Adelaide Literary Magazine


ADELAIDE Independent Bimonthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Bimensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  








By Alex R. Encomienda




Paul felt a sense of longing at the gates that surrounded a tainted home where he remembered watching Alyssa undress through the gap in his bedroom door. Back then, the house smelled of sourness and residue of wet boxes mixed with the fish that was often cooked there but in his mind, it was actually the scent of transformation from a child to an adult. Paul peered through the windows of the lonely place and remembered when he and Alyssa used to play Sue and Allen. She was warm and soft underneath the white cottons and he was too shy to ever finish playing but one day that changed. It was a day neither of them would forget and he remembered pondering in his navy blues about the turbulence that came with loving someone.

He stepped over the crooked walkway and lamented the dear old days of mother and sister in the living room den; soft and unaware of his desires. He could only grasp the very silent twelve year old’s thoughts so much until they too were just as foreign to him as love. The essence of that word was so difficult to break down that it almost seemed as though it never existed. Perhaps in his corridors of lust and woes it never did exist.

It was 1996, Paul slept in his olive knitwear at the Robinson’s home; his parents had been gone for the weekend with most of their trinket machines. They would say that the towns in Normandy were better than every Cliffside bank near Nova Scotia and Cape Breton but Paul was a soothsayer by the ear; he knew they were somewhere between Honeymoon’s Island and Residents Inn. He hoped they would not come back peculiar; all friendly with deep sighs and a reddened mark on his mother’s neck. If their two night stand was anything like the time in Budapest, he was certain he’d run away from his family and never be at ease.

Paul was only a child of ten and the true identity of sex was still behind closed doors; it had not a face of woman or man, human or animal; life was peaceful and quiet just like him. He would skip with Sarah at the park, play house with Judie and John at recess and even had sleepovers at their houses on the weekends. At night, Judie pretended to kiss John because he was her “husband” but Paul wondered what would happen if she really kissed him. There was another time afterwards where it was his turn to be her husband and he was frightened. There was a certain way he saw his friends and they appeared to him as notable characters that did not shape shift. If Judie was bossy and arrogant at school then she was also like that everywhere else.

When he played the role of her husband, he was shy; distant. He remembered her asking to him, “Do you even want to play?” and he nodded his head with flushed cheeks. They blanketed stuffed animals and called them their “children” and after they put them to bed, Judie looked at Paul and said, “This is when we kiss.”

Paul saw her coming closer to him slowly- footsteps quiet and soft; she was looking at him with deepness and then she really kissed him on the lips. He never noticed that he liked Judie. She was always the bossy one with a Lucy Van Pelt attitude until he kissed her. Afterwards, he remembered thinking about it quite often and wondered to himself, “Kissing Judie is just like kissing mother and Aunt Gina. Their lips felt the same and they kissed the same way… why did Judie’s kiss feel different?”

Paul woke up today at 9:15 am in a home devoid of memories and warmth; staffed with rocks and willows, a patch of grass at the corner and a little coil of greens beside his bedroom window. The air was not very stiff but it did get thick every now and then when Paul was left to his thoughts and his wine. It would have been a very beautiful morning and an even better first of October if he was not entangled in such a mix of sentiments. He planned on taking a stroll down memory lane and began to think about where that last glass of wine took him last night; if he remembered correctly, it was Alyssa’s house. Yes, he remembered every detail from slightest to boldest in scenes like a film. Summertime was strong and fierce in his thoughtful mind.

There was a knock on the door. Paul was startled for a moment and then he looked through the peephole to see a thin young woman standing by the frame. He wondered to himself, “Should I open it?”

He then twisted the doorknob and greeted her, “Hello.”

She gave him a look of disaffection and said, “I forgot my cell phone.”

She let herself inside and then grabbed the tiny trinket by the bedside and smiled at him with slight hollowness before leaving. Suddenly, he remembered what happened last night after that last glass; she was his night toy. Memories then came to him and they were not from last night but much before when he was a child of ten; young and shy.

