Layne needed to breathe. That breath bounced erratic in response to whatever it was that Brody Blake did to her nerves.
Of the many things that Brody Blake brought into life, alliteration framed them all.
On this, you need suffer, reader.
Layne acknowledged early in life that her predilection for adventure would garner her many pleasures, and many more complications; neither of those mutually exclusive. She ultimately decided that she’d rather regret the things she did and not the things she didn’t. Brody Blake justified pleasurable complications. She established that directly, if not fully. She established though that he need be a useful pleasurable complication in order to progress further—on so many levels.
This was not one of those things she wouldn’t regret not doing.
Thus began the numerous designs for his usefulness. Perhaps it was earlier. One couldn’t really know with a meandering mind like hers.
Isolde was the daughter of the King of Ireland during medieval times. Betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall, she did her duty for crown and king and prepared to marry. Tristan, the king’s nephew and honored knight, was sent to fetch her back to Cornwall. During that long voyage, Isolde and Tristan fell passionately in love. Some stories mentioned a potion that inhibited guilt and responsibility—indicative of copious amounts of hormones unrelenting as Helen Fisher would scientifically acknowledge centuries later. Isolde and Tristan’s love affair continued even after Isolde’s marriage to Mark. There was turmoil, passion, betrayal, tragedy, duty, political intrigue…love—the story had many twists, interpretations, and endings.
Layne began to devise yet another. Love, however, would never be an element of it.
She checked the status of the task within the project she was currently working—nothing yet. The gig, implemented earlier this eve, stood in front of her equivocating like the fumbling legislator she was. A schoolmarm dressed in the conventional compliant fashion for someone of her ilk, the Senator from a northernmost state in the New England region of the northeastern United States constructed a novella-sized reply for a one-answer question that basically regurgitated a disavowal in neutral language that took Layne a minute to gather what in the world she was going on about.
When she realized what it was, Layne couldn’t help but laugh in her face. “I was warned that your political speak was prevaricatingly feckless to an astonishing degree. I must say I’m impressed. Bravo, madam. You are a worthy opponent. And they say academics are wordy. It’s like a Proust or Knausgaard novel, except droll.” Layne paused then giggled. “Well, let’s face it, they were droll too—literary men,” to which Layne rolled her eyes quite dramatically.
The beginnings of a smile, pinched and puckering, lurked around the corners of the Senator’s mouth in a response favorable to Layne’s praise forged in mockery of the dry ironic sort Layne was known for. Layne sought to dismantle that smugness and any hope before those beginnings flourished into the smirking pustule that this Senator was known for.
“I didn’t know you liked sticking your tongue in cunts. And, while I wholeheartedly approve of tongues in cunts and assholes alike and do so enjoy both equally and unapologetically and all those other delightful orifices out of that horrid closet for all to know and celebrate”—Layne licked her lips, her grin wide, her face contorted in an animated ecstasy as she imagined those many scenarios and more with the current preoccupier of her thoughts—”methinks your proper constituents—while they genuinely love killing men, women, and children by taking away their healthcare, food, and throwing them in cages—would not look too kind fiscally on that tongue-in-cunt business, especially the lying and being disingenuous about…oh, everything. And these here pictures”—Layne brandished her iPhone flashing it before the Senator’s face; a face that had slowly turned between sneer and terror—“are downright hot. I mean pornographic hot. I dunno…how in the world did that young woman pierce her vulva?” Layne visibly shuddered looking and swiping among the many photos, zooming in on the tongue and vulva in question. “I bet that was painful. Not this act itself—that looks downright delicious. No, I mean the actual piercing. Did she say how she did it? Besides the obvious that is? Imagine going into a piercing salon and asking them to pierce your vulva?” Layne earnestly asked shoving the iPhone in the Senator’s face.
The Senator said nothing.
“Must be the traditionalist in me. No holes in my body except my ears. I mean, besides the standard ones. I had one in my belly button in my twenties in the nineties before it was fashionable among white girls. I got bored with it. I rarely wear earrings anymore. Dunno why. Just not that interested. I guess everything going on around us and the older I get, things just become utilitarian, eh?”
The Senator walked away leaving Layne standing there amused. “Rude much? This doesn’t have to be so adversarial,” she called after her seeking a more heartfelt and empathetic compromise. “I’m trying to help and am not your enemy? Transparency is good?”
Layne found Lucretia not long after to pass on the update. She summarized what happened then stood in the shadows with her while they both watched the sights unexcitedly wishing for something—anything interesting to happen.
“I don’t think releasing these will have the desired effect you think it will.”
“What would Olivia Pope do? And who said I was releasing them?” Lucretia asked.
Lucretia rolled her eyes.
“What would Daenerys Targaryen do?” Lucretia looked at Layne who shrugged. “Getting a Federal Revenge Porn Law as well as a Federal Anti-SLAPP Law passed will be impossible in this environment. Undoing everything that happened—is happening—will require us to get dirty.”
“You wanna philosophically discuss the ethics and merits of committing the very acts that got these people in power to begin with? Or do we wanna roll past that entirely? Can you guarantee that this will not be used as yet another tool of oppression? Where’s that line in the sand? Extortion, revenge porn…what’s next? Fixing an election? How far do we go?”
“Yes, what would Olivia Pope do indeed.”
“I’m not sure she’d shame and use a woman’s sexually explicit photos against her, especially one that’s still in the closet; however vile and hypocritical that woman is and regardless who she helped bring into power. I cannot stand her. She gets everything she deserves especially since she’s oppressed the very group she’s apparently secretly a member of, but…principles.”
“That’s your white privilege talking. Someone once told me that idealism was the first victim of war. People are dying. Her modus operandi is not to help anyone but herself and her cronies. Stop normalizing the situation. It’s the Wild West now. Ain’t no superheroes coming to save us. Remember—lives and liberties lost. Whose side you on anyways?”
“That’s an incredibly cynical statement. I’m on my side and the side that doesn’t get me dead. Besides, she could get those cronies to take care of me. I could go to jail and end up hanging from a sheet.”
Aware of Layne’s family history, Lucretia studied her sympathetically: “I got your back.”
“And besides me and Jason, who’s got yours?” Layne sighed: “Have you made up your mind or do I need to continue playing the serial contrarian?”
“I need antithetical counsel. At all times. Reminds me who we are and what our purpose is. I don’t wanna lose myself in the ugliness of it all.”
“And yet here we are. It’s not like you ever heed any of my cautions. I’m trying to sound convincing, but that woman is awful and I’d rather you just had Jason shoot and bury her in a shallow grave.”
Lucretia chuckled. “And that’s not less principled? Who says I won’t, eventually?” She smiled. The silence extended till: “Have you ever made a genuine selfless connection?” She asked looking out over the venue of people in contemplation while sipping water from a wine glass.
Layne pondered the question. “No. Perhaps when I was younger and more ideological.”
“I gathered as much.”
Layne felt as if she’d been insulted somehow. “Have you?”
“Of course not. Why on Earth would I want to do that?”
Layne frowned at Lucretia unsure if she was being ironic given the very nature of their hobbies currently. “What then are you going on about?”
Lucretia glanced at the designer watch on her wrist glittered in silver dust and diamonds: “Passing time.”
Brody strolled across the room to his father who stood alone. Unaware of their admirers, Lucretia and Layne scrutinized them both.
Neither of the women experienced the rapport between father and son as both were only children who were paternally orphaned—somewhat—early in life. Such observations examined at a distance though were inherently obvious to the empaths they were; oftentimes reluctantly and painfully aware considering their current preoccupations. With this in mind, they watched. The Blake men oozed a masculinity that would make eyes roll in certain circles nowadays, and not in a toes-curling good way. This masculinity, however, nuanced, curtailed stoically by generational wisdom, interpersonal and otherwise.
Snakes gained ground unheeded when they didn’t beat drums and thump chests. Overt displays were uncouth, mindless, cheap, rife with ids and heads, bulbous and hollow. One Blake played this scene in heed; the other disinterest; both leveled in generational spectrums of equaled strengths that far surpassed most of the imitations presently neighboring them, with a few exceptions—Jason being one of them. The pair were attractively engineered and remarkably similar as if one was the more modern clone. Their mannerisms imperceptibly congruent.
Both Layne and Lucretia glanced at each other with raised eyebrows wordlessly communicating as much in a telepathically charged look that rivaled Lucretia and Jason’s—slightly less steamy.
“And they say my people all look alike,” Lucretia said with an eye-roll. “They look like old and young versions of Paul Newman.”
“If that’s the case, Jason looks like the bearded version, slightly darker but not by much.”
This did not occur to Lucretia before now who automatically sought Jason out to do a visual comparison. “It’s like that crazy white boys meme.”
They both went silent considering this development contemplating the psychology of their disturbing attractions.
“Are we rationalizing assimilating into this crowd for self-interest or are we doing it for the proper reasons?” Lucretia asked Layne finally breaking the lull.
“Spin and deception. You know the drill. Assholes and elbows.”
“I got that reference,” Lucretia quoted dryly which apparently went right over Layne’s head. “ Yes, wolves smell blood,” said more seriously.
“Recall the General and all the other women who went down this road that never received the recognition or reward for their exploits. We do what we must.”
“’Freedom is what we do with what is done to us.’”
“’Better to die on one’s feet than to live on one’s knees.’”
Together: “’If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution.’”
“It’s time for us to create some chaos, yes?” Lucretia asked grinning wide.
Layne laughed. “Don’t you mean more chaos?”
“’Chaos is a ladder,’” she mimicked stiffly and sternly then dissolved into a snort and fits of laughter to which Layne joined. Lucretia sighed when the laughter abated glancing at Jason. “Complications will ensue, of course, like usual.”
“That’s never stopped us before,” Layne said looking at Brody to which Lucretia noted.
“Yes, I imagine these will be much more personal and irreversible. We must be vigilant though in all our pleasures. Do you have anything in mind?”
“Have you heard of Isolde and Tristan?” Layne asked.
Lucretia rolled her eyes. “Of course,” and looked towards the object of Layne’s interest. “You realize that’s gonna make this infinitely more complex?”
“Probably. Life would be boring otherwise,” said ironically given the state of things.
Layne could count the number of serious relationships she participated on a four-fingered man—or woman; affairs that altered her life—each significant and consequential that took years to develop and destroy—triggering some irrational creature to arise within; a self far removed from the character assumed. What escaped was nothing short of freakish. So unlike who she thought she was; a distortion of self constructed by the illusions of a presence opaque and fragmentary, crafted into a substance percolating and corrosive, fractured and weaponized by time and abuse to consume and sabotage herself and those around her. Her life implied a fabrication; a facile of something distant and unrelated. She felt like a barrage—a rock falling and flying; an avalanche of time redeposited after a hard stop into a realm of terrors blasted and beaten, pillaged and worn, dynamited into existence. It was her horror story—kafkaesque and abrupt, lingering and unchecked. She fought so hard, so long to control and hibernate that assassin with wings forged from the fires within her.
Watching Lucretia approach Brody and his father, she felt that creature stir.
Was it for Lucretia? Brody? Herself? Or the era she found herself?
© 2020 Alex Shea/Pamela Gay Mullins