How can love be a two edged word? Isn't love a nobleness of spirit, a desire to bring only happiness, sharing and caring? Isn't it to do with togetherness? Apparently I'm wrong.
Monica believed otherwise. She felt love could mean she could impose her will and body into any situation, take charge, subjugate a person's will to her own and, if done in love by her, would be totally okay.
It seemed to me Monica was born without the nimble wits of a soul searching thinker, but the plodding belief in persistence of some lumbering dinosaur. Surely on the battlefield of love there can be no victory for one side, only a compromise of the two sides or the total retreat of the other. There cannot be total victory for one side who steamrollers the other into a crushed submission. There is no winner in love, for both sides lose to each other, so that together they can win. Isn't it so?
Perhaps this was too much for Monica to grasp.
My first impression of Monica was I had no impression of her. She seemed to me to be a person who flitted through the background of a person's life, a shadow filling out a story that should have been vibrant and full of colour. Not wishing it to sound badly, but she was someone I just didn't think about.
It's sad I know, but life is like a road system, and it is does have its one way streets and no through roads. This was our case.
I was a philosopher once, before my time was up. I liked to muse on the workings of life, of how the interaction of people really affected the world at large. I could see the joy in the simplicity of life, I didn't need the good things pointed out with neon signs. They were there plain as anything to me, and yet I could see that people around me couldn't see the same joys in the basics. Wasn't just breathing a miracle? The pumping of the heart. How our brains worked, our personalities and how they were affected by our past. To think we evolved to be like this, it's truly amazing.
Sometimes I felt as though I lived in a world that only I could see, though I knew sometimes some sympathetic soul could see flashes of its brilliance.
A library is not the best place to spill a stack of books. Everyone tends to look at you and things get a bit embarrassing. As I scuttled the floor, retrieving the books from where they lay hidden beneath the tables, a friendly voice drifted down to me.
"Here, let me help you."
I looked up to see a woman smiling down at me.
"Thank you," I replied, gathering the little collections of knowledge together.
She scrambled the last few together and placed them in my arms as I stood up.
"Thank you," I repeated, turning from her and making my way back to the desk.
"Anytime." I turned to look back and gave her a gentle smile. She seemed to be a couple years younger than myself, with short cropped blond hair. I noticed her without really noticing her, then promptly forgot her as my mind switched into study mode.
It was several hours before I left the hallowed walls of learning and walked out into the open air. The night was clear, the stars vivid in the velvet sky. A gentle breeze crossed the main street, swaying the trees around the library's entry.
The street was quiet, bathing silently in the glow of the street lamps. Walking out further, the lonely stretches of cool concrete paths extended to each side of me.
I picked up a tomato from the pile in front of me and squeezed it lightly, feeling its firmness and noting its good solid colour. I placed it in the plastic bag and looked for another. Good tomatoes seemed to be out of season (again).
I looked over the pile of tomatoes at the source of the voice. She smiled at me warmly, her face floating vaguely in my memory. No name came to me.
"Monica, we met at the library, remember?" Her eyebrows were arched in some sort of parody of Groucho Marx.
I didn't remember, but who really cared.
"Sure, good to see you. How have you been?"
"Fine," she said. "Hey, have you seen the new movie they're all raving about?"
"No, not yet." Ah, another good tomato. Why do I have to search through a great pile of unsuitable vegetables to find the right one? I picked up another red ball and felt it. Too soft.
"I was thinking of going Saturday night, would you like to come along?"
I laughed. A deep, happy laugh. This chick was trying to ask me out? Get serious.
"No thank you." If I did go it would be with someone else, with hair of burnished bronze and eyes of gold. Hm, maybe I should ask the haloed one? Then again, she'd say no anyway, so what was the point?
"Oh. Well, maybe some other time." I could see she was disappointed, but I've enough problems of my own without having to try and play charades to spare her feelings.
I gave her the standard reply, "Yeah, sure, some other time." I watched her back away and leave. Her hands were empty, obviously the tomatoes weren't good enough for her either. I had a laugh at the irony of it. I knew how she felt, I'd been turned down often enough. Even the haloed one had said no to me. To me! Even so, I had no intention of letting another take her place.
"Lights out in 5 minutes. I hope you'll be ready." Normally these words from the mouth of a woman might tend to portray a different picture to the one that was really happening.
"Okay, I'll put these away." I stood and picked up the stack of reference books, my research done for the night. Yes, I was in a library. Third story, actually, top floor. I took heed of the librarians words and deposited the books in their ordered place. Collecting my notebooks and pens I headed for the front door.
I waited for the lady to finish locking up and walked her to her car. Once she was safely away, I headed for the main street. Straight as a die the strip of black bitumen cut through the middle of town, small shops clustering on its sides. In the still of the night the normally busy street was a haven of solitude where I could walk unhindered along the footpath, gazing intently into the windows where pools of neon highlighted the goods for sale. A car rolled lazily by, its departure heralding the presence of another person on my night time haunting grounds. High heels stabbed out their staccato song in the veil of the night, echoing to silence in the back streets. They were approaching me in a casual walk, but I wasn't particularly interested in looking at the female disturbing the silence of the street. Right now my thoughts were on the haloed one, she would be the only female I'd be thinking of tonight.
