The Lucid Tendencies of Cherry Haze

When Arthur Capote is burdened with a blind date on the most ironic day of the year, he has little hope he'll get over the freshly-fled Michelle. In the haze of the night he meets Cherry, the unpredictable and electric member of the Artistic Maneuvers in the Dark. Along with her fluffy pink jumper, Arthur finds himself in her luminous reverie that will alter his outlook indefinitely.

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1. The Lucid Tendencies of Cherry Haze

 

I spent the majority of the car journey wondering what kind of parents would name their daughter after a fruit. “You’ll love Cherry,” Kate burst my train of thought with another replay of reasons why tonight was my lucky night, and why ‘Cherry’ – whether she was a crimson coloured beverage or a legitimate person – would soon make me join the group of smitten delusionals also known as the couple who had dragged me out. Already I’d established a handsome sum of reasons why that was truly not the case. The most prominent one being the stinging text message burning into the palm of my hand that I couldn’t stop reading; Sorry Art, it’s over. M x x

Those two little x’s drove me wild to a point where I made myself believe that M, or known as Michelle, still wanted me despite the fact she’d dumped me on the most ironic day of the year and left me stranded with the love puppies. It sounded dumb, but maybe I wanted to spend the night with a girl who had a normal-sounding, casually-acceptable name. “Cherry’s fun.  She’s different, too. “Kate coiled around Murdo like a copper wire pestering my melancholy attention to turn once again to the notorious blind date of mine. Murdo only nodded, playing with Kate’s hair the exact shade of sunny side up egg yolk as though they were five year old best friends. Murdo, he was a lad, who screamed out flaws at football players in stadiums and stayed up all hours to finish a video game. Kate’s Murdo, or rather the merged eight-limbs, hopelessly dizzy alloy of them both listened to the Beatles and watched the rain pour down the windows of the windscreen as though there was something the slightest bit romantic about it. In other words, Murdo’s brain cells melted by the just the sight of Kate and her pale, freckly skin that cast a ghost like shadow around her lithe figure.

I couldn’t help but feel bad for the guy, at least now Michelle was gone, I could win back some of my dignity or a least a few man-points. Though within five minutes of the text, which I could now see visions of it when I closed my eyes to blink, the blob of two people insisted I should lose my mind again to the cause of love. And for those affections to land a lunatic or, at least that’s what I’d gathered from her name and the way Kate had held a millisecond too long on the word different. I didn’t want a different girl; I wanted a carbon-copy if not the real deal of Michelle. She was tall, glamorous since she the age of fourteen and wore strategically placed clothes to catch the attention of every superficially-driven man. Girls like Michelle were genetically programmed for people like me; popular enough, with russet hair that fell messy ‘tousled’ according to her as she’d ran her hands through it and a tall, confident frame that had taken two years too long to acquire during the uncertain labyrinth of puberty. Already this Cherry Haze couldn’t stand a chance. I’d grown too comfortable with the promise of a flawless girl.

Murdo’s parking slowed us down an extra ten minutes, enough to raise eyebrows as we trudged in late to the American Diner, also known as where all furniture colourful-and-remotely-American-looking came to die. It was adorned in pastel pinks and cupid’s graffiti sprawled all across its brash tables and chair, and the waitress serving had love hearts attached to her checked aprons as she took our order chewing bubble gum. Despite the grandness of the day, the restaurant was nearly empty. Apparently everyone else in the city had decided they wanted something remotely tasteful and not heart-shaped pancakes with recipes likely to be pasted off google. Fifteen minutes in after I’d downed a good half of my coke, the door gave an almighty whack and the my neck hairs pricked fair as Murdo’s smile confirmed the worst. Cherry had arrived.

I felt like a groom waiting for the moment he’d see the bride for the first time, without the fuzziness of the event that made the sensation bearable. Who would be so eager to sign up to a blind date so suddenly? Who would actually stick with a name like Cherry? And why, just why had Kate lined her up from her large pool of girl friends?

“Cher!” Kate sprang into life to lead the figure over still out of my eye’s reach. “Murdo, you know Cherry… And now you do, Art.” Okay, so my name wasn’t exactly the most generic either but it was just a lazy mutter of the classic if neglected forename of Arthur. And as I imitated Thomas Hoving, the first word that came to me when I looked at her was Vivid. She had crimson locks that were pulled back in a messy bun, and light blue jeans that lead up to her fluffy pink jumper the exact colour of cat’s vomit after eating a pile of salmon. She grinned enthusiastically, jumping beside me into the booth drumming her fingers on the table top. An unorthodox, yielding yawn soon followed from her lips that bundled a large introduction and an order of “their fizziest beverage”. Her laugh cracked into a thousand pieces into the quiet, somewhat awkward atmosphere.

