Renny: The Ruins

Renny

There was this one bench where Haley always ate her lunch. Tuna sandwiches with fat-free Greek yogurt in the spring with apple blossoms detonating above her head, pink, speckled petals drifting down in fragrant clusters that gathered on her shoulders, her hair.

Salads in color-coded Tupperware buckets in summer – feta crumbled over the top like little toppled snowdrifts, rose-red apple slices drizzled with vinaigrette the color of caramel, of oiled wood. And the branches hung low, heavy with new and dazzling leaves, bending, aching like the bones of a teenager, surprised by its own astounding growth.

And a petite silver, steaming canister of French onion soup I the fall, garlic-rich breath and creamy, stretching strings of cheese tangled on her plastic spoon, a wedge of last night’s baguette… Brown, gold, coppery leaves spread out at her feet and around the bench like the remnants of some long-forgotten wedding celebration. Blustering winds carrying the wood fire smoke into the city, tantalizing the nine to fivers with a far off taste of the country, a world out of our reach that was already fully embraced by autumn…

I remember these things, broken things, just scraps of memory, because I still include them in my prayers. I remember Haley in my prayers. I wouldn’t call myself religious, but my mama used to say: Regina, you had better be praying every night. I don’t care what you praying for or about, but you pray. Because Regina, if you don’t pray then Jesus? He’ll forget you. Let me tell you, there will come a day, I guarantee, when you will need him and child, it’s best he don’t forget you then.

Hearing that ten, twenty, shit, thirty times as a kid, it sort of made an impression. So I prayed. I didn’t want to be forgotten. Maybe mama was right. Well, I’m still alive, right?

So I remember Haley in my prayers so Jesus, or whoever, whatever, won’t forget her either.

If I think hard, real hard, I get this bad feeling in my stomach, a feeling that tells me Haley didn’t make it. I loved her. I loved her in a way, every day I loved her as she sat and ate her lunch on that bench.

Haley worked in the art department, an illustrator. She dressed like a librarian on ecstasy, sharp, sharp suits with loud, patterned tights and glasses with fuchsia rims. You noticed her, you had to. When she got hired it only took a day or two for the gossip to get around. She was a queer too, like me. But she was seeing someone, a college girl, young, fashionable, tight in all the important places. I saw the girlfriend once or twice, waiting outside for Haley at the end of the day, perched on a vintage bicycle and smoking a clove cigarette.

I knew her right away. Well, not her, but I knew the type. I’d dated one of those, one of those college lesbians fresh out of Women’s and Gender Studies 101, fresh off of their first “mind-altering” same-sex experience, a predictable little flaming car wreck of a cliché in faded secondhand store boots and black leggings: wayfarers, studded messenger bag, a clone of every other desperately hip 20-something ambling down State Street. Yeah, I’d been there, done that, begrudgingly bought the tee shirt. I knew she would break Haley’s heart, but you don’t get to say things like that, not to your colleague, your friend.

And what could I say? “By the way, I’ve seen your girlfriend once or twice and formed a very informed opinion of her. I just thought you should know she’ll split at the first sign of real relationship struggle, you know, after that initial three month glow wears off. She’ll leave you feeling sad and old and abandoned, but that’s what you get for dating a kid. Oh, no need to thank me, the advice is free.”

Fuck no. Not for me. Not ever.

That’s the problem with being an adult. You have to abide by the rules. Well, you did, maybe not anymore. Still, there’s something so tacky about the whole situation… Rules or no rules, just tacky. Oops. Sorry, Allison. No offense and all that shit.

September 15th, one of those perfect fall days when you remember why you put up with the god-awful Midwestern winter and god-awful Midwestern summer: Seasons. I hope they have ‘em in Colorado, because I’m not sure I can go without. They wrap things up, help you move along, compartmentalize, and keep tabs on your life so the days don’t just steamroll right over you.

September 15th – buttery, crimson and spun gold maple tree leaves and Haley on that bench. 11:32 AM. BLT and salt and vinegar chips, Diet Coke. Today, I thought, today’s the day I ask that woman out for a drink. People don’t make me nervous but Haley? She changed things, brought that good old feeling of weak knees and liquid insides back. I’m standing across the street from Haley, looking at her on that bench, clenching my fists in anticipation of marching right over and asking her to a drink, not a date, just some time to decompress after work, but I might as well be fourteen again and watching the other girls at the community pool, looking at their smooth, beautiful figures shimmering beneath the blue surface of the water. I’m in that young body again – young body, young, racing heart.

Today’s the day.

I’m standing on the curb, lunchtime pedestrian traffic cluttering up the sidewalk behind me, the office and my desk, my computer, my safe little adult world all packaged up and beautified with magnets, framed pictures, a Ficus, all of that is waiting behind me when I hear the truck come barreling around Mifflin, cutting through the intersection diagonally. Everyone on the sidewalk freezes in the way people do when they know they’re about to see an accident, a disaster. Why can’t we help that? Why can’t we look away?

The breaks on the semi are shrieking, it’s hulking trailer leaning hard to one side as it takes the corner and then barely manages to straighten up. It sounds like the bottom of the chassis is scraping against the pavement and I reach up to cover my ears, mesmerized by the truck swerving down State, destroying the row of candy-colored Vespas parked on the sidewalk, smashing into bicycles and street signs. A woman behind me is screaming and I hear her high heels clicking on the cement as she runs away. The semi passes, just feet from the curb where I’m standing, the speed of it brushing my hair back off my forehead. My young body, my young, racing heart…

The semi grinds to a stop at the next intersection where there’s more traffic. Cars and motorcycles flee in its path and the air crackles with the sound of breaking glass, of steel impacting steel, the semi bending at the hitch behind the cab, the whole thing crunching in half like a man with a broken neck. The sound aches and shudders; I can feel it in my chest, the vibrations, the million sparkling pieces of glass and the thunder of it echoes down State like a crack of lightning. Everywhere people are whispering and shouting and running to see what happened, what could have made the driver do such a thing… I stay where I am and watch a twisted figure drop out of the cab, half of its face missing, the bone and tissue hanging free like a painting ripped in two, the shreds of canvas dangling free.

