He grasped pieces of glossy paper, firmly in his hands. Each one a different face, each one a different memory.
James was spring cleaning his store room, the little nook under the stairs where he hid everything he was too lazy to throw, when he found a shoebox full of pictures of old girlfriends.
It became a habit of his to ask the women he dated for Polaroid pictures of them. It wasn’t anything creepy, no, he just wanted to look for a pattern somewhere.
Among the red heads and brunettes with and without glasses, he noticed there were never any blondes in there. ‘Maybe some of them colored their hair,’ he thought. ‘I know Samantha doesn’t even know what her real hair color is anymore.’
He brought the pictures out from the room and walked over to his couch. There, he took them out and spread them across the coffee table in a mosaic-like pattern.
He looked into the laughing eyes of each and every one of them.
James’ quaffed hair bounced under the lazy circulating fan that did nothing to cool the room, more assisting the circulation of the air through the house. He bought this house specifically because of the living room. A tunnel effect could be created by the first floor that would push the warm air out leaving only cool air to circulate on the second floor, provided both sliding doors on either side were open at the right width, much like a chicken coop.
It was details like these that James was interested in, that usually caught his attention. The small architectural differences in a house or the small pathological mannerisms of the women he dates.
He reached over and picked up a photograph of a young, attractive brunette smiling while her head was resting on a pillow. The picture was taken from the shoulder up and as far as James was concerned, she might have been naked while the picture was taken.
He remembered Amanda well. She used to bite her nails and fidget. He found it cute. They had dated for the better part of three months before he decided to move on. Amanda was a nervous wreck constantly questioning whether she could trust him or if their relationship was going anywhere. They would be cuddling in bed after a romp under the sheets, and Amanda would ask him if he could love her. That question alone would open the flood gates to a host of other questions. By the end of the evening, she was worse than Alex Trebek on The Price is Right.
“Trust me now?” James asked her picture with a smile.
He placed the picture back on the table and looked around for another.
Jerry was a piece of work. Her dark hair fell in straggly locks while her eyes had a dark, smoky look to them. Jerry was sexy to him in every way. She was also a heavy drug user. Track marks littered her arms while she was always rubbing her index finger across her teeth like all cocaine users do.
James loved how they were in bed. Signals were blaring inside his head the first time they had sex but he was cautious enough to double-bag himself. ‘You can never be too careful with these girls,’ he’d told himself that night. Safe to say, Jerry found it weird, but weird coming from her was rich by all accounts.
Jerry would spend a lot of her time at James’ place and every time, things would go missing here and there. Money was a given, but then there were obvious things like the car keys without the car, James’ right shoe and his grandfather’s urn which he kept above the television.
His grandfather’s urn was the last straw. James had given Jerry the klepto-junkie the boot, but not before demanding the urn back.
James laughed at himself. “Good times.”
He looked around the table and at each and every picture, going over face by face.
Sasha, a red head and a police lady who loved to role play. Due to the fact that she didn’t have the opportunity to arrest a perp and read out their Miranda rights, she would act out a scene in the bedroom with James. He’d kicked her out of the house when he found out the gun she’d been using was cocked and loaded. Also because he never really got any after the role playing was over.
Kendra was a petite brunette librarian with the habit of tapping her fingers on the counter mimicking the play of a piano. James was instantly drawn to her. There was nothing weird or wrong with her, she was just boring and pretentious. They would have dinner together and she would tell him about the books people would check out while making fun of them.
“God, some bitch checked out a book about congenital diseases. Guess we know someone’s not getting a kid this year.”
And when James would reply, “Maybe she’s a med student?”
Kendra would snap, “Why don’t you go fuck her then?”
Their relationship was more or less like that and the only thing that consoled him was that she was an actual librarian who wore glasses with a mini skirt and white stockings. Suffice to say, it was never dull in the bedroom. But alas, all good things must cum to an end. He kicked her out after the second month.
Looking at the smiling faces staring up from the table, only one or two provided memories worth remembering. Others, while fun, was merely just that. James wanted a relationship that he could learn from. A girl that could walk out the door with a lesson for him in tow.
What his friends told him before resonated like a haunting echo deep within the chasm of his sick and morose heart.
James dated trashy girls. But what if it wasn’t the girls that were trash, he asked himself. Maybe it was him.
Maybe he longed for an escape from the appropriate. All his life, from his upbringing to his home right down to his wool socks, people defined him as proper, neat, one who fitted in with society’s mockery of the riff raff that walked the graffiti littered streets.
Trash wasn’t just a word for people without the right amount of money in their banks, it wasn’t just the girl that would sleep around blaming their unloved past for the mistakes in their future. Trash could be the man longing for something tangible to fill the void in his heart, maybe with a binder full of women.
James looked down at the glossy pictures. He knew now what he had to do. He now defined himself in a new way. He would break apart from the pattern his life and the pictures strewn across the table presented him.
He lifted himself off the couch and walked downstairs. The warm breeze was flowing in and out between the two glass sliding doors when James grabbed his jacket.
As he closed the door behind him, James remembered the pattern of the girls he’s had relationships with in the past. He also noticed that not one of them were blonde.
“Time to break the pattern,” he said.
Image by WordsManifest for ISSUE Magazine
Haziq Hamid is editor and regular contributor for ISSUE Magazine. You can read the rest of his work here.