Jessica sat by the water and thought about how much she liked watching the coming night drip down the horizon. I use the past tense because Jessica died. Jessica is dead. Which is sad. Her life became a sad story. Whether or not her sad story is a beautiful story is up to you the reader.
I am the narrator for this story. What’s a narrator? A voice similar to the one in your head which reiterates life events linearly to provide you the means to make sense of everything that happens on this big rock ripping through the cosmos seemingly at random. People like things in order. Thus, they have a voice to put random happenstance in neat plot lines allowing them to swallow every detail down like cool crisp spring water. Which to be honest, no one should be drinking anymore. Cool crisp spring water is full of potential toxins. Which leads to dysentery. Which leads to brown stagnant water ejecting from within you. The voice who clears things up in your head is called your conscious. The voice who does so on the page is called the narrator. Sometimes the narrator can be untrustworthy. Just as your conscious can be untrustworthy.
However, I assure you, whomever it may concern, that Jessica was indeed by a body of water remarking on the passing night gobbling up little white boats with each passing hour. Jessica was at the beach. She liked beaches. She liked the feeling of salt air leaving coarse kisses up and down her soft nape. She liked the feeling of sand running through her fingers as she spread her hands through the beach head, slowly reclining into the dunes. She liked everything about the beach. Her favorite beach sat beneath the bustling Quays in Galway Ireland.
This story is in Ireland. She was happiest in Ireland. I felt it would be best to show you Jessica in her happiest. There are enough stories with bleary-eyed confessions told to strapping square-jawed loved ones named Caleb. Possibly Brock. Definitely Turner. Those are awful names for people today. They signal an instant need to punch a jaw, as if a solid right hand to Caleb’s blue Aryan eyes would spin them back in his head revealing double sevens along the whites of his eyes. His jaw falling flat, coins solicited from his trust fund flying across his tongue.
Don’t hit people. Only Lockheed Martin wins a jackpot when somebody’s head blows up
As the sun retreated to bed, the noise from the bars along the Quays relieved the Atlantic winds of their sonic burden for the night shift. Relieved of its days work, the Atlantic drifted towards the background to pal around with the seabirds working by the shore. Together, they liked to remark on all the lovers realizing too late that Sex on the Beach is best left at the bar. The Atlantic winds always howled the loudest in the morning jeering at star-crossed lovers darting past each other extracting sand from…parts.
Jessica’s phone began to vibrate. She didn’t like to check her phone. She hated the sound of it interrupting whatever moment she tried to enjoy by her lonesome. This trip was built for her to gain some clarity about herself. Why school didn’t work out. Why men always turned to boys when she needed them most. Why women always moved in to fast and always moved out to late. Jessica wasn’t fucked up. She just felt purposeless. As most people do. But people don’t talk about that sort of thing.
“Well Mike, I feel a deep emptiness when I wake up yet no matter how much I try to fill my day with anything positive I feel even emptier when I lay my head to rest.”
“Missing March Madness right?”
In this situation do you think Dave will have many friends in his life if he keeps answering polite pleasantries like that? Do you think Mike has found the secret to life in March Madness? Do you think March Madness is just a ploy to distract us from the looming thread of hopelessness hanging above us all the time.
March Madness is a national basketball tournament which brings people together over the course of hundreds of games to revel in human excellence. It fills many people with joy and provides an achievable outlet for thousands of competitors to express their deepest felt desires. I hope UCLA wins this year. John Wooden was the coach of UCLA basketball for over twenty years. He is one of the greatest coaches in sports history and has inspired countless people to do amazing things. Dave should read a book on John Wooden. He might be inspired to do amazing things too. Maybe a good start would be for Dave to tell Mike how much he admires Mike’s positive outlook. He should tell Mike that more often. Mike suffers from Imposter Syndrome and feels people actively dislike him. We should be better to ourselves. Then in turn, we might be better to one another.
If you are confused about what Mike and Dave mean to Jessica, don’t worry. Mike and Dave sit next to Jessica at the bar she goes to once she answers the phone vibrating in her pocket screaming out to be heard.
