Mar 10, 2022

Chapter One: Living is Where It's At

Nobody's Property Part One: Tiny Dancer

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The water creates the fireload, the thirst for the match's crazy love.
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/*Nobody’s Property, a speculative memoir, is the first offering on Stop Casting Porosity. It combines audio in the form of a legacy true-crime podcast with brief text and images responding to the podcast. The audio makes sense without the text and images but the text is not meant to stand on its own. Please listen if you have the time! Just hit ▷ above.*/

November 2011, Las Aguas, Tenerife

The music died, the recording ended. Rose gripped the edges of the small table, her life raft on a rough sea. She let go long enough to grab the small veined glass, still half full of wine, and fling it at the wall across the room. The wine made a shape like a veiled ghost on the white wall and splashed the tiled floor but the glass did not break. This forced a long drawn out howl from deep in her diaphragm, a howl that would have satisfied Ophelia. She crossed the room and stained her bare feet with the wine as she picked up the glass, threw open the windowed door to the patio, ran to the railing, and hurled the glass down toward the blue pool perched like a smile above the dark sea. Not the Pacific! More like Homer’s wine dark sea, something that justified the phrase “body of water,” an entity with a will to take under those foolish enough to tempt it, get close.

Shutterstock/Ernest Rose

The glass hit the retaining wall of black volcanic rock just above the pool and shattered over the pool deck. The sight dissipated her rage and turned it into something more manageable: worry.

Bencomo would be furious with her. Or no, worse than furious—disappointed. Rose turned back into the house, ignoring, for now, the wine stain on the wall. She could drag the armoire a few feet to cover it and no one would be the wiser. She grabbed a broom and pan from the closet off the kitchen and went out to the patio again, down the stairs and through the upper terrace, down to the pool. Still barefoot, she began to sweep the smooth stone. Knowing what would happen.

Already today she’d corralled the messes from this week’s departed guests, the coffee grounds and cigarette packages (the guests were European) and condoms discreetly wrapped in tissue, to spare the plumbing. She’d been on her break before dusting and wiping, folding the laundry load started earlier after stripping the beds. What could it hurt to fire up the little computer once more and do her search?

She’d wiped her hands first on her linen wrap apron. She didn’t want to muck up the keys of the machine provided in a corner of the lounge for visitors’ use. In the past this had been a place for people to retreat, to leave the concerns of home behind, or at least to leave them in a corner of the mind where they might rest for a week or a little more. But late last year tourist requests for connectivity had become overwhelming and they’d installed the little desktop with the surprisingly fast connection that served the visitors whatever they needed from the world.

Expectations low, spirits high, she’d told herself, as she had each time since Bencomo had shown her how to go online and enter search terms. Expectations low, spirits…. Wait. There was the name she hadn’t seen in years: Jennifer Cooke. Along with the dates 1953-1971, dawn to dusk. On something called a podcast. It had a graphic like an old album cover, a dim grey and white picture of forest duff framed by a measuring tape and some kind of label in German, the title typed out in blood red: Nobody’s Property: living on the remains of a life in California. Rose could still spare a few minutes. She’d clicked on the link and, staring out to the violent water, begun to listen.

Emily Cooke

Now, as she swept the patio, the sharp pain of a sliver of glass entering the flesh of her instep made her gasp. Even though she’d anticipated it, the pain surprised her. Such a tiny little thing, she thought as she balanced on one foot and plucked it from her skin. A small spot of blood arose there in the middle of the wine stain, calming her. She stood there above where the sea met the land. No long, rolling ribbons of wave; no smooth-sailing pelicans in triangular formation; no miles of beach on which to build sandcastles to protest far-away wars. Just the rock-strewn cove, the waves that chopped and sliced and flayed, the barnacles that clung to rocks as to the hull of a sunken ship.

Rose had become so good at hiding things, and also at paying her penance. Now, this woman’s voice was calling her from a place she hadn’t seen in forty years. Time to stop hiding, it seemed to say. But if that was true, what was it all for?

Emily Cooke

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