Wednesday, September 2, 2009

While I was Gone

C. Sanchez-Garcia

She looked so happy in the Jacuzzi. The room was full of steam because she said she needed it hot for her aging joints. I rolled up the white sleeves of my scrubs and squeezed the sponge in the water, wincing at the heat on my skin. She sighed, an animal sigh of pure pleasure as I passed the sponge over her pale, somewhat boney shoulder. While the suds ran down her chest what I was secretly watching were her breasts bobbing in the water, and the thatch of salt and pepper hair far below like an anemone in a tidal pool. How secretly? Women know these things, they know when a young man is watching, no matter what age they are. Mrs. Hollins was a little older than my mother, but not that old inside.

“That’s so good,” she whispered. “The other too.”

I squeezed suds from the soft natural sponge down her left shoulder and discreetly followed the suds down her chest as far as I dared to the point where the flat plane of her skin rose to become professionally forbidden territory. I couldn’t explain this to anybody, it was my secret, but I lived for these sponge baths. Nude. Alone with her. Intimate. Scaldingly intimate. I imagined myself in there with her, and not as her nurse. Teasingly, I dabbed the sponge down a little further, almost to the nipple, until I saw her looking up at me, solemnly. My hand jumped so that I almost caught her jaw with my elbow. “Everything all right?” I asked softly.

“Its fine.” She whispered. “I think I’m done now.” She looked different. She had a frightened look in her eye. I reached over and turned the drain release and let the water run out. They should have assigned her a woman, not a young man. I thought maybe we should talk, but maybe it was nothing.

Her legs belied their near paralysis. They were still good looking legs, good skin, no veins or age blotches. A pleasure to wash and to massage as the care schedule required. She said that my massages were bringing feeling back into them. But she knew. She knew when the quality of those massages had begun to change, to become more leisurely. Less clinical.

When the water was gone, I opened the gate and slipped my left arm around her shoulder and my right arm under her limp thighs for the lift and carry. Slippery, but not difficult. I lifted barbells twice her skinny weight in gym every week. But soft, fragile as a butterfly. I was about to make my lift when she bent her back slightly, making her large, slack but full breasts swell. The rough nipples stood out tensely and there were goose bumps around them. Right beside the aureole of her right nipple was a birthmark I had never noticed before, because until this moment I had been afraid to look. Her eyes were on my face, watching where my eyes were going. She had me. “If I ask you to do something special,” she said “something you’re not supposed to do with your clients. Would you do it?”

I nuzzled her frail cheek with my mouth. She turned her head and her lips brushed mine. I breathed the soft smell of her skin and felt my body responding to her. Her eyes were terrified and exhilarated. “Hypothetically.” I said. “What do you think that might be?”

Take your order sir?

What? The Starbucks girl is looking at me like I’m on drugs. Was I moving my lips again? I do that when I visualize something intensely. A slightly dumpy middle aged guy with a beard staring into space and moving his lips. Jesus. Behind me people are taking a cautious step away. “Oh yeah,” I say, trying to cool her out. “I was trying to figure out what to get.” I shrug my shoulder, with the heavy brown leather bag that has my old laptop in it. I glance at my watch. Five o’ clock. Shit. “Tall decaf.”

“We don’t serve decaf in the afternoon.”

Goddamn it anyway. When did Starbucks come up with this dumb policy? Evening is when you want decaf, especially if you have to get up early in the morning. “We can make you a double decaf espresso and cut it with water.”

“Naw.” I have to buy something, to sort of rent my table and justify my presence here with the glam kids and bourgeois bohemians. “Just tall something. Anything.”

“Room for cream?’

“Sure.” I whip out my debit card. Its rejected. Bank account’s flat already and a week till payday. Nothing like being broke to make you feel like a real writer. I dig around in my leather bag and scrounge up some change mostly pennies, as I feel the waves of rage coming at me like a slow radiation leak from everybody standing around waiting. Schmuck!

“Be ready in a minute. Next person.” She says and I skulk off to a table in the back.

Okay, no more bullshit. I unpack my machine and set up shop. I wanted to do something with this tub thing, maybe practice description. I’ve been thinking about studying description and writing a bunch of love scenes just to learn my scales. I need to read some writers who are good at describing sexy stuff. Maybe Lisabet? She's really good. I'll dig through her short stories again. And some others, I have to think of some. I wanted to get this thing of writing the way people around here talk. I wasn’t getting it right, but there’s something there. Erotic writing is a very specific thing for me. Its not whips and kink so much as an exploration of the ordinary, because that’s all I know. What happens when an older woman seduces a much younger man? How does he feel about that? Or a handicapped woman reaching out to her caregiver for pleasure? The exhilarating and terrifying feeling of reaching across the gulf between people not knowing if they’ll let you in all the way or scream for help. The old lady thing is okay, but I don’t know where to go with it this afternoon.

