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22 December 2005 @ 03:23 pm
Her grandmother directs the choir and that’s why Calliope has a key to the church, so she can break in and use the piano; that’s where the man from the university finds her, alone in an empty church playing a makeshift concerto that’s half Schubert and half her own invention. She is scared to death to hear the man clapping at the end of her piece; she gets up off of the piano stool and flees instinctively into the darkness at the back of the chapel.

When she is brave enough to come out, she finds the man from the university still there, waiting patiently, smiling softly. He tells her about the university and it makes her heart ache because for a moment she actually believes that it’s all possible; she pictures herself wandering through a maze of buildings and hearing the roar or the ocean in the distance and learning how to write music for real and it’s glorious until she opens her eyes and comes to her senses. She reaches out and puts her hand on the university man’s arm to stop his litany mid-sentence and her voice is soft stammering apologetic when she explains that it’s lovely but impossible because she and her Gran simply don’t have enough money to send her off to university just to learn to write music.

But the university man explains about scholarships and the auditions. He gives her a folder full of information, pages and pages of dates and dollar signs, a heavy booklet about all the classes one could take and glossy photographs of young people laughing and sitting on brilliant green lawns clutching textbooks to their chests. It’s the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen and she reads it over and over in the empty church in the shifting glow of stained-glass light.
03 December 2005 @ 08:02 pm
The term has ended and all her scientists have gone off to present their latest research at a conference on the Geological Sciences in Madison Wisconsin, leaving Calliope behind. She doesn’t mind it at first; at first she enjoys the freedom to wander through the empty offices and laboratories and daydream in the quiet. But gradually the absence of everyone else turns her familiar surroundings foreign and on the second day of writing music surrounded by fossils and memories, Calliope grows restless. She abandons scattered notes on the Geologist’s desk and wraps herself in one of his extra scarves before going for a walk. Winter sun makes the artificial lake glitter hypnotically on the horizon and that is where she is inexplicably drawn, of course. Just to look, she tells herself, just to see if the water’s yet turned to ice.

Linden finds her wandering the sidewalks by the lake, rubbing her ungloved fingers together and watching clouds of pollution drifting on the sky. “Do you like Chinese food?” he asks her, apropos of nothing.

“Yes?” she replies, turning her head to look up at him.

“Would you, you, would you like to go, go and get some? With, with me?” he stammers, somehow made inexplicably nervous, perhaps by the eye-contact. “Prem, Prem doesn’t like it, you, you see?”

“Of course,” says Calliope simply, and she reaches out and takes one of his gloved hands. He is surprised by this, but doesn’t argue, just thinks about how the Geologist asked him to keep an eye on the girl as they walk hand-in-hand to the parking garage.

Calliope doesn’t like cars, but she approves of Linden’s because it is small and old and second-hand. There is a copy of Lord Jim on the passenger’s seat. She picks the book up, flips through it and looks at the small neat notes he’s taken in the margins, deposits it unceremoniously in the backseat.

“Have you ever read it?” asks Linden, jingling the car keys out of a coat pocket and fitting one of them into the ignition.

“I didn’t like it much,” she admits, soft-voiced. Her hair falls in her face as she looks down at her lap to fasten the seatbelt. “I didn’t understand it,” she murmurs. “There were all the missing pieces and nothing happened in order and it didn’t make sense.”

He turns the car sharply down the exit ramp. “He was the first one to, to do that, you, you know? Nonlinear storytelling, he invented it. Proust, Proust did it better, but you probably wouldn’t like that either.” When he falls into teacher-speech, the stammer is almost erased, but the situation is nothing like that of the classroom, and that makes things difficult.

“Probably not,” she agrees softly, staring out the window, watching the blur of scenery beyond.

“I think it’s, it’s fascinating,” says Linden. “I think, think our lives are written, written like that. Like God or Destiny or, or or whoever leaves blanks for us to, to fill in.”

Calliope turns to look up at him, eyes shining. “That’s beautiful,” she says. “You’re a poet.”

