MAN AND WOMAN DROWNING
The light of dawn moves over the surface of the Indian Ocean. A remnant of the airliner’s fuselage and wing still floats. On the wing a woman huddles on her hands and knees. She is wearing a wedding dress. She trembles against the remains of the fuselage. She whispers inarticulate prayers. Little white waves flash like sharp white teeth and lap the edge of the rocking wreckage.
She raises her eyes to the undulating debris field which is horrifyingly adorned with floating wedding garlands. She cries out in her hoarse voice, “Is! Anybody! Here?!” Her head drops in weariness.
There is a loud splash. She looks up. A corpse of a man in a tuxedo suddenly bobs up in the floating debris field and then moves rapidly through the water toward her. She screams. The shark pulling the body then drags that puppet corpse below the water. She begins to sob in terror knowing that The Wicked One himself must be tormenting her.
The wing and fuselage remnant creaks mournfully and begins to sink. She screams. The skirt of her wedding gown becomes heavy with the rising water. It is pulling her down with the wreckage. She hears a voice calling to her.
Suddenly she wakes up in her own bedroom with a gasp.
Shakti leaps from her water bed and immediately paces, deliberately stomping her bare heels as loudly as she can, “Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God…”
The dawn light is gently illuminating her bedroom but she turns on every light. She goes into her bathroom and runs the tap for a glass of water, but hesitates, thinks twice, and turns it off.
“A cigarette,” she invocates. Shakti opens a drawer and paws in the back of it for the forbidden secret emergency cigarette. She lights it as she fumbles with the television remote and turns on the TV and showing is Bridezillas, “Of course,” she mutters and turns up the volume anyway.
Shakti impulsively calls her fiancé who waits in India, “Oh, Raj, thank goodness, good morning. Ok, good evening. Yes, everything is fine. No, I am not smoking; I was … blowing my nails dry. Yes, the nail polish your mother sent to me. I just needed to hear your voice. I had the most terrible dream… what? Yes, of course I still love you, but… No, no, Raj … dearest, I told you a hundred times that you are being silly: I am not having second thoughts, so please stop saying that. Beloved, I am watching a show this very minute all about weddings but I had the most terrible dream. That’s right. It doesn’t mean I don’t… Every girl is afraid before her wed… ok, I meant ‘anxious’… ok, then, ‘excited’… Well, then, you should see how the women in this wedding show are reacting… It doesn’t matter: today’s women are themselves… No, of course I’m not forgetting Indian values… Ok, ok, my dearest beloved, I will let you get back to your dinner. I love you, too. Please tell your mother and father ‘hello’ for me. Yes… Yes… Someday I will be proud to learn to cook like your mother. Raj… Raj… You know …,” Shakti did not want to hang up just yet.
“You are always in my dreams.”
‘Wearing a tuxedo’ she suddenly thinks as she realizes the irony of her farewell. But Raj has already gone.
Shakti begins to dress for work without taking a shower. She just cannot take a shower right now. Instead, she dabs scented oils in several unusual places. She brushes her hair in creative ways in order to calm her feral sleep-tangles.
Shakti then stops herself before the portrait of Lord Ganesh upon her dresser. She takes two pieces of paper and upon one in blue ink and upon the other in green ink she writes furiously two different letters.
Next, Shakti lights a small candle and drips a little wax into a white dish. She anchors the candle upon the wax. She stares into the tiny flame and recites, “Oh Great Ganesh, here I am with so many obstacles to work around and with so many decisions to make. Please break all the obstacles obscuring alternate solutions and help me accomplish goals written in these letters.”
Shakti now holds the edges of both letters up to the candle flame and then she lets both letters drop into the white dish and burn as she chants, “Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha”. When there is finally only cold ash left of the two letters she extinguishes the candle and blows the ashes into a convenient Zip-Loc bag.
She tucks the Zip-Loc under the pillow of her unmade bed.
Finally she exits, “Early to work for the first time,” she wryly observes.
In the floating debris field there is a man’s head and shoulders bobbing above the water. His head is thrown back and his mouth is open and he slowly rotates in the passing swells. He floats still strapped into his seat. A woman’s voice nearby is shouting hoarsely, “Is! Anybody! Here?” He twitches in a sign of life. There is a loud splash. A woman screams.
The man gasps into consciousness. He rolls uncontrollably upside-down strapped into the seat. He fumbles with the seat-belt and kicks free and away under water. He surfaces gasping and glances all around in confusion. A woman screams again. The scream comes from a large remnant of the airliner’s fuselage and wing and so he dog-paddles toward it.