On the table across from me a girl is reading a vampire romance novel and it makes me sigh. She’s really into that book, you can tell. She’s in that world, and not in this one. Its like seeing lovers looking into each others eyes. I wish I could do that. A girl like that ain’t gonna read my stuff. I feel intimidated when I walk through a book store and see all these books and how people churn them out so skillfully and to so much acclaim. I don’t know how they do it. When I sit down at the keyboard its like standing in front of a judge.

A writing exercise for today. No description. Vampires. The world is full of vampires, okay, because of a plague and I’m maybe the last man on earth, like the Richard Matheson book.

Hunch down. Fingers to keys. The bright spotlight pins me and the stadium crowd cheers and screams my name . . .

Ron glanced at his wristwatch. Five o clock. Shit. Soon it would be dark. He needed to stake out the vamps in this house before sundown or he’d never make it back. A walk through the kitchen revealed no one. Of course not, too many windows. But basement doors usually came from kitchens and he’d seen basement windows from outside. They were here, and basements were where you found them. There – next to the stove. That was the door. The bastards would be down there, sure as shit. He shifted the heavy brown leather bag on his shoulder. He opened the door and flipped on the light switch. The lights still worked. Good. He took a hard look at the wooden steps for any sign of a booby trap and memorized everything in case he had to run like hell for his life in the pitch dark. You could never tell.

The basement was damp and slightly mildewed. The windows had been boarded up, a sure sign. And there, laying on a wide fold out cot in the corner, there they were. A man and a woman. Late twenties maybe, probably a married couple in better days. They were both in their underwear for some reason. He dropped the bag on the floor, grabbed the man by his legs and dragged him off the bed. His head hit the floor with a thump. The body never moved, but there was a soft whimper from the woman. She knew he was here. He took out the stake and hammer and dispatched the man without a thought. Now the woman. She was wearing a thin nightgown. He tore it with his hands and her full cold breasts spilled out like melons. She was nude. He looked at her for a long time, thinking.

She’s beautiful. Big, lush and beautiful. I could never have a woman like this, back in the days before the plague. What if. . . why shouldn’t I? She’d never know anyway. I’m so lonely. I’m so hungry just to feel it, anyone, any ugly bitch would do and its been so long. I just want to know how it would feel inside one of . . one of them. Would it feel cold? She’ll never know. Maybe I’ll give her a break too. Just a little sweet action on this old cot and move on somewhere else. Leave her a grateful note, “Thank you ma’am for a wonderful time. See you again in the morning. Wear perfume. Sorry about your husband.” He reached for his belt buckle, hesitating, feeling ashamed. But already his body was begging him so that his balls ached. It’s been so long since I had a woman.

“Order up!”

The girls holding up my coffee and looking at me. Shit. Forget about it. I go over and get it, and she’s filled it to the damn top. They always ask if you want room and then fill it to the damn top anyway. I pour a slug down the trash can and dump half and half and that weird brown sugar in it and go back to my table. I look at the words I’ve written and realize I was going good, but now. Crap. I try gamely and spatter out a few words but its no use, its gone dry as last week’s dogshit

I’m out of the dream. For a while there I was Gone.

The writer’s dream is the great thrill of writing. Its what every writer good and bad, brilliant and dull lives for. The dream. If you’re good enough to get money for it, that’s great. If a few people like your stuff, that’s great too. If you see your stories in a book or a magazine, that’s wowie-zowie great. But that’s not really the deal. The dream is the deal. To be in that world again, as much as you can. You never want to leave it or have someone shake you out of it.

In all the imaginative arts there’s variations of that dream. Musicians experience it. When John Coltrane or Eric Clapton experience it,tranced out in that world where everything else is forgotten and unimportant except the sound of their playing, Jazz musicians have a term for it. They say "He's Gone." He's lost in the inner landscape of the creative act.

In the Dan Ireland movie “The Whole Wide World”, the king of the pulp writers, Robert E Howard has a brief bitter-sweet love affair with school teacher Novalyne Price, on whose real world personal diaries the movie was based. In one scene, she comes calling at his home, but as she rings the bell she hears shouting from inside the house, hollering in a huge Texas cowboy drawl as if John Wayne had decided to yell out pulp stories in his room.

