Categories
Short Stories

The Other Night in Piccadilly

“When did we stop doing that?” Charlie asked while pointing at a group of friends —probably not older than 20— drinking beer and laughing under the statue of Eros or well, as Charlie always obnoxiously pointed out, the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain. “I’m sorry to inform you we’re not too young to be kids nor too old to be adults,” I said. “You’re such a granma Claire,” Charlie said. He stopped holding my hand to get a cigarette that he ended up choosing not to smoke, but rather throw into the tip jar of a guy singing Sinatra songs. We kept walking. Charlie’s plan was to go and eat something in Chinatown, I on the other hand simply wanted to get some takeout and eat it while watching whatever was on the TV at the moment. “Do you ever think about where you will be in 30 years?” He asked. “First, I don’t know if I’ll be alive or if there’s still a planet. Second, I would hope, settled, maybe with a family, not sure,” I replied. “You see? I would hope to be in the middle of Thailand taking street photography or in the Middle East eating some local food. There are so many things to do, places to be, people to know,” he said. For the record, Charlie has never been anywhere further than Birmingham, and it was by accident. “Since when do you want to do all of that, we’ve been together for 8 years and I’ve known you for 10,” I asked. In the past months, he’s been acting like his time is running out, as if he needed to do everything now. “Precisely, I’ve been the same Charlie forever. It’s been Charlie and Claire for God knows how long,” he said, not looking at me. “Eight years,” I noted. “Well yeah, eight years! That’s a kid in primary school,” he said. “You’re acting like it’s a bad thing we’ve been together for that long. I don’t have you tied up, you could’ve left,” I replied. “Could I? Could I, Claire? Eight years,” he said under his breath. I felt like crying, not entirely out of sadness but out of anger. “You’re such an idiot, Charlie,” I said aggressively wiping the tears off my face with my hand. “Perhaps it’s best if we…,” he said. “Perhaps,” I replied looking away. Charlie tried to reach for a hug but instantly regretted it. He kept walking, I turned around and walked in the other direction. I went back to the statue of Eros. One of the guys from the group shouted: hey you! Come with us. My first instinct was to ignore him and keep walking, but I didn’t want to go back home and explain to my mum everything that happened, so I turned around. As I was approaching them one of the girls said to the guy who shouted: don’t be an ass. “I won’t,” he said. “So, why are you crying, love?” He asked. “I don’t think she wants to talk about it Michael, shut up,” the girl said. “You’re right. Let’s drink to that,” Michael said while handing over a can of cheap beer. I opened it and chugged the whole thing. I hate beer. “Woah, I was not expecting that!” Michael said. “Are you from around here?“ she asked. “Yeah, Camden, my whole life,” I replied. She approached me and whispered in my ear: was that guy your boyfriend? “Yes, eight years,” I replied. “Men are such idiots,” she said. “Amen to that,” I replied. “I’m Katie by the way,” she said as she opened another can and handed me one. “I’d like to make a toast, to…—” Katie said while looking at me. “Claire,” I said softly. “— Claire. We often find and lose love at unexpected moments,” she ended. We sat around the fountain for what felt like an hour, I’d already had three beers on an empty stomach. We talked about politics, musicals, flamingos, and death. “I’ve got to go, my mum is probably worried about me,” I said simply wanting to go back home and cry my eyes out for hours listening to Taylor Swift or something. “Bakerloo line?” She asked. “Yeah, but then I’m taking Jubilee,” I said. “That’s alright,” she said. Katie said goodbye to Michael, she kissed him. “Text me when you’re home, love you,” he said. Michael stayed there with another guy to whom I didn’t talk to. We got to the station and boarded the train. “Was that your boyfriend?” I asked. “Yeah, we’ve been together since high school, I love that crazy man,” she replied. There was a moment of silence, the only thing we could hear was the rattling noise of the train and a group of — probably— lost Spanish tourists talking. “Do you know what hurts the most? That Cha—my stupid ex, virtually said that being eight years with me was somehow a bad thing, like a waste of time,” I said holding back my tears. “People who’ve been lucky for too long stop thinking they’re lucky and just think that’s how it’s supposed to be,” Katie said. “Baker Street,” the voice from the train said. We both got out. “It was lovely meeting you,” I said. “Me too,” she said. I walked towards platform 10 and she walked to another one. As I turned around to ask for her number or Instagram I could no longer see her.

