short story

Underwater Waves [3]


Harry Fayt

                                           [Flash Fiction Chapter Three]

Underwater Waves 

The waves pursue your thoughts; they call you their master; their muse. They use words like, unique and genuine. They say, your beauty is rare, and your kindness is precious. Wild with fervor, they play with your mood in the dark of the night. They wet their lips with the thought of your aching needs; they tell you stories, claiming to have seen in the depths of your eyes. They captivate your essence in your every sigh; they wait for you to come in their dreams; they absorb your every gesture. They listen to the rhythm of your breathing; they tell you to let go of everything you knew to be true.

When your eyes turn away, they plead with you to not fear their erotic whispers; they tell you to close your eyes; to feel their energy as they caress your weaknesses. They promise to never harm you; they want only to protect you. They count your every smile; while you thought you only had one, they tell you otherwise. “Trust me, and succumb to your needs,” they whisper in the moonlit world they’ve created for you. You feel their pain, and promise to stay.

When you have proven your loyalty to the waves . . . to him . . . he begins the subtle questions; like, “Do you want me?” You say, “Yes.” Then he wants to know more;“but do you need me?” That question frightens you at first. You explain how important your freedom is to you; that expectations hinder love; that you don’t want to think about the future; only the now exists. This idea ignites a craze in him. He tells you that it will all turn into a need; and you must allow it to happen.

And as you lose bits and pieces of yourself each day, consumed and mesmerized by him, you become vulnerable to his every need. Soon enough, you’ve lost the power to protect yourself from all the things that make no sense. So you stop questioning the chaos and the weirdness, and succumb to his passions; Now you lose your moral values. You stop asking about the other woman he was playing with before he found you; the one he called “mad with fury”. You don’t question his games with women when you have to disappear; nor do you ask for explanations when you return. He tells you that all the others are merely a means to communicate with the outside world, and nothing more. Then he tells you stories about obsessive women he had to throw out of his sea.

 

To be Continued . . .

 

– Photograph Credits: Harry Fayt

 

Moved Silently


moved-silently

Moved Silently

I noticed him across the room.

Maybe an intoxication of habit in a civilized society;

Is it that people have stopped listening to each other?

But what made me notice;

That he listened, even before I began to speak.

He asked me how I felt.

A nostalgic moment; and he was there,

In a darkness beneath our thoughts, time stopped.

An Ode to holidays; no mood to contribute, I told him.

Those days just pass me by too, he replied –

With Imagine faintly in the background,

His embrace put my past to rest;

My heart found room for his perception of time.

He then wet my lips with red wine;

  With his hoarse voice, he gently touched my neck.

My demons for his dragons;

My days for his nights;

I surrendered to his dance as he pulled me into the light.

The dawning of change?

. . .

Amedeo once said,

 “Happiness is an angel with a serious face.”

 . . .

Beyond belief;

His smile, I will keep.

And he;

My dance.

 

 – Photo Credits: Unknown

 

 

 

Forbidden Shells (Blind Spots)


3. Forbidden Shells (Blind Spots) by Maria Fokas

Today Greece is voting for the next Prime Minister . . . [Do not dwell on the days that drift by – Make them stop] – The words carved on an iron plaque, hung on cemetery gates, in a dream.
And so I took the bus to the center of town, early this morning as I could not sleep. I sat on the bus observing people going to their destinations. I looked for smiles, or lack of them; speculated about the thoughts they were consumed with; whether they were healing, or sickening their hearts. Only one was smiling. I imagined he was reliving a happy moment. Most had lifeless and cold lips on. Were they thinking politics, or maybe all the mistakes they’ve made so far. We have no qualms about spreading other people’s miseries but we hide our own very well. Could our miseries carry a sense of fault within them; our fault?

I came out of my thoughts to reflect upon the lifeless expressions again. This time, I imagined the frozen faces as a means to relax their muscles; people merely enjoying the ride. I asked myself, what constitutes a good day, opposed to a bad one. How subjective can it be? “Now if only I knew what made me happy,” a girl on the bus said into her cell phone. See, the subconscious may be sceptical of whether we’ve learnt from our mistakes. It’s there to protect us, not change us, or even trust us, and surely not to remind us of what makes us happy; just there to frighten us against past miseries. It feels safe to know the future beforehand. Now imagine a world where we always knew what would happen next – Always.

