Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sacrifice

"Come upstairs," he said.

"I think I won't," I said. The black llamas woven in a line around my cream white sweatercoat perked their heads, listening.

"Come up and see my etchings," he said.

I lowered my head, letting my hair fall so he wouldn't see my lips twitch. "You're good," I said. By the time I raised my eyes, we were both laughing. "All right. But just because you bought me a filet o' fish doesn't mean you own me."

He did a Groucho Marx duck walk to the building door and held it for me. "Mind if I smoke?" he asked, flicking imaginary ash. I walked in, and he added, "I should never have put that cigar in my pocket!"

He was a nice man. 

Above his bed, he kept a row of books on a home made shelf. I took one down. "You read Colette?" He did. 

He said, "You have beautiful eyes." People have always told me this, and yet, I blushed because of the way he said it.  It wasn't a line. When he looked at me, when he touched me, the familiarity stopped my words. I have looked at women like that. I have touched women like that, and when I did, I handed them something they could hurt me with.

I should have stopped things there, but I didn't. I let him gently undress me, and he thought that made me naked. 

"I think I'm falling in love with you," he said, and I tightened my arms around him, my skin against his skin, my hand at the back of his head as if I were holding a baby, my cheek on his hair. I didn't want him to see my eyes. I hoped he would mistake the catch in my breathing for the passing of that phantom I had tried too many times to summon.

Over his shoulder, I saw my sweater folded neatly over the desk chair. The llamas were woven facing west, they can never know east. Beyond them, not far, his door and its small gold handle. Beyond that, the dark stairs and the noisy confusing street.

He looked up. "What's wrong?" I could have said, what's wrong is that I have lied every minute of my life, and been rewarded for it. What's wrong is that I have sat quietly, cutting out my own heart as if it were needlework.

"I have to go," I told him, escaping, standing, gathering my clothes. 

He wanted to know if he had done something, or hurt me. He apologized, not knowing for what. He was nothing but a sweet, beautiful man, and I have thought of him often. I hope that, right now, he is some woman's love.

I ran down the stairs, into the street, and stood there out of breath. I never tried to be with a man again. I have tried not to hurt anybody, like that, again,

But I look at women,
I touch women,
And give them my heart.
If, the next time, mine is the sacrifice,
At least I can scream my joy and my pain in my own language.
_______

photograph by Margaret Bednar. For Real Toads Sunday Challenge.




25 comments:

Sioux said...

What a poignant slice of life you served up to us, Shay.

Thank you for sharing that moment.

hedgewitch said...

That picture seemed on fire to me also--and the words are on fire as well, full of what it is to be a fallible human, so much the puppet of our own desires and feelings, as well as the pressures of the desires of others. You paint that place where most of us who love have been--trying not to hurt, trying to please, lost in such a smoke of burning impulses and conflicts...when things aren't right, ultimately the sacrifice appeases nothing, and only kills the offering. A fine bit of writing here, Shay--I'm made cold in its flames.

William A. Sigler said...

wow!!! you are on a tear lately, Fireblossom. The passion is so palpable and real it comes up from the back of the throat (and that's a good thing!).

Kerry O'Connor said...

There is so much that remains unsaid between people, and that is where the hurt lies trapped. The story you have told here shines a light on a grey area that exists between the need to explain oneself and the need to preserve one's secrets.

In all the wonderful lines, this one stood out for me as if highlighted in a brighter colour:

The llamas were woven facing west, they can never know east.

The last two lines might find themselves in my firefly jar of preserved quotations.

Mama Zen said...

"I let him gently undress me, and he thought that made me naked."

This is exquisite, heartbreaking writing, Shay.

Susie Clevenger said...

I should have stopped things there, but I didn't. I let him gently undress me, and he thought that made me naked..Such a moving line. This piece speaks to me so much. There have been times I tried to be what I wasn't and the secrets in me stirred like a boiling pot.

TexWisGirl said...

i loved this. so honest.

Margaret said...

I knew you would choose this image. Also knew you would write something fantastic, and you didn't disappoint. I hate to be a copycat, but tucked in the middle is an amazing gem "I let him gently undress me, and he thought that made me naked." Heart and sole bared here. Hugs, hugs... I just loved it.

(and thank you for the splendid compliment regarding my photography)

Scarlet said...

Living a lie and learning from it...that's victory, my friend. This tale is also a gem.

Peggy said...

What a beautiful and heartful poem. Wonderful tale of a turning point.

HermanTurnip said...

"Come up and see my etchings"

Yeah, that sounds legit. That's like asking "Want to see my collection of hair?" When you hear something like that, it's time to find the front door.

Great (and deeply personal?) post!

Susan said...

To speak your own language is so so important, no matter how much fun or how lonely or how kind. Wouldn't it be loverly if no sacrifice were involved? Reads true!

Kay L. Davies said...

In so many, many ways, we all try at some time to be what we are not, to be someone whom we are not. To learn not to do it again, that's the lesson, and it is often a difficult one.
Bravo, Shay, for sharing a life lesson with us.
K

Jinksy said...

No hiding place ever, for the real person... Great write.

Lynn said...

I love the line about the llamas facing west.

Far Beyond The Ridge said...

This was truly brilliant, shay
You managed all of the interchanges perfectly.
And not one word more or less than should be.
I feel i have been him, and her, too. Sometimes, in te same night.
Rick

Daryl said...

painfully honest, exquisitely beautiful

flipside records said...

You almost made me cry.

Favorites:

"'I think I won't,' I said."

the llamas, the etchings

"I have touched women like that, and when I did, I handed them something they could hurt me with."

"what's wrong is that I have lied every minute of my life, and been rewarded for it"

"I hoped he would mistake the catch in my breathing for the passing of that phantom I had tried too many times to summon"

"I have sat quietly, cutting out my own heart as if it were needlework"

"At least I can scream my joy and my pain in my own language"

Powerful writing, Shay.

Buddah Moskowitz said...

You have a wonderful talent for explaining the exterior of the scene and then diving deep into the soul - like great cinematography, if that translates. Anyways, this was powerful good, and my favorite flavor, bittersweet, love Mosk

De said...

Shay, this line is so profound:
"I let him gently undress me, and he thought that made me naked."

I cannot stop thinking about it. Fantastic.

de
whimsygizmo.wordpress.com

Helen said...

So much elegance in truth ... every line speaks it. I agree with others regarding him undressing you, thinking it made you naked. So powerful, like a punch in my gut.
I have been there.

myheartslovesongs.com said...

this is incredibly touching, SP!

"I have looked at women like that. I have touched women like that, and when I did, I handed them something they could hurt me with."

sometimes we just can't help but let the walls down and risk it all.

{ and i like me a filet o' fish ~ with cheese, or something that's supposed to pass for cheese anyway.}

Mary Jane Bane said...

I don't know how you do it. If magic exists, and I believe it does, this is it. This made me cry. So often and with so many people I have hidden away, lied to myself, others, longed...god.
Beautiful and stunning. thanks

Cloudia said...

you are fluent in your true language

Shadow said...

sad and beautiful. and the song.... love it!