::: the novel written in seven hours :::
They all sat around the table. Charel, the short-tempered red-head, just sat down and was struggling with the chop sticks. The demographics of the people sitting around the table was calculated, as every time someone got up to get the door, the phone, or to the bathroom, someone would move and occupy the seat. Susan, although she never truly appreciated the advances that Bob would partake in with regularity, enjoyed being the only woman in the apartment with two men. She could never tell what Allen's intentions were, she didn't know if he preferred the intimate company of men over women, but she was the only woman in her apartment and she was the attention of two men. Then Charel called and angrily invited herself over. How did this become such a strangled old love story? Especially considering no one here is really in love, not even very interested in each other. Bob always gets on Susan's nerves, he stares at her ass all too much. He doesn't buy the wholesome Christian look that she almost pulls off. He knows how she lost her virginity, so she'll never be able to sell her persona to Bob. The Chinese food has gotten cold; it's a shame Susan hadn't gotten around to buying a microwave yet. Bob offers a cigarette, the cloves do smell nice outside, but inside Susan protests. Charel takes one, she hates cigarettes, has asthma, but there's nothing like spiting your sister.
Charel and Susan could hardly be related. Charel started out as the good girl, granted her school work has always paled in comparison to Susan's academic endeavors, so much so that, even though Susan was younger, she graduated a year before her sister. This year gave her the opportunity to travel the world before college. Due to her distinct lack of any real friends, teachers aside, Susan saw the world alone. It was often lonely, but because the feeling of satisfying companionship had been entirely foreign, the loneliness was rather comforting.
Back to the cold Chinese food. Charel sat across from her sister. Allen was now being forced by three people to read his poems, why had he even written these anyhow? No one understood his first poem, not that it was bad or over their heads, they just couldn't understand the feeling of confused young man coming dreaming about making love to Michaelangelo's marble "David." The feelings of ambiguity, of isolation, of desolation, of suicide, of tremendous desire all because he was in love with his fifth grade gym teacher, Mr. Kizlarian.
Bob exhaled. "See what I mean," he interrupted the mood, "those kinds of surreal poems just go over everyone's head. Shit, I bet Allen doesn't even know what it means."
"He's gay, Bob." Susan shot an extraordinarily condescending look in the direction of the smoke clad in horrible black clothing.
"But Allen's fucked me before." Charel saw no reason to be anything but painfully blunt. "He saw me naked, he's been aroused by me, and I'm certainly a woman. Just this morning, he comes to my house and stares at any bit of my flesh that has some potential of becoming exposed. Didn't you, Allen? You know exactly where my freckles begin and end."
"Sexuality, what a fickle concept!" Exclaimed Susan, obviously uncomfortable with the thought of Susan being both fucked and attractive to Allen. Everyone thought Susan's remark was horribly trite, almost an insult. Bob needed to interject, sensing Susan's discomfort. He wanted to make Susan move around in her chair, across from her sister who had been fucked by her little friend. Jealousy seared her thoroughly. The twisted matter of the situation was that Allen was two years younger than Susan, was neither attractive nor intelligent. He was simply the property that the two sisters fought over, Charel had first met him and been intimate with him. Susan, who always won, had to become even better friends with him. Allen didn't especially like either sister, but he always got fed when he went to Susan's, and he could usually see some body part or another of Charel's when he went over her house. Charel lit a cigarette, this was the third man who had made love to her who later went on to admit his actual attraction to men. Something was odd. Allen had not said a word since the last line of his poem. He sat there and watched Bob smoke and Charel and Susan compete over him. Bob looked delicious.
Later that night, Bob was rather disappointed that Susan had so easily let him sleep next to her. Her perfumed pillows had some sickening affect and he was put into an odd unfulfilling sleep in which he dreamt that "David" was eating Chinese food with him in Allen's dorm room.
Allen left the apartment with Charel. She looked at his young face, no longer innocent in her eyes. She asked him if he would like a glass of wine at her place. He accepted, completely unattracted to her, now that he knew she would constantly be trying to seduce him. After they drained a nice long bottle of cheap red wine, Allen motioned to leave. Charel let him go, in no mood to entertain the boy any longer. Charel could never appreciate anything until it was taken away from her. She would let Allen forget about her, only then could she truly love him for his own self, removed from any romantic feelings that she convinced herself that she had towards a kid three years her junior. There was nothing to do alone in her apartment. She grew angry at no one. She thought of her sister and an anger burned itself inside her like acidic indigestion. Charel grew tired. Oddly her whole day had been occupied with Allen, from her morning shower to her final evening stupor. There was once a time when someone like Allen would not have even been considered, but she had lost some prowess that she once possessed. She had lost something that once came so easily to her that she didn't even know that what she had could exist outside of herself.
