Karl Koweski's Holly Go Darkly, fiction

When I cup my palm against my mouth I can smell her on me.  A not unpleas­ant odor that instills a desire for more.  I stand in the bath­room of an almost expen­sive hotel.  There’s enough light bulbs above the mir­ror to illu­mi­nate a Hol­ly­wood movie.  I can feel my self-esteem pud­dling at my toes, see­ing the bath­room spot­lights embla­zon my scalp through the spar­si­ty of mousy brown hair.

The water con­tin­ues to gush and swirl down the drain.  The toi­letries loose­ly gath­ered around the sink belong sole­ly to Hol­ly.  A bot­tle of eye­lin­er rep­re­sents her make-up.  There’s a lone white tooth brush, bris­tles like an unmown lawn.  I scrub my face with her bar of pink soap, it’s brand name worn away with use.

I have to go home soon.  Nev­er have I been more aware of time than dur­ing the last month.  The warm taffy expan­sion of days lead­ing to last night.  The quick rub­ber­band snap of our night togeth­er.

I have to go soon.  And I can’t kiss my wife smelling like Hol­ly.  Return­ing home fresh­ly show­ered won’t alle­vi­ate sus­pi­cion, either.  Sera like­ly already sus­pects.  I prob­a­bly gave myself away the moment I took the col­lec­tion of Leonard Cohen poet­ry off my book shelf.

Hol­ly enters, except that’s not quite the right way to describe what she does or how she does it.  Hol­ly doesn’t enter a room; she expands into it, fills the room from wall to wall like a burst of light irra­di­at­ing the cor­ners and mak­ing one uncom­fort­ably aware of one’s flaws.

I could have writ­ten this para­graph before I met her in the flesh, though, so bad­ly did I want to believe she was more than just a woman, no less clue­less than I.  Don’t make me out to be more than I am, she warned ear­ly on, when the extent of our affair was the exchange of instant mes­sages.  I can nev­er be what you want.

She trails her fin­ger across my sweat damp back as she pass­es; her unpaint­ed fin­ger­nails soft­ly carves along the cur­va­ture of my spine.  I watch her through the mir­ror.  Her nudi­ty such a nov­el­ty to me.  I want it always to be this way.  I want to mem­o­rize every inch of her pale skin.  I want to map her every anatom­i­cal angle, every land­mark blem­ish.  I want to still know sur­prise every time I unwrap her.

I want the abil­i­ty to express these thoughts with­out com­ing across like an utter fool.

Hol­ly sits down and begins piss­ing.

You don’t mind, do you?”

Of course not.”  Eight years of mar­riage, I’ve always man­aged to avoid see­ing Sera on the toi­let.

In Japan the women are very self con­scious about piss­ing with­in earshot of any­one else.  A lot of restrooms have speak­er box­es where you push the but­ton and it makes a flush­ing sound so you can piss, covert­ly.  I nev­er used it.  I think it’s kin­da erot­ic, the sound of urine hit­ting water.  Espe­cial­ly if it makes some­one else uncom­fort­able.”

It doesn’t make me uncom­fort­able.”

She wipes and flush­es.  “I was talk­ing peo­ple in gen­er­al, Vic.”  She kiss­es me on the cor­ner of my mouth as she leaves.  Her exit con­tracts the room.  Her absence threat­ens an implo­sion.

You still smell like me,” she calls from the bed.

Though Ten­nessee born of German/Irish ances­try, six years of liv­ing in Fukuo­ka, Japan has giv­en her Eng­lish an odd, slight­ly slurred accent that makes me want to embrace her every time she speaks.

I dry off my face with the anony­mous white tow­el.  I lift the toi­let seat, flush, and begin piss­ing.

Hol­ly lies on the bed, arms stretched out, breasts lolling, legs slight­ly open, left leg bent at the knee.  She said she’s gained weight since she arrived State­side, but I don’t see it.  If I had a can­vas and oils and even a mod­icum of tal­ent and train­ing I could paint a mas­ter­piece of her.  As it is, the last thing I paint­ed, a wolf in water col­ors, gar­nered a C+ from my eighth grade art teacher.