“Oh crap! Sorry Murdo, it’s my brother. I was meant to pick him up! See you three later-“ I suddenly loathed the sugar-coated Kate more than the go-compare fool when a newly chivalrous Murdo excused himself with her. “Food’s on me, lovebirds.” I gave him a look of absolute terror as he raised his eyebrows, and slung a arm around Kate’s waist leaving us to fester in the joys of forcing two strangers together. “Just need to pop to the bathroom a sec,” Cherry piped out, giving me time to mourn over the text for the familiar taste of pain.

It was twenty minutes later when every bubble of Cherry’s deserted drink had died down that I was sure Cherry Haze was not coming back. Slowly and not exactly sure what I wanted to find I went to investigate, praying there wasn’t a touchy woman who would scream before giving a moment to consider what I was doing in the girl’s bathroom. I have blessed and cursed the idea of finding Cherry in there, or an open window. The door creaked as I pushed past unnoticed, with no person in sight. Searching for that inevitable window – I stumbled Cherry, fast asleep snoring happily on the side walls of a emerald cubicle as though it was a dream mattress. Was I really that boring?

“Cherry…” I nudged her gently, and then harder to wake her. Her eyes suddenly fluttered into life as she raised an animated hand to her mouth in shock. “Oh, I’m so sorry! That usually doesn’t happen at night… I have narcoleptic tendencies, you see.” She jumped up to face my much taller frame, letting me see the red roots growing out a dark brown. Great, I was lumbered with sleeping beauty for the duration of the night. “I think this place is shutting, we should go.” I blurted out, uneasy.

“Great, we have somewhere to go anyway. Come on.” Cherry’s tanned hand tugged on my sleeve as she pulled me forward, giggling obnoxiously as she did. We half walked, half ran through the streets in whatever direction Cherry saw fit until we came across a shabby-looking restaurant. “Here?” I shrugged my shoulders uncertain as she didn’t exactly melt me into a puddle of smiles just yet.  “Yes, here. You’ll love it; I come here every Valentine’s.” The blue painted door screamed GET OUT OF HERE as I forced my heavy legs forward one after the other. The walls were plastered in notices, from wanted pets to church events, and the lights twitched every so often from their glare that fell on both of our faces unflatteringly. “It’s just in here.” She said with an eerie colour cast on her expression. Another gigantic yawn escaped her as music pulsed through the walls, something along the lines of “Love is a battlefield” echoed by the screeches of what sounded like a thousand women.

Opening the door, my worst nightmare revealed itself. It was a thousand screeching girls, with heartbreak written all over their fierce miming of the lyrics. I felt every pair of those eyes burn into my male skin as though I was the boyfriend who never called, or the unrequited love that never felt the same. Cherry shielded me with slurs of “It’s okay, he’s with me.” And got us two cups of foul weak punch, unspiked. The cookies were in shapes of broken hearts and cheaply made balloons filled the area not covered by people. Within minutes, she’d grabbed my hand again, she was beginning to make a habit of that, and pulled me onto the dance floor fighting for space in the crowd. She really didn’t need to, considering at the sight of a boy they parted like the red sea. Soon, a familiar daze of dancing covered us both in an uncaring bubble music a person could so easily become a refuge under. The room pumped and thumped to the rhythm of whatever song blared. No one cared if it was punk, or pop or ear-splitting scream that sounded more like death with vocal chords than actual music. It could have been jazz and the members of the four dull walls breathing life into the crumbling building wouldn’t break away even me away from the adrenaline. We all moved as one single body, pounding and chanting as though the world depended on it.  I forgot all about Michelle, or the pressures of being with Cherry. For someone a little too weird, dancing suits her well. Her lips form the words organically as her fist makes a solid fist in the air. Her fluffy jumper bounces with her.

Then I snap out of it, or rather Cherry does as she hits the floor as quick as a brick flying through air. Everyone makes way for her body, but I’m the only one willing to see if she’s okay. After all, I do have some obligation for her welfare not to my agreement. She fell asleep again, as quick and fast as a person blinks and the hair over her face moves up and down with her relieved breaths. I sit down beside her particularly vulnerable to the boot of a butch dancer giving me a poisonous gaze. Eventually when my legs tire of being too stiff I nudge her again. Already we’ve fallen into married habits. She tugs, I nudge.

“Hhh?” Cherry’s eyes are filled with the confusion that only comes after a lucid dream, but widen when she becomes aware of the music and more worryingly me. “I fell again, didn’t I? I’m really sorry; I usually manage to survive the night without this happening.” She bites into the flesh of her tinted rim of her mouth as I stifle a “Don’t worry about it.” It’s closing in on eleven and I didn’t even realise. Now ‘Kurdo’ will think we’re a hit, I thought to myself with a sigh. “We can go somewhere else if you want,” Cherry suggest as we stand outside the building, and the sweat previously dripping down my face finally hits much needed cool air. Her doe eyes light up electric circuit style, only for me to blow the fuse:

“Actually, I think I’m going to go.” I paced in my shoes, grimacing on the inside as her look of abandonment fitted well in with the works of charities for lost dogs’ T.V adverts. Please, she seemed to say. Don’t leave me.

