This piece I wrote after a particularly emotional weekend of watching the movie Sylvia about Sylvia Plath and reading her poetry and The Bell Jar. It's entered in several fiction competitions so if I happen to win any of them I will have to take it off this site. I would love any feedback you might have and be warned, it's not a very 'nice' piece per se. Read with caution I suppose.
Ezra sat in the bar on his own, he looked creepy and sad. Unfortunately for him and for the uncomfortable patrons that shared the bar with him he looked every single inch the junkie that he in fact was. With his dark greasy head down and forehead parallel to the shiny bar he could watch his reflection ever changing along the grains of wood shellacked upon it’s surface. He himself was unsure why he came to this particular bar but it may have been the only one he could ever remember going to. As a younger man he hadn’t been very much the bar going type.
Starting at around 7pm that evening Ezra rose from his spot at the bar and made as though he were going to leave much to the satisfaction of the other clientele and the bartender. When he stood his clothing uncrumpled around him and straightened like starched garments, bland in color and in fashion. He left a dollar on the bar although he did not order a drink and walked with a lumbering gait to the restroom at the very back of the bar, ten feet away from where he had been sitting. When he exited the restroom he passed up his spot at the bar as if he were on his way out of the establishment and instead upon reaching the large mahogany doorway he made an about face, finally lifting his countenance to the appropriate human angle and took in his surroundings for a short moment. Obviously liking what he finally saw around him or making his mind up about something even unrelated to the environment he then returned to his seat at the bar, head down again, fixed gaze again. He did this about every hour on the hour until last call. Every other time he did this he would with voice exiting directly to the bar below him ask for a draft beer and a glass of water. The bartender later commented that Ezra’s voice was sure and steady, with an almost attractive quality belying his appearance.
If we could peer inside Ezra’s mind, first parting the thick swathes of brown unwashed hair, tangled upon tangles, then making a polite incision in the side of his pock marked face, marked by the uncontrollable picking he did at teenage acne, we could peal apart that marked dotted skin and the blood would flush from the parted piece and it would lay lifeless and limp from his skull, dead tissue opposing the owner’s deadened psyche.
But if we could do all that (and I’m sure that some could) we might then be privy to the fact that Ezra had suffered abuse at the hands of a much older man for many, many torturous years. Ezra was a few months older than 12 when the man his parents trusted and later took blackmailed amounts of cash from first entered him. Sometimes Ezra would be glad for the attention, shut off the pain or the embarrassment just long enough to enjoy some of the hurried caresses on his pimply cheek or equally pimply back. Other times he would black out, possibly drugged and not care until later when he felt sore and misused and sick. Then he would cry in his mother flaccid arms, breathe in the smoke she carelessly blew in his face. She would say, “There, there Ezra. Go to your room. I’m going to work.” And she did go to work, she wasn’t a fat prostitute or a careless junkie abusing Ezra in the strangely forgivable ways. She was just a tired woman who worked and had a tired husband who worked and the combined nature of the two were too uninterested and yes even too tired to care what happened to their son.
Ezra remembered his abuser better than he remembered his own father. He supposed when able to suppose anything at all that he never really looked at his father, just looked through him. He always had ample time to look at his abuser long and hard before the man would mount him sweatily. Ezra would study the man’s thin black hair which was oddly Hitleresque and if it was a toupee it surely didn’t move during this man’s heavy exacerbation upon Ezra’s orifices. His abuser had a Pekingnese nose which sparkled with snot upon ejaculation and a thin drawn mouth which oddly disappeared into the heavy recesses of his ridiculously fat chin and neck with every strange and awkward thrust.
That night at the bar Ezra didn’t think about the atrocities he endured as a child, he didn’t fill his thoughts with venomous clouds of puff for his mother’s inabilities or perhaps joint guilt, he didn’t plot revenge or feel despair.