My clothes are draped over the unas­sum­ing chair.  She catch­es my glance.

You have to go already?”  Her voice is alarm­ing­ly devoid of emo­tion.

I don’t look at the clock.  “No.  I have time.”

Lay down with me.”

I slide into bed beside her.  The sheets, moist from our recent love-mak­ing clings to my skin as we repo­si­tion our­selves.  I lay on my back, Holly’s head rest­ing on my shoul­der, my hand dip­ping right into her black, shoul­der-length hair, brush­ing the thick strands back from her tem­ple.  I’m aware of her pubic hair stub­ble sand­pa­per­ing my hip, her erect nip­ples brush­ing my skin with every slight move­ment.

Her heart beats against my ribcage.  When was the last time I felt Sera’s heart beat?  When was the last time I did any­thing oth­er than mon­i­tor the reg­u­lar­i­ty of her breath­ing, ensur­ing her sleep was deep enough for me to escape our bed into the false life pro­vid­ed by my com­put­er?

Hol­ly, my melan­choly angel, her life under­scored with dis­il­lu­sion­ment and advanced dis­ap­point­ment.  In my eyes, she wears this sad­ness, beau­ti­ful­ly.  I’ve always believed a tight smile and down­cast eyes held more radi­ance than the bleached smiles and sparkling eyes of run-of-the-mill glam­our queens.

The gut­ter­ing can­dle light pro­vid­ed by the Home Inte­ri­or can­dles Hol­ly brought casts minia­ture St. Elmo's fires across the ceil­ing and walls.  Maybe she’s won­der­ing what I’m think­ing.  And if she asks I’ll say I’m not think­ing of any­thing at all, just bask­ing in the moment.  But she’s nev­er shown an inter­est in my thoughts.

"How much longer can you stay?”  She asks.

 "Until the hour and minute hand meet.”

 Her lips draw into a smile against my chest.  It’s an inside joke involv­ing Edgar Allan Poe’s sto­ry “A Predica­ment”.  We dis­cov­ered ear­ly on in our get-to-know-you phase a mutu­al love of lit­er­a­ture and a mutu­al admi­ra­tion for Poe’s canon.   We’d occa­sion­al­ly read each oth­er pas­sages on voice chat.

 Holly’s favorite para­graph involved the female pro­tag­o­nist from the Poe sto­ry, her head caught between the hour and minute hand of a clock tow­er.  The vise-like pres­sure increas­es minute­ly until, first, on eye­ball pops out of its sock­et.  Its ocu­lar broth­er in the body politic watch­es the dis­lodged orb roll into the gut­ter before swift­ly join­ing it.

 First hear­ing Poe’s words from Holly’s lips, I enter­tained the pos­si­bil­i­ty I could become more emo­tion­al­ly invest­ed in her than we agreed at the out­set to allow our­selves.  We even scoffed at the notion of an inter­net love affair.

 There’s no com­put­ers, no dis­tances of DSL cable, sep­a­rat­ing us, now.  Why should the old rules apply?

 I kiss the top of her head and play with the ends of her hair.  From those dark fol­li­cles, my fin­gers trace along her col­lar­bone up the hol­low of her throat.  I draw her chin up until our lips brush.  My eyes adjust to the dark­ness in her eyes.

 And I know that I’m a liar.  I don’t want her to remain emo­tion­al­ly aloof.  I want her to love me.  I want the vic­to­ry such emo­tion­al attach­ment entails.  I want to wear her love like a shiny medal on the lapel of my bad ass leather jack­et.  I want the entire world (exclud­ing my wife and every­one asso­ci­at­ed with my wife) to know Hol­ly belongs to me.  Her love for me val­i­dat­ing my love for her.

 But she doesn’t love me.  My thoughts turn to her more than her thoughts include me.

You’re so tense,” she whis­pers, her hands in motion, fin­gers roam­ing my chest and abdomen, search­ing for weak points in the armor of my flesh.  I’m weak all over.

Lot o
n my mind, I guess.”

Guilt?”

I don’t feel guilt.”

Why not?  It’s an inter­est­ing sen­sa­tion.  Kin­da like antic­i­pa­tion with­out all the gid­di­ness.”