I can’t see how someone so injured could still be alive, still walking, but he’s heading directly toward the crowd of onlookers, toward the good Samaritans that just want to see if he’s okay, see if he’s fine while they get out their iPhones, Blackberries, dial 9-11. My fists are still clenched as I look back across the street at the bench; Haley is sitting very still, watching all of this unfold with her BLT hovering between her lap and her mouth. I should still cross that street and ask her out for a drink. A semi doesn’t change things, a bad accident doesn’t alter what I think might be a really nice time, a way to get to know each other… Nothing really changes that I still want to sit close to her and look at those sweet, almond-shaped eyes, her olive skin. Like ice-cream, I think as I look at her posed there, like a kid who couldn’t decide what flavor he wanted so he took chocolate and caramel and fudge and vanilla and maple nut and swirled them altogether – strange and wonderful.

But I don’t cross the street because there are hands in the trees around Haley’s bench, eyes and faces appearing over her shoulders, as if the bushes, the branches had sprouted limbs with fingers of their own. I glance down the street, just now hearing what I know are terrified shouts, screams of pain… The driver is still upright – how? How? And when I look back at Haley I start screaming too, beckoning her across the street.

“Hey!” I shout. “Haley! Hey! Behind you!”

Her BLT drops on the ground, the lettuce fluttering as a stiff wind arrives and sweeps the yellow and red leaves down the block. Haley bolts across the street toward me, her polka dotted scarf bouncing on her neck as she dodges in between the cars stopped in the road. Someone honks but she doesn’t hesitate or pause, just runs up beside me.

“Jesus,” she says, out of breath. “Thank you! Did you see that semi?”

“Run,” I tell her. “Run. Don’t get in a car, the streets will be a mess. Get out of here.”

“But Renny, I- What are you talking about?”

Today’s the day.

I look at her, her pretty scarf, her smooth black hair and it’s hard but I say it again, “Get out of here. Something’s wrong.”

The hands in the bushes have bodies now, bodies that shuffle across the street toward us. I push Haley away, by the shoulders, pushing her in the opposite direction from all the chaos, the destruction… Her shoulders are worm beneath her cashmere cardigan and I remember that, remember to keep it for later, for now.

She starts to jog down the sidewalk, watching me over her shoulder as she goes. I wave my arms at the things scraping toward me, shouting, drawing their attention. They follow. They follow me down an alley, past a few rusted dumpsters, into the shadows. I don’t know what I’ll do with them but I know I have to keep them away from Haley. There’s an old window frame lying outside the dumpster; I pull one of the wooden crossbars free and wave it at the dead hands, dead eyes that follow me. They aren’t scared, not of me, not of anything.

Then I turn and sprint down the alley.

My young body, my young, racing heart…

I turn right on the next street, running, trying to double back and find Haley but she’s gone and the city, my city, her city, has erupted. Doubling back again I check outside our office building but she’s not there and a feeling like panic, like failure, rises in my chest.

Across the street more leaves are falling on the bench. Haley’s sandwich is there, her abandoned bag of chips, still dented with the impression of her fingers. It’s already being swept away by the wind, by the storm of rushing feet and the unstoppable advancing of the faceless undead.

I pray: Whoever you are up there, if you’re up there, don’t forget us. Don’t forget me or Haley and please don’t forget Allison.

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23 Responses to “Renny: The Ruins”

  1. a huge fan Says:

    this is worth the wait.

    well done.

  2. SurvivngInADeadWorld Says:

    Wow…its gotten to the point were I have favorited the page.

  3. hotcobbler Says:

    I’m still reading, please keep up the good work!

  4. Where are you? We miss you!

  5. She’s in transit, it’s going to be harder for her to update consistently. Glad to see you’re still around today Allison.

  6. ardentreprieve Says:

    Compelling story. I’m very much enjoying it. Please don’t stop.

  7. steveinchicago Says:

    Hope you are ok allison you’re starting to worry us

  8. Wasa Bista Says:

    Thank God you’re still alive. I was worrying. I had your blog on an RSS feed and this installment didn’t show up for some reason. Not important, the main thing is you’re all right.

    We’re not going to last long here in Tokyo. There’s no food left and we’re surrounded by impassable city on all sides. The moat around the Imperial Palace no longer protects us — they’re so desperate, they’ve started piling into it and drowning. Soon there will be enough of their corpses in the water that they’ll be able to walk across. When our time comes I’ll take comfort that you’re still alive.

    Save yourselves.

  9. Please update soon! I’m checking the site every day..

  10. sarahofthedead Says:

    one update in a month is killing me! allison, hope you are allright…

  11. follow spot Says:

    Love you. Love the blog. Glad to have you back, puddin.

  12. Is this the end of the saga?

  13. Please write more soon, I have never enjoyed something on the internet so much as I have enjoyed reading this. I am completely hooked. I check every day for an update….

  14. I check often for an update as well, I hope all is well with you.
    Keep strong Allison.

  15. Is there ever going to be another update?????

  16. steveinchicago Says:

    Man oh man allison you better make it worth the wait … lol no pressure but seriously though we miss it

  17. Where have you gone, is everything alright? i really can’t wait to read more. please please write another chapter soon!

  18. some zombie Says:

    So, just who’s brain do I have to eat to get an update around here?

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