by Annette Aryanpour
The night was thick with darkness, drowning out the
life of the city. No cars in sight, no people to be
heard, just white noise that crackled through the
stillness. Aimée's saphire eyes were puffy and red.
They followed the indicator across the fm band as it
crossed station after station until it halted at a
comforting monotonous voice that read the sea weather
report in coded language. "Strong south-west wind,
two knots per hour at 32É latitude." It reminded her
of ... She closed her eyes concentrating hard on what
she couldn't remember. This night was old and yet,
she had to wait four more hours til sunrise. Two
hundred forty minutes, fourteen thousand and four
hundred seconds that were chained to her and weighed
her down like a millstone around her neck.
I don't want to hurt you anymore.
Aimée wiped the snot from her lips. No more tears to
witness for Sam.
I don't want to hurt you anymore.
She shivered. The hardwood floor was cold. Sam had
put his arms around her so tightly that she could
hardly breathe. She didn't want him to think that she
didn't want to be near him, but she needed air.
I don't want to hurt you anymore.
A whole night of arguing, a whole night of tears.
Now she was dried up. No more tears, no more feeling.
Just that gob in her throat, hard and unforgiving.
Aimée stared into space and Sam turned to the wall. "I
can't do this much longer", he mumbled. "I really
can't stand this anymore." He had a tendency to
overemphasize a point already made. "I know. I'm
sorry." Aimée felt the guilt chewing her heart into
pieces, but that had never stopped her from making the
same mistake twice, three times ... She knew she
would wind him up again next time out of fear, because
if she didn't, he'd roll over her and flatten her like
a cartoon figure and that's why she had to be the one
who barked first or else get bitten. He was bigger, he
was louder, he was stronger. He was a man and she had
to survive and that was the truth, depressingly so.
Sam held his head, sighing. "What's up, baby? Is
your head hurting?" she whispered. He panted angrily.
Aimée laid her hand softly on his forehead, but he
pushed her back. "Suit yourself!" she snapped. The
walls of the room began to close in. The ceiling
slowly descended and the sidewalls inched forward.
Soon they were boxed in by their immobility to give in.
Aimée jumped to the window. The night air tasted of rotten
leaves and garbage wafting up from the open trash cans that were
lined up in the street. Slow wheezing traveled from
the bed across the room. In ... out. In ... out.
Louder ... louder ... until it amplified to a bestial
snore. Bastard! He could make her so mad sometimes.
She plunged onto the bed. The mattress shook and she
hoped that it would wake him up. He only snored
louder. A protest song for the wasted hours.
The street light caressed his face. He was beautiful,
but that night they had grown apart a couple of inches
more and a pretty face could not fix it. She broke
into a silent, violent cry. If only I could take
everything back, she thought, the first word that
set everything off and all the dirt that came after.
He'd come home all smiles, a genuine happiness that
she hadn't seen in him in a while. Someone else had
made him laugh and it hadn't been her. She got mad.
"I am happy, happy to be. I am happy, happy as can
be," a happy voice bellowed from the radio. "That's
a real dumbass song!", Aimée shouted at the radio.
Grandpa's radio never played silly stuff like that.
Short were those precious weekends when she was dumped
in front of her grandparents' house and grandpa picked her up and
carried her inside. In the evening he sat her in his
favorite armchair and switched on a big, wooden box
with ivory push-buttons. "6.30 sharp. It's
story-time," he'd say simply and she'd let her legs
dangle. "Look, the radio man has turned on the
light," she'd cry out, excited. Whenever grandpa
turned away, Aimée slid off the armchair and peeked
into the light of the radio, hoping that this time
she'd see the radio man. Very tiny, she imagined him
to be, and dressed elegantly in a black suit with
bow-tie just like the musicians she had seen in the
theater. No matter how hard she tried, she always
missed him. She thought if she could trick him and
get there a little earlier than usual, maybe she'd get
lucky. Grandpa consoled her with a caramel and
another lie. He told her the radio man was very busy
as he had to read bedtime stories to all the other
children in the city. She ate a lot of caramels in
those days. Grandpa. Only a few things stuck with
her. Memory was capricious like a butterfly. With a
blink of an eye, a flutter of a wing, it was gone.