Jessica picked up her phone and saw it was her cousin Bethany. Bethany is her father’s sister Helen’s daughter. Bethany and Jessica share many of the same features. Bethany has thick black hair, blue eyes, and a face full of freckles. Jessica has thick black hair, brown eyes, and a face full of freckles. As you can see, they share many things, but not everything. Jessica is also stick bone thin. There wasn’t much meat for the sickness to scrape off her at the start. It was like picking stringy sinew off dry discarded chicken bones. Bethany is a corn fed farm girl. In the morning, before she commutes to school: she milks cows, feeds chickens, lays out fresh hay for the horses, and sometimes fixes the worn red John Deere tractor. Jessica lasted only a week trying to perform these tasks. One of the reasons she left Chicago to live with her Irish family was to empty her mind in manual labor. Like the Beats did when they picked grapes years before they all died of liver failure.
Unfortunately, for Jessica’s plans, the hoe was bigger than she was and the cows didn’t like the feel of her cold hands. The chickens didn’t mind her presence, though her chest did. She developed a chest cold from the chicken poop. After she coughed blood in the sink that Tuesday morning, her Aunt said no more. So Jessica spent all of her days in Ireland: wandering landscapes, writing stories, and living loudly at the ancient music clubs which dotted every corner of the lower Quays in Galway.
Jessica picked up her phone to answer her cousin. “Sup Beth? I’m down by the beach what about you?”
“I’m over at Naughton’s. Get over here before the rain starts to come down!” Bethany said through the phone.
Naughton’s is a purple pub at the far corner of the Galway Quays. It’s actually called Tigh Neachtain but this narrator can’t speak Gaelic. Or is it that the narrator can’t write in Gaelic? The reader hears the narrator in his head but he sees him speak on the page. Is it that the reader doesn’t understand Gaelic? These are questions Jessica did not think about when she wiped the sand off of her white cotton sun dress which was sure to be ruined if her cousin was right about the rain. Her cousin was wrong about most things. She was wrong about that the tall blond haired gentleman with the Japanese stick and poke tattoos rolling down his arms eying her up. He was staring at the women behind Bethany putting on her lipstick in the mirrored Guinness sign mounted on the wall. Bethany was wrong about how Jessica would eventually stop going over each decision that had gone wrong back in the States on the front porch each night. She would be wrong about a lot of things for the duration of Jessica’s short life, but she maintained the zeal to provide a differing prognosis for her cousin when the rest had assured themselves that things would end up the way things really did end up.
“I’ll be there in a bit. I’ve just got to gather my stuff at the beach and then I’ll be right over.” Jessica heard the sound of her cousin yelling at some random stranger in the bar. Bethany has diagnosed the stranger as a cuntlicking dipshit in case you were wondering.
“You’re gonna drag your sandy ass into the bar? I’ve got the car I can just roll around pick you up and bring you home so you can change into something that doesn’t have a full sandbar in the pockets,” Bethany said.
“No it’s fine. I don’t want to be out long anyway. Just a drink.” “Alright get here soon. I’ll grab a pint for you.”
Before she hung up the phone, Jessica caught her cousin saying something very distasteful once again to the cuntlicking dipshit.
A seagull wandered across the dune to inspect a bag of crisps walking hand and hand with the wind through a patch of sea-grass near the entrance to the beach. In a changing room to Jessica’s right, she heard a young couple try to button up each others clothing before dropping the vale of romanticism when the teenage boy couldn’t make out how to hook the clasps back on. Before she walked off the beach, she took in one last glimpse of the water rolling back and forth along the great rocks jutting up from the water’s edge before the scene faded to black. She watched the last sliver of orange sky wave goodbye for the night as the moon glared at his peer’s lethargic progress overhead. She turned away, put on her blue denim jean jacket, and walked off the beach towards the bar.
Nothing of note happened in between the time she walked from the beach to the bar. A slight mist began to tap on everyone’s shoulders but that’s about it. OK, Jessica did almost get hit by a red Fiat driving the wrong way in a place where cars aren’t supposed to be driving. Alright, and a very nice young woman with a very nice smile helped Jessica up after her body threw itself to the ground to avoid the oncoming drunk driver. The nice women cursed out the driver with very not nice words and offered to buy Jessica a drink to ease her nerves. Jessica fell in love with the very nice young woman with the very nice smile the moment she was introduced to the woman’s pale grey eyes. However, in the grand scheme of things, those events still aren’t noteworthy.
