Random Character Study Writing

She’s talking to that guy again, and I’m nearby, watching her. One of her feet are pointed to the ground, and she twirls upon the toes like a ballerina, taking his hand in hers and swinging it as if to skip rope with him. My friend is talking to me, but I am not listening. I am watching them both as they stand on the street corner. I am trying to chase the words from her lips. Like each one is some note written for me to listen to, to harmonize with. He stands there, taller than her, looking down on her and he is smiling as I smiled with her. Take her then. Take my place. I have gotten used to losing more and more each day. What is one more sledgehammer to my skull?
‘Are you listening to me?’ Jon asks me.
‘No.’
‘Well alright.’
They are walking away, hand in hand, and she is still swinging their arms like they aim to break into dance. Well go on then you white shirt cigarettes tucked into the sleeve mother-fucker. Go on. Take her with you. Just know you take a piece of me. The shard that broke off between her ribs. It’ll be there, cutting deep into her lungs, trying ever so hard to reach her heart and you’ll be standing opposite trying to pull it out. Know that I am still in there. You can’t love her without loving the part that loved me.
‘Dude.’ Jon is trying hard now. He is seeing my eyes squint, my teeth grit. He sees my fists clench. ‘Lawrence.’
‘What.’
‘Come on, man. Let’s get drunk.’
‘Yeah.’

We get into Jon’s truck and we head to the liquor store. His dad is out back and he gives us a crate and we lift it into the back. We say our thanks and Jon turns on the engine and we drive off, following the road into the valley’s basin. The road snakes along the basin like some grey river. We see other vehicles only after long stretches of time. The valley is almost a figment. The town, a ghost, and I, a spirit, like Jon, who sits next to me. I think soon, the truck’s wheels should lift, and we will push ourselves into those white clouds above us, and we’ll look down and we’ll see the expanse. We’ll see how it all meanders, turns on itself, eats itself and it all begins again.
‘Where you want to go?’ he asks me.
‘Just drive, man.’ I open a bottle on the bottle opener, wedged into the dashboard. ‘You want one?’
‘Yeah.’ I hand him the bottle and open another for myself. We take big swigs. He downs his in one go and throws it out the window. The bottle smashes against the asphalt in one quick shatter.
‘That guy’s an asshole,’ he says.
‘Yeah well she’s got a taste for em.’
‘Sick.’
I punch his shoulder hard, the truck swerves and Jon straightens it out. ‘You know what I mean.’
‘You’re not an asshole,’ he says.
‘You’re full of shit.’
‘She’s the asshole.’
‘No,’ I say, looking out the passenger window at the tree-line marching past. ‘No, she’s not.’
We drive past the dead forest. People went and killed themselves out here – this side of the valley. My father told me never to go into it, but me and Jon do almost every time we’re in the area. We’ve never found any bodies. They say the government came in and took all those ribbons down left over and took all those mementos and bodies and skeletons. Sometimes I wake in the morning and feel like I should be waking to the canopy of the forest above me. Like that’s where I belong. But everyday it’s the ceiling fan of my room. It used to be the ceiling fan of hers too.

None of us ever have the courage to stay in the forest overnight. Even on the hottest days it has this weird dampness to it. This humidity so thick and clingy. And at night it cools to a temperature below comfortable. I would think camping there would be like preparing for two seasons. I asked Jon once if he was interested but he shook his head and had this pale look to his face. Even when we had a few beers in, something gripped us about that forest. How the roots all lay upon each other like a tangled mess. How the barks lean against one another. How the brush upon the wet soil rustles like tin foil.

Jon stops the truck and we get out and I grab the crate of beer from the back. He drives, I carry, that’s always been the deal. I put the crate down, grab another beer and open it, so I can drink and carry at the same time. Jon is annoyed I didn’t ask if he wanted one. He never asks for one. He waits for someone to offer. He says it’s a moral thing to do. I don’t ask if he wants a beer just to see that annoyed reaction – to see how close to his principles he can stick to. We head into the nearby tree-line and walk through, between the barks, the incessant cicadas clicking, the birds chattering, squawking at our presence. We don’t talk to one another. We never do until we reach our clearing. We had found these three stumps, like three corners of a triangle, some ways into the forest. The three of us would sit there, talking to one another about whatever is on our minds and we’d get drunk and get drunker until we wanted to get even drunker. I would sit on one stump. Jon on the other. She would sit on the last. She would sit there with her hands clasping one another between her legs that she pressed together. She would sit there and talk with us about her family and how her daddy beats her mom. She would talk to us about how the trees made her feel, about how the beer made her feel – not drunk but distracted, compressed and composed. And then when the sun would sink, she would ask to sit with me on my stump and I would try to keep her warm while it was Jon’s turn to talk about his wants, his dreams. How his father should stop giving him beer so he could stop accepting it. We ask him why and he says his father just wants him to be happy.