She did remember his hands. He used to be a carpenter
and the pinkie on his left hand had become a casualty
to his profession. Grandpa also had flaky hands and
when he shook them, the flakes snowed down on the
ground and left a winter landscape. "It's the
nerves," her grandma told everybody who cared to
know. Aimée loved her grandpa, the radio and his
She pressed her eye into the green ON-light. To her
surprise, she actually made out a movement and yes,
there he was, the shadow of a man so tiny that only
people in the know would recognize him. "Twenty-one
years later I finally catch you, you little bugger!"
she congratulated herself. Swiftly, the man swapped
one instrument for the other. The flute for the horn,
the horn for the bass. The bass for the drums. The
man in the radio was an entire orchestra! If only she
could hide away inside the radio and be his only
audience. It could all be so simple.
"Come to bed!", Sam shouted from the bedroom.
Hesitantly, she slipped back into bed. Sam smiled at
her and for that she kissed him. Felt his tongue. The
kiss had a foul aftertaste. Was it the taste of a
relationship gone bad? Perishable love.
Sam jerked his head back. "You taste like an ashtray!"
Hurt, she got up from the bed.
"I can never do anything right."
"Don't even go there. Brush your teeth and come back
"I'm not a fucking child. You can't just order me
around like that!"
"Nobody is saying that."
That was the longest they had spoken since the
afternoon. He sighed and opened his book. The
bookmark dropped to the ground. Was life meant to be
so complicated or is it us who cause wanton disasters?
he wondered sometimes. Maybe we choose to live in
misery, because the thought of happiness is just too
unbearable. It was strange, though. For the first
time in a long time he'd felt good. Just a simple
event at the supermarket had put a smile on his face.
There was a boy, young, maybe 2, in a shopping cart
with a box over his head. "Gagaga, coo-coo, coo-coo,"
he said and soon a group of shoppers gathered around
him. Sam found himself laughing with the other
shoppers until the embarrassed mother pulled the cart
and the boy in the box away. Everybody went about
their business again, only Sam couldn't remember what
he'd wanted to buy. Aimée had probably given him a
whole list of things to buy, but his mind was blank
and he settled for an apple. Just one apple he bought
and through that simple action he felt a sense of
lightness that made his feet lift off the ground.
Where had all the spontaneity gone? Annoyed, he
flicked through the pages. Somehow he remembered
where he'd left off. They used to make love on a
children's playground at night underneath the slide or
in the car park or just get off the exit and find a
quiet spot. They had the will and they found a way,
but those days seem to be forever gone. The years
passed by and their souls fermented. How long had it
been since he'd done something foolish? He began to
read and after the first couple of lines he'd already
forgotten about the argument, the room he was in,
Aimée. He must have read close to five hundred books
since their first year together. Considering that he
had lived only a third of his total life expectancy,
he still had another thousand books to go. His eyes
scanned and registered every single word. He hated
leaving out words, superfluous or relevant. He would
go as far as re-reading a page if he had to.
Sometimes he would even read the lines in-between. His
eyes got tired and the words somersaulted in front of
him as if to fool him. It seemed impossible to catch
It's her fault. He remembered Aimée, who was standing
by the window brushing her teeth. The night was
spoiled by nasty words and bad breath. He hated her
smoking. In a few years the cigarettes would draw
deep lines into her face and turn her teeth yellow.
The glow of her skin would be replaced by gray and she'd
breathe heavily walking up the stairs. He wasn't sure
whether he wanted to stick around for that. Aimée watched
the moon from the window. It wasn't
quite full yet. A gust of wind stirred up a burger
wrapper and lifted it up to her window. "I think I
love him," she thought to herself, then opened the
window and spat foaming toothpaste onto the street.
"I love the fact that he writes neatly. I love the
way he uses aftershave for special occasions. I love
the fact that sometimes he misses a patch when he
shaves his head."
