Monthly Archives: April 2013

Anise

 

 

 

 

 

Truman hated his own name. He felt that it was a betrayal and a sophomoric psychological hypocrisy  thought up by his parents in order to give him some false leg up in life. He felt like fodder for his clever friend’s wits, and that it was only a meager empathy that had kept back the floodgates of their mirth. Mostly it caused in him a howling feedback loop, an unending neurotic compulsion to lie. Truman always heard his name as though it belonged to a superhero (no matter who spoke it), and he would obsess about what creepy authoritarian characteristics a superhero named Tru-Man would have. Truman was a dark neurotic liar, and he knew it. What was worse was that his lies were so universally compelling, so well told, full of conviction and obliquely angled that he was almost unrecognized as a liar. In fact, people felt benignly trusting of Truman, which lent his sardonic, twilight sarcasm, a fuzzy edged charm. This was infuriating  and caused in him a twisting knot of misunderstood angst. He felt singular, yet caught in a perpetual dualism that festered like a pearl. Truman’s personality developed around this protective coat and became labyrinthine.

 

Truman hated mirrors. He despised seeing his big round vulnerable eyes and his clear brow, and the innocent questioning way he  always unconsciously bit his own lip. He hated his dewy youthful energy and the bounce in the big curl that spilled over his forehead. He looked nothing like he imagined.

Truman found himself curled up in the corner of a yellow shag couch in a pleasant but dingey Youth Hostel on Broadway, just below Columbus.  The girl across from him was smoking a cigarette and blowing the smoke over her shoulder toward the open window. She never took her eyes off of him yet somehow managed to angle the stream of turbulent  blue smoke behind her, where it floated lazily for a moment before getting sucked out the window and into the cool slipstream air of North Beach.

“People generally go for that Act?” she asked with a flat rhetorical confidence .Truman curled his lip like the rebel he thought he was and waited. “but you don’t believe it do you?” she added, still looking him in the eyes. This was the first time Truman had felt this exposed and vulnerable in, well, forever. He opened his mouth to say something clever, but nothing came out. “What’s your name?” she asked …”Truman” He answered . She was silent and smoked for a minute. “Thats Rich” she said.

 

Truman stuttered internally through a half dozen response impulses  …they all sounded tin and weak in his ear and clanged together like brittle bells. He began to grow a little germ of panic. His intuition told him to wait it out. “Either lie or shut the fuck up” resonated silently behind his forehead. She was observing him and smoking. She held her cigarette naturally between calm fingers. The smoke curled up, the ash grew imperceptibly longer and the red button of combustion receded at the same interval. Truman noticed how steady and comfortable her hands were, he noticed in the smooth unagitated arch of her smoke signals a self confident physical control that he  associated with Zen masters or poker players.

 

“I don’t think you can smoke in here” he said, and flinched perceptibly as the wooden sound of his own voice reached his ears. She dragged steady and watched his mind race. Truman felt like lying. He wanted the comfort of that first sentence, the one that always gave him his compass bearing, his out. But it wasn’t there.

 

” Hey ” he finally said, honestly, “who’re you?”

 

” I’m Anise”, she said reaching over to bump a cigarette loose from the pack for him. ” I don’t smoke” Truman lied, taking the cigarette.  “licorice…, candy everyone hates” he offered in a curious bumbling irony surprising himself.

“Anise is the plant” Anise said half defensively, “the seeds are small, but explode with flavor” she blushed as she said it realizing that something in the dynamic had  shifted. Truman felt his sails snap with a gentle breeze, ” I worked in a candy factory once,” he started, the warm drug of his fiction beginning to thaw the edges of his fear. “actually we made cupcakes and Snowballs… d’you remember those spongy pink things…I worked in a huge room, up high at a conveyer belt. Quality control…I would knock the defect snowballs off the belt down onto the floor…end of the day there’d be a huge mountain of deformed pink half circles below me…Sometimes they’d let tour groups in down there and the kids would run in and climb the pink mountain,stuffing themselves…” He was on safe ground now. Truman felt that his deflections were like a clear angled mirror, reflecting oblique half truths that led away from himself. In truth he had been on the Hostess tour once when he was a kid, and the bakery had not let his group eat any of the misshapen confections. He remembered the middle aged woman in the boxy white uniform way up above them sullenly knocking pink snowballs off of the belt.  But it was his nature to improvise over the song stories of his life and he constantly used his memories for invention.

