Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cinder and Smoke V

The telephone rings waking me from the trance I’ve fallen into. I’m not really in the mood to talk, it’s probably J.D or God forbid, Madison calling about the latest brief. I sit on the bed idly, listening to the discordant clang of the phone ringing. Leo won’t pick it up, she never does. Leo. As I sit here on the bed playing with memories, she must still be in her stupor. Her self induced, poison stupor. It’s difficult for me to come back into the present. These perfect memories don’t fit in with the life we lead now. I feel like I’m dragging them through the mud, soiling them even as I associate them with us, now. The Leo I knew and loved and this Leo are so different. I don’t know who this person is; I doubt that even she knows. Or cares. Who even knows what Leo thinks anymore. She’s isolated herself from her circle of friends since she started flirting with drinks. One too many at the last party she had been to, and I gather she’d embarrassed herself. I hadn’t been there that day, so I didn’t know. I’d been working late as usual; it had been a busy period of time for me. We were working on a pretty high profile case as I remember. In fact, I’d come out of that looking pretty good. Got into Sheridan’s good books, and earned myself a most comfortable position. I heard about the party later. Not from her, a few chance remarks from an acquaintance. Something about Leo being in pretty high spirits that day. Btu I’d put it out of my head. Leo was always dancing around, I’d figured. Must have gone a little overboard. She didn’t tell me and I forgot to ask. Besides, I was preoccupied with work. But that was the last party she went to. Occasionally the odd invitation still trickles in. A discarded envelope in the dustbin or by the ashtray in the evening.  People know now of course, or at least they suspect. It’s one of those things you don’t quite come out and say in polite society. Besides, vodka is a relatively tame indulgence for a lot of the people in her business. Her friends or whatever it was that she had, do know by now. They don’t blame me for it though. I don’t think anybody does. If anything they respect me. I get the title of being “the responsible one”, the “strong one”, “a really decent chap”. Sometimes they invite me over for dinner. Very rarely, I accept. Leo never bothers to ask me why I’m late. I don’t know how we slipped into this routine of not asking each other questions, or asking them and not waiting to hear the reply. That would be me. “How was your day, Leo?” Much too often she has fixed me with a blank stare in response to any questions I would ask. And now-now I can’t even stand to be in the same room. There was a time when we’d put off eating, sleeping, even sleeping together- though that, not very often- to just talk. She would talk and I would talk and then she’d talk some more. My Leo. And I’d listen. She would tell me about their old house by the cliff, the sound of the sea each time her father would return and her mother’s half smile goodnight’s. She would tell me of the glitz and the veneer of the sets she visited and of the worlds they took her to. She would tell me of the new idea that had just struck her and sometimes, she would practice her lines on me. She’d always wind up laughing though, halfway through them. I didn’t care. I listened some more, caressed her hair, ran my tongue along her ears. The hollow of her neck, where her shoulder and collarbone met- that was where she loved to be kissed. I would talk as well-when I wasn’t distracted. She knew about my solid childhood, my sister Vinnie and our hikes with Papa, Papa and Mama and the incredible safety they provided us with. Our country house, Frankie in the kitchen cooking pot-pi on Sunday afternoons. Papa with a pack of cigarettes, the perpetual cloud of blue smoke that surrounded him, Mama in her flowered apron and her crinkled smile, smelling vaguely of cinnamon. Vinnie and our imaginary fortress, her sneaking out to meet her first boyfriend, growing up with a cloud of friends and degrees balanced on her head, moving away and sometimes reminding me with an unexpected phone call that I missed her. Leo’s  moon-river outside her house, her attempt to run away to bring her father back one day, her first boyfriend who taught her how to kiss, then her second boyfriend who taught her that her first boyfriend couldn’t kiss. Radcliffe and Rilke and a trip to Spain mixed up altogether.  back to me- stammering till age ten, my fascination with red hair, baseball and hockey- the only two subjects she showed little interest in, though she definitely tried to fake it, university, J.D and our sudden passion for long hikes into unknown places, weed, my failed attempts at writing poetry, booze- lots of it and the guys, summer days spent doing nothing. More memories. More talking, then no talking at all.
Her mother was a dipsomaniac.

“Give me your hand
Your mother is drunk as all the firemen shake
A photo from father’s arms

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