It was a summer day in 1996; Paul had just come back from school and briefly went home where his mother asked if he was hungry. He replied, “No, mother. I’ll eat later on at Judie’s house.”

Later on, he went to his neighbor’s house where Judie and John were watching reruns of bland television cartoons. They were all quite bored with what they had in front of them until that topic came up somehow. John asked Paul if he ever had a girlfriend and he replied, “No, have you?”

John stammered, “Yeah, I always have girlfriends.” Clearly he was lying because Paul had never even seen him holding hands with a girl. John then asked, “Have you ever done it with anyone?”

Paul gave him a sudden look of shock; unprepared to talk about this secret knowledge.

“Oh, leave him alone. I doubt he’s ever done it with anyone,” said Judie.

Paul felt his face blush and then he answered nervously, “Yes, I’ve done it before. It was no big deal.”

John remained quiet for a moment and then said, “So you know how it looks?”

Paul nodded and then gave a look at Judie because she seemed so unfit for the topic yet she was so interested.

He then asked, “Do you know how girls’ things look?”

John nodded and Paul felt his body tense up because they probably knew he was lying. He never seen it; he never knew how it looked but something told him it was secretive, bad and dirty. The occurrence that came afterwards took him completely by surprise. Judie stood up and dropped her pants to her ankles and showed them how it looked. Quietness… stillness; a collective sentiment overthrew them and perhaps even Judie. For the rest of the day, Paul could only think about Judie. He could not eat, play or speak for a while until he figured out what he was feeling and that night he tossed and turned in confusion.

Nowadays, Paul often dreamed of his adult endeavors; only he was a child in his dreams. Sometimes he was an adult like in waking life but for the most part he was a virgin; warm and shy.

Paul removed the bed sheets and thin cotton blankets from the bed and threw them in his washing machine. He poured himself a glass of wine that was probably more nutritious than he was and then he peered outside at passersby who knew nothing about his lamentations. He began to wish he lived in his dreams instead of living in waking life because the places he saw and the women he met in his dreams had the quality of a hundred widows and single mothers put together in waking life. The validation he would feel when having an affair with a woman in his dreams was omnipotent; difficult to fathom yet righteous enough to consider it a strength. When
he woke up, he was always so downhearted about his loneliness and he would clutch his heart and lie awake until morning came.

After recovering from a one night stand and eleven glasses of wine, he threw on his overcoat and left the house. As he did so, his cell phone rang twice. He picked it up and answered, “Hello.”

“Hey, big brother!” said his sister on the other line.

“Hi Emily, how was your weekend?” he asked.

“It was alright I suppose. I took the children to New Glasgow on Friday and they loved it. You’ve been there, right?”

He suddenly remembered a recent affair he had in New Glasgow that ended awry and replied, “Yes, I’ve been there.”

“Great, well I’m not sure how I’ve been though. The doctor says I have an infected gallbladder. I should have gotten it removed years ago but I was just too scared. What do you think I should do?”

“Well, you should do what’s best. Talk to Dr. Carmen and see if he can remove it. I think you’ll be better off. No pain, no worries,” he replied.

She sighed, “Yes, I knew I had to go. I was just too scared. I guess that’s why mother used to say don’t think too much about things. I’ve been thinking about it the whole night and because of that I couldn’t sleep.”

Paul continued to listen as he walked down the roadside.

“What have you been up to these days?” she asked.

“Nothing really, I just worked forty hours last week and slept the whole weekend. I’ve been a little tired lately.”

“You haven’t been drinking, have you?” she asked.

“No, mother,” he replied sarcastically.

“Don’t get all smartass on me, dumdum. Well, I’ll give Carmen a call and see if I can get this devil removed already. Oh, by the way- guess who I saw the other day?”

“Who did you see?” he asked.

“Remember Debbie? The girl next door?” she asked.

Paul thought long and hard; he could not pick up a memory of a Debbie however.

“I’m not entirely sure I remember.”