"Why the hell did she have to spit out of the
window?" Sam wanted to strangle her. Sometimes just a
twitch of her eyebrow infuriated him. She was
splendid, yet deep down buried in her round bosoms
she was all but pure. He closed his eyes,
drawing her breasts in his mind. He
hated the fact that her vile language turned him on.
"I'm gonna wash your mouth with soap," he used to
threaten her. "Come and get me," she'd reply, which
sounded more like come and eat me as she pressed her
crotch into his face. He could have cheated on her
many times, but no other woman cursed the way she did
in that innocent kind of way. He could have left her,
but he didn't have enough reasons to live without her.
A life without her would be a life still worth
living, but it wouldn't be the same. Inside his head
African war drums pounded on the one truth he didn't
want to face. He was afraid of losing the sameness,
because he had been across the globe vertically and
horizontally and he was tired of running. He just
needed a rest. He bit his lip until it hurt
and for a moment the pain relieved the throbbing of
Aimée closed the window. Sam put the book aside. He
could never resist her for too long. Sometimes he
asked himself whether she initiated an argument for
the precious moment of reconciliation. How he hated
the way she stood there with the curve of her neck
exposed in the moonlight. Maybe if I just put my hands
around that neck ... She twitched underneath his cold
hands. Good girl, have a caramel. Nice. Nice, nice.
Have a cookie. I don't want to hurt you anymore. Sam
pressed his thumbs against her throat. Deeper, harder.
If he followed through, the sameness would be gone.
He didn't have to listen to the things she forced upon
him with that mouth that wouldn't stop blurting out
self-righteous gibberish about what he is and what he
could be. They'd throw him into jail. It's not such
a bad thing, jail. In prison he could read. Read,
rest, read. Maybe he will read a hundred books a
month. "Why are you hurting me?" her eyes screamed.
"I don't want to hurt you anymore!" his lips cried.
Sam turned his head. Her dead gaze scared him. What
have I done? He gasped for air instead of her.
Aimée tumbled into darkness like a snow flake, a snow
flake from her grandpa's hands. She felt herself
descending from the night sky onto the glowing city
down below. And as she passed storey after storey,
window after window, she felt at peace. If only she
was able to sit by one of those windows
and watch the families sleep in their beds, hear their
babies breathe. If only ... She watched Sam's red
face and wondered if hers had turned purple by now.
It didn't matter anyway. She was a snowflake, carefree,
careless. Free. In the morning, people would see the tiny
crystal by their window and announce that winter had come.
Sam let her go. Aimée hit the ground hard. "What the fuck is
wrong with you?" she sputtered first thing after coughing
some air back into her lungs.
"I suddenly felt very passionate. Strangulation is a
sensual thing. I saw it in a movie." Sam grinned.
He'd lost control and it felt good. In a way, he
didn't lie. He did feel passionate. Passionate to
rinse the foul kiss from his mouth. Passionate to
push back the walls that made the room so small and
bent him over like an old man. Passionate to come
home with a smile on his face and an empty shopping
"Passionate my ass!" she said. A moment ago she'd
been at his mercy. He'd held her destiny between his
thumb and index fingers. A pathetic gesture that
could have ended deadly. It didn't make a difference
"I'm gonna leave you."
"Haven't I heard that one before?"
Sam raised his arms to the ceiling and gave his back a
good stretch. Aimée did the opposite. She crouched
down in a corner and drew her long, dark hair over her face.
Now she remembered what the monotonous radio voice reminded
her of. "North-by-north-west, heavy storms and
rainfall ..." It reminded her of going inside
herself, the safest place on earth, and sometimes when
she couldn't find her way around her insides, she'd
let the weather report lull her to sleep.
The night sky was turning light blue. Morning had
broken like a cheesy Cat Stevens' song. Clonk click.
Sam aimed at Aimée and pushed the release of his 1970s
Nikon. She was still bunched up in the corner. He thought it was a
funny picture with her hair over her face and all.
Cave woman. No more nice, nice. Not even that
pretty. He loved her more than ever before, so he
drew her up by her arms, a rag doll of some sort, and
led her to bed.
"The night is over, my love."
"Yes, it's over."
~ Sundowning ~
~ A Way into the Woods
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