Terrified Heart

Up until the day before that day, Suzie had the impression she was about to experience the most glorious moment of her life.

So why wasn’t she exploding with happiness? Why was she so scared?

They loved each other, this was a fact. For everything she has always believed in, that certainty should be enough to go through with it. After all, they’ve planned it for so long; they’ve fought for it for so long. Why now, for the first time since they made that decision, was she having second thoughts?

Almost everyone said she was making a mistake. Almost everyone tried to talk her out of it. “It’s just not right”, they said. “It won’t last”, they said. “Think about how difficult it will be for you two”. Nonetheless, she has remained steady on her decision. Not only because she believed that was her right, but because she believed it was the right thing to do.

However, now it was different. There were no more arguments to discredit, nor prejudices to expose and debunk. The last person she had talked to that evening was the make-up guy, and he was gone for almost an hour. There were less than a couple of hours left and, for the first time that day, Suzie was alone.

Like a warrior at the edge of her final victory, Suzie was looking back at the debris over the battlefield and wondering, now that she had survived all her enemies, what were the reasons that led her into beginning that battle in the first place.

Suzie wasn’t a religious person. It was definitely not about getting God’s OK over who she decides to share her medicine cabinet with. Actually, the ceremony would be performed not in a church, but in open air, in a small farm owned by the family of one of Suzie’s closest and most supportive friends, Annie. There would be no one there but themselves, some of their families and friends, and the registrar. No priest or similar in sight, whatsoever.

It was not about having children, either. This would be a far too complicated project to execute and, in the end, Suzie agreed that they were simply not fit for it. For every aspect that composed the person she was, Suzie felt she had no predisposition or talent to be a mother. Truth be told, she hated kids.

So, she seemed to have concluded, what was about to happen was about no one but themselves. “We love each other”, she kept saying to herself, mentally. “We love each other, this is the reason. And it is a reason good enough.”

Except that, she knew, deep inside, it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. They loved each other alright, but love isn’t the same yesterday as it will be tomorrow. Love is a living thing, always transforming. Itself is not to be concealed, shine and perfect, within the frames of a posed picture. Especially a love bound to exist under such heavy fire like theirs.

“If it is not for our love, then for what?” the question ringed all sorts of alarms inside her head. “What are we doing? Or, even more important, why are we doing it?”

There was an uneasiness in her heart, a disturbing feeling that they were making that move as a way to settle some debt with an unidentifiable subject. She knew it was not about their families, their friends, or even God.

Perhaps it was all of them at once? Indeed, such a collective entity had a name, a name that embodied a set of concepts Suzie had been, since her adulthood, fighting against.


No, it couldn’t be that. If it was, then she knew the honest thing to do for herself would be to call the whole thing off.

God, she hated herself right now. She hated all the doubts she was having, hated the way they seemed to grow as she pulled off each layer of her secluded fears. Most of all, she hated the conclusion all those doubts were apparently leading her to.

Getting married shouldn’t be this much of a big deal… should it? Maybe everyone was right. Maybe it was a big mistake.

Before Suzie could realize, tears were dripping from her cheeks, threatening to smudge the make-up she spent so many hours getting on. Suzie reached for the small paper box next to her, grabbed a tissue, and started trying to dry out her tears. She was sitting in front of a big mirror, but all she could see facing her back was a scared little girl.

Suzie stared deeply at herself for one moment, her whole life flashing behind her reddish eyes. It was not supposed to be this difficult. It simply wasn’t.

She felt a delicate touch over her shoulder. A touch she knew very well, and promptly recognized.

“What’s wrong, my dear?”, asked Christine, Suzie’s mother.

“I don’t know why I’m doing this. I just don’t.”, Suzie replied, grabbing her mother by the waist and burying her face in her mother’s belly. She was crying softly. “All the reasons I can think of seem wrong. And if I can’t see a reason, I can’t accept it. You know me.”

“Yes, I know you. Oh, I sure do!”

“We shouldn’t need any of this. No dresses, no party.” Suzie continued. “Everybody told me it was a bad decision. I don’t want to do it just to prove them wrong. I don’t want this need of proving anything to anyone!”

