For Sale

1995 Main Street, Celebration, FL 34747

3 beds 3 baths

FOR SALE 

$637,000

EST. MORTGAGE

$2,410/mo, excluding alcohol expenses

* PRICED BELOW APPRAISED VALUE! * Lock-in Low Rates! * Highly coveted Celebration, minutes from the lake. Great for sneaking out and smoking cigarettes. Custom built in 2013, featuring high-end finishes throughout including beautiful hardwood floors. Mildly scratched from the dropped bottles. Luxurious cobblestone island countertop, my little sister enjoys hiding in the drawers beneath them.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THE HOME

Traditional Celebration charm with benefits of New Construction! Beautiful (and Livable!) Home with Top of the line Appliances, Open Floor Plan, Outdoor Living, Isolation, Feeling like a puddle surrounded by lakes, Shopping and Dining, Great Schools… and so much more

Facts and Features

Type

Family?

Year Built

2013

Heating

Forced air

Cooling

Central

Parking

Carport, Garage – Detached. Can fit five 12-packs in the corner by the wobbly plastic shelf.

INTERIOR FEATURES

Bedrooms

  • Beds: 3

Bathrooms

  • Bathrooms: 3 baths (You could sleep in these if you wanted)
  • Baths: 2 full, 1 half

Appliances

  • Appliances included: Dishwasher, Dryer, Microwave, Refrigerator, Washer, Washer, Washer, the washer ran the entire time her screams hit the walls. I just kept thinking about the washer. The way it churned when the house stood still. Sometimes I thought it breathed the same time my throat couldn’t hold it in. When I would hear him bang her head against the floor, I would tell myself the washer gave way. I blamed everything on the washer, the same way he blamed her.

Flooring

  • Floor size: 2,202 sqft
  • Flooring: Carpet, Hardwood, Tile

Other Interior Features

  • Ceiling Fan
  • Storage
  • Emptiness

BUILDING

Spaces

  • Barbecue (broken)
  • Guest Suite Available
  • Tennis Court

Amenities

  • Security System (I could have done something)

CONSTRUCTION

Dates

  • Last remodel year: 2013
  • Built in 2013
  • I remember when Frank turned the keys and the locks disengaged and I curled myself into my bed covers, and made my own house. I closed my eyes and saw a home. Not one with brash blueberry curtains that would sway against September breezes, or fake fruit that became the eyes of cobblestone counter hurricanes. I saw past the man-made, the built-in college-kid assembled dresser drawers. Even after he put his hands on me, I would tell myself I was my own house. That no one else could disassemble me. Even after she stopped screaming, and my little sister waited for the sun to peek through the cracks of the drawers.

EXTERIOR FEATURES

Patio

  • Deck
  • Porch
  • Patio

Yard

  • Lawn (It takes 10 seconds to run across it)

COMMUNITY AND NEIGHBORHOOD

UTILITIES

  • Cable Ready
  • Sprinkler System

OTHER

  • Last sold: Jul 2012 for $165,000
  • Sometimes I would sit in front of the house and stare at it until the clouds in the sky swirled into cotton candy periwinkle. For a second, I would think how wonderful it must be. To see a house, stand so tall. So stoic and stout. How the windows and doors stay closed. When the sun would splatter across tree branches and leave painted shadows, ever momentary. I sip upon the thought of how a house could contain so much. How much could fit. How much would not.

*

I wrote For Sale last semester for my Creative Writing course in UCF. It was just a small exercise for the Fiction portion of the class. I decided to go back to writing a hybrid piece because it’s been a very long time since I’ve structured a story outside of straight narratives. The beginning of the piece is plain-Jane, sterile-Meryl (I just made that up on the spot lol) but slowly unravels into a story about houses and a home. And how one decides to live or survive in one.

Houses and homes strike such a chord with me. When I was younger, my family would hop from house to house while my parents got their career paths straightened out. None of it was hard, and I was fortunate enough to grow up in a safe and comforting home environment. However, I never forget each house I’ve lived in. I still visit each one at least every year and there’s still marks of myself on the walls. I still live within that house in one way or another, and if that isn’t beautiful then I don’t know what is.

Lakes Much Greater

There are lakes much greater

Lips more quiet

Hearts that could beat deeper

Into nights ever temperate

 

There is grass much greener

In places, unclear

You never know depth

Until you reach the bottom

 

Before the sun drained Underhill

You spoke sweet Sinatran words

When Baldwin was filled

She swayed to Presley verses

 

There are lakes much greater

Than the ones we know

There are gazes we wish lasted longer

Scars that never fade

 

There were brighter Eola mornings

Where popsicles dripped down our hands

Swan boats paddled and slapped across

A blanket of sun, you said

 

You fill all the empty spaces inside of me

 

At a time, Nona thrived

We saw the egg yolk sun

Spill between the tops of trees

The stars must have felt abandoned

 

When Pickett formed dirt beaches

And bared its skeleton

The air between us

Found its own company

 

How painful to see

Evidence of occupied space

There was something before nothing

We need not reminders

 

You could fill a lake with words

You could let allow it to spool against its rim

You could reach the bottom

And never feel the depth

 

You exist between the spaces of rain drops

You haunt me when the lakes go dry

I feel the space you filled inside me

I feel the space you left

*

I started writing piece this during the drought we had in the beginning of May, and it was possibly the saddest thing I’ve ever fucking seen.  Lakes Much Greater is a poem that takes all the lakes around me and compares them to love (wow). It honestly took me a long time to finish this one. I’ve gotten pissed at this poem so many times because I couldn’t the words out of me, and I’m just happy it’s finished and it’s at a point where it can tell a poignant story.

I broke the poem up into 4 lines per stanza, mostly because I feel as if each lake that I’ve visited all kind of look the same so I want the repetition in this piece to seem identical in that aspect. Seeing the dirt on the edges of lakes during that month really took a toll on me emotionally for some reason. I’ve never really experience lakes being drained of their water so drastically, and I thought I could put a deeper meaning into it.

Although this poem could be interpreted in a few ways, I feel as if I could summarize it in a few words: There will always be evidence of space that was once filled. You can either fill it with something else, or live with the space that is there now. In the least sexual way possible.