“Well, you know- Debbie… the little girl who had a crush on you,” she said.

A brief scene of him and a little blonde haired girl by a garden crossed his mind.

“Oh, now I remember,” he responded.

“Well, she was in New Glasgow. She has two children and she’s married now!”

Paul faked a laugh and said, “Oh, that little Debbie. I remember she used to be so shy. It’s funny how things can change.”

“Yes, isn’t it so odd? I could not imagine her even kissing a boy back then; now she is married and has children. What a woman!”

Paul didn’t have the desire to fake laugh anymore so he just cleared his throat and said, “Alright, sis. I better get going. You take care now!”

“Thanks, Paul. Love you!”

“Love you too.”

It was 1998, a time when quiet became hostile and that safe place in Paul’s mind was no longer safe. Somehow, his safe place became vulnerable to influences so foreign to him until he decided to dig deeper. The influences were attracted to him and so they clung to him and never let go but the more he dug, the more he began to realize, he was attracted to them as well.

One night the town was subjected to a violent thunderstorm. Paul was sitting on his living room couch and his mother was cooking fish in the kitchen. Judie came over with her backpack and she was soaking wet from the rainfall. At first, Paul’s mother was irritated that Judie walked in the house with wet clothes but then she just exclaimed, “Dinner will be ready in half an hour!”

Paul took Judie to his bedroom and for what seemed like hours, they sat at the edge of his bed and spoke awkwardly about school. Judie mentioned that she despised Mrs. Henrietta and Paul asked if she did her homework. Judie complimented Paul’s Hot Wheels collection and he offered her a granola bar. She declined and the room became quiet… so quiet that they heard each other breathing nervously and Judie turned to Paul and kissed him but it was not like before when they played house; she kissed him differently and he began to tremble with anxiety but he never asked her what she was doing because then she would stop and he didn’t want her to stop.

The moment felt like only a few minutes but it was actually longer and Paul’s mother opened the door to find Judie on top of Paul with a look of guilt in her eyes. She gave a nervous laugh and jumped off the bed. Paul was frightened, confused as if this never happened and it was only a daydream. After that day, Paul’s mother never let Paul and Judie see each other out of school again.
Now and then he thought about Judie and even looked her name up on the internet to see if they could finish what they started but he soon realized that people change like seasons. He liked to think Judie was his girlfriend in middle school and that she liked every inch of him. He wanted to think that Judie was attracted to his gestures and his lips and when she showed him her untouched body parts, she wanted him to be her lover and there was nothing that could stop this undeniable connection between them but that was not true. Judie was twelve years old and she was curious to know about closeness; she would have done it with anyone at the time.

As Paul approached Acacia Street, he saw the home of Debbie Presley (or what used to be anyways) and remembered how she spoke with a lisp. The day he rode his bicycle down to her house was the day he began to feel. Her face was pretty and pink underneath the summertime sky that day in the garden. Her mother was taking a nap inside and the two children went out to the garden to play Ring around the Rosie. Debbie was a sweet little girl who never showed the slightest sign of disobedience. She got good grades and ate her veggies when girls like Judie would poke fun of those things.

This was the same year that Paul discovered the word horny and even though he held back on sharing it with friends in school, he certainly shared it with Debbie. Part of him wanted to just see her reaction and another part of him was looking for answers.

“Do you ever get horny?” he asked her.

At the time, she was softly bouncing up and down on the trampoline and when he asked her that, she stopped and stared at him.

Paul could not remember what happened afterwards but he was certain she told her mother and her mother told his mother and he got scolded.

Paul stood there and peered into her old house that seemed much more like a film than a memory. Things were wider then; prettier and deeper. Her backyard used to remind him of an open field somewhere in the Midwest and now it looked just like every other house he passed by on his way to the liquor store down Windmill Road.

Once, he had dreams and paintings, things that meant he would be adored by others and loved by himself; and even if he had no love for himself (since he never identified it) then tolerance for himself at least. Now his life seemed merely like a picture book with blank pages for years and years until he had someone to hold again and then it would go back to blank pages. There were women that passed in and out of his life but he supposed they were looking for someone else because they never returned.

