The Tale of the Old Man and the Maid

He stumbled into the room, roughly grasping the top of the chair by his well-worn desk and cursing each former lover in his moist and ailing breath, fell into a sorry heap upon the bed, too tired to pull off his boots and too saddened by the decline in his quality of life to remove his glasses.  Nothing, save the frothing fury of the tropical sea rising up and laying salty claim to all the beaches in the land, could save the loss of face that he had endured that day.  For in front of his red-headed daughter, who was buxom, proud and ready to marry the young military captain that had so captured her heart and stained it so openly on his own uniformed arm, he had been stripped of all power, humiliated and whipped like a cowering dog chained to a post in the yard.

The cause of his mistreatment was the maid, who had so blithely started that fateful day as gormless as she had entered this life, the daughter of a whore who had given her up at the first opportunity.  That is not to say that she, the maid, was unaware of the power that her accusation would bring to her master, as she knew from her dilapidated upbringing that the raw power of sexual lust could do strange things to a man’s heart.  It was a memory passed down in blood from her estranged mother, the one who would die empty-handed clutching helplessly at the passing shoes of the sons and daughters of her customers.  It was an ignoble end to a life lived in the shadows, but one that her daughter would not share with her mother, or so she had thought.

Instead she would carry around with her a glowing heart filled at the memories of a holiday romance, a fling that had lit a thousand nights of self-fueled passion spread across the decades following the now hazy memories of a lifetime ago.  These were the glimpses into her past that brought her body and mind onto the edge of so fantastic an experience that she temporarily blinded herself each and every time she accessed them.  Although her current life lacked little in the way of attention from the opposite sex, keeping as she had the plump and youthful looks of her mother, the willingness to partake in the tasting of the flesh was strictly divorced from the cannibalization of her own memories.  In short, it was these that she feasted on instead of the current attention that she attracted and returned to again and again in the silence of the night.

Time passed silently, the moon forever chasing the sun as the weeks leaped into months and the seasons dictated the passing of the years.  By chance work had found her employed as a maid for an owner of a large tract of land, which included numerous rented apartments and holiday villas for tourists that visited this small Caribbean nation alongside the owner’s main housing complex, hidden in a corner behind a curving perimeter wall.  The owner coveted his private life and communicated with both his retinue and his staff by way of paper notes, dotted across the working surfaces of a life he had little known intimately but instead managed from afar.  The practice worked as if by magic though, the newer members of staff at first baffled by the notes left in green ink each morning, documenting the previous day’s stock figures, both incoming and outgoing, and dictating the actions of the next.  The older staff however were well used to this method and blithely accepted whatever the writer of the note wanted, trusting as they did the path ahead as an apparition of the successful path behind.

The persistent rumours of the sightings of the owner were frequent among the staff, with wild recollections of a golden-haired Lothario prowling the grounds at night or that he was actually a hunchback man who had been seen howling at the moon in rage and despair.  Lucinda, the young slip of a girl who worked in the granary, had once caught a slender grey-haired gentlemen helping himself to the kitchen stores but he had pranced off into the night before she had a chance to shout his name.  No sightings were confirmed although that did not stop the rumours being mulled over and created late into the night by the staff at the end of their long shifts; instead the owner preferred always to communicate by his spidery flowing script rather than by sight and sound.

The maid had seen his notes and was taken by the veracity of the green ink on the faded, golden papers.  The twirls of the P’s and the L’s satisfied some small section of her stomach, pleasingly looped as they were.  In time she started to collect a number of the notes once the older ones had been discarded, their actions carried out by the ever observant and trusting staff.  It was late one springs night, in her provided for one bed-roomed cleaners cottage, that the maid noticed the odd word or phrase that silently rung a long-dormant bell within her memory.

Surely the owner could not be the very flame that had burnt for eternity within her chest, ever since that fleeting coastal romance?  She gathered up the dozen or so notes spread across the duvet and held them close to her tight chest, breathing in the vapors of the ink as her pupils dilated and the clothes fell from her body of their own volition.  When she woke she noted the cold sweat of her body, the notes plastered on the inside of her thigh, on top of her belly and her breasts, a love intent on the recreation of the physical and the spiritual.  She knew then that the owner was indeed her former lover.