He now realizes that the remnant of the fuselage and wing is sinking. He swims around it and sees the woman. She is wearing a wedding gown and she is shaking her hands in shear panic as the water is reaching her waist. She is now hysterically tearing off the gown and doesn’t see him or hear him calling to her, “Hey! Hey!”
He can feel the airplane wing under his feet now and he lunges to catch the woman as she faints. He tears the rest of her heavy wedding gown off of her. He holds her tightly.
He suddenly sees a man in a tuxedo bob up in the floating debris field and the man hollers “Shakti!” The tuxedo man then rolls over and reveals only a severed torso.
The fuselage and wing have stopped sinking. He holds the woman’s face close to his own. It is Shakti from work! She is soft and they are warm together. He presses his lips to hers. She opens her eyes to him.
Brodie shudders awake and lifts his face from the couch where he had passed-out prone drunk crying the night before. He rises to his knees on the couch and there is a clatter of empty cans. He lowers one leg to the floor and steps bare-foot onto a slice of pizza.
Brodie takes off his V-shirt and uses it to wipe his foot. He throws the shirt into the empty pizza box on the coffee table. The box and shirt slide off onto the floor. He slumps back shirtless onto the couch in defeat and surveys the damage. Since his wife had left him a month ago this place has become a garbage dump.
Brodie tousles his own hair. He strokes his jaw. It feels like only one day since he shaved. Good. But he smoked a pack of cigarettes last night. He leans forward and sips from the flask of Gran Marnier liqueur on the coffee table, swishing it in his mouth and between his teeth and then gargling. He swallows and exhales, “Sophisticated.” He then drips some Gran Marnier into his palm and rubs his hands together and sniffs the aroma of orange liqueur and then smears it under both arms and across his chest. Now he won’t need to shower. He isn’t sure if he could keep his balance anyway, “So, safety first.”
As he pulls on his clothes for work he observes the wrinkles and purses his lips as he begins choke on memories so he tells himself, “So what? Who are you trying to impress?”
He rubs his eye then he remembers his dream. “Shakti,” he muses to his reflection, “She is hot. You like her but you never thought about her like that before. Did you? Maybe. Not officially. You do spend a lot of time talking to her at work. But it’s too late now. She’s supposed to fly to India and get married next month.”
Brodie can hear his reflection thinking, “So? You were supposed to be married and now you’re not.”
“Yeah. Hell, I’d marry Shakti for her laugh alone,” and then he shakes his head to expel that notion as if he were a dog shaking off water.
When he was married Brodie had never left for work this early.
The parking lot is nearly empty at this early hour.
As Brodie parks he notices Shakti shuffling toward the offices, What are the odds? “Hey, Shakti, did you forget to go home?”
Shakti stops and looks over at Brodie and smiles, Oh, thank you, God. He’s one of the guys I actually like talking to.
He hustles to her side, thinking, What exactly am I doing?
“No rest for the wicked ones, right?” shrugs Shakti, Poor guy. He’s a mess since his wife left him. Still, there is something sexy rugged here even if he is scruffy. “Welcome back,” she teases. Scruffy? I should talk. He smells good. I could bite him! “Working on the company song?” She laughs. Shakti! You’re engaged.
“Catching up,” There is that sweet laugh, like tinkling bells. I love that laugh. She smells good. I would lick every inch. Why does she have to be engaged? Brodie responds, “I can get a lot done at work early when no one is interrupting me with their problems,” Shakti looks kind of wild this morning, sexy, “What are you doing here so early?”
With a wry grin she says, “Oh, earning that imaginary raise and imaginary bonus, of course,” What is happening here? I think he feels it, too. Wait, I’m not thinking straight. I’m engaged.
Brodie says, thinking, I can’t believe I’m doing this, “Look, I haven’t even had any coffee yet,” I must still be drunk, “Would you like to go to Ahab’s with me? Oh, so what? It’s only coffee, “I’ll buy,” Are you out of your mind? She’s engaged. What is going to come of this? Are you so fucked up that you want to fuck up her life too?
“Sounds good, actually. You are on, ‘Mister Brodie’,” and then Shakti pinches her lower lip, saying softly, “You wouldn’t happen to have a cigarette, would you?”
“You know, ‘Miss Shakti’, I think I do.”
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