"Hello." The footsteps were nearby, and the voice was familiar in a way. The tomato lady! Martha? Monica? Monica!
I turned hastily to see her approach, she was dressed up for some reason but I wasn't really paying too much attention. "Hello. You're out late."
"I'm on my way home," she said, "would you like to walk together?"
She was travelling in the direction of my home. I somehow suspected she knew this.
"I'm going this way," I said, pointing where she had just come from.
She seemed startled and was about to say something, I could see the cogs behind her eyes shifting gear, but she closed her mouth and said nothing. We stood in mute silence. I could see she was trying to think of some scheme to get me to walk with her, and I was thinking of some scheme to get out of whatever she might come up with. Eventually she lowered her eyes. Unable to think of anything in the heat of the moment she succumbed to defeat and gave me a shattered goodnight. As she continued on her way I headed in the opposite direction. Looking as though I was going somewhere else, I headed off onto a side street, one I had walked many times before. Further along this street, up the hill, was a large two storey house where the haloed one lived. I would stand outside her place for awhile until I was happy that Monica would be gone, and then I would walk home and dream about the girl in the two storeyed house.
Ah, what dreams the idle can dream in their hearts, where the real world fears to tread.
The phone called at me like some muted pigeon.
"Hello." I spoke into the receiver. It was old lady Sims, ringing to complain to me that her husband had come home drunk again. It was barely past smoko time. Several times they had come in to the office to have me mediate between them so that they could find a way to save their ancient marriage. Their problem was that Mrs Sims was an overbearing woman who controlled her husband's life, and the only way Mr Sims could handle it was to live in the pub and drink liquid courage. I had tried to explain to Mrs Sims that she should be more tolerant of Mr Sims and perhaps maybe even be nice to him. I had also counselled Mr Sims to try and slow down on his drinking and spend some quality time with his wife.
However, it seemed the two of them were too set in their ways to listen to me, and once they went home they turned into their old selves. Even though it was my job to try and help them out, sometimes I got too tired to sort out these peoples problems when neither of them was willing to try and fix things themselves.
"Look, Mrs Sims, I can't help you if you won't help yourself."
"Hey, buster, you're our social worker, you just come over here and tell him to stop drinking and I'll be happy."
Oh brother, just what I needed today. Just sort it out yourselves for once I screamed to myself in my brain.
"Would you like to buy a raffle ticket?" The voice was nearby at the next desk. It was a voice I recognised instantly and one that caused a silence in my brain even Mrs Sims harsh words couldn't break. It was Martha, no Monica.
I looked up. Oh no, I was right. Dressed to the nines with six inches of makeup trowelled onto her face. I looked back down and creased my forehead into a furrow. Quick thinking produces the most elegantly simple plans.
"Is it serious, Mrs Sims?" I asked in my most concerned voice.
The change in attitude temporarily stunned Mrs Sims who, to her credit, bounced back quickly by telling me she had never seen him so drunk before and she thought maybe he had been up to no good.
I nodded and agreed where I thought it suited, trying to look deeply engrossed in a very serious conversation. If I was lucky Monica wouldn't approach if it seemed important.
Good plan, unfortunate outcome. A dark shadow at the top of my lowered vision warned me she now stood at my table, her presence crowding me in.
"Oh, I see. Well, it sounds fairly serious. I'd better come see you straight away. I'll be there as soon as possible."
I leapt up, slamming the phone down and clutching for the car keys. I looked up at Monica in mock surprise. "Oh, excuse me, I've gotta go. Kathy over there will look after you." I pointed over to the girl who acted as our receptionist, who was staring at me.
"Kathy, I've gotta see Mrs Sims, it sounds serious. Look after this lady will you."
I rushed for the door, for safety.
"I'm just selling ..." Monica was saying, but it was too late. I had reached the door and was fleeing to the safety of the open street, where the sun shone down on happy people living happy lives. I was safe amongst this mass of people who were skittering to and fro on my favourite street. I had escaped to live another day.
The librarian was a nice lady. Her name was Lola, and she was middle aged. She ran her library well, it was quiet and tidy. Sometimes, sitting at the desk, I felt this could be like superman's' Fortress of Solitude. A place where the real world wouldn't intrude with its hustle, bustle and stress. A place for dreamers and thinkers.
I rolled the book over and included it in the pile to my right, the ones I had looked through tonight. To my left loomed a larger pile, I hoped their contents would add to the information I would need to write my sociology thesis.
Lola would come and sit with me sometimes while I was doing my research. At night the library became a lonely place for her and I knew she needed the company. Some people can't stand being alone. As we sat and argued over religion (How is it people fight over religion?) the library doors buzzed open, Lola running down to the first floor to attend to the visitor.
I stood and moved to the windows, looking out of the third story glass wall down to the peaceful main street below. Bathed in the cloak of darkness, broken by the street lamps and the neon of the shop front displays, the street looked serene and safe. Two people walked along it, lovers arm in arm, talking and laughing together. How many people had walked down this street, together in love, their romance blossoming like a spring rose? It must have felt much joy and pleasure from the people walking its surface, cradled in the arms of its atmosphere. Perhaps one day, I too, would walk down this street with the haloed one.
