I feel as though I can trust you.

I manage to tell you about college, about my sudden turn towards beauty school. I can tell you about some of the fashion tips I have learned. (You are somehow the only person on Earth who knows less than me about what women are supposed to do- though it’s not like you’re paying to learn). I tell you enough to satisfy you, to thank you for being there without using the words I and love and you.

I have never told you about the reasons that I call you at three in the morning just to hear your voice. I’ve never told you about how I hold femininity like a security blanket, the rules and regulations of who I said I wanted to be, and wish I could be as free as you. I’ve never told you of the impermanence I feel in your presence, how I fear so violently that I am one in a million and that you will forget about me as soon as you find the next one like me that will let you rebel with her into the stars where you two can explode against each other like you seem to want so badly. How I do not touch you because if I do I will believe I can die happy and the thought of being a pretty corpse is such an irresponsible, ungrateful end when I am so lucky that I am alive.

I expect someday to live alone with my thoughts. Perhaps this is simply practice.

---

You had to know this was going to happen.

In the truck I drown out the thoughts with memories of your voice. How I wish I could harness the power of your controlled anger, when you yourself are out of control at this moment, punching the dash and breaking the speed limit in ways I have to remind you to cease. More than once, at that.

(You usually don’t drive home drunk with me, though now you are punch-drunk more than anything.)

You mutter something against this mystery man about how f*****g dare he, what goddamn kind of nerve, son of a piece of s**t b***h, possibly in orders forming sentences I can’t make out. You’re nice. You’re insanely kind, and I blush at it, even though I note that you never ask me if I am okay. Then again, it’s not like I have much to say. I’m too used to it.

You repeat that he shouldn’t have done that, he shouldn’t have f*****g done that, I’m sorry that he thought he could do f*****g that.

But he did.

He did, and he will.

Your bass guitar rests in pieces in the seat behind you. Perhaps some pieces still have the tint of his blood on it. Though my skin has never touched it, I feel chiefly responsible for breaking it - not that you would hear of it. I would listen to reason, but that does not mean that I can apply it.

I ask why you care.

(It is weird that you care more than I. Maybe shock will wear off. Maybe I'm too used to this.)

You gawk at me while driving. At your request, I ask again.

You stare at the road, flummoxed. “Because… you’re incredible.”

I bow my head with a smile. It takes all of my willpower not to demand that you pull over so I can jump your bones on the side of the road, push you against the panels of your truck, rip your shirt off and kiss your neck and never let go until the entire world sees what a spectacle my love for you is, but I manage to fear enough to thank you quietly. A tear falls, and it is not one provoked by him.

I have run out of tears for people like him.

I only cry for those who care about me. I only cry because I never realized how deeply you’ve fallen for me.

I ask if I can be blunt for a second. You look around like someone is watching and say with a voice too shaky for levity that I can. It’s a joke but it is far too real for me to laugh.

There are a million eyes and they're all on my heart.

“You’re being naive.”

You slow down but nod, even though it doesn’t make sense. I take a deep breath, but strangely I have no craving to apologize for the fact that you decided to take me on as your closest friend. As your neither-of-us-even-know. As someone, something alone at a table until you decided to take a seat near me because I am quite the rebellious move.

You have a scene in your head. This is a scene of you being a bright candle that burns fast. History will never describe you but they will describe the attitude you have- the ideals that you live by, of living fast, dying young, and leaving a pretty corpse.

“This is the reality,” I tell her, “of being seen with someone like me. It will never be pretty.”

You don’t say anything other than “that makes sense” because it does. It makes too much goddamn sense.

I spend the ride missing the time in my life where I could think like you.

---

You have a notepad in your jacket pocket when we return to the roof again, and I know this because I’m wearing it. It’s isolated here, just you and I as always, even though the city we look at is not. Sometimes I wonder how you stay warm with all the holes in your jeans and fabric missing from your T-shirt that exposes the top of your chest without (to your disappointment) acting as cleavage.

You ask if I have ever written. I tell you I used to, back before I was lovely.

“You should start again.”

I think and tangle my hands through the pages of your notepad. The words I cannot see become part of my skin. It is you, and you are me.

I tell you I’ll give it thought. I swear not to entertain the thought any further.

Below us is the intersection of Second and Division. It always is. First Avenue and the river are behind us. The streets and the river run parallel to each other until they both stop abruptly to be swallowed up by the ocean where nothing follows. I don’t look down in case I am provoked to jump and you decide to follow me.

You tell me you thought about what I said and that I was right. I know I am, even as I wish I was wrong, but I thank you for seeing the world through my eyes for just a second. It’s silent as I realize that the longer you spend time with me, the more I poke holes into your ideals. I feared being carried away by your wave, but now I fear further that you will join my bitter placidity.

---

I can’t get the idea of writing out of my mind.

