J. Brundage - September 2006
|OBLIVION GARDENS: CHAPTER TWO
I was fixated on the young woman, staring at the charm of her crinkling nose and pink mouth. Her figure was soft and rounded, though not especially large. She twisted her wrist in a semi-circular pattern so that the bottles of Mexican beer clinked against each other. Her friend or coworker held four 24oz energy drinks. What the hell takes 96oz of taurine, guarana, and caffeine? Okay, maybe they're going to a party and using them for mixed drinks or something, but it's still weird. I had opted for the new semi-decent hot green tea that the store now carried. It was funny that the cheap black tea went faster than any of the foil-packaged teas. They actually had fresh lemons today, so I added a slice -- bonus. I tried not to dig my fingers completely through the plastic covering my egg salad sandwich while I zoned out to the talk of "OG", heel squeaking, and my upcoming turn at the register.
The two women in front of me left in separate late model foreign cars. One of them appeared to be driving in the direction of my neighborhood. I had nothing planned for the night except television and maybe finishing one of several books I was reading, so I followed. She lost me in less than two minutes, but I could still take the specific side street where the car had turned. I frequently went for post-workday walks through the neighborhood and liked watching the sun set during most of the year. This was one of those times where it looked like an evil blueberry filling devouring its golden crust. I wandered past the juniper shrubs lining the lawn beside me, inhaling deeply with each swing of my arms.
The neighborhood had changed little in the two years I'd lived at the same address. The nice houses looked even more charming and historical; the crappy apartments and duplexes aged slightly. The pumps at the gas station were renovated to look more modern. Light-up sign letters at the Middle-Eastern deli broke and were never replaced. A few yards had landscaping work done. Mostly, it was the same place.
These were regular walks across the same streets, in the same neighborhood. Across the street, beyond more juniper shrubs and a few trees, stood an apartment complex that I'd never noticed. I crossed the street to better view the illuminated letters against their oval sign. Glowing green: *Oblivion Gardens*.
Electric gates repeated the O and the G next to the metal bars that met. Squeaking heels and pretty pink mouth weren't discussing gangsta rap. I tapped on the gate, to be really sure it was closed. It was totally immoveable, though I was tempted to randomly punch numbers on the keypad attached to the callbox. Ten yards away, the office was lit from within.
The door was only accessible from the gated area. From my side, there was still access from a small window. I could barely reach the bottom of it, so I used a twig on the ground for tapping purposes. I waited a couple of minutes, but nobody answered so I continued my walk. When I was about to turn a corner, I heard muffled shouting, but when I turned around all I could see was that the office lights had been turned off.
The rest of the streets looked the same. I was sure I'd been here only two days ago, but that didn't seem right now. The houses in my mind blurred together, blending into a singular, pretentiously-named apartment complex. What homes I remembered being in its place now framed the borders. Wooden gnome display and bricks with purple trim two-story; did you once share a picket fence? Regardless, the street still looked the same as it always did. Rocks still lodged in the soles of my shoes and an angry Doberman still barked across the street. I didn't egg on the dog with fake barking, even though it would've been funny.
I sat on the white stone bench on the street corner to lazily pick stones out of my shoe soles with a twig dropped by one of the trees at my back. The street lamps flipped on like a poorly-choreographed can-can number. A man in unwashed, moth-eaten clothing walked his ugly, smelly little dog and mumbled to him affectionately. Whenever I saw the two of them, I move from initial charm to revulsion depending on how far away they are and if I happen to be downwind. We nod at each other and smile as neighbors who rarely speak often do.
I redirect my attention back to my shoes. The slightly cool air was a refreshing change from the humidity of my room. The kitchen was like Florida, the bathroom was like Louisiana, and the studio space itself was like a port-a-potty at noon in late July. My incense and candle expenditures were beginning to rival the Vatican's, but it was worth it to breathe without gagging. I almost bought a hairdryer, but decided that I could live with turning the ceiling fan on high when sweat dripped off of me before I even stepped out of the shower; space was limited.
My feet hit the pavement sans scratching sound. Tomorrow I could come back to check out the apartments. For now, I could quit procrastinating and head home to watch television where I could at least feign comfort within the genuine coziness. My couch and a blanket promised to team up with electricity to take away the fear of decaying memory.
J. Brundage was the September, 2006, guest editor for Cherry Bleeds. She hopes that you enjoyed this month's selections. This particular one is the second chapter of a work-in-progress.