Cartographer Part IV

Cartographer Part IV

In the next moment everything is lost.

Her beautiful face, my son’s laughter, the sunlight flowing through the open window. Everything that mattered is gone. I reach my hand out to where they were seconds ago and feel nothing. I close my eyes and when I open them I’m in a white room sitting at a metal table. There are no windows and there doesn’t appear to be a door. The surface of the table is cool against my palms, a fan hums lazily overhead, and the tops of my thighs are numb. I know this room, I’ve been here before. I stare at the table until the wall opens up, then slides back into itself. A man approaches the table, his hair is completely white, he’s painfully thin, and walks with a bit of a limp. Then I see his hands and know that despite how frail he looks, this man is strong. “Hello, Jack. I’m glad you’ve come back to us”, he says.

With the sound of his voice I remember this room and my hatred of the man standing in front of me. He’s the one that can wipe everything away and each time we find ourselves in this room I beg him not to. I beg him to let me keep the memories I have. I try to explain that keeping them may help me to prevent this from happening all over again. But it’s his job, and besides, I think he gets a certain amount of satisfaction from it.  I know him, I’ve seen his lifeline. Unlike the cartographers, the enforcers get to have lives. They get to have all of the things we are denied, only this man hasn’t ever had anything. He has no wife, no children, nothing to come home to at the end of a long shift. So he gets a kick out of taking what he can from anyone else. He shares part of the blame for all of this.

I do not respond to him, instead I focus on the cuticles of my right hand, pushing them down, then I go on to my left hand.

“You don’t have to say anything, Jack. We know each other very well, don’t we? I know exactly what you are thinking and what you would say. All you need to do is listen. This is the end of the line. We’ve been very patient with you, we’ve given you multiple chances, and I’m afraid our employer has decided that enough is enough. You see, Jack, I know you recognize this place and I know you recognize me. I don’t think you realize how many times you’ve been here before. I can tell you it’s more than any of the other cartographers have been. This time you are to be completely wiped, everything you are will be cleaned out, there will be nothing left. Up until now I’ve always left a little bit of you in there, but this time I’m cleaning house. It’s a shame, I’ve had a great time chasing you over the years, and I’ll miss our chats together. You’ve always amazed me with the lengths that you’d go to in order to destroy the balance we’ve created. If I had my way I wouldn’t erase you completely, but I’ve got a job to do.  I’m sure you hate me and I bet you’d give up quite a bit to see me suffer. Would you give up that pretty wife of yours? Oh, but you don’t have a wife do you, Jack? Or maybe you do, but only every five years or so for a couple of minutes at a time. “, he slaps his knee and chuckles. “Well, that was rude of me, wasn’t it? I should be more sensitive with the things I say. Shucks, Jack, I’m sorry. Forgive me, would you?”

My heart is racing, I try to stand up, but my arms and legs have been restrained. The man tells me to sit tight while he goes to get what he needs to fix me right up.

I see the wall open, he walks through, and it closes behind him.

____________________________

Cartographer Parts:

I

II

III

Stuttering Into the Void

Stuttering Into the Void

here it is
this way to love
and be loved
when you choke
and collapse
into a puddle
made by man

tell me how soft
one needs to be
to shatter into even pieces
and make it easier
if there should be another
ambitious one needed
to put them back together

how hard does one
need to be
so that the world
becomes your oyster
when you spit it out

I have split myself
into equal parts
and put them on display
for the eye of the beholder
to gaze upon

tell me I am beautiful
and I’ll show you
a dozen lies
between your crossed fingers

tell me to hush
and I’ll whisper
these feelings
into the dark
like the unanswered prayers
I expect them to become

An Elephant Never Forgets

An Elephant Never Forgets

I threw it out of the window as we neared the exit. The perfect bouquet, white and dark red carnations, with several clusters of grass that are such a deep green they look black. I had never bought her flowers before, but thought they’d make a good peace offering for the way our last meeting went. His mother loves carnations, a flower almost as generic as daises. I picked it out because of how well it fit her personality. Perfectly generic, perfectly normal, perfectly perfect. I shouldn’t be saying such things.

It’s Saturday, the air is fine and cool against my face, there isn’t much traffic, and I’m looking forward to sleeping off a hangover tomorrow morning. The fading sunlight dribbles across the dashboard like melted wax, settling between my toes, mixing with the two glasses of wine I had prior to leaving. I feel warm and peaceful. It will take us forty-five minutes to get to his parent’s house. Once we’re there I’ll be opening the bottle I’ve brought, ignoring the “tsk-tsk” switch of his mother’s mouth that I’ll feel instead of seeing. She has always disapproved of me and no amount of charity work would ever change that.

We’ve never really gotten along his mother and I. We have nothing in common except the love of her son. It’s become easier over the years to tolerate one another. I know she’ll say something insensitive, she knows I’ll smirk at her, and walk away. She doesn’t know that I imagine bashing her head into the foyer wall, or into the granite counter top in her kitchen. All of these are awful thoughts to have, but part of being human is finding a way to live with something that you may not want to.

Thirty minutes into the drive and I threw them out of the window. My husband called to see if his mother needed anything from the store, his father answered, he had forgotten all about dinner. He had come back from a business trip about an hour ago, and had found his wife of thirty-nine years lying in the living room in a pool of blood. The police said she interrupted an intruder. There had been a struggle, the glass coffee table had been broken, some furniture was overturned. An elephant statue the couple had picked up while vacationing in London had been used to beat her to death. His father clung to this fact, repeating over and over again that he should never have bought that elephant.

When I heard, suddenly, the car seemed to be going too fast, the sun was too bright, everything was spinning. I threw them out of the window. It was the only thing I could think of to do with my hands. Hands I now stare at in wonder and fear. I had had a very vivid dream last night. I dreamed of his parent’s house, of his mother standing in her living room, of the weight of the elephant statue in my hands, of the sound it made as it hit her head, and the warmth I felt spilling over my fingers. What if it wasn’t a dream and I bought the flowers knowing there would be a grave to lay them on?

_____

This story was prompted by seeing the described bouquet on a ramp for I-95 North. I wonder who else saw it and if they came up with their own story behind its reason for being there.