The bus stopped, and I got off; no destination to devour my thoughts. I walked down the elite street of my city; the center of the high-rises where the finest luxury jewels are sold, boutiques of high fashion, floral shops with the freshest collections of brilliant colored bouquets, pastry shops of extravagant assortments dressed in dazzling artistry of sugar-art; there for the taking. But every couple blocks reality hit me in the gut, as I saw people like me, do the thing where they just walk by the less fortunate ones. None blinked towards those sitting on the cold dirty cement; some had backs leaning up against the high buildings, others crouched forward with faces down to hide their misery. The ones who looked into my eyes, had tired and angry eye; somewhat like mine. I saw one man who seemed to be in a dream state, another was praying, and a third was whispering to himself, but none of them were baffled.

I wondered about their families; where they were, and if they knew or cared. I assumed they all had families. I captured three of these people in my camera, after I emptied my pockets. Yes, I am guilty, and yes, I felt guilty as I took those pictures, but I did it anyway. I felt misery looking through the lens; the kind I didn’t want to hide. I wondered what they felt as they watched me trying to take it all in. A teacher once said, “When we prepare for national exams, we’re as weak as our weakest students; we work together and succeed together.” Did I stop to take those pictures to give purpose to my life? I have to vote today – Ridiculous!

 

EMMA and her Sister


Emma and her SisterEMMA and her Sister by Maria Fokas

She watched me as I took pictures of the castle of St John in the old town of Rhodes. Dressed in a white dress-like costume, and white powdered make-up covering her face, she sat before the gates, waiting for the tourists to flip a few coins in her brown cardboard box. I could not but notice the way she looked at me, and then she spoke:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–          You can take a picture of me if you’d like.

–          What’s your name?

–          Emma, she said with a smile.

–          What are you dressed as?

–          An angel.

–          Take a picture of me, she said again.

–          Are you sure.

–          Of course I’m sure.

–          And what would you like in return, money?

–          No, not money, I want something for me.

–          I’m listening…

–          I want something to eat.

–          Any preferences?

–          Two gyros and two cokes.

And I headed for the nearest  food shop, I could find. When I got back, she seemed surprised to see me.

–          You came back, she confirmed.

–          Why wouldn’t I?

–          It’s common not to.

–          You think you have enough room for all this food?

She lifted her head and looked behind me in the distance.

–          You see that girl across the street playing her xylophone?

I turned around and saw a fragile little girl staring at us.

–          That’s my sister, you can give her one of the gyros and a coke.

And I did.

–          How old are you? I asked.

–          11

–          And your sister?

–          13

I don’t know why I asked, but for some reason, I felt the need to know.  I watched her take her food out of the bag, and begin to devour it. Her sister didn’t touch her food.  She just continued playing  her instrument. And then I felt the urge for more meaningless questions.

–          Where are your parents?

–          Around.

–          Do you go to school?

–          No, we don’t do stuff like that.

–          Why?

–          My dad says school serves no purpose.

–          No purpose? It helps you think.

–          Thinking brings about sorrow.

–          And dreams?

–          I dream every night.

I felt numb, and all the knowledge in my head could not help me make sense to her. I knew I had said too much, hoping that it meant something;  knowing that it did not. Two little girls sat across each other in a reality different from mine,….and, bystanders, observing them as  merely part of the landscape being photographed. I looked into her eyes and smiled, hiding the pain only failure brings on. And then she broke the silence.

–          What are you afraid of?

–          The list is long, I said.

–          Then I’m luckier than you, she giggled.

–          Aren’t you afraid of anything?

–          Only the cold, and hunger.

With a handshake we said goodbye. I felt a sadness knowing I will never see her again. What a peculiar thing to feel.

At the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights, two little girls sit opposite each other hoping for kindness…and millions more elsewhere – In a presence of a fate they cannot escape;

I hope for change – but I fear, it will never come.