“I know, dear. Trying to prove others wrong is only a way to deal with our own fear of failure.” Christine said. “And realizing we’re afraid to fail makes us wonder, if the love we feel is in fact, as strong as we think it is.”

There was a moment of silence when Suzie, recognizing the wisdom in her mother’s words, realized that what Christine have just said had perfectly summarized all her confused thoughts.

“How did you do it, mom?” Suzie asked. “How did you made it work, so wonderfully, for so long?”

Christine hold her daughter’s face between her palms and looked deeply into her eyes. “One day they stop being just people for us, you know? They become beacons. They become our guiding star, our safe trip home.”

Suzie felt as if her mother had just touched her heart with a fingertip, putting it in rest from all anguish.

“In the beginning it is hard to tell.” continued Christine. “But if the love of yours is for real, one day you’ll understand. Today is just a celebration for the first step you two are taking towards that moment.”

“Then what?”, Suzie asked.

“Then there is time. Next ot the one person you truly love, time seems not to pass at all. And at the same time, it goes by faster than you can possibly imagine; a year, a decade, or three.”

“What about the pain? What about the struggle? Is it worth it?”

Christine took a deep breath. “There will always be people trying to bring you down; it doesn’t matter if it’s someone like you, or someone like me. It’s easier for the world to say no. And you will never know for sure whether it’s worthy or not.”

Suzie lowered her eyes. Even knowing her mother was being honest, she was in need of closure. She needed something to make her stand up and change her life forever.

It didn’t take more than a second, during which Christine raised her little Suzie’s face once again.

“But it is the best you can hope for.” Christine said, her voice had a sweet, delicate tone. “In the end, the only certainty we can always carry with us is the certainty of our own hopes.”

Christine smiled tenderly, getting a soft smile from Suzie in return. Suzie closed her eyes and raised her forehead, receiving a gentle kiss from her mother.

Suzie opened her eyes, but she was no longer in her mother’s bedroom, sitting in front of the mirror. She was at the countryside now, in the Daniels’ old farm, stepping down an aisle on a red caret, several rows of lined-up chairs on both sides.

Suzie was being conducted by her mother, and all the guests were looking at the beautiful bride. She, however, didn’t look anywhere but forward. Her heart was unafraid now, and all she cared about was the person standing by the registrar, waiting for her at the end of the red path.

Christine let go of her daughter’s arm. Suzie, more resolute than ever, stopped in front of the registrar and held the hand of the man she was about to marry with. Despite every single big, fatal problem so many people seemed to see in their relationship, they were going to be together. She would take that one first step, for better or worse.

Hopefully, it would be for the better.

Suzie turned back to her mother, about to take her seat on the first row, right in front of one of Suzie’s best friends, Annie Daniels. Christine sat down, holding her companion’s hand, and Suzie looked at them, filled with pride. There they were, both her mothers, the two women whose unconditional love and affection for her had brought her that far in the road of her life.

Against all odds those two women fought, and hard they fought, for over thirty years. Against all odds and comments and advices and threats, and all the “It won’t last” and “It’s just not right”, they were still here, forever victorious.

Now, it was Suzie’s turn.


Another World (2/2)

Music was loud. Techno tunes were blasting from the boxes with ear-piercing highs, and basses that shaken one’s bones as if they were thunders exploding one after the other. Darkness was cut by laser beams green and red, and also by diffuse spots of yellow, blue and purple lights coming from the ceiling here and there. As a result from both the dry ice generators and the smoke from the cigarettes, there was a soft fog in the air, turning every corner and every face a little bit blurry. All around the crowded club the smell of perfume, mint and beer were mixing together in unlikely harmony.

Annie’s plans started to take shape inside her head the second Suzie told about Elizabeth’s invitation, about two weeks before. It was perfect. O.R. (Only Revolutions), the club chosen by Liz for her celebration, had the policy of allowing birthday parties’ guests to go up the DJ’s booth and say a few words on the microphone in honor of the birthday boy or girl. Annie planned on using this prerogative, going over the booth and then saying not few, but many words, to Liz. She was going to put that bitch in her place, and it would be a public assault. Liz would have the spotlight right over her, with nowhere to hide, with no other choice but to listen, blasting from the speakers, all the insulting and nasty truths Annie was going to scream at her.