Was he robbed of the closeness? He seemed to know everybody from a distance; an observatory distance where only the hummingbirds fed. Paul gazed at the house long enough and saw a red truck approaching, so he walked away and returned home. There, he watched television and drank some wine. After his seventh glass, he began to think about the girl from the other night. If only he could remember what he had to offer her and what she meant to him. The smell of her breath stayed with him the night he slept with her but now it vanished. He could always work overtime, find a hobby in modeling clay, learn piano or even join a club and socialize with others in Dartmouth but he had no desire for any of that.

This heart of his desired closeness but he grew weary trying to find what would quench his thirst. He thought he found it years ago in a woman named Ida and she fell off his radar and he never went searching for her. Every night when he would catch a widow at the bar, he was so sure that his heart would be tamed but it was every morning after when it felt lonely and vulnerable. He went through several women in the past ten years and all of them disappeared in the labyrinth of love. Paul clutched at his pants as he drifted into an unconscious affair and before he was completely out, he pondered;

“How did I let myself become so vulnerable? When was the last time I was at peace? If love is peace and peace is love, am I deprived of both? Will I ever find peace of mind or have I lost my peace loving someone else?”

When he woke up in the twist of white linen, he found that he was lost again. He didn’t know how he lost his perception of himself or how it happened but he woke up wondering what he was missing. On Saturday, he met Janice. She gave him something to chew on when she asked him what he thinks about purity. He desired both purity and sin like day and night, only he knew that one would always outlive the other in him. On Sunday, he slept with Maria. She didn’t say much but she had eyes he never dreamed of. She was high dollar and even the most peaceful couples would feel slightly envious of his affair with her. Through her eyes, he could see who he was supposed to be. They gazed and they pondered; they overthrew his romantic overtures the next morning and now today he woke up alone and vulnerable with no sense of peace.

He wondered where this entanglement would lead him to if it ever ended at all.

Paul drove through an acre of trees that had colors of red and orange and he used to remember when they were green and he wore his button ups. They were now the colors of his innards; fiery and burning with desire; closeness. Bodily warmth!

His innards used to be blue and green; serene and careless even; living like he was at peace with his past, present and future only he didn’t care to bother too much with his future. After all, he was only seven years old back then. If he remembered clearly, it was the last time he identified with the concept of peace.

He began to remember a time when he and Judie were in school and they were at recess. It was the second to last day of middle school and he was feeling some kind of change in his world.

“Aren’t you supposed to be hanging out with your boyfriend?” he asked her.

“Oh, Steve is playing football. I was supposed to be helping Mrs. E with the room but I didn’t feel like it today. Why are you sitting way out here away from everyone?”
“I just have a lot to think about.”                                                                                                                   
“Like what?” she asked.

Just when he was about to make up an exceptionally believable lie, she gave him the answer he was looking for.


He looked up at her with the sunshine in his face and he could barely see hers. Her freckles were not as visible like when they were making out in his room. He saw every graphic detail of who she was that night.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Sex is a complicated thing. I think everyone is pretty clueless when it comes to sex. It’s no wonder why most people don’t end up having sex until they’re an adult,” she said.

“I want to understand it more though. Why does everyone act like it’s the best thing in the world? Where does that feeling come from? Why do I feel so empty when I’m not against someone else?”
Judie did not respond right away because perhaps she was wondering the same thing. Perhaps it takes two to make sense of things or perhaps everybody must find that sense of understanding themselves and she did not share his turmoil.

“You’ll find the answers soon enough, Paul. At least you’re one step ahead of the rest of those jerks. You actually got a taste of it.”                                                                                       

Judie smirked as she leaned in and gave Paul a hug and he embraced it because without words, without speaking and coming to terms with things in the naked eye, the warmth of another soul can be the remedy to a thousand hurt feelings. However, Paul remembered that night he vowed to never be open again.

