I’m preparing/selecting some of my stories to enter in some short story contests and such and “Senses” is definitely one of the pieces I wanted to revisit. I actually turned the original into a screenplay that would’ve been a short movie I planned to make with photographer Doug Bauman.
Here is my first major revision of the story – it’s quite different, as you’ll quickly see. The original can be found here.
Sometimes when I’m not keeping a close eye on it, my mind wanders off to places I pretend don’t exist.
In a strike of lightning, it imagines that you and I have finally become what we always secretly wanted to be – normal, happy people. I see myself standing in a 70s-style kitchen, washing dishes while looking out the window, feeling the sun warm my face and flood the room. Our dog runs in the yard. The neighbors walk by and wave. I buy fresh groceries from the market every day. My hair looks great.
You come in and kiss my cheek and say, “Hell-o, good morning, Peanut,” in a sickeningly sweet tone that makes you sound sarcastic and allows you to pretend your term of endearment isn’t as sincere as it really is. In return I say, “Hell-o, Snugglemuffin,” in the exact same tone with the exact same intentions.
Suddenly we are sitting at the breakfast nook with pancakes and eggs and sausage and grapefruit and orange juice waiting for us to dive in and devour them – but we leave them disappointed. Instead, we just stare at each other, sort of like, “Wow, I can’t believe you’re really here.” As you fiddle with your knife, you look at me with the same sort of intensity that alpha males in the movies have in their eyes when they’re disarming a bomb, choking their mortal enemy with their bare hands or realizing that the girl across the room makes them feel a way they’ve never felt before. I absent-mindedly rest my elbow on the table and my chin in my hand and look up at you. We lock eyes for a million years.
I reach out and touch your face to find out if you’re real. And you are. “You’re beautiful,” I say. “You’re leaning your elbow on your eggs,” you reply. We laugh and realize that we’re more content than we – or anyone else before us – have ever been before.
In the pop of a champagne bottle, I see us making beautiful music together. It’s a big deal, of course, because I’m the chef they renamed the James Beard award after, who also happens to be a classical pianist/erhu player, and you are a FIFA World Cup star who transformed himself over night into a one-man five-piece band with a silky baritone. Also, it’s the Grammy’s, where we’re being given Lifetime Achievement awards for all our work, most notably the epic score of the latest Oscar-winning drama we wrote, directed and acted in together. Lastly, rumors are swirling that we could be, might be, should be in love.
We perform the greatest song we’ve ever written together – which also happens to be the best song written ever, period – and the crowd goes wild. Then, you get down on your knees and propose to me in front of basically the entire world. I accept. The fans cheer, our fellow artists weep tears of joy and the bloggers crap themselves trying to be the first to break the story. “This is perfect,” I say, “Especially since I am pregnant with your twins and we are also adopting that lovely girl from Africa.” That annoying rapper dude tries to interrupt but he’s cut off by the fans cheering, our fellow artists weeping tears of joy and the bloggers crapping themselves trying to be the first to break the story.
We quietly leave the awards ceremony and ride our bikes down a back road to our mansion/palace because we care about the environment. It’s dark before we get home but the moon lights our way. “Hey, let’s go over there,” you say, pointing to a nearby mountain trail. We bike up together, really quickly because we’re so athletic and fit, and reach the top. The air is fresh and cool; it smells like pine and dew. The stars shine bright. It’s a little chilly, though, so you lend me your sweater.
“I just realized something,” you say. “What?” I ask. “I’m happier than I ever thought I could be – and not just because we just won Lifetime Achievement awards at the Grammy’s – but because we’re going to have a family together. Here, in this wondrous place.”
“We’re raising our family in the woods? What are we, bears?” I laugh. You point out that your last name means “Grizzly” in my native language so that wouldn’t be too far from the truth. I point out that it actually means, “grisly,” which is something else entirely. You laugh and then you intertwine your fingers with mine to let me know what I think is happening is really happening. You smile and say, “You look so beautiful today,” and I have faith in the future.
