Scott Helmes and Sheila E. Murphy
[ previous ] [ next ] [ notes ] [ #11: winter 2007 ]
Consecutive Emotion


“MEE shell” was how she said it. Accent on first person, her favorite color. When she
Reagon was sitting on the bus thinking of Michele and how she decked herself out in
looked over at Reagon, it was as if, “I don’t want to talk to you unless I’m absolutely
orange most of the time. When he thought of the vivid palette she encased herself in, it
certain, like I have your word, that you have Absolutely NOTHING to say to me. Okay?”
left a blind spot on his right eye, like when you stare at a large colored spot for a bit and
It took a look to do that. It took more than literacy. Say, emotional literacy. Or however
then look at a white wall to see the complimentary color.
you write that consonant for which there is no symbol, but the one that happens when you
Speaking of complimentary, the next time he sees Michele, Reagon felt he should launch
place your tongue above the middle teeth, like this.

into a brief tirade about her mundane television viewing habits. Even the rating
She was a midnight kind of a gal. As if the whole world had to be secretly even, before
companies decline to sign her up when they make their telemarketing calls. Because he
she could bring herself to nudge into it. There needed to be more safe looking silk. The
feels that television compatibility is high on the list for prospective mates, it is not a
frail combination of moderato and a lick of presto, maybe. To remove the likely frost.
subject that should be glossed over in the pre-nuptial agreement.
Something. You were supposed to be, liked, formed before agreeing to something
Of course, all this deep contemplation resulted in Reagon missing his bus stop and he
everyone already knew. She’d not quite had it, she was still making up her mind. But she
had to de-bus one stop later than his habit. Being cast in unfamiliar territory, Reagon had
was clear on what the surface had to mean. She was not quaint. She had the rubric to be
to put all his senses on high alert. His first priority became how to back track without
customized. It would discard the capstone courses of her livelihood. It would disable
causing panic and not showing Michele how dependent he was on her by calling her on
mention of her merely lively past, in which she took the brass section to her room and
the cell and asking directions. Besides, he’d just gotten the phone and couldn’t remember
outplayed everyone, especially on trombone, when all six-four of her went bingo bingo
her number. They’d gotten the phones on the family package and while hers was the
bingo to the tilt beat of a heart full of connivance. There. She’d said it. That was then and
lime green cover, his was the more conservative white.
this is gravel.

Backtracking being the only option, Reagon set off on foot at a brisk pace towards the
Speaking of which: she wanted not to need a name to take in vain. She would have liked
last bust stop. He’d made an appointment with a palm reader in order to finalize his
the orchestra to have been bargained for. She would have asked herself four questions if
intentions of asking Michele to form a civil union with him. Now, he knew he’d be late
she could remember how to open-end them all and yield a wider basket of results. So
and this would not bode well as the Reader would more than likely infer a lack of
here’s the first one: what were you thinking when you drove up to the curb and threw out
organization on his part. When he reached the first intersection, pausing for the walk
your rotator cuff? Was it the neighbors? The apostrophes missing from the billboard?
sign, he was struck by a bicycle rider. After a momentary shock, the rider, who had
The, like, non-event the luge would always be? The stem cell research of my homework
fallen over him, stood in front of him and pointed her finger at him in a tisk tisk manner.
duckling? What????

Reagon was in love, immediately, instantaneously and irrevocably.
And he, the usual recipient, would only fry in her lambaste instead of offering to spew
Oh, pangs of guilt, how could he be such a cad. So, this unnamed woman is checking
new confirmation of his epitomic subatomic richness parceled out of paint scraps and
herself over for invariable bumps, bruises and scrapes. Reagon, however, is only flush
ruminations. Any way you look at grant writing, you had to look alert. You had to scope
with guilt and he has yet to even speak with his unidentified paramour. The first words
out testament. You had to learn to add, already. She found everybody tedious.

out of his mouth, however misdirected, were ‘Michele I’m sorry’. At this, the
What was she supposed to do, open a hardware store, pretend that was romantic and, like,
unidentified woman looked at him and said who the hell are you talking to. Reagon had a
hypothesis for something? I mean, duh? The op-tet she mourned was just a screech to
think fast, I’m I’m Reagon, and I’m terribly sorry to have stepped in your way, are you
away from someone’s dowry, and not hers. Who writes those things? She lost her OK?
The unnamed woman said she’d have to check with her lawyer, asked Reagon for
headrest in some landfill. And the right side of her VW opened every time she turned one
his full name, jumped on her slightly bent bike and sped off.
way. She had to reach out her right arm to catch it while scrubbing oncoming snow from
This presented a new quandary, which Reagon hadn’t considered. How could he ask
the left side of the shield. It built dexterity, she thought. Another little glisten for the
Michele to be jointly wed within a few short weeks and spend every conscious second

