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about 3,900 words
sparkle and blink.
by Evan Karp
On Decatur where the University ends is a café where he gets coffee and a sandwich before hitting the parks, starting with Woodruff and heading North up to the big park. Centennial. The girl at the counter is cute, real cute. Her legs perfectly meeting with thighs that girl is more than really cute. What today can I get you Tycoon? Coffee black and turkey sandwich, yes? Oh, naw. Ill have what shes havin.
Karp / sparkle / Her head tilted. He heard that Mac said that thats what the lady was having, or something, and she looked away. He went to swallow but could not. The clerk slid aside to make her sandwich and the heart. When you cease a cymbal crashes. Time stops. You hear everything. Tycoon, quiet and still. He looked straight ahead and spoke yes, thats what Ill have to no one. Mac was asking questions about her sandwich as the fridge hummed somewhere behind him. The countertops old and worn-down. Built for this purpose with now little cracks in the surface. The tip jar a plastic jug of pickle spears. We please to help you in small black ink. From a speaker beneath a tapestry issued forth Indian music from another world. He took a deep breath and a stepslide over. Only a student. Ive never seen you here before. Freshman? Yep. First time. Sa nice place. I come here bout daily. Whas your name? Oh, Sam. Hi. You got to be the only other one in the world likes turkey with they coffee. Mac, anyone else come in here order turkey and coffee? No Ty. You.
Karp / sparkle / And her. Where ya from? You beautiful. Rubbing his foot back and forth on the ground. Looking up smiling. Biting bottom lip. Hello there, no sheep here. East Cobb. Here. And you never been to Heavenly? You been going to hell for your fix, aint it? Sorry, I mean have not you… Have you not? What is it? She laughs like a girl. A very happy young amazing girl. She covers it. Shes not used to laughing like that. Shes embarrassed! You got that Hope scholarship aint it. I bet you brilliant too, like a scientist or an astronaut. Or a doctor! He pulls his hand out of pocket like a cell phone. Hello? No, Im sorry… cant make it. I got an appointment at Dr. … Dr. DeWitts office. Shes smiling and laughed again! Samantha Sam Samantha Sam forever. Sam for Tyson. Her brown purple eyes bashful sweet young innocent soul! When Mac gave her the sandwich she thanked him profusely. See you soon! Tomorrow? Mistake.
Karp / sparkle / Yeah – Ima coupon for a turkey and coffee but the offer expires now. Cmon three, two. Free turkey and coffee. Three. Two? Come on, Im begging. Samantha. Half on a knee but serious, focused. Samantha. I know whats good for you its me I promise. Thats what his eyes said. Okay. Ill do it. Tomorrow? Here? Yes! This time tomorrow.
You didnt have to get it girl. He was late. I didnt. Mac said it was on the house. Hed have to pay that devil! That was nice of him. I know, here. She moved her stuff. Have a seat. Tycoon… Howd you get that name? Its actually Ty. Not Thai like food. Tyson. Mallerd the third. … I shouldnt tell you bout Tycoon cause you prolly get up and keep walkin. I will tho cuz, hide who you are, you know, never find anything. He told her how he left his parents house for the city at sixteen. He told her two years in a homeless shelter getting by without plan ties or glow to him. No mission or
Karp / sparkle / resources. He could talk. He did have glow. One day the proprietor gave him a phone number on a piece of paper towel and told him to keep his eyes open and to get out of there. For good. The man was a kingpin, gave Tyson drugs. I was your age then. Eighteen with a bag full of drugs. Nowhere to go. She froze. He was loud and wrong to her coffee suspended between chin and table a motionless hand. You still… do this? Samantha its not like that. People call me Tycoon cuz I mean business. Serious. I had nowhere to go. I coulda stayed in other shelters but I aint wanna stay in no other shelter. Ever again. That bag a chance I took. Find my own place and one day have my own place. Thats all there is to it. I aint no millionaire but I do got a place and I am self-made now. Im a man now Samantha. She could not argue with this, frowned. Whyd you leave your parents house? Her slender fingers held the sandwich between plate and mouth. She was going to stay and finish lunch at least but she didnt want to. Lost. Its so rare someone actually knows who you are. Even
Karp / sparkle / your parents and loved ones. Everyone so trapped in their own lives they dont take the time to see whats in front of them. Everyones walkin around daydreamin all the time. They each looked across the table. I left my crib cuz I aint need anyone telling me what to do. Thastill true Samantha. Ive always known who I am. You cant respect thatats cool. I aint sorry I chose it but it be a damn shame I cant get to know you. He started to go. Tyson. What? Thought I was nothing to you. There were other people in the café, strangers too,
who had nothing to do with anything. Maybe she didnt either. Listen, Tycoon. I dont know what to say. I dont know you. I hardly know myself. Im having a hard enough time living in a dormroom, okay, and here you are in a homeless shelter. At 16?! What do you expect me to say? She was struggling to express something. Her parents fought to show their love but never paid attention. She wanted to move out too but did not could not, never considered it earnestly. Her words spoken choked with emotion. One time she packed a bag and left the house without even saying goodbye and walked to a friends house but she was back that same night, hugging them both, crying.
