Monday, February 23, 2015


I want to fly like the blue man.

I saw him atop the Robert A. Crenshaw House and thought, “What a marvelous idea.” But when I tried to get closer, the way was blocked by a hoard of bystanders and policemen and flashing blue lights. They wouldn’t even let me near enough to scale the building to join him.

Frustrated, I wandered along the train tracks, wondering what my contemporaries were doing, wondering when things would be deemed “safe,” if they would be safe. I’d left the flat running earlier, when that horrible suction noise erupted from outside my door. I am slightly afraid of vacuum cleaners. Oleander squawked to show his minor irritation, but I’d thrown open the window and bolted away.

As soon as my feet touched the ground, I knew something was wrong. At first, I tried to ignore it; I’ve had far to many overreactions recently. It didn’t matter where I went, and when I thought I’d lost it, the blue subaru always rounded the corner ahead of me. When I slowed, it slowed, when a ran, it sped.

I knew it was one of Vladan’s gangsters tailing me, but wondered why they didn’t just stop, pull me in and blow my brains out. I raced away from it until I realized it wasn’t following me at all; it was following the shifty looking Asian man who keeps people in apartment 413. I suppose there might not be four people crammed in there. Perhaps he just brings four take out meals in there and eats them all himself. I never broke in to check it out; that guy looks a little too crazy. I calmed and could feel my heart rate returning to normal: no stalker, no vacuum cleaners, just a blue man on the roof.

I continued wandering, wishing I’d brought Oleander with me until I found my path was blocked by a massive pool of blue liquid. My footsteps shimmered indigo in the liquid momentarily before vanishing again. “Marvelous!” I said aloud. I walked further in, shocked to find that in some places it came up to my ankles. When one of my shoes slipped off and didn’t resurface, I didn’t mind and for a while I delighted myself by making temporary designs in the blue liquid and watching them disappear.

I had an idea almost as marvelous as flying. My floor paintings needed this blue liquid. Lots of it. I left blue tracks down Yellow Brick rd, searching for someplace that would have bottles or jars or some sort of container. I was forced to hobble awkwardly into O’Harley’s with only one shoe, but kept my chin up as I marched up to the counter and demanded that the tall, harassed looking man at the counter give me as many empty bottles as I could hold. He smiled vacantly at me, too resigned to even question my motives, and obliged.  

I tucked too many bottles under my arms and one slipped out of my grasp and shattered in the doorway. The Asian man who’s either a kidnapper or very hungry was screaming something about no one being able to help him as I scraped the glass pieces into my hands, trying to ignore the biting pain. Someone was grabbing my hands to keep me from injuring myself further.

“Doesn’t that hurt?” he asked, plucking out a few shards that had lodged themselves into my flesh.

“Yes, terribly,” I said, watching in fascination as blood droplets dripped onto the floor.

The man introduced himself as Charlie and asked him if he would help me fill the bottles with the mysterious blue liquid, lest I injure myself further. The expression on his face told me he really didn’t want to help me, but was going to anyway. He didn’t question why I needed the blue liquid, just where I was from and what in Belgrade was worth visiting. He told me about the trip he was planning to Turkey, and I told him I’d wanted to visit Turkey but my father wouldn’t let me.

My father because he was under the impression that Europe had the finest jewelers and we shouldn’t waste our time on anything less than the best.

“Aren’t you a little old to be letting your parents dictate your life?” Charlie asked me.

I watched the blue liquid swirl like Van Gogh’s Starry Night and asked Charlie if I could see his mother’s list.  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Bengalische Tiger

The air hung stagnant over the cemetery. Oleander trilled in the silence while I graced lonely tombs with cosmos and begonias and forget-me-nots. Leonardo offered to pay me to create flower arrangements for the families who won’t visit their loved ones. A flock of ravens watched us soundlessly and I wondered if they were here to guide us away or if they were just murdered souls. I tossed them a white carnation of remembrance.

The low hanging clouds threatened to take us away, so I tucked the rest of the flowers into Oleander’s travel cage and went searching for normalcy. I found myself standing in the pawnshop with that tingling in my fingers that means I’m about to take something. It wasn’t the Graff, but there was bound to be something I wanted. Like the vivid, trilliant-cut padparadscha. The man behind the counter obviously didn't know its worth. I dropped Oleander’s cage, it unlatched and the dove flew immediately out of reach. After about ten seconds of trying to coax him down, the man went in search of a box we could use to capture him.

I slid open the glass case, tucked the pink gem into my sleeve, then held out my hands to Olander as if greeting the sun. He flew to me before the man could throw the box at him or whatever he was planning to with a damn box and a dove. I apologized, feigned embarrassment and rushed out into the streets.

I held the padparadscha up to the weak light of sunset, smiling widely. This is the most normal I’ve felt in days and a song began to play in my head. Lassen uns auf den Straßen nieder. I am back on the streets. Fires flickered all around, as if the falling stars from before finally landed. Holen uns unsere Straßen wieder. This is normal. I reached Dreamwood Terrace and bounded up six flights of stairs, careful not to jostle Oleander as he chirped happily. Petals fell from his cage and danced around my feet with each step I took. Tätowieren uns ein Tier, das zu uns passt - I unlocked the door and froze as still as the air outside.

A storm was brewing.
One of the floor paintings hadn’t dried and she’d smudged it. The woman from the apartment off the lobby stood paralyzed on a stepladder in the act of drilling cameras into my wall. The knife was in my hand before I had the chance to think. I pounced, tackled her off the stepladder, and pressed the cool blade against her throat, “Bengalische Tiger.

Oleander squawked as I interrogated her, “Who sent you? Vladan or Interpol? How long you have been watching me? How Vladan is plotting seek revenge for my poisoning him? What Interpol has on us? Who are you? Why you not answer me?” But I’m afraid my tongue slipped in and out of the English.

She looked scared, but mostly perplexed and maybe a little amused. I stopped raving and examined her  more closely. Not a gangster. Not government. Just an ordinary American.
How does one say, “Sorry for trying to kill you, I just overreacted?”

I didn’t have to apologize, for a bucket spontaneously combusted, giving me an excuse to fall back. Once I was up, staring into the magnificent flames, I realized I had no idea what to do. Fire is not one of the things my father had a protocol for.

“Oh honey, never crumple up your paint rags.” The woman said “oh honey” in that way that means “you dumb shit.” “And next to the space heater and everything,” she shook her head at me and I smiled sheepishly.

I still don’t trust her, but something about her screams, “I’m lonely!” even though she’s surrounded by people. Her cameras are an unrefined version of my careful observation. As she put out the fire, I asked what she used her intel for and if she would help me keep watch for any Slav who passed through. Before she left, I gifted her a sprig of lavender (distrust), rhododendron (beware), and a pink carnation (gratitude).