Synopsis: When a woman sees ugliness and darkness within people, she must keep it to herself; she has no other choice. She isn’t sure whether she is cursed. Just as she is ready to settle into disillusionment, something unexpected happens.
He lied. Every sound he uttered was deceitful. When he slithered towards me in the long, cold, corridor of the apartment complex, my chest felt constricted, my face ablaze. As his words arrived in my ears, I felt as if a snake-like tongue lashed at my lobes.
“What’s good, girl?” he began, slyly. “Why didn’t you text me?”
“I did,” my reply fell like a stone, “three times, and we both know that.”
“Oh, what now? I didn’t get yo texts.” Two, pointed horns jutted up and out of the top of his head.
“You know what, it’s not even necessary for you to lie to me so much.”
“Relax! You bein’ bogus as hell right now. Why would I lie?” He slowly moved his talons across my shoulder and around my neck. I grabbed my junkmail and bills from my mail slot before closing the tiny door and relocking it. He walked like that, with his arm around me, down the hall to my apartment door.
“Yep, that’s me- super bogus,” I mumbled sarcastically.
“Gurl, be quiet,” he said, trying too hard to sound playful. “When am I gonna see you again?” I peered at his face and his eyes presented to me as they hadn’t before. The whites of his eyes reddened and his pupils stretched into long, vertical slits. I cringed slightly.
“You’re seeing me right now,” I shot back, smartassed, forcing a quiet, awkward giggle and looking down at my door knob.
I wanted the conversation to be over so I then managed to satisfy him with some half-truth excuse of being really busy lately. He probably expected that we would get together at some point in the near future and sleep together again, a mistake I had no intention of making again. Sauntering back down the hallway to his own apartment, his reddish-green cloud of luminous mist swirled slowly about his head and torso and muddled into a dirty bronze. I went through my door and closed it hard, locking it quickly from the inside. I exhaled a deep sigh.
It isn’t always so crisp, so vivid, as it was with that asshole. Sometimes I can see a person morphing into some discernable shape, an animal, creature, or object. Other times I only see their projections as blurs of shimmering colors or lights with my visions, my second-sight, my gift, (or curse, depending upon whether you look at it the way I do.) It wasn’t until adolescence that I came to understand and be at peace with my particular reality. No one else, that I know of, was afflicted this way, yet it wasn’t a phenomenon altogether unheard of either, as I discovered after spending innumerable hours in the silent stacks at the public library. It was only then I was able to give words to what I had always known:
Relief came, or as much as a differently-abled, disillusioned person like me can get, when a term jumped at me in my early readings. Something by which to finally define myself:
As I walked from my foyer into the kitchen, I realized that I didn’t even feel hungry anymore and, instead, I opted for a shower. My phone rang. I only looked at it from the hallway. I could see the projection emanating from it. You see, once I have previously met a person, face to face, I am able to see what they radiate, even through objects like telephones, computers, and papers they’d written on.
The phone had a cloud around it, of muddy brown, some navy blue, with minuscule flecks of metallics. The colors formed into burrs in places, like little, prickly tumbleweeds. I knew exactly who was calling and what he wanted, and it wasn’t a long walk by the beach nor a sentimental chat by the fire. He wanted pussy, or money. Ultimately, that’s what he wanted. He wasn’t the devil-horned, snake-eyed guy, but he was another man who I wasn’t interested in talking to that night. There’s a lot of ugliness and selfishness in people. Maybe I didn’t need to tell you that, but there is. However, he wasn’t wholly evil or anything, no one ever is completely, hence his gold and silver flecks. Smart, funny, curious, compassionate. And the dark blue meant he was just a very hurt person, to the point that he had allowed it to consume him and now it was a part of him. That’s how I had interpreted him at least. It took me a while to see the burrs, the prickles, the deep browns. People sometimes duped me, tricked me, or perhaps it was that people are ever-changing and therefore their projections do too. I want to believe that.
The shower is a safe place for me. A capsule of solitude which I readily welcomed from time to time. It gave me a break from the visions, even from myself. I actually didn’t mind my own emanation much. At least I had that going for me, that I didn’t hate myself, and yet, I did. I felt like a freak, a possibly hallucinating lunatic, out-of-step, alien, aloof, apart.
