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DRAFT

Sequel to “Kicking to the Surface” and part of the new Novella, “The Inbetween Woman.”

The fresh air of the mountains permeates through my motel room’s cracks and crevices. Despite that pervasive nature of the musty motel smell, I am feeling the healing nature of the wild country of America. I close my eyes again and breath, fully and slowly, like I’ve been taught at the agency. There is only me and the air that fills my lungs with each purposeful breath. I start thinking through the pain I have inside and the task I’ve set before me. I work through one layer of thought at a time. One, singular, layer of thought pattern at a time.

When traveling alone there is a sudden stillness, a quietness in the air, in your head, in your senses. All the familiar communication sounds and feelings are gone. The expectations from the people of your life are gone. There is no one left in your life, really, but you. Your life is just you, a unique and yet mundane truth. Your usual methods of computering and phoning all seem more distant and harder to do – even though it’s just as easy to write an e-mail or pick up the phone here in the middle of the country as it is in your own kitchen. There is one familiar communication beacon in my brain, but that’s the reason I’m in Wyoming right now.

I am acutely aware of the fact that I am a catalyst for everyone I meet in this world and not for myself. This sounds insane, this sounds egotistical, even, or martyr-like but I don’t really mean it that way. I interact with people, bond with them, develop relationships, they change, they break away and yet I’m still the same except older, maybe a little more damaged, but basically still the same and performing the same function with new individuals set before me. I stay in my bed, spread eagle on my back, staring up at the ceiling and I begin my mental rehabilitation process. Just like they taught me at the agency.

You know those Tibetan peace flags hanging in suburban home lawns? They are supposed to hold messages of peace and love in them and the wind draws those warm messages out into the world as the flags are worn away into tatters. I thought that to be like those peace flags was what life was about. But here I am, feeling in tatters in my young adulthood, too young, I feel, to think this way about myself. Most people are terrified in their younger years to commit to anything for fear of rejection and going down a dead-end path. I let rejection hit me again and again with the optimistic attitude that people can’t all be like this, someone will want me for more than a few months, someone will think I’m worth committing to, someone will come along for the ride. The only problem is that I let myself commit to the same types again and again who took me for all that I was worth (and I let them, I did) and like the wind, they left me in tatters. I left myself in tatters. Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, right? Not so sure about that anymore. Fortunately this natural talent of being a catalyst has been useful in my new professional calling. It still doesn’t make me feel much better about my personal life, though.

I flew away from the mess I called my personal life. Literally, I took a plane across the country to this middle of nowhere motel room in Wyoming. Chris has no idea where I am. Neither does my mother. Rachel doesn’t really know either. She’s taken care of everything with my apartment while I’m away. I had been given the opportunity to keep my personal life with my new job and I am now giving up that possibility because it just doesn’t work anymore. It is not my calling to thrive in one, singular place. It’s cliché to run away from your problems, but I’ve never been very good at extracting myself from poisonous relationships so the method of hacking off emotional limbs seems like a good idea. I doubt I’ll regret it, either. It’s time to embrace my calling and stop trying to be a normal, socially functioning individual. It doesn’t work, I’m not that person. I’m part of the agency. It’s time to embrace my full agent status.

So, why the hell am I in Wyoming instead of somewhere more exotic? Say, Borneo or Cuba? Why not the Marquesas or better yet, Fiji. Somewhere tropical, an imaginary reality to those who have never traveled out of their country. Why, why, Sienna, why the hell are you in this beautiful land-locked square state of untamed natural American beauty?

Well, grandmas are good for something, I’ve discovered. They may seem crazy at times, but they keep notes on everyone and everything that has happened in your family. They’re like the national archives for a set of crazy people related by genetics and financial unions titled “marriages.” This, at least was true of my grandmother. But, I digress. Best to start with the day before I left my godforsaken apartment.

Agent Baker came by, unannounced. He had timed it so well that I had just finished showering, brushing my hair and donned my bathrobe. I’d just taken a fresh pot of hot water off the stove, the whistle fading into a pathetic whine when the door burst open. He walked in quick and quietly like he does, scaring the shit out of me (like he does).

“Sienna, I see you have a whole pot of hot water there.”

I blinked at him slowly and looked down at the pot as if it had suddenly appeared from nowhere.

“Yes. Yes, I do.”

