Vodka, Easels and The Outside Out There

June 4, 2009
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I watch my pace as I work my way up the black, wiry steps on the side of the apartment building. I’m holding an unlit cigarette and a stemless goblet of rich vodka. Society views me as a reckless, brash, vivacious, free-spirited symbol of edgy, mod glamour. But it’s not true. I’m Sophie Giles, a challenged artist, a woman that has just learned about the world that exists beyond being constrained. I always asked myself what it would be like to discover life, to get outside of myself because I know there is hope.

When I’m on these perplexing steps, I feel like I’m entwined in the possibilities of becoming as graceful as the people I’ll be living with: an artist named Tegan, a poet named Avery, and a fortune teller named Vaughn. I can only hope it will help me to stray away from the voluptuous and close-minded lifestyle I endured while living with my parents and help me pave my own life, the life I never discovered in a grungy, underground style.

I know Quinn, my boyfriend, doesn’t want me to move into this apartment, but I think he may be excessively concerned about the ability humans have to change their behaviors and morals. He just doesn’t want me to go through a perilous experience as his mother did when she was my age, but he’s still supportive of my interest in art. He tells me, “I’m telling you, doll, the drugs are just like a violin’s music.” When I asked him what it meant the first time he told me, “Violins play that creepy music. It’s music that will seep into your hair strands and color them with smoke that flows so lurky, without being ominous. You won’t even realize they’re getting to you, my mom told me.”

I almost reach the top of the steps, but one of my stiletto heels catches itself into a crevice at a landing. I grapple with the vodka and the cigarette falls. I grit my teeth and quietly grunt as I try to pull the heel out. Then, a whistle playfully screeches from below the landing and I’m surprised to see a young girl. She looks around 21, somewhere around my age. She shows a soft smile that reminds me of sunshine rays beaming on a peeled orange, a perfect, splendid blend of happiness. She’s pretty, with platinum blonde hair styled in a short bob with bangs straight across her forehead, round eyes that look nourished. They have a beautiful effect of a sun drowning in polychromatic colors. They’re a mix of green, blue, hazel, and brown. She has flawless pale skin and sharp facial features, something the modeling agencies I worked for adore.

“Do you need help up there?” she asks, coming towards me. As she walks up, she lightly traces her finger along the bricks of the building, not making eye contact, just turning her head to the side as if to give me a view of her profile.

“No, dear. I think I got it,” I say, starting to lift my ankle. It comes out of the crevice and I stumble a little but she makes it up to me in time to stop me from falling. “Thank you,” I say and smile at her.

“Anything I can do to help out a new roommate,” she says and runs up the steps with excitement. “Come on! I’m going to show you the place. I’m Tegan! I’m the one that talked to you on the phone about coming here, in case you didn’t remember.”

Smiling, I calmly reply “I’m Sophie Giles. Of course I remember you. You were such a sweetheart.” Then, I take off my stilettos and start running up the steps to follow her.

“There you go! I’m really happy to know you’re going to be living with us. You’re a good character, I can tell, and you’re damn gorgeous!” she exclaims as she reaches a doorway. “I’m going to go in real quick and make us some tea, if you’d enjoy that.”

“Yes, I love tea.” We exchange smiles. Then, instead of walking through the already open doorway, she opens a window and quickly climbs in.

As I approach the doorway, she runs to the door and almost closes it but leaves a crack adequately sized so that we can make eye contact. I laugh, assuming she’s being playful based on how she’s acted so far. She doesn’t laugh back, smile, or open the door, though. Her face remains still. I take a swig of my vodka and then put the goblet towards her, but she shakes her head

“Do I need to give you some of this to get in?” I ask. She shakes her head again and looks down at my hand with the cigarette.

“Vaughn says to go to your parents’ for one more night and come back tomorrow,” she says in a quiet voice, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience. There’s no personal reason, really.”

I’d rather not be inquisitive, so I fight the urge. “Oh, that’s fine. It was nice meeting you,” I tell her as I start down the steps, certain that she’s watching me. When I reach the landing, she runs down and hugs me.

“It was nice meeting you too, darling,” she says and runs back up to the apartment. I smile and sip vodka, walk down the rest of the steps smiling, trying to imitate Tegan’s gorgeous smile. I barely know her now, but I get the sensation that I’m really going to enjoy her. There’s just something odd about her.

