This Novel Life

"Live the life you dream." -Henry David Thoreau

Category: Fiction

The Body

They found the body on the side of Interstate 89 in Vermont, on a regular late summer day. There was nothing memorable about the humid heat and the trees reaching to the sky for rain that wasn’t due to come until the next evening. It was a boring stretch of highway, the kind where one would roll the windows down and sing their favorite song, hand hanging out the window, surrounded by blurs of trees and the occasional field. A prison inmate doing his time picking up Marlboro butts and Kit-Kat wrappers saw the flies first and thought it was just another deer, but as he walked over the smell got stronger, less animal, more acidic. It was the kind of biting smell that burns your lungs and permeates your tongue, almost fake like rotting barbeque, molding and hanging from trees on a particularly redneck haunted hayride in the middle of October. The inmate peeked over the embankment and upon seeing the source of the smell, yelled to his crewmates to come check it out, as he covered his nose with his shirt and stared.

When the crime van arrived, the body was surrounded by men in orange blazers and maggots. The first investigator out of the truck observed the body, a seasoned professional to the point where this was no longer a body, once a life, but just a item on his list of workday projects. The hair, yellow like a cheap scented candle at a discount store, was greasy and mangy, piled around the remnants of what had been a feminine face, now bloated and graying. Her tongue pushed past her teeth and the maggots had already begun to feast on it. Her body was clothed in cashmere and silk, an uncomfortable combination for the heat the county had been blessed with all September. Her feet, browned by dirt and age, had toes that matched the chipped nail polish on her hands. It was OPI, Excuse Me, Big Sur!, but that wouldn’t matter to anyone outside of a nail salon, the last place her body would be spending any time at now.

The day went according to the book – procedural, efficient. There were no hiccups, nothing unusual to find. It took hours to document everything accordingly. The heat bared down on the backs of the technicians, as they took photographs, documenting the way her body had been allegedly tossed out of a vehicle and rolled into the brush. Her clothes were dirty. Food stains, dirt, a small cigarette burn hole on the arm of the cashmere cardigan. The silk slip dress with a J. Crew tag was pale pink and nearly see through, not doing well to conceal the skin underneath. The investigator estimated she had been dead for the better half of a week. There was no blood splatter, no spectacular pool of blood for the body to soak into during her time on the side of the highway.

“She died simply,” he told his partner.

“Better that than something worse,” she replied.

They placed her carefully into a body bag as the investigator closed his notebook and got back in the passenger side of the van. They were professionals. This was just a job. He would go home to his wife in the evening and reply to her nagging interrogation of his day, “it was just a day.” They drove off into the sunset, leaving nothing behind but the crunched up weeds where her body had laid.

A few years earlier, the station would have been in shock over finding a dead body. But the drug activity outside of Burlington had skyrocketed, heroin and meth creeping their way into the sleepy town, and now her body brought with it depressingly drug fueled rumors that would hold only the attention of the local news station. The autopsy technician received the body with a sigh, assuming what he had seen already three times during the same month. An unlucky cop, assigned to office duty, checked the missing person’s report. Nothing. He called hospitals, homeless shelters, but drew blanks. They tagged her in the system, Jane Doe, September 2011. Jane Doe’s file and photos made her way through the station, and eventually to an eager reporter. She ran the story excitedly, updating every evening on the five o’clock news.

“Missing woman! Found on 89! Who is she? Who is her family?”

Her photo ran at every commercial break for a week. Nosy stay-at-home moms in their jogging groups talked. The details got passed around to anyone who felt an innate need to view death and mystery. They speculated, made assumptions. Rumors flew, it gave them something to do until the next big story.

A body on the side of the highway!

Meth is a crazy drug, do you think she’s a junkie?

Cashmere and silk, she must be somebody!

Look at that hair, a down on her luck hooker?

I wonder if she has children somewhere?