 

Anise laughed gently, ” Really?” she said, “you want to start this with bullshit?” She flicked her thumb against the filter of her cigarette so softly that the half inch of ash hung for a few seconds before falling onto the soil of a nearby potted plant. ” Next you’re going to tell me that Coit Tower was built on an old gold mine whose tunnels still exist…” Truman remembered that fiction. He had, just that afternoon been flirting with the girl at the cafe up the street. She was feeding him extra pastries and a second latte and he felt warm and comfortable in his lies. But now, fed back to him out of context,  it sounded lame. He shuddered, his fingers, a little moist, rolled the unlit cigarette around slightly, oiling the thin white paper. His consciousness , confused by the confrontation, took a little time to circle back to what she had said: “start this” he heard again in his head, and as his mind looked down to its feet he saw the thin ice underneath them cracking….

 

Anise still had her eyes on him. One was green, with little flecks of yellow and the other he finally noticed, was different. “Your eyes are different colors” he said lifting his own past the safety of his indirectness.

 

 “That took you a minute” she smiled, Truman suddenly had trouble choosing which eye to look at, for the pale blue eye while striking and unusual, had a different message then her green eye. The blue was almost white, which cast her pupil in relief. He felt uncomfortable looking into it directly. His eyes did a little back and forth and finally looked away  at her hands . “Does everyone do that?” he asked,

 

“What?” she challenged, knowing.

 

“Does everyone get startled by your beauty?” suddenly she flushed and was in trouble, she swallowed, …a moment ago she had been in full control of the direction and pace of the conversation, toying with a boy puppet’s strings. Now there was the tension of her interrupted trajectory, and the polarity of changing from offense to defense .He was still looking at her hands and noticed the change there.

 

For a moment there was a sexual tension between them that ruined everything. They both felt helpless and awkward. She jabbed her cigarette out in the dirt of the plant and the ugliness of it’s end descended upon them.

 

Somehow she had the sense to breathe. She inhaled deeply and let her breath all the way out, and that intelligent, prescient moment cleared away the knot between them. Anise seemed to know that they had arrived somewhere too soon and that they would have to catch up.

 

“What’re you doing here Anise?” he said trying out her name. It had a cool feeling on his lips. He noticed when girls names didn’t end in A, it was a secret marker for him. “Are you traveling?”

 

He listened to her for a few minutes as she softly spoke about herself, but the loud voice in his head obscured all the importance of the words she was saying. Truman’s inner voice was saying, “Those eyes are so strange, How could I have been sitting here and not seen them? Is she beautiful or is this too weird?” After a few minutes she stopped talking and smiled at him patiently. “You are thinking about my eyes,” It wasn’t a question, “You haven’t decided if I’m Jekyll or Hyde”

 

“No” he lied , but then said, “I’ve always found different colored eyes beautiful, but I’ve never seen them so different before” Anise leaned in very close to his face and said, “Look right in my eyes” Truman did. He could smell the tobacco in her moist breath and felt the panic of sharing air, but he raised his eyes to hers just a few inches away and suddenly he saw two people. It was weird, as his eyes, in their information gathering capacity unconsciously darted back and forth, he could see two distinct faces, two benign beautiful, but different faces. It was as peculiar a visual feeling as staring at an Escher drawing. “Isn’t that wild?” she said smiling. Truman was fascinated. He leaned in again and let his eyes try to merge the two faces. They blinked back and forth at him for a moment.

 

Then he kissed her. He was so close, he thought it was an extension of their conversation, as though this was the only possible outcome. But Anise would have none of it and pulled away. It had meant nothing to her, a kiss based on lies and inevitability, it was what she found distasteful about men, the inevitability of their desire. Anise needed a foil, a prop, but didn’t want to smoke anymore, her lungs hurt and her breath though sweet, tasted thick. She reached around for her backpack and sat it on her lap looking for gum. Truman was fighting rejection with an inner defensiveness, a hurt blindness with a thin edge of guilt. He had always been willing to rush in boldly and it had generally served him well. ” Which one is your’s?” he finally said about her two faces, having worked thru his rebuff. Anise looked up a little darkly penciling in a check in the “wrong answer” column.

 

 “What difference does it make Truman? It’s just a funny little thing, a visual trick, like facing mirrors at each other…”

 

“It was true” he thought,” they are the same girl …those two faces” He smiled at her silently.

 

“No” he finally said, “They’re two”

 

Anise looked up at him quickly and flushed both at his insight and annoyed that what she had thought was her round was stolen from her. As Truman’s big open eyes watched her, two faces flickered back and forth. “Those two faces are like open passageways into different sides of just one you.” Truman said this with a certain confidence having just read something very similar in an Alan Watts book recently.

 

 Anise busied herself with a stick of gum for a moment looking down and away from him. Truman was genuinely confused by all the mixed signals, and sighed.

 

“Can you see your own faces that way,… in the mirror?” He finally asked,

 

 “Only backward” she said, again with a certain lightness. “It happens in photos too. Its called Hetrochromia… different colored eyes”.

