Cassie

The following is a story I’ve written as proof to Mr. O that I can indeed write. Some things to look for in the passage below are: the imagery in certain descriptions and not in others, the syntax of a heated conversation or thought, and the very specific and loaded diction I tried to use. I hope you enjoy it, and be forewarned, there are some curse words and the topic of the passage itself is not very savory, but I hope that it will be read with an open mind. Thank you.

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She sank her elbows into the rise of sand behind her. The sun glared down as a watchful eye, judgmental and overbearing. Her skin stung as the harsh sunlight smacked against her sallow skin, pressing against and heavying the eyelids hidden behind her red brown sunglasses resting atop her crinkled nose. The boy stood, skipping rocks across the cresting waves of the endless jade sea. He turned and smiled down at her, then exchanged a flat rock from his left hand to his right and skimmed it on top of the water. The stone left small ripples where it kissed the surface and then strung out quickly before it dropped into the abyss below.

He’s perfect. Oh, he’s perfect. My little lion.

Another throw, then the boy walked over and sat down next to her, arms crossed over his knees. She smiled at him, running a hand over the rich bronzed skin of his arm and resting it on his shoulder. He turned to her, his chin nuzzled into his arm.

“You are beautiful.”

She grinned a wide white smile. “You mean that? Really?”

“I do.”

“No you don’t.”

“Honesty, I do.”

She laughed and pulled her hand away.

“I don’t love you for your opinion, Aslan.”

“But I love you, Miss Cassie.” She guffawed. This time he smiled and pulled his arms behind his head, lying back on the sandy towel.

Raising herself to sit, Cassie looked back out over the shimmering water. She gathered up some of the pebbly sand in her weathered hand and let it slip between her fingers. It fell on top of her foot. Most went running off the sides, all but that which clung to the normally invisible hairs protruding from her feet. The sand separated and now she was able to make out the blues and yellows and reds in the tiny pebbles. She stared for a moment, then quickly glanced over at Aslan, whose eyes were closed, and brushed the little rocks off into the sand.

“I’m going for a dip.” She stood and wiped the dust from her striped two-piece.

Cassie stood at the edge of the water, eyes narrowed as the seawater gathered into a bulk, then crashed down in a torrent of froth and scattered pebbles that tumbled towards her, straining for her toes and encircling her sandy feet. She breathed in sharply at the cold sensation on her dried out skin before marching into the surf. The tongues of water clambered up past her knees, the cool freshness of a saline solution nipping and licking its way higher.

The sea was the better lover, she realized.

It knew her, young and old. It never changed, its vast intimacy seeking every crevice or tucked away bulge or cranny she could hide from anyone else. The countless times she’d plunged into its depths gave license for that tidal god to know her all too well – her and every other bitch who’d slinked salaciously into its welcoming folds. Every dirty little secret was engulfed in that steady rhythm of up and down and up again, timeless and inevitable.

Cassie shuddered as the water slithered higher. There she waded and dipped her hands into the green. Glancing over at the boy, who still slay motionless on the shore, she let her eyes wander until they met a couple who were flirting with the cusp of the water.

He looks like Carl, only a little prettier. She smirked, remembering the man with whom she had sworn to be forever faithful and who was probably in a situation similar to her.

The bastard.

The man, whose belly seeped over the hem of his nylon swimwear, walked down into the murky waters. He buoyed while a girl that looked hardly half his age feigned apprehension at diving headlong into the sea. He motioned for her to join him and she refused shaking her head and giggling waiting for the old man to run up out of the water, hold her in a tight hug and drag her down with him, which he did. They splashed and made a ruckus that turned the heads of all the tight-bodied tanners that were lying near the shades of large, pasty parasols that littered the beach.