The women talked about her with contempt. They created a story. She had a family she had abandoned, a child looking sadly for his mother. Someone commented on the designer brands that were noted. Stolen? Maybe, but they looked almost made for her. The men commented on her body. She had been beautiful once, that was clear even with the impending decay. The agreement between the sexes was that Jane Doe knew how to take care of herself, that there had to have been obscene amounts of money spent on her to still retain whatever beauty and infatuation that a rough life and a boring death couldn’t even mask. But the questions faded with the days that passed by. The story never outgrew the small town. Nobody came forth to claim the mysterious woman. Her autopsy came back, prescription pills in her system, obviously unable to determine if they were hers. Her liver indicated severe alcoholism. She wasn’t altogether unhealthy, but she wasn’t healthy. She was labeled as a natural death, dumped on the side of the road by someone who didn’t want to be known. It was a mystery with no leads, a story with no real plot. The lead investigator petitioned after a month of no news to have her body cremated, and Jane Doe’s ashes were moved to a box in the back of the station with the other forgotten cases.

She had died how she lived. Tragically beautiful, haunted by demons nobody knew how to decipher, and forgotten once the infatuation faded. She had been a nobody that could have been a somebody, and ultimately died as a nobody. Her file, much like her life, dusted over and vanished into the past. She would have had a problem with this, blamed it on circumstance and not her own doing, but nobody would hear that story again.

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Your promises expired like the milk in the fridge,

Our hopes and dreams swept away in the current.

We could love each other for a thousand years

But stability didn’t count days on the calendar.

Then your watch stopped ticking

And my heart stopped beating

So I gave up like I always do,

The only constant in all the inconsistency.

 

And I watched you leave

Like you never had before.

A Bad Year

She is tragically romantic,

I can’t get you out of my head.

Thriving on what if and what could be,

My life is incomplete without you.

Begging her phone for a text,

It was you all along.

She binges on romance and fantasy,

You give me a reason to breathe.

Wishing on shooting stars and romantic comedies,

I will love you until the end of time.

She lives in her dreams,

I love you.

He will forever be her always.

Tragedy

I cried for all the moments that were robbed from me, for all the peace and serenity on summer nights. I cried for the words I wouldn’t hear, the whispers that were no longer mine and mine alone. I cried for the loss, for the pain in my chest and the sorrow in my heart and all of the looks we would never share again.

I blamed myself for all the words I never said, the times I held my breath. I searched for an answer and found only questions and so I cried for the naivety of believing things could last forever.

I mourned the defeat, for it was both my greatest mistake and your greatest achievement, to finally break the heart of a girl who dreamt of tragedy and welcomed sorrow…

Seven

She thought about him often, he was the question constantly in the back of her mind, drifting around without answer.

It wasn’t that she didn’t love him. It wasn’t that she didn’t spend hours picturing their life together. She kept moments from their adventures scattered around her house, a quiet nod to the kind of happiness she could have had. The simple truth was she was motivated by a picket fence fairy tale that he never wanted to give her. He wasn’t the Noah to her Allie, he was the Dawson to her Joey, a kind of story that was great on paper but she knew they could never make it off the page.

She stood at the gate, waiting for the flight attendant to scan her ticket and the years flashed before her eyes. She could turn around now, and maybe he would be there, waiting at security. The opportunity grabbed at her heart strings, leading her down a path of what ifs. Her hazel eyes gazed out the windows onto the runway of planes, carrying people to new chapters in their stories, knowing that her true adventure was behind her.

“Ma’am, your ticket?” the flight attendant asked, and suddenly the ticket felt like a heavy weight on her chest, pressing her with the age old choice of following her heart or her head…

Loudest

I remember the way you looked

When you loved me the loudest,

Driving up the coast in your Chevy.

The smell of the ocean

Wafting through open windows

The sun shining down on laughter

The music drowning out reality.

We lost ourselves in the city

Hidden among the cobblestone road.

That day became just a memory,

The kind we soak up on rainy days

Hungry for a glimmer of sun and surf,

And magic in a normal world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadows

She sits in the shadows of my soul

A deadly reminder that one shove is all it takes

A haunting momentum to push harder and be better

Escape the ghosts that trap her there

I see her in the quiet confines of the past

Pulling at my present like strings on a marionette

She laughs as if to say you’ll get there one day.

She sits in the shadows of my soul

Reminding me of the person that I could be

Provoking me with raspy words and foggy moments

Condemning me to the darkest places in my mind

Where she is a prominent and forceful deity

Luring me in with the carelessness I try not to crave

Taunting me with dreams I never wish I had.