© Gabriel Berm

Categories
Short Stories

For Old Times’ Sake

It was somewhat late at night, I was organizing my room for the third time since I was a small kid. Looking for anything I might think was important. In one not-so-old box which had been relegated to the depths of a drawer, I found several receipts, movie theatre receipts to be specific. The ink was barely there but I could make out some details such as the date, they were from four years ago. Suddenly it hit me. “Ava,” I thought to myself. She was pretty much the only person I went to the movies with four years ago, those tickets probably were from the first movie we went to together. I took a picture of the receipts and sent them to Ava. She replied about 12 minutes later: “receipts?” I texted her: “AMC receipts from 4 years ago.” “No way,” she replied. “Wanna go out for a movie? For old times’ sake?” I texted. For all I knew she could be dating some dude named Kyle or I don’t know, serving in the army. “I’m free tomorrow night, I still live in the same house,” she replied. The chances of her being in a relationship with a guy named Kyle or whatever significantly decreased. My stomach felt weird just to think about seeing her again, perhaps it was the $1 burritos my friend Erick’s “burrito guy” sold me that day. I started wondering if she still felt something or if she just remembered me like I remember that Starbucks barista with blue hair who wanted to become a writer but got pregnant and had to move to Denver with the kid’s dad. I couldn’t figure out if Ava even saw me as a friend. Did I ask her out as a friend?
I couldn’t answer that question if my life depended on it. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. I went online and bought a couple of tickets to the latest movie starring The Rock and went to sleep. The next day, at about 6:00 PM I drove to her house, she lived a ten-minute drive away from mine. When we were seven our parents agreed to take each other’s kids to school depending on the day, that’s how we met. Ava’s dad and my mom worked together. I texted her that I was outside, then I saw her walking out of the front door. “Nice ride,” she said, probably joking since it was the same car I had in high school. Once we got to the theater, she ordered the usual: small popcorn, medium Mountain Dew and king-size Snickers. Ava always said that there was some poetry to ordering one thing from each size category, I didn’t quite see the poetry there. The only thing I could see was that we had overpaid for the Mountain Dew but underpaid for the popcorn. I simply got bottled water, I have never been a fan of popcorn, they are great, but I hate when they get stuck between my teeth. I’m probably traumatized because of that time I went to the movies with a girl and ended up with my braces filled with whatever that mildly-hard part of the popcorn is. We sat in the last row of the theatre, and as I was about to start the conversation, an astronomically loud Samsung ad started playing; it was about a brand new feature that no one would care about in a year or less —like most things these days. I tried talking three or four times more, but it was impossible. Going out on a “catching up” date to the movies and an action-packed film of all types is, speaking from experience, a terrible idea. I believe Ava could see my frustration, and softly said: “maybe an ice cream after the movie?” Once the movie was over, we went to get a milkshake and then got into the car — just as we did four years ago— to drink while she picked the music. Ava set the volume to a low-enough-to-talk-but-not-low-enough-that-there-would be-an-uncomfortable-silence-when-no-one-spoke level. I started with the basic “How’s everything been?” Ava started talking about her work and college, eventually, she mentioned Tom, her —in Ava’s words— “guy I’m seeing but we’re nothing yet.” I told her about Kate, my ex, and how she always bought Ava up every time we argued. Ava laughed. So far the day had a feeling of an old sitcom reunion, everyone is a little older, they’re doing the same thing but it didn’t quite feel the same. I remembered a physics class with professor Stevens, he talked about the fact that you can move around however much you’d like, but if you end up in the exact place your displacement would still be zero. Ava and I went to college out of state, we were both pretty much out of it, thousands in student debt, work, new friends, her parents got divorced, her dad had a new kid named Alana, I almost died in a car accident last fall, but there we were, in the same parking lot of the same AMC, listening to some old music but mostly new music from old artists, in the same car. All of that combined made me feel at home. Yes, a lot of good things happened in those four years, but a lot of bad ones too. Feeling as if none of that happened, as if all of that was merely a dream or a passing thought, was amazing. Man, what a drug the past is, it makes us weep, but we still crave it. Ava’s face was dimly lit by my old car’s light, her eyes glimmering by the glimpse of the past. I touched her face to register if all of it was real, and then we kissed. Many things have changed, but I was glad to know her kisses haven’t. I drove her back to her house. As Ava was getting out of the car, she got a call from Tom. She acted as if it was nothing. I smiled and started driving back to the place I used to call home, but now it’s just “my parent’s house.” A few hundred feet before finally getting to the house, I stopped to let my old neighbor Mr. Smith cross the street with his dog. I checked my phone and saw a notification from the airline that my flight had no changes and was scheduled for tomorrow morning.

