Prompt: Write a 2500 word story. It’s in the format of a diary. Bonus prompt: there is a large gap in between two diary entries
This is supposed to be a story about a character who has caught himself in a cycle. Not going to spoil much else. But I really liked the idea of doing something like this in a diary format. In a diary you’re supposed to reflect on the past, make changes, update yourself. I wanted to write a character that wasn’t really all that good at reflection (maybe a little bit based on me), someone who just kept attempting the same thing over and over again even though he knows it's destined to fail.
Friday October 17th 2014
I finally went on a date with Athena tonight. We went to that cafe on the top level of the bus terminal; a review on Yelp had called it “a real hidden gem”. Splashes of dappled blue and gold light from the high bay windows refract off of the smudged broken tiles on the floor. It caught the weathered linoleum tabletops; etched with hundreds of names, hearts and gang signs. Partial phone numbers, promises of a good time, swastikas and raised fists crossed out and colored over and then engraved again into the cream tabletop and scratched into the foggy extruded aluminium that lined it. In the window next to me a small brown spider had caught a fly and was slowly, gently, almost lovingly entangling its iridescent body in silk.
The cafe was one of those places where the red chairs were attached to the table with steel pipes, a good example of municipal design - function and wear resistance before comfort. It was a strange blend of French cafe, with a little bit of googie and streamline moderne. Jocelyn, the ageless impeccably dressed proprietor of the cafe, did a good job making the place look a little less like a bus terminal. I told Athena that this was a special place because Jocelyn actually made all the pastries himself. A lot of other restaurants just bought their croissants, danishes and turnovers from the same commercial bakeries in the shitty industrial district of the city. I’m not exactly sure but I think Jocelyn even came from France, his accent at least was convincing.
The great thing about the cafe too; especially at 7 or 8; was the relative isolation. During commute hours the station was crammed with busy looking yuppies. But in the evening you could only hear a murmur from downstairs as a few harried commuters rushed home. The only person in the cafe besides Jocelyn, Athena and I was an exhausted looking businessman passed out at the table next to us in the warm evening light, his hand outstretched towards his double red eye.
Athena had me impressed and transfixed. Her brown hair streaked with strawberry blonde was tied up in a tight ponytail on top of her head and canted a little to the left. She has big hazel cat-like eyes that were maybe the most beautiful I had ever seen. With her makeup a little bit smudged under her left eye it gave her face a slightly asymmetric look. She had a small mouth and her lipstick looked a little bit rushed. Athena was wearing an oversize hoodie, yoga pants and a set of white Nike sneakers. She had ordered a croissant with ham and cheese and she was drinking herbal tea. I was drinking an espresso with my cherry / cheese turnover. She was wearing one of my favorite perfumes, the cloying decayed flower scent of DKNY Love.
I think I kept her attention well. We talked about school, our classes and our degree programs. We had been introduced over the summer by our mutual gay friend (Jeremiah). We had talked for what felt like forever before I had finally thought that the time was right to ask her out, even though I knew from the beginning that I wanted her desperately. We chatted about internships, our mutual friends, complained about our professors, and what we were doing for the weekend. I asked her how long her longest term relationship was (1 year) and why she was looking for something again (cold weather made her feel lonely). I agreed.
The sun set and the businessman wandered out of the terminal. Jocelyn, looking a little pissed, lit the tea light in between us. The light flickered on Athena’s face and in her eyes. She looked down suddenly, I realize now that I must have been looking into her eyes for too long and maybe she was uncomfortable. She bit her lip a little bit and I wanted to pull her across the table and tell her that I loved her (truth). I saw her cheeks flush under her makeup and I felt a similar flush in mine. I didn’t want to rush things, so I paid, concluded our date and we walked through the silent bus terminal out into the street. She held onto my arm for warmth in the October chill.
She continued to hold onto me during the cab ride home. I walked Athena to the ground floor of her apartment and held her tight by the small of her back. We shared a quick kiss in front of her building. Her lips tasted like paraben wax and cold.
Sunday January 4th 2015
I met up with Athena again on our first day back from the holidays. I hadn’t thought about anything but her while I was away, we had spent most of our time calling and texting each other over the holidays. Giggling about inside jokes at 2 in the morning with our covers pulled up over our heads. I had shown my parents some pictures of her and she had introduced herself to my family on a skype call. I wore an ugly Christmas sweater and met her family over another call, I hoped they liked me. She lived a long way away and we hadn’t seen each other in person since exams ended.
During the semester, she lived in a student apartment in one of the nicer buildings on campus. Her parents were rich, and she had never had to bother with roommates. I loved it; mostly because the only interruptions when we were alone together were food deliveries. When we set our phones to silent we were entirely wrapped up in each other, totally isolated from the world outside ourselves.
I don’t remember the elevator ride up to her apartment. It was like we had been connected with an invisible filament that had been pulling us close together from across the continent over the course of the break. She opened the door still wearing her airplane clothes, a grey cashmere sweater, a dark pleated skirt and navy blue leggings. Wordlessly, we fell into each other in a tangle of too many limbs, carrying each other to the warm darkness of her bedroom.
Later, lying on my back, tendrils of Athena’s dark hair were splayed across my naked chest and face. She was asleep next to me, on her side, I amused myself by blowing her hair off of my face and watching it float down again coming to rest on my lips. The weak January light coming from her single window illuminated the wall opposite to her bed in a diffuse square. The whole room felt insulated by the snow outside and the layers of our clothing that had been strewn around the room. She had one of those posters on the wall. A psychedelic mandela you could pick up on amazon, a large bong and a jar of marijuana displayed proudly in front of it.
I traced the lines of the mandala in my mind slowly. It felt as if my perception of the gestalt of the mandala faded away and I could only see the lines between the regions of color, a web. I felt it grow larger in my mind until it was the size of the room spinning. My eyes were dry and I was freaking out, I looked away, and took a big gulp from the water bottle next to her bed. When I looked back, it was just a poster on the wall again. I had gotten way too high.
I gently nudged Athena next to me and I whispered that I loved her but I was 90% sure she was asleep and did not hear me.
Wednesday April 1st 2015
Athena’s room sometimes had the cloying smell of old silk - I was cocooned under her blankets naked, transfixed by the details of the popcorn treatment on her ceiling. I had forgotten to bring a change of underwear and I didn't want to get up and expose myself to her. Pale and wriggling like a pupae just emerged from its egg. Despite that awesome fresh smell of the first rain of the season, I felt suffocated. I turned my head, looking out her window into the rain. The campus was covered with the remnants of the winter's snow, dirty looking lunar drifts full of cigarette butts, dead rats, and car exhaust.
She got on top of me straddling my pelvis. She kissed me on my forehead. I rolled my eyes up and I saw a thin line of glistening saliva connecting my head to her mouth. I pretended to struggle under the blanket like I couldn’t move. She joked that there was nowhere for me to go now, and that if I weren’t so cute she’d have to eat me.
We got dressed in silence and went for breakfast at one of the school cafes. We had worked our schedules out so that we didn’t have any classes on Wednesday, we were free to spend it together. I was uncomfortable going commando and I was shifting around in the crappy public university school seating. The cafe faced a bleak looking concrete courtyard where a bunch of totally hopeless stoners were getting high in the shitty weather. The breakfast at this cafe was some of the cheapest at the school. It was normally filling.
I ordered my usual. Two eggs scrambled with sausage and homefries. She had a bagel with cream cheese. With breakfast the coffee was free and we drank out of those flimsy generic brand paper cups. I had a few milks in my coffee and she drank hers black. I hadn’t slept well the night before and for some reason I had no appetite today. I drank down my coffee and could feel it immediately start to rise in my stomach again. Athena ate ravenously, finishing her bagel and then asking if she could finish my eggs.