© 2014 Maria Fokas

MEGALOMANIA


Megalomania MEGALOMANIA by Maria Fokas

Like a dark, tragic novel, she knows her end. Excessively preoccupied with prestige, and vanity. She makes friends easily, but inevitably loses them all. One by one, they turn away, despised by her arrogance.

She claims a sense of entitlement, with her grandiosity behavior. Bears no empathy;  her tears are fake, and her life is synthetic. She speaks of superior accomplishments, in the tales she tells  – and envies those who own successes. But when she speaks kind words, do not be intrigued. Those words are merely her attempt to own you.

She has many fears, but the greatest is rejection. When I look into her eyes, I have no sentiment, am I a monster too.

As a child, her vanity was accepted; so common for the young to behave in a way that gives them the most attention. But past the age of 8, she did not become more realistic. I wonder about her parents. Which traumatic point did they push her passed? Poisonous words that put the blame on her. Did they mold her or destroy her?

A profound sadness fills the room, for a tragedy so deep.

Should I handle this one with the heart…

I do not claim to understand  – what I know to be true.

© 2014 Maria Fokas

The Giving Tree


“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments,

but what is woven into the lives of others.”  – Pericles

The Giving Tree by Maria Fokas

The music filled my office like the sun fills the face of a flower eager to blossom, and then the phone rang. Three rings before I picked up the handset and put the receiver to my ear. It was my sister and she said she had some bad news…

I interrupted her, asking whether everyone was alright, and she replied that the bad news was of a different nature.

I panicked. The sound of her voice was melancholic. I felt that she was about to utter the kind of bad news that forces change upon us in some way. She gave me, but a few seconds before she told me. No time for me to expect anything remotely close to the reality which was taking place overseas. And she said: BORDERS are closing shop.

A chain-bookstore in the United States has declared bankruptcy. The cultural center of the country I love is being deleted as I sit and take the news with an overwhelming fear of uncertainty. What does that mean? I thought to myself. Then I asked her if it was final. A letter was sent to the members by one of their representatives, she told me, explaining the main reasons for the liquidation. But of course, I didn't want to accept it. So after we hung up I went on a five-hour journey to investigate. I had to find out how the unsinkable idea which led so many of our voyages, managed to drop from the face of the earth – but more precisely, I was hoping to find some indication that this news was not accurate.

What my research concluded, was that in less than a month Borders would become a notion of the past. I read numerous accounts of the situation with no clear answers to the cause of this fate bestowed upon my haven. And then I got to thinking. You know when kids are concocting a lie, they sometimes go overboard not realizing that it is that very course which reveals their lie; the fact that they said too much. Like the excuses they give for not handing in their homework:

 “My mom threw my homework in the trash by mistake” and then… “When she realized what she had done, it was too late, as the dog saw it and ate it” and… “The little piece I managed to get out of snoopy’s mouth, I had to clean my shoe with because I stepped in poop on my way to school this morning.” Deep inhale for a split moment --- “And then there was such strong wind that it just got wafted out of my hand. Sorry Miss Brown”, sad - sad face - exhale. The representatives really did sound like that little kid blurting out fantasy excuses to dodge punishment.

There was no question of why such an incident be considered “bad news for us” as my sister uttered. A business, which started out 40 years ago, as a mere idea of two young brothers, Tom and Louis Borders; graduates at the University of Michigan, began by selling used books in a room above 209 State Street, north of the State Theater.  Come next month, this will be a bookstore of the past; depressing, if you were ever a costumer at one of the many stores in America. 

Being overwhelmed by this news, I try to find the words to express the misfortune of the situation at hand. This breaking story is mournfully overpowering - the closing down of its last 400 of 1200 stores, leaving more than nineteen thousand people out of work is a tragedy in itself. But why should I care, living thousands of miles away; in another country? Why should I be affected by this news?

This does sound inflated to an extreme when compared to other tragedies of the world like Famine or War, but I hope I’m not alone when I say that so much more will be lost than what is being broadcasted on the news throughout America these days; so much more is dying here; things that won’t be discerned in any numbers of statistics while analysts attempt to make sense of it all. As CEO’S and shareholders are trying to cut their losses,  the real loss will be in the hearts and minds of those who fell in love with the endless prospects Borders was willing to offer. Those who felt the change – the change that made all the difference in the simple things that make our world meaningful; a tradition many will not be able to pass on to their children.