Like holding your hand I know that it is nothing I should do. If I do so, I would expose to you how my mind works, and I am less and less convinced over time that I should. Not because you would flee from it, but because you would follow me into my forays into actual darkness, not where the surroundings are black but invisible, and the idea terrifies me.

You don’t ask about it much, but I can tell by the way you look at me that you’re thinking about it. I can feel your eyes on me between songs you perform, and I always meet them with a smile that is too perfect. Sometimes I can read them. They tell me I should be on a stage like this.

The limelight was never home for me.

The audience has never gathered to welcome me.

I will never take a stage with the authority you do.

But it’s nice that you thought of me and what I wanted.

---

I clap as you perform because I want to encourage you to keep being like you, keep being naive, keep being invulnerable in your ignorance to how artless reality is.

I want to be like you.

I finally write something. Handwritten, like you, but more prim and proper than your primitive scrawlings. I write as though I were like you, and as I do, I realize how beautiful you are, and how much I resent you for your bravery and idiocy.

I finally get it all down.

I get down what I think you want for us both.

I don’t want it for either of us, but leaving a pretty corpse is a bitter inevitability the more I am faced with it.

---

I cry when I finish writing it because it is unfair that this is the most that I can amount to.

My eyes are dry and I smile girlishly when you put your jacket on and feel my note inside it.

---

You don’t offer your jacket to me that night when we rest atop the building over Second and Division. I lie flat on the building, even as it makes me dizzy because I am so very tired and the night chills cover me like a blanket. You read through my note again and frown to yourself.

“This isn’t like you.”

“Don’t you like it?”

You start to answer but cover your head, stressed by the truth of your unsaid answer. You’re so close to me, so far away, and I can’t convince myself it’s just right anymore.

“Is this really what you think?”

“Don’t you like it?”

Resentment poisons my voice and you notice. All you can do is shake your head, hands around your knees.

I just nod. I can’t say you’re incorrect.

Your voice cracks when you ask if anything is about to end. I tell you everything ends. You tell me that’s not an answer, but non-answers are how I communicate with the world. They’re my native language and everything else is the second.

It’s never been how I talked to you.

I’m so sorry.

“I never meant…” you throw your hands up and clap down on your knees. “I never meant for you to be like me.”

I straighten my black skirt. My eyeliner is applied quite better than it usually is.

“You don’t deserve this,” you plead, like I am unique in that regard, like I don’t already know this. “You’re not supposed to f*****g be like me!”

I do what I do best- I lie to make things better. “It’s okay.”

You just shake your head, because you know it’s not okay. It’s not okay for me to be like you.

Maybe you’re right.

I just don’t want to stay as I am.

---

We head back to your place in the truck. Your old bass is still a broken mess with my name on it.

“You write so well,” you confess. “Like, I don’t want you to think that you don’t have any writing talent. I just…”

“It’s okay,” I repeat. By now the words have lost all meaning.

You stare at the road again. The city streets are slower, and they aggravate you with their unyielding demands for patience. If only things were instant. “Is there... f**k, is there anything I need to know?”

“I just thought that you would want to read words like that.”

You honk the horn when you ram her head into it for a moment. You are not a cautious driver. Thank god we hit a red light beforehand or our corpses would be premature and not at all pretty.

“Damn it, I wanted you to write for you.” The words are too fast for me to interject without interrupting, and that’s impolite to do. “I write myself so often, you know. These songs. It’s how I get by. I just want you to write for you.”

I realize then that all of the songs you sing are the pieces of your heart that decay and chip off, and I am so sorry for ever downplaying those. I set my hand in the center compartment and you don’t take it. I suppose it’s only fair.

“I’m sorry.”

You nod, trying not to choke on your own spit.

“Just… whatever you write, I’ll read. But I want you to write it. If that makes any f****n’ sense.”

I believe you.

I wonder when I will write.

The light turns green.

---

We stay together through the night because you’re terrified and won’t admit it. You won’t admit that you think I’ve given up. You won’t admit that you don’t want to wake up in a world without me. I can read it in your face and I want to take back every thought that discredited you, that told me that the next oddity to show up would steal your heart because I never would have the guts to claim it.

I never would.

I can't do never to myself.  

So I sing.

I put a spell on you.

I sing, because I trust myself to sing the words of others. I sing low, sultry, using my untrained voice in the most beautiful way that I know how. I lean up and sit on the couch, blankets draping my stockings that reach up to my waist.

Because you’re mine.

I can hear the commotion in your room as you awaken. You swear as I hear the raucous shoving of wooden drawers distant from me. I sing louder.

You better stop the things you do.

You stop. I love the silence.

I ain’t lying.

No, no, no, no no no no.

Your door creaks open. I push my blankets aside, the nightshirt you loaned me clutching my chest. The scent of you is overpowering when I notice it so explicitly.

You know I can’t stand it.