House Party Clean-Up

When the sun crawls up into the sky and you drag yourself out of your tub, you realize how much of a mess your house is. The mess looked a lot more glamorous last night, like when the jello-shots became jello-cannons, or when the smoke dissolved in front of your face, or perhaps it was when she buried her phantom hand into the back of your shirt.

You stand up and look at yourself in the mirror, and you don’t recognize your reflection. You touch your face to see if it falls off, and it doesn’t. You look at your hair, and feel like it needs to change. It’s like a blue jay realizing how blue it really is, or how the moon sees how it can’t shine without the sun. All you can think about is the next party, and how exciting it will be to leave this one behind.

You remember everything. People will ask you certain things, and you’ll act as if you forgot or wish to forget a lot of things. Like when you threw up in the sink instead of the toilet, or that time she told you that you were just like your father. The thing is, there is too much to forget and you hate how you let yourself collect them. Remembering too many good parts from the party, and not enough of the bad. Sometimes you wonder if it was even good or not, but to you, right now, it wasn’t.

You go downstairs to the living room, only to be greeted by stained couches and a wooden ceiling fan slowly scratching the air around it. The CD skipping the same line over and over again: When did your heart go missing? When did your heart go missing? While the windows stayed clean and untouched, you feel as though they should be harder to break next time. Shutting the locks, just to make sure no one else gets in again.

The floor is a lost-and-found of hoodies, chapsticks, mixtapes, receipts, ticket stubs, envelops with meaningful things inside them, and greeting cards with now-meaningless things inside them. They’re all just proof. Proof of what was, and what was wasn’t enough, was it? And it hurts too much to be a gift, and it means too much to be a mess. So, you ignore all of it.

Clean too quick, and you look like you’re ready too soon: which you’re not. Clean too slowly, and you rot. Scanning the room to see what’s worth keeping, and you keep too much. You throw things away just to throw them away, and you drink drinks just to say that you drank them. You take away just to add more filth, occupied space. You tell people that there’s no such thing as a permanent mess, and people will nod their nods only knowing that they will have to nod again.

You tell people about your party. You tell everyone: Family, friends, strangers, your local Subway Sandwich Artist, telling them how it ended. You tell them how a frat let four of their dogs run into the house, how many beer cans were on your beer-sword, and how she allowed her tangerine locks fell on her shoulders when she said the party was over. You tell them these things, and they will listen. They will listen and listen and listen until they make you hear yourself. They will try to help you clean, and they will try to show you parts of your house that you have forgotten, but after a while you will soon come to realize that no one gives a shit about your party. That this, with all other parties, are just that to them. To you, it was more than that. It was a trip to the grocery, a catering-call, an alcohol run, an “I promise,” and an “I’ll never forget.” You hope she never does.

When the cleaning comes, you realize how much isn’t yours. You look for yourself in every corner of your living room, and you can’t find it. Every picture there’s somebody else, and every album is a band you never liked (Stevie Nicks, The Shins, Fleet Foxes). The ceiling fan only has one string hanging from its base. Whatever is left of what you own is only partial: The lamp has no lampshade, and the cabinets have no knobs. For a second, you feel as if something was taken. That there is no insurance that could cover this backhanded hijack. Love is robbery. It is a one-sided stick-up that no one sees coming. You can only hope to open the cabinets, just to see what’s inside. To see what else she could have taken.

You think about getting new furniture after the party you threw. You walk past and window shop for newer, younger appliances. You buy a new couch, just to sit on and think about the old couch. You cook on your new stove, only to crave the clanks and the jitters your other stove used to make (as she suggests would happen.) Throw other parties, just to forget the old party. But no matter what happens, the past party comes to mind. You look at the newly furnished house, and only see the marks of where things used to be. Trying your best to fit them into their former shape, but to no avail. You tell your friends how great they all are, and they nod their nods but see right through you.

You see people starting to throw the same party in different houses. You hear from your friends, and you try not to clench. You ask questions, and don’t like the answers. You start to compare your house with theirs. You start to wonder how brash their custard curtains are when the sun hits it in July, or if she digs her hand inside his shirt the same way she did to you. You carry these thoughts when you walk around the house. You carry them until they get too heavy, and shove them into a room where you keep all the other things. Like when she cut your hair for the first time, or when you saw her with another guy with that same haircut. Even though there’s empty space, you still see her. Whenever syrup is poured onto pancakes, or when the sun comes in just a little. You go downstairs and let the CD skip: Where did the love go? Where did the love go? Where did the love go?

    When you finally find the knobs for the cabinets and the shades for the lamp, you come to see how put-together the house has become. How stable and solid the four walls that surround you are. How the furniture fits, and how the windows stay shut. You shut them as tight. You wish you didn’t have the windows because people will always want to look inside. You become afraid. Afraid of what your new insides are. How acquainted it once was to somebody, and how acquainted you were with somebody else’s. You could lock the windows up forever. You could live a life in a hallowed home. You could turn the lights on and off at night, and you could keep rooms empty. The thought of filling another You open the door, and she is standing there with a bottle of champagne and a smile. Thanking the heavens that you managed to get everything cleaned up before she came. She walks around the house as if she is haunting it. You look at her as if she is a ghost. She creeps around corners, only to shoot half-smiles back at you. She came to congratulate you on the remodeling, but you knew she really didn’t. You walk her to the kitchen table and pour two glasses and toast to the occasion. She says how her door is always open for you. She tells you how it will always be open for you. You finish your glass, and look to the windows in the living room behind her. You think of opening them, for just a second. You see her walk out the front door, but before she leaves she hands you the second string to your ceiling fan light.

You walk over to the couch, and you lay in it. You sink your body into the amber-lined cushions and you look up at the ceiling. You see the ceiling fan twirl and buckle through your house’s stratosphere. It’s one string dangles and somersaults eternally with every pivoting cycle. You look and see how it falters and pushes from the popcorn ceiling. How it once overlooked a party you once had, and many more if you allow it to. Maybe one day you’ll open your windows to someone who will enjoy the view, and maybe one day you will no longer have to fill a room with things that are meant to be kept hidden. Perhaps you’ll find yourself cleaning it again, and perhaps you won’t. There will always be messes. Some bigger than others, and some so big you’ll feel as if you won’t be able to contain it. But these messes are just what’s left of something bigger. They leave marks and tears inside you, but they’re yours to hold forever.