Linden blushes as he turns the car into the parking lot of the China Lantern. “Yes,” he admits, “But it’s a secret.” After parking the car, he runs around it to open the door for Calliope and is unsurprised when she holds his hand on the walk up to the restaurant. He’s still strangely self-conscious about it, even though there is nothing strange about a young man and a younger woman walking hand-in-hand.

The restaurant owner’s wife is the first person Linden met after moving to the university. She greets them both with a smile and coos over Calliope, calls her Linden’s pretty girl and because Calliope seems flattered, Linden doesn’t bother making corrections. He orders tofu chop suey for himself and smiles when Calliope orders three different soups. He watches Mrs Kim walking off to the kitchen and pours himself a glass of green tea and is surprised when he tells Calliope “This is the first place I was happy, happy, here.”

She blows on her tea, to cool it. “Before you met Prem, but only just,” she says. She’s right, of course; Linden doesn’t even bother wondering how she figured it out.

“Yours was, was at the lake, I think?”

“Only with the Geologist there,” she says, tracing one finger around the gilt edge of her placemat. “I’m lost without him,” she adds in a small whisper. “We’re lost without them,” and Linden recognizes the truth in her statement and can only nod.
Current Mood: goodgood
12 November 2005 @ 02:36 pm
It’s illogical to admit it, but the truth is that Prem’s been intrigued-interested-infatuated since the very beginning when Linden was nothing more than a soft voice and flash of pale skin and a spark of light in trembling fingers all swallowed up in autumnal darkness.

A series of meetings – half deliberate and half by chance – bring them closer together into some sort of friendship. Prem is glad of it because this brightens the winter months. He is in love, of course, but it takes him an absurdly long time to come to that conclusion, never mind the way his brain insists on recalling scattered fragments of shy conversation and lulling him to sleep with the half-remembered sound of Linden’s warm soft laughter. It’s not until the dying days of December that he figures it out, hearing a soft exhalation of melancholic sigh and it’s all he can do not to fling down the remains of his cigarette and stretch his arms out in the dim five o’clock light to bring Linden in close. His conversation falters there with the realization and he drops his cigarette in the snow; he can’t sleep on Christmas and can do nothing but phone up Linden in the middle of the night. They stay on the line talking until morning. Neither confesses a thing.

Winter is always never-ending. It’s even worse when you’re in love. The coming of spring makes Linden flighty-bouncy-giggly. It’s as though he has no need for food or rest or anything else because the new sunlight is enough to sustain him. One day he comes into the lab and grins at Calliope before taking Prem by the hand and dragging him out to the quad to see the trees in bloom. He asks if Prem’s ever seen anything so beautiful. Prem looks at the way Linden’s eyes shine; he reaches up to brush fallen flower-petals out of the young man’s hair and he answers honestly.

The entire university talks about nothing but spring break plans, perhaps because that’s something more pleasant to think about than the final exams coming afterwards. Roza is talking on the phone with her travel-agent booking a trip to Quebec City and Prem leans across the café table to ask what Linden has planned. The tips of his ears pinken; he holds up his battered copy of Heart of Darkness like a talisman and stammers something about research. Prem can’t help it; he wonders if Linden would like to come on vacation with him and he can’t breathe until the other man answers a blushing yes.

Linden’s suitcase is small and old-fashioned, tweedy red plaid, something a refugee would carry in a war movie. He surrenders it at a ticket counter so that he and Prem can take a series of progressively smaller airplanes to the middle-of-nowhere. Prem sits very still, knuckles whitening from a desperate grip on the tray table, but Linden is at ease and comfortable through the turbulence, obviously someone whose childhood dreams tended toward the sky. The plane touches down and they cross the tarmac in an endless expanse of violet twilit sky; they rent a car and Prem drives them through the night while Linden curled in a ball snores lightly in the passenger seat. The dark of night turns mountain vistas invisible, but neither man would have noticed them anyway. By the next morning, they’re driving through the park itself. Linden doesn’t wake until the car stops and Prem takes his hand, leads him through the parking-lot to their destination beyond.

