The Mute

Reads: 530  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 1

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Gay and Lesbian  |  House: Booksie Classic
In a wheezy apartment building where falsity pretends to be authentic, a mute young woman and a metaphor explore their relationship.

Submitted: August 15, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 15, 2012

A A A

A A A


 

The apartment painted itself in natural lighting and mother earthy mold tones. Everybody pointedly ignored the pachyderm in the pantry because nobody likes bringing up the termites. I mean, talk about your counterculture collection of mismatched shit laid out in countercultural arrangements.  Jane and Katie modeled nude when they needed money, which was always, and PJ worked nights, and nobody could find the tempeh.

“Check the fire escape!” PJ hollered. He was porning the internet, his pupils dilating all over shiny busty girls that looked like Snooki. I lurked in the screen’s sick glow. “What?” he said. “It’s like a fridge out there.” And not even hiding the porn; how refreshing.

I wished I could tell Katie that if she wanted to be a vegan so bad she should eat her goddamn vegetables like a goddamn grownup.

“Found the tempeh!” she yelled.

“Is somebody crying?” PJ asked.

We all listened. Time whirred to an elegant stop. Shh.

It couldn’t be Jane. No. It must be the Lithuanian woman downstairs.

 

 

I tromped up to the roof, twisted myself through the fire escape, through the darkening corridors between tenements, until I was deposited into the night like an unwanted infant on an orphanage doorstep. I brought my sketchpad, because sometimes I like myself when I draw, but the whir and grind of the city-gray dark kept away any novice muse I might otherwise attract.

The fire escape trembled, creaked and birthed another infant. Jane collected herself. A beedi dangled from her fingerless gloves and her hair was in that super awk phase between dirty and dreads. Proto-dreads, maybe.

“What do you think they made stars for?”

She radiated indigo. Maybe it was just the city’s off-color emissions.

‘Why do we name our streets?”

She thought that if she kept asking me things, one day I would be able to respond. “Can I see?” My sketchpad was on the receiving end of her little gesture.

In colored pencil, A dandelion puff.

In black and white, A crushed soda bottle resting on a storm drain.

In charcoal, PJ’s fuck-me-I’m-Minnesotan face.

“You know, you should really learn sign language.”

The city whisperscreamed around us.

‘Will you write me down your name at least? You live with us, I have to know your name.”

I kissed Jane then, because I had to say something. Even the mute can communicate with their lips, so long as other is there to listen. When we stopped, she lit the beedi, leaned against the railing and blew smoke into my face. Her stare probed my insides, and for a moment I thought she understood my wordless language, which is favored by the very stupid and the very wise (I am neither.)

Her gaze slid down to my breasts; she appraised them calmly, unapologetically. She was wearing Birkenstocks, which was funny because they were Birkenstocks.

“You should carry a notepad,” she said.

Don’t blame me if you don’t understand silence.

She smoked. I imagined undressing her, the feel of it, her smell; I imagined drawing her in broad arcs that extended beyond the edges of her body. And then I did it: overalls first, then bra, then Birkenstocks and panties. The fingerless gloves stayed on. In the indigo cityglare I brought her to life in two dimensions. She was knees, fingers, hair like dark electricity. My charcoal stained my fingers black, and

charcoal dust haloed her paper copy.

“Show me?”

I plopped the sketchbook closed. I passed her on my way to the fire escape; she smelled of smoke and loam, as though she were Athena risen from Gaia’s prognathous maw.

 

 

Katie left her crystals in a bowl of water on the eastern windowsill. “The full moon charges them,” she explained, and believed it.

PH smoked acres of weed and claimed spiritual enlightenment. I claimed burgeoning THC addict.

Jane acted like nude modeling was a legitimate career path, like the dreadlocks made the bohemian.

I pretended by underdeveloped vocal chords made me mysterious, except sometimes, when I pretended they were an excuse to sit in the nighttime kitchen in my underwear and get solodrunk off Johnnie Walker.