 

Complicated

I’m missing you

Or the idea of you

The way you’d look at me

As if this life was all a dream

I’m missing you

The things we used to do

The way we used to be

Out on that old back road

With the radio up

And not a care in the world

I miss the way it used to be

When you were you and me

And we were all we ever needed to be.

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Footprints

She tried to stay by the beach

And recreate their memories

But the tide came in and pushed her back

To the reality that no matter what she did

Their footprints were the thing of the past.

The cold November wind chased her around

Confining her to couches and blankets

And nobody saw the way her smile faded

Like the sunshine and the green leaves

Leaving in their trail a promise

Of another summer.

Their Story – Part I

The blare of a truck horn woke her from an already mediocre sleep. Emily rolled over and read the neon green display of the alarm clock. 3:18. She closed her eyes again, only to be disturbed by the horn again a moment later. Throwing off the soft cotton quilt, Emily stumbled out of bed and over to the bay window, peering out into the front yard. Oh, what is going on now, she thought to herself as the horn pressed on. She walked into the hallway and threw open the front door, coming face to face with the headlights of a silver Chevy truck. His truck.

“What are you doing?” Emily yelled into the yard, covering her eyes and watching as the driver side door swung open and Tyler stumbled out.

“You weren’t just going to leave without saying goodbye to me, Emily!” he yelled back at her, stumbling as he walked closer to the front porch of the beach house. The house was dark, illuminated only on the front by the headlights of the truck. In the distance, waves crashed against rocks.

“Are you drunk?” Emily yelled back as he got to the bottom step.

“What does it matter? Are you going to leave, or not?”

“You’re so drunk! How did you get all this way without getting into an accident?” the worry came out in Emily’s voice and she regretted asking. Why, she wondered, was he here now, caring if she left after the way she had treated him the day before on the basketball court of the high school they both were seniors at.

“I asked you a question! And you just walked off! And now you’re just going to leave! Are you really going to do that?!” Tyler yelled. He was a foot away from her, and she could smell the whiskey on his breath and hear it in his voice. Every bit of her urged her to lean up to him and kiss his anger away with a promise that she would never leave, but in her head Emily knew she could never stay, not after everything that had just happened. She looked from the truck to the man standing in front of her, wishing that the crack down the middle of her heart and spirit could be erased by love, but it wasn’t that easy.

“Answer me!” Tyler yelled, moving closer to her. They were inches apart and Emily stared into his blue eyes, as he put his hand on her arm and looked down at her, willing her to open up to him, to tell him she would stay. But he would never be able to fix this, and she knew that well enough. Emily ran her fingers through her brunette hair and covered her eyes, shaking her head and trying to put the words into sentences.

“There’s nothing left for me here, Tyler,” she whispered, “you know that now. Everyone is gone and I can’t bare another second in this house filled with nothing…”

“But Em, I’m here, and I don’t think I can go on with you eleven hundred miles away until you realize what kind of mistake you’re making by leaving. I love you and I’ve always loved you and I should have said it sooner. I need you, Emily Tucker.” The words stabbed into her heart, splitting it into a million tiny pieces. She felt the tears burning her face as he landed his hand gently on her cheek, wiping away tears. The anger was gone and there was nothing but the pain of a life together that could never come into fruition. She reached her hand up to cover his and looked at him desperately.

“I have a future there. I can’t stay here. I’m going to love it there, that’s just the way it has to be, Tyler,” she said, swallowing tears that burned her throat. She leaned forward, the dull throbbing pain making her stomach churn. Tyler let go of her and pulled back as she watched him take a long look at her. He turned to walk away, but stopped, looking back as their eyes met again. His green eyes burned into her soul, and she begged them to take her away.

“One day you’ll realize what a mistake you’re making,” he said. Tears streamed down her face, and words caught in her throat. The pain was unbearable, but the pain of staying would be worse. There would be no winning in the situation. The only option was to leave.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, but Tyler was already at the truck. He slammed the door, and tore backwards out of the yard. Emily grabbed her stomach and fell to the ground in a heap of tears and sobs.