Sometimes Softly Singing
There’s a crack running across the ceiling between the kitchen and the living room. The crack has been up there for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, the crack in the ceiling looks like a mouth. A mouth wanting to scream but the mouth can’t scream because it can’t open wide enough to let the scream out so the sound of the scream stays buried inside.
Sometimes, when I’m sleeping, in the dead of the night, I suddenly awaken thinking I’ve heard screaming but when I’m sitting up in bed there’s only an eerie silence mixing with the darkness of the room. But I stay like that for a moment or two taking deep breaths just trying to calm myself down. Sometimes, when I lay back against the pillows, I can hear the big knife all the way from the kitchen singing me back to sleep. Those are the nights I like the best.
The big knife sings all of the time. The big knife has many different songs. Sometimes, I hear the big knife screaming the words. Sometimes, I hear it softly singing. The big knife spends days and, sometimes, even weeks waiting in the bottom drawer feeling lonely and afraid. I know this is the way the big knife feels because we have always had this kind of a connection.
All of the electrical outlets in every room of the house have little faces with slits for eyes and tiny round mouths. The outlets always look like they’re screaming but they don’t ever make a sound. Sometimes, when I push a cord into an outlet I expect to see blood come gushing out. But there isn’t ever any blood and I always feel strange inside.
There’s a darkness that keeps following me around. It’s not just an absence of light. The darkness is something real and sometimes I can actually feel it touching my skin. I think I first became aware of the darkness when I was just a teenager. When I spent hours alone inside my room. Sitting in the back of my closet where I had made a secret place I could hide in that no one else knew about. Maybe I thought at some point the darkness would leave me alone. Maybe I thought the darkness was something I would outgrow once I reached a certain age but the darkness is still here. The darkness is still with me.
Sometimes, I just want to take a shower and try to wash the darkness away because I hate the way the darkness feels on my skin. Sometimes, the darkness feels cold and hard. I stand in the tub, with my eyes closed, letting the hot water run over my body until I lose track of time. But when I, eventually, emerge and start toweling myself off I can still see the darkness when I look in the mirror.
I keep some photographs on a laptop in a drawer next to my bed. Sometimes, at night, I pull out the laptop and slowly go through the images remembering all of the good things and all of the bad things. And there’s an emptiness that seems to linger. I think the emptiness is a part of the darkness. Sometimes, when I close the laptop and sit there in the dark I can hear the big knife in the kitchen as it begins to softly sing.
Some nights I dream about Emily. I think no matter what she will always be my favorite. I keep hearing the sound of her nervous laughter lingering in the hall. Some nights I dream about Susan and, once again, feel the silky smoothness of her dark skin. Or there’s Sharon and the funny way she kept saying the word no. And Sarah and Alice and Gwen. Even now, after they’re all gone, they still won’t leave me alone.
Tonight, the big knife keeps screaming. Tonight, the big knife won’t go to sleep and I can’t stop thinking about Lena. She reminds me of Emily. Lena’s the pretty young woman who works at the convenient store. She’s the one who keeps changing the color of her hair. The one with her name tag always slightly crooked above her left breast. One time, Lena made me a sub sandwich and I loved the way her delicate hands picked up each piece of meat.
I remember the first time I saw Lena was when I had stopped for gas late one night after I had been driving around. I watched her as she emerged from the store carrying a black garbage bag out to the dumpster and right away I just loved the way her body moved. Maybe it had something to do with the way the lights on the building seemed to reach out and touch her as she walked beneath them. Maybe it was a certain innocence I thought I saw in her face. Or it could just have been the long stretch of time that had passed since the last time I had met someone. Whatever it was I knew Lena was going to be the one because I heard the big knife beginning a new song.
It didn’t take me very long to figure out which car belonged to Lena. A few days after that I had her schedule memorized and one night I followed her home. I parked across the street and watched Lena as she got out of her car and made her way into her apartment. I sat there a while longer watching the lights come on in the windows. I thought about her undressing and for a moment I felt the urge to go and knock on Lena’s door but it wasn’t the right time. The big knife whispered from somewhere in the darkness and told me to be patient. The big knife always knows the right thing to say. The big knife always understands me.
It’s a Friday night and Lena gets off of work early. I follow her home and watch her get out of the car. I can feel my anticipation rising. The darkness inside the car makes me feel like I’m under water and I take a deep breath just to convince myself I can still breathe. The big knife waits there in the passenger’s seat next to me. I reach out and caress the handle with the ends of my fingers. Another car pulls up and its headlights sweep across Lena’s face. I see her smiling as a guy gets out of the car. He approaches Lena before grabbing her and kissing her. Shit, I say to myself. The big knife starts laughing and the laughter echoes in my head. Shut up, I say but the big knife doesn’t listen to me. I pick up the big knife and toss it into the back seat. I watch Lean and the guy disappear into her apartment. I punch the steering wheel before starting the car and driving away.
Now it’s Wednesday and I know it’s going to be different this time. Lena has come home and she’s alone. The big knife is softly singing. The big knife is trying not to be too loud. I know the big knife must be feeling as anxious as I am. I take a deep breath and get out of the car. I leave the big knife lying there in the passenger’s seat. I won’t need the big knife until later on. I’m going to go to Lena’s apartment and knock on the door. I’m going to tell her how I can’t stop thinking about her. She’ll probably give me that look. The look that so many others have given to me before. Then I will probably chuckle and take Lena’s hand. I will take her delicate hand in mine and pull her close to me. She will probably be nervous and I will feel her heart beating. Maybe she will start to cry but I will tell her it’s okay. I’m just going to take her for a ride.
James Babbs is a writer, a dreamer, a three-time loser and an all-around nice guy who just wants to be left alone. James is the author of Disturbing The Light(2013) & The Weight of Invisible Things(2013) and has hundreds of poems and a few short stories scattered all over the internet.