Lola walked back up the stairs, but this time she was not alone. She chatted amiably with another whose voice sent shivers skittering through me. The darkness outside didn't compare to the darkness welling in front of my eyes. The two figures crested the stairs.
"Looks like we have a visitor," Lola said, motioning to Monica.
I walked back to my table and sat down amongst the impressive pile of books, hiding in their shadow.
"Monica has come in to look for something to read. Any suggestions?"
"How about the biography of Houdini, or the invisible man?"
"Now don't be smart," said Lola. She knew who Monica was, and yet here she was trying to get the two of us to talk.
I got up and went to the book shelves.
"This should do you," I said, handing Monica Tolkien's trilogy, Lord Of The Rings. "This should keep you off the streets for ages." It was the longest book I could think of on short notice. "It's one of those books you should read while having a long, hot bath." Not one to read at the library sitting next to me!
"I was just sitting here," Lola motioned, pulling out a chair. "Please join us."
I quickly grabbed one of the big books in front of me and opened it up. Perhaps she would go if I looked busy
"I'd love to," Monica said, sitting down.
Drat, drat, and triple drat!
Win some, lose some. I'd had to put up with her presence for more than an hour until I managed to slink away, but it was worth it! I hadn't seen her for more than ten days. The book had obviously kept her occupied.
Saturday, what a day! Sunlight streamed in through the open windows, outside soft white clouds meandered across the crystal blue sky. What a joyous day! I might even drag myself away from the fuzzy warmth of these blankets and make my way down town, to my street, and watch the people. Out there people lived and loved, and I wanted to see it happen. Most of all, I wanted to see it happen to me. To me and the haloed one.
The door bell called, distracting me from dreams of the street. Who could it be?
It must be the haloed one, come to see me! No wonder the day was so bright. She'd be standing there, hair pushed over one shoulder, glowing in the sun. Her eyes brilliant and sparkling, calling me. Would you like to go down town? she would say. Yes, I would say, and we'd go down to the corner cafe and have a doughnut and a cappuccino. And while the wisps of steam rose from our drinks we'd talk and talk, our eyes dancing together, until, finally succumbing to the inevitability of it, we'd lean over and gently kiss. The world wouldn't matter anymore. Everything would be okay.
I leapt up and threw on a shirt, running to the door. Effervescent with energy and love I pulled open the door.
"Hello, my lo....." but the words faltered as I realised it wasn't the haloed one.
Even worse, it was a girl carrying Tolkien's trilogy. I gripped the door before I could fall down.
Her eyes were open wide, staring at me. She held the book up toward me, like a preacher with the bible.
"It's a great book. I really like it."
"Oh, that's good." I looked away from her to the ground. A five cent piece lay abandoned on the concrete, down there next to the steps. I'd better remember to pick it up when I've got rid of her. No sense in it being left lost and alone in the world. Silence descended, despite the cars driving past and the three kids walking by talking about the cinema on the main street.
"Are there any other books like this you think I should read?"
"Um, yeah sure. He wrote a book called the Silmarillion. Try that one." Even I couldn't read that one. After the first two chapters I gave up on it. It was hopelessly complicated and slow reading. That should keep her of the streets and out of my hair for weeks.
"Look, I have to go Martha. I was just getting dressed to go down...." You can't tell her you're going down town, you idiot! "..Down to the football. I want to get there before kick off."
She stood back, wide eyed again. I hate football, but fortunately she doesn't know that. Now I can walk safely around town while she searches the football grounds for me.
"You girl friend was here yesterday looking for you."
I stopped and looked up at Lola. The haloed one, here! Come to the library to find me, instead of going to parties to dance with guys who thought she was just another piece of skirt. Yes, yes! God is kind!
Outside, thunder shook the night time sky. I'd gladly walk home wet to hear news like this.
"Yes, she picked up the Silmarillion. She said you recommended it. It's good to see you talking to her."
"No, no," I dropped my head into my hands, sobbing. "No."
"Well, speak of the devil. Look who's here. I'll go down stairs, leave you two alone."
Monica appeared out of nowhere, closing in on me like some killer shark circling its prey.
"How's the football?"
I stood and backed away from her, toward the open window through which the thunder rumbled.
"Um, fine." I backed to the window, the wind blowing coolly on my face.
"Who won?" she said, zeroing in, her eyes bulging like a dead fish.
I climbed up onto the sill, gripping the aluminium post. I looked away from her, to the street below. Soft pools of light punctuated the darkness, moths swirling in a vortex beneath the globes. My street called to me, a safe haven away from this creature that haunted me.
She came toward me, arms outstretched like a zombie. Reaching for me, to drag me to my destruction. Back away, leave me be!
There was nowhere to go to escape this animal.
I looked away from the horror to the street again. Two lovers walked by, nestled in its warmth
The creature reached me, tearing at me, the claws clutching my skin and clothes.
"No, never, Demon!" I called as I arced gracefully from the window into the arms of my final lover.
The rain fell, washing the street. In time, rain will wash everything away.