the short story project


A Knowledge of Dirt

I’ll scream your beauty into the night until you can hear it directly from me. It’ll enrich the stars, make them twinkle brighter as we wait together for your arrival. Oh, wondrous night! Even in the dank, dull, normalness of this parking lot, just the thought of you transforms it into a fairyland or myth of old. We are a story for the ages and that story begins tonight.

I pace outside, waiting for you. The pavement is cracked and worn, wet from a chilly autumn rain. In the dull street lamp the ground shines with a false sheen, the glittering light battering against my eyes. If this pacing is my path closer to you, I will think of it as a golden road forevermore.

How could I resist you and all your charms? It’s as if God and his many faces crafted you perfectly for me and my viewing pleasure. Lesser mortals may take joy in your shape, but only I know that you are the key to the universe crafted specifically for my use. Your eyes and mouth, sculpted from something older than time, poison my thoughts daily.

If there were a hundred thousand women kneeling before me, ready to submit, I would push them all aside for just one glimpse of you.

You, you, incomparable you. I’ve tried giving you presents, art from my own hands, but you say you “can’t accept it” with demure kindness, completely unaware that you should be lavished with gifts every moment. We’ll teach you to accept the offerings, Goddess, do not fret. Your favorite treats (dark chocolate with sea salt on the top) were left in your mailbox, untouched. I know they were left. I checked every day. How can I help you to see this is just the beginning of what you deserve?

I’d say I’m sorry for leaving the poetry you inspire with it as well, but I can’t stop writing. My muse! Perfectly at ease in an uneasy world. If you don’t take those roaring words out soon, I fear they’ll scream from the box!

Between the drudgery of uninteresting people and mind numbing work, you walked into my life. Like a sword, you slashed through the fog around me with piercing clarity. My skin should have physically bled to show people I was injured, changed, wrecked to be made new by your vitality.

But as quickly as you sliced through my world, you left. One moment, talking and laughing and exploring together, voyagers on a sea of time and nothing in our way. Then, I was alone aboard the ship. It was so sudden. I met you, then you disappeared. Maybe, instead of a fellow voyager, you are the wind. You guide my sails and are invisible to me. Maybe you left because my faith was not strong enough.

I cannot bear the open ocean alone. I cannot bear this creaky ship without a mate. I cannot be left to bleed, alone, on the shiny pavement with only the streetlamp to observe my corpse. I imagine the glittering pavement is saturated with my blood, spilt for you in sacrifice. Would it be enough? Lesser gods would take the blood and move on, but something tells me the cost does not come close to your asking price.

I’m sorry for scaring you with my drawings. It’s just, I see you with such exacting clearness. My hand was a conduit for your curves, the shape of which I could replicate from memory perfectly. Nothing in my life has your gravitas, your magnetism. It’s as if you’re imprinted on my soul and I had to transfer it to paper or have it brand my mind with such searing as to leave me dumb. Something had to be done. After we talked, I know that those things are not meant for others. They are secrets between souls that know each other, sweet whispers of the true nature of our connection. I’m sorry I let people outside of our sacred tryst view those holy things, borne from you but rendered with my hand. That breach shall not happen again. Though I have drawn many more, I will keep them for us as a history of your body over the years. I hope I have time to finish another tonight with your finally posing for me live, in all your glory. Just to see if the memorization through your clothing fits the true, raw nature of your exquisite body.

Tonight, tonight- it’s been so many nights without breathing the same air as you! The quick passes in hallways do not count. There you are seen as an equal, mundane, on par with the rest of humanity. Only I see you truly. I have not taken enough breath since you came into my life. Come with me, tonight, and fill my lungs and heart with your oxygen.

Day to endless day without our union…how dare they denigrate your existence with work? You burn the world as you walk and they should fall to their knees as you pass. Instead, they laugh with you. They waste your time with their lesser thoughts and ideas. They pollute your air. I would enrich it.

Why do you not come when I call, embrace our connection to its fullest? I know it is scary to be complete, a transformation of two into one. I’m scared too. We will both be rendered unrecognizable. I am already changed for your existence in my life, as I know you are without you saying so out loud. Now this magic transformation will be completed, the two of us together in a way that will alter the earth forever. How beautiful. How terrifying. I will be the bastion of strength on our journey through time, your pillar where you falter. I do not doubt your strength. Let me foster its growth, set it with a foundation immovable in my soul.