I feel a single footstep. Yours sound distinct, even when not in boots. They pierce the floor like your voice pierces the heavens.

You’re running around.

Another footstep. You’ve never been more cautious.

You know better, woman.

The closer you walk to me, the louder my voice gets, the more I mean the words that others write for me.

I can’t stand it, cause you put me down.

Finally, you reach the living room. You’re wearing the same shirt as yesterday and a pair of underwear. There’s something in your eyes I recall being there before but never truly noticed.

I put a spell on you…

You sit on the couch next to me. I wait for you. You look at me with the new eyes I never noticed.

I set my hands on your shoulders.

I mean it.

Even though I whisper it, I mean it.

Because you’re mine.

---

I think I said a lot of things.

Probably.

But I don’t think it meant to you what it f****n’ meant to me.

I didn’t?

All of that… pretty corpse s**t. That’s not what it was about. I don’t care about who people think I was. I never have. F**k, I…

What did you mean?

I just…. I want them to know who I am. I want them to be f****n’ proud. I know I'm crazy and all destructive and s**t, but that's what I want them to see me as now. I want them to see me and think “that’s one f*****g stand-up crazy b***h.”

...where do I factor into that?

You said that being with you would never be pretty. I kept kicking that around in my head. And I realized that I don’t really care.

…!

Are you okay? S**t, I didn't mean to make you cry. D****t, way to g-

Don't…

...don't tell me you don't care, darling. I can't stand it. I know the day will come.

S**t, well then maybe I shouldn’t say that I don’t care. Maybe I will someday. Maybe, f****n’, it’ll hurt someday, you know? I don’t know a goddamn thing. But…

...but?

...it’s you, you know? You make me better. You always have. Everything I do, it’s because I want you to be proud of me too.

I am, darling. I am.

---

I should have been from the start.

---

I think you would like things to be immediate, but transitions take a lot of time. Sometimes all you can do is crawl forward.

I lean into your shoulder as you sleep. I fit just nicely there. Your scent I have traced down to the makings of cherrywood, cheap beer, and violence. It is… you, even though you are not sure how you you are.

I am not so sure how me I am. I am more adventurous a lover than I had ever imagined, clumsy as I may be. I am such a filthy belligerent mess to you that I catch you off guard, and the thrill of your shock sustains me. I make love to you like a disaster and sing to you like a healer, with words not my own. I sing to you because it’s okay, it’s okay, it will all be okay, and after you fall asleep I keep singing so I can believe it too.

I spend so much time at your home even though my place is nicer. I suppose it’s because my place is where I once lived and one I expected to be lonely forever when your place is as kind to me as you are. I practice for cosmetology at your home. You're my test dummy, and you always comply with a smile. You even wear a few of my looks out of the house, which I would worry about had I not taken to designing for messy angels. Every time you and the band perform you look at me as you sing and I always look back in a way that no one really notices but us. When I hold your hand and you introduce me to your bandmates, I feel safe.

I don’t know why I was ever afraid to be yours.

You never let yourself fall into the flames and I let them refine me. We stay where we are with each other until it becomes stable, but we manage to treat ourselves with a little more reverence than usual. The effigies of ourselves burn, and what is left is plain, artless, and quite comforting.

We have not told each other that we love each other.

We mean it.

---

I write and scribble out words as we sit above Second and Division. You lean against my shoulder but you don’t look. You aren’t the prying type. You keep your jacket on, but you are warmer than I had ever imagined. You don’t smoke as much as you used to, though you were never a nicotine addict. You don’t tell me that you just thought it would make you look cool, but I can gather it.

I look at you, and you’re always smiling. When you perform it’s with more life than ever. I would perform nothing like you but it lets me drink it in and keep it in my thoughts like the greedy lover that I am. Your happiness is my greatest achievement.

Maybe the first that I can allow myself to have.

I get a few sentences down, and surprisingly they are not as bad as I feared. They’re pretty but simple. They aren’t as afraid to get to the point in the simplest, starkest fashion as they used to be.

I suppose I am done hiding behind half-measures.

Perhaps it’s fine wanting more.

I set the notepad on my shorts, by the knees where the fabric ends and my skin begins, no stockings to cover it up. I think on the words, then I think about you telling me you want me to write it.

It makes a lot of sense, darling.

I think, and pick up the notepad again. My latest poem consists of questions. I rewrite all of them as statements. I swear I can see you smile, but I pretend not to notice.

But I do.

I do, and I live for it.

© 2018 Maeve Andrea


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I cried reading this.
Thank you so much for such a lovely and relatable story.

Posted 11 Months Ago



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Added on September 27, 2018
Last Updated on October 6, 2018
Tags: queer, romance, band, punk, glamour, reckless, mask, rooftop, pretty corpse

Author

Maeve Andrea
Maeve Andrea

Delhi, Delhi, India



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