© Gabriel Berm

Categories
Short Stories

About Time

“What should we do with the body?” I said while doing my best impression of a CSI investigator. “Stop it,” Olivia said, chuckling. “No, but seriously, what are we gonna do with Mark? We can’t just leave him here,” I asked. “Fine, we’ll take him with us, pray my dad is asleep or out watching a football game. Is there any game tonight?” She said, audibly nervous. “Two things, one, it’s three in the morning, two, I wouldn’t know there was a football game if I was physically there,” I replied. I called an Uber, we were the only ones left or, for that matter, able to acknowledge our very own existence. When the Uber arrived, Olivia and I lifted Mark, and to the best of our abilities sat him on the backseat. Mark’s skin was fish-belly white, at least three tones lighter than sober Mark. “Is that guy ok?” The driver asked. “He just needs some air,” Olivia said. Phyllis —the driver— opened the window on Mark’s side, his hair looked like a hair product commercial. Once we got to Olivia’s house we carried Mark into the living room and placed him on the floor. Olivia put a pillow under his head. “How thoughtful of you,” I joked. She threw a pillow at my face. “Water?” I asked. She nodded. I brought two glasses of water, and we sat on the couch, staring at Mark’s drunk self. “I can’t believe you once had the biggest crush on him, what a taste,” I said, feeling my head slightly dizzy. “Shut up, I had a crush on you too,” Olivia said, seemingly regretting saying it. “You did?” I asked, somewhat surprised. She nodded, visibly embarrassed. “Well, I had a crush on you too, or have, I don’t know,” I said, feeling dizzier. “No, you didn’t,” she said. “Since fourth grade, I fell in love with that girl with the huge eyeglasses and the rubber band collection,” I replied, feeling slightly drunk, it was as if my body was now allowed to process the beers after we sorted the Mark situation. Olivia rapidly sat on the edge of the couch and looked at me. “Tell me you’re joking,” she said seriously, she had that stare that made you confess even your deepest secrets. “I’m not,” I replied. “When did you have a crush?” I asked. Olivia sat there in silence for a few moments, then answered. “Fourth grade, I even liked those stupid shorts and your weird obsession with pirates,” she said with a nostalgic voice. “I still wear shorts, and my love for pirates hasn’t but increased over the past several years,” I said. She smiled. “And Mark?” I asked. “I thought if I liked your best friend you would be jealous,” she noted, with her cheeks looking more red with every second of silence proceeding it. “So, do you still…you know?” I asked. My heart was beating with emotion, and my head was spinning courtesy of Coors Light and Olivia. She turned around without looking at my face. “Do you?” She asked. “Every day more since fourth grade,” I replied, thinking that sounded like something Michael Bublé would say. Olivia turned around, smiling and with her eyes sparkling. I grabbed her hand, she looked into my eyes. In a heartbeat, Olivia kissed me, and I kissed her back. “I’ve been wanting to do that for a while,” she said. As I placed my hand on her face to properly kiss her we heard a grunt. “About fu-hiccup-ing time,” Mark said and then went back to sleep. We laughed, her laugh hasn’t changed one bit in all these years.