I get in a taxi and look around at all the families I see walking together. I see a mother and a daughter sitting outside of an ice cream shop Pink Penguins sharing a cone with many scoops of various flavored ice cream colors. The daughter lightly dips her finger into the scoop of orange ice cream and dabs it onto her mother’s nose. The mother laughs and when they exchange smiles, the daughter beams to expose the tiny, spaced out squares in her mouth, I let my eyelids slowly slide down my corneas that are becoming too moist. I’m not sure if I’m ready to move out yet, after all. There’s always hope for change, even in the most bitter people.

When I get back to my parents’ loft though, I feel drowsy. Everything about this place ruins me, kills my spirit, and deteriorates the youthful gaiety I have left. My mom and dad never supported my interest in art. The fact that after eleven years of telling me art will get me nowhere in life and no respect and how I’m finally pursuing it makes them feel like they wasted their time. I walk into the living room and see my mom and dad sitting on the white sofa in front of the fireplace.

“I’m staying here for one more night,” I dreadfully announce. My parents turn around to look at me and my mother notices my ankle. Her unctuous smile slips right off of her face, as usual. Her tight, pale skin, doe, dark brown eyes, and light blonde hair make me feel as if I’m staring at myself. I can’t take it. I don’t want to look like her. She only cares about wealth. She doesn’t realize human beings are blessed with life and passions.

She looks at my father and then back at me to ask, “Now, why are you back here so early? Carl, I told you, she’d be back before she knew it.”
My father sets his eyes down on the couch cushions and puts a hand through his chestnut brown hair.

“I’m not sure,” I state quietly, “but I’m leaving tomorrow. I’m going out with Quinn right now.”

She rolls her eyes, “Where are you going?

“We’re going to an art studio that just opened. Goodbye,” I say, rushing to leave now.

“Oh God,” she says in a disgusted manner.

Quinn and I saunter down Eleysha Avenue and everything feels so deific. The blue sky is blissful but it’s not noticeable, not to me, Quinn, or any of the strangers on Eleysha Avenue. It’s a separate piece from this street. The pavement on Eleysha Avenue is polluted mainly with cigarette butts and releases musty, grimy scents from sewers. Most of the people are gritty, smudged with what looks like smoky bits of black charcoal, their hair is unkempt and looks like rough string made of decaying hay, and their bodies are moving flesh, carrying as many diseases as the pigeons. The pigeons are fearless and leap everywhere in my path, spreading their wings to veil more misery onto the people. Everyone here looks sick and just looking at their drooping faces lets me know that they want more than anything to find a way out. Then, I look at the sky again and it reminds me that opposites sometimes do collide, like joy and fresh and gloom and filthy. I grab Quinn’s hand as we pass an old couple sitting on a bench that have sulking cheeks and are staring into the distance. I feel like death may be chanting a lullaby to them. They don’t pay attention to each other or anything else surrounding them. It’s just as if the fragments of their skulls are beginning to soften and feel like sparkle shedding stars. They just sit there still as death’s hand is just grappling onto their heads and corroding their eyes, while he makes them feed on cathartics to get rid of all their insides. They’re allowing themselves to die.
“What’s wrong?” Quinn asks me, noticing that I’m staring at this old couple with fright on my face. My lips leave a slight crack in the middle (so that there’s a very small “o” between them) and my eyebrows are a little bit raised.

“Them,” I say.

“What about them?”

“They’re so elderly and decrepit. It frightens me, Quinn. I don’t want to live old. I don’t want us to live old. Think of what we would look like, how we would be,” I say as we cross the street to get to Fuse Gallery.

“Maybe we can do the math now to subtract years from our lives while we’re still young then,” he says, while we’re on the curb waiting for the traffic light to signal for traffic to stop. He turns my face to him, with the palm of his hand cupping my jaw line. I adore his shortly cut black hair, subtly tan skin, divine doll facial structure, and grey-green eyes that seemed to always tell his secrets. We lightly smile at each other and I close my eyelids for a few seconds and breathe in.

“I love you,” I say, without paying attention. Just then, it feels like my heart is coruscating. It’s a feeling I can’t completely explain, but usually happens when I know I did something impulsive and would normally not want to do. I love being impulsive and I love spontaneity because I just hate the way that most people already have their lives planned out for them. They contemplate their future excessively and fret over it, paying no attention to the present, but I don’t think I would ever lose myself by telling someone I love them. I think Quinn is about to tell me he loves me too. This would be the first time we both said it to each other, but I really wish he wouldn’t tell me he did because I know he’d be lying, just like I did. So I try to change the subject while opening my eyes and notice the streetlight glows red and we cross the street. I ask, “Don’t you hate when people ask you if you could choose a fate which one would it be?”

“Sort of. I mean, sometimes I just wish that life would be handed to us on a silver platter because it would make things easier. Sometimes, I enjoy the life I have now because I know it’s not perfect,” he says.