He cocked his head to the side as if to say “Now, don’t be rude child, offer me a cuppa.”

“Baker, would you like a cup of tea?”

“Yes, Sienna, that would be delightful. Black, please.”

“Ah, just how I like my presidents.”

He just blinked at me.

“Yeah, I guess you’re not really into the humor thing. Well, my whole humor thing.” I said this last bit gesturing towards myself and lauged coquettishly.

“Well, it is a bit odd coming from a woman.”

“I’m a bit odd. I think that’s why you recruited me for the agency.”

Before I had a chance to finish pouring the tea, Baker got back to business.

“So, Sienna, we have a problem.”

“Is it a relationship problem? I’m good at talking about those.”

He didn’t miss a beat. “It’s a family problem. Are you aware of the fact that you have a cousin? She’s, well, different, as you may have guessed –”

“Like me.”

“No, I’m afraid not like you. Some similarities, but she’s been picked up on our radar for other reasons that I can’t get into right now. It’s very important, very critical, in fact, that we find her and… talk to her.”

He handed me a file with a black and white image of a young woman with short dark hair. She looked familiar. Very familiar. Kind of like my father and my uncle, but just barely. Just in the outline of her face…her strong cheekbones resonate with an old picture of my father and his brother. But there’s so much familiarity in that photo that I’ve seen before…

“Sienna, you’re thinking. Why don’t you tell me. It’s quicker than the alternative.”

I started to speak slowly, recalling the memories of my vague and distant childhood. It started with an image of my grandma… and then an image of her and her two sons — my father and my uncle.

“Well, since I can remember, my uncle has been a widower. I know that he married someone who died of leukemia and apparently it was really tragic. I know that there was an oddity to her that no one quite understood. Her hair was extraordinarily long for one thing. I saw a picture of them together once and her hair seemed to have a kind of sheen that suggested it was alive instead of a bunch of dead cells hanging off her head in organized strands. There was just something… odd about it. Her eyes, too, I can’t really put my finger on what it is. I could feel them through the photograph, so strongly…”

I paused and breathed slowly letting the memory bulbs in my brain light up from a low dim to a warm glow.

“Also, something strange in the photograph, was the fact that there’s a little girl in the picture with long hair as well, with that same glow… similar to this woman’s picture. My uncle looks like he’s in love with life but that there’s a secret that pains him just a little bit. Just enough to come through the picture. That girl was, for all I knew, my cousin but she disappeared a long time ago right after her mother’s death. We never talk about her or her mother, ever. Family gatherings are always conducted under the assumption that my uncle never had a life before living in a cabin in the woods in the mountains of Washington state.”

Baker nodded. “Very good. That memory was from the age of three. Very impressive.”

I blinked slowly, returning to my present layers of adult thought. “Yes, um, thank you. I’m surprised I could reach that memory… But, umm… My uncle only used to come along to family gatherings after my dad disappeared because he adored me so much, my mother would allow it. But he died a couple years after that memory. Long, long ago.”

I still sit in awe at my ability to recall these distant memories. The agency training had really worked wonders on my memory in this plane of existence. I wondered what they were like in the others, assuming they existed as Baker had assured me.

“The awe will fade soon, Sienna.”

“Right. Well, so, what is the point of this? What is going on with my so-called cousin in this photo? Why do you need to bring her in? Is she in some kind of trouble?”

“I’m not really willing to explain all of it as the more you know, the harder your task will be. We are asking you to go find her and bring her in. You’re family, it may help in getting done what we need done.”

“How do I find her if you don’t even know where she is?” Sometimes the lack of information from Baker made me more frustrated than his lack of color coordination.

“Well, we know when she is here she is in Wyoming. That’s where we’ve tracked her movement the most.”

It clicked. “You mean she can travel with others? To the other “worlds” as you call them? To slip in between –“

“The crevices of dreams, yes. It’s very dangerous, Sienna, to tell you much more than that. Will you go?”

I began thinking about Chris, my mother, Rachel, my life here in this city. My dirty bathrobe, my hopes and dreams that were crumbling around me in this crummy apartment.

“Sienna, I will tell you right now that you should accept. That man you supposedly date is coming here tomorrow to more or less end things as vaguely as any man of that maturity can.” His tone insinuated some protective nature towards me. Slight, but it was there. He sighed.

