This month’s Build Your Playlist came about after Gabriella Cilmi released her latest single, “Sweeter In History,” and soon I was stumbling across melancholy songs. Once I pulled two or three tunes together, I knew I wanted to execute a flash fiction writing exercise that involved two people going through some type of emotional turmoil. I will say this was probably one of the easiest exercises I’ve completed as it all just sort of rushed out. As much as I hate reading that cliche from other authors, it’s true and I was excited when I was done because it never happens like that for me.
So who was born from this exercise? An artsy couple residing in Brooklyn. It’s the classic tale of one person being more successful and their partner failing to hide their resentment.
Some People Live in the Downpour
Photo courtesy of Trevor Quan
He chewed on the thought of leaving for good but couldn’t even get out of bed. She was in the bathroom and he knew he would wait for her to come out before even moving from his spot. There was a loud thunder clap and the constant sound of heavy rain but none of it mattered. His thoughts were consumed with her, thoughts of leaving her.
After a couple of years together, he had grown exhausted with always being the strong one for them. She was an artist, she was a creative, she wasn’t made to be suffocated by corporate red tape. She would go silent for days, then she would return angry and there was blatant jealousy that he was a successful art dealer and that she was a struggling painter. There were arguments as to why she wasn’t a priority artist for him to push, why he couldn’t try to sell her pieces as well. There were the times that she said she hated him but they had gone to high school together, fallen in love during undergrad, moved to New York City right after school finished and started a life together in Brooklyn. They quickly turned into one of “those couples” they once made fun of while back home in Indiana. They had history, he loved her, she had a good heart so how could he leave her now?
The shower turned off and a few beats passed before he heard her footsteps padding down their short hall and into the bedroom. Another explosion of thunder ripped through the air. He decided to use this as a starting point. He slightly jolted and rolled over onto his back bringing his hands to his face.
“Shit,” she muttered more to herself as she dried off and simultaneously walked around the room. She had always hated the thunder. Too violent she claimed. “You up?” she asked blindly, the towel now on the back of a chair, her naked body on display. He sat up in bed and watched her pull a floral printed dress over her head. She turned around a few times as if looking for something, stopped in his direction and walked to his side of the bed. She bent down, grabbing a brown leather braided belt of his. She wrapped it around her waist and went back to where she stood before. “I’m almost finished with that portrait landsacpe piece and I know you hate when I ask you this, John, but I’d really appreciate it if you could talk to your boss about featuring it in the gallery. This one’s special,” she said.
He noticed she had not looked at him once this entire time. He got out of bed and went to give her a hug. Before he could get his arms around her, she walked out of the bedroom asking if he knew if he had seen her navy blue kitten heels. He didn’t say anything but she called out his name again as if to repeat the question. He went into the bathroom and shut the door. Her footsteps were walking toward him so he quickly locked the door and leaned against the sink.
The first time they had said “I love you,” they were sitting in the house he grew up in right after his mother’s funeral. She spoke the words and he echoed them right back. She had kissed him on the forehead and went to talk to his dad. At his graduation, John’s dad had teared up saying how his mother would be proud, how he was excited that he was gonna go off to the big city and that he should cherish every moment with Alyssa. She was the real deal, a keeper and his mother was more fond of her than of her own husband and son.
In that moment of locking himself in the bathroom, it was this conversation that flashed through his mind and he suddenly felt trapped. His heart felt like it would explode but he took a deep breath and turned to face the tiny mirror above the sink. He didn’t bother looking in, turned on the cold water and splashed a few handfuls into his face. Most of the water ended up on the floor and he almost laughed because this was something she originally thought was hilarious about him. The last time she commented about it, they ended up getting into a screaming match that resulted in her punching him in the face. He had temporarily moved in with his buddy Alabama but went back when she showed up at Alabama’s place crying for forgiveness.
He quickly brushed his teeth, splashed some mouthwash around and made his way back into their bedroom. She had the light on and the voice of a woman singing in French floated from her Macbook. She was rubbing lotion on her arms and looked up at him, her expression a mixture of sadness and contempt. Alyssa started talking but the sound of the rain drowned her out. John walked over to the window and looked out. He could barely see more than fifteen feet in front of him it was coming down so hard. He took a deep breath and turned to Alyssa who was still talking.
“I mean…are you even listening?”
“Sorry, babe. What?”
“Really, John? Did you hear anything?”