“Let’s go to bed,” Jane murmured. She slid her fingerless gloves under my naked armpits, lifted me while I moved my mouth in silent protest. She tucked me into my bed and climbed in beside me, brushed hair from my sodden brow, her head propped on her gloved hand.

“Who are you?” she whispered. I think she really wanted to know.

I heaved a silent sob.

 

 

In the darkest hour, when PJ was at work and the girls were sleeping the sleep of the damned, I cracked open the computer’s whitewashed effulgence. It gnawed on my autonomy, but I needed information. First, family check-up:

Aunt Helen liked Cousin Deena’s status: a wedding next spring.

One friend request from this kid I knew in deaf school. I ignored it; the deaf kids never got me.

Words, words. My tactile existence had so few of them, and five minutes of social media had me spinning. But I had to get what I came for.

Jane P. Erickson. Age twenty. Single. Interested in women.

I closed the computer and let the darkness replenish me. Good. I wasn’t imagining things.

 

 

 

Katie burnt the tofu and the cacolalia of the smoke alarm sent me twisting up the fire escape once more.

Jane was already up there, her aroma proof of a recent smoke. Her hair stuck out like lightning, fizzed amid the dark white noise.

She saw me, and in the moment before she arranged herself around my presence I saw a deep sadness in the set of her brow. Before her persona shrouded her true self, I glimpsed a human being in pain.

“Can I ask you something?” she implored.

But I already knew.

“How am I supposed to get to know you? And I mean, how are you ever going to get anywhere if you don’t communicate? You’ll never say you love me. You’ll never tell me I look nice. I mean, fuck, what’s your fucking name? I just need you to write it down, fucking spell it out in alphabet fucking soup, I just can’t be in love with you and not know your name!”

Oh.

Something rose in me, something akin to desperation but tinged a crepuscular violent red. My useless tongue stirred unbidden, swelled until I nearly gagged on my own impotence.

“Just talk to me,” Jane begged.

Fuck you.

“Say something, please!” she was no longer indigo but scarlet, and her eyes leaked liquid desperation.

I pulled away, strode away, climbed away down the iron staircase into our smoky grotto. Katie was waving a towel at the smoke detector. I ripped it out of her hands, stepped on it, slammed the tofu pan onto the linoleum. I was speaking, I was emoting goddamn fountains of verbosity. Broken glass, broken chairs, this was my native tongue. Call me Katrina.

PJ leapt into my way. He was solid. Firm. His voice was low like the tremor before the earthquake. “What. The fuck. Are you doing?”

I pushed him.

He leered closer. Marijuana greened his expression “You’re going to clean this up.”

Jane was at the window. She was my genderqueer pansexual glitterfucker with pierced heartstrings. She was my Persephone, my bohemian rhathymia. She dreamed up beaches and I littered them. Katie emerged from the kitchen with the crumbs of my betrayal in the corners of her mouth. PJ had something dangerous vice-gripped between his eyebrows.

So I signed. I had sworn never again to sign, but I signed. My fingers explained everything: my name, my history, how I ended up in a moldy third-floor walk-up with a bunch of hippy wannabes and no future. My eyes bespoke my sadness, too. I signed about the trailer park I came from and why I left, and what happened the day my fingers caressed their last signed syllables. And then I signed to Jane, and she watched. Like an infant, she understood none of it.

“I can’t do this,” Jane said. She shrugged, washed her hands of me. “Get out.”

“You heard her,” said the threat between PJ’s eyebrows.

I couldn’t even grab my sketchbook.

The stairway sneezed mold spores onto me, chewed me up, spat me out onto the arcticly uncaring sidewalk. The city whisperscreamed untrue rumors. It whizzed by in a flash of headlights and taillights and lights in the eyes of its ostensibly human inhabitants. I looked up: proto-dreads leaned out of a third-floor window; fingerless gloves clutched the sill. I think she wanted to tell me something, but I can’t be sure. From her expression, it almost seemed she’d lost the ability to speak. The apartment painted itself in natural lighting and mother earthy mold tones. Everybody pointedly ignored the pachyderm in the pantry because nobody likes bringing up the termites. I mean, talk about your counterculture collection of mismatched shit laid out in countercultural arrangements.  Jane and Katie modeled nude when they needed money, which was always, and PJ worked nights, and nobody could find the tempeh.