“You know that this life around you is not for you. We’ve allowed you to maintain what you’re holding onto because we do not believe in forcing will to increase a level in agent status. But if you take this assignment, I doubt you’ll be coming back to this place again. The material in your training will no longer be theoretical but applicable. But only if you chose it.”

I stared at him. I stared at the clock. I stared at my slippers. I stared at the frost on the window.

I hung my head, sighed and put out my hand. “Give me the tickets, Baker, I’m going.”

Baker placed the light envelop I always receive gently in my hand and put on his coat and silly hat.

“Very good, Sienna. I will be in contact after your arrival in Wyoming.”

“Via…?”

“The usual methods.” He tapped his head twice. And out the door he went.

I open my eyes in the motel room again, sit up and begin to dress for the unknown.

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Update: Working on a novella.

A year or so ago I decided to start writing a novella. Yes, Sienna Tide based, her adventures take her elsewhere other than just heartbreak and college. I’ve included excerpts of one of the chapters (draft version) for your tasting. I’ve pretty much outlined the whole basic story. As one might think “The In Between Woman” may suggest something of the sexual/relationship nature, but I assure you, you’ll find this not so after I post a few more excerpts.

~Skylar Bayer

Excerpts from Chapter 1: Before it gets any better, it’s gotta rain for a day

October 12th, 2007

As a twenty-something I spend most of my days wallowing in some sort of self-pity for being single and wasting away my body’s best years on alcohol and unhealthy habits like smoking. I’m an Okay person, if I do say so myself, but life is over all pretty boring. After graduating with a liberal arts degree I floundered around for two years working at jobs I cared little about and then decided to go to graduate school because I didn’t know what else to do with my life. I live in Boston. I wish I lived in New York City, but I don’t. I sleep with a friend who will never really commit to me and that I am hopelessly in love with and I cling on to my martyrdom about it. I go to the gym. I read a lot. I’m not really a hipster, but I’m close. I am cynical and sarcastic. I hate PDA when I’m single and people who talk loudly on their cellphones in enclosed spaces like the subway or buses. As someone on the verge of coming off or on hipsterdom (I can’t decide which direction I’m actually going in), I spend a lot of time in coffee shops pretending to be ironic….

…“Sienna, your Americano is ready.”

I come up to the counter, mumble and slink back to my seat on the far end of the café. I want to hide in my coffee for a while before facing anything real I might have to contend with during the day. What am I doing with my life? My pack of cigarettes is radiating against my thigh but I choose to ignore this smoldering temptation. I pull out some files from school and lay them on the table and open my laptop. There’s a rumble outside and the street is dark as night. There’s a flash and another rumble that makes my bones shake. I involuntarily shudder. A dark figure in a trench coat walks in. Something out of a 1950s film. He has one of those detective hats that I’ve never understood as being impermeable to rain. He doesn’t order a coffee and continues walking through the café. I watch him from the corner of my eye. He stops at a table across the room from me. Folds his coat, takes off his hat and starts walking directly towards me. I pretend not to notice. He calmly takes a seat across from me and I raise my eyebrows in alarm and suspicion.

“Sienna Tide?”

“Umm, yes? Who’re you?”

“I’m Baker.”

“Is that your first or your last name?”

“Last. It doesn’t matter.”

“Ok, whatever. What do you want? And how do you know my name?”

“Listen, I have a job prospect for you.”

“Oh? You know I don’t really work at nights… gave that up years ago.”

He blinks. Not amused. Who the hell is this guy? I’m figuring out exactly how to neutralize this guy given the physical space between us. Every second my plan becomes better defined. I wonder if he has a gun? Probably. He looks like a government type.

“You work in a dead-end graduate program that is beneath your capabilities.”

“Maybe. It’s temporary before I figure out what I really want to do.”

“How do you feel about research? Field research?”

“I’m not a scientist.”

“I work at an agency that your father used to work at. I’m not sure if you know this, but he was lost on the job –“

“My dad left my mom before I was even born. That bastard. Just left her pregnant like that. Who the fuck are you?”

“Let me finish, Ms. Tide. We had only been monitoring your progress through life as a safety precaution – to make sure the same people that killed your father didn’t go after you or your mother.”

He paused and stared at me. I just stared right back. Un-fucking-believable. I feel like I just entered the twilight zone.

“Anyway, we’ve noticed in the last few years that you’ve been cultivating a lot of strong skills your father had. Language, martial arts, research, …sarcasm.”

