Monday, January 28, 2013

Something Different #2

I originally submitted this story fragment to a competition organized by "Reading the Lines: "the Other" in the stories we tell about ourselves," a project funded by UNDP-ACT and run by the Cyprus Association on Books for Young People. Even though it did not make the final cut, I thought I'd share it with you in this second installment of "Something Different."

The perfect first sentence never came easily to Samuel. He spent hours planted on a creaky mahogany stool as inadequate words tumbled onto A4 sheets of scrap paper and his green pen doodled them out of their misery. Instead of crumpling up each failed attempt, pages full of angry scratches, cartoonish faces and repetitive patterns became airplanes (The Moth, The Stealth!) that glided out the only window of his sixth floor studio. Often, Samuel peered over the ledge until his words disappeared behind other soot-laden buildings or dived down like a kamikaze onto the sidewalk below. He then returned to his messy Davenport desk and the stacks of paper waiting to be weighed down by his fickle scribbling. 

Telling people about Candela’s murder only made things harder. His memory of her unveiled itself and drowned out any semblance of a thought process. A humid midnight inside Club “La Venia.” High-heeled women in flowing dresses skipped to the Nuyorican salsa, their partners biting their own lower lips and spinning the girls around like flimsy tops. Cheap watered-down rum and light beer spilled out of plastic tumblers, and the strobe lights raced against the brass section’s trilling. Samuel held Candela close on the dance floor, peppering her chocolate-toned neck with short kisses and naked toes with untrained footsteps. 

Caption to be used as "inspiration."
He creased another page and ventured towards the window. A gust of wind swept the plane (The Arrow, The Dart!) and it spun uncontrollably and darted the roof of a parked white sedan. Part of him believed the city would collect his sophomoric language, recycle it and reward him with a more promising beginning. Samuel imagined garbage men in their fluorescent yellow vests, grey rubber boots and unbecoming smell spearing his aeronautical origami with their paper pick-up sticks and tossing them into the dumpster, a ravenous mouth that opened wide and spat out words threaded together like dense Zardozi embroidery. As the city was cleansed each dawn of its impurities, so too he thought was his inability to move past unlocked. 

Candela and Samuel walked arm in arm, the music’s beat long gone from their bodies but that anxiety that comes with first-time love creeping in as a warm light through cracked blinds. A gang of miscreants, five lanky men with grimy tattoos that rolled from under their tight white t-shirts like sinister clouds, accosted them four blocks away from Samuel’s studio. They heckled Candela, mocking her wide hips, her burnt wheat complexion, the unusual staccato of her pleas. Two of them locked Samuel from his neck and waist and forced him to watch. The skinny bald one with red wire-rimmed glasses and swastikas patched onto his militaristic cargo pants belted out obscenities, smacked Candela across her teary face and tugged at her obsidian, iron-straightened hair. Ad nauseam, he yelled that Candela (The Black Bitch!) did not belong. The other two cackled and joined in on their twisted version of social justice. An unsettling fog moved in as if commandeered by evil. Samuel sobbed and with little fight left in him resigned himself to a life removed from the garrulous Latina he loved. 

With a thick black permanent marker, he spelled out H-A-T-E C-R-I-M-E on the back of an outdated Cantonese take-out menu. Samuel carefully folded the food-stained sheet into an origami balloon (The Balloon!) and set it on the windowsill. One quick flick and the cube disappeared. As a journalist, understanding and deconstructing run-of-the-mill crimes was effortless. Albeit, the sheer hate evinced that moist night latched onto him unexplained—the beasts’ foaming mouths and bloodshot eyes, their song and dance of reproach, that inhumane and senseless attack on difference. The emergency room’s doctors proclaimed Candela dead at four thirty-three a.m. yet Samuel only found out hours later under a haze of painkillers and covered in bulky bloodied bandages.  

Her funeral amassed hordes of distraught people—friends, family, co-workers, salseros and bachateros and former lovers, many of whom entertained the noble but irresponsible idea of playing vigilante for a night and disemboweling Candela’s murderers. The cassocked priest spoke about tolerance and love and forgiveness, and the mourning crowd let out several high-pitched and offbeat Hallelujahs. A collection of medium-sized balloons, each one a different color and marked with single words describing the deceased, took to the sky and slowly floated west. A morose Samuel sat by the closed casket, his scarlet and fern green scarf wrapped clumsily around his neck and a three-day scruff spreading like crab grass across his dislocated jaw. No one heard him mumble that afternoon that his revenge, inspired by the fond remarks he saw vanish behind a few scattered clouds, would take the strange shape of a short story. He missed his old flame, his fiery Candela.   

Another blank sheet of paper challenged Samuel to tarnish it. Too many paper cuts and green pen marks competed with wrinkles and fingerprints for open space along his weary hands. He brushed aside the sheets and pens with his forearm and dropped his tired head on the desk for a minute. After what seemed like years, Samuel picked up the antique typewriter that reposed atop three hardbound novels and tip-tapped its loose keys: “The perfect first sentence never came easily to Samuel…”


Anonymous said...

A beautifully narrated short story! It will stay with me!

COSTAS said...

You are truly gifted...
Amazing how you manage to use words...

Mateo Jarrin Cuvi said...

Thanks, Costas and Erato. Glad you enjoyed my piece. Peace, beer and art, M.

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