My thumb press­es against the div­ot in her chin that she hates but I love.

Hol­ly, I love you.”

The words escape.  Imme­di­ate­ly, I want to apol­o­gize.  My lit­tle inef­fec­tu­al defense mech­a­nism.  She hates those two mean­ing­less bull­shit words.  I’m sor­ry.

When she answers, her voice con­tin­ues its trend of emo­tion­al vacu­ity.  “We agreed from the begin­ning this wasn’t going to be a ‘love’ thing.”

I’m sor­ry.”  The words hang there.  Hol­ly draws away from me.  “No, wait, Hol­ly.  I’m not sor­ry.”

You can’t love me.  I don’t love you.”

Don’t you feel any­thing about me?”

She crouch­es on the edge of the bed, cat-like.  Her eyes.  I stare into her eyes, hop­ing for a flash of emo­tion, any­thing.  Her dark eyes like vor­tex­es suck the light from the room.

I can’t hold her gaze.  My eyes drop down to her lips.  So long I’ve fan­ta­sized kiss­ing those lips.  The real­i­ty of her lips pressed against mine is worth this.  Her mouth that I’ve claimed is not giv­en to smiles.  I’m such a liar.  She smiles all the time.  She’s quick to laugh.  She’s not my melan­choly angel.  Strange I should fic­tion­al­ize her in such a way.

She’s not smil­ing at the moment.

What do you want me to say, Vic?”

Noth­ing.  Nev­er mind.”

No, noth­ing, nev­er mind.  What do you want me to fuck­ing say?  That you’re my num­ber one man?”

I don’t cat­e­go­rize peo­ple numer­i­cal­ly.  Guess again.”

Oh, lis­ten to you.  How do you cat­e­go­rize peo­ple?  By whether I fuck them or not?  You’re the one always ask­ing who I’m talk­ing to.  Always afraid you’re gonna get knocked out of the sad­dle.”

She’s off the bed and gath­er­ing her clothes.  The bor­ing white panties.  The bor­ing white bra.  The jeans she has such a dif­fi­cult time find­ing at the stores because her legs are so stub­by and her ass is so wide.  The shape­less blouse with the dol­lar store flo­ral print she claims is of African design.

I’m not ask­ing you to mar­ry me.  I’m hap­py.  I’m hap­py with you.  So I tell you I love you.  So what?  I know you don’t love me.  I know I like you more than you like me.  You remind me this every fuck­ing day.  Or at least every day you’re gra­cious enough to make time in your busy sched­ule to speak to me.”

I keep talk­ing as she keeps get­ting dressed.  If there’s a com­bi­na­tion of words that will make her stop, get undressed, lay back in this rent­ed bed and for­give me; I’d spit in my mother’s face for a hint at the sequence of words.

Hol­ly grabs her purse and the hotel key.

How dare you ask me if I feel any­thing for you?  I’m here, aren’t I?”

I’m sor­ry, Hol­ly.  I didn’t mean…”

Go home to your wife, Vic.  Tell her you love her.”

She leaves the room the way she entered–furtively, like a thief.

 It’s all I can do to keep myself from step­ping, naked, into the hotel cor­ri­dor and call­ing her name.  I stare at the phone like an anchor dropped on the table.  I could call her cell phone.  It’d be long dis­tance.  What could I say?

I lay back down on the bed.  Her smells are every­where.  I close my eyes and inhale.


Karl Kowes­ki is a dis­placed Chicagoan now liv­ing on top of a moun­tain in Alaba­ma.  His chap­book of smut, Low Life, will be avail­able with­in the month from www​.zygotein​my​cof​fee​.com.  His poet­ry chap, Dimin­ish­ing Returns, is avail­able at www​.sun​ny​out​side​.com.  He writes the month­ly col­umn, "Obser­va­tions of a Dumb Polack", at Zygote.

This entry was posted in Fiction, holly go darkly, karl koweski. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Karl Koweski's Holly Go Darkly, fiction

  1. Missy says:

    this is a beau­ti­ful sad sto­ry. one of my favorites.

  2. pb says:

    I liked this- nice job.

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