“Yeah, so what?”

“Sienna, your talents combined are somewhat rare and well, we’d like you to consider coming to work with us. Here is my card. Think about it.”

He handed me a small white business card that just said “Baker” on it with the most redundant e-mail ever– baker@baker.net. He put on his coat and hat, nodded to me and walked out of the café. I stared after him wild-eyed. I turned to the booth behind me and the old couple seemed to take no notice of what just happened. The old man in the other booth felt me looking at him and looked back at me, a little puzzled, flattered and decided to wink. I blinked back. I turned my head back down to the card…

Sienna Tide (fiction)

As much as I enjoy feeling aimless and lost at times, there has always been something inside me that craves commitment and desire to achieve, to do, to act. It is not until I’ve been dragged to the very bottom of my self-esteem; to the darkest caverns of self-loathing that I have found the buoys that bring me back to join the world in any functioning way.

In college I discovered that as much as I had athletic tendencies, I did not unconditionally love a sport. Running leads you nowhere, and group games always left too much room during the game for me to space out.

“Sienna, catch the ball!”

“What? Oh!”

My mind was somewhere out in China when the ball came soaring into left field. I’d thrust my glove into the air, miss by at least 20 feet and awkwardly run to catch a ball knowing it was far too late to strike the hitter out. Fuck, I’d think, shame on my team for my inability to focus on a ball all afternoon.

Fighting. That’s what always brought me back to the surface. I fought and kicked and climbed and screamed inside my head while my metaphorical lungs starved and choked for the air above the dark pool of self-doubt. I fought. I sparred with myself. I got angry, I had purpose and I loved every moment of fighting the good fight. Every hit, every parry, every block, every movement fueled the desire to fly out of that thick, dark abyss.

After college, I discovered that intramural teams were harder to come by and found local league clubs even less satisfying after work hours. Alison suggested fighting.

“Maybe you’d like fighting.”

“I fight with my mother already.”

“I mean like sparring. Kickboxing. MMA. Muay Thai. Jiu Jitsu. You know, that kind of stuff.”

I didn’t know, but I was curious. I hung out with relatively lazy (but good) guys who spent most of their time filling out fantasy sport rosters, playing cards and drinking beer. That was good and all but I needed something else. Something more kinetic. I was going through post-college depression of feeling aimless (in a bad way) and was for all intensive purposes quite a miserable person… and gaining weight quickly.  That I blamed on the free pastries, bad coffee and fluorescent lights at my office job that had me considering a career in arson.

“I will investigate this MMA business that you speak of.”

Two years later I’m going through my closet and I’m torn between leaving and taking my MMA gear bag with me. It seems extreme to assume I’d get to train at all, but it’s like not packing your underwear – it’s so unnatural and you know you’ll feel uncomfortable, naked and dirty without it once you get where you are headed.

The first day I went in there I was terrified. One of the problems with my face is that when I’m terrified, I look angry and defensive as hell. This is quite helpful in some circumstances including street fights, scaring off creeps on the city bus, and working with children. However, it’s quite a put-off to trainers and teachers taking on new students. It wasn’t the physical conditioning I was scared of, it wasn’t the pain, it wasn’t being a slow learner, it was the possibility of disappointing everyone at this gym including myself. Am I cut out for this? Can I prove myself to be worth a damn here or anywhere else in my life?

Have confidence in yourself, I repeated in my head again and again and again and again. This is yours; this is for your fight, your climb back to the surface, no one else’s. Do not let anyone take this away from you. This mantra is difficult to keep up when you let every negative thought possible seep through every pore of your body. When you find that physical act, that action, that raison d’être, nothing else matters.  No one else matters. You love it so much it becomes part of you so completely.  No one can take it away from you once you absorb it into your being. It is yours forever because it is part of you now.

When I discovered  my new love affair with sparring I felt like lovers do during that honey moon period. I could survive anything, anyone, climb a mountain, build a plane, write a sonnet, whatever. Every day that was bad I still could smile and go to bed at night looking forward to the next. I could make myself happy and the motivation and power to do it was all right there inside me. The buoy was a tool and in some ways just an illusion. I was the one that swam out of the abyss, it was my energy and my kicks.

