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Everywhere He Sees Her-Fiction by Oliver Lodge
Vegas Phoenix-Fiction by Steve Prusky
Bad Burger-Fiction by Willie Smith
Death and Forsythia-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Eileen-Fiction by Ray Valent
Eleventh Frame-Fiction by Bruce Harris
Regarding the Destruction...-Fiction by Matthew Lyons
The Next Step-Fiction by Nicholas Manzolillo
What Men Show Whores-Fiction by M. E. Purfield
You Should've Called Me-Fiction by Carol Sojka
At the Zombie Five and Dime-Reprint by Kenneth James Crist
Cassie-Reprint by Frank Zafiro
Nice Life if You Don't Weaken-Reprint by Michelle Reale
Old Aunt Sin-Reprint by Gary Lovisi
Yellow Mama-Reprint by Cindy Rosmus
Bald Baby-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Ruby-Flash Fiction by Liz McAdams
Widow's Might-Flash Fiction by M. C. Neuda
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning-Flash Fiction by Victor Clevenger
Sunday Evening-Flash Fiction by Victor Clevenger
Monday, Around Noontime-Flash Fiction by Victor Clevenger
The Woman on the Train-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
What Have Some of Us Become?-Poem by John D. Robinson
She Knows Something-Poem by John Lunar Richey
Harley Caress-Poem by Joe Balaz
The Unspoken Words-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
A Thunderstorm's Sideshow-Poem by David Spicer
Fruits, Vegetables, and Mindy's Topaz Eyes-Poem by David Spicer
Catherine-Poem by J.J.Campbell
Failures With Past Lovers-Poem by J.J.Campbell
Stomp-Poem by David Mac
Wilt?-Poem by David Mac
Carol of the Bells-Poem by Robert Beveridge
Eden-Poem by Robert Beveridge
Crazy, Crazy-Poem by Marc Carver
Love-Poem by Marc Carver
The Worst Poet in the World-Poem by Marc Carver
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

heseesher.jpg
Art by Noelle Richardson 2017

Everywhere He Sees Her

 

Oliver Lodge

 

“So purposeful is the ovum in its quest that it figuratively contorts and drives the mind of humanity in ways we have barely begun to understand. With disguises and subterfuges to entrap and allure, the little seductress makes the goal so desirable that it sometimes seems beyond attainment, and therefore more to be pursued.” –Sherwin B. Nuland

 

 She’s been seen by some of his friends. He knows this because they share the same social circle. Though they are sure to keep this hidden from him whenever they talk, he knows that she’s around. He tries not to bring her up. He knows that everyone is sick of hearing about her – so much so that the very mention of her has come to make them feel uneasy. They try to talk some sense into him. They tell him to forget about her and move on. Some of his friends have even resorted to insulting her, citing her reputation for promiscuity. Others tell him that his obsession with her is flat out creepy. They accuse him of stalking her. This hurts his feelings. He becomes defensive and shuts down emotionally. A few alliances are permanently ruptured over this very issue. He does everything in his power to resist mentioning her name to the remainder of his friends even though it is always on the tip of his tongue, but time and time again he hears himself asking about her the moment the opportunity presents itself. The inquiry inevitably creates an awkward rift in the conversation, obliging his confidant to change the subject and move on to something else. The more he brings her up, the more distant his friends become. Soon they start avoiding him altogether.

     Still, he can’t stop thinking about her. He sees her wherever he goes.

     He takes the long way home and drives through town hoping he might see her. What would he do if he saw her? Nothing, he supposes. That’s the way she wants it. She has made that clear. But a longing draws him in search of her nonetheless. A strong pull from the center of his cramped stomach compels him to turn the corner and drive through a busier section of the city in hopes of finding her. He imagines seeing her legs amidst the bustle of lunchtime traffic – the crisp, clean cotton of her slacks peering through a temporary aperture which has formed amidst the swish of shirts and bending legs of the weekday rush. In rhythm to the sway of a merciful breeze on a hot day, perhaps he would see a strand of her hair hover out of place as she nimbly makes her way to her destination, the waves of the lock tracing the aura of her movements like an artist’s sketch. If only for an instant, the curves of her body and the sharp contours of her physiognomy would caress this vision behind a comforting veil of the softest rapture…