You begin to look around your house, and you see yourself in every corner. Even in the darkness. Even when the lights go out.

*

    House Party Clean-Up is a story told in the second-person point of view. It tells the story of a relationship gone to the dust, and the mess someone must clean up afterward. I use different analogies to party stereotypes and mix in unique romantic actions to mix in the sterile and the incredible to make a more unique story. The story-telling aspect is very “a-matter-of-fact” which is how I feel will make this story stand out from others. I have dabbled around in keeping the gender neutral, but it is very hard to grasp an emotion that is vague from gender. Case in point, pronouns are great use when it comes to being socially correct, but when you want to convey a certain emotion or feeling it’s best to give it an identity than just “they” or “them,” which could also be confusing to the person reading it as well. Near the end, I drop the party metaphor and begin to tell a narrative. Although this sort of breaks the formula that I’ve been forming the first three pages, it also adds another layer to the story and I believe is something that had to happen in order to conclude and have resolution to the story.

Last Toll Home

You have to fucking gun it when you’re merging onto the I-35 from the Ben W ramp. If you’re coming in from the 80-foot concrete tube, and those passing lane white rectangles that dissolves quickly to your left don’t look like one solid white line, you’re not going fast enough. You need to press your foot down on the accelerator until you forget that there are people in those cars you need to cut in front of, go 70. The speed limit is 55: we know, the cops know, the people in those cars know, your Mamaw knows, go 70. If you hit 70 and there’s still a car to your left hand side, go 80 and try your hardest to get passed that person’s front wheel. If you get that far, the person has to let you in or else both of you will be devoured by pavement. Crash. Everyone who merges onto the I-35 is a potential cannibal, we’re looking for a way in no matter what it takes.

However, if Big Guns Upstairs blesses your soul for those 10 seconds and there just so happens to not be next to you, go 90. You won’t get a speeding ticket, only because the cops are only there to report the accidents that occur there so often.

In my first marriage, I saw a blue sedan that was rear ended and crushed by a semi. The driver was decapitated. She was a mother of two. In my second marriage, there was a white SUV that was side-swiped and turned over. It was a hit and run. It’s easier to cause pain to someone when it’s convenient enough to disappear quickly.

Not everyone uses the Ben W. ramp, because only the small pickup trucks filled with locals who have knowledge of this highway. We’re taught about this toll road from the 2nd grade and on. If you ask anyone in your University about the Ben W. ramp going onto the 385, they can tell you at least one person they’ve heard of who has died on this road. People would merge and then never exit. In high school, it was known as “The Ramp to Heaven.” The only reason why they keep this road open is for the 3 AM truckers who travel from their manufacturing factories from Ben W. Street to Talladega. I can see the ramp from my toll plaza. Its short concrete slice of death is in clear vision about 40 yards to my left hand-side.

My toll plaza is the last toll until you hit the long road that I-35, leading from Laredo to Waco. Eventually it becomes US-77 when you drive up North enough, from there you can feel the Oklahoma winds sweepin’ down the plain, and if you hear closely you can hear the songs of alcoholics echo amongst the corn fields.

The role of a toll plaza attendant is an extravagant, yet necessary role. You don’t do it for the fame, recognition, or the rock star sex. You do it because the jury found you guilty and you have no other options.

Every day I see the same businessmen, soccer moms, truckers, and motorcycle gang members. Some treat me with the respect of handing me their money, when they can “find it,” and just simply driving off. Some brave souls flash their concealed weapon at me. Half the time they’re just bluffing, all hat no cattle. In that situation, you just flash yours back at them and watch as they drive off into the fog

Tonight was one of those nights: fog hitting against headlights. Not many on the road at this hour, 3, about near and past going. The fog was extra heavy tonight, as if you could take a coffee mug and scoop it up. Almost looked like heaven from where I stand. But I’m nowhere near heaven, far from it. I’m in Texas.

At this hour, the only people I encounter are the ones with eight wheels or more behind them. I recognize more trucks than I do faces, however George Washington’s face is the one face I see the most during my shifts.

I’m the only one who works the third shift. During the day, I sleep. It’s too loud for me during the day now. I’ve come to realize that the nighttime is the time that I belong in. It’s the silence, I think.

“It’s colder than a cast-iron commode out here, slick.” says Rick the Trucker to me, as he passes me 3 George’s.

“You’re telling me.” I see my breath visibly escape my mouth with every word I speak.

“You gota heater in that concrete cage of yours?” He says to me while I hand him his fifty-cent change back.

“Just the one I brought from home, Rick. They won’t install one inside this tiny box”

“Well you go ahead and have a nice night there, Rob.”

I hear the gears in his truck clank and clunk. I can’t even hear him finish his sentence because the roar of his engine drowns out any other sound. With every fiber of its being, it revs forward. Disappears into the hog-killin’ night. Echoes vibrate the fog, only for the fog to form back to its original shape. I watch the lights of his truck disappear. Sometimes I try to keep looking to make sure I’m alone, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I don’t want to be.

Silence is probably the one thing chief never tells you about this job. After living a life entirely around noise, you find silence as a close friend. We are both very busy people. I take cash from people, while Silence hushes ignorance. Ignorance is the greatest thing anyone can have nowadays. After living, God knows I need some.

                        Auto Accident?

                                    Quickie Divorce?

                                    No problem!

                                     This is Dan Newlin

with Cast-Iron Attorneys, and we’ve got your

                                    back, 100%, from here to Mississippi, to right down

                                    where the Good Lord made ya! We are Texa-

            I shut off the my portable radio.

Asshole.

“Asshole!” I say it out loud. Loud enough to wake the cattle. My pulse quickens, breath weighing down, teeth clenches.

I hit the side toll window with my right open palm. My hand turns red for just a second, but it goes back to its pink-pale color two seconds later.

