Saturday, September 17, 2011

FICTION: Skylers Lament by Brenn Roorda

The first time I meet Skyler, I thought she was a bitch.

We met in one of the clubs, you know the kind, full of music, smoke, and watered down liquor. It wasn't so much as we met as were forced upon one another. Both of us had arrived with our own group of friends, and both of us had the same auspicious position in the group. You know ones not really in the group, but the group would feel bad if they left them out. And could crack a good joke when the moment needed it. That was us. So when our respective friends collided in the noise and the haze, they left with their respective partners for the night onto the dance floor.

They left Skyler and me nursing our drinks.

She had the typical appearance of a non-conformist working hard to piss off a father she never saw anymore. Her pale skin was offset by the black hair, eyeliner, and corset top. Think Goth and you are close. Her piercings were an airport security guard's nightmare. Skyler was also moonlighting as a canvas, symbols and words covered the skin I could see, and probably some I couldn't. Through the back laces of her top, I could make out a unique and rather disturbing version of the tree of life.

Her appearance didn't really bother me; I was a pysch major after all. It was the way she held herself. She had a certain relaxed and pissed off vibe. I think it was the way she leaned back in the chair and maintained such tension in her shoulders. One arm folded under her chest defensively and the other was holding up her whiskey. Her expression and her eyes spoke of a very intelligent woman that had simply decided she didn’t give a damn. The look also promised pain if you questioned why she didn't.

I didn't.

But we talked. While our friends danced, drank, and propositioned one another, we talked. It wasn't one of those romantic talks, where you spend the next day raving about this wonderful girl you met. The one you respected too much have a one night stand with. No, this was more of a fight. Poisonous barbs and insults, with a few intelligently debated topics, was all we shared that night.

I spoke of Milton and she spoke of Faust. I asked about Adam Smith and she regaled me with Karl Marx. She ranted about the ugly truth of the animalistic nature of man and I mentioned the corruption of morality and the poor state of the human soul. She would have thrown her drink at me with the last one, if it wouldn't have been such a waste.

Soon enough last call came around. I said goodbye, she responded with something a little less polite. I left and she went the other way.

The second time I saw her, I thought she was tired.

It was a far different situation than before, but it was nearly as noisy. Although it was a very different kind of noise, and there was an absence of booze or smoke. There were people talking, the sound of wheelchairs, and a liberal amount of coughing a sneezing. It was a place of glaringly white walls, hard old chairs, and even older magazines. I was currently there holding onto to a squirming one year old. My little boy had a cough and slight fever, and first time parents panic easily.

As I sat down next we exchanged polite smiles without any sense of recognition. It would have been surprising if we had, we both looked every different. I am sure I didn't used to look like a tired eyed young old man cradling a toddler. She looked very different herself. Her hair had turned red and she had the slightest hint of a tan. If anything she seemed skinnier, which didn’t seem healthy to me. All over her tattoos were covered in clothes that you would have seen on any girl walking down the street. There was distinct lack of metal on or in her person, not even earrings.

She looked even more tired then I did with that faraway gaze.

Recognition slowly hit us. We shared a few glances of the corner of the eyes. There was also moments of staring ahead trying to remember where we had seen the other person from. I was ready to give up myself, when she made a quip about Mephistopheles. After a chuckle, we re-exchanged names and smiles. Her smile was much better than it was, far less feral. This more of a worn out happy smile. I could relate to that.

Skyler gushed appropriately about my cute little boy. We talked about our spouses and married life. She had gotten her wedding band only a few months ago herself. The talk turned again to little ones and she mentioned trying and not yet. I told her about little boys with coughs and she told me of nagging back pains. We asked one another about the other lives a little more until her name was called. She patted my boys head, said nice to see you again, and disappeared into the doctor's office.

The next time I saw her she was dead.

It was in the office of my little practice. She had brought in her teenage girl to see me. I recognized the name on the chart. It was the normal case of teenage angst taken to the extreme. The smoking. The drinking. The boys. And constant fights with parents and threats of suicide. I should have recognized the pissed off look too. This particular patient spent the hour very silently watching the seconds tick by. It is more impressive then you think. Most teens try it, and most teens crack.

After my first session with the girl, I asked the daughter to wait in the lobby while I spoke with her mother. Skyler didn't walk in, she wheeled in. She had the "didn't give a damn" look again. This time it lacked that fire and sharp edge. Her shirt proclaimed some metal band I never cared to know. Her hair hung in unkempt strands. An index and middle finger were often outstretched trying to find that nonexistent cigarette.

I told her what I thought of her daughter, and she ranted about children with attitude problems. She tried to pull out her pack of smokes and I politely and sternly told her no. When I asked her about the life at home, she told me tumors and doctors. I joked about Milton and she didn't say a word.

I said it might help the daughter if the mother took better care of herself. Skyler told me it didn't matter; the mother was going to die young anyway.

There wasn't any point to continue the conversation after that.

The last time I saw Skyler, she didn’t say much. She simply laid there dreaming what dreams may come.

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