The whole night he instead thought of a girl that he loved once. A girl that loved him too, if only for a brief moment. She gave him momentary joy and yes, although Ezra was abused and horribly scarred he had lived a fairly normal life, partied with his fairly normal friends, attending school and college with fairly normal results. It was during these college years at an fairly common college party that he met his girl. He fell in love with her almost instantly in an annoying and clichely cloy fashion. He followed her around his own house party all evening long, memorizing the lines of her round body in order to fantasize about her body while attempting to work himself into masturbatory sleepiness. Her face was generally plain but her generous mouth more than made up for it. Her clothes were bright and her shoes very boyish. Her dark hair was as generous as her mouth and stopped like puffs of clouds lingering above her shoulders as if they were threatening to rain on her.
Her friend introduced Ezra to her at some point in that casual way young people introduce each other.
“Oh, Jane. This is Ezra. This is his house.”
“His house! Ha! I had no idea. Well Ezra, thanks for letting us trash your house.” She put her arms around his slouched shoulders and he was so very glad he was sitting because she pulled his head into her breasts and gave him a tight squeeze. Why would she do that?
“Thanks. Well, whatever I mean. You can come here anytime you want. There’s a lot of people who live here.” His face burned on the inside but his pallor never changed on the outside. So strange he was.
And it was true, the giant house was given to him by his abuser to do with as he so fit. He had parties, slept in different rooms, on the floor, on the velvet purple couch with the painted golden tassels, in the top floor’s claw foot tub just because he has seen it done in the movies. People came and went, squatted there. His mother came and cleaned, left without saying a word to him. He would fill up makeshift ashtrays with half smoked cigarette after cigarette, eat whatever was in his path and then left it where he had eaten it, left it sitting discarded and then rotting. He sold drugs, bought drugs, dealt with scary large black men with even scarier larger black guns and didn’t feel one iota of fear. Didn’t feel one thing until he met Jane.
That night she said one or two words more to him but he did notice her every so often peaking her slanted small eyes at him. He had seen that type of interest on many people’s faces before, the ‘what’s wrong with Ezra?’ look, the ‘why is he like this?’ look, the pitying glances from Jane were enough to make him lock himself in the aforementioned top floor bathroom and shoot up enough dope to put him to sleep, take him to that brink of sleeping and dying he loved so much, or thought he loved so much considering he could never really remember the actual physical feeling of it.
Two days after meeting Jane she came around to his house again, this time in the day, this time wearing much less bright clothes but no less boyish shoes. Her hair shot out in two blunt horns off the back of her head and on the very top she wore a big red bow, clipped on to one curl brushed off of her forehead and pinned back the the top of her skull.
He didn’t hear her come in to his house, didn’t hear her rummage through the rickety yellowed cupboards looking for cleaning supplies and food. Didn’t hear her swear under her breath when she couldn’t find any. Didn’t hear her leave and come back again laden with bags of the supplies she had been previously searching for and bags of groceries to fill his fridge which had never seen a piece of fresh fruit once ever in four years. Ezra only saw her hours later at his sink washing the fifth load of dishes since she had started. She had made a makeshift vacuum out of a plastic weed baggy and a rubber band and swept his house with the old red sweeper his Mom had brought over months ago and had promptly forgotten about. She had scrubbed the yellowed cabinets and had found with satisfaction they were white underneath. She had cleaned every bathroom, although Ezra winced at the idea of her wading through the filth and fecal matter, the drug paraphernalia, the festering sickness of it all.
She poured him a gingerale with ice and made him a tomato sandwich with miracle whip and swiss cheese. She sat across from him at the table he never even realized was there before and watched him eat, chin resting in two adorable tiny hands. Although he was aware how ravenous and animal like he must have appeared to her he was always beyond caring what others thought about him. Not for an innate sense of being judged but rather for an innate laziness and the knowledge that people will always despise him in the end, that he was rotten inside. So why even try?
She took his clothes from his house in giant black bags and he doggedly followed her into the street and to the neighborhood laundromat, which he never had once entered. She washed his clothes, folded them, asked a neighbor for the use of some of her laundry baskets because she didn’t dare put his clothes back into the bags she originally transported them.
“Murphy’s Law Ezra. Aren’t you a biology major or something like that?”
He followed her the whole time, watching her little body sway while she sang to herself, head bobbing to the sound of whatever was in her head. She barely said a word to him the whole time but didn’t seem to dislike the fact that he was there following her.