 

“Cool. You know that’s really extraordinary” and what he realized he was saying to himself simultaneously was that SHE was extraordinary. Truman started to entertain another small bubble of panic. He looked at Anise in a silent moment and the bubble grew rapidly.

 

 Truman experiencing lengthy inner dialogue delay, became aware she had previously said something about herself that was important. It echoed in his ear for a moment before he could reconstruct the context of what she had been talking about. “…hey what were you sayng about…before. What did you do?” Truman realized that she had been speaking in such gentle modulated tones that he had missed much of it, but she had said something about a video blog and the internet, “You do a video blog?” he asked before she could answer, “about what?” Anise let his accelerating energy dissipate a little before responding, she smiled, “I do a blog and I travel with the money I make off of…it…its not much” She said and moving forward tangentially, “I’ve been all over the place now…well, in the U.S anyway….I’m thinking of going to South America next.” She could see he needed more information and she knew she would have to navigate it, but she had been enjoying the anonymity,  “wait, what do you do a blog about…can I see it?” he said eagerly. Anise reflected to herself that this moment had happened before, and was saddened by it a little. “It is like some addiction” she thought to herself, “Curiosity.” Yet Anise never thought to create a fiction around it. Truman was intrigued, his sense of the proportion of what was happening here with Anise expanded outward like a first breath. He started to feel (unconsciously), that soon a very good lie would be needed. Hidden gears in his mind began to turn and whir, but his greed for more of the story begged at him “what kind of blog?” He repeated. Anise looked at him directly and began, “I talk about whatever is on my mind,…and that is often issues affecting Women and Civil Rights and … and Politics…I have…” Anise was well known in certain influential Progressive Political circles as a leader and strong voice in a young generation of online Guerilla Opinionists. “…a Following, well …the blog is pretty popular, and I make a little money off of that and …speaking …and I travel.” She finished, patting her leather backpack which, Truman could see, carried (among a lot of other things) a Laptop. She could see him trying to make sense of it all, he seemed so slow suddenly, so male.

 

“Tell me something truthful about yourself” Anise said to change the subject if she could. Truman thought about that for a second, “something truthful… what the hell kind of question is that?…” he said to himself sarcastically

 

“Not if it’s too difficult…” she laughed at his pause, and he was immediately disarmed my her playful smile, but felt a spreading paralysis in the array of possible degrees of dishonesty laid out in front of him.

 

“My stories are benign?” He offered, angling his deflective mirrors instinctually, while still inexplicably remaining truthy.

 

Truman was casting about for a way to get back to her blog, for he was, deep down, beginning to have a curiosity about her that might require a suspension of his Complexity, of the instinctual, continual, deceptive improvisations that drove his days, …and honesty was in direct conflict with the patterns and habits of his life. He could feel the preciousness beginning between them and didn’t want to spoil it …yet. (Truman knew he would though). “I Always fuck something up.” He thought with his usual self-immunizing rationalization.

 

“Tell ME something honest” he shot back at her reflexively but with a smile. Anise couldn’t help notice the difference in the way he phrased it, she thought “O.K. Tru-Man” and let him have it.

 

“Truman” she started, “ I am really attracted to you…physically. You are pressing all my buttons. Your big eyes and curly cue hair just really…uhmm mmm” she smiled, making sounds of deliciousness “But your personality …I mean these constant yarns, I think that you live in a candied world of make believe…and that is ” She tried for a forgiving tone, “not so deep…” At first Truman didn’t hear the rebuke, his tires had got stuck back in the curly cue mud, and he was entirely unused to Anise’s forward directness and qualified flattery.

 

She hadn’t said it quite like she felt it though for the attraction she was feeling was getting palpable to her. She had for a few days now been inadvertently coinciding with Truman around North Beach, she was in City Lights across the street the other night when she first noticed him reading. He had an open book about Zen which, she thought to herself, wasn’t an immediate turn off. She smiled when, at the register, she heard Truman ask the tall stiff hipster behind the counter what his name was, in order to thank him personally for taking Truman’s money. She wondered about that peculiarity, if it was conscious. She passed him twice later the next afternoon at the sidewalk tables outside the café and had finally doubled back and sat behind him. He had asked the attractive waitress her name too, and started a conversation that had included such creative yarns of flirtation and exaggeration that Anise laughed out loud, but she was drawn in, for Truman had, she mused “an unapologetic genuineness about his lying-ass self that is magnetic”. Anise found it fascinating that he hadn’t noticed her at all, even when she sat down right in front of him. She wondered if it was some perverse pheromonal aversion.

(to be continued…)

 


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment