Protection. A Story

When I was a kid, I liked to watch as my father welded pieces of metal together. He’d wear that big dull grey mask that always seemed dusty and, when I tried to lift it, felt as heavy as the world. That was his protection. It saved him from going blind due to the overly bright light.
It worked – he never did go blind from welding. But as time passed, and my young eyes, accustomed to being wide open when I watched him at work, gained more focus, I began to notice a different blindness in his movements, opinions, and habits.
He’d go tired for days. I could see it in his movements: the fatigue of the muscles; of the mind, perhaps; the back pain that stooped him more and more every day. When he watched the news, he did it without the agitation he once showed at the mention of any one topic that stirred opinions. His own opinions froze. He stopped paying attention to what he ate. Lard sandwiches day in, day out – he didn’t care what it was doing to his heart.
I think he was blind to it. His heart, I mean. It sounds foolish but what else could make a man shut himself off from friends and family and go on like he was the only person in his own world? Not talking for days, not sharing any of his pain, physical or otherwise? It must have been blindness. A wise woman once told me people go blind due to bad experiences because they don’t want to look back at them.
It’s fall, and I’m remembering him again: his muffled voice when he explained to me about welding from under the mask, the prolonged periods he had of being alone with books, which later turned into days, weeks, months of not talking at all, the shaky gait and eyes that were forever avoiding us.
I wish I had that welding mask of his but I couldn’t find it even though I’ve tried to every November when I come to see our old home after visiting his grave. When fall comes in, I start to feel unsure. I spend evenings thinking of how, as a kid, I saw a man go blind and become a different person. I’m worried this could happen to me; to my future, which then would get as if erased; to my family, who’d probably be scared.
I need some sort of protection against it. At those times, I have this silly idea that the mask would help.
But it’s just a mask that a man mislaid somewhere and died. I must come up with something better.

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The Terrifying Story of a Girl Who Wasn’t Excited About the New Star Wars Movie

Note: this isn’t entirely based on facts but it could be.

The story begins in the 90’s in a village in southern Poland. Get a blanket to cover your eyes with in fear because it’s terrifying.

The girl spent her young years doing stuff. Reading books, drawing, riding a bike, learning, playing football and computer games. But somehow, she didn’t once have the chance to watch any of the Star Wars movies.

It just didn’t happen. Some things have a way of not happening that doesn’t make them special but it’s still worth noting, or maybe it isn’t.

Then at some point in her life, the girl learned it was odd to never have watched the Star Wars.

“Oh, well,” she thought.

Time passed, and she continued to do stuff. Only it was slightly different stuff ’cause she was older. Not that it’s important, though.

Then at some later point in her life, she watched half of the Star Wars episodes with someone she loved.

“Oh, well,” she was thinking half of the time.

Then the fuss about the 7th Star Wars episode started to intensify all around her, and she could hear it everywhere that the premiere was a big deal, and everyone had to go see the movie, and how much excitement and money it generated.

It seemed sort of stupid to her that some people could earn so much on other people’s media-fueled excitement.

“Oh, fuck it,” she just thought and went about doing stuff.

Still There. Short Not-Even-a-Story

Autumn makes things poetic, romantic, and stuff.

***

“There’s the cinema,” he said, as if to reassure himself, and her, that everything was in its place, everything was the way it’d been the day before, and there was no need to worry.

She noticed little drops of sweat on his forehead, and smiled. Always checking, she thought. Checking if she’s back from work already, checking the weather in the far-away town his mother lives in, checking if the guy next door still likes MMA. In all places, looking for confirmation: “This is for keeps. No one’s going to take it away from you.”

The cinema was there, the moon was barely visible through the smog, but still there, with the footsteps and craters, her hand, as they walked, from time to time brushed his. There were toothbrushes in the cup, and stuff, she wanted to tell him, and that she’d never forget that night, or whatever, she wanted to scream yes, it’s there.

Then she looked at him, saw love and apprehension, still there. Suddenly, she couldn’t utter a word — instead, she looked down confusedly, caught his hand, and pressed it for a moment.

Driving Home for Christmas

I’m driving home for Christmas, bitch, I intoned, and they all laughed. Such a happy carful of people it was that I almost opened the door to throw myself down and roll behind on the highway, and get lost, get lost, I so much wanted to get lost on the way.

We were driving home, for Christmas, and for the sake of decency I remained on my seat. It wouldn’t be nice to get killed on the way to celebrate a birth. Whose birth it was meant to be I wasn’t sure.

But there is always some birth at those times when your sense of self sways, pushed by a gift you don’t like, and by how it makes you feel older, or different, than the giver expected; by a brother-in-law wishing you a merry shmerry and that you’d be made happy by something you least want; by the snore that resounds in the vast empty chamber of your skull as the rest of the table gets livelier and more unwelcomely familiar with every passing minute.

It felt heavy all the way. We arrived, finally, without any miscarriages.

I spent that last Christmas like a decent, healthy neonate should: mostly, I slept.

Stray Bitch

I met a guy once who told me he saw a ghost. And not just once in a dream, but on a regular basis: he’d come home and see it like you see your dog or someone you live with when they come up to say hello. And he said he grew used to seeing it after a while, and would say hello first, and start a conversation with it like he would with a human.

I looked at him wondering what the fuck he was talking about.

I still don’t know whether he meant it, or whether he wanted to say something else but chose to cloak it with a ghost-in-my-house tale, or whether he was just making fun of me. But as I have the choice (and nothing but the choice ’cause I’m probably not going to meet him again so as to be able to ask for explanation), I choose the second option.

‘Cause I also have a ghost in my room. And when I go to the bathroom, she goes after me. When I go to my homeplace, she gets on the train with me (bitch doesn’t pay for her ticket) and travels along with me and the other travellers, but no one except me can see her.

She’s my fear.

She doesn’t live in any particular place, so I don’t expect to see her when I come home, and I’m not in the habit of greeting her at any particular time of the day. She’s more like a dirty stray bitch that comes at irregular intervals, looks into my eyes and asks for food.

Sometimes she wakes me in the middle of the night. I put the light on and look into those old hungry eyes. We sit for a while, but I don’t feed her, just stroke her gently and tell her to go. And she goes.

It’s hard to talk, really, to a creature like this: not just unreal, but canine, so I can’t have conversations with my ghost like the guy I talked to did with his. But if he ever meant to actually tell me that ghosts are tamable — that’s what I just understood.

Ghost are perfectly tamable. Mine is just now learning not to leave her dirt on my sheets.