“Happy birthday, Liz”

Karen had grabbed Suzie by the arm a while ago, dragging her friend to the bathroom along with her. Something about Karen’s braces hurting her upper lip when she tried turning over a Dry Manhattan without using her hands. That was very good for Annie. Karen had reached the “look, no hands!” stage of her drunkenness. That meant very soon Suzie would be leaving to sit on one of the couches that encircled the club, in order to assist Karen into getting herself together. Karen didn’t like the way her sister looked at her when she was in that stage, so she always counted on Responsible Suzie to help her out.

Anyway, Suzie was out of the picture, and so was Karen. Mary was now leaning against a pillar, trying to sound as nice as possible to the young drunk man hitting on her, but scared he might think that meant she was being anyway reciprocal to his intentions. Even if that random guy wasn’t distracting Mary, Annie knew she would never try to stop her. Not only because it was not in Mary’s nature to meddle in somebody else’s business, but because sometimes, Annie noticed this particular look on her. It always happened when Liz was about to tell one of her self-centered, obnoxious anecdotes. Mary would first turn her head, and then she would look down, as if asking God for enough backbone to order Liz to shut the hell up. Yes, Annie could pretty much bet Mary was also fed up with Liz, and eager to see her being brought down from her imaginary pedestal.

Liz. There she was, beautiful, right in the centre of the floor, as she loved to be. Kissing a handsome stranger, one among the many others she would probably also end up kissing by the end of that night. Strangers, carefully selected by their jeans’ and tee’s brands, as well as by the scent of their no-less-then-$100 priced perfumes.

Annie stopped dancing. Everything went pitch black and all the white lights started to blink frenetically, as if for a minute reality became a series of photographs. She noticed this photograph of a young moving man coming closer and closer, stopping no far than a coupe of feet from her. He was looking at her. Even with the schizophrenic lights, Annie could notice in his eyes that he desired her. Those big, childish eyes, immediately reminded her of someone, and she hated herself for it.

Those eyes were just like Johnny’s.

Deep down, Annie realized, he was the reason of all her present anger, not Liz. She was just the last drop of crap in Annie’s cup, one which had been filled almost to the top by nobody else but Johnny. He was like a bad hot-dog, one which smell remained on your breath and fingers for many hours after you ate it. Annie could still sense the stink of Johnny’s idiocy all over her body, and this fact aggravated her beyond belief. And if with the bad hot-dog sometimes not even all the soap and water in the world could help taking the stink off, it didn’t matter how many times Annie cursed, cried or wrote songs because of Johnny, it never seemed enough. She needed more. She needed a night like that. She needed Elizabeth Lowe.

“C’mon, boy with the eyes like Johnny’s. Won’t you make your move?” – Annie thought, looking at him through the mantle of blinking lights.

“You will fail. You won’t have me. But will you just stand there, like an idiot? Like him? Can’t you see I’m looking at you? Will you just settle for going home without knowing what could’ve been?”

“That’s so Johnny.”

The lights returned to normal. Techno gave room to the sexy hypnosis of slow hip-hop beats. Annie pretended she was never looking at the man in the first place, and took another sip of her drink. He was obviously confused, and kept going with his clumsy dance, trying to drive his look at anywhere but Annie’s.

She was pretending, and he was pretending. In Annie’s head, pretenders were all they were. Every boy, girl, man and woman at O.R. or anywhere else, out there in the night, were nothing but players in a game of illusions. Smoke in the air, mirrors along the walls. Inside the temple of music and liberty, everyone was free for being whatever he or she chose to be. A shy smile could hide the perfect lover; a no could hide a yes; a photograph with five pretty girls could hide all of their dreams and fears.

There were no parents or children, no bosses or employees. There were only senses. See what’s attractive, hear the seductive whispered words, sense his touch, taste her lips. Hormones were the thirteenth note in the orchestra of scents. Blazers, dresses, lipsticks and car keys were the shields and swords, and the night, a battlefield for immortal warriors, their laughs threaten by nothing but the impeding daylight. With the morning, came the expensive tab to pay, a crushed napkin with the precious phone number, some puke in the gutter and a long way home. By 5AM, all carriages revert back into pumpkins.