At the bar Jessica and Poppy argued in awkward gestures over who was going to hold the door open for the other. Poppy is the very nice woman with the very nice smile’s name. When they sat down, Jessica learned that Poppy was a year older than Jessica and was taking time off school herself. She had studied Maths at St. Andrews but felt so lonely surrounded by people her age talking past her in class she decided she needed to leave. She’d been working at a farm up the road from Galway for several months now, and the strangest thing was, she was no more sure of herself at that moment than when she arrived. Jessica laughed, ran her hands through her thick black hair, and didn’t feel so alone anymore. They shared a laugh. Then they sat for a while smiling at one another while the silence inched them closer together.
Poppy kept her sandy blond hair cropped at the sides and long at the top. It was clear what started as a fashionable cut had been butchered over and over by a farmhand who claimed to know his way around a set of clippers. Jessica found the way Poppy didn’t care that her head was an assortment of disproportionate angles endearing. Jessica’s eyes traced Poppy up and down from the dirt lingering beneath her pink fingernails, down her light freckled skin, up her slim wrists, and before they were forced to stop where Poppy rolled her blue work shirt around her forearm. Here, Jessica’s eyes hit a wall. So her brain took over imagining what lay beneath the shirt.
Poppy eye’s were doing the same. When Poppy’s eyes caught Jessica’s, they both tried to hide their shame in gulps of beer before breaking out laughing once more.
“There you fucking are. I’ve been looking all over for you! Where have you and, well you’re a new addition I presume?” Bethany said in short bursts.
“Poppy. Nice to meet you.” Poppy reached forward to shake Bethany’s hand. Both of which were unavailable. Each busy carrying a glass of cider.
Bethany looked Poppy up and down. Poppy felt deeply uncomfortable being looked up and down like a piece of meat hanging up, cellophane wrapped, vacuum sealed, professionally inspected, carrier fresh, wholesome all-natural point I was trying to make is lost on me now in the heat of delivering a simile that could have been wrapped up significantly earlier and now this sentence is running on and on and if it were possible would do so off the page because I think that would provide a wonderful aesthetic look to the piece.
While I was working on the simile, two gentleman knocked into Bethany, causing the drinks in her hand to spill onto Jessica seated beneath her. Bethany turned to the side with her now half empty glasses still way out in front of her to give the individuals a piece of her mind. What she saw was the aforementioned Mike and Dave having a long drunken row about how neither of them ever really listened to what the other was saying.
“Hey assholes, where you get off knocking a girl’s drink on herself and not saying sorry?” Bethany said.
Mike got up immediately. He was so drunk he swayed from side to side and had to grasp the bar to hold himself up. His eyes were bleary red from tearing up from the conversation he had with Dave about the depression he’s carried on his shoulders ever since Sarah left him. Dave never knew how much the collapse of his friend’s three year relationship affected Mike’s life. Dave also never even knew Mike had been picking out rings to propose to Sarah right before Mike came home to find her making noises with Victor, their old college roommate.
Bethany did not give a shit about any of this nor would relaying that information to her help Mike get out of the predicament he had placed himself in. I: E knocking a girl’s drink on herself and not saying sorry. What little lives we lead trying to scream out only to be drowned out by mundane inanities.
“I’m fucking sorry. I was just talking with my friend about…you know I’ll just get you another. Two pints of cider?” Dave said.
Bethany turned to Poppy and Jessica. “Four pints of cider.”
Dave shook his head up and down, signaling that four pints of cider was the only agreeable solution to their problem. In the background, a man in a windswept poor boy hat played a Tom Waits song on the old saloon piano covered in dusty play bills. Behind the bar, the portly bartender swung back a shot of whiskey with the gents singing at the other end in honor of the blokes who weren’t here today but at peace within the bosom of the Blessed Virgin. Behind Poppy’s left shoulder, a woman sat by herself smoking a thin Virginia Slim, searching for answers on what to do with her convict son in the smoke circulating above her. Life swirled around the pub, mixing with the sound of fire cracking it’s knuckles in the peat fireplace and the sound of the wind knocking on the door outside.
“Good thing I got you inside before the wind could carry you away.” Poppy said with a wink. Jessica grinned. “Guess I’m lucky like that.”