“We should try to find the damn fountain,” I say with a little chuckle.

“What? Ahhh, that one that promises eternal youth! Yes,” he says, while opening the door to the gallery.

When we get inside, the place seems like it’s a signature location of Jackson Pollock. The walls are covered with action paintings and I try to imagine the movement that had to go with this spontaneous and vigorous art. Though, the sweeping brushstrokes and the chance effects of dripping and spilled paint on the walls are somewhat overpowered by astounding psychedelic pieces.

A man that has black and gray strands of hair closely trimmed to his scalp, short, wide ears that stick out from the side of his heart-shaped face, and sulking facial features approaches Quinn and I. He has an awkward face that makes him look slightly constipated and agitated; his jaw line is tense, his bushy eyebrows are crunching into the bridge of his nose, and his dull, dark brown eyes are fixated upwards, but occasionally he levels his gaze on our faces. He gets over to us and sees us looking at one of the psychedelic pieces that has some sort of demon, angel, and sunflower blended into the illustration.

“Ahhh, Tegan drew this one,” he says while looking at me.

I gaze at him and scrutinize his physical features to determine if I’ve ever met him before or not. I realize who he is and ask, “You’re Vaughn, aren’t you?”

“Why, yes, I am,” he says while nodding his head. Quinn smiles at Vaughn and Vaughn puts on a stupid forced smile that makes him look like he’s disgusted. “You see, this piece was inspired by the psychedelic experience induced by LSD that Tegan had.”

I smile when I imagine Tegan crawling through the window of her apartment and Quinn stares at the picture in awe and nods his head to show some sort of approval.

“I see it all. She has copious marvelous patterns throughout the piece,” Quinn says. He swirls his finger above the surface of the piece and says to me, “Do you see all the kaleidoscopically swirling patterns of LSD hallucinations?”

“Yes,” I say. “I met her before. She’s very pretty. Such a character too.”

“Oh, yes,” Vaughn says coming in between Quinn and I, disregarding the fact that we’re a couple holding hands. We loosen our grips from on each other as he turns to me and asks, “May I talk to you in private?”

“Of course,” I say and lift my chin up a little to look at Quinn. He nods nonchalantly and walks away.

Vaughn turns around and looks after Quinn quickly and then faces me again. “We won’t let you move in tonight because of Tegan,” he says while slightly bobbing his head with each syllable he pronounces. He pauses for a moment and squints his eyes while pressing his hand against the side of his face. “She’s a lesbian.”

I breathe in and open my mouth as if I’m going to say something, but I just slowly nod my head twice.

“I knew you and Quinn were in a relationship and I didn’t want things to turn out disastrous,” Vaughn says.

“How would have things turned out disastrous?” I ask. I glance over at Quinn as he serves himself a glass of red wine by a painting that had a naked, voluptuous woman (who looked like she was taken out of a piece of Renaissance art) standing on the ledge of a high-rise while taking a bite of an apple.

“She was going to get into you and come onto you majorly if you stayed tonight. I just saw it coming,” Vaughn says.

I nod, recalling he was a fortune-teller and probably chose the right thing to do. I still don’t understand how one night could make a difference in the relationship Tegan and I would eventually form. I ask, “Well, how are things going to be different if I go tomorrow than if I came tonight?”

“She’s coming here tonight. Introduce her to Quinn and just make it obvious you are in a relationship.” He pauses and turns slightly to look at Quinn, who is still standing in front of the picture of the naked woman. “Make it obvious you’re in a relationship with a man,” he says.

“Okay, I will. Thank you,” I say as I stroll over to Quinn. I come up from behind him, placing my left hand on his shoulder and walk to his right side as I stretch my arm along his shoulders.

“What was that about?” he asks while taking a sip from his wine. He turns around and we walk to another painting of ghostly zombie child screaming in a fire.

“Oh, he was just apologizing for the mishap tonight. He tells me they’ll be ready for me first thing tomorrow afternoon.”

“I see. Why weren’t you able to go tonight anyways? Did he tell you that?” Quinn takes another drink of his wine and apathetically stares at the picture.

“No, he didn’t. I was just about to ask him, but I think they can just tell me another time. Maybe something personal happened,” I say.

We remain quiet in front of the painting for about a minute, but it feels so much longer. I really don’t feel like standing in front of this particular painting for some reason. It makes me want to scream and run away, but I just stand there with Quinn.

“Hey doll!” Tegan exclaims as she hugs me tightly. She smiles and looks at Quinn, placing her hands on her hips. She looks so much more fragile when I contemplate and try to imagine how tender her emotions are. “Who’s this young man? A friend?” She puts her hand out towards Quinn, and he shakes her hand.

