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Danny Manning

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Salvage at Steeple Jason
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Cheers, Mandy
By Danny Manning
Friday, July 11, 2008

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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           >> View all 10

A toast to the beginning.
To the beginning, which looks so much shinier than the end.

I know that the love of my life exists somewhere out there. Whoever she is, she’s beautiful, and intelligent, and charming, and cares. Whoever she is, she’s willing to work courageously for something significant and beautiful. Whoever she is, she isn’t the person I woke up with in my arms this morning.


I woke up in the irregular heat of November to the sound of buzzing reality, and an obscure night blaring back at me. As I stared at the white plaster of my walls, and then down at the dark skin of my darling – my sinful angel, I knew that things were not as they should be. I want more than anything to believe that there is good on this Earth, and that there is enough in circulation for me to salvage and dilute my romances with.


It was so hot in that room, and all that was audible was the futile swirl of my ceiling fan. Though we lay without clothes, we were buried underneath our sheets – as in a dried swirl that was once an ebb of intoxicated romance. Memories of the night before seeped slowly into me. I had done things…

Our relationship wasn’t perfect. In fact, it was far from it. It was purely a sexual endeavor, but we both tricked ourselves into thinking it was more. In truth, the only time we ever really got along was when we were drunk. She had hollow affections that were wasted on me, and I had romantic desires that could not outweigh my seedy ones. All my romantic efforts were shaken and stirred in the loud chaos of a room that would not stop spinning. The morning after was always the worst part.

What if metaphors could manipulate the poet? Then maybe couples could manipulate their relationships. I thought the walls were melting last night, but it was really just my eyes. Everything I thought was real and good about life blended together in my glass. It did take me a while to sip it down. It was icy cold, but it burned, and for last night, I remembered that everything can be real and good.

I don’t know why she did it, night after night, weekend after weekend. My pure, sweet darling, whom I had sent tremors through, lay now like an angel in my arms – an angel who had let me have my way with her. I hadn’t been to church in months, mostly because all of my Sunday mornings began like this. Neither of us knew what we wanted.

What if the bait ever bit back? What if the clouds ever evaporated? What if people manipulated whiskey, and not the other way around? What if the weekend was in my hands? What if I could hang onto it forever? Oh God, oh God, oh God… I whispered, and accidentally woke her.


She rustled between my elbows, and struggled to rub her eyes. My prayer began as a prayer of forgiveness, but it slowly morphed itself into a desperate wish – a wish for her to abandon the deeds of the night before – to forget all existence of their occurrence. The wish throbbed throughout my chest, leaving guilty pangs stained across my insides.



My perfect girl is out there somewhere. Whoever she is, she cares – she won’t drive me to desperate, drunken weekends. She won’t battle hangover as she puts her shirt back on in the morning. She won’t give me such a small, meaningless kiss as she gets into her car, and leaves me lingering in the stalking, lonely dust of November.



I didn’t work on Sundays. She always did. Our relationship started out so pure and promising, but just as I had made my toast the night before to the promises and pleasures of nighttime, so was I raising my glass to the beginning. To the beginning, to the beginning, which looks so much shinier than the end.



After she left, I crept back into my house, sulked back into my hot room, and crawled underneath my covers. When I fell asleep again, I had a dream that I lived forever. I dreamt that I was given immortality, and through some flaw in the facet of the human mind, I experienced eternity in just under six hours. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of living forever. That way there would be no end, and there would be no beginning, and I’d never have to worry about the morning after. I’ve always thought that if I could live forever, then I’d be able to accomplish all my dreams.

Time passes in and around me; it sweeps across my stained floors, and dances like laughter across my walls, moving all around. It watches me as I waste my life away beneath my bed sheets. Time ruined the picnics I used to have with my mother at the park. Time ruined the roses I bought for my 8th grade sweetheart, and time is ruining my life. In the clutches of infinity, however, all of that is to no worry. That afternoon I dreamt that time was a ghost, and that all of the clocks around me held their fibbing tongues.

It was a nightmare.


In my dream, I watched my world crash a million times. I saw myself much as I was when I had the dream. I was not doing everything. I was not doing anything. I wasn’t observing history to make the future better. I wasn’t using my gathered knowledge for modern science, and I sure as hell wasn’t fighting for the many glories of life that I know exist. All I contributed to the world were my warm breaths and dirty laundry. I saw myself in an infinity of morning afters. The sand didn’t slip through the hourglass, but the loves of my life slipped through my fingers – an infinite relapse of girls putting their shirts back on and telling me they needed to go to work. She got up. She left. My sheets weren’t enough. My body wasn’t enough. That was how I spent eternity, and my pillow was my only friend. When I woke up to ticking reality, I was cold all over, and I was another day older.



What’s wrong?” she asked me that night across the phone, and I couldn’t tell her.


I don’t know… I don’t know what I want, I don’t know what I feel… I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel.”


Listen, everything’s alright. Everything's okay.”


“…Sometimes I just really wonder…”


Baby, why are you talking like that?”


What do you want me to say? Tell me what I'm supposed to say in this situation.”


Just be honest,” she said.


I thought on that for a long moment. My thoughts swirled around it for many dark seconds. “Okay…” I said. “I love you, but...” and I paused.


Should I come over?”
“No, that’s alright… I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” And with that I hung up the phone. There had to be some secret to life that I didn’t know about – some hidden knowledge that the world was keeping from me. There had to be more than this.