Welcome back to the real world, nightwalker.

It was time for Annie to make a move. Her traditional poetic reflection on the elements of a Saturday night out was a signal she had enough Margaritas to move forward with her plan. Lights were a little bit brighter. Random guy was still hitting on Mary, and was still unsuccessful. Suzie and Karen, who was laughing hysterically, were still sitting over the other side of the club. The boy with the eyes like Johnny’s was still pretending to not stare at her. Liz was now alone, arms crossed, with a somewhat disoriented glance which alternate between her surroundings, Mary, and the floor.

“This is it.” Annie began walking towards the stairs which lead to the second floor, and there, the DJ’s booth. While Annie passed by Liz, however, something unexpected happened. Liz threw herself into Annie, arms wide open.

– Thank you very much for being here, Annie. It means a lot to me.

Liz’s voice was affected, as if she was about to burst into tears. It was a one-way hug. Her tight embrace had paralyzed Annie, who for an instant saw all her preparations for that moment flash before her eyes. The careful choice of words, the anticipation as the date was getting closer, every fake smile she had to give. All day long Annie had been envisioning that moment. It was the first thing she thought about when she opened her eyes in the morning, the one thing in her mind during lunch. In the afternoon, as she was rehearsing for her later performance at Poe’s, and during the set itself, all she could think is that she wanted out. She wanted to go home, take a bath, meet the girls at O.R. and then, finally, unfold her revenge.

But then, something struck her. Liz’s eyes were not only disoriented, they were sad. Annie could tell what was bothering the birthday girl. Truth was Liz didn’t want to be there with Annie and the rest. She wanted her other friends, the ones she felt little when standing next to, to celebrate her. But none of them were there. None of them cared, so she had to settle for Suzie, Mary, Karen and Annie.

Annie knew Liz saw them as inferior, ordinary girls. Nonetheless, each one of them four girls had her way of leaving a mark: Crazy Karen, Responsible Suzie, Charming Mary and she herself, Annie, the fifth girl in the photograph. Without having to pose as easy sex rides, they managed to leave a longer lasting impression them Liz could ever do. In the end of the night, Liz was just Liz. Stripped from eyes she could judge admired by her presence, Liz remained as the uninteresting, lonely, scared little girl she was.

It came on Annie as the clearest of thoughts. Liz didn’t deserve the revenge she planned. The girl had taken a step back, still holding Annie’s arms, and was now smiling at her. Annie came close to her ear.

– You’re pathetic.

Liz laughed. – What? – She asked, as if trying to make more sense of what has been, obviously, a joke from Annie.

– You’re pathetic! – Annie screamed, trying to sound louder than the music. – You’re predictable and ignorant. Nobody take your opinions seriously. Nobody believes a word you say. We all know how phony you are, and we’d be all laughing at you on your back, if only you were relevant enough to be remembered by any of us when you’re not around, squeaking your bullshit. We’re only here because of Suzie, and she’s only here because she feels sorry for how lousy you are. But hopefully one day she’ll get tired of you too, than we won’t have to tolerate this excruciating, annoying experience that is to be around you.

Liz’s eyes went wide open. She was speechless, incapable of any reaction as Annie let go of her grip and walked away.

– Happy birthday, Liz.

Liz didn’t deserve the revenge she has planned. No. Liz didn’t deserve not even another single second under the spotlight. She didn’t deserve another anecdote to tell, about how Annie went all off her way trying to teach her a lesson. All she deserved was Annie walking away on her.

But Annie felt she herself deserved more. Yes she did. She’s been waiting for the moment that would now never come for way too long. Annie owed herself, to leave a mark one would never forget, but not one in the likes of Elizabeth Lowe. Her last few days were entirely built among the certainty of making that a night to remember, and to wash away the stink of Johnny with a flashflood of alcohol and insults.

She needed her catharsis.

As she approached the young man, his smile faded away. She could see in his eyes a thousand questions overflowing his mind. Annie strode through the dance floor feeling like a giant, shaking with every step the ground that young man was standing on, coming to crush him to pieces. Now he didn’t looked like Johnny anymore.