Finished with my shower, I wiped the foggy mirror and looked at my familiar self. I’d spent so much time looking at it over the years, still not quite able to interpret what I saw reflected back, the ribbons of bright, electric blue-greens and purples woven with threads and firework-like splashes of glittering, yellow golds. This translucent haze danced about my hair and my body on a sheer, blackened background, as if a darkness was lit up with nocturnal activity. And there were feathers, a fan of the fluffiest white feathers with small, black polka dots, suspended in the colors. I’m not sure if the reason I liked my projection was due to familiarity or whether it was objectively beautiful. What did it say about me though? Does it make me good? Bad? A mixed up soul? A dreamer? Bird-like and floating? A drifter on the wind? A peace-bringer? A messenger of darkness? I didn’t have my answers.
Toweled off, I pulled on my favorite jeans and gray t-shirt. I clicked on the TV which happened to be on the CNN news channel, or should I say The Twenty-Four-Seven-Trump Channel? I turned it back off and groaned audibly but felt indifferent at the same time because, although I found him to be a useless schmuck, I honestly didn’t believe he had the power to rain down fire and brimstone in quite the way some others did. Besides, there’s nothing I could do about him. And yes, I did mean me, even the me who had a potentially important ability, could do nothing to benefit anyone.
Think about it. I can’t see emanations through the TV unless I’ve been in his/her presence at least once before. I’ve thought about traveling to see people on TV, perhaps those accused of heinous crimes and put on trial. Take Trump for example: I could’ve gone to one of his rallies, see what he projects, get a reading on him. But then what? What the fuck could I do then? Tell everyone what I saw and what I think his intentions truly are, once and for all? Be the hero? No. I couldn’t. I’d be stamped insane and dangerous quicker than Ex-Lax through a corpse and subjected to vile-full injections of drugs and shock therapy, strapped to a clockwork-oranged chair. No one would listen to my rantings.
Maybe I am insane. Even if I’m not, what is the point of being second-sighted if I can’t do any goddamned good for anyone else? How am I to be of service if I know I must remain silent? I was desensitized to the visions and had long forgotten about my notions of using my ability to help the greater good or whatever Mother-Theresa bullshit ideas I’d had. I was numbed much of the time.
I plopped on the couch with my Edgar-Allan-Poe-adorned teacher’s tote bag and pulled out a stack of my English students’ quizzes. Uncapping my green, grading pen, I was sort of forcing myself to grade them, which is typical for me. Do you have any idea how exhausting it is looking at the layers of chaotic projections coming off those papers? Or being around the firestorm of emanations radiating from hundreds of the precious devils themselves each day? Shitstorm is more like it; middle-schoolers can be some fucked up people. But some of them put Gandhi or Da Vinci to shame.
Suddenly, the Skype ringtone rattled my living room. It was my mom calling on my PC. I figured I owed her a hello-how-are-you conversation. It’d been a while.
“Hi Mom,” I said flatly.
“Hiyaaa Babycakes! my mom asked in her overly sing-songy way. Then my dad popped his head in the frame, blocking my mom from their webcam momentarily, his usual plain yellow sunbursts radiating around him. He’s a simple but light-hearted guy.
“Hey, Hunny, look at your dad. I’m LARFing!” He licked his dinner fork clean. LARF was a family-invented acronym that had come about at some holiday party. It stood for “Lick And Retain Fork.” A host yelled, “LARF!” letting the party guests know dessert was coming soon so hold on to that utensil so’s you can dig in to it. My mom scolded my dad to get away from the camera.
“What’s new by youuu!?” my mom asked.
“Oh same old, same old- juicy farts and blue mold,” I rattled off duly. It was another aged, family inside joke from my childhood. Unfunny to me nowadays but not to my mom. She usually howled an exaggerated cackle. I was unaffected by what had always hovered around my mom’s face, which had remained unchanged my entire life, interlocking gears, cold, calculating dials, gauges, and switches in a cloud of shimmery reds. She was a classic perfectionist, and a go-getter.
