Monday, May 16, 2011

Aaron Gallagher's bedroom window was open that early morning. He was awakened by an unfamiliar sound, one that he never fully identified. Inexplicably, Vivaldi's "L'Estate" began playing in his mind, each minor chord bringing him to a higher level of consciousness. He sprung out of bed and promptly found the right record to play. The Four Seasons. He gazed out the window with violins playing both in his mind and in his apartment. To his great surprise, the fountain was bubbling happily, no longer stagnant. A smile slowly spread across his face. Somehow, the movement of water matched, with perfect synchronicity, Vivaldi's violins. He was calmly and euphorically happy for the first time in 9 months. His overwhelming sense of peace was disturbed when he noticed a crowd of people huddling outside his window. One woman looked up, and her face revealed a profound sadness Aaron had never witnessed on another human being. His eyes met hers, and he could not deny her plea for help. He ran outside to determine the cause of the murmuring and tears. In the middle of the crowd, he saw the body of a woman, bent and broken. This time, he didn't run like he had from the carnival fire. This time, people needed help, and he would provide it. This time, he did what was needed of him. He laid his jacket over the woman's lifeless body, and couldn't help noticing the look of supreme peace on her face. He recognized it as the same look his own face had had just that morning. It was a look that revealed hope and optimism: just as the gurgling fountain provided relief from Aaron's stagnant life, this woman's final decision to jump from the top of Watershed Heights, for whatever reason, provided her with the relief and satisfaction her life could never offer. Aaron stood. He turned to the man beside him and, in a newly assertive tone, asked, "Has anyone called 911?"

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Aaron left the diner a little after three, frustrated at being overcharged for a less than delicious meal. After the attractive Italian woman left, he had nothing better to focus on than his bland fish. So unsatisfied, he was especially taken aback when the smell of his mother's sour cream apple pie that she made every Rosh Hashanah overwhelmed his senses. He followed the smell down the alley beside Deena's, half expecting to round a corner and see her pulling a steaming pie out of the oven. Instead, he saw a line of people pouring out of the back of the diner, arguing amongst one another:

"Hey, you can't just cut in line!"

"I've been here longer than you!"

"He's just lying so he can get pie before the rest of us!"

Aaron turned away from the disgruntled masses when a flash of light caught his attention. He saw a man snapping pictures at what seemed to be nothing at all. He wasn't even looking through the camera when he took the shots. Aaron caught himself staring at the strange man for longer than he intended. Still confused and a little wary, Aaron returned his attentions to the intoxicating scents of his family Rosh Hashanah celebrations. Hoping no one would notice, he slipped into the line in front of a couple who were too busy bickering with each other.

"No way, it smells just like lemon meringue pie! Do you not smell the lemons?"

"No, I don't smell lemons at all, I smell pecans! Pecan pie! What's wrong with your nose?"

Aaron breathed deeply.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lately Aaron had been forgetting to eat. He would turn on some Schubert, maybe even some Bergmuller, at top volume, his sole intention being to attract the attention of his neighbors. He would boil a pot of tea, sit, and just listen. This morning, Aaron let several hours of Chopin pass by before he realized he hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch. Hungry, he made his way around the block to Deena's 28 Hour Diner. I wonder what happens in those four extra hours, he thought. Too hungry to care, he ignored the homeless man outside the door. He didn't notice the attractively plump, dark, and exotic-looking woman sitting at a booth by the door until he heard her order, "House salad and a woah-da, please" in her heavy New Jersey accent. He shifted his chair so that he could watch her without turning his head. He watched her stick her drinking straw into her fat, heavily glossed lips. Her eyes never strayed from the television set in the corner of the diner. "What can I get for you, sir?" the young pimply waiter asked him.
"Uh, I'll have the baked cod," he answered sans eye contact. The waiter left without another word, and the encounter left Aaron feeling slightly uncomfortable. He felt as though he had been found out, as if the adolescent waiter had seen his thoughts about the young, chubby, European diner. Feeling himself blushing, Aaron stared at the bottom of his glass until his bubbling fish was placed in front of him. The greasy scales so repulsed him that he felt he deserved another peek at his muse's plump thighs sticking to the plastic booth seats. He leaned back, forked a piece of flesh off of his plate, and peered over his glass at the lovely, fat specimen in front of him.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dr. Gallagher's day at the carnival left him fatigued and frustrated: it highlighted his feelings of boredom, despair, and loneliness. With nothing better to spend his time doing than riding a backwards carousel at a carnival run by strange people who stare for just a few seconds too long when making eye contact, Aaron felt worthless. And now, after buying his ticket and some old cotton candy, he had no cash. Luckily, he had plenty left in his bank account from his years of service at the local university before he was terminated when his affair with Janne was discovered. When he left his apartment to go to the ATM in the Stop 'n Shop, he didn't lock the door. "Nothing to steal," he thought frankly. Just as he turned onto Calloway Boulevard, he saw two men pushing a handtruck running out of the Stop 'n Shop. On the handtruck was the ATM. "Great," thought Aaron. His frustration heightened, he turned back to go home. He passed a disheveled young girl who was obviously under the influence of something stronger than cough syrup. She didn't make eye contact as they passed, didn't even seem to notice him. She was mumbling to herself and wandering without direction, every once in a while stopping to stare at her shoelaces, which she left untied each time. Dr. Gallagher enjoyed this lack of interaction, and he was thankful for the feelings of pity and condescension the girl elicited. He was thankful to have an object on which to place his sympathy other than himself. It comforted him to come in contact with someone worse of than himself.
Dr. Gallagher continued wandering about the carnival, feeling out of place in his loafers and pleated slacks. On a whim, he bought a ticket for the carousel from a teenage carny with a stale cigarette hanging lazily from his mouth. The smell of old smoke pervaded the booth, but as the carny handed Dr. Gallagher his already torn and wrinkled ticket, the burning odor got subtly stronger and stronger. Sniffing the air, Dr. Gallagher looked up to see the concession trailer smoking profusely. Two small, plain-looking women ran from the back, screaming. Dr. Gallagher rushed over to them to see if they were alright, but the moment they stepped into the crowd they seemed to disappear and meld with the masses. Confused, Dr. Gallagher took a moment to look for them, but then quickly turned his attentions back to the fire, which had now spread to a shed behind the trailer. An old man was hurriedly gathering up bottles of what appeared to be unlabeled liquor. "Get back, you idiot!" shouted Dr. Gallagher and other members of the crowd. The old man looked up just in time to see a tongue of flame jump out of the window of the trailer and lick at the roof of the shed. The shed caught fire and, like popcorn popping, each bottle of moonshine exploded, one at a time. The old man stood watching with tears in his eyes. Dr. Gallagher, not feeling particularly samaritan, turned in the other direction. "There are plenty of other people to help out," he thought. He wandered towards what he hoped would be an exit.