“Fucking-Piece-of-Shit!” With every word, I hit the window harder. Until my hand doesn’t turn pink-pale. Until the cattle begin to chatter amongst each other.

“Don’t-You fucking-AGH-Son-Fuck!” I start to run out of words to say, so I just keep hitting the window. I let the noise fill in all the empty spaces of fog outside. I forget what time it is for just a quick second.

“Robbie?!” A familiar voice calls outside from the window. I barely even noticed the pure white Lexus that just pulled up to my toll booth window.

My body stops still in its tracks. My right hand still ringing, all I can do is look and be taken back by the golden eyes that have darted me once before. This is like a scene from a really cheesy sitcom, except there’s no studio audience laughing in the background.

“Robbie, is that you?” Her voice feels like velvet. The fog around us turns sweet.

Her pale skin could almost blend in with the fog outside. She wears her all-white pant suit, with a peach-silk blouse underneath. Her nails painted like October-orange skies, framed to her ear-length scarlet hair. One look from her could kill a bull, however I’ve been destroyed and recreated with every glance she’s ever given me. Back then, and now.

“So you still hurt yourself when you get mad, huh?” She wraps her white, ghostly hand around her gear shift and puts her car into park.

Shit.

            Silence and light chuckles break silence. It’s not awkward at all. I’ve experienced silence with her many times. The 3 PM and 3 AM type silences. When you find someone you can be silent with, keep them. Don’t let them go. Sometimes you need to be just quiet with someone. You need to find the correct type of silence too. Not just the ones where you’re forced to say something, but an honest silence. Silence that breaks through county borders, between sips of coffee, or a silence that come before hear words that should matter to you. But you only notice the silence after you’ve shared so many words.

She takes out her black, gleaming wallet. The logo P R A D A gleams in gold on the middle magnetic flap.

“Highest bill you can take is a 20, right?” She says to me, with a sort of half chuckle.

Go 70.

            “You forget what a dollar looked like” I say back to her, with the straightest face I can give. My right hand is still red when I reach for her twenty dollar bill. It feels like a million tons in my hand, and throbs when I lower the cash register money plunges down. While I give her the appropriate dollars and quarters back, I break the silence.

“So, Carol.” She’s halfway finished applying red lipstick. She pops them in her rearview mirror.

“What brings you to the I-35 at this hour?” My breath floats away from me. The rush of the cold makes my swollen hand go numb. I lean over the window and rest all my weight towards her.

Go 80.

            She presses her red lips together. Thinks for a second, and tilts her head to the side so that her red hair cascades over her right shoulder. She exhales and looks toward the fog in front of her.

“I don’t know, Robbie. Maybe I just wanted to go for a drive.”

Something about Carol was different this time. Back then, I would know how she would feel but just her looking at me. I would know she was guilty of feeling a certain type of way, by just looking at the way she removes the hair from her face and pulling it back behind her ear. Now, she lets her hair rest on her cheek. She stays mostly looking away from me, which is something I was never used to. The cattle is probably laughing at me at this point.

Go 70.

            “Heading anywhere in particular?” I say back to her. I force a smile, half expecting her to melt for me in this 40-degree weather. I hear one car off in the distance zoom past the TEXpress lane. It disappears into the fog.

“No. I’m just ‘driving until I find myself.’ Sound familiar?” Carol said, in a mocking tone.

Go 80. I chuckle it off. I feel the heat from her car hug against my skin.

“How does Miller feel you going out so late?” I noticed she isn’t wearing her wedding ring.

She just throws her head back and lets out a “country yuk,” which is the I-know-more-and-I-am-better-than-you laugh.

“Oh, Miller’s out too. Don’t worry about him! Just taking a quick drive before he gets back home now.” She responds, with a smile full of white teeth.

“Well, I don’t drive the I-35 anymore, Carolyn.” I look down and begin to fumble with my fingers a bit to keep myself distracted.

“I’m just the troll under the bridge now.”

“So does that make me travelling royalty?” She says back, with a half-smile.

She looks different than she did 10 years ago. When we were 18, she would put her hair up into pins and hair bands. It wasn’t as short as it was now. If I cut my hair, then my dad would like it and fuck whatever he likes, she would say to me. So, does he like me? I would say back to her. After saying that, she would take off her pins and ties and would jump on top of me. Of course not.

“Face of a princess, bite of a bronco.” I ironically quote myself to her, while we both chuckle.

After she chuckles. She just looks at me, with her big hazel eyes. She exhales.

Carol as long as your eyes are in Texas, I know there will never be just one lonely star in this shit state. I used to say that to her. It’s still true.

“Where did all those years go, Robbie?” She finally says to me. She rests her head on her snowy fist, revealing black scars the size of Houston on her wrists.

“Well you attended to my first wedding, right?” I jokingly said back to her.

She laughs, covering her mouth with her hand.

“No, no! I never went to any of your future divorces!” She keeps covering her mouth.

“Why do you do that?” I say to her, seriously.

“Do what?” Carol asks. Tilting her head slightly, so that the toll lights flood through her coppery locks.

“You cover your mouth whenever you laugh now.” I ask her, while motioning my hands around my mouth.

“Why do you do that?”

You still notice those things, Robbie?” She looks at me, with a mocking face.

Go 70.

“I mean, I’ve just seen you laugh so many times, and it doesn’t look right.” I try to say as casually as I can.

“A lot of things don’t look right anymore, Robbie. Now, was the first marriage before or after the trial?” She says to me, still laughing.

I don’t laugh.

“Okay, no. Why do you have to mention that?” The air around us becomes thick. My fist clenches.

“Oh, please. Come on now, Robbie that’s all in the past. We can’t joke about it?” She waves an open palm towards me, as if to negate my feelings. I think about dropping it, but…

Go 100.

“You really think I want to talk about that while I’m working this hourly-waged little fuckshit job, Carol?”

She begins to realize the gravity of the situation. She begins to back away from me a bit and blink quickly.

“Look, I’m sorry… I didn’t realize that this was still fresh for you.” She tries to apologetically speak to me.

“Don’t you dare apologize after the fact, Carolyn! You come driving up to this toll booth with your white Lexus and your hundred thousand-dollar pant suit and spit my mistakes back into my face!” I’m screaming so loud, I’m sure even people from the South Toledo Bend hears me.