And oh, how I love to kick. My form will always need work, but there is nothing more delightful than having a day where I get to throw roundhouse kicks in a training session. Like breathing, sleeping and fucking, it is now so natural and satisfying. Even the gratifying thwacks of my shin hitting pad and the hiss of exhaling breaths are clear in my sleep.

I pick up a thai pad and stare at it. I stare back at my packed bag. I stare back at my MMA bag. I throw the pad in the bag.

“Christ! Fine, I’m bringing it!” I shout to the room and zip the bag up violently. I imagine if I had a dog it’d probably cock its head in confusion at my belligerence. My phone is vibrating again on the bed. It’s Chris this time. I need to… change my number. Slide and cross. For now though, I need to pack and get the hell out of this state. My plane leaves in two hours. I turn off all the appliances. I send a final e-mail off to Alison detailing my absence and promising her pain if she lets my secret out to anyone, including my step-father.

The cab ride feels quick, but that may be because my mind is consumed with the details of Chris leaving only a few short hours ago. That man is one of only a few that can hold me just below the surface of the self-loathing pool. He was so clever at pointing out my own reflection in that dark, awful body of doubt. I was so consumed with my own image in that self-hate that’s slick and glossy like an oil spill. He pushed me in and  kept me just below the surface, throwing punches every time I rose up from below. I mastered head movement. I learned how to teep. I gasped to the surface. Tonight I used a switch kick with a repeating bridging technique that got him out of my apartment. I’ve crawled onto the shore, but I’m exhausted. He’ll be back tomorrow. But I’ll be gone because I ran. Sparring only works for so long. Spar for too long and you forget there’s a world outside of the basement of the gym.

The pleasantries of checking luggage and obtaining my ticket pass by without being logged in my memory. I make it to the lobby and fill my ears with Thom Yorke while blankly observing travelers. It’s dark out. I could see the stars if I wasn’t in the city. You can see the stars in Wyoming, though. That’ll be nice. I make it onto the plane. I consider ordering a drink but I don’t need it. I pass out quickly into a dreamless sleep. We’ve arrived. It’s dark out. I head to the car rental agency. Again, I don’t really remember this. It’s not logged in my memory, I just know it must’ve happened. This is all part of the blur of running. I drive to a cheap motel. It smells like old people and dust in here. We all turn to dust eventually. The polyester quilt feels fake, but I realize this is only natural – this is an artificial environment designed to be temporary and therefore uncomfortable. I look to my MMA bag for comfort before crawling into bed.

Tomorrow is when the new adventure begins. Tomorrow I will start my new journey and begin the search for my cousin. I turn the single motel lamp off. In my dreams I am swimming in an ocean. It’s dark and cool, but it’s not terrifying. It’s soothing. I dive down into the dark and I don’t need to breathe. The abyss is filled with a thousand bright lights. They brush by on occasion and send shivers through my skin. It’s curious and it’s wonderful; not terrifying like the sea of self-doubt. I wonder if watching the Jodie Foster film, Contact, may have something to do with this dream.

I open my eyes in the morning. The sun is slanting in through the piss-yellow venetian blinds. My head is absolutely clear and I begin reviewing the strange series of events that brought me to this crappy motel in the middle of absolutely nowhere, Wyoming.

Hello friends,

This summer I intend to finish at least 10 (yes, 10!) short stories, mostly Sienna Tide related. I would like to call for any short stories, funny dialogue, funny characters or anything from your life that you think would contribute well to either the Sienna Tide chronicles or anything else for that matter. I’m going to be doing a fair amount of traveling this summer so I hope to incorporate some of that into my works, too.

~ Charismatic Megafauna

Fenway Park

Quotes In True Color

“Ahh, nothing like wearing a trashbag on a Sunday afternoon.”

~ Skylar, wearing my $8 plastic poncho at the Sox game

The Grass Is Warm

Sienna Tide (fiction)

The smoke swirled around my eyes as I hacked violently like a teenager who just took a drag of their first cigarette. My chest felt torn inside and my eyes teared. I felt my face and neck go hot and the smooth infiltration of THC into my bloodstream. I looked up at Jase who I’d just handed the piece and lighter to. Jase was used to my incredibly uncool and continually novice reaction to smoking anything. If ever there existed a “look cool while you take a hit” event in the Olympics, I think Jase would win gold every time. I drink some water which only temporarily aids my self-inflicted internal wounds. The sun is warm and I lie back in the grass with my hands behind my head and shut my eyes. I let out a knowing sigh.