Snow, in warm springtime June is something unbelievable until Prem explains that they’re standing on the glacier, that it’s his favourite place in the world even if there is something disloyal in choosing these mountains over his Himalyas. They fall into an awed silence and the glacier crunches underfoot. When Linden slips in the snow, Prem reaches out to steady him. He feels Linden’s cold fingers, then, clinging to his shirt-front and Linden tips his head, shyly kisses him. It is all Prem can to do to keep from laughing giddily against the other’s lips because suddenly the world is perfect.
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
They meet for the first time at the University Library, paused and caught in the shadow of the glass doors in an apologetic moment of politeness where both draw back and neither is willing to go first through the exit and then both give up, try to leave at once, bump hips before clearing the doorway and spilling out into autumnal darkness.

The other man smiles, teeth flashing whitely. “I’m sorry,” he says, a hint of foreign lilting in his voice. “I keep forgetting how things are here; I’m too polite to be passably American.” He nods then and rummages in the powder-blue pockets of his lab-coat for a cigarette and a book of matches. “It’s a horrible habit, I know,” he adds, “and I’m sorry for that too.”

Linden is fascinated, in spite of himself. He was on his way home, but he shifts his backpack around to the front and unzips one of the pockets in a search for his own pack of cigarettes. The lighter is missing, he realises, far too late. “It’s all-right,” he says, a hesitation of stammering in his voice because strangers make him nervous. “I, I smoke too,” and he holds up the pack of cigarettes like a slightly battered trophy. “I’m trying, trying to quit, do you have a light?”

He grins and nods and finds the book of matches. Linden watches as he lights a match, cups his hand around it to shield it from the wind; he’s almost forgotten what he’s supposed to do, and then he leans forward and lights his cigarette. It’s a bit absurd, he realises, all of a sudden. Working on his dissertation makes everything into a metaphor and this is one of the oldest scenes ever written, he thinks – strangers anonymously silhouetted in the darkness, heads bent close over a flash of light. He’s glad for the darkness for concealing him, hiding his blushing, cloaking the turn of his thoughts, shared cigarette strangers, violet hour darkness invitations, weekend at the Metropole.

“You’re not in the sciences, are you?” asks the other man, gently.

Linden realises he’s been holding his breath. “I…no, English, actually. I’m new, new here, here finishing my dissertation.”

“Oh.” A pause, and then, “I’m in geology.”

He nods, and a long moment of silence passes, interrupted only by the sound of breathing and the wind in the trees while Linden tries to think of something else to say, something anything other than the fact that he feels like he’s been suddenly dropped into an Isherwood novel. “Are you a professor?” he manages, finally.

The other man nods, a gesture barely visible in the dark. “And a researcher. Glaciers…” he interrupts himself, coughing slightly, “Glaciers, it’s fascinating just dreaming of all that ice, isn’t it? Covering everything, moving across the landscape, picking rock up and depositing it somewhere else entirely out of place. Fascinating.”

More metaphors, thinks Linden, and he wonders if the scientist did it on purpose, discussing things entirely out of place. That’s how it feels to be here, he thinks, like being swept up by melting ice and deposited somewhere cold and uncertain and foreign. “I…yes, yes,” he manages, “that is, fascin—fascinating.”

“Here,” says the other man, reaching out and taking one of Linden’s hands and pressing the book of matches into it. “Here, just in case you need these, tonight. I have to be getting back to it, I promised them their exams tomorrow.” His hand is strong, warm, but Linden doesn’t notice until the other man is gone.