I see Carol begin to clench her fist. Her red lips are pressed together, she finally lets out

“It’s not my fault you were guilty of your crimes, Robbie! Your brother trusted you with that firm, and afterwards he had to build it back from the ground up!” Her hands are clenching onto the steering wheel, while her body is tilted towards me. She continues on,

“You and I both know the money from those clients was embezzled and stolen from them! I followed the case, Robbie. It all lead to you! Dan drew up all the evidence and the paper trail fell from the shoes of a man who could afford everything, but stole it anyway!”

“He set me up! Okay, Carolyn?!” It goes silent again.

I let out a loud exhale, which created a cloud from outside my toll window. I hit the cash register with my open palm, just to hear the cogs clang on impact.

“FUCK!” I begin to breathe heavily through the pain I’ve caused myself.

Carol stays silent, and only watches me. Still staring at me, ready to attack with any given thing I could say next. She stays calm while she watches me catch my breath. I finally fight through the heaving to form words and speak to her calmly.

“The so-called money that was stolen from those clients was transferred from one of Dan’s unlinked Roth IRA accounts that was made when me and Dan first started the law firm.”

She begins to loosen her muscles and listen to me, more intently.

“It was easy for him to fake statements and make false claims because most of the money in that account grew within the bank, and the money became untraceable to the source. It trailed from the company’s account to the client’s account, and then Dan found a way to wire all of it into my account. By the time I noticed the balance difference, I was already in handcuffs.” I begin to rub my hand and gain my composure.

“He needed a way for me to leave the firm and make sure I didn’t create more competition for himself. In the end, he betrayed me.”

Carolyn is still silent. She looks down to her gear shift, possibly trying to find words to say to me in-between the letters of her gear shift. She finally says to me.

“Was the firm worth leaving me, Robbie?”

I nod my head, looking down towards my shoes. The words I need aren’t down there, and I’m almost pissed at myself for not knowing what to say. I never thought I’d be asked this question. At least, being asked it a second time. I don’t say anything to her, again. I let history repeat itself.

It stays silent for about a minute and I’m almost curious as to why Carol hasn’t put her car into drive and just disappear into the fog. Instead she stays. She’s always had a habit of doing that, staying when she knows she wants to leave.

At this point, all I can do is lean over my window and look up towards her every five seconds. Eventually she glides her milky fingers across her hair, as if she was making fine wine. She stops for a second and rests her index finger on her chin to think. She finally says to me,

“How different am I, Robbie?” She says to me. Her speaking becomes lighter than a snowflake.

It takes me a while to respond.

Go 80.

“Different? Like, from when?” I say as slowly as I can.

I begin to hear the rustling of trees now. I wonder if it was blowing this entire time we’ve been speaking. I wonder about a lot of things that have happened when I wasn’t looking. It was at this moment, I noticed Carolyn looking out into the fog in front of her. She looks straight at it the entire time she speaks to me.

“Do I look happy, Robbie?” She says to me.

“What does happy even look like?”

Go 90.

She begins to strum her steering wheel in front of her with her blossom fingers. Almost as if she’s ready to accelerate away into the fog any minute now. She reaches down toward her gear shift, only to take out a moist towelette from her purse. She begins to rub her right eye with it to reveal pounds of makeup covering up a black eye. She looks up at me, only to look back down.

“Miller… Miller’s home. I knocked him out with a toilet tank cover.” Carolyn lets out an exhale that shakes her entire body. I stop and look at her. She then begins to smile and lightly laugh to herself, which draws me back a little.

“You know, when I was younger, like “kid” younger…” She began to trail off sentences. Taking her time to speak. Making sure I heard every word.

“I would think the sun followed me everywhere I went. Even when I played hide and seek, the sun would peer through the cracks of the pantry door and it would find me.” The humming of her engine begins to become audible to me.

“Whenever I would go places and I didn’t see the sun, I would think that it got bored and it went off and followed something else. I would still try to find it though. I’d go to places where the sun would hit my skin, and I’d welcome it back.” Another car zooms past the TEXpress lane.

“Sometimes, I even tried to reach for the sun. Could have sworn I got close to touching it.” She laughs a little bit.

“When you left me, I changed to prove I was somebody without you.”

“Carolyn…” I said softly to her.

“I guess I’m just tired of chasing after something I can’t reach.” She says, softly.

Crash.

We both stayed together in silence and I forget what time it is. She stared out into the fog, with her black eye gleaming against the orange lights that hang from above the toll plaza. She may have started to cry, but I couldn’t hear anything. We just sat there, making human noise and I’ve never felt so honest about myself than in this moment. I felt almost as if I had been stripped bare. Like there was nothing left for me to reveal. I was every bit of me that I could offer to the world, and I like to think she felt the same way.

“Get in the car.” She says to me, while looking up at me.

This stops me cold. I can’t believe what I’m hearing.

“Wh-What?” I say back to her.

She begins to laugh, this time without covering her mouth. All of her becomes loose again. She springs her hands up into the air.

“We can just leave right now, Robbie! I have a lot of Miller’s cash stuck in this purse and we can just drive all the way to Austin, Laredo, even all the way to Las Vegas if we wanted.” Carol becomes more excited as she tells me all this.

“It’ll be like what we talked about when we were younger, except this would be in a white car instead of a white horse like you said.” She begins to laugh as she speaks.

“Come on! You can get away from this toll booth and we can both start new lives. We don’t have to be stuck in this state anymore. We can leave it all, Robbie.” I stay looking down the entire time. My mouth would slant lightly at the idea of this happening. For a moment, all I wanted to do was throw this nametag on the cash register, stomp on my portable heater, and get into the car and drive off into the fog.

“Carolyn…” I say, with a juggled tongue and a heavy mouth.

“I’m sorry. But, I-I can’t.” Those words left my mouth, and I almost wish I didn’t see my breath in the cold because watching what I said dissolve into thin air made it even harder to say what was next.