© Gabriel Berm

Categories
Short Stories

Blackout


Today my calculus professor told us that we were probably having a long weekend since the campus was getting some sort of wiring improvement, which was great since I could finally spend some time with Emily. I called her, and she agreed to take a 10-hour bus from Denver to visit me. I would’ve gone to Denver but her roommate hates me for some reason, so my dorm was our only choice. My roommate Farid was always cool when Emily came over, he was going to have his annual Harry Potter marathon with some guys from his major anyway. Since Emily was going to take the night bus I had to clean the dorm as much as I could, weeks upon weeks of RedBull cans and Cup Noodles’ remains close to fossilization didn’t exactly go away with Lysol. Farid had this habit of saving stuff for later to recycle, the thing is he never actually went and recycled it. Farid left the dorm at around 7:00 PM. “Enjoy the weekend my dude,” he said, wearing a Slytherin hat. After an hour and a half of cleaning, the dorm looked somewhat presentable. The only problem I had was it didn’t exactly look like a nice place to have a date, it —still— looked like a boys dorm. So I called my friend Erin for help. She got there in about ten minutes. “So? What’s the emergency?” Erin asked. “Would you like to have a date here?” I said. “No,” she replied decisively. “That’s the problem,” I continued. “Is Emily coming?” She asked. I nodded. “What about not taking her here?” She said. “I have $25 left, those books professor Anderson asked for were ridiculously expensive,” I said. “Fine, I’ll be back, give me ten…fifteen,” Erin said as she left, almost jogging. It actually took her 20 minutes, but she got there. She was carrying a cardboard box filled with a barrage of different objects. Erin started taking out of the box a set of garden lights, two scented candles, a psychedelic-tablecloth-looking thing, and a Bluetooth speaker. Once she arranged the lights, set the candles, and the speaker on top of the tablecloth thing she said “I want all of this back by Monday.” “You’re awesome,” I told her. “I know,” she replied. I set the alarm to 6:00 AM to get ready and pick Emily up at around 7:00 AM and went to sleep. The next morning, I got woken up by Shaggy’s sweet voice singing Bombastic —that has been my alarm since I was 15. As I checked the messages I noticed a text from Emily. “The night bus was full, I’ll take the 8 am one, love you.” I was half relieved and half sad, on one hand, I could resume my sleeping but on the other, I was going to see her less. “Got it, text me when you’re close, love you too,” I texted her. Nine and a half hours later I went to pick her up. We kissed and we hugged, then drove back to campus. When we entered the dorm and I tried to turn on the lights, but, they didn’t turn on, in fact, nothing did. The sun hadn’t set yet, but unless it suddenly decided not to set for the first time in billions of years, we were out of luck. “Weird, didn’t they tell you something about the power going off on the weekend?” Emily asked. I quite frankly forgot that the dorm was indeed part of campus hence it would be subject to the wiring situation. “I’m sorry,” I replied. Emily laughed. “I can see you had quite something planned here,” she said, admiring Erin’s setup. We ordered some Uber Eats and ate it while sitting on the tablecloth with the candles lit and Vocalise Op. 34 playing in the background. The sun, not skipping another day, eventually and predictably flawless set. The room was now fully lit by nothing but the two candles Erin left. We talked about college and how different it was from high school, she told me about a guy who got arrested on campus for selling fake AirPods and I told her about a girl who got caught cheating using glow in the dark ink and UV-light-emitting pen. It was around nine or ten, the already almost finished candles were with every ten minutes burning even dimmer, Emily said that perhaps we could see the stars since all the lights were off. I took two red SOLO cups, a carton of cheap wine Farid and I had stashed just in case, and we got out. Emily was lighting the way with her phone’s flashlight. I took her to the roof of the computer science building, the tallest on campus. We sat there, admiring the starless sky, but from the distance, we could see the reason we couldn’t see the stars —the city— shining brighter than any trace of a star we could try to spot. I placed my arm around Emily, and she said “it’s beautiful up here” and I replied looking at her eyes reflecting the not-so-distant buildings “it really is.”