What the corporate heads and their partners are hiding from all the stories of who is to blame, as they calculate how much they've lost with their big ego in the way, will be felt under our skin in time; and probably too late to turn back the clock on a countdown for other bookstores to disappear around the world if attitudes don’t change. I’ll tell you what else knots my throat as I try to rationalize: The moments of tranquility thousands of individuals will remember experiencing in Borders every time they wanted to escape pressures and treat themselves to serenity. And like magic when they picked up that particular book or singled out that special song which made them feel better about themselves, feeling the warmth of the sun without the sun present – that will be missed!

I know because I miss it already.

I wonder about how difficult it will be when I go back, knowing that I will never walk into a Borders again. I wonder about how it will feel like to drive into that shopping center, stop in front of the entrance doors to see another business occupying the space or worse yet to see it empty. To look into the nothingness staring back at me from within those walls and recall a time when it was bursting into life.

Then I look into my microcosm and wonder why! I was one of those customers that really did buy books; pounds and pounds of books enjoying precious moments of searching for the right one, while enjoying my sister’s frown as a question mark would shape her face every time I bought more than I could ship: “Where are you going to put all those books; think about the weight?” she’d say.

I recall the first time I stepped foot inside the one in Newark. During that particular visit to the States, I had prepared an endless list of books as usual. The moment I set foot inside the warm pastel orange hued premises, it seemed like time had stopped as I strolled through the aisles visiting the different sections. I wanted to be left alone as I plunged into this incredible world I had just discovered. What a feeling!  And then I looked around at the faces of  the people walking by. I realized that I wasn't alone in this need. There were others there doing just that! I didn't know who they were in the sense of the word – nothing about their lives – their hardships – their names - but what I did know was that in the realm of a chosen world we were all connected by our love for stories. Then I got an idea.

I was going to become a member. A seller gave me a BORDERS rewards card – two actually. It was the first card by choice, I was truly proud to be carrying in my bag. I gave the second one to my sister. I still remember what she had said that day.

“Why are you getting a card, you’re only here in the summers?”

 And I replied, “Yes, but you’ll be here all year-round.” 

What she didn't know was that the card I had placed in her hand that day was a gift of a world I wanted her to belong to – a world that would give her joy as she wandered through those aisles – the joy I would feel knowing she was there! What I never told her was my secret wish; that she might one day feel the enthusiasm I did every time I stepped foot inside leaving an occasional dull world behind. So, you see, it wasn't just a bookstore for me. It was my Garden; a garden I spent comical and heartrending moments alone, but never lonely. My mind had created pathways to the imaginary worlds waiting to be discovered on the shelves; where the streets were nameless, but not lost  – where the heart of imagination was all you needed to get there.

Walking through the aisles, I felt the souls of the Authors regardless of time passed – their hearts beating between the lines of their stories waiting on the shelves to be discovered by a reader who was hoping to be overwhelmed. It wasn't about searching for something specific, but about freedom to be captivated by the unexpected – freedom to believe in magic – to hope – to connect with their imagined worlds through the power of the sprinkled word on paper. It was the home of ideas, and I could feel them as I walked through those sections. I found paperback stories and hardcover stories overflowing with life as I turned each soft, crisp page and merged with their worlds. I tried to imagine the marvel in the hearts of those writers – every time they succeeded in getting their story on the shelves to be shared by all of us.

For me it was my sanctuary; a reminder that anything is possible - that in this one life there is a chance to make our mark and leave something behind that said “I was here” - A STORY – something to fill a lonely heart – a tearing soul – or someone just begging to be swept away.  All I wanted was a special place I could call my garden of dreams standing strong in the midst of life. There is so much to recall sitting here alone trying to accept what I cannot change:

I remember the aroma of Seattle’s coffee; vanilla Latte and cinnamon buns located in the right-hand corner as you entered the bookstore; and I, always eager to visit that hospitable corner after my journey through the walkways holding a basket mounded with books. I would pull up a chair with coffee served at my table, and browse through my choices. I felt like a school girl playing truant under the sun in a spring breeze exited to be lost in a mythical world; having chosen genuine expression over frequent half-truths.