In the beat of a heart, I imagine us standing out in a meadow in Sweden or a horse ranch in Colorado or a field in Oklahoma or a back alley in downtown Manhattan – wherever it is, it is raining and we are soaked but we don’t care. It’s been a long night and we’ve been on edge. Actually, we just got kicked out of a restaurant after having the worst fight we’ve ever had, all because you wouldn’t believe me that Jimi is saying, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky,” not “While I kiss this guy.”
That, of course, turned into a “discussion” of my need to always be right and how you don’t listen to me enough. Then it was about how I’m too needy and how you only want me when it’s convenient. About my wandering eyes, your acid tongue. My lack of organization, your smelly feet. Name-calling, cheap-shots, the hard-to-swallow truth.
Outside in the downpour, we took a few minutes to calm ourselves down and find something to laugh about – unfortunately, that something was turkeys being so dumb that they look up with their mouths open when it rains and end up drowning. It was sort of terrible, but we needed the chuckle.
I get rainwater in my mouth and you call me a turkey. I stomp in a puddle to splash you. At some point, as we ran through the wet streets (trying not to slip on metal grates or the doors to stores’ storage rooms), we remembered that having to work through the bad stuff just makes the good stuff even better.
That song we always play in your car is, for some reason, playing in the background and its lyrics are entirely inappropriate for the moment but the instrumentals are perfect for our mood and all of a sudden everything just comes together and you lean in close and take a deep breath.
I reach out and touch your face to find out if you’re real. And you are.
You intertwine your fingers with mine to let me know what I think is happening is really happening.
And then we kiss. As we kiss, employees around the world clock in and out, people live and die, civilizations rise and fall. But all that matters is this, this right now, and it is more real than anything we’ve ever felt before. We are happier than we – or anyone else before us – have ever been before and we suddenly have faith in ourselves, in our loved ones, in dying breeds like daytime soaps and print journalism, in those searching for serial killers like that psycho on Long Island, in those fighting serial killers like cancer and AIDS, in mankind and in us – us, us, us.
I start crying when I realize that I spent all of the years of my life denying that I felt anything at all and that I have wasted so much time. You don’t notice, though, because we’re both drenched. But then I stop sobbing because I know better. Now I am kissing you with more passion than I ever thought possible because now I know that I can erase all my mistakes, let go of all my regrets and undo everything I ever did wrong by being here with you. Everything is okay when I’m with you. Everything is great when I’m with you. Everything is right when I’m with you!
You run your fingers through my hair and you hold my face so you can kiss me harder and I begin unbuttoning your shirt and – who cares that we’re in public? Your lips move down my neck and down my shoulders and I’ve finally finished with your button-down and I feel your hot breath between my breasts and of course, it’s usually at this point that I catch myself and stop thinking. I stop imagining. I start thinking about something else entirely. Like all the bills I still have to pay. Or how I don’t like Katy Perry as a blonde.
I find myself back in the real world, wherever I am – feeding birds in the park, waiting for the bus, pretending to read Rolling Stone when I’m really reading the latest edition of Cosmopolitan, which I’ve cleverly hidden inside the former. I pretend like I’m not in love with you because frankly, I’m still sort of afraid. Of the happiness, of the triumph, of the fights, of the passion.
Sometimes it’s just easier to pretend like hearing your voice once a week is enough, to act nonchalant when I see you so you don’t know I’m miserable without you, to be alone. As much as I want to run to you, I find myself running away.
But really, I know no matter how much I try to deny it, ignore it or escape it, you will always be there.
And one day I will touch your face and you will intertwine your fingers with mine and we will probably kiss that epic kiss straight from my imagination and look like really indecent, uncivilized, incredibly happy people in some ridiculously public place. People will complain and take pictures and call the cops on us. We will laugh (as we compose ourselves) and seek shelter from the rain and public scrutiny, maybe under a gazebo in a nearby park, a dark alley or on the Hudson River waterfront.
You will smile at me, say, “Well, that was fun,” and kiss me on the forehead. You will tell me that you love me, that you knew I was different from the moment you met me, that you meant every loving word you’ve ever said, that you imagine yourself waking up with me every day, that you feel you can accomplish all your dreams when you’re with me. You will finally become real!
And finally – finally – I will come to my senses.