[It is not until he is walking home, paused in a puddle of streetlight, that he notices a name and phone-number scribbled in pencil across the cover of the book of matches and realises that maybe he wasn’t that wrong about everything after-all.]
05 November 2005 @ 12:58 pm
Cast of CharactersCollapse )
Current Music: "Maybe This Time" -- Liza Minnelli
31 October 2005 @ 08:00 pm
Winter keeps us safe says the Geologist, and he pauses in the doorway of the lab, loops along hand-knit scarf three times around his neck and does up all the left-handed buttons of his peacoat. He certainly seems safe, thinks Calliope, safe and protected, layers of cloth and wool softening the sharp fragile angles of his body. Winter keeps us warm, says the Geologist, protects us, and of course Calliope believes him because to do otherwise would be unthinkable.

All the same, it is her least-favourite season. Her hands are clumsy and imprisoned in useless gloves and she spends months constantly shivering, even in the lab, even in bed blanketed in down, even everywhere. As the days grow shorter she can feel the darkness seeping in under her skin and sometimes she can’t sleep and sits up reading most of the night.

But there are some things she likes, like staring up into black skies and falling snow and silvery clouds of pollution smoke hovering in the night sky. She likes the holiday season and spends her leftover stipend on endless strings of little twinkly coloured lights. No one complains when she borrows a ladder from a physicist and strings the lights all around the lab; it’s not hurting anything, after all. She puts electric candles in the windows and begs the professors to leave them on at night when they leave their offices. From outside, the laboratory looks like a fairytale castle, Calliope thinks, only it’s better of course because it’s real.

She read somewhere something about it being better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness, and so that’s what she’s doing; lighting candles and watching the snowfall illuminated by dozens of small coloured lights.
27 October 2005 @ 02:11 pm
(I want to be fossilized; he’d said, I want to be reduced to nothing more than the faint impressions in rock left behind by bones and feathers and skin.)

She dreams of water like that man dreamt of the eventual scientist who would run careful fingers across the evidence of his remains.

The bath: too shallow.
Lake Erie: too polluted.
Here: is no water, but only rock.
Here: there is the sound of water only.

It is a silly list, but somehow it seems important to her to take note of the places she cannot drown.

(The geologist dreams in epochs.)
27 October 2005 @ 12:11 pm
This is an experiment in original fiction, done for the community 100originalfics. And this is the table:

001.Beginnings. 002.Middles. 003.Ends. 004.Insides. 005.Outsides.
006.Hours. 007.Days. 008.Weeks. 009.Months. 010.Years.
011.Red. 012.Orange. 013.Yellow. 014.Green. 015.Blue.
016.Purple. 017.Brown. 018.Black. 019.White. 020.Colourless.
021.Friends. 022.Enemies. 023.Lovers. 024.Family. 025.Strangers.
026.Teammates. 027.Parents. 028.Children. 029.Birth. 030.Death.
031.Sunrise. 032.Sunset. 033.Too Much. 034.Not Enough. 035.Sixth Sense.
036.Smell. 037.Sound. 038.Touch. 039.Taste. 040.Sight.
041.Shapes. 042.Triangle. 043.Square. 044.Circle. 045.Moon.
046.Star. 047.Heart. 048.Diamond. 049.Club. 050.Spade.
051.Water. 052.Fire. 053.Earth. 054.Air. 055.Spirit.
056.Breakfast. 057.Lunch. 058.Dinner. 059.Food. 060.Drink.
061.Winter. 062.Spring. 063.Summer. 064.Fall. 065.Passing.
066.Rain. 067.Snow. 068.Lightening. 069.Thunder. 070.Storm.
071.Broken. 072.Fixed. 073.Light. 074.Dark. 075.Shade.
076.Who? 077.What? 078.Where? 079.When? 080.Why?
081.How? 082.If. 083.And. 084.He. 085.She.
086.Choices. 087.Life. 088.School. 089.Work. 090.Home.
091.Birthday. 092.Christmas. 093.Thanksgiving. 094.Independence. 095.New Year.
096.Writer‘s Choice. 097.Writer‘s Choice. 098.Writer‘s Choice. 099.Writer‘s Choice. 100.Writer‘s Choice.
Current Mood: goodgood
Current Music: "The Apologist" -- REM