     A car pulls up beside him at a stop light. He sees a woman behind the wheel. She is talking and laughing with a friend sitting in the passenger seat – the likes of whom he is unable to discern. The woman’s hair and the curve of her slim nose are lit up by the setting sun. She is happy. She feels contained and confident with whomever she is with. At first he thinks it is her. Her eyes and the length of her hair are similar. Within a second he can tell it’s someone else. But wishful thinking keeps him looking out of the corner of his eye for an extra second as the light changes and they pull away from one another, never to be in such close proximity again.

     ‘How many of her could there possibly be?’ he asks himself. ‘Over there she is walking into a store. Somewhere else she is getting off a bus. She can be seen on a treadmill through the window of a gym down the street. At yet another location she is chaperoning a field trip for an elementary school. So what is it then? Are there a million of her or is there just one?’

     He knows the answer. He just has to remind himself that there’s only one of her. She could never be duplicated. These doppelgangers are just a cruel invention of his mind attempting to recreate the splendor of her image.

     The search is over for the day. Not surprisingly, she is nowhere to be found. He feels silly for having taken the unnecessary detour as he travels the last few blocks home. He tries to imagine her body as repulsive just to get her out of his mind. He knows it is ridiculous to associate her with all that is clean and honest because no such girl exists. Certainly not her. He would not be struggling like this if she were pure. The pain of his loneliness is an exposed nerve pleading for ablation. It’s an open sore that refuses to heal. He spends all night in his apartment trying to get her out of his head, but he can’t. After two years of sobriety, he is no longer able to maintain his resolve. He purchases a bottle of scotch and a six-pack of beer to chase it down. He chooses to drink alone in his apartment rather than be seen in all his shame and sadness at a bar. He wants to be alone with his thoughts as he drinks his woes away. The alcohol dulls the pain but fails to erase the problems that continue to gnaw away at his conscience. He goes to bed feeling sick and worthless. 

 

     She comes to him in his sleep, taking a seat beside him on a stone bench in a garden at a quaint, secluded location. A rush of relief pours through him when she places a concerned hand on his knee.

     “You need to get over this fixation you have with me,” she says sympathetically. “It’s unhealthy and it’s ruining your life. Your friends are right. You need to focus on staying sober, earning a living, and being a responsible father to your son.”

     His head falls into his hands with the weight of the worst despair. His guilt torments him to such a degree that it threatens to drive him into a state of total disrepair.

     “I’m so sorry,” he cries. “I locked you inside my heart and threw away the key.”

     “No need to be sorry,” she tells him. “You did nothing wrong. I’m flattered, in fact.” She puts her arm over his shoulder comfortingly and let’s slip a giggle of modesty when she says, “You give me far too much credit with all of this admiration. How could I ever live up to all these ideas you have about me? You’re only imprisoning yourself by thinking this way. You know that, don’t you? I’ll just be doing what I would normally do in this lifetime regardless of these grandiose fantasies of yours. I cannot give to you what you want from me. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. You are looking for something from me which I don’t have to give. If anything you should let go of me for the sake of your own freedom.”

     Sheepishly, he looks up at her and says, “I just thought that if perhaps I could see you…”

     “And how would seeing me help the matter?”

     “I think it would resolve the issue.”

     “The majority of problems in the world go unresolved,” she says. “Ties stay broken and, more often than not, love is unrequited. The wind does not carry every seed to fertile soil and many flowers go unpollinated every season. But that is no need to start a war within yourself, a war you wind up waging against others when they are unable to see things your way. Your self-worth does not depend on my attainment. You have been in serious relationships that have not gone your way before and you have possessed the integrity to move on with your life. To be human is to yearn. And yearn you must. But yearn for the sake of yourself and you will know happiness and freedom that is yours alone. Considering all that you have been through, it will be easy to let me go. And that is what you need to do. Let me go!”