Karp / sparkle / She could not understand why he deserved this confession but he sure was getting it. His face shining mistrust and hope flickering he sat back down. A future version of herself was a drug dealer. So what. The places hed been that shed never been, the things hed seen and done had forged the person who took interest in a girl like her. In her. He seemed to breathe an air so clean he seemed to produce it himself. Refreshing. She wanted to be next to him, to feel his skin and smell him. Another confession! Surprised at her own emotions fawning over a drug dealer. No, over Tyson Mallerd the third. Lost, she wondered what he saw. An innocent naïve little girl. A hot piece of ass. Careful Samantha. Instead of taking refuge hiding from parents and problems like shed done hed taken the streets. When you hide yourself youll never find anything. How right he was! For so long to bring the life from her own lonely chest she had cried! Her deepest wish! But nothing had changed. Even as she hid curled against the wall she longed to be exposed to the world like a plant or an animal to endure even the harshest weathers rather than remain secure alone. School had not changed this. Motionless on the top bunk
Karp / sparkle / staring at the ceiling she wished insatiably for more everything – more joy, more pain and more hardship – more life, whatever that meant or might mean. More loneliness, since thats all life was to her. Yet here was a man who had done this. He was on no island. Was not in a room. In the streets he was, in the city, about in the world. But what was life to Tyson Mallerd? Could she accept it? She had always been cowardly, content in her misery. Had accepted that. This was the chance to avoid living life alone in a room. Right now or maybe never. Never could happen. This was the chance. Across the table his listening eyes absorbing her. What did he do as a child? Did he spend nights on the floor hugging knees? He was there, but why? The dreams of young Tyson Mallerd. You must have a lot of spots. Where do you go Tyson, can you take me? Sorry, stupid! You probably have to work anyway. Not at all. Stupid beautiful. Cmon. Not all businessmen keep office hours.
Half a mile North to Woodruff park at the edge of Five Points. A marginal oasis. Many men and women mostly in singles occupied chairs and stone dividers the sections
Karp / sparkle / filled now only with sterile soil and acorns. Colorful outof-date jackets already. Hint of winter in the air, perhaps the years second. He was looking to sit somewhere amongst the cold stares. She tried not to make eye contact but thats what she did. With everyone. The world from here they said. From here. Wearing her yellow dress and ribbons! He made eye contact. This is where you look. Im all that concerns you. Looking in her eyes to see. He was right. But that didnt make her right yet. She looked down. Ah, but it does! He touched her shoulder playfully, never removing his eyes. She looked up different colors inside. Neither said a word. Eyes locked they continued without moving. Something unknowable happened. A relationship would be the result. What will it do to us? This the same Tycoon whod spent the nights… when he was her age! How different her life could be in four years… her whole life would change and shed only be 22! Tycoon, smoke with me.
Karp / sparkle / What? He hadnt smoked in two years and she had never. I want to get high. I want to try new things. You can teach me. She smiled sweet and playful. Teachings a one person sport sweet thing. I can guide you though, thats what you want. Hand in hand past Samaritan House skipping over I-
75/85 to the compound. A mile past the café in the other direction. Both sides a mile of construction. Four years back the heart of a gray shady neglect it lingered on the edge of revival. Skipping, he knew… The state capitol, the golden dome loomed behind them.