Some days later a note went up on the main noticeboard: ‘To wit: My Daughter to Marry the Captain, Two Days Hence – Staff Welcome’.

The owner’s daughter was most unlike her father in that she was well-known in the community, haughty but well-known.  Little did she communicate directly with the staff, she was instead seen and not heard.  Two days until the wedding!  Some of the staff, the kitchen women and the mucker outers especially, expressed surprise that they were invited to view the proceedings, but all were excited by the prospect of finally seeing with their own eyes the owner of the land.  Much was made of the brevity of the note in comparison to the usual notes but none could argue that the next 48 hours were to pass in a state of increasing frenzy and intrigue.

Today was the day that she was going to proclaim that this stored fountain of love was directly transferable to the object of her affections, the owner.  In her fevered night-long dreams she could foresee a double marriage taking place, father and daughter pleased and pressed into unions of love, her simple maid’s status raised to the title of owner’s wife!  Oh, what pleasure awaited them both!  Dressing in her finest clothes and smartening up her shoes, she went to join the rest of the workers gathered outside in the courtyard, ready to proceed to the wedding venue – an outdoor folly that took into its expansive view the bay and the mountains in the background and the luscious greens in the foreground.

The crowd waited with bated breath as the procession of the captain and his bride, and assembled groomsmen and bride’s maids of honor, sorted themselves within the folly.  A minute or two later the owner strode into view, each booted foot planted with firm resolution, his tight thin-lipped mouth curled up into the slightest imitation of a sneer, framed by golden-greying hair.  A complete hush fell over the crowd of workers and some swore they could see green ink stains on his fingertips, a visual clue that this was who they suspected that he was.

It was at this moment that the maid, her breasts almost bursting out of her tight white top, lunged forward, one foot unsteadily following the other as a faint scream of ecstasy escaped her lips and the faint light of terror entered the owner’s eyes.

‘Matías!  Matías!  My love, it is me, Natalia!’

It was later recalled it was at this moment that the owner’s heart sunk fully into the very bowels of his body.

What for her had been an unforgettable romance by the sea, had been instead for him a desultory sink in status, one that he had revelled in at the time for its feeling of desperation but had since been forced into the very back of his mind.  Instead, and ever since that long weekend spent entwined in both the arms and breasts of Natalia, he had made love to women only on par with his social standing, determined to remove the grit that he had felt instilled itself in him from sinking so low that one time.

In short, there could be no worse time for his past to haunt the owner then at the very moment he chose to show himself for the first time to his staff at his daughter’s wedding.

His eyes sunk into their sockets, and continued to join his heart, whilst his cheeks became maroon curtains of the richest silk.

He ran and he did not look back as Natalia stumbled onto her knees and tried clasping onto his fleeing heels, just as her mother had once done in the street where she lay dying …

Photograph by the author using a Pentax S1a and Lomography Lady Grey film. If reproduced please credit as appropriate.

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Lips To Kiss

A half finished painting that sits in my room, ready to be completed some day soon.  I am an amateur artist at best, rarely dedicating time to painting and thus rarely improving.  I do however enjoy the freedom to partake in it when I feel that urge to the push paint across canvas, to see what shapes appear and what ideas formulate before me.  This painting sprang forth one day in the garden whilst I was absently scraped paint and, using a brush, picked out the lines of the lips.  Lips seem, to me, so human in the variety of the ways that we use them.  That simple delicate touch of a kiss, which can be intimate and playful or formal and curt.  That these lips also represent another pair found on the human body is, of course, pure chance but they fit within the theme of love and all of the lust, romance and passion that this involves and entails across a life well lived.

Whatever you are doing today and whatever you are up to tonight, know that you are loved in some way by some one in this beautiful and harsh world of ours.

