Flash fiction, short stories, poetry …
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Posts from — May 2012

Electrica Amor Vincit Omnia

Hello there. I’ve been writing some stories about love. I fancied throwing in some lighter tales, but of course it’s all wrapped up in my storytelling — which loves of the unusual. So, uh, yeah… let’s see how we get on.

Last night I was trying to work out what had happened to Google Friend Connect (one of the boxes of followers over there on the right) — it had stopped working — only to discover that Google has decided to stop supporting it for non-E-blogger folk. I’ll try not to rant, but ‘thanks’ Google — I won’t be transferring across to Google+ any time soon, in deference to your kind suggestion.

So if you were following before, or want to join what was once a slightly larger throng, do feel free to click that button on Networked Blogs. I miss your smiling faces and cherish those who remain. 

But enough of such technical things — we have love to talk about. 

***

I

dream of an electric heart. It sits in the windows of Amor and Astarte where the crowds come to watch it beat and pulse, throwing red heart-light into the street. I hear the seagulls calling, I see the litter blow, I feel the moments pass, when I see that heart beating – valves shiny, chrome gleaming, glass smooth. It rests amongst a display of wrapped packages, with floppy bows, and it makes me wonder what gifts love has to give.

I save, day by day – a penny here, a penny there – but love, it seems, costs. It costs a lot more than I can make in a year. I have a job that seems fulfilling (working for an Atherosclerosis charity) and I try to live in a way that others might admire, but I do not know whether I love life or not – or, indeed, can love – as I haven’t got the heart for it.

Days, weeks, months pass. I am back again – the dedicated, cardio window-shopper. Rain falls in soft trails from the sky and pitter-patters on the window glass. Nose touching, my breath blooms, and a message is revived: ‘I love you’, in a heart pierced with an arrow, drawn in finger grease.

Inside, the heart beats in its own light, but there are fewer crowds, now. Fewer people stand at the window, looking at the displays of cupids and paper hearts, and roses blooming. The flower heads are curling, the paper beginning to wrinkle.

The heart beats on.

A few years later, I swing by that old department store to look in the window, but the heart isn’t there. I feel a small start of panic, as if it had finally gotten into my chest. But I see, now, it’s been moved to a side window. A thick layer of dust has settled on the mechanism – its light dulled to a fleshy pink. The paper hearts have faded, the cupids are a jumble, and the banner proclaiming TRUE LOVE, droops and is marked, ‘50% OFF!’ It’s a still a fortune, though – I know it, though I’ve yet to see a price tag.

Hands in pockets, hat down, rain pattering off the brim, I shuffle off for a hot coffee in Mae’s.

Years pass. My charity closes down as the city seeks to invigorate the local economy by closing one good charity to give to another.

Somehow, I don’t seem to mind. Mine is not a life where love lives, but I do keep that cardioid vase on the mantle drip-fed with pennies – hope kept alive by dreams, in a deep-throated wishing well.

One day, I reach the top of the vase; coins touching its pursed lip. I decide to count them – to cash up, tot up the ante, and go see, at last, what kind of love money can buy. The coins are dark and unloved, somehow stale in their years’ collecting. I count them out and stack them and find I have very little. No reason to expect that this sorry amount is enough.

I pull on my jacket, fetch my hat, and wash my face. I put a hanky in my breast pocket – looking smart, out of habit – on the day I travel to love’s lost country.

It should be an unremarkable journey – but the sky is clear blue, touched to white on the horizon; cherry trees bloom in the electric sunlight, though the air is cold. Magpies flutter from one branch to another, chack-chacking, tails bobbing. A woman steps through long, triangles of shadow – touched with a cumulous pink – carrying her vanilla wedges of shopping.

I catch the Eastside bus.

A Guardian newspaper has been left on this seat. I read the small ads – ‘lonely hearts’ from those other true seekers in twenty-five words or less. Their creativity leaves me feeling humbled and hollow. It is great for them, I think – I still know what I’m missing: that patent, electric heart.

When I get to the store, I see that it is not just me who has bet on love and lost. Behind padlocks and rusting grilles – the colour of pistachio – the windows are dark and empty, streaked with long runnels of water and dust. Browning newsprint hangs on the glass, against a twilight gloom that stretches back into a cavernous darkness. The 1920s art deco, the cupid buttresses, the swirling lines through women, carrying urns or posed, hand on face, are left to question, ‘why are we?’ For love, itself, has gone.

There is no heart, no ‘love of the future’, and despair has taken its radium reactor. The gift box is closed, the ribbons shed. There is no elegant assistant to take the kerchief of coins I carry – the warm, heart-shaped bundle that weighs down my hand.

“Oh. Oh, I… I’m sorry.”

A woman touches my elbow. Brown jacket. Hat feathered; the arrowed-quill of a pheasant, dancing.

“I used to… well, never mind.” There is a distance. “Oh,” she says again.

One hand trails back from the grille, fingers rubbing a fine red dust from themselves. She gestures a hand to the Trojan windows and walls above, handbag hanging from her elbow – smooth, swing-low and elegant.

“Do you think it – all this – will open again?

The sun smiles in her face – fair skin, red lips, red berries. Blue eyes, sigh. Cupid’s kiss.

I have, I realise, a handful of gold.

May 1, 2012   24 Comments