Cassie wrinkled the corners of her eyes and frowned at the pair. It seemed reasonable that old men sleeping with young women was disgusting, but swap it around and the young boy is counted lucky. Disgusted, she turned away and began the slow wade back to the beach. The rocks below her were rough and asserted their existence, and she begrudgingly relinquished the soothing cover of the sea. Still dripping, she made her way to Aslan and stood over him, blocking the sun.

“Let’s go get a drink.” He opened one eye and stared sleepily up at her.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I just need a drink.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, god.”

The boy stood up, then stooped down to pick up the towel upon which now was strewn wisps of sand. He draped the towel across his sinewy shoulders. Cassie nestled her arm in his and together they walked up to the bar that stood out against the green. Two or three others were scattered around the tables, sitting and sipping drinks of whatsoever clear liquids. She broke off from him and moved over to the counter, resting her tingling arms on the cool marble surface.

“Sex on the Beach and a gin tonic, please.” The boy came to her side and turned to look at her.

“There’s no sun now. Your eyes do hurt?”

“A bit,” she said, unsmiling.

He blew some air out of his nose and looked back at the bartender, where he exchanged a few quick words and a wry smile, whereupon the bartender chk’dand placed the two drinks side by side. She took her cocktail and rotated to face the blazing beach. It used to be with Carl that he would sit and watch her swim, and he would drink his drink slowly through a straw, his gut protruding and a haphazard smile slapped onto his face, where it had a habit of re-producing itself day in and day out.

He was nothing now, doing as much. He didn’t care where she was, about as much as she cared for his whereabouts. At least not after she found out about the girl. But she didn’t want to think about that now.

Now was Aslan and he was perfect. He was hidden away in a secret place. He was her holy of holies, whose name is wonderful, who she can always come back to, who she can confess sins innumerable to, who measures her insecurities with the span of his fingers, who fills her with fire, who touches her and cleanses her, who is majestic and wild and untamed and ferocious and timeless and beautiful and forever.

Yes he is.

And she is not.

Cassie closed her eyes, then spun and held the boy at the elbow. She took off her sunglasses and placed them, with her drink, on the counter next to him. “Take these for me. Wait here…” She paused, “I need to go upstairs.” He looked at her and wondered as she sauntered away up the concrete path that was rough against bare feet.

As she walked she wrapped the towel around her and stared at the see-through reflection in the elevator and looked straight ahead as she passed the cleaning lady in the hall and fished the keycard out of her top and sat down on the bed as her knees gave way. He clothes were neatly folded on the table by the TV and the mini-fridge. She hunched over and reached for the door of the fridge, peeling it open and withdrawing a small glass container with some clear liquid in it. Cassie found a glass, turned in over and poured the contents of the bottle into it. She watched the bubbles rise and converge on one another, bursting or forming together and still bursting. Setting it down on the table she walked into the bathroom and turned a nozzle so water came bursting out in a thunder and steam began to rise. She turned the other a little bit and felt the stream of water, notching closed the cap on the plug. She stripped down and eyed herself in the mirror. Old, was all she thought. Again and everywhere. Old skin, old arms, old belly, old hair, old eyes. She walked back into the bedroom and grabbed the glass off the counter, spilling a little down the side, which ran cold down over her leathery fingers. Placing it down next to the sink, she looked at herself once more. All of her accessories were stacked neatly up against the mirror. She grabbed for the bag and frantically pulled out a little container that rattled in her sweaty palms. She pressed hard and spun it 4 times until the top came off and she poured the little white pills into the glass. They began to fizz and form together as she held it up against the light. Cassie looked at the mirror, then at the glass, then at the mirror once more, before downing the drink and feeling the little clumps of pellets making their way down into her digestive tract. She smiled, and took a deep breath.

It won’t be long now…

She walked over to the tub and steadied herself with a hand against the porcelain wall. She dipped a toe in, laughed and jerked it out, before returning and slowly lowering her foot into the steamy water. The next foot, and then she carefully lowered the rest of her body down and landed with a splash. Cassie sank her elbows into the water and rested back on the cold porcelain.