After fulfilling my daughterly role for 10 or 20 minutes, the conversation ended and I powered down my PC, at which point there was a knock at my apartment door. I took a quick peek through the peephole. There was someone walking away that I didn’t recognize but I swung the door open anyway. His back was to me and he’d moved a couple doors down already.
“Umm…hey, were you looking for me?” I called out. But he didn’t reply. I tried again. “Excuse me, did you just-” And then it struck me. I can’t even believe it had taken me an entire three seconds to realize that the man had no projection. None whatsoever. The blood drained from my face. I’d never laid my eyes on a single person, in the flesh, who didn’t have at least some faint aura around them, usually way more than just that. He wore a white, leather jacket and a long, white scarf around his neck, the tail ends cascading down his back. To say his smooth movement was graceful would be an understatement. When he got to the laundry room door, he looked back at me for a second over his shoulder, with a serene expression, and then turned and went into the laundry room.
I was stunned. The curiosity was much too intense to resist. This was a first for me. Turning back inside my apartment, I gathered up all the needs-to-be-cleaned laundry I could in a basket, grabbed my keys and a handful of quarters before slipping on my black flip-flops and heading out into the main corridor.
I almost ran right into the woman who lives in the apartment directly above mine. She was carrying a basket as well. We both said, “Hey,” to each other at the same time. A trembling, nervous laugh fell out of me.
“Hey…uhh…have you been in the laundry room for a while?” I asked, trying not to be distracted by the heavy mist of hot-pink tufts around her, the kind of color you find in preteen lipgloss tubes. Her hair was infested with earthworms, shards of glass, and strangely enough, white daisies.
“Yehp! I been in there for fuckin’ hours. Trying to catch up on the new Jodi Picoult.” She held up her kindle and snapped her gum. “I looove your hair so much I could die,” she commented disingenuously as she petted a lock of my hair. I noticed her thick-white eyeliner and royal-blue mascara then- that was not part of my second vision; that was her literal, gaudy makeup.
“Oh…thanks, but, ehm, do you happen to know the guy in the white, leather jacket that went in there? He had shaggy, blonde hair-”
“Nah, I ain’t seen a guy like that. There is one guy in there though but I don’t know ‘em.”
“Okay, well, thanks anyway,” I said hurriedly, walking away already.
“Oh, you’re fine, Hun. We should get togetha again soon. You could help me finish ma new bottle ah red wiiiine!” she yelled from the stairs.
I forced a courtesy laugh and a, “Sounds good!” In no mood to chat further, I was too anxious to get to the laundry room.
When I stepped over the threshold, I saw the laundry room was empty, save for one man. He was crouched down next to a dryer, putting his wet clothes inside it. The dryer door was blocking half of him. I took a step forward, revving myself up to say something, anything. And then he stood up, shut the dryer door and set the dial to his preference. I saw his projection.
I lost my grip on everything I was carrying. Clothes and quarters went spilling out across the concrete floor. He looked over and came towards me, smiling. I froze.
“Oh, here, let me help you,” he offered kindly, squatting down and beginning to pick up my belongings. “You didn’t have any butter on your fingers before you came in did you?” He smiled sweetly again.
I still couldn’t speak, nor could I move. He noticed, and stood up, close to me.
“Is everything okay? Do you need something?”
“Oh my God,” I barely whispered.
“Wait…say again?” There was another pause. He put his hands gently on both sides of my shoulders. “C’mon, Sweetheart, talk to me. Don’t scare me like this, it’s only my first night in the building. I just moved in and I wasn’t planning on calling 9-1-1 for at least three nights.”
I laughed heartily and he did too. He seemed to sigh, relieved that I was fine. And I’d never actually seen real beauty before that moment. His soulful, black eyes, tan skin, black hair, tailored haircut with subtle black waves on top. A sincerity. A realness. A goodness. There was something else I’d never seen before either, at least not without a mirror. Ribbons of bright, electric blue-greens and purples woven with threads and firework-like splashes of glittering, yellow golds, all on a blackened mist. A fan of white, polka-dotted feathers. It was simply dazzling. Possibly more radiant than my own, identical emanation.
He stuck out his hand for a proper handshake. “By the way…Hi, I’m Nuri.”