And when they ask of me. I say I don’t want to talk about things like that. I’d rather listen.

Now it is just me and Jon and an empty stump. We are drinking in silence. I know I am that silence. It is not Jon, and it never was her either. Her name was Jane and it was never her. Jon looks at me between gulps until his beer is done and he throws it into the forest and picks up another and opens it.
‘I didn’t offer you one,’ I say.
‘You aren’t drinking fast enough, I’m getting bored.’
‘I am drinking.’
‘Not fast enough,’ he takes another bottle to its bottom and throws it away into the forest.
‘Maybe you’re drinking too fast.’
‘You are just slow,’ he says and takes another and opens it. This time he sips it and burps, the other two still dwelling in his system. ‘You are slow. Like with everything.’
I look at him and he looks angry. The shadows of the leaves pattern his sunburnt skin.
‘What do you mean with that?’
‘Nothing.’
‘No, fuck you. You don’t say something like that and then not tell me what you mean by it.’
‘Nevermind.’
I huff and turn on my stump, kicking at some leaves next to it. I hear him chuckle like an asshole.
‘What is it?’ I say.
‘You ever think that you’re the only one in the world who understands you?’ he says.
‘All the time,’ I say, smiling.
‘That’s your fuckin problem,’ he says through his teeth, standing. He drains his bottle and throws it into the forest. ‘Let’s go home.’
He is walking away, back in the direction of the truck.
‘Alright,’ I say.

*

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The Slow Death of Kindness

Stop asking me to barter what I want to give. Just take hold of what you think you cannot have for free. There is no underhand, no ulterior motive, no want to twist or turn at the last minute. True, I give more than its material, but it is only that beneath. Re-pay me in action, in supreme response – in improvement of you. Do not apply worth to something that deserves no rank. Just remember we all bleed red, my friend. We all lay in our individual trenches face up towards the sky, waiting to be submerged. So do not refuse to be sutured. Let the blood seep rather than pour. . . I see you turn over in your grave. . . You show your back. You huff and moan into the dirt. I insist this is no trade. Do not make me beg you take from me a candle dimming. Do not let that darkness come.

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The Bear

I lived in a flat my father bought me. The flat was along Hollywood Road, in Hong Kong. Many people my age could not afford or even think to afford a flat like this. But I lived there. I did not have to pay rent. I just had to worry about my living expenses and the bills and maybe some maintenance work for the flat such as lightbulbs and pipes and furniture repair. There was a lot of furniture repair needed as my father had always let me live with my bear. He was a grizzly, about one thousand pounds and never stopped eating. Quite often he would sit on the couch and one of the legs would give way, or he would nudge the kitchen counter and the top of it would shift and expose a dangerous corner that would need to be fixed. He was a playful sort, and loved to chase cockroaches, though I did not enjoy the hulking mass pushing me in the back while I tried to focus on my DOTA game. The flat was 400 square foot, but there was a patio of roughly the same size. I usually put the bear outside. I let him come in if I needed a pillow while we watched a movie together.

When we watched movies together he was smart about it. He curled up next to the wall opposite the TV so I could lay against his stomach. It was warm and when he inhaled and exhaled it made me feel as if I was on a boat somewhere and not in my room watching a movie I was told to watch because it invoked a feeling. When we finished a movie I would talk to my bear and ask him what he thought; but by then he was asleep. He fell asleep in every movie and I had to wake him up and put him back outside. No matter the weather he had to sleep outside. I once tried to share a bed with him during a severe tropical depression, but he slept restlessly, and when he kicked in his sleep he clawed. One night he had shredded my thigh open and I almost died from blood loss. Luckily I had managed to knock on my neighbour’s door and she called an ambulance.

The nurses were kind enough to let the bear sit with me in my room. There was a big window in my room and I looked out at the Hong Kong lights. The bear looked out with me, but upwards, searching the clouds. I had a long talk with the bear that night. I told him that you have to go far far away to see the stars these days. I told him when I was younger you could venture out onto Lantau maybe, or up into New Territories to see a few of them, but now it is just cloud everywhere – so the building lights will have to do. In the morning the doctor asked me what had caused my mishap and I told him that I wasn’t paying attention while I was cutting up some meat (for my bear) and I slipped and it ran along my leg. The doctor said it would seem that there was a lot of effort put into the cut and I told him that it was a new knife and it was very sharp. He told me to come back in a week so he could tend to my stitches.