“Or…” Cherry perked up at the single lingering word. “Maybe I could get a taxi home later.”

“Really? Because I know another place we can go.” She laughed at the anxious flashing in my eyes. “Don’t worry, it’s quiet. I promise.” I didn’t really stand a chance of a remotely normal night, but she was a distraction from Michelle I probably needed. She chattered on avoiding the cracks in the pavement – yes, she was that type of person – and led me to yet another desolate building. She didn’t seem to mind when I sighed.

“What’s A.M.I.T.D.?” I asked reading the sign written in a large, thickly-built font. “Artistic manoeuvres in the dark. It’s an art society ran by youths during the summertime. Keep it quiet though, we don’t want to become mainstream, you know?” She outstretched her neck to crack the bones before addressing her fingers. “I swear on my life.” I smiled, truly for the first time. Soon, my mind was beginning to map out a list of everything right and wrong with her without condoning me first:

Pros of Cherry Haze; She’s surprising. Her hair is cool. Her jumper looks cosy. She seems… real.

Cons of Cherry Haze: She sleeps too much. She talks too much. She knows a lot of weird places.

“We call this the timewarp room.” Cherry slipped into the building with a fiddle around with her polka dot covered key, and led me through the dark passages until at last she found her destination. Flipping on the light, the room exploded into colour. Paint dried everywhere; the fixtures, the carpet, the ceiling, and the discarded canvases. Cherry searched in the drawers silently, congratulating herself when she found what she was looking and soon went to work leaving me to twiddle my fingers. “Can you grab us two aprons?” I passed one to her before she forced me to turn around a wait, listening only to the patters of her around the room and the sound of her wide smile from the crinkles it made in her face. Everything was quiet, yet bursting with energy louder than every beating heart of the gathering she’d dragged me too.

“Ready, voilà!” Cherry exclaimed, letting me set my eyes on a bizarre large white board swathed in little multi-coloured balloons. “It’s my favourite art, at least for now. You just take a dart,” She broke off her sentence to secure her apron on and take a dart in between her fingers. “And try to pop the balloons. It’s fun.” I watched the dark fly out of her hand and a small explosion of yellow splat across the canvas, before not having it in me to deprive the messy toddler inside to actually be allowed to make such a magnificent mess.

We created something beautiful within minutes, something poetic souls could probably read into as passion or hatred or god forbid love, but for us it was a coincidental splatter of vibrance and that’s what we liked about it. The paint had travelled across to use our bodies as its backdrop, bringing out the green in Cherry’s otherwise brown eyes as the purple splashed on her cheeks. “Hey!” She yelled laughing as I wiped the red off my apron to give her cat whiskers. She dipped into the same cerise reservoir and smiling, drew a love heart from the edge of my chin all around my cheekbones concluding in a perfect meeting point of two arches in my eyebrows. “Happy Valentines,” She said softly. We stood saying everything and nothing for what felt like a million years. The clock only said quarter past midnight, though.

“I’m tired.” Cherry commented, before sending us both into hysterics. It’s a funny thing when you can’t stop laughing, and your lungs ache for proper air and your eyes tear and your ribcage can’t contain the sheer uncontrol of it. “Me too,” I added when we stopped laughing after a very. Long. Time.

“Brookefield.” Cherry told the driver as we secured a black cab, shining in the velvet night. I didn’t even budge when her body nestled far closer to mine than I’d anticipated. “You’re nice, Art.” Cherry whispered so quiet I believed I’d made it up in my head. I wasn’t nice, I judged people without knowing them and I hung out with people who were capable of mean things. Apart from Murdo, he was boyfriend gold. Not me. If I was, why would Michelle have ditched me? “Screw Michelle.” My own brain fought back. Screw her and her Swedish legs and Caucasian eyes and Brazilian skin and Chinese feet. Screw the way her hips fell and rose as she walked. Screw her. I only smiled when Cherry’s head fell limp on my shoulder, breathing heavily as her body lost all muscle and only became as solid as her jumper that tickled the skin beneath my sweatshirt. With one quick gesture, my inbox on my phone became one message lighter.

The buildings became blurs and the surroundings unnecessary. Cherry snoozed and I recollected everything. How I’d had my heart broken on the only day it needed to function with every other soul in the world. How Kate and Murdo had left me with an utter stranger and hoped we’d get along, how I’d found Cherry and her flamboyant curls sprawled on the floor of the toilet dreaming. How she’d took me to be hated and to be a brief partner before sleeping again. How time had flown so quickly in the odd series events. Cherry seemed to be able to read my thoughts and a gentle suggestion of happiness twitched on the left side of her lip.

I led my head rest above her, smelling cinnamon and teatree. And in the polar opposition Cherry had tumbled into dreams and the fast nature of which I’d found my confusion for a creature I didn’t understand made me adore her, I fell in love with the way you fall asleep. Slowly, and then all at once.

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