“Check the fire escape!” PJ hollered. He was porning the internet, his pupils dilating all over shiny busty girls that looked like Snooki. I lurked in the screen’s sick glow. “What?” he said. “It’s like a fridge out there.” And not even hiding the porn; how refreshing.

I wished I could tell Katie that if she wanted to be a vegan so bad she should eat her goddamn vegetables like a goddamn grownup.

“Found the tempeh!” she yelled.

“Is somebody crying?” PJ asked.

We all listened. Time whirred to an elegant stop. Shh.

It couldn’t be Jane. No. It must be the Lithuanian woman downstairs.

 

 

I tromped up to the roof, twisted myself through the fire escape, through the darkening corridors between tenements, until I was deposited into the night like an unwanted infant on an orphanage doorstep. I brought my sketchpad, because sometimes I like myself when I draw, but the whir and grind of the city-gray dark kept away any novice muse I might otherwise attract.

The fire escape trembled, creaked and birthed another infant. Jane collected herself. A beedi dangled from her fingerless gloves and her hair was in that super awk phase between dirty and dreads. Proto-dreads, maybe.

“What do you think they made stars for?”

She radiated indigo. Maybe it was just the city’s off-color emissions.

‘Why do we name our streets?”

She thought that if she kept asking me things, one day I would be able to respond. “Can I see?” My sketchpad was on the receiving end of her little gesture.

In colored pencil, A dandelion puff.

In black and white, A crushed soda bottle resting on a storm drain.

In charcoal, PJ’s fuck-me-I’m-Minnesotan face.

“You know, you should really learn sign language.”

The city whisperscreamed around us.

‘Will you write me down your name at least? You live with us, I have to know your name.”

I kissed Jane then, because I had to say something. Even the mute can communicate with their lips, so long as other is there to listen. When we stopped, she lit the beedi, leaned against the railing and blew smoke into my face. Her stare probed my insides, and for a moment I thought she understood my wordless language, which is favored by the very stupid and the very wise (I am neither.)

Her gaze slid down to my breasts; she appraised them calmly, unapologetically. She was wearing Birkenstocks, which was funny because they were Birkenstocks.

“You should carry a notepad,” she said.

Don’t blame me if you don’t understand silence.

She smoked. I imagined undressing her, the feel of it, her smell; I imagined drawing her in broad arcs that extended beyond the edges of her body. And then I did it: overalls first, then bra, then Birkenstocks and panties. The fingerless gloves stayed on. In the indigo cityglare I brought her to life in two dimensions. She was knees, fingers, hair like dark electricity. My charcoal stained my fingers black, and

charcoal dust haloed her paper copy.

“Show me?”

I plopped the sketchbook closed. I passed her on my way to the fire escape; she smelled of smoke and loam, as though she were Athena risen from Gaia’s prognathous maw.

 

 

Katie left her crystals in a bowl of water on the eastern windowsill. “The full moon charges them,” she explained, and believed it.

PH smoked acres of weed and claimed spiritual enlightenment. I claimed burgeoning THC addict.

Jane acted like nude modeling was a legitimate career path, like the dreadlocks made the bohemian.

I pretended by underdeveloped vocal chords made me mysterious, except sometimes, when I pretended they were an excuse to sit in the nighttime kitchen in my underwear and get solodrunk off Johnnie Walker.

“Let’s go to bed,” Jane murmured. She slid her fingerless gloves under my naked armpits, lifted me while I moved my mouth in silent protest. She tucked me into my bed and climbed in beside me, brushed hair from my sodden brow, her head propped on her gloved hand.