“Everything that ever made sense at one point was here, and a lot of things that didn’t make sense happened here. This doesn’t make sense. Maybe it will. I feel like if I go now, I’ll never find out what else I could make out of. But just the comfort of knowing that it did make sense at one point, gives me faith.” She looks at me, and smiles like the sunrise.

“Well, thank you for giving me an answer this time.” I give a light laugh to that.

Carolyn puts her car into drive, and I take one more look at her, entirely.

“It was nice seeing you again, Robbie.” She says honestly.

“Same to you.” I reply back.

She presses on the accelerator and evaporates into the fog. I look deep into the thick of it, and watch as her two lights fade away as if the lights curled like cocoons and disappears. Until it becomes just fog again.

I’m once again with silence, but it feels different this time. It feels a lot heavier now. Harder to swallow, even. The only silence worth listening to is the silence that comes before hearing something you know you’re going to want to forget. The calm before the storm. It gives you hope that things will turn out different. I feel as if Carolyn always held onto that slight hope.

A couple of minutes pass by I notice the sun beginning to rise toward the direction Carolyn drove in. It crawls above the horizon, past the fog, to where it looks like a faded torch in the distance. I imagine her with her car windows still down. Going 100 down the I-35. The wind filling the empty spaces of everything within her. Her smile as she sees the sun rising, knowing she’s coming closer to the thing she always wanted to catch. For so long she thought it was gone, but now she realizes that it’s there. It’s always been there.

***

I wrote Last Toll Home for my Intro to Fiction class this semester as my last piece that was workshopped and critiqued by my peers in class. I always try to write out scenes that involve only two people, because in most social scenarios of my life I really only hang out with one other person and from there conversations can easily become deep and meaningful, so I just stick to what I know when it comes to interactions between two people.

I wanted to write about talking to your ex, but in a way where things are different. People are different than how they were years ago, and I really wanted to give the feeling of people changing but they’re surrounded by a place that is fast paced and ever-changing as well.

The toll booth that is the gateway to the I-35 is fictitious, however the I-35 is known as the deadliest highway in Texas. The Ben W ramp is fictitious as well, but it served as a metaphor for “one-upping” your ex by Going 70, 80, 90, or 100 when things became too heavy. It can also be seen as a way for our protagonist, Robbie, to sort of find a way to get back into life and sort of cut in front of people to get there.

Last Toll Home is a story about hope and the insecurities of stages of a life ending and beginning. There are reasons why these two people are on this highway tonight, and they are both looking for a way out but instead they find each other and they crash against the pavement, so to speak, in a beautiful way.

BURNMAN

Sometimes the things I receive look old, covered in ash. Sometimes it looks brand new, with mounds of dust covering it. There’s always a layer to whatever appears to me. It has history. It’s meant something to someone.

I never receive people, or anything that is alive. Their place is meant for somewhere else that I’ve only read of, and as far as I’m concerned my placement is unbeknownst to me as well. I always was, and never seemed to question why. I was always too busy sorting out the things that would appear to me.

I mostly receive small things: jewels, clocks, wooden statuettes, pictures (framed, naked, exposed, group, solo, and destroyed) clothing, tools, children’s toys, and letters written for Johns and Janes. My favorite are books, where I get most of the things I know from. I read almost every single time I sort through my findings because it never has to take two hands to have to pick up things from the ground.

Measuring time at this point is pointless. I mostly see how much time flies by the books I’ve read. I’ve so far completed about close to 80 books, with just about a stack quadruple of that left to read. I categorize the piles of the things that have been burnt in past lives as well: things that have moving parts, things that stand still, and things that could be of use to me eventually.

Where I live is very curious as well. For a place that contains dirty, ashy, and grimy things, it is very clean. White walls, floors, and ceilings surround me with no stains in sight. Sometimes I receive mirrors, which creates even more white walls. Beyond the piles of burnt is white, never-ending.

I don’t call it my home on purpose. There is no sense of belonging on my part. The objects I collect belong there, I felt as if I never have.

The three piles lie scattered, almost about 30 feet tall each. The objects appear to me randomly away from the already set piles. I pick them up, I look for the pile, and then I set them down in the correct pile that correlates to where it belongs to. While I wait, I read. Sometimes I look at myself read and I sit in front of mirrors, it almost makes me feel less alone. I wish my reflection would look up to me and ask me what I thought of a specific part of the story I’m reading, but it never happens. My reflection never had an opinion for A Clockwork Orange, he just mimics me; mimics the burnt.

I talk to him sometimes, my reflection. His hands are always covered in ash. His leathery skin hangs off his bones, laminated with dirt and grime from his findings. His fingernails and toenails never grow, however his lemony thick hair has grown down to his chin. He only wears a tattered cloth over his body, he learned to wrap it around himself after reading a book entitled The Third Eye, a book written by a Tibetan Monk. He never responds to what I have to say. I do most of the talking in our relationship.

“Do you read any books?” I ask him. I wait patiently for a response. A blink that is not anticipated. Nothing.

“Alright, you want to play the silent game?”

I get up and walk away from the golden, chipped mirror when suddenly I hear a sound from behind it.

Bark! Bark!

I look into the vast white, not knowing what to think. What to expect. The only sound that has come out of here has only been the clatter of metals, papers, and wood that I would gather and place. I’ve never heard this sound before, nor would I even begin to decipher what it could be. The sound itself is alien to my ears.

Bark! Bark! Bark!

It goes again. I begin to walk toward the mirror again.

“Reflection, is that you?” I ask him, with much hesitation.

For the longest time, I never knew what my reflection would sound like. After all, this is the first time he’s ever said anything back to me. I wish it sounded like me, so that I could find some familiarity in this place where everything varies. As far as I’m concerned, I have never made this noise in my life so I’m a bit curious as to why my reflection would want to make this sound as his first impression of himself.

I turn toward the mirror only to see my reflection staring back at me. His deep blue eyes surrounded by white, and the two other piles of ashy objects that I have made are behind him. He does his usual silent game once again.

“Can I help you?” He mimics my mouth.

Bark!

It’s only until now that I discover that the sound is coming from behind the mirror. The clatter of metal objects indicates that this sound is coming possibly from a crank or automatic machine that somehow managed to keep its speaker intact. I’m a little excited given the fact that I haven’t received any objects that move in quite a while.