Friday, March 25, 2011

After his awkward encounter with Paul Neuman, Dr. Gallagher brewed a cup of tea on his hot plate. Earl grey was his favorite, as he found the scent of bergamot incredibly relaxing. He sat on the edge of the bed to drink it because he had not yet invested in any other furniture. He looked out the window and noted with surprise the sudden sunshine that shone bravely through the many smudges and the desiccated insect carcasses that stuck to the screen. It was a beautiful day, and Dr. Gallagher elected to go for a stroll in order to take advantage of this change in weather. Without his galloshes in the first time in months, his feet felt lighter than ever before, like he had been training for a marathon wearing weights on his ankles. Now unhindered, he felt as if he were floating down the street.
His walk did not take him far. Following the smell of stale popcorn, he wandered toward the vacant lot that was now inhabited by a carnival. Standing in front of the entrance, Dr. Gallagher was quite literally herded through the doors by a collection of humpbacked clowns, all on unicycles. Cackling ferociously, the clowns circled behind him and left him no option but to rush through the gates in order to avoid the stampede. Once he was safely inside the gates, one clown dismounted his unicycle, rushed over to a woman and grinned hungrily in her face. His confrontation elicited a scream from the woman, at which he calmly hopped onto his unicycle and rode off. Dr. Gallagher recognized the woman as Shaunicia Santiago, one of his neighbors at Watershed Heights who was known to stumble noisily through the apartment after a night of partying. He moved his attention to the strange sights around him, specifically to the a kissing booth with the most unattractive woman he had ever seen. The overwhelming majority of her face was covered with two fat, wrinkled lips. Flakes of dried skin hung from the leathery caterpillars on her face, and overlooking them was a huge mole that seemed to be staring him down. Dr. Gallagher quickly turned around so as to avoid making eye contact with the woman, or more specifically, with the woman's mole.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Aaron woke up to a strange silence. His toes were cold. He didn't want to move his legs out of the small radius of warmth his body had conducted throughout the night. He pulled the covers tighter around his neck and tried to force himself back into sleep. His dreams had been pleasant, and he wanted to return to them, to Janne's arms. He couldn't remember the sound of her voice, couldn't feel her soft Nordic hands anymore. He wooed his mind back into an awkward, uncomfortable place somewhere in between sleep and consciousness. He tried to recreate his dreams of the previous night, but his subconscious wouldn't buy the facade, and they were too practical, too logical, too formulaic. His psyche knew he wasn't really dreaming, and he was about to give up when he heard a knock on his door. Cursing under his breath, Aaron flung the covers from his body and slipped his feet into his lime-green terrycloth slippers. He hurried to the door, having not been in contact with any of his neighbors and hoping for a lucid conversation, though also dreading the possibility of confronting another lunatic. He peered through the peep-hole and viewed two lush, bluish-green eyes glancing down at an angle, inhabiting a man's face. The fish-bowl quality of the peep-hole seemed to dramatically shrink the man's head in proportion to the rest of his body, while somehow keeping his eyes true to size. Aaron unlocked his deadbolt and opened the door only enough so that he could stick his head out without offering his entire figure for the man to look at. Immediately, a wide grin, obviously forced beyond its natural extent, spread itself over the man's face.
"Good evening, my name is Mr. Paul Neuman, might I ask what your doctorate is in?" the man cheerfully inquired.
"Well, I'm not a medical doctor, if you need one. Is someone hurt?"