Some Things Never Change

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When Eden was eighteen, her uncle told her countless tales of life in the desert. He lived there for many years. Perfect, he said, because the people there had inhibitions. People in the rest of the world never think twice to share. To think everything, everyplace, everyone can be shared. They enter with a sense of purpose and possession.
No matter the faith or indecision, one strives to enter another. They lack independence as much as conviction. Far from orderly or enlightened, they idle together within dark, tender cradles of filth.
“Those people insist upon cleanliness,” he explained. “They take great exception to hallowed ground.”
There were virtually no squatters, he claimed, because ghosts would dwell in abandoned sites and the ruins of old temples. They took many shapes; but unlike living beings, they were not borne from the earth. Ghosts were instead borne by fire.
One day, according to her uncle, a modest lady indulged the wiles of a sheikh. She was a reserved, proud woman who strove to disprove those who infantilized her. The sheikh, an aristocrat clad in a sumptuous kaftan, dared her to peek into a deserted mosque. Minutes after she accepted the challenge, her screams could be heard for miles. She threw herself on the ground, wracked by spasms as if hands swam beneath her skirt, until the sheikh gathered her in his arms. The woman did not go slack, but silenced. She thrashed to seek the hands which unravelled her veil and the silken flesh whose sperm anointed her intimates.
Except the sheikh had long since fled for an imam and villagers.
They returned to find the woman hysterical. Her every peak was erect.
The nipples.
The clitoris.
The hungry mouth.
Writhing, glistening, she was seared by an invisible flame.
Even after they had locked her in a sanctified suite, the flame could not be extinguished.
This story terrified Eden. The idea of a phantom that could burrow between her legs...
And the mortals who could fulfill what remained vacant.
Then, she remembered that her uncle was an idealist. He lived in an ideal world, not a real one.
Now, Eden reclines on a couch. Its tapestry reminds her of fire. Its rosy patchwork is bleached by the sun and bursts into a pirouette of sparks. The fabric has begun to unravel and exposes wadding caged within a bed of iron.
Residing between a condemned plaza and seedy block, the Fenwick Lodge is seldom inclined to renounce its neighbours. Its name hangs askew beneath pallid lights while available units and amenities are conscripted below in tarred cursive. Eden finds herself at a Thanksgiving potluck in one of its units. Time wears on the interior. The walls are covered by hackneyed placards and pamphlets. Notices and chains underscore the endless renovation efforts of the complex that is marred by a spate of indignities.
Eden can relate.
She feels heavy.
The prattle of small talk used to be a welcome distraction, but she can no longer idle in conversation. She wishes that she could’ve talked herself out of studying, dreaming, thinking too hard. If then, she never would’ve ventured into university and the endless albeit not entirely trivial pursuit. She recalls her small hometown and all of her friends who had grown to resemble their predecessors of hard labourers and housewives. As hopeless as it was, they patronized and emulated vapid cults of personality. Eden has outgrown that. The Fenwick Lodge kind of looks like her high school: a storeyed edifice of wooded up windows, corridors, and overgrown weeds which thrive despite the enclosure of a russet chain link fence.
Eden peers toward a cute guest whose eyes meet hers. Her heart takes a dive. A numbness tears along the surface of her skin. She can’t reconcile his charm with the guise of hospitality. Eden tells herself to get a grip.
Stand there.
Stand back.
Don’t say anything.
‘Don’t say anything stupid.’
Sheepishly, the host admits the turkey might be undercooked. They eye the bird, then crank the burners on the stove and juggle the pan over them.
Eden’s eyes dart back to the cute guest. His name is John, she overhears. The smoky scent of his aftershave climbs into her nostrils.
A stench of smoke later wafts like incense. Eden arches as if to emulate its tendrils.
Eventually, the stuffed turkey steams before them on a pullout table. It mists between pulpy starches and roasted greens.
Over the course of the evening, Eden feels her cheeks burn whenever she steals a glance at John. She is drawn to his hands, always pocketed, connected to virile wrists clefted by thick biceps. For some reason, his stance reminds her of an abandoned dockyard that loomed outside over her hometown. She used to cast stones through its windows when she was younger. Her block lay in its shadow, a rusty legacy of bygone seafarers. It evinced the successful campaign of the old mayor, a former fisherman, who swore to revitalize the industry.
Except everything was capsized by the new highway.
Still, the wharf resolved to find purpose and fulfilled such with the invariability of the setting sun. It stood against the fierce current and acrid sea salt. Long after it was shuttered, shadows of movement floated within. Pickups loaded with fresh catches parked on its smashed asphalt.
Just a rusty legacy of a time she knew never was. You could see its steel for miles.
Eden remembers stealing through its windows and trudging along the gutted interior to climb the odd stairs. Even though the town stayed the same, the view was different every time she came to the top. Cars, people, even the clouds overhead had moved or vanished.
‘The more things change…’
John declares that he made the stuffing when Eden approaches the scrumptious spread. For the first time that night, her gaze narrows into his. She notices his glare is steady, refined bu

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Written by Fallen Kittie
Cargado June 29, 2021
Notes There is a current between Eden and John. It rains on her, harder and harder, with each step.
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