“He stepped in close as though held by a powerful fascination. He grabbed her in a bear like grasp. She screeeeamed an ungoddess like scream.”

Cautiously she walks around the side to an open window and sees him there in his writing room, his back to the open window, his face to the wall.

“There was a sound of ripping silk as with one ruthless wrench he tore off her skirt! Goddess! Hah! You’re Muriela, Zaibah’s dancing girl! This crescent birthmark on your thigh proves it! I saw it when Zaibah was whipping you!”

He’s jumping in his chair. Sweat is flying off him. His huge hands are waving in the air, hammering the keys, swatting back the carriage return, Eric Von Stroheim at the satanic pipes.

I saw you with that swine! I don’t forget faces – or women’s figures.”

Robert E Howard is in the groove. He’s “gone”. Howard could go on like this in marathon writing sessions sometimes up to 18 hours. The reality of his life was that he was regarded by others as a loony, a man who lived at home with his ailing mother. Worst of all a man without a job. In the 1930’s, writing fiction was not regarded by the salt of the earth folks of Cross Plaines Texas as honest work, an attitude Howard bitterly resented.

Stephen King once confessed that writing is an obsession, living in make believe worlds in your head for long stretches of time. Dreaming for a living. This isn’t something normal well adjusted people do. He said writers were lucky though because they had a way to bring that obsession to ground, and sometimes even earn a living with it. There were similar people in loony bins who were less fortunate in their choice of obsessions. But what is given can be taken away.

In German and Norwegian mythology, there is a belief that if a witch takes away your ability to dream your soul will wither and die. When Bob Howard’s mother died, the ability to dream died with her and he was truly left alone in a world that ridiculed him. In the summer of 1936, he took a hand gun from the glove compartment of his car and shot himself.

As long as he was in the dream, he was a giant, an adventurer. The dream was his opium, his devil’s bargain. The ability to dream in such bright colors made him a legend. But you have to have more in your life when the dream leaves you alone, which someday it will. This is the great terror of all writers.


  1. Hi Garce,

    Great post (as always) and a fascinating insight to the dream that so many of us have.



  2. Another thought-provoking post, Garce. Holy smokes, you're a wordy bugger, aren't you? Do you have time to write and still come up with these blogs? *G*



  3. Ya know, this is like any day for me. Get up and walk into another room and it's like walking into a dream. Everything is fodder for the next book, the next scene. The 'real' world interrupts the dream world and isn't usually nearly as interesting.

    Nice post, Garce.


  4. Hi Ashley!

    Thanks for reading my stuff!


  5. Hi Jenna!

    I should probably explain this a little, at the risk of being even more wordy.

    My stories my blogs, all this stuff runs long and I know this costs me readers. On ERWA I've posted stories that I really poured my guts into and they just sank without even one comment, because people saw they were long. But I keep writing long anyway. You;re certainly not the first person to point out my stuff gets long. Believe.

    I'm not a very good writer. But I want to be. If I pay my dues at the keyboard, I think I could be. That's my act of faith. I want to master my craft and write as well as I'm able. I believe that a lack of talent can be compensated by hard work and study. So I read and I write a lot. I want to write as much as I can. Just like a musician learning his instrument. The pencil and the keyboard are all I have.

    Writing this blog is hard. It really does take time away from learning to write fiction. On the other hand its given back a lot to me. Its very good discipline to learn to write on demand on a specific subject and to have it ready on time. I've also gotten three short stories out of this blog, including my post next week. I don;t think my opinions are very unique or different from other people. So the challenge for me, every week, is how can I go at this in a unique way? How can I surprise people? That's hard for me, but I want to do it.

    The Beatles became the Beatles by playing for violent drunken audiences in Hamburg strip joints. There were no shortcuts like "American Idol". The audience threw wooden chairs at them and they played for eight hours a night. That's how they became the Beatles. Its the same with me. Evry minute I put in at the keyboard, even on a lousy day where nothing's working, brings me closer to being a good writer. And of course I love being in the dream. When it works, there's nothing finer.

    That's why I write long.


  6. Hi Jude!

    Wouldn;t it be lovely to live in a world as exciting as the world we dream?


  7. Hey Garce,

    If you don't stop claiming to be "not a very good writer" I swear I'm going to whup your ass. And not in a fun way!

    This is a great post. Either of the two daydreams could become a story. Stop apologizing, damn it!

    You're right, too. The excitement of being lost in the world of your mind's creation, and of seeing/feeling that world take shape on the page, molded by your words, is possibly the highest high.



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