Anatomy of a Song by Heather Fowler
Liesl had been walking on the ceiling all morning. Well, walking and striding and pacing and ranting. An unexpected lightness due to recent weight loss had allowed for this activity, and she liked the way the stucco poked, without penetrating, her bare feet. She was, however, furious and sad. Below the ceiling, on the floor, there was a plate she had placed carefully where no furniture would interfere, and on this plate a cluster of fifty or so small balloons in an array of colors.
As she walked, looking up at her toes, or sometimes, as she stood, staring down at the room from a stillness because walking threw her aim off, she punctuated her morning diatribe with only the best or most awful parts of the song he dedicated her on the airwaves, and then, throwing a dart, down at the plate, would attempt to pop a balloon. Because of the law of random success, applicable to not just this but celebrity as well, she started to think the goodness of each awful comment she came up with could be gauged by her success at the deflation or safety of the targeted balloon.
This song dedicated to her, its lyrics scraped her skin off. "You want back your ex-boyfriend and are fucked up," was the paraphrase, though the actual lyrics might have been otherwise. Pop. A purple balloon.
But between bouts of balloon violence, in the one-two step that brought her closer to the place above the plate, she also expressed doubt at her own perceptions and thought about how absolutely hot he was, which, because it was shallow, made her the more irritated at the song.
"'You are so light, I could put you in a vacuum seal bag meant for sweaters,'" she quoted, raging. "So, silly man, sucking all my air out and putting me in storage?" Pop. A green balloon. "But of course he didn't mean this for me. Of course not." This said in striding worry, sotto voce, with her considering his adorable ass and how it looked so good in jeans. "Weakness!" she shouted. "Stop it right now!" Of course, the thought of his cute ass caused an acceleration to the plate. "Yes, he did mean it that mean way, damn fucker. I'll have him know, I am far more than light or heavy! I am heavy! Heavy. Deep. Damn it." Pop. A red balloon. A walk away. A furtive sigh.
"And let's think of the anatomy of a song. Verse. Bridge. Chorus. Quality of instruments. Which to be focused on? He might have meant any of these things. I can't imagine he would hurt me on purpose." Plate below. Dart bouncing. A blue balloon falling from the plate to the carpet. "But then he is hurtful in other things sometimes. Fucker." Pop. An orange balloon. A striding meander toward the left corner where a stainless glass lighting fixture hung. "But he's so beautiful. Like this light." She took a moment to admire the light, festive as it was with blue and tan pieces of alternating glass. The blue balloon had not popped. These two things were somewhat connected now. But her hands were empty.
Periodically, she went down to the floor to retrieve the darts and this part of the exercise was the exhaustion refrain of the song, the song of the balloon popping action as she considered it, perhaps the guitar solo or musical interlude. Still, she was talking to herself, more, "And it's not like I was trying that hard to lose all this weight, though, granted, ceiling walking is a new and unexpected perk." Striding up the wall, she contemplated the room below like the blueprint of a room. Couch. Chair. Small oak desk. Television set. Big plate. Balloons. Oh, she missed a dart. Still there on the floor. Tiny. Oh, well. And would he still come visit this morning? Did she want him to?
From the ceiling, her hair hung down like red vines. The radio still played. Another man had dedicated a beautiful song to a woman named Leslie. "Fuck you, Leslie," she said, aware completely that the imaginary Leslie was unknown. "Eitan does love you though."
Her yellow t-shirt kept falling, via gravity, towards the floor. This exposed her black satin bra. Her tits were a little cold. She felt lightheaded. That and her blood kept rushing to her head. Or because of which. "And then the song said, 'She's an infuriating mess who doesn't know her own mind, but precious like hallucinogens'?" The doorbell rang. She wondered how her face looked from upside down. "And this is my song?" Pop. A yellow balloon.
She walked to the corner where a waterstain remained from last year's floods. "Though maybe it wasn't about me, but for me? Still, he knows how hard I've worked to lose this weight. Okay, correct that, I haven't worked hard--but he knows I've felt strange about it." She looked down at the plate. Six balloons left. "And the song is not flattering." Her last tossed dart then fell to the plate and bounced to the couch.
She heard him wrestle with the unlocked door. "It's open," she said, rolling her eyes. "What? You think it's a snake or a small animal or something? Clutch and turn. Got it?" He heard none of this.
He walked in, gaped at her, said, "What are you doing, Liesl? I think your door's stuck. Did you get my song?"
She said, "It's not stuck. Slightly lift, remember? That's what you do. Yes, I did, Eric. Thank you very much." She took a step towards him, still hovering, unwilling to come down completely. "And I am walking on the ceiling. What does it look like I'm doing?"
"Well, come here."
He watched her. "Shit. That ceiling walking is brilliant," he said. But he was looking at her breasts in her bra, which were smaller than before. Or maybe he was looking at the pulse in her neck. Whatever he was doing, he was watching. "Get over here," he said.
"No," she replied, scaling down the wall only until she was standing at a horizontal to his vertical, almost at the height of his shoulders.
He looked at her hair falling straight down to cover her face. From there, she regarded the floor, still five feet above it. "It's good to see you," he said, dropping to kneel to regard her. "Good morning," he said. He reached up, putting his palms on both of her cheeks and kissed her. "Hey. Your face is a bit flushed. What are you doing anyway? What's with the plate?"
"Thinking about your song," she said. She stood her ground, or actually her wall.
But he knelt where her feet would go to step down, so she couldn't clamber to the floor. His body was her obstacle as he reached up for her back, encircling it with his hands. He tilted his chin. She watched him watch her. Beautiful ass, beautiful eyes, she thought. "Come down," he said. "Come on."
And then he thrust his tongue in her mouth. His hands were heavy everywhere, pulling her towards the earth, so disorienting she didn't even remember falling onto him until later. Things happened naturally that way. Neither really listened to the radio, which was on what seemed to be an endless commercial break. Though there were other songs that happened. Must have been at least five or six.
But she was still above him, defiled balloons all around, rocking him into another series of sounds.
Heather Fowler writes a lot, reads a lot, and sometimes teaches, most recently Short Fiction at the UCSD Literature Department. She has been published recently at all the fun venues you can see on her website:www.heatherfowlerwrites.com