Paul visited a bar he always saw from the road because only this one time he wanted to drink someplace where there was no trace of desire. Of course, the bartender smiled at him as he was a new customer and of course he smiled back at her but he was almost destined to drink something that would make him forget he ever saw her just like every other day. He wanted something thick; difficult to swallow, almost like eggnog. He wanted to dissolve into his drink and make it the melting pot of childhood fantasies, wet dreams and the bitter taste of losing time.

However, midway through drinking and dwelling over the stages of his life, a woman sat beside him and asked him where he lives. He looked around before answering and replied, “I live two blocks away from here.”

The woman sighed, “I was wondering if you can give me a ride. My friend and I got pretty wasted and she bounced without me. Pretty please with a cherry on top?”

Paul looked at her and she resembled an actress he used to watch on television in his preteen years so he answered, “Some friend you got. Sure, I’ll give you a ride.”

Within the next half an hour, Paul and his new mistress drove through the pines across Herbert St. and instead of dropping her off at her house, he asked if she would like to spend the night at his and she agreed by saying, “Only this once.”

They kissed upon the living room couch and he took off his belt and his cell phone and put them on the table. She asked if he had protection and they shared an awkward laugh before he nodded and said, “Yes, of course.”

Paul was born on June, 1985 in sweet and simple Nova Scotia. He went to school until he was sixteen and met so many people since then. The woman underneath him must have been born around the same time and had her own path leading to this night of sweat and sighs. As he pushed himself into her, he began to think; this woman had been following a path all her life and so has he; if this was not destiny for them to be making love then what was? If he was not at peace now with her warm and tender body against his, sharing something so private that neither of them expose to the public, then what is peace?

A memory flashed through Paul’s mind as he focused on the woman’s face and he recalled the day he lost his virginity. Angels of broken wings must have not saved him from that summer day. He and Alyssa were in the bedroom pretending they were married. She turned off the light and got under the covers with him. When he asked, “Are you really naked?” she replied, “Yes. You should be naked too. That’s what real married couples do.”

Paul remembered being afraid, anxious and observant. He took off his clothes and moved closer to her. He knew that the summer days were going to be over soon and Alyssa was going to find someone else to play with just like Judie did. He was never very good at keeping his frame of mind and he admitted to her that he was lost so she helped him find some kind of bliss in pleasure and he knew that after that day he would never be the same. He knew that what was once lost could still be found only with a new name and a new face from another womb.

There could have been a seed that night; there could have been something so special and sacred to him that he would go the rest of his life not caring about anything else but the seed in her flesh that was killed too soon. She was young and he was lost and they were both too young for parenthood so why were they not too young for sex? Paul knew it was something neither of them could resist and it came with pain. If there was another face today that mirrored Paul’s thirteen year old face, he would be certain he’d found his peace in this logbook of lust.

To become one with another soul, to feel their warm blood beneath their flesh and taste the places they hide from others, to grow up in different towns and follow different paths but connect for that one brief moment of passion, to share something so personal and mortal with another person with hopes and dreams, fears and desires and know that they will die someday just as they were born; it is a drug to die for in itself.

After Paul was finished and their faces were flushed and sweaty, he kissed her and rested his head against her bosom. For a brief moment, he recalled a time before his turmoil; before the labyrinth of love tossed him into its pit. He was a child of only seven, wearing the denim overalls his mother bought him and eating some animal crackers by the lake. His eyes gazed at the water and he saw ducks fighting for a piece of bread. The sky was unclouded and the sun shined happily just for him.
“Come here, Paul!” called his mother.

He turned around and smiled at her as he ran across the garden.




About the Author:


Alex R. Encomienda is an author of fiction and poetry. He has written content for journals such as The Opiate, Kaaterskill Basin, Adelaide and more recently Bindweed. Alex often expresses the concepts of love, peace, lust, freedom and escapism in his work and likens his pieces to pages from his life. Alex writes and lives in sunny Arizona with his family.














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