You’ve laid the seeds since we’ve met. Quick glances, never returned, for we cannot risk others knowing our inborn secret. Denying me in public places; treating me as others treat you and as you are treated. Leaving the air bereft of our passion, letting it build behind the closed doors of our rib cages. I would call it wasted air, but it has fueled my heart to heights previously unknown. Who knew denial could lead to such exquisite rapture! My heart is clawing at its cage, begging the ribs to break and free it to fly to you.

It is tonight that we light the flame.I have tried in the past, but there was not enough sacrifice for your altar. Not enough nights spent in anguish, not enough longing and hope stored in my bones as the skeleton of our world, the soil of our life as the fertile bed in our garden. We will grow violets and take walks under pine trees, our love dressing us as royalty among the eternal evergreens.

Your light in my life is my resurrection, my hope for a better world.

Any second now, you will leave that prison. You stayed behind, working late into the night. Poor woman! Everyone else has left you by yourself. When I offered to stay you waved me off as you did the others. I forgive you for it. There is work to be done and you are the woman to take care of it. My goddess! How I wish I could take these burdens from you, but I know that you are the only one capable of completing these tasks with such quality. My work would pale in comparison to yours.

I, the unworthy. In the dirt, constantly reaching up. I feel myself falling in a pit, farther and farther. I thought at first it was a rabbit hole and I was going to end up in a new world, but there is only mud here. Dirt. I and my shovel dug deeper and deeper into despair, until you walked by my pit. I have been climbing for your light ever since. I, and my knowledge of dirt, will tend the garden of our love.

How I wish the pavement would wear down to show you the journey I’ve taken as I’ve waited for you. Through the sea, over the heights of mountains, in the depths of the Earth; I can claim these things in your name forever and always. But tonight, tonight, the journey comes to the end of one chapter as another begins. The chapter of us.

The door creaks. Goddess, do you descend to my level? Am I ready? Am I-

“Excuse me, do you need to be let in?” the churlish security guard asks. The cunning of my lady’s passion may keep me waiting all night.

“Just waiting for someone,” I reply to the brute. He stares for a moment and leaves me in my reverie.

How dare he interrupt the tapestry of thought being woven in your honor? How dare he break my watch? He will be the first to fall when we join, the power of our love ready to make mortals such as he quake. Though, he was only doing his job. Maybe he will be spared and recruited to our cause.

Do we have a cause? I cannot wait to find out! To see what ignites with the two of us working together, choosing a goal and ascending to that height. You will lift me up and I will help us fly this place, our passion and union making the world a shining example for the universe. Goddess and mate! I’ll sing to thee!

“Hey Claire, were you locked out?”

In my reverie, I missed the entrance of my mistress.

She stands, beleaguered by two heavy bags and a coat that hides her perfection. How dare they saddle you like a horse and dress you in something unbecoming of your beauty!


I forgot to answer. I rectify the situation as best I can, “Oh, no, I was actually waiting for you.”

My lady stands still, her perfect brow rumpled in confusion. That I would be the cause of such a disturbance on my lady’s face!

“Is this about the quarterly report? I’m so sorry you waited, you could have sent me an email so you could go home-”

“Uh, no, this is something else.”

She blinks. She is going to make me say these things aloud, scream her perfection to the cold night air! If I could get my mouth to work, I would happily oblige.

“Are you okay?” She asks, her eyes wide and concerned. Concern for me! A bug in her life, a suitor sacking the house of Odysseus. But I am Penelope and have waited far too long for my hero’s return to our marital bed.

“No, I’m not,” I say, smiling so my lady does not confuse my pain as something she caused. Well, she is the cause of it, but it is not a bad thing.

Her face is the tabula rasa, unfettered and unrevealing. “If it’s a personal issue, I think H.R. would be a better help to you.”

She continues to play coy! Perhaps she forgets that we are alone now, for the first time. We are without the seething masses. I will help her realize our opportunity. If only I could get my mouth to work.

“Well, I, uh…” why do words fail me now? Be her bastion! Lead the way! “I was wondering if you got my poetry.”

A start! I will take it.

“Right,” I cannot read her face, why does she not reveal to me her inner workings? I, who have proven over and over that I love her desperately. “I have a private mailbox now. I asked you before to stop giving me things, Claire.”

“They’re presents. For you.” ‘Presents’ is too weak a word, but I’m not sure they deserve the title of ‘offering’. They’re not good enough yet.

“Claire,” her face is still passive, a sea of unexplored possibilities. “I’ve done everything I can to not lead you on in any way…”

Am I bleeding?