 

    He wakes up from this dream with a refreshed sense of resolve. It takes him a few days to recuperate from the binge but his perseverance pays off. He reconnects with friends and takes a long overdue trip to see his father and stepmom in Georgia. They are overjoyed to receive him. They help him catch up on his bills and get back on his feet during the week he stays with them. While walking on the boardwalk with his stepmother one day he thinks he sees the object of his affection jogging towards them and his heart freezes. Instead of putting himself down, he is able to laugh at himself when he soon realizes it is someone else. His son comes down for the second half of the visit. He is awestruck over how charming and intelligent his little boy has become at such a young age. The long talks he has with him during their reunion breathe new hope into his soul.

     But when his son is returned to the care of his mother and he goes back to his hometown, he becomes preoccupied with the young woman again. One day he sees a group of her friends, but she is not with them. He finds himself looking for her on line at the racetrack and down the empty aisles of the supermarket. Of course, it’s to no avail. A quiver runs down his tummy when he goes into a bank to cash a check and notices that four of the tellers are brunettes – they have the same shade of hair as the woman he can’t bring himself to forget. The patter of his heart slows down as he observes that one lady’s hair is too straight, the other one is too portly, the other two are nothing compared to her...

     ‘How can someone be everywhere and nowhere at the same time?’ he asks himself dejectedly while leaving the bank.

     He runs into an old friend who is also having a bad day. They go back to his apartment and share a fifth of gin. His friend’s neighbor drops by. He has scored some crack. The three of them divvy it up and smoke it. They pool their money together and buy more after it’s finished. By three in the morning there are four men and one woman squeezed inside the studio apartment. A bare lightbulb in the center of the ceiling lights up the scene. The walls are stained with nicotine and smudges of old spaghetti sauce. The frame of the doorway to the tiny kitchen is blotted with gray-brown fingerprints. They take turns smoking crack and having sex with the woman throughout the night. Only one of the men is prudent enough to wear a condom. He is not that one. 

     By morning he has gone through all the money his father and stepmom have given him. He is dehydrated. He has a headache. A tart taste will not leave his mouth and the rheum of yesterday’s sweat covers his skin. He lies down and tries to rest even though his entire body is trembling. His heart is beating frantically and he is unable to lay in one place, let alone sleep. He scrapes up enough change to buy a few bottles of malt liquor. He draws the blinds and drinks non-stop throughout the day. The alcohol fails to assuage his anxiety. Fearing he will go insane if he does not have a stroke first, he calls 9-1-1. The rescue squad comes and he is admitted to a hospital. There he is kept under observation. He must be sedated to keep from hyperventilating as he sweats out the toxins in his body. Throughout this ordeal, he remembers that he has not called his son since his arrival back in New York. He chastises himself for this.

     After a nurse gets his vitals, another woman enters his room. It is her! She’s wearing glasses and has gained some weight but still retains that distinct glow. He recognizes her by the equidistances between her temples and her twinkling eyes, forming that sumptuous harmony which had originally drawn him to her. Mechanically, she introduces herself as an intern for the hospital. She does not recognize him. He is malnourished and has grown a beard. He becomes self-conscious when he sees that it is her. He pulls his blanket up over himself tighter to cover his hairy belly and his bony arms. She concentrates on reading the questions to him on the clipboard she holds in her lap. He answers her in monosyllables, hoping his voice will not sound familiar to her. He notices a wedding ring on her finger. ‘She got married?’ he thinks. ‘I wonder who her husband is. I bet she is a wonderful wife.’ She acquires the information she needs within minutes before leaving. The traffic of staff members coming in and out of the room to attend to him divert him from thinking about who he has just seen. The drugs he has been given at the hospital have calmed his nerves and he is able to convince the personnel to release him.

     His unemployment check is waiting for him when he gets home. He plucks it out of the clutter of other letters in his mailbox and cashes it. He picks up a bottle of cheap liquor on his way to where his friend’s neighbor lives. The woman from his dreams no longer occupies his thoughts. All he can think about is getting a few hits of crack. All he needs to do now is get high.

 

 

 

Oliver Lodge is an author who lives in upstate New York. He has been published in “Blood Moon Rising Magazine”, “Body Parts Magazine”, and “Yellow Mama”.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017