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Acrylic on canvas, painted by the author. Lips are meant for kissing and for loving. If the photograph is shared please attribute as appropriate.

To Pity the Fool in Love

No-one ever expects that they will walk around a corner and find the person that will become their significant other lingering there on the street before them.  How we meet our partners, our lovers and confidantes, becomes a personal legend shared between only ourselves in truth, embellished by time and by the ebb and flow of emotion.  Love can be a hard emotion to describe, to quantify or to qualify, to articulate to each other and to one another.  That drunken and passionate kiss goodbye, the result of a haphazard opportunity presented in all of its glory, sits side by side with the memory of a slow burning romance experienced in our youths when we fumbled anew under covers soaked in teenage sweat.  Experiments of connection and of lust, of two pieces of lego mixing and matching to form one.  As time recedes the flashes of faces become a Rolodex of past conquests and imagined hurt, often sitting uncomfortably close to one another.

Lust, as a rapid fire launchpad to the past, operates on much the same lines as those random encounters experienced during the vicissitudes of youth.  In moments of relaxation you are comfortably entertaining yourself, your thoughts ensconced on a particular moment and how it would play out in your mind, perhaps how you would make the move and seal the return of the love and physical intimacy as given in your affections.

Yet still, how the mind can shock and shake the very foundations of your core!

No longer are you in the throes of doubled or singled passion, your senses are startled and your hands are instead given to fumbling lamely against the body of skin and flesh before you.  No more thought is given to reaching the apex of sexual arousal.

You are instead seeing the failures of your past mount even as you have failed to.  The chances lost of forming romantic entangles in the freshly cut grass, of bridging the gap between brief fumbles on the sofa and maintaining long-term relationships.  The thought is half formed, it ghosts across the mind but briefly as you lie there on your bed, shivering in the warm night air.

To walk around the corner of the street you inhabit, to cross the road at just the right time, to be there to answer that question and to form that connection as the eyes meet, the pupils dilate, and the lips curl into a smile.  The heart that jumps a beat and resets into a rhythm of two.  To miss those opportunities.  To wait upon a table where the food of life will never be placed.  It can be a hard thing to think about in the moment of your greatest conquest, of a solo ascent.

On a Break

Grey December mornings and it is just how I’m feeling.

The bed is empty and my nights are restless, I’m all alone but it’s almost like the blues.

I can hear the patter of the rain gentle against the thin glass, I can hear the low growl of the hungry wolf haunting my dreams.  I can almost feel the distant echo of my childhood – all sunny skies and patient family cries.  Tired arms and tired bodies, water splashing in tall thin arcs.  The green grass of home, paved by history and rolled in love.

The invitation awaits, propped silently against the wooden desk but the envelope is not yet opened.  Fingers cross and uncross, my thoughts wander.  Laughter in the distance from couples walking home from the pub.  The incessant rumble of traffic outside the front door.

I loved you then and I love you now – though I am a step removed from your daily life, hidden by distance and receded by time, clothed in memory, remembered but not firm.

This is how I spend my time, cut in two by present and past.

I still remember the gentle feel of your long auburn hair brushing against my cheeks as our lips met to kiss.  It was a romance for half a year, no more and no less.  It was open, refreshing and beautiful, but hidden behind a veil of confusion at the same time.  I wanted you, you wanted me, but we could not be, not as I had hoped.  The wording was oblique, the semantics confused.  I wanted a definite article, I wanted that anchor in your heart.  There is no doubt what I needed, that I felt that my feet were temporarily passing in your shadow.

You are now but a shadow of love in my romantic history, fondly remembered.

I’d be lying if I said that if I did not think of where you could be now, what sights do your eyes rest upon, what body does your hand caress.  Do you ever think of me?

Love can be fleeting, love can be transient.  It can last as long as a lungful of air quickly evaporating on a pane of glass or it can cross centuries in timeless prose and unhurled passionate throes.  But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still think of you with loving thoughts.  Our time is long past of course, I am settled with that thought.

The envelope sits unopened still though.  I’m not ready for that.