“…I don’t know what I did that made you think that I was interested in you in a romantically…”

Not romantic; Religious. Legendary. Mythic. Sacred and unspoken.

“But I thought I was clear before. I don’t want anything from you. Nothing. If it means that we don’t interact on even a business professional level, I’ll talk to H.R. to take care of that.”

What, see her even less? My lady, my love?

“I don’t understand,” is all I can gasp with her sword between my ribs.

She pauses, taking in the sight. She is twice my height. Is she afraid she’ll crush me? I can take care of myself. Is it the fact that we work together? Maybe moving offices would relieve the professional boundaries. Maybe she’s telling me how this can work, instead of how it can’t! Yes, yes, that has to-

“I want absolutely nothing to do with you,” she says. She is tired. Worn. Who is driving you away from me, dear love? Who has saddled you with so much burden that you cannot see that I can handle your pain, wash away your anguish?

“But I love you,” I say with my dying breath.

She looks up to heaven, calling on the power of her deity friends for guidance. How can they torture her like this? How can they play with me in this way?

“Claire,” she is stern now. I have never seen her like this. “Your feelings are not my responsibility.”

Yet, you are responsible for them. “So I have no right to your time? Your presence, even?” I feel my mouth move and say those words. Whether for good or for evil, my rib cage is open and my heart is making its escape.

“Uh, my presence? I don’t know…you know what, no. You have no right to any part of my life.”

What fearsome devil has taken over my love’s body? Who speaks with her angelic voice, her storied soul?

“I deserve a chance, at least,” yes, I am begging to my goddess. A good high priestess knows her place. I am here to improve her life; what pride keeps her from seeing that? “I’ve been nothing but kind to you.”

She looks as if she has swallowed something sour. “You’ve repeatedly gone against requests I’ve made. You’ve embarrassed me publicly and I’ve had to change my schedule multiple times so that your crush didn’t interfere with business meetings and day to day work around here.”

That build up was necessary for this moment, how does she not see that? By denying each other our presence, we make the few moments we share even more powerful! She knows this unconsciously, of course, but I must teach her how to consciously use this knowledge. My new mission.

“I am here for you- talk to me!”

“We’re not friends!” she says. Of course we’re not, strange love. We don’t need words to explain our connection! It’s intrinsic, ethereal, all encompassing-

“You and I deserve a chance at happiness,” I say, sure that this is the footing she needs to proceed. This was all just a mix up, a lack of communication on my part. I’ll take the fault for our quick detour from eternal happiness.

“Honestly,” I don’t know what has set her off, but she is enraged. She’s shaking. “If you were a man or even close to my same size, I would have reported you to the cops a long time ago. This is serious, Claire. No means no.”

That’s not how this is supposed to go. “But if you’re not responsible for my feelings, then I’m not responsible for yours!” I tell the demon that is puppeting my love. “Your discomfort is not my problem, it’s yours. You’ll learn to love me!”

“I don’t want to!” The demon has won, calling out from her body. I can hear lightning crack in the back of my psyche. How I wish it was my blood on the ground, truly. She would be sorry then. She would love me then.

This was my love. Past tense. Now Lucifer takes her steps. I will die from this pain.

“All right, Claire. Let me leave. You’re in my way.”

“Good!” I’m spluttering now, still dying in front of her. She is unfeeling, a cadaver animated by evil. “What, I’m not good enough for you? What’s so horrible about me that you want nothing to do with me?”

“First of all, I’m straight,” she says, her voice calm again. How did I never notice the literal fire behind her eyes, burning all who know how to love? She is bereft of love, the reason she needs sacrifice. Proof of everyone else’s worth. “Second of all, it has nothing to do with worth. You don’t get boundaries. You’re not crazy, that would relieve you of responsibility. You’ve chosen to ignore other people’s boundaries for the sake of your feelings and I won’t have it. I’m calling H.R. in the morning. Goodbye.”

She storms off, but leaves the wake of destruction in my chest. It’s cold, it’s sharp, it’s dizzying and electric. I’ll ride this fire straight into my grave.

Or not. Maybe now, I have the deity’s power. She has chosen to abstain from her mantle. I gladly take the power we two share, will wield it against her since I cannot be with her. If she won’t stand to hear me sing her praises, then she’ll fall. If she won’t watch me draw her as I see her, perfect and powerful, then I’ll hang it on an altar to her memory.  If she won’t bear the gifts, the beautiful gifts, hewn from nothingness from my own hands, I’ll lay them on the ground beneath her headstone.

I’ll scream your beauty at your grave, for I have a knowledge of dirt.

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