While waiting for the MTR home, my leg aching, I noticed the bear was getting restless again. I could tell because he would stand on two legs, peering over the crowd of people waiting to board the train. When he was on all fours he was shoulder height with everyone and he couldn’t see past all the coats and shirts and suits and large billed hats. He had to be above it somehow – he had to be able to stand and then see for a far distance.

One time I lost the bear in the crowd.

We were drinking in Wan Chai and he likes to drink very much. Especially that ‘Bear’ brand. Unfortunately it was only available in supermarkets so we made sure to stock up each time – trying out all the different alcohol percentages. I did not know that stronger beer tastes sweeter than weaker. I asked the grizzly why but he was too busy drinking. I asked him why would he devour something the same name as he and he stopped drinking for a moment and sat, his massive paws pointing in different directions. He took a long sip as if in contemplation and then downed the rest of the beer and opened another.

When I had lost him in Wan Chai, I worried for some time. Worried if he had drank too much. He is not an angry drunk. He just does not know when to stop. He forgets himself and he ends up on top of the bar in Carniegies, his hands behind his back holding onto that railing and thrusting into the air. Below him the crowd is like a wave of energy, flowing, and he lets it flow and pulse and move like some weird glutinous being fuelled by spirit.
I found him in the toilet, the cubicle door locked.
‘I can hear you throwing up your guts,’ I said.
But he didn’t reply.
‘You drank too much again,’ I said.
He threw up.
‘Open the door please,’ I said. ‘What if you pass out and choke on your vomit? Who will be there?’
‘Dude,’ some guy next to me said, holding his dick, splattering his piss against the urinal and the floor and down his pants leg. ‘Your bud ok?’
‘Yeah, drank too much.’
‘He’s a fuckin bear, dude. I saw him, man. He’s a fuckin bear.’
‘Yeah he’s a fuckin bear.’
‘Right on,’ he said, zipping up. ‘Right on.’
I heard the cubicle door unlock. The bear had unlocked it without turning around, still puking. Behind us the bouncer was watching with crossed arms.
‘Don’t worry. We’ll be gone after he gets it all out his system,’ I said.

When we got home I heaved him onto my bed and started shaving his fur. It seemed the right thing to do. I took all that fur and I placed it in the corner of the bedroom and then I stood over the bear. His skin was wrinkled, his ribs were showing, his eyes were closed and I could see every breath. Without the fur his nails were elegantly long. I could see all of him at once. He kicked at the air and I moved away. I sat down on the floor away from the bed and looked at him sleeping naked until I fell asleep, my back against the wall.

In the morning, he was on the patio, his fur grown back and he was on two legs, peering over the fence watching the passerbys in the streets down below.
‘How you feelin today?’ I asked him.
He plodded to me on all fours and rubbed his head against my hand and chewed gentle my hand pulling me towards the fence.
‘Not hungover?’ I asked. ‘Course not. You’re a fuckin bear aren’t ya?’

He carried on in this fashion for a good few years. He even convinced me to tag along each night, and soon enough we weren’t weekend warriors. We were warriors. Never did we find anything in the morning but missing memories and puke stained clothes. I once woke to the bear, lying in the bathtub, the shower on and spraying his chest. God knows how long he had been lying there. The water was ice cold when I found him yet he slept soundly. When I turned off the shower and put my hand to his chest, I could feel his heart pulsing. It was too warm.

It was noon one sunday. We were sat outside in the patio. He was peering over the fence again watching the passerbys.
‘What makes you fuckin look over the fence?’ I said.
The bear looked at me, his eyes squinting.
‘Come sit the fuck down and have a beer or something.’
The bear came down from the fence and he sat down on the floor with no need for a chair. He came to the right height anyway. I slid him a beer across the table and he mauled it away.
‘Funny.’
I reached into the cooler but came up empty.
‘Have mine then,’ I said and pushed it at him.
He swiped it away again.
‘What the fuck, man?’
The bear stood up and walked to the fence again and looked back at me.
‘What?’ I said. ‘You want me up at the fence.’
The bear huffed.
I stood and walked over. ‘I know what’s down there,’ I said, standing next to the beast. ‘I don’t need to look.’
The bear looked down at me and huffed again. I rolled my eyes and put a foot to one of the plant pots to give me height and looked down over the fence. ‘It’s just people walking.’
‘It’s people doing,’ he said.
I smirked. The bear huffed again and walked on all fours and headed inside.
‘Where you going?’ I asked, walking inside after him. The bear came out with a pair of suitcases.
‘When the hell did you pack those?’
The bear stood up. His mass filled the hallway. He had grown fat and old and he was even grey around the snout. His eyes were sunken and a couple of his claws had broken off.
‘I can’t,’ I said.
He huffed at me.
‘It’s too late.’
He huffed at me again, this time falling down to all fours. I opened the fridge. There was no more beer.