I recalled all the times I was found under a pile of books, with my bangs in my face plunged in those pages. And how my sister would smile patiently, counting the stacks I’d created and then sit down beside me to assist in the process of elimination. I remember my father wondering how I could possibly be spending so much time there without getting bored. He who has an impressive garden he adores – to observe the love he puts into caring for them. Funny how he didn't see books through my eyes like I saw his garden through his – He would know then why I never got bored with my garden.

Finally, I recollected all the times I wanted to hide from the world; one in particular. I walked into Borders, straight to the back (the children’s section) where everything was simple and no real rules applied. The walls painted with soft hues of orange and avocado, five-foot high lemon drop wooden bookshelves stacked with colorful books and a thick blue-sky hued carpet, patterned with the planets and stars below my feet; took me back to a time when things were simpler – a memory when I cared not to analyze the world and its ambiguities. I picked up a book I had read when I was just a little girl ‘The Giving Tree’,  found a corner that wasn't heaped with books, took my flip-flops off and sat myself down to read it. The tranquility and freedom embraced me. Basking in bliss, I stopped half-way through my reading, with the book opened and resting in my lap, I looked around to take it all in feeling the sweet silence healing my soul as I absorbed the moment. When I had finished the story I closed my eyes, in the calmness of the moment, I felt my existence, dwelling in tranquility, in the corner of my ‘Giving Tree’.

So, what does the future hold for bookstores, faced with this calamity? I wish I knew. Borders sparked in me a hope that allowed me to look to a future where prospect could exist – where Authors celebrated their success when signing their books for their readers. What would be the alternative now? Books boxed in warehouses, stacked and piled,  suffocating inside a darkness, waiting to be bought through a few clicks of a mouse or soon to be forgotten completely because of the new technology of eBooks taking over the book industry as we speak. What is the alternative for writers? Writers celebrating their success in front of a Computer screen as they log onto shopping websites to check the number of books and eBooks they've sold only to feel their victory boxed inside a virtual world. Could this be the end of books as we know them? Has it been the end for a while? Was I so blinded by my love for the feel of books in the wonder of the five senses that I didn't notice the changes taking place before my eyes? Is Capitalism to blame? I wish I knew the answers to these questions, but I don’t.

I had hoped that the measure of success of a book was in its power to create imagination where one does not reside. Not merely in its retailing ability but also in its contribution to civilization – whether it had the ability to inform – entertain – or bring back humanity wherever it was lost or lacking. Wasn't that part of the deal; to ensure our survival. Is this tragedy purely an indication that greed has decayed this art into an industry of product over service? I heard someone at a local coffee shop say, “We are moving into an era where more opportunity for more books to be sold will take precedence. And who said more is always better? We live in a time where more information is at the tip of our fingers than ever before. Does this surmise that we are more knowledgeable where it counts? Are our lives truly more meaningful due to the information revolution? What is it about ‘more’ that it coincides with better. Would it be plausible to suggest that we are now on the brink of losing reality faced with the assertion of numbers?

At the end of this journey, I do wish I was visiting my sister this summer, but instead I am mourning the loss thousands of miles of ocean away – quietly in the privacy of my own mind.  And as I gather the fragments of my reminiscing, I cannot help but wish I had the opportunity to step inside my garden for one last book – one I would treasure as my farewell book. I wish I could have been able to do that. I’d pick up that book I always took for granted to be there – the simple one, I’d lay on my lap in the back corner of my garden.

But then again, going back, I’d witness a Borders succumbing to defeat, degraded with naked shelves as a piercing chaotic atmosphere conquers the premises with dishonored sales, then slowly disappearing into nothingness.  So, I choose to remember Borders as the warm home I had found one mundane afternoon; an atmosphere of hospitality gifted with imagination, grace and unlimited potential -  an undying love to live on as I shut my eyes to the last sunrays of the day, and smile in the face of the memory and dreams.

  

In Memory of Borders/2011

© 2011 Maria Fokas All Rights Reserved

 

 

Danger in the Waiting


 Danger in the Waiting by Maria Fokas

Helena packed a carry on and her friend Katherine drove her to the bus station.