“You’re high, Jase.”

“You’re high.”

“True, but I’m high on life. You’re high on drugs.”

“And life.”

I start to chuckle a bit at this. The THC and my sarcastic sense of humor are doing their job.

“Jase, what would you do without weed in your life?”

“Dude, don’t speak like that. It’s just wrong.”

“But seriously, what would you do? I can’t remember a time you’ve ever not been high.”

“Well, I don’t know, man. Maybe hash?”

“Ok, what if there were no drugs at all, like anything at all. What would you spend all your time doing?”

“Shit, I’ve never thought about that. You know why? Cos it’s SILLY. Sienna, you’re a crazy girl sometimes, you know that?”

Jase breaks out into a deep giggle. Jase is lanky and a bit of a heart throb in that dirty, metrosexual kind of way. He’s almost hipster but not really. Plays in a band, has dreamy eyes, wears scarves, etc. Most of the time he sounds like an idiot to me but whatever, he’s one of my best friends and the only person I know that’ll give me weed for free. But let’s face it, that’s because I don’t ask frequently because I can’t really afford to make myself stupid all the time.

“Yeah, I know that.”

“Alright, so I’m going to share something with you that I thought about the last time I smoked with Emily.”

“I didn’t know Emily smoked regularly with you.”

“Emily McCarty.”

“Jesus, you’re friends with another Emily?” Jase knows at least five Emilys, Sams and Matts each, I swear to God, it’s bizarre.

“Ya know dude, I like to keep a couple spares in case one breaks.”

I have to give Jase credit for his wit.

“So, like, anyway, this is what I was thinking, you ready for this? I think this is mad cool.”

“Alright, let’s hear it.”

“Ok, so, you think about how people in the past have never tasted your favorite sandwich because it didn’t exist back then. Or how they survived anything traumatic without alcohol, weed or morphine or antibiotics. Or know how cocaine or heroin feels. Or what it feels like to fly in an airplane. Or how long it would take to get some where without a car. Like, any of that shit. But they did know what it felt like to long for food, drink, companionship, warmth, cold and sex. So when I complain about lack of getting laid I know that people through the ages would understand my pain.”

I pause to take in his statement and keeping my eyelids closed I scrunch up my nose before responding.

“But Jase, since when have you ever complained about not getting laid? You always are getting laid.”

“Yeah, but you know, it’s all abstract and what not. I think it’s kind of cool.”

“Yeah… I guess if you hung out with people who owned time machines.”

“It’s a possibility, you never know. It’d be, like, a possible topic to discuss with people of the past if it ever happened.”

“Hmm, do you keep a long list of these topics in case this possibility comes to fruition?”

“You know, that’s not a bad idea.”

I roll my eyes under my lids. Jase is sometimes out there, but at least his mind is kind of playful and unique. Compared to other stoners I know, he at least has some imagination and I’m one of the few non-stoners that’ll put up with it. It’s a nice change of conversation from politics and economics and world affairs, bla bla bla (things my more serious friends discuss). Everyone needs a little art in their life. Jase inspires me to retain that bit of art and humor in my life.

“So, what about you, Sienna, what would you do all the time if you didn’t have to be responsible and all that shit that you do all the time?”

“Well, I don’t know, Jase. Maybe just lie around in the warm grass like we’re doing now. All the time.”

“Except not stoned? That sounds kind of boring.”

“I don’t know. I’d probably want to laugh all the time. So I’d want to hear and tell good stories with people.” I had sort of thought about this subject before, but it was piecing together rather nicely now.

“I think that if I could, I’d just collect stories and share them, that’s what I’d do.”

“But you do that anyway, that’s what friends are for and all that shit.”

“Yeah, I know, but you need to do interesting things or see things in lots of different ways and you know, not be a boring person to live like that.”

Jase paused for a couple of beats.

“Do you think you’re going to be a boring person, Sienna?” He says this in a kind of annoying therapist tone (Do you think it’s wrong? Do you love yourself? Do you think that this is the right solution?)

“I hope not. I mean, I guess I’m kind of worried that I’m going to end up dead-ended in something I don’t want to do because I’m just trying to survive, ya know? Miserable post-college stuck-in-a-rut life. That kind of thing.”

“I don’t think you will, Sienna, my psyche tells me that’s not your future.”

