Gerard and Celeste
by Grant Faulkner
For the Love of Children
After he had children, Gerard saw each person as another’s son or daughter. The pinch of worry in a mother’s eyes just after midnight. The dreadful, slow wait until the front door creaked open once again. Safety. Or was it? He wanted to tell Celeste he touched her with such care, even as they lay in the strewn sheets of another cheap hotel room. He’d asked a friend to watch his children to be with her. Right then they might be crossing a street without anyone holding their hands. Will you tie my hands behind my back? He did so gently.
Life on a String
Celeste told him not to toy with her. But then Gerard found himself a yo-yo on her string. He asked questions. She told him nothing.
“But we fucked,” he said.
“You called it making love.”
“But you said it was fucking.”
Up and down. She snapped her gum as she did yo-yo tricks: reaching for the moon, hopping the fence, punching bag. He was so dizzy, the whirr of the string tingling in his ears. But then everything stopped, and she cradled him in her soft hands. To ask why was futile. Why not? she’d say with a casual flick.
“Museum guards are the most enlightened people on the planet,” Celeste said.
“But they always look bored.”
“Perhaps they're beyond the realm of passions.”
Gerard thought of the guards later as they lay in bed in the dimming light of a hotel room just down the street from the art museum. The guards stared impassively into space, no matter the wild thrusts of the art around them. They waited, kept watch, much like he'd wait later that evening with his wife in the chaotic clatter of their house. Colors went unnoted. He was there only to make sure nothing broke.
One never leaves some places behind. The billowing white curtains of the hotel room in Los Angeles, fireworks shooting over the enchanted castle. “Can you believe we fucked in Disney Land?” Celeste said. In Boston, she slipped a note under the door. “May this not be about regret, but joy and wisdom.” He could still remember the wedge of morning light striking the carpet so timorously. They dined on room service in Dallas, showered together in Atlanta. They deserved a plaque outside of each room. He saw only the hallways now, the maids’ carts full of clean towels, soap, new rooms.
Celeste was surrounded in the restaurant by her friends, titters and cackles of laughter. She’d sent them his emails, his love letters. Snarky online jokes carried over to brunch the next morning. One called him a fool. Another called him a stalker. Gerard saw himself as just another great artist in the romantic tradition. He drew a picture of the statue that should be erected in his honor: the man who tried to say everything in his heart. A pigeon perched on his head, shat, and then flew off. Two lovers walked by, but they didn’t notice him. For eternity.
Each winter, as Gerard sat outside and watched his hands purple in the cold, he chastised Celeste for her selfishness. But it’s always difficult to know who abandoned whom.
“I can’t leave my family,” he said.
“I can’t forfeit myself,” she said.
Now she sat alone in the penumbra of a party’s flitting lights, damning him. He wrote letters he never sent. She sketched his torso in the middle of the night. He bought a cupcake on her birthday. She kissed a man who looked just like him. I’m Romeo, he told a dog. I’m Juliet, she told a snake.
© 2014 Grant Faulkner
Grant Faulkner is the executive director of National Novel Writing Month and the co-founder of 100 Word Story (100wordstory.org). His stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Poets & Writers, The Southwest Review, PANK, Gargoyle, eclectica, Puerto del Sol, and the Berkeley Fiction Review, among others. His collection of one hundred 100-word stories, Fissures, will be out in the spring of 2015.
To learn more about Grant, check out his website here: http://www.grantfaulkner.com/
Like this story? Check out another great short from Issue 100.