© Gabriel Berm

Categories
Short Stories

Close your eyes

I was finishing a can of cheap beer when the doorbell rang. I knew it was her, she always arrived ten minutes late to everything, after some time I simply learned to adjust my schedule ten minutes past the agreed-upon time. I opened the door. “Hi,” Miranda said while waving her hand nervously. We sat on the living room sofa. The lights were dimmed, the TV was off, it felt as if nothing bad could ever happen. “Are your parents home?” She asked. “Pediatricians summit,” I replied. “So?” I asked curtly. “So what?” She replied. “So why did you want to see me?” I asked dryly. “I can’t see my boyfriend now?” She replied. “Your boyfriend? I’m glad I still am, it doesn’t look like it,” I replied. “What the hell are you talking about?” She asked, annoyed. “Miranda, I know why you’re here, Josh heard it from principal Jenkins,” I said with a soft trembling voice. My eyes started to get wet, I could feel my eyelids doing their best to prevent a single tear from escaping. Miranda’s eyes looked exactly how I thought mine did. “Charlie,” she said hardly being able to speak. “I’m happy for you, you know that, you deserve that and more, you deserve the world Mimi, every single fucking inch of every good thing out there,” I said, now being able to feel some teardrops sliding down my cheeks. “I lov-“ she said but I interrupted her. “Don’t. Don’t say it, not now,” I said while placing my hand on her thigh. “I don’t even know if I’ll succeed, it’s still a one a million chance,” she said. “If there’s someone that will make it, that’s you, LA is going to love you,” I said with a smile. She jumped and hugged me, her tears started wetting my shirt. “So, who’s this big shot producer?” I said trying to delay the inevitable. “I’m not really sure, I mean, he’s legit and all, he said something about a teen’s show or something, he liked my voice after watching an Instagram post,” she replied wiping her tears, her eyes now visibly red. “Charlie, we could…I don’t know…try long-distance? Maybe?” Miranda said. “Mimi, I don’t want to distract you from your dreams, and let’s face it, you’ll have no problem finding a better-looking guy than me in LA,” I said. “But I want you, Charlie, I don’t know why you don’t even want to try,” she said, crying a little. “Because you deserve better, LA or not, you deserve a guy who drives you to Target to buy some weird kitchen contraption to make an Instagram recipe or goes to your house in the middle of the night because you feel lonely, or…or,” I said, then stopped to take a deep breath. “Or, tells you how beautiful you are every single fucking day because you’re and I just want to kiss your face and tell you how much I love you but I’m not that guy, I’m not,” I finished, crying. “Charlie….,” she said and kissed me. “I don’t want to see you leave,” I said. “I have to go,” she replied. “I know, I literally don’t want to see you leave, I’ll close my eyes and then you can go. Good luck Mimi, I’m proud of you,” I said as I slowly closed my eyes, seeing her face less and less with every fraction of an inch my eyelids got closer to each other. I waited for a second or two and said with a soft voice “I love you,” not knowing if she heard me or not.

© Gabriel Berm

Categories
poetry

Ticking

When the stars
Seemed a little brighter
And clocks
were ticking faster
I felt sometimes
Your hand on top of mine
When mornings cried light
And your heart
Beat closer to mine
That’s when I knew
That your eyes
Time defied

© Gabriel Berm

Categories
Uncategorized

Rhyme #7

Your eyes were as big as my doubts

Your words less hard than I thought

The love 

Unrequited as it must

Yet my hands were shaking as you talked

Your smile prevented me to cry

The reason why

Shall only be known by the stars in the sky

For all of those things are barely memories

And I’m not the one you want in your routine

My God what I would give for you to see me

In the way that you see him

My God what I would give 

For you to say the words “I do too”