She thought once again of her sister. Charel telephoned her husband. He was far away, somewhere in Asia, the connection was selective, allowing her to hear only his iloveyou. He was so far away, too far. He didn't seem real anymore. She knew that he was the only man that had ever loved her, he was probably next to some naked, thin Singapore whore, who most certainly did not have scarlet public hair. It was very early in the morning where he was. She had woken him up and there was nothing to talk about. He had been away some months, there would be many months until they would see each other again, there would be nothing to catch up on. Her marriage made her sad, but there certainly was no reason to end it. She had her sexual freedom and financial stability. She would miss him at times like these, only when she had to be alone with her thoughts and only her own hands to caress her.
Charel's husband was the produce of Susan's year abroad. On her way back home from South Korea, she partook in an engaging conversation with a mediocre business man who had a vested interest in the Asian market. Charel picked Susan up from the airport and, although suffering from exhaustion due to extensive travel and jet lag, the two sisters and the businessman dined together at a restaurant near the airport. A strange attraction was shared between the professional and Charel; three months later the two eloped and he went off to live in disparate locales in Asia for nine months out of the year. He never invited her to go off to live with him; somehow, she didn't mind. They never agreed on extra-marital promiscuity, but they were equally unloyal together.
The night passed on. Charel sat alone in her poorly decorated bedroom. Working beyond her asthma, she smoked cigarette after cigarette. This is what it had come down to. This final loneliness. Charel undressed and sat naked on her bed. She could see many of her blood vessels through her pale, translucent skin. This was it. She saw the blood ebbing unconsciously and habitually in and out of her capillary beds, to the arteries, to the veins, and back again. Her mortality was thoughtless and cyclical. There was no end...yet. She was no longer the muse of boyish love poems. She was the woman who the confused men went to in order to sort out their disarrayed thoughts. She was the last step. She was the tax break her husband was looking for, the last woman the Allen needed to confirm his sexuality. She was the background through which her sister could shine and the tool who men could fuck with her mind. "Enough."
Charel sighed aloud, indifferent even to the way it came out of her mind. She had finished with it all, there was nothing more; only her bleak and used past could remind her of all that she had once lived for, she had once believed in love and in romance and in potential. It was all over. She just wanted to sleep, her thoughts were only slightly muddled from the red wine that served to flush her cheeks only slightly. Naked, she got up and walked around her apartment, the ugly wallpaper, the dried dishes, every room, what should have been a nursery, what should have been the study for her husband. In and out of every room, down the hallway, opening and closing doors. Nothing worked out the way it had. Allen had gone back to his dorm, masturbated in the shower and gone to bed dreaming of little Greek men in their togas with their round asses exposed. Yes, it was over. She was an old woman now. She had no wrinkles, no children, her breasts did not respond to the subtle pull of gravity. She had no grey hairs or pictures of her friends' grandchildren, but she was old and tired and worn out. She was done living her life, she was sure of it. She didn't cry, she didn't mourn herself. She just wanted to close her eyes and be done with it, this adventure of squinting eyes and always being wrong.
A bathroom connected to her bedroom. She was starting to get cold in her nakedness. She turned on the warm water and stepped into a scalding shower. Everything needed to change. The redness of her hair, the sexuality it implicated, she shaved it off. All of it, the neglected hair of her underarms, the unruly hair between her legs, it all was washed away and collected in a reddish lump by the drain. Completely bald, with the pale and sensitive skin of a newborn, Charel stepped out of the shower and didn't think to turn the water off or collect the mass of removed hair that was causing a pool of warm water to form at the bottom of the shower. She didn't towel herself off or wrap herself in the warmth of her burgundy robe.
Without looking at her bald reflection, she opened the medicine cabinet without haste. This was what it had come down to. This was the end. She felt the red wine in her blood speed the beating of her heart.
She withdrew the only little bottle that was in the cabinet. Scribbled on the bottle's label, in her own hand writing, the words "GOOD NIGHT, CHAREL" were written with red ink and were saved for rainy days such as these. It was time to end the day; she emptied the bottle. Still quite damp and increasingly chilled, Charel laid down alone on her bed. She closed her eyes, and fell asleep.
...on to Chapter Nineteen...
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