“I’ll see you in a couple of months”, Katherine shouted sticking her head out of the window of her tiny blue car as Helena waved goodbye. She then headed for the ticket office.

“32 Euros”, said the young lady politely behind the counter. Helena handed her the money and got her ticket. She continued to platform 9 with no haste though the bus was about to pull out of the platform – no rush necessary was her motto. She didn’t believe in rushing and then wasting time waiting at any departure arena. In her mind too many people were rushing through life missing out on all the in-between, as too many were waiting too long for their journey to begin, and she was not going to be one of those people.

On the bus she relaxed back into the maroon velvet seat, took out her iPod from her bag, shut her eyes and the melody of the music carried her back in time. She began to recall their first words. It was all so long ago and though it had ended so abruptly, there was a comfort in her remembering his face. Submerged into the music she soon fell asleep and took no notice of the time passing. After three hours she woke to their song (Song for the Waiting).  It was the first song she had ever sent him – three weeks after they met – she remembered him telling her that he had listened to it ten times that day.

She arrived at her destination now eager to see him. She got off the bus grabbed her carry on and headed for a taxi.

“River Front Bay” she said keenly.

The taxi driver looked at her smile as she finished her sentence.

“Where are you from?” he asked in a flirtatious manner.

“Thessaloniki”, she replied.

‘I knew it!”

“You knew what?” she asked.

“Only girls from your city have such a sweet smile”.

She said nothing being too engaged in what she was to endure at the first sight of him. The taxi driver followed her eyes from the rearview mirror.

“Will we be long?” she asked.

“No, not long Miss. Your first time here?”

“First time to this address.”, she said and laid back into her seat to enjoy the port they were driving by, known for its ancient legend in time.

He watched her intensely. “Our port is almost as beautiful as yours, don’t you agree?”

She gestured with a smile as she had no interest in small talk at a time like this.

Twenty minutes later he pulled up in front of a charming two-floor villa. He swiftly got out of the taxi, opened the trunk of the car and got her carry on out. She on the other hand seemed to be moving in slow motion. She took her time getting out of the car, got her purse out of her bag and paid him. He gazed at her for a moment and then handed her his business card.

“Here, take it just in case you’d like to see the rest of the city during your stay”.

She took his card and tossed it in her bag.

“I don’t think I’ll be doing much sightseeing while I’m here”, she said indifferent to his offer.

“One never knows about urges”, he replied.

And then she heard the front door of the villa open and turned instinctively.  A man came out with a backpack, walked down the three steps meeting to the sidewalk, and stood a breath away from her. She smiled at his sight but no words to break the ice. He took her hand in his and she remembered the first time he had touched her.  A warm sensation rushed through her body like a feeling of coming home after a long cold journey.

“This was not part of the plan – remember what we had said?” he whispered in her ear.

“I wish there was another way” she replied.

He held her hand tightly but for a moment and then looked over to the taxi driver.

“Ready for another costumer?” he asked rhetorically with such confidence as if he owned the whole city.

“Of course, Sir”, the driver replied.

The man got into the taxi with hesitation as she thanked him over his shoulder.

“No need to thank me”, he said getting comfortable in the back seat of the taxi.

He then rolled down the window.

“Ok, don’t strain yourself, taking it into all hours of the night”, he chuckled.

“You have to stop worrying about me my love”, she replied playfully taking him back in time.

And as the taxi drove off, she captured a glimpse of his smile disappearing.

She stood silently for a moment to take it all in, A knot in her throat emerged as her heart began to ache with the distance increasing between them. The autumn breeze welcomed her, and with it brought back all the promises they had made to each other; one by one fading in and then, fading out of her mind as she made an effort to freeze those thoughts.

She took a quick glance at her wrist watch forcing herself to recall the reason she got on the bus in the first place. It was 2pm. She walked up the three steps and unlocked the door with the key he had given her. She pushed the heavy wooden double doors open and the scent of his cologne went through her like a tempter. She had forgotten her iPod on and as she pulled her carry on into the villa, the first notes of their song came on again. 

To be continued –

© 2014 Maria Fokas