He had held love in his hands and he had let it go.
It was dark inside his room. He thought of it as his tomb, really. He had encased himself in. He had hidden himself from the world he had let slip through his fingers and shatter. Really, the only way to be happy was to keep himself away from everyone.
He was safer this way. He brought pain to others. Tortoculis Rosebude thought daily of Valetta and the daughter he had let go. They had both been married to others, or at least intending to be. The scandal would have ripped both of their families apart.
In the end, they had let each other go and gone back to their lives. They had given Penelope up for adoption, they had walked away from each other. But he still loved her. All these years later, he still held a flame for her. The fire he held for Penelope was strong, as if someone had lit a firework inside of him.
That flame feuled his work. He had covered the available wall space in his room in words. When he had run out of room on the walls, he had written on the bookshelves. He had written on any available space after that. Table tops, the sides of his stereo, on the packages of food that he had delivered; he would rip open the cartons and write on the back of them.
He thought of himself as an environmentalist. He also had a wife he couldn’t stand to talk to or look at and a son that he was vaguely fond of, but not really more than that. He had never really loved his son. It’s not that Yhestin was a bad kid. He just wasn’t her.
When he ran out of room (this happened occasionally) he would write on himself. Sometimes in ink, sometimes in dust. These words would eventually fade away, but in that he was satisfied. He didn’t want to maim himself; he wasn’t fucking crazy for god sake. But the words could fade away, or he could absorb them.
Then Tortocullis could be a blank canvass once more.
Sometimes, when he was feeling down, he would write what he wanted to be on his skin, in hopes that, by absorbing his wishes into his skin, that he would wake in the morning to a new destiny.
This never happened of course. But he did remain hopeful. He turned when the bed springs sounded behind him. Turning, he saw who sat there and grimaced. The girl was back. He remembered her this way. It was the last time he had seen Penelope, the last time he had seen the daughter, and the woman, that he truly loved.
“I really don’t understand why you do this to yourself.” The girl said. “I mean, this isn’t healthy. Like, when was the last time you opened a window?” She huffed and took a slim cigarette case out of the front pocket of her dress.
Tort was affronted when she lit up a cigarette. “You’re too young to smoke.” He said.
His young daughter regarded him with raised eyebrows. “Hey, don’t look at me. You’re conjuring me up this way. This is your memory.” The girl took a drag off of her cigarette. “But I can’t deny I enjoy their minty flavour and smooth, additive free taste.” The girl laughed.
Smiling, Tort sat down in the chair opposite the bed. “You always did have an odd sense of humour.” He said.
The girl nodded. “So did you.” She flicked the ash from her cigarette into the ash tray on the table. It was large and made from a dark purple crystal. It had not been there before. “What happened?” She asked. “When did you get stuck in like a god damn freak? What happened to you?”
Her voice was full of concern. “When I lost you.” He said. “My world just fell apart. Valetta was married to that awful Ignatious.”
The girl shivered. “He gives me the creeps.” She flicked a bit of ash into the ash tray. “All that awful smoke around his head.”
Tort nodded and rubbed his eyes. “I never wanted this.”
“This.” Tort motioned around his room. “I never wanted to be a shut in. I never wanted to just let go.”
“Well then go out there and do something about it.” His daughter said. “You can’t change your life by just dreaming about it. Go out there. Find the woman you love and tell her you love her.”
“But she’s still married to Ignatious.”
The girl rolled her eyes. “Um, hello? People do get divorces and have mad passionate affairs nowadays you know. We are in the more civilized and sexual times.” She motioned with her hand, a flick of the wrist. “It’s not like when you were born. Who cares if she’s married? If you still love each other, isn’t it worth finding out what she thinks of you?”
Tortoculis Rosebude regarded his daughter as she took another drag off her cigarette and flicked some more ash into the ash tray. He scratched his head and reached for a cigarette of his own. “You know, you’re pretty sophisticated for a twelve year old girl.”
She grinned at him. “I had good parents.” She said. Smoke trailed away from her to the door of his room. It seemed to float around it, framing the wooden doorjamb like a welcoming cloud.
“So what do you say?” The girl asked. “Do you want to go out?”