My footsteps cause more noise around me as I begin to look behind the mirror, and what I find behind it almost makes me jump all the way back into the white infinity.

Behind the mirror sits a furry creature, shaking with curiosity, its big black eyes staring up at me. For the longest time, I thought black only existed within the ash that would cover the treasures I would receive. The creature is small in size, no bigger than the candelabras that would find shelter inside the white. It has two eyes, two ears, but four legs.

The hair that covers… him is an off-orange, brown color that resembles the cover of Orwell’s Animal Farm, with just a dash of beige from Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. He has speckles of white that looks as if he plucked them from the white room itself. His immense amount of hair is drooped over his body, reaching carelessly to the floor. He has also found a language of his own as well, which I find concerning since what’s the point of communicating if I can’t understand him.

Upon further observation, the creature does not look threatening in the least. He has trouble keeping eye contact, and within the first minutes of seeing each other he never once showed his teeth or any other signs of aggression. He didn’t give me a reason to be afraid, so I wasn’t.

The creature starts to become excited and starts to look up at me, panting, with its tongue out, which seemed strange to me since I never have to do that whenever I’m excited. I keep my tongue in my mouth. His furred end begins to wave back in forth, and he begins to pounce toward me. I take a couple of steps back which send many metal objects clattering to the ground, I even trip backwards onto the pearly floor, which pains my head and my backend.

I groan from my slight pain, and rub my head with my rough, thick palms from the fall. The creature slowly makes his way over to my side and begins to sniff my face, which makes me back away and rise to my feet, quickly. At this point his tongue goes back into his mouth and he begins to look at me in a puzzled and confused look, head tilted.

Arf?

I see this creature amongst the piles of burnt artifacts, and I finally realize that this creature was sent here from the other world. It seemed strange to me because this was the first time I’ve ever received something that was living and breathing in front of me.

People in the other world get burnt. They are birthed, they live, and then they die. Sometimes they are burnt to ashes, and sometimes they are buried, untouched, but I have never been around to see someone die. As a matter of fact, I’ve never seen another person at all. My reflection has been the only thing I’ve known since I’ve started collecting. Never once have I questioned if I’ve been birthed, mostly because I never knew if I was a person or not. I always felt as if someone had to tell him if I was.

I see the creature begin to stand on its two back legs and begin to reach for the milky ceiling. It couldn’t quite reach it, but I did notice a clang of metal coming from his neck. It gleamed from the white hue the room emitted. The creature was wearing a neck brace of some sort with a golden pendant attached to it. I looked closer to see the word Nico engraved neatly on its shimmering coin.

”Nico?” I finally say to him.

He looks up at me with recognition.

“Is that your name? Nico?” His tongue sticks out again, and he begins to stride forward to me with delight. Each one of his legs working together like cogs in a grandfather clock, clicking and clattering amongst the blank floor beneath him. I don’t move and stay still just in case he attacks me. Nico slows down his pace to a calm walk before nuzzling his head against my naked ankle.

In that moment, I felt his hair brush up against me and I feel as if I have read a thousand books at once. His eyes are closed, which confuses me because mine were still open. He nuzzles up against my leg and I could feel a thousand capacities rise above me. All my life I have been around objects that were lost and forgotten, and for a while I believed that I was the same way. That I have been just placed here to rot amongst these objects that appeared to me. But never before have had I felt so alive. I feel tears rush down my cheeks, and for a moment I finally feel my heart. It felt tremulous and ignited. As if I was going to burst all at once, and come back together again.

For a second, I stretched my hand out to Nico’s head but in a second he quickly opens his eyes and I see him. I quickly back away and start running away. Away from the heartbeats, the quivers, the euphoria, everything. I don’t look back to see if Nico is following me, and I dodge all the piles of the burnt until they all become dots to me, out into the white infinity. I stand there frozen, panting from running, tired from all the feelings that came rushing in at once from nowhere, and I begin to hate them.

Never has any book, any letter, any photo make me feel this way. For a while, the only thing I’ve felt was curiosity. I would pick up a new object and place them in with the correct pile. Sometimes I would wonder what its origins were, and sometimes I wouldn’t. But in the end I knew what it was, what they all were. They were dead. Burnt. Abandoned. All these things that I receive are just skeletons of things that had a purpose. I would pick them up and feel no pulse, no electricity, just ash.

I’m a gravedigger. I care for the dead, and feel no life inside my chest. I am just as alive as those piles of metal and paper.

I never worried about any of this until Nico came along. I was content with living among the unmoved, the stoic, and the burnt. Only because I was the same.

I stare off into the distance long enough to the point where I wanted to become lost. Maybe soon I can just keep walking and forget about everything I’ve left behind. Maybe I can live within the color white. I could finally find home.

I hear a crackle of paper below my feet. The paper slowly unfolds itself to me. I pick it up, to see that it is a letter. I quickly flatten the crumpled paper and begin to read:

Dear Nico,

I’m sitting by our fireplace right now. Mama is cutting vegetables in the kitchen, and I’m very mad at you. I’m mad that you’re going to have to make me eat the asparagus mom is about to prepare for dinner. Remember how that was your job? To eat the things I didn’t want? I could tell myself a thousand times over that that is the one reason why I want you back, but it isn’t.

            Mama said that the only thing that’s guaranteed in life are goodbyes. “Hello again” is hard to come by nowadays. I can only hope that I can say hello to you, because the word “goodbye” has become so stale in my mouth after passing through my lips so much.

            I miss you. I still see the holes you’ve buried near the oak past where the school buses would pass. Your fur still lingers around our house, and you’re still making Mama’s allergies act up.

            Wherever you are, I hope that you’re with an angel. Maybe they can take care of you now. Hopefully the both of you can still find that even when it seems like you’ve been given the worst, you can still find the best in each other. Because I know I have found the best parts of me in you.

                                                                                                                                    Love, Robbie.

I fold the letter halfway, and flatten it. I keep it tucked in the crevice of the cloth that is tied around me. I look up to see Nico sitting some distance away from me. His light auburn head tilted to its side. Waiting for me to call his name again.