I scoffed at this.

“Haha, really? Your psyche? What, do yo tell the future now, Jase?”

“Naw, man, I just know you. You’ll find a way to keep things interesting.”

“Yeah, but I don’t even know what I want to do with myself, like professionally and all.”

“Be a story teller, dude. Like a journalist or something.”

“I don’t want to be a journalist, though, that’s rough shit.”

“Well, you’ll find a way. Just – ” Jase comes over to me and wraps his arms around my shoulders and starts rocking side to side and singing to no particular tune.

“Beeee yoursellllfff, just beeee yourself and everrrryyything will be allllright!!”

I hug my arms around his for a platonic amount of time and then start pushing his arms away while laughing hysterically.

“Haha, Jase cut it out, cut it out.”

He lets go and collapses back down in the grass, laughing. We’re both still laughing for a few minutes and then let out our weed-induced lazy sighs.

“You know, you’re right the grass is pretty warm. It’s nice.”

“Yeah, it is.”

Sienna Tide (fiction)

A pair of painfully focused green irises stares back at me from the mirror. My mouth is open in an “O” formation. I’ve succeeded thus far in not poking my eyes out while applying mascara. Now they are sufficiently garnished with black paint. I screw the brush back into the stick and blink a bit. I like to think the rush of air might dry them faster. My top and bottom lashes stick together a few times and now there are black smears just below my eyes. I grab a Q-tip and carefully brush the undersides of my lower eye lashes. Ok, so now I don’t look so much like I applied it on in the dark… or a woman who’s just terrible at putting a face on.

I look at the green in my eyes. Every boyfriend I’ve ever has told me they’re like a deep, dark forest. One of them asked me once asked me if I kept all my secrets in them. I’m not sure where they came from. Probably my grandmother. My mom has ocean blue eyes and my father… I think he had brown eyes, but I haven’t seen him in over twenty years. I can’t ask Mom about him because she’ll just go on a tirade about not being able to trust men. I don’t blame her. I guess my dad was just really indecisive about things. Especially about sticking around after she decided to not get the old rusty hanger out. But I like Nate, he’s made a good step dad all these years. I like to think of him as my real father. But I know that if he was he wouldn’t have let my Mom give me a hippie name like Sienna. Christ, what was she thinking? And no one on earth would confuse me Sienna Miller, my God.

“Yo, Sienna, your phone was ringing.”

Ah, crap, that must be Rachel. Time to hit the road. I flip the light switch off in the bathroom, run back into the living room and call Rachel back.

“Hey, Rach.”

“Hey, Sea, I’m outside.”

“I’ll be down in a minute.”

I run into my room, scoop up my coat and take one last look in the mirror to make sure I haven’t prematurely started leaking oil-like tears down the sides of my face. Rob’s hanging out in the kitchen with Alistair.

“Sienna, you got a hot date or something? Remember – be safe and wrap it up before you let him stick it in you.”

Alistair enjoys making vulgar comments before I go out. I don’t always look so nice when I go out and he seems to think it’s funny to give me a hard time about looking feminine once in awhile. I don’t flinch and keep clicking across the room in my heels without looking back.

“Yeah, whatever guys, see you later. Don’t get stuck in the couch again, I hear that can ruin your sex life.”

I sprint down the stairs to Rachel’s Volvo parked in front of our dilapidated porch.

“So, where are we going?”

“Somewhere seedy, Nick said he felt like meeting some trashy locals tonight.” She says this with a wicked look. I think we’re about to embark on another one of those evenings where I feel naked most of the night in local taverns.

“The Salty Dog again?”

“Alas, no… We’re going to The Zebra Lounge.”

This invokes images of townies dressed in circus costumes with white and black paint smeared on their faces and matching lipstick. My imagination may not be that interesting, but… Nick clearly has some shenanigans planned for tonight.

“Ahh, the good ol’ Zebra Lounge. Wait, where is that anyway?”

Conversation ensues and we arrive at the bar. Nick’s waiting there in full force. He’s looking like he’s going to snag a local gal or two or three tonight. Who knows with these people anyway? Although the same could be said for any of us college girls. I knew a foursome and three of them were from the sorority that Rachel and I almost joined. Anyway, we walk into the bar, decked out in make up and tight jeans and cute tops. Most of the men at the bar are clearly leery, forty-ish, possibly with bastard kids somewhere, drunk-ish and intrigued. This is going to make for a very interesting evening.

