February 29th, 2012


Crimson Petals

A crooked smile
Crimson Petals in the snow
Love waits forever

Char had walked by this wall on her way to work almost every day for the last three years and she had never noticed the bits of graffiti written there by young hands, idle with dead time. It was always just a part of the background of city noise, like the constant white noise of distant cars passing, or the distant bark of a lonely dog. Somehow, this one time, the words caught here eye, and she stopped and read it again.

A crooked smile

A haiku is not the general form of graffito on these walls. There was an art to some of it, some of it really good if you liked that sort of thing, but mostly it was just taggers marking their territory, pissing spray paint or poster markers on buildings and streetlamps and mailboxes, most of it only suggestive of actual words.

Crimson Petals in the snow

A certain beauty to this. smooth, arcing lines, painted on with an artist's grace, brush strokes visible in the gentle curve of the letters. She reached out her hand to touch them, wanting to discover if they felt as graceful as they looked.

Love waits forever

The bus pulled up, hissing and screeching like an asthmatic dinosaur growling for her to get on. As she sat down, she took one more glance out the window at the words blurred through the grime on the glass, and as the bus drove away, she felt an odd sense of longing.

Her day at work was the normal drudge routine. Reports to read and correct, markups of grammatical errors that she knew wouldn't get corrected because her boss felt that they were rakish stylistic choices, invoices to sort and mark and file into categories that sometimes changed week to week. It was her own personal hell. Or not really hell, more of a purgatory, a place of limbo, of just existing, formless and void.

A paper cut then, sharp and mean and deep enough to well up a couple of drops of blood onto Smithson's expense vouchers. They seemed to happen more often now with the cheap paper that the boss got for the printer, coarse and rough-feeling like it was made of old cardboard boxes. She went to the tiny office kitchen for a bandage.

The kitchen was a typical office kitchen filled with unimaginative white cabinets and drawers designed by someone too boring for Ikea, the smell of slightly stale coffee and the lingering death of burned microwave popcorn filling the air. There were small splashes of color here and there, a couple of decorative wicker baskets for packets of sugar and something resembling creamer, leftover ketchup and mustard packets mixed in with the occasional soy sauce or fortune cookie from Wong's, and a bundle of chopsticks with WE DELIVERY printed down the paper wrapper in faux Chinese script.

The first aid kit was in the marked cabinet, but had already been depleted of simple bandages with a "need to buy more" note left in their place by some thoughtful but clueless individual. She closed the cabinet and turned to get one of the paper napkins from the pack on top of the microwave when she saw a new sign that had been taped to the refrigerator door saying IF ITS NOT YOUR'S, DON'T EAT IT, and cringed a little inside.

She hated this place. Not enough to leave, but enough to be disgruntled. She snatched one of the errant fortune cookies from the WE DELIVERY basket and tore it open, the crinkly plastic wrapper making a satisfying sound as she crushed it and tossed it at the trash bin. She decided she'd come back later with a sharpie and some White-Out and fix the sign, partly because it would drive her a little nuts to see that every day, and partly because it would piss off whoever put it up in the first place.

The thought made her smile a little as she broke open the cookie and put a piece in her mouth, the slightly-stale sweetness dissolving on her tongue. She looked at the tiny slip of paper inside.

Love dies in the winter, and wakes in the spring.

She let the fortune drop from her fingers and into the awaiting trash can, deciding that perhaps she'd just leave the sign be.

It was dark by the time the bus dropped her off at the stop, late from last-minute changes that the boss absolutely needed for his 8 AM meeting with a Very Important Client, Powerpoint slide after Powerpoint slide of inane data and tables with annoying little animated figures helping to "spice things up". One of these days she was going to replace one of his slides with a picture of Goatse or something equally vulgar and wrong and laugh her ass off all the way to the unemployment line.

Then she froze. She saw a man, a tall, thin figure wearing a dark gray hooded sweatshirt facing the wall where the haiku was written, brush in hand. She held her breath and watched as his hands moved slowly, hypnotically, thin fingers generating the beautiful lines and curves of another poem.

In sleep without dreams
Martyrs dance upon her veil
Her hooded eyes tear

As he finished the last caressing stroke, she saw him lift his other hand and place a gentle kiss on the wall, as if in memory of someone.

"That is beautiful."

The words came out of her involuntarily.

The figure turned. She couldn't see his face, but knew he was staring at her, eyes burning.

"I'm sorry to intrude, but I saw your poem earlier, and thought it was wonderful, and now that I've seen you write another, I just had to tell you--"

There was a flash of something silver and sharp, and a burning pain in her throat. She fell to the sidewalk, and remembered the pain from the paper cut earlier in the day, the drops of blood staining the white paper

Crimson Petals

and as she hit the sidewalk, she saw the words on the wall burning like embers, moving and writhing, beckoning her with their undulations, dancing to music she could barely hear.

She saw the man then in sharp focus. Tall and thin, a brush in one hand and a scythe in the other, and as he stared at her with loving eyes, she made a crooked little smile.

And then she slept.