We went back to her apartment and watched an artsy movie. I couldn’t really focus and I zoned out looking at the torn dusty remnants of the cobwebs behind her TV. Later in the day I slept.
Friday October 9th 2015
Went on a date with Minerva today. We went to that cafe I really like above the bus terminal downtown. Even though it’s in a bus station, it’s really great. You’d have to see it but it has these giant bay windows with a great view out over downtown. There’s not even that many homeless people on the third level - I don’t think they know about it. Blue light shines through some of the stained bay windows, mixing on the ancient scarred linoleum tabletops with the light from the evening sun outside. Above me in one of the windows a small spider wrapped the iridescent body of a fly in it’s silk.
The cafe has an odd timeless feel, which is why I felt comfortable suggesting it for a first date, an eclectic combination of old American Moderne and a French Cafe. Jocelyn (the old French guy who works there) - also really knows how to bake, he does all the pastries by himself. A lot of the places in the city bought the same shitty croissants that you could buy at the supermarket. I think Jocelyn was actually from France. I motioned for Minerva to lean into me across the table and we whispered about how old we thought he was. I could feel the heat from her breath on my shoulder and I could smell her perfume. It was that DKNY one that smelled slightly off, my favorite, it made me want to pull her in and lick her neck. I held back and letting the moment pass I tried to recline a little in my chair.
Since it was later in the day, around 7 or 8 o’clock, you could hear the occasional pad of footsteps as late commuters went to their trains or busses. The terminal outside the cafe was dark, the only other people in the cafe besides Jocelyn, Minerva and I was a tired looking business woman with black circles around her eyes and one of her male coworkers with his back to me, talking in hushed tones huddled around a battered looking macbook.
Minerva was beautiful in a captivating odd way. Her platinum blonde shoulder length hair glowed like a halo around her head. She was pale, her eyes were an icy blue and I could see a hint of animal mischief in them. She was wearing a leather jacket, a pair of cut up acid washed jeans, big doc martin boots and a ragged looking band t-shirt for a trending band that was about to break big. Her makeup was light, but I noticed that her eyeshadow had a slight sparkle to it, like the iridescent dust that covers moths. She ordered a scone with clotted cream and a black coffee. I had an espresso with my cherry / cheese turnover.
Our date went well, I thought. We chatted about school, her interests (music and the visual arts), our group of friends (we had both played intramural sports on the same team). I noticed her the first day we met on the softball diamond the spring before, I knew instantly that I wanted her and I stalked the web looking for her name and her interests. I had listened to all of her favorite bands, and when we “accidentally” met at a concert we had hit it off and had been texting for the whole summer. We laughed about how bad the campus of our commuter school was and how the residence life was really terrible. I asked her about her parents (split up) and her siblings (an electrical engineer and an account executive at a technology startup). I asked her what she was looking for, she laughed and said she really didn’t know, I lied and said I was the same way.
As the sun set, Jocelyn moved to our table and lit the tea light between us. He looked back at me, and I saw sadness and maybe a bit of pity in his eyes. What the hell was that old French fruit looking at me like that for? I caught her eyes across the table, our voices dropped to a whisper as we discussed dreams, goals and family dramas. She looked down at the crumbs on her plate and then caught my eyes again, blushing. I wanted to tell her I loved her. I reached under the table grabbing her hand, almost brushing up against the layers of ossified gum adhered to the underside. We held hands as we left the silent bus terminal. The thump of her doc martens on the tile was the only sound on the way out. When we walked outside she entangled herself in my arms, trying to escape the October chill.
We took the cab back to her place in silence. She was resting her head on my shoulder, pressing it into the fabric of my jacket. Later, I would find a smudge of iridescent dust from her carapace smeared into my coat. The cab let us out a block too soon and I walked her the rest of the way to her sorority house. I wrapped my silken tendrils around her throat, she pushed her hands up against my cephalothorax gently. My pedipalps grazed her face. I tilted her head up to meet mine and we kissed.