He will come looking for me.

She smiled, and closed her eyes slowly as her breathing began to quicken and her heart began to race round and round and the tips of her fingers slowly started to lose their feeling and she tingled all over and she forced her eyes to stay closed and her legs began to spasm and she forced her eyes closed tighter until the spasms began to subside and her eyes fluttered open then closed back down again as she sank into the confines of the steamy water.

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2 comments

  1. What a powerful exploration of, as you call it, an unsavory topic! I see a resort/vacation experience gone way wrong. I see a life of such resort-like escapes coming to a head. I see a delicate exploration into insecurity and regret. I see dependence and neediness at its most naked and vulnerable. I see indignation and injustice juxtaposed with the most beautiful scenery. I feel like I’m back in Turkey for the nightmare version of the senior trip. A dark sequel or a negative of the original film.

    You’ve certainly shown that you can write! My goodness! and your voice — or rather the voice of your narrator — comes through so vividly. The narrator perspective seems to be broader than Cassie’s thinking, though it seems to understand her perfectly. The subtle references to the divine, I think, are especially profound– from “that tidal god” to the more enigmatic choice of names (Aslan) to the even more subtle (but to me seemed quite fitting) use of taking her ‘god’s’ name in vain (““What’s wrong?” “Nothing, god.”). It seems like she’s either calling Aslan ‘god’ or that she’s expressing frustration at her inability to communicate her pain to this man she’s supposed to be in love with. Was this intentional?

    What I found most chilling was the description of Aslan: “He was her holy of holies, whose name is wonderful, who she can always come back to, who she can confess sins innumerable to, who measures her insecurities with the span of his fingers, who fills her with fire, who touches her and cleanses her, who is majestic and wild and untamed and ferocious and timeless and beautiful and forever.

    Yes he is.

    And she is not.”

    This sounds more like a mountain-peak religious high than a boyfriend. The faith-based descriptions of cleansing, confessing, and holiness will conjure up (at least for anyone trained in faith contexts) an uncomfortable association with personal faith. Hidden behind this I see a quiet critique of idolatry in all its subtle forms. A quiet critique of idolatry that masks itself as true faith. The truth is, however, that Cassie is deluded, she’s miserable, she’s (though I may be getting a bit harsh) emotionally incompetent. That could be harsh, but while the ending never says it, I think Cassie’s flawed that “he will be looking for” her– or if he does, I suspect he won’t find her in time. I could be wrong here, but this Aslan has been no savior for Cassie.

    — Now I don’t know what it feels like to read my analysis of your writing, but get ready for it, because I think your writing will elicit many different theses and ideas. People will draw conclusions that you may or may not have intended. People may understand your writing in a completely different way than you ever did.

    One thing I need to ask you to do to complete this assignment will be to be specific in at least one way you’ve used your diction, one way you’ve used your detail, one way you’ve used imagery, syntax tone etc. Be specific. feel free to email it to me if you don’t want to post it.

    1. Wow. What a story. I jumped into it and fell in over my head. . .so that I was going back, rereading, and rediscovering all over again. There’s so much more than meets the eyes. . .and yes, that same paragraph. Taken out of context, that could easily be a beautiful description of true-Aslan and what he does for us, but in this context it is the most damning, despairing paragraph of the story. Wow.

      I would challenge you on two things: on first, on whether there’s room for the flip side of that paragraph. Maybe not in this story, but in stories? Life ends in a bathtub. . .or life begins feeling the roar of waves crash over you and make you dead yet more alive. Food for thought.

      The second thing I’d bring up would be to tighten up the narration. The dialogue is great, matching the strokes of your story without sounding like pale-Hemingway (I’ve written a lot of pale-Hemingway and it’s nasty). The narration, though, could use some tightening. Some spots are over-narrated, and they lose their weight because they’re bulky.

      Still. . .fantastic job. I’ve saved this to re-read. You’ve exceeded my expectations, sir.

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