“Who are you?” she whispered. I think she really wanted to know.

I heaved a silent sob.

 

 

In the darkest hour, when PJ was at work and the girls were sleeping the sleep of the damned, I cracked open the computer’s whitewashed effulgence. It gnawed on my autonomy, but I needed information. First, family check-up:

Aunt Helen liked Cousin Deena’s status: a wedding next spring.

One friend request from this kid I knew in deaf school. I ignored it; the deaf kids never got me.

Words, words. My tactile existence had so few of them, and five minutes of social media had me spinning. But I had to get what I came for.

Jane P. Erickson. Age twenty. Single. Interested in women.

I closed the computer and let the darkness replenish me. Good. I wasn’t imagining things.

 

 

 

Katie burnt the tofu and the cacolalia of the smoke alarm sent me twisting up the fire escape once more.

Jane was already up there, her aroma proof of a recent smoke. Her hair stuck out like lightning, fizzed amid the dark white noise.

She saw me, and in the moment before she arranged herself around my presence I saw a deep sadness in the set of her brow. Before her persona shrouded her true self, I glimpsed a human being in pain.

“Can I ask you something?” she implored.

But I already knew.

“How am I supposed to get to know you? And I mean, how are you ever going to get anywhere if you don’t communicate? You’ll never say you love me. You’ll never tell me I look nice. I mean, fuck, what’s your fucking name? I just need you to write it down, fucking spell it out in alphabet fucking soup, I just can’t be in love with you and not know your name!”

Oh.

Something rose in me, something akin to desperation but tinged a crepuscular violent red. My useless tongue stirred unbidden, swelled until I nearly gagged on my own impotence.

“Just talk to me,” Jane begged.

Fuck you.

“Say something, please!” she was no longer indigo but scarlet, and her eyes leaked liquid desperation.

I pulled away, strode away, climbed away down the iron staircase into our smoky grotto. Katie was waving a towel at the smoke detector. I ripped it out of her hands, stepped on it, slammed the tofu pan onto the linoleum. I was speaking, I was emoting goddamn fountains of verbosity. Broken glass, broken chairs, this was my native tongue. Call me Katrina.

PJ leapt into my way. He was solid. Firm. His voice was low like the tremor before the earthquake. “What. The fuck. Are you doing?”

I pushed him.

He leered closer. Marijuana greened his expression “You’re going to clean this up.”

Jane was at the window. She was my genderqueer pansexual glitterfucker with pierced heartstrings. She was my Persephone, my bohemian rhathymia. She dreamed up beaches and I littered them. Katie emerged from the kitchen with the crumbs of my betrayal in the corners of her mouth. PJ had something dangerous vice-gripped between his eyebrows.

So I signed. I had sworn never again to sign, but I signed. My fingers explained everything: my name, my history, how I ended up in a moldy third-floor walk-up with a bunch of hippy wannabes and no future. My eyes bespoke my sadness, too. I signed about the trailer park I came from and why I left, and what happened the day my fingers caressed their last signed syllables. And then I signed to Jane, and she watched. Like an infant, she understood none of it.

“I can’t do this,” Jane said. She shrugged, washed her hands of me. “Get out.”

“You heard her,” said the threat between PJ’s eyebrows.

I couldn’t even grab my sketchbook.

The stairway sneezed mold spores onto me, chewed me up, spat me out onto the arcticly uncaring sidewalk. The city whisperscreamed untrue rumors. It whizzed by in a flash of headlights and taillights and lights in the eyes of its ostensibly human inhabitants. I looked up: proto-dreads leaned out of a third-floor window; fingerless gloves clutched the sill. I think she wanted to tell me something, but I can’t be sure. From her expression, it almost seemed she’d lost the ability to speak. 


© Copyright 2017 Sparrowmag. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

More Gay and Lesbian Short Stories

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by Sparrowmag

The Mute

Short Story / Gay and Lesbian

Popular Tags