When I say I love you

© Gabriel Berm

Categories
poetry

Multitudes

There’s a multitude in your eyes

And in your smile

There’s life where it must

And lust where it’s just

The heart beats louder before it stops

Yet love is fainter before it’s gone

For all our troubles are no more

Than the multitude in your eyes

Before they’re shut

© Gabriel Berm

Categories
Short Stories

That Night In Rotorua | Short Story

After driving for hours we finally got to the camping park, we barely got to see Rotorua, it was starting to get dark. Emma doesn’t really like to go out at night, she likes to rest and read rather than going out for a drink. I parked the camping van — which was more like a repurposed Toyota SUV than an actual camper — near to a beautiful clear lake. I went to pay for the night and then came back. Emma was asleep, she didn’t even notice we were at the park already. When I came back Emma was taking photos of the lake.
“Nice place, huh?” I said with some pride in myself for picking the best spot there.
“It’s so pretty,” she replied without looking at me.
“Wanna eat something? We can have chicken-flavored instant noodles or chicken flavored instant noodles from another brand,” I said somewhat joking.
“Surprise me,” she said smiling.
As I was boiling the water at the “kitchen,” Emma grabbed my ukulele and attempted to play it.
“Why is it so hard to play? It’s just four strings!” She said now looking at me.
“You’ll get the hang of it, we still have a month left from our trip,” I replied.
“Yeah, it ended up not being as awkward as I thought,” Emma said while “tuning” the instrument.
I poured the boiling water inside each noodle container and placed a plate on top of their lids.
“Awkward?” I asked.
“My sister said going halfway across of the world with a friend, alone, would be awkward,” she replied.
“I knew you would come, you tend not to care what other people think,” I replied.
“I don’t. It’s just, everyone back home thinks we’re having sex all day long but in reality, we just eat instant noodles and you sing me songs with this thing,” she said tapping the ukulele.
“Do you wanna have sex all day long?” I asked jokingly.
“Shut up! I’m being serious,” she said hiding the giggle.
The noodles were ready, I gave one to Emma and we started eating. Emma couldn’t eat without listening to music and since no one has yet discovered how to sing and eat simultaneously she hummed. Desire from Ryan Adams was playing, she loved Ryan Adams.
As I was opening the lid I noticed how clear the sky was. You don’t see that many stars in San Francisco. You’re more likely to bump into a Hollywood star than seeing an actual star. I told Emma to get out and check the sky. As her eyes were hooked on constellations which names I’m too ignorant to know. I could see a perfect reflection of each and every star on her deep brown eyes.
“Wanna stay out for a while?” I asked her.
“Sure,” she replied.
I took out a pair of foldable chairs and placed the two next to each other. I also took out a can of mosquito repellent and sprayed both of us. Now we both smelled like what Off thinks eucalyptus smells like.
“Do you ever think about that day?” She said not looking at me but the sky.
“What day? The day?” I said.
“Yeah, at Patrick’s house” she replied.
“We were drunk it was just a kiss,” I said. “Or, was it?” I continued.
“Yeah yeah, just a kiss,” she said softly.
“We could kiss now,” I said regretting it as I finished the sentence.
“I mean if we kissed at that party at Patrick’s house which had nothing special… I’d say this view demands a kiss,” she said, also seemingly regretting saying it.
I looked at her, our chairs were less than 2 inches apart, now she was looking at me. We kissed. Then as I was starting to go back to my original position, she held my hand. We were holding hands. And we fell asleep while listening from the distance “Just in Time” by Nina Simone playing on Emma’s phone inside the van.

© Gabriel Berm

Categories
Uncategorized

Something

There’s something I like about you, I’m sure there is. There must be. Your eyes? Perhaps. Your smile? I wouldn’t lie if I say it might. Your way of life? That could be somehow. If it’s not all of that then what is what I want? Is it the fact that you’re not with me but you’re with them? Is it the no so tender way you talk to me? Or is it the fact that you just don’t like me?

©️ Gabriel Berm