“Hey gals, you two are looking HOT!” Nick does that embarrassing knee-bending, straight shooter pointing thing with his body, the only thing missing is a fedora and a bright yellow suit from “The Mask.”

“Haha, Nick. Wait, is that your girlfriend around the corner?” I put on my best serious face, although it is hard.

There’s a desperate 40-something woman standing near Nick. He glances to his side to see if we’re referring to some hottie, but instead kind of shivers and frowns.

“Umm, ha ha, no, ladies, you two are my only dates tonight. Drinks, at the bar, if you please?”

“Whatever you say, Mr. Bond.”

We make our way to the bar which isn’t far from the door. This place smells of piss. There’s graffiti and carvings in the walls. Already my muscles are tensing and my most primal impulse is to find a safe corner I can lean my back into. Then, I search for a chair that would make a good weapon as I crouch in the corner looking dangerous and willing to hit any man (or woman) who comes within two feet of my territory.  Unfortunately three spaces open up at the bar and Nick leads me reluctantly towards it.

“Someone you know in the corner there, Sienna?”

I realize that I have been staring into the corner where the jukebox and a bunch of young townies are crowding. Thankfully no one had noticed my wishful gaze and misinterpreted as my desire for one of them.

“Oh, sorry, just spacing out.”

“Spacing out already? You haven’t even had a drink yet.”

“AH HA, well you know what that means? This can’t be too late of an evening for us.”

“Now Sienna, first you have to try a Zebra lounge martini and then maybe you’ll change your tune.”

Nick slides a death-by-cheap-liquor martini across the counter with a raised eyebrow and a nod. It has a mini-umbrella with an old olive slapped on it. I might as well take a sip or two. As I’m eyeballing the drink cautiously, I hear a strange and rather obnoxious noise coming from Nick’s side of the bar.

“Psssst. Psssst.”

Three townies over (one of which apparently knows Nick), there’s a scummy, 30-something, flannel-wearing, beer belly, badly-needing-a-shave guy waving at me from his wrist. There are three people between him and myself.

“Pssst, pssst!”

I nudge Nick with my elbow a few times and point to the guy.

“Who is that?”

“How the hell should I know? I just met these guys like 10 minutes ago.” He turns back to his beer and townie conversation.

“Christ.” I mutter to myself. I take a sip of the Zebra martini. It’s awful, I almost choke on the lack of decent liquor and overabundance of sugar mixer. I turn to my right to start to search for Rachel when who should appear but the creepy hand-waving, poorly trained woman whisperer.

“I noticed you from over there and thought you didn’t hear me.”

I consider dumping the drink on him and getting out my lighter to instantaneously make this problem disappear.

“Yeah, I think everyone between us noticed you noticing.”

“Can I buy you a drink?”

I point to mine rather informatively. “I got one, thanks.”

“How about another one?”

“Listen, I really need to go rescue my friend over there, she’s sending me emergency smoke signals.”

“Well, I’ll take that as a ‘yes’ for a drink afterwards.”

I do a tight smile and bolt for Rachel. She’s chatting with some girls we know from the frisbee team. She sees that I’m a little anxious when I join the conversation.

“What’s up, girl?”

“Eh, just creepy townies, but what else would I expect here. I might have trouble shaking this one tonight though, he’s pretty determined so you’re going to have to help me shake him tonight. I mean it.”

“Alright, alright, which one is it?” She is amused and I may regret even bringing this up with her. I point to flannel-man.

“Oh, he’s kinda cute, isn’t he? Hmm, he looks familiar, maybe I’ve seen him on that show… Men in Trees? He looks like he could be from there.” She starts giggling. I just roll my eyes at her.

“You better help me out on this one, Rach, I swear to God, this better not turn into another episode of last year’s New Year’s party.”

“What was wrong with that?” I reflect on that event in disgust as I remember Rachel pushing a drunk me into a cab with a skeevy guy in New York City. I was conscious enough to get out a few blocks later and catch the subway back to our friends’ apartment. She claims she was just trying to do what’s best for my libido. She said it wasn’t healthy to go 6 months without sex. Made some comment about the hymen growing back.

“Never mind, just don’t try to interpret my inner desires for me.”

“Alright, deal.”

I trust her for a few minutes then realize immediately my mistake.