Bethany slammed one of her glasses back.
“Now where’s the fairness in you both getting along without me?”
Jessica lightly shoved her cousin. “Well you haven’t seemed to be very interested in our day, how we met, where we’ve been. I almost died you know! No. You. You’re just interested in getting into fights with well-to-do American tourists crying their eyes out.”
“That’s cause I’m not interested in what you two been up too. Remember this is a Catholic country you lot of heathens!”
They all shared a laugh. And then some more later on after proper introductions were made.
An elderly couple walked in and took up residence in the vacant wooden stools next to Jessica. The bartender knew what they wanted, handing them two pints of stout with a gentle smirk. They replied, thank you Jonathan. They asked him about his son. He told them his son was getting along well in the new school. He was even picking up Gaelic! That’s wonderful the couple said, clapping their hands while the barkeeper’s face got beet red thinking about his son. The one with all those complicated needs finally getting along. It was wonderful. Everything was wonderful.
An hour later, Bethany, Poppy, and Jessica left the bar. Outside, neon bar signs contorted in the Atlantic mist strolling through town. Everywhere people were dancing and drinking to celebrate that it was Thursday, because why not just celebrate to give thanks for another day. The three of them strolled from bar to club to bar to anywhere that was open with the lights still low. They danced to Celtic music and American Rock and Roll. Poppy was a swing dancer who taught Jessica how to follow. When Poppy dipped at the end of “What I’d Say,” every drunken reveler around them clapped and hollered. It felt like the whole city’s joy had mixed with the new-found love streaming between the two of them on the dance-floor.
Coalescing at the end of the night in a kiss by the quaint stone bridge above the slow stream babbling on in the sunrise sheen. It was a soft kiss. Passionate, but gentle. These things are not mutually exclusive as far as kissing goes.
“Jess,” Poppy said, swishing something unknown but oddly familiar in her mouth. Something thick, coppery, and warm.
“Yeah Pop.” Jessica responded. Her eyes still closed, her arms locked around Poppy’s waist.
“I think your mouth is bleeding!” Poppy spit a wad of dark acrid blood from her mouth onto the cobblestone road beneath her feet. She opened her eyes and looked at Jessica.
Yes. There was blood pouring from her crimson lips down her alabaster chin onto her light cotton dress.
Jessica licked her lips. Her eyes opening with each passing second the blood became more noticeable in her mouth. Warm acrid blood.
She screamed that she was sorry and ran to the nearest public restroom to look at what was going on. She thrust her way through a 24/7 McDonald’s with her hand tightly clasped around her mouth to inspect herself in the woman’s room.
She threw open the bathroom door. Inside, the stall door hung by a single hinge. The mirror was cracked. In pink magic marker was the name of some kind women who would offer her services on the cheap if you called the number kindly scribbled across the tiled walls. Jessica stood with her head limp over the cracked porcelain sink for several seconds. Her breath was heavy. When she looked up, she saw her entire chin was stained dark red. She opened her mouth wide. She pulled back her lips. She said AAAAAH. She examined everything.
A thick mound of jaundiced raw flesh hung in the back of her throat. She did not know what it was. Whatever it was, it was the source of the bleeding. In her drunken stupor Jessica poked and prodded at it repeatedly. This decision caused her to collapse onto the floor in excruciating pain. Her head crashing next to a used condom stuck to the dank tile floor.
The store manager would later force the door open to find Jessica facing forward crying with her lean back up against the stainless steel sink frame. Her fists and jaw clenched tightly in an effort to withstand the anguish pulsating through her body.
The moments before this, the moments before with Poppy, were the last times Jessica remembered she was happy. As her body began to wilt away, her mind would retreat back to those moments a great deal.
Only to stop at the memory of how Poppy wasn’t waiting for her at the bridge when she gained enough strength to leave the bathroom. Only the coming sun was near to wrap it’s arms around her shoulders and whisper everything would be OK. In her last days, she would wake early enough to greet every sunrise. She died five minutes after dawn. With only the sun by her side to remind her everything would be OK once again.
William Meyer is burgeoning writer from New Jersey. This is his first published work.
If you enjoyed Mundane Inanities, leave a comment and let William know.
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