Annie grabbed his face, bringing his ear next to her lips. She whispered something he would never forget and never be able to repeat with the exact words. Then, she kissed him. She kissed him tenderly, she kissed him roughly. She kissed him like she loved him, like she hated him. She kissed him because Johnny was not there, and long enough for her to forget about this completely, only if just for a brief moment.

She kissed him like he was Johnny.

Before the young man could react, it was over. He didn’t even have the time to touch her. Annie pushed him sideways, walked towards her three friends and said goodbye to them.

Then, Annie went home.

Choking the Cherry (1/2)

The anonymous light flashed on the corner of the nearby stranger’s eye and for him that was all. But for the five girls in that particular frame, there it was a photo to remember, upload on their internet profiles and then forget about it. A second later, all the rehearsed smiles were gone and they went back to their celebration.

The strange man looked at those five fancy-dressed, glitter sparkling white girls, and got the impression they were mere replications of each other. The strange man could not know he was completely wrong.

Mary was the smaller and shyest of the bunch. She was closer to the rest of the girls than her younger sister, Karen, but this was hard to tell, given that Karen was way more extrovert than her. Even though Mary was prettier, Karen, because of her way of blasting on the dance floor as if every song the DJ played was dedicated to her, usually drawn more attention of the boys. Mary wished she was more like Karen. If only she knew how little of Karen’s externalized joy actually came from her heart.

The third girl in the photo was the star of the night, Elizabeth. Liz. It was her birthday. Her guest list in the club had many names, but only the four other ladies posing for her digital camera attended her party.

Next was Suzie. She and Liz were co-workers. Suzie was the oldest among the girls, and the only one that was no longer single, having recently married a man that almost the whole world seemed to hate. And that would include three out of four or her friends in that picture.

The only exception was her oldest friend in that picture, the fifth girl. Actually, being an exception was not out of the ordinary for Annie. When she was a little girl, everyone in her family thought she had the wits for being a great scientist, except her. When she decided to quit college and become a musician, everyone at her class agreed she was making a terrible mistake, except her. When cancer was killing her father, everyone in the world seemed to forget about him, except her.

Annie Daniels was a girl of exceptions. That particular night, she was making an exception on her primary rule of ignoring people she disliked. That night, she was getting revenge, she was settling the score. She would be getting even with the star of the night, that little bitch named Elizabeth Lowe.

“Lemon Meringue”

Annie watched the flaming discussion, suddenly acquiring that aggravating certainty of never having seen anything more stupid or boring in her entire life. On the twenty-something inches flat-screen, three couples were exposing their relationship issues, any platitudes concerning the matters of jealousy and lack of communication, regurgitated one after another. The way the “audience” interacted with the “guests’, spitting their irritant and obvious suggestions, the face of each Jane Sixpack shouting among the abject mass were, to Annie, the epitome of something about the world around her, something she find despicable.

Nonetheless, she watched the God-damned thing until the last line of credits disappeared quickly at the top of the screen. And the show host. The little woman for whom not even endless hours of makeup were enough to hide the mediocre looks, or the boring eyes or the stupidity that was highlighted by every line read from her condescending and – even more – odious closing speech. Jesus Christ that show host. Annie felt she had enough energy in herself to jump across the screen and beat that woman to death.

But she couldn’t get herself to raise the remote and press the turnoff button.

For a relationship to work out, it is important that man and woman respect each other’s liberties, so he or she can have his or her own respected in return”

– Fuck it, this doesn’t even make sense. – said Annie to the objects in her living room.

Jealousy can be seen as a sign of desire and valorization, but when it is excessive it can be fatal for any relationship.”

– And this idiot still needs a teleprompter.

Annie closed her eyes and sighed. Before the next feature was announced, providing more food to the boredom monster who mounted over her body like a maniac, the indefectible popping sound brought darkness to the screen.

The room was filled with refreshing silence.