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Cartography

You had corners of a triangle
upon the crest of your cheekbone,
til your mother burned
the brilliant shape clean
from your well-being.

When you’re made down to sleep
as nature’s intent,
I see the three dots simmer.
Surrounding freckles and blemishes
remind me of day’s retreat:
that heart-felt fear
of losing what light we keep.

I try to map you in the dark.

To chart rivers from source to delta
marking the contours tremored across your skin.
The singe of stars clinging tight to your inner bridges
that glow you when we are hand-sweep strolling
upon rolling asphalt, ceaselessly distracted til
that eventual homed embrace, burrowing and terraforming
under the ice sheets, melting.

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Journeyman

Won’t chase the footprints my feet won’t fit
and I know I say this always, you see it first thing
coming home when I am backlit dim, time telling you
where my present self has been.

My darling, I am splattered out.

I can’t get the words to be my own,
they’re just the ones that mean the most;

should I succumb to being figment then -
the vessel then -
just arms the oars
the pacing to an fro
the current’s calm – but I
a boat cursed in a bath.

The floor is flooded with water I have displaced -
and I watch it wet between the tiles with a thirst.

Urge me, I ask. I long to be submerged,
pulled,
suspended.

So will you forgive me then –

will you forgive me when -

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A Husk, Wanting

She appeared that night beautious, glowing,
shimmering under a shipwreck moon.
Her scale skin rainbowed, her slender thighs slippery and salt-ridden.
She approached and put an index finger under my chin, stroking the stubble light.
We shared breaths between our lips, swallowing our exhalations.
What form is this that holds me? What action, what cause will she grant me?
The questions were cast as unfastened bait to a void.
Herself an unknown.

My muscles clenched as she displayed her filed teeth,
a homely smile for the dark.
Her webbed hands glanced across my body, each finger tip
clawing
scooping at the air.
I felt the nails pull up my shirt,
a heat gathering,
growing hotter with each caress.
I burst.
She had taken lit candle wicks to my flesh.
Wincing, I pulled my face away from hers
but those nails had taken refuge between the bone,
and she roped me in.

She sunk her teeth deep into my neck -
each point a searing star -
and then withdrew slow,
tearing the jugular like it were wet clay fresh to mould.
The blood fountained.
I fell to my knees, my hands at my throat,
squeezing tight and trying to keep it all in.

Trying to keep all that I was losing.

I looked up to curse her, breathing death,
but she had gone.

And then I noticed the wound had faded too.

What purpose brings her – what reasoning
to lure and cast?
She, the mouth and the bait. The hungry queen of my heart,
to leave me mentally scarred.
New cadaver drying out along sunburnt rocks.

A husk, wanting.

These days, as I hold fast against swelling waves,
I sometimes see her;
a jewel of my sea, sparkling across the crests.
I hear her song withdrawn between seagull cackles
and I smell her taste between wafts of brine.

Sometimes she is there on a calm spring sea,
sighing.

And when I feel most lonely,
I even wish her back
as something more than a memory,
more than a spirited visitor
during a moonlit night, wishing
to be shown again,
how it is to be thrown to the depths.

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He Saw Stars [re-done]

Snowflake, I am not;
the universe, I do not contain;
in the end, I will not scatter.
I am only living matter,
and only matter living.
So I will be indifferent
about your cosmos,
your stretching
star-filled plains,
your hope to expand in the
little game you play.
I hope some God takes me whole,
and grinds me against his teeth,
tasting my true insides:
My blood.
My flesh.
My bone.
I am nothing else
than spillage,
refuse steaming
on the summer asphalt,
a soup reducing.

Upon a beach I prepare to rest,
a sunrise greets my reddened eyes;
‘What beauty,’ they’d say
but I give it no regard,
another orange rind
bitter and raw and torn
against my tasteless tongue.
It’s proof that things
will always come around,
things,
will always let me down.
The ocean calls to me now
and I, the broken goblet held high
bring myself to submerge
and drink deep.

No darkness yet.

No fish at my flesh.

No nothing gained.

I feel the sand again,
waking wet and coughing.
A tongue laps my cheek.
This creature stares
and growls as I push it,
but it comes back to me.
It wears no collar
and struck with mange,
it shows me a map
dotted upon its tongue.
I know my way, I say,
grinning.
I stand and we wrestle,
she growls friendly,
biting soft;
reminding me of her -
the one I lost.
We stop and sit
and she sits with me -
I tell her she saved
my life.
I tell her what she
was like.
I tell her of all
I feared.
I tell her of why
I ran.
And then that
weariness returns to me,
and I breathe deep.
She rests her snout
on my arm,
and I look down;
her eyes the universe and
I know that’s all
she’ll ever be to me.

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