Relax. This my place. I put the furniture and cleaned the place up. Im the one made this home. Before it won none but a stanky ol dungeon. They all know. Homeless fatcat haven: men in rags passing blunts, feet kicked up on tattered sofas, rugs for whos sake! Candles burnt in the corners and center. Sparingly lit. People filled the darkness. When Tycoon walked in they mumbled greeting. Sam stunned them to silence. The brightest lights in the doorway. After awkward introductions--each man a story but
Karp / sparkle /
all she got were names--yall mind if we hit that blunt? Ima roll another… Tycoon was smoking they did not think twice about her. Everyone smokes these days. Even beautiful girls in sundresses. But where do they come from? You sure you want this? You comfortable? She wanted to be with Tycoon whatever that meant. But he didnt smoke. Would for her! To meet halfway in this basement surrounded by strangers romantic in a way. She could do this. This is what it feels like to step outside your comfort zone for what you believe in, thats all. Looking with wide eyes absorbing the gang. Radiant beauty from elsewhere gifted. Wonder, she thrives overwhelmed. The eyes of a student learning for some unforeseeable future. She caught Ty looking at her more than once amazed. Everything dreamy fascinating relevant. Although she had not experienced what these men had far from it she could somehow relate through the telling as though shed been there. More blunts were rolled up. Laughs. Beside this new beautiful creature Tycoon to whom the gang kept looking in disbelief. How does it feel to be high again? Who is this creature youve brought to our den, what
Karp / sparkle / does it mean? How different your life is today than yesterday! Day and night. Welcome back Tycoon weve missed you! Someone declared a special occasion. Do you have time? Yes, lets get drunk! Im glued to the floor. Here was a place she could speak her mind. Discomfort and need understood. No one pretended. She had the weight too, as only some do. Tycoon watched her gulp red wine from a plastic cup thirsty for life for him everything. As he refilled he began thinking about what this did mean for his life. Shes gonna wanna smoke again, probably reg. Would he? The savings, focus on the plan would all be compromised.
As if divining this distance she turned and kissed him smack on the lips. Their first.
One day Ty came home and found Sambuca snorting coke off one of the neighborhood trollops Giselle. It was the first time hed found her in the dungeon without him and clearly not the first time shed done coke. Hed suspected but not known. Denied suspicion allowed. The story was over, had been ending, was over. Tyson.
Karp / sparkle / He walked back into the cold sunlight and stared at graffiti on the walls waiting for her to emerge. If one didnt know a thing about anything the world would be a splendorous miracle. The wall with its scars of expression saddened by age beautiful, the grass in the cracks of the concrete growing regardless of people and time. A sparrow walked amongst the dead overgrowth looklooking for something to eat. So hopeless yet seemingly so void of care hopping on. Tycoon looked back to the wall. There was no message, nothing that could be understood. He admired it for a moment while the bird hopped on and the ants crawled along and Sambuca stayed down in the dusk. She wasnt coming. He walked head down to the bench where he first got his drugs. One moment on top of the world the next underneath it. But nothing had changed. With the passing of years people dis and appear like
leaves no one keeps track of. Everything with Samantha just a pleasurable time that was over. The wind stirred thoughts in Tycoon that made him indifferent to temperature and to time. It would be long before the sun went down. It would take so many suns to care about anything. He sat there stunned, eyes vacant and unmoving. Another winter another spring would thaw without explanation. Another experience
Karp / sparkle / over. A man pushed a grocery cart full of belongings slowly down the sidewalk. Everything he needed but love. Tyson. When her voice did not stop him she was left there alone with his friends who did not care a thing about her then. If no one followed Ty its because they were only trying to get themselves high. Not wanting to follow but neither to stay she stood
there waiting. Not wanting to wait she looked openly around the room as never before. She wanted to remember. Slowly she walked to the entrance and climbed to the street stunned by fresh air and sunshine as she walked trepidly into it. She paused there and slunk down against the sidewalk wall to enjoy being bewildered but after less than three minutes stood up and walked swiftly toward Heavenly Café. He was not there. He was not in Woodruff Park either. She looked both ways eventually turning in circles frantically trying to find him. She sped up more and more desperate until she passed the same place twice sat down not to enjoy anything this time but to give up. Looking for one thing in the world impossible to find herself. People staring as she looked amused by her
Karp / sparkle / discomfiture. Nothing in the world worth seeking. Nothing
can be changed. Rushing around feeling a forthcoming moment racing the girl of her childhood a wall that cannot be surmounted no matter which way she goes. That was the self she found in her dormroom. Lying on her bed as a fetus denying the world. The smell of her sheets clean and homely purchased by mom menacing like sunshine taunting her until she rose up. Accept Samantha. She began writing Tyson a letter. Address it, come clean.