Slightly more optimistic, Annie recalled that sensation as being quite similar to a late-night forced visit at one of Poe’s repugnant bathrooms. All that repulsive, disgusting product of many hours of (uni)sex activities, execrably displaying itself in the inevitably clogged toilet, suddenly being flushed down the pipes with purifying violence by a precise pull of the chain.

Clean waters, for now. Whatever comes next is on me.”

She laughed. First at the analogy itself, then at those many other moments she remembered, one after another, one bringing the other along by its filthy arms, all of them having the old Poe’s as background. Annie considered missing that place, but pushed the pillow against her face and threatened to kill herself, before she did it.

That place is a piece of shit.” – she thought. “And it is with honors, even by the standards of other Boston’s shitty pubs.” She only went there for the money and the free beer she got in every gig, but especially for the money. When it came down to her personal amusement, Annie always preferred the coziness of the apartments, houses and garages, where attendance to parties were paid with nothing but her own presence – a demand from good friends who would also be there.

Annie tried to miss those friends for a little bit, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t even remember the last time she was able to.

..You’ve to get yourself together.. You’ve got stuck in a moment, and now you can’t get out of it…” – the tune was heard from across the alley. As it was common for the neighborhood she lived in, all of Annie’s apartment’s windows faced the same direction. In this case, West, where a narrow alley ran between her building and the next. Luckily for her, there was something to compensate the occasional screaming of victims and the disturbance of the drug addicts down below. Right in front of her own, there was a window to the bedroom where resided a prime example of male beauty.

He had a broad masculine face, occasionally stained by a evening shade; thin, bulged lips above a charming dimpled chin; and a streamlined nose surrounded by a pair of magnificent brown eyes. Opus magnum, framed by fair and dark hair. His white skin had a slight golden hue that Annie could tell was natural, and not the product of hours under the fake sunlight of some downtown clinic. Annie could also tell he had an athletic body. Not just because she peeked at his window while he was dressing up in the morning a couple of times, but because it was noticeable even under the several layers of clothing – like that elegant black suit he usually wore on Fridays.

The music was coming out of his window, across the alley, reaching Annie’s ears with the same clarity with which, in so many nights, came the painful moans of pleasure of him and his boyfriend. Those nights she opened her window completely, and didn’t sleep until they were done, fantasizing things, things that were almost never sexual. When her own boyfriend visited her, she also left her windows wide open, with no regard to how much cold it was, trying to repay (with lots of interest) the melody of orgasmic screams and obscenities.

Foolish Johnny has never suspected, although he considered a little bit strange the level of Annie’s transformation, now that her father no longer occupied the room next to hers. He hasn’t even realized the coincidence between her sudden desires to “ride him like a Thouroughbred” – as he used to brag about with his bar buddies – and the fact they were always in her bedroom, not in his or anywhere else. Most of all, he has never noticed the quick peeks of Annie at the window as they were doing it.

His window is also open. Very open. What are you doing there in the dark, you dirty little boy? Aren’t you cold?” That was Annie’s game, her small toy. It was a friendly, silent (although quite noisy) dispute between herself and her anonymous neighbor. Sometimes, when in the following days, it happened that her eyes briefly encountered his, she had the feeling of certain malice. It was quick and from a distance, but it was there. In a particular occasion, she passed by him while going into her building and felt as she was been observed. Then, she heard a tricky chuckle, but she didn’t turn back.

For some time, Annie could not help but to wonder. “What if? The image struck her mind; she was over him, riding him like a Thoroughbred, glancing through his window towards her own, and beyond it, into her apartment, and the closed door Silly Johnny was knocking insistently, with no answer.

Annie hadn’t had that kind of thoughts in a long time. She and her lovely stranger ran side-by-side in their hot rods for a long section of the road, but now she has left him way, way behind. Just one more aspect of Annie Daniels’ life; among Tuesday’s daytime talkshows, Poe’s clogged toilets, Stupid Johnny, his friends, her friends, families and thoughts, all of which had become inexorably, irremediably, uninteresting.

Nonetheless, she tried to preserve her sweetness, despite all the bitter.

Don’t say that later will be better, Now you’re stuck in a moment, And you can’t get out of it…”

– Amen, Bono. – said Annie, jumping off the bed before the next verse.

She has always hated U2, anyway.