“I’m Quinn,” he says. “I’m Sophie’s fiancé.”

“Fiancé?” Was this an implication of him asking me to marry him or was he somehow aware of the conversation Vaughn and I had?

“Well, on our way there,” he says with a smirk and puts his arm around my shoulders.

Tegan looks unbothered. She actually beams and so we exchange smiles as I look up at Quinn as he’s looking down. He pecks me on the lips and Tegan has a light smile on her face. She puts her head down as she slowly shakes it from side to side.

“Cute,” she says. “I’m jealous.”

“Your man will come along soon, too,” Quinn says to her.

The next day, I wake up at ten in the morning, to gather my belongings again (since I unpacked everything yesterday when I came home). When I’m done packing, I say my farewells to my mother and father, only wishing that things will fare well for me. I leave and get in a taxi, now a little more apprehensive than ecstatic (as I was yesterday). I have to go up the steps at least five times to bring all of my belongings. I knock on the apartment door and a small, flimsy man opens the door. I assume it’s Avery, considering I met the other two roommates. He has a very round head, tan skin, and thick, medium length brown hair. He looks quite young and handsome, and very meek-looking.

“Hi,” I softly say. “I’m Sophie Giles.” I nod my head with each word I say as if I’m reprimanding a little child with compassion.

“Oh, yes! Hello, Sophie. I’m Avery. Come right in.” He leans against the door and puts his arm out to welcome me in. “I hope you like it here.”

I try to get my belongings, but he shakes his head and motions for me to get in. Then, he takes the cases and places them on the floor right by the door.

I look around the room I enter. It’s a cute little kitchen. It has a very light wooden floor with black and white checkered tiles in the middle section. Above the checkered tiles, there is a small, white square table with four red plastic chairs surrounding it. Two of the sides have no chairs, but the other two have two chairs each. The walls’ color looks like a sort of blend of a cyan shade with sea foam green to even out an energetic atmosphere with a calming, neutral one.

“Aw, this kitchen is adorable,” I say, wile walking over to a window right next to the small table. It has a pastel colored curtain you can see through over it, so sunlight brightens up the room. This is the window Tegan crawled through. I smile at the thought of that day.

“Thank you,” Avery says. “I like to sit down and write my poems here. We barely ever eat in here though. I mean, Vaughn and I eat, but Tegan never does. We’re all kind of suffering from disconnection with other humans, I think.” Avery bows his head then walks over to the window and looks through the see-through green pastel colored drapes.

“What do you mean?” I ask, slowly walking over to him, shuffling my heels with each step. I cross my arms across my chest and slightly tilt my head to the side, while putting a small frown on my face so that I can look more compassionate rather than curious.

Avery turns away from the drapes and stares at me. In a manner so quiet that it sounds like he’s whispering, he says, “We never really socialize here. We used to, but Tegan started getting into the drugs. Vaughn and I were never supportive of it. We would tell her we can’t have her here anymore, but we’ve known her for a while. She’s like a little sister to us. She’s a nice girl, though, I promise.” He nods and starts to leave the kitchen.
When he mentions Tegan, I feel like I shouldn’t be here, that I’m causing many complications. However, I want to finally be free so bad, even if it means suffering troubles.
“Come on, I’ll show you around the house more.” He motions for me to come towards him. I was fond of the way Avery talked. He let the syllables he pronounced elegantly flutter off the tip of his tongue, as if it was some delicate secret. He just seemed like one of those calm, collected and self-composed people. His movement was like the mellifluous motion of some ethereal ghost.

We leave the kitchen and enter a large room that had white walls with abstract metal wall art on it. The art consists of large metal pieces colored with swirls of different shades of blue, so it looks like some ocean made of marbles if they were to crack and break open to release tons of rejuvenating liquid. For some reason, the room has a bunch of scents bursting into my face, scents that I don’t particularly understand. It smells like silver (almost like freshly sliced green apples coated in warm milk) and the moon (very heavy amounts of sugar and cream). The floor is covered in white shaggy carpeting and there are four chairs colored ultramarine blue and azure. In the middle of them, is a white coffee table with a cool-colored mosaic pattern on it. The chairs face a large bay window, although there is nothing too fascinating to look at outside except for cars driving by and the neighbors’ houses and gardens across the street.