After the laundry, filling the never used dresser like she had the never used cupboards and refrigerator she told him she would be right back and left, closely the door gently behind her.
Although fairly certain she would never come back he didn’t not return to the top floor restroom he had spent the last two days in since the party and shoot up the remainder of the mind numbing drugs. He instead went from room to room to inspect Jane’s work. The phone rang and instead of it echoing from somewhere amidst the hoarded junk and filth the phone rang clear and true from an end table in the front hall of his home. He answered it. “Hello.”
“Is this Ezra Horowitz?”, a stern voice inquired on other line.
“Ummmm....” Ezra wasn’t sure how to answer, his mind was still foggy and suspicious from the drugs.
“We’re looking for the son of Mathilda Seymour Horowitz. His name is Ezra, do you know him? Are you him?” Not so stern anymore but unmistakably impatient.
“Sure, this is Ezra.” Why not?
“Ezra, your mother was injured outside of her workplace in a drive by shooting. Obviously she wasn’t the target but she was seriously injured. She is at St. Sylvester’s on W. Brady St. Do you know where that is?” Now the voice was kinder, still impatient. Ezra wondered if the woman he was speaking with wore one of those folded nurse’s hats. Did they still wear those? Had they ever wore them or was he just imagining that? He made up his mind to ask the voice on the other line if she was wearing at hat when she abruptly interrupted his thoughts.
“Well Mr. Horowitz, your mother’s information shows you are her only contact. You should come and be with her. She’s quite damaged and sadly to say in a lot of pain.” The voice was wrapping up her call, passing the buck now. She had done all she could do.
“Thank you for calling.” And Ezra gently set the phone in the receiver. He had expected to cry upon first hearing the voice’s news but the tears in his glassy and practically colorless light eyes remained orbital, never left his lids or slid onto his cheek. He didn’t blink until they were finally dry and then he laid down on the couch to wait for Jane in the dark.
She arrived an hour later laden with more shopping bags. She had bought Ezra linens and a comforter for his bed, socks and boxers, under shirts and button up flannel shirts and three pairs of cargo pants. One grey, one olive and one khaki. She even bought him a pair of thick bulky pajama pants and a matching fluffy and almost feminine pajama hoodie.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash and handed it to her. She took it without any argument and put it into her purse.
She made him noodles with butter and basil and parmasen and watched him eat just like at lunch time. She washed the dishes and they went to the only bed in the house with the new linens she had bought and made the bed together. Jane took off her clothes and Ezra took off his and went and took a shower in the tub he thought he would only ever sleep and shoot up in. Washed and fairly hygienic for the first times in years he got in bed with Jane and made her come with his mouth. She rolled and sighed and groaned but nothing was stirred in his continuously slack organ. The only thing that was stirred that night other than Jane’s clit was his heart.
The next morning when he woke up she was gone. There was oatmeal sitting in the microwave with a yellow note stuck the front of the machine. “Eat up. Enjoy your new clean house. Goodbye Ezra.”
He never saw Jane again.
Now he was sitting at the bar, thinking about her. As he stared and barely moved other than to blindly take small sips of the beers or water he ordered every other hour he imagined her like a tiny little gargoyle perched on his shoulder, making some absurd face and grimacing at the smell of him.
“This is going to be last call.” The bartender directed this at the remaining three people, Ezra and a couple at a table as far away from him as they could get and still be in the bar.
Ezra raised his head and smiled at the bartender shyly. He rummaged in his pocket, pull out a crumply and visibly dirty $50 bill on the bar and slowly smoothed it out with one large pale hand, blunt fingers making sure the edges were flattened and the bill was laying out entirely. He stood there for a moment, staring at nothing in particular and headed to the restroom once again.
Later the bartender told the police that there was only two shakes of a lamb’s tail before he heard one loud, ear shattering boom. He ran to the back to find Ezra slumped next to the bar’s one dirty urinal, terrifying black gun lying alien like on the beige and black checkered tile. His head was bloody and misshapen and his neck and back was partially slumped over his sitting body. In his left hand, unfolded and straightened out like the $50 bill on the bar was Jane’s microwave note.
“Eat up. Enjoy your new clean house. Goodbye Ezra.”