Later on, I went to the store to buy some milk. It was an excuse for me to avoid the swords of sleep. Rustling into my warm, empty bed meant too many thoughts – negative thoughts singing me to sleep. I had a laundry list of issues to work out. I guess this is the part where I’m procrastinating. The burning bush is better left untouched – I supposed if I didn’t address it, it wouldn’t speak. I hadn’t spoken to my mother in ages. I hadn’t spoken to my God in ages. Instead I’d spent a lot of time hunched over the cereal bowl. Humans just aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.


I only passed one car on my ride home. It was cold, and damn lonely. Clearly, no one’s ever been back from Hell to talk about it. It must be the chilliest place in existence.

Right about now, God looks a lot like those wispy sheets of light, draping the city like a silk breath. I know if I chased after them, and embraced them in their fullness, I’d be happy. But instead I’m turning onto the next street.

I’ll bet in Hell, you can see your breath – your white breath, and I’ll bet it looks a lot like God – like the image of something that could’ve been – the phantom of fulfillment. Like something you released, and can never get back. On Earth, with decision in our hands, the Light lingers around, offering itself for the taking. But in Hell, I’m sure it vanishes – a brief image of how things should have been before reality materializes behind it.

As I took the final street toward home, I could see my breath. I wanted so badly for my perfect, perfect darling to be there, warm and waiting to fall asleep with me – but even more, I wanted to stretch my limbs across my own sheets. I wanted so badly to believe that this world is good and beautiful, but the single car I passed, a police vehicle, screamed its siren outside my window. A cop trying to do the right thing was the only person on any street anywhere.


As I got out of the car, I looked up toward the moon. It wasn’t full yet. There was an enormous ring of light surrounding it, and I remembered the first time I had discovered that ring back in January. I had discovered it right after I had dropped my girlfriend off at her home. I remember last January, staring up from her porch, smiling, and believing that everything was going to turn out alright. God bless those blissful beginnings.


When I went to bed that night, I had another crazy dream, but it vanished before I could remember it. In the morning, I looked out through my window as the light flittered through like a groggy butterfly. Since when have humans ever gotten anything right? I was pretty sure I loved her, but she was just going to have to wait until I discovered what love really is. We were like two ghosts, whistling the tune of the wind.

My Monday passed by with rapid insincerity, all the while the weather growing worse, and the November skies howling outside the office windows.

“Hey Mandy,” I said as she walked by, and she responded. Her voice was like a pillow. “Do you remember the password for our IST?”

“Oh God...” Her smile felt so good to me, and when she put her hand in front of her face and squinted toward her memory, I thought of a thousand other questions I wanted to ask her. “I think it's the boss's birthday, isn't it?”

I admit, I had no idea. “Possibly, but... That doesn't really help us, does it?”

“No, I guess not,” and then suddenly, from out of the pure, drab nowhere, Mr. Hudson came by, with his face buried in documents. “Happy birthday, Mr. Hudson!” she shouted.

Without even lifting his brow, he said, “Not until January, Mandy, but close.”

“January... January...” She frowned. “January 27th! The password is one-two-seven, spelled out!” She spoke like an epiphany, and it felt good. I hope she knew how amazing I thought it was that she could bring pleasure to a situation as gray as the weather outside. I thanked her, and she disappeared.


When work ended, I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do more than go home, but I couldn't think of anything less either. The rain crashed toward the parking lot at a slant, like a wheelchair ramp to heaven. My identity needed a wheelchair. Badly. And as my wet fingers slipped across the keys, I cranked the ignition. Nothing. I cranked it again. Silence. I beat my palms into the steering wheel and shouted. A slight ringing in the ears that time, but nothing more. Only the sound of my cracked identity as it leaked out through my eyes. I wept bitterly.


The rain falls the same way it did way back when I stood on the playground and tried to catch it with my hands. I usually love the rain because it makes time stand still. The future melts into the gray horizon. But I feel like the past does too. I remember a year ago when it rained in the parking lot, and I said hey to Mandy for the first time, and it was awkward, but I appreciated it. Today it rains and I wander aimlessly toward my house because my car won't start. It's a bitter cold rain chewing on my face, and as I breathe in deep, I also sob some more, but you'll never know that.

Long ago it rained, and it meant no soccer practice – it meant I got to go home early and watch cartoons with my mother. They were the ones where characters would die, and then pale, white versions of them would float upward with their new harps and strings. Today it rains, and I wonder whether or not everything’s really going to be okay. I have no idea what my mother’s doing, or how she’s feeling.


I should probably go inside somewhere – they tell me there’s a tornado coming. On a day like today, it makes me think that all those cartoon apparitions are rioting in the sky, and having just as bad a day as I am. Everything’s alright. Everything’s okay. That’s what my darling told me anyway, but she’s nowhere to be seen now. That was right before I said, “I love you, but...”. Days like today make me feel like I have immortality. The time stands still, so for these beautiful, fleeting moments, I have immortality, and I don't have to be afraid.


Suddenly, I heard a woman yelling at me. I moved toward the curb and peered past the pour to see Mandy in her rickety car with the passenger door flung open. She was leaning across, beckoning me in. God, she looked great.



“Hey! Don't you want a ride?”


“Yeah...” I said, and took a very deep breath. “Yeah, I'd like that a lot...”


And I thought, Cheers, Mandy. Here's to the beginning.

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