***

Nico’s pile is almost 10 feet tall now. It sits beside the pile of moving objects since he enjoys hearing the clanking, and he enjoys the tolls of grandfather clocks when the hands reach a new hour.

My piles reach to about 35 feet now, and Nico helps me every once in a while. Whenever he sees something that he doesn’t want to put in his, he simply grabs them by his mouth and gives them to me. Although the objects still come in ashy and dusty, it seems to not bother Nico too much.

Sometimes Nico and I sit in front of mirrors and I try to converse with my reflection, but so far he still hasn’t responded to me. No matter, I instead talk to Nico before I read a new chapter in my book while we sit together on the floor between our piles.

“Nico,” I say to him, while he lays down chewing on a small brass candelabra. He looks up to me.

“I’m reading this book about stars.” His coal eyes gaze longer.

“Stars are those things that are in the night sky that shine once this thing called night occurs every day, somewhere.” It was at this point, I wish Nico could talk that he describe to me what a star really looks like.

“They say that once a star burns out, they implode and become light that travels across the galaxy, aimlessly.” I try to pause in-between my sentences just in case Nico wants to respond to what I say, most of the time he doesn’t.

“While travelling around the galaxy at night, people look up and still see them as stars but the stars are so far away from them they can’t tell whether or not they’re still alive and burning.” Nico sits still, staring at me. We both hear new objects appearing to us, but we both ignore them.

“That idea is so beautiful to me. A life that is still bright, even after it has ended. A life that continues, doesn’t stop, not even for a second.”

“That’s what I think we are, Nico: stars that burnt out too soon. But we still continue to travel boundless, limitless, and ferocious.”

Nico and I sit there for a while and we hear clatters of new treasures appearing, but both stay sitting together. I continue to read while Nico sits quietly next to me, waiting for me to get up and begin collecting.

For once, I sit and watch. Each object appearing on the ground, how brightly they come to us. I think about far they’ve all travelled to come here, how each item once belonged to somebody or somewhere. I look down at Nico, and I scratch the top of his head and I feel his fur between my fingers.

We are free.

We are ignited.

***

The story for BURNMAN came about when I was sitting in my Intro to Fiction class in the beginning of this semester and we were reading a short story entitled Bullet to the Brain, following the death of a man in real time where readers saw a bullet travel from the barrel of the gun to his brain. Eventually the bullet hits a certain part of his brain that triggers a memory before he dies which reveals a lot more to the man than we expected.

The idea of what happens after something dies came into play, where from there things being burnt never really have an afterlife, so to say.

BURNMAN is a self-realization story and a tribute to my dog Bo who passed away from bone cancer in early 2012.

The Heart

The heart pumps

beats, fast and slow

opens, to the wrong people

closes, to the people who open their hearts to you

The heart is flexible,

bends

shrinks

hardens

softens

however, breaks the easiest

it is fragile, flammable, soluble, and ferocious

a heart is loud

blinding, deafening, screeching noise

it reverberates to support

however falls with just one fallowed swoop

one sentence

one blink

one touch

a heartbeat is an echo

a prayer

a mother’s wish

a signal to every corner of your veins

a heart travels to all, but only reaches to a few

it engages with no remorse

no regret

if only we could stop listening to it

life would be easier to live

but to live without a heart, is to die with a heavy soul

your heart is a lighthouse

a pulsating light

flickering off in the distance

thrown against the fog

billowing in the unknown

its visible

seen

even when you think otherwise

it’s within grasp for anyone who wants it

it matters

it’s yours

***

This poem was for my Poetry class. It was described as a Definition Poem, and the guidelines that posted was as following:

Choose an ordinary object, such as a door, then make up a list of functions for that object. Try to select functions that lend a symbolic meaning or quality to the object. For example, a door opens, closes, locks, blocks the view, separates inside from outside, etc. When you have created the list, begin the poem with the object and the follow that with a series of functions selected from your original list. Select functions with an eye toward some larger insight or them

Most of this poem comes from another short essay that I was working on entitled Lighthouse Heart that I have scrapped :/
This describes how the heart is many things. It can be looked at as many ways to many people, but in the end the most important thing is that it is yours. You should take care of it, but at the same time you have to put it into peril in order to live entirely.

– Chris

Weightless

196 lb

average male weight

ego not included

//

156 lb

average female weight

although one spoken sentence hits like a ton of bricks

 //

20 lb

unsaid words,

searing, left in your throat

 //

10 lb

It won’t happen again”

guns for vocal chords

//

40 lb

a dead car battery

//

25 lb

for every bullet he left inside her spirit

//

a scale says 167 pounds

body mass measured

heavy heart unaccounted

//

19.30 g

roughly the weight of a wedding ring

she’s seen three removed from three different fingers

//

1.5 g

enough for six rotations

enough to feel zero

//

1.5 oz

enough for a shot

take six to feel a hundred

//

10 million tons

the weight of a star

//

10 million tons

the thought of her

//

we are loaded

dense

filled

//

made-to-break

paper-made

carbon-bounded

heart-strung

fire-resistant

//

the weight we carry is not the

numbers on the scale

we are much more than the pounds we gain

the aches that we hold

the tears that did not fall

//

living with a hallowed heart does not make it any less heavier

//

these light words were not meant for these paper limbs

gravity could care less

//

we are pressured

felt

squeezed

until broken

forevermore

//

built strong

lasts shortly

bulldozed by just one fallowed swoop

we are demolished

//

you could build your vessel as ravenous and as merciless as you can

only to be held down by the world

we are defied

//

measured

counted

hated

loved

we are

***

This poem is very very short and small to me, but it carries a lot of… weight

HA!

But I did write this after going on this really really funny date last night. Things were going well, but got SUPER HEAVY during the end out of nowhere and while she was talking about her feelings about her past, I wanted to say to her

“Just cause we carry weight with us, it doesn’t mean it should hold us down.”

But I never did. The date ended with me dropping her off at her house and then I went to smoke with my friends Matt and Ajay shortly afterward lol.

This poem describes the weights we carry with us along life. But although it weighs us down, it should not defy us or tell us what we are because we are much more than just the flesh and bone we came with into this world. We are much more.

– Chris