“Oh my. It’s lovely,” I say. I walk over to the window and look over the different gardens on display outside. My favorite is the Japanese inspired garden. It inspires reflection and tranquility to me because of how serene it was. It was beautiful, but not overdone or overdramatic. It doesn’t try too hard like the other gardens did. It contains mostly stones and green plants, but has splashes of color here and there, like pink, yellow and red flowers. There’s a little creek running through the yard though that leads somewhere off into woods or something. There’s a narrow, wooden bridge above the creek, and I turn my head, trying to figure out how far it goes, but it seems endless from where I’m at.

“I really do hope you enjoy it here,” Avery says, looking out the window with me.

“Oh, I will,” I say quietly. I turn around and almost crash into Tegan. Instead of shouting or anything out of surprise, I just crinkle my eyebrows toward the top center of my nose and open my mouth into a small “O” shape.

“Sorry!” Tegan exclaims, still standing close to me. Her face is so close to mine right now and she’s chest to chest with me. We are so close together that if we were any closer, the beating of our hearts would eventually make our hearts collide together. I’m not sure of what to do because something tells me to not move and apologize solemnly to her, but then I think of Quinn so I back away and off to the side a few steps.

“No, it’s okay,” I say smiling at her.

“Wow. You just have this look to you,” she starts to say, tilting her head to the side.

Avery looks at her with his eyebrows furrowed and changes his glance towards me with a look of worrisome exasperation.

Tegan continues to look at me with a smile and tilted head. “You have this lush and rich look to you. Like, sassy and classy, you know? I would love to take some photography of you. You have beautiful, doe brown eyes, smooth porcelain skin like a doll and luscious blonde hair.”

“Uh, thank you Tegan,” I hesitantly say.

“I don’t mean to bother you or anything, but you just look amazing. Would you mind?” she asks, putting her hands on her hips.

“Mind what?” I ask.

“If I take some photography of you. I’m curious to how you would act behind—“

“Tegan, enough. She’s just getting used to the place. I’m taking her around the house. Now, will you please stop this nonsense?” Avery says with frustration. His eloquent language turns into bitter, rapid words.

“No, it’s fine Avery,” I say, looking at him with a smile and then look at Tegan, “I’m curious to how I would act in front of the cameras too. I think I want to start modeling to earn money, now that my parents aren’t lending me money anymore. This could be good practice.” I nod.

“Exactly,” Tegan says, gritting her teeth as she looks at Avery. She looks menacing but in an innocent way since her face is too cute and pretty to be threatening or ominous in any way at all.

Avery exhales deeply and composes himself to have an erect but calm posture. “Okay. You two can discuss that later. Let me show you the rest, Sophie. There’s only a little bit more left. We have your bedroom, the bathroom and the reading room.”

“What about our bedrooms?” Tegan asks. “Or my art studio?”

“Tegan, bedrooms are private territories. You could show her your art studio if you’d like, but I doubt she cares what our bedrooms look like. Come on, Sophie.”

I decide to let my belongings stay tidy and packed so my new blank bedroom remains blank. The whole room is literally infinitely white. There’s not one smudge anywhere and I almost feel like there’s not breathing capacity in the room, so I feel dead, in heaven. It’s a new feeling though and I like it. I look across from me on the bed and see Tegan and we smile at each other. We just discovered something, something better than sex to an adolescent, better than the most shattering orgasm. It’s a fragile joy and I feel like I’m embraced by hundreds of angels that smell like pleasantly guilt free whipped cream. This is a life not wasted.

Tegan draws herself closer to me so that her thigh is against mine. She lifts up her leg and lays it across my lap, then tilts her head as she smiles at me. I smile back, too content to not. She draws in towards me as she shuts her eyes and when her lips touch mine, I close my eyes and suddenly things feel even more intimate with our lips moving like the delicate intricacy of origami.

Quinn walks into the room and inhales deeply. Tegan draws away from me now and smiles as she looks out the window overlooking the gardens. Quinn and I just gaze at each other. He’s always levelheaded so I smile as I lower my head toward my shoulders.

“I came to say hi and see how things were going… I guess you never really knew that we dangled on hatred. This whole time we loved to hate each other, hated to love and that’s what the basis of us being together was,” Quinn says. “This whole time we both were lingering with hope and I really thought there was something worthwhile to remain with you. Not anymore. Bye.” He leaves the room and shuts the door gently.

I sort of want to chase after him and cry until he caresses me and rocks me in his embrace, but I know in his arms, there’s no encirclement around me because I’m not what he wants. So, I slowly let him get away from me in his calm and collective way as I walk over to the window to sit beside Tegan. Then, I realize now that my life will depend on my flaws since they are what discover my passions. I whisper to myself, “Baby, light my fire. Tell me how much you hate me because I just don’t care anymore.”

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