imaging grand children with nameless. Guild wavered just beyond his consciousness,
He was going to have to learn something. That was her final foray into the unknown turf
like a pop bottle that was just outside arm’s length. Of course, he rationalized, Michele,
of what her friends termed “a relationship.” Like he was not even alive apart from who
didn’t really feel the same way towards him, at least as far as he could tell. In fact, he’d
she thought she had to be in case. In case. And he was something less than. Like not six-
only been on one official date with her, by his definition, and that was last week, or
four. Maybe six-two. That kind of thing, but what’s the difference. There’s nothing much
maybe the month before.
to talk about. The whole world felt like a safe house. Safe from all the boring stuff
But how to find nameless, or would he have to wait until she found him. A brilliant
outside it.

She had come to know precipitation almost biblically. She had an inner sport side to her
thought hit him in the nose, like an orb descending from Olympus. He would go to the
that conformed to every base hit hypothesized. Preferred not to play with others, not to
nearest Kinko’s and mock-up a missing paramour poster, describing the accident, etc, etc,
mention “does not play well.” Simpler than that. Expected, though. Her dad’s receding
and put it up all over the area where they had their fateful encounter. So off he went to
hairline; fracture was the next inevitable word. Where had it been? The Canyon,
find the nearest Kinko’s.
probably, that summer when the camera had been going strong. The shutter practically
It was only when he found the copy sstore that he realized he didn’t have any money.
bobbing while people were piled up with water bottles, fanny packs, gummy snacks with
In fact, one of the reasons he wanted to permanently bond with Michele was because her
almonds honey and what-have-you. Kind of furnished excuses for on carbolas.
ex-husband number three had been quite well off, stupid enough not to get a pre-nup, and
What did she care? It’s always winter, practically. And this guy, always commenting on
thus had endowed Michele with a large ready reserve in the check book. Nix the poster
what it’s like up north.

idea, I guess he’d have to wait until contact was initiated by nameless. Of course,
She thought of walking across town when it was twenty-something below . . . below what
Reagon’s last name was difficult to spell if you only heard it phonetically and he wasn’t
she used to ask. By herself. That would be great. When you could hardly take in breath, it
listed in the phone book. In fact, when you’re sort of homeless, these things can be not
was so cold. And things in the air sort of stayed there, no matter what you did. She liked
well understood, even by yourself. And besides, he was only in transition, as marriage by
the automatic closed-out feeling of the streets. She liked her mittens stiff. She liked to
definition, meant homes, cars, cable and ice cream.
place herself in motion even when the whole world was a still life. Pretty much nirvana,
But maybe all was not lost, Michele would forgive him. This he knew to be fait accompli.
that. Remembering that inside would be cocoa, maybe, maybe even something great like
In fact, he had tried to argue with Michele before, but it was hopeless, and given his
cake. She mostly liked the shift from cold to almost hot.

cupidity, this overwhelming desire bulldozed all in its path, including opposition to sanity
The phone kept not ringing in her room, and she pretended that eternity had finally come.
and reasonability. Thus, he would go and prostrate himself once again and confess his
If she had prayed, she would, for this. Consecutive emotion firing up the missing
shameless crime to her as he had many times before, at least in the early waking hours of
headrest, the kind of bedrock-with-a-motor that you had to project if you really wanted
his consciousness.
something to be cooking when the present came along. She liked the casual aspect to a
Finding her in the elevator, on the way down, just as he was on the way up to her
fireplace. She liked to be at home as long as there were sparks somewhere around the
apartment, and standing before her, his tongue became more like cement. Her dazzling
bricks. She liked the feeling she could motion back to snow and make it feel better than
image, this time decked out in puce, look like a Turner sun in Venice, though slightly
fire, the way she did all the time if no one interrupted. There seemed to be a dugout in the
brighter and of course a different color. All he could say was ‘nice painting’. Looking at
quick of her retreat, if that’s what it included. Sometimes she would wait all day for the
him, Michele, could only be annoyed at this non-rationality, and besides, she was late for
kind of pattern she would think about to arrive all by itself. Impending caution came from
her daily cappuccino.
others. She had everything she needed in rehearsal space. The octaves she pronounced in
solo motion. The collective urgency of cries for quiet on the set. The intensive services
delivered regardless of who wanted nothing of them. People with, for sure, a mission to
be dowdy, like. Impossible relationships. Noise in the shallow places she would have
hollowed out if she had been provided with a simple key. But that was a smoky kind of
difference between her attitude and theirs. Her “altitude,” she liked to say, to make him
laugh. Her seasoned kind of fire combating the predominant season patching in its doleful
silence that completed her like no other individual.