The feeling for something, something I haven’t done in a while, an itching in the back of my head. To scratch. I get into costume. Costume. The leather boots cut into my toes. I really should stop ordering things online when I’m drunk. My hair ragged as it begins to drape over my face, but all is well I look the part enough. With a sigh, I am off.
The sun beats into the office giving streaks of light. The pencil scratching on the paper masks my approach. Standing over her, I watch as she scrawls quickly across the paper, the unloading of her ideas, her thoughts. Feeling tense and awkward I slowly pace backwards towards the door, open it, then close it with a slight amount of force. She continues to write as I approach her once again. I clear my throat in an attempt to say something when she drops the pencil. “Is there something I can help you with?” she asks while she spins around in the oak desk chair. “Hello, Mrs… Ms. Payne, I’m writing an article on women of academics, and the uphill battle you face, do you have some time to discuss this?” She gives me a sort of grin frown. Lighting a cigarette she looks me up and down. A plume of smoke gracefully spills from her lips as she speaks. “My dear, I would be more interested to see who would publish such a piece. I do have the time for said discussion, but at this very moment I do not.” Swiveling in the chair once again she writes something on a scrap of paper and reaches back without looking. “We can meet here, I hope you don’t mind a drink or two.” taking the paper I leave the office. Not wanting to skip such a beautiful day I take a walk around the Harvard campus. Early Fall is just something else here.
The night is just as warm as the day. I make it to the tiny cottage she wrote on a scrap of paper. I knock on the door and there is no one answer. I stand around for a second or two then try the handle. It turns and I push the door open. Murmurs of different conversations pause at my entrance, then continue as I close the door. I guess I didn’t look like a threat. She sits on a large Victorian-esque couch. “Ms. Payne. It’s good to see you again.” I reach out to shake her hand, taking it she replies. “You as well, I do not believe I gave you the chance to introduce yourself.” With hands still grasped I make my introduction then join her on the couch. She hands me a tumbler with a clear liquid in it. “G&T, no need to worry it has a very weak bite.” tilting the glass back I swallow down its contents. “Thirsty, are we?” I set the glass down on the table in front of us. “Nervous, really.” She smiles and places her hand on my wrist. “There’s nothing to be nervous about, this place is out of harms way.” Sliding her fingers from my arm, I miss the touch, not of hers, more the sensation of being touched.
Several more gin and tonics flow when our conversation becomes honest and true. “How can you put up with it?” I ask, realizing I didn’t give a context for what ‘it’ was. “By whatever do you mean dear?” Her eyes are calm and kind as she blinks at me. “The constant battle of this, how is it someone so brilliant as yourself can be so belittled?” She chortles at my question. “Dear, that is just how the world operates. My papers are out, I just pray they can look pass what is or is not in my undergarments. One can pray.” She takes a deep breath, then a drink, and continues. “Though sometimes be it prayer does not work, I say you have to like you said, battle, scratch, claw your way through for them to see past my gender.” She sounds more British than before, and I enjoy it. “Things will change, it will take probably too long, but they will change.” I set my hand on her knee as I finish talking, then remove it quickly. We take two awkward sips from our drinks. I smile, she replies. “I do not doubt that, as probability would have it. It’s just not quite in the cards yet.” She finishes her drink then stands. “It appears it’s a good time as any for me to walk home, as I can still walk.” I hustle to my feet and blurt out. “I’ll walk you!” She nods with a smile and goes to fetch her coat.
The air is brisk as we walk pass the orange and yellow-leafed trees. “It’s quite awe inspiring isn’t it?” She stares up at the heavens. “It sure is.” I reply. We walk side by side in silence for some time after the small exchange. It wasn’t until we were in sight of her home that the conversation resumed. “I am extremely anxious what the piece of yours is going to look like.” I give her a confused look until I remember my cover story. “I doubt it will be published tell you the truth.” She frowns for a second then grins. “You know, at least we had a nice night. When life gives you lemons, use them to figure out what comprises all the lemons in the universe and hope for the best.” She chuckles until we reach her front door. My feet hurt as we begin to say our goodbyes. “Things will change, I can promise you that at least.” She stifles her laugh. “Don’t make any promises you can’t keep.” Her hand finds the side of my arm. “Want to come in for some tea?” She asks but the gin in my belly wanted something stronger than tea. “Not today, rain check?” Her smile slips as she looks at her feet. “Sure, another time.” Putting out my hand we shake hands once more and I walk off as she walks inside. I stroll away until I could no longer see her house. Pulling out my device, I head home and rip off these damn boots. My bare feet slap against the floor as I get a bottle from the cabinet. The door knocks, sitting down I light a cigarette, and take a heavy drink.
The coldest of darks. The darkest of colds. Free falling into a cavern unbecoming. The envelopes keep arriving regardless of my want for them. The ashtray full past its edges, a rim disregarded. Bottles stacked against each other, a clattering as I stomp through the house for more. Is it acceptable to fall anymore, is it acceptable to fall? What is an itch, but the longing for a scratch? The long of the day interrupted by the banging, the tapping, the knocking at the door. The barrier that keeps the outside from the in, how we take it for granted. How we.