Tycoon. I am too broken to cry as I write this. I can hardly breathe. To think it might be over! But why? I thought Id finally found someone who would pull me out of myself and you did that but now its all over isnt it? This has just been another one of my daydreams. Another person doesnt make it more real. That first day you walked in like there was nothing separating you from the world, like you knew what you were doing and why and what it meant and everything Ty, like the world is familiar because its yours. I wanted to become part of your world from that moment. From that moment Ty I wanted you to know me like you knew the world, familiar and comfortable and okay. I wasnt okay when you found me. I saw
Karp / sparkle / you and something inside said you can be okay Sam, look, you really can be. But God Tyson what happened? I dont know what I want now. I dont know who I am. Im addicted to drugs – thats
what you think. Im not addicted. Im just scared and lonely, like Ive always been. I remember when all we needed was each other. Breathing myself in through your lungs. Exhaling you back. Complete. When I try to make sense of all this in the future all Ill think is I dropped out of school, or came close to dropping out, and experimented with drugs in the basement of some abandoned building with a stranger I thought could change my life forever. Its so sad Ty, its so sad! As time goes on it will mean less and less than I wanted it to. I could swear something happened that would last forever but I cant even remember it now, I swear. It was so clear! Do you remember: Who are you? Where did you come from? Are you a dream? That was not so long ago, was it? It feels so long ago Ty. What can we do? Even supposing we save enough money to buy a little house somewhere what then? What else can you do but sell drugs? We cant get jobs! And I have nothing but you Tyson. Where will that get me? What are we going to do?
Karp / sparkle /
She had been hiding from herself. This had all been storing in her own life the mystery. She knew nothing about Tycoon. To find herself maybe she needed to be alone to continue to fall. She had not hit bottom yet, was not yet ready to climb. To where, Tyson? That path would disintegrate if he did. There was no Samantha. Just two people trying to live.
I had a vision of myself so pure and righteous when I saw you. But I dont like who you see anymore. I dont think thats enough Ty. I dont want to change how Im living. Theres nothing more than what we had and I know we both felt that but neither one of us is satisfied now. And neither one of us wants to pretend. Who are we Tycoon? Who are we now that weve had each other?
Half through the sentence she realized it was the last, finished it and folded the paper into an envelope. She then tucked the letter into her jacket and walked out the door. She did not have a plan beyond that. In the street she looked both ways, looked again, frowned. Students were milling about oblivious to her problems. The whole world was. She started walking one way, whatever. The way most people were not walking. Away from campus.
Karp / sparkle /
On the way to Heavenly Café she tried to remember what she was thinking the day she first met him. She was sad because her world was caving in and there wasnt a person within it who cared. The usual. It could have been anybody, didnt have to be Tycoon. The whole thing was probably some meaningless lie he maintained to convince her. Betrayed. Stupid and betrayed. She opened the door to the café and stepped inside. Right there he was so familiar and loved, suffering on his face. She stood in the doorway watching pretending he was just another unknown person which he was really but one who had seen her insides. If only she could forget what he once meant she could fall back in love in an instant. As she approached the sunlight unsure what to say he saw her and let her walk into his eyes. She sat down and put the letter on the table. There were no words but he said with his face and deep discreet breaths I am glad you are here and alive. Dont read it now I just want to be with you. He slid the chair toward her a peace offering timid. His eyes asked permission and she crawled into his arms, slowly, he accepting not just her body or her self that day but her fears, limits, possible selves. For a single moment they fit as all things try
Karp / sparkle / innately to do snug with the world. Nobody can make the stars shine forever keep the ship from sinking. Who we are will wash away, time will cease. Life will take on meaning we can grasp again even if we dont understand it. Tyson! I dont care what happens.
She could not see, her dancing eyes flashing snapshots of disappearance. Squeezed him until her eyes pooled out little rivers on his thermal sleeve. She held him like that final bit of land for salvation trying not to be swept beneath her own troubled water. Dive into his arms, swim through his current and surface. But not surface yet. For a little while longer she clung to that which would not be there or the same forever. She clung to herself and to Tyson, to her seed now sown with blossom and blight. Now they would face common fears in peace or together. Love must be a fight.
One day shed say remember that time you caught me and I wrote you that letter? Nothing but an episode in a long undulating narrative. Love may blossom between blinks but the eyes never hold up forever. Reset. We never know what happened.
Karp / sparkle / When we look each other in the eyes, while colors change like patterns in an open sky… Thoughts grow out of old flowers. Clarity flashes we align it disappears we grope through darkness.
Back and forth we live forever calm and unflinching as the light moves between us. When the eyes
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