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Old 05-30-2005, 09:31 PM   #1
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Default Lovely Rita, Meter Maid

yes, that's intentionally also the title of a Beatles' song. No plagarism intended...it's kinda a clue, if you will.

Lovely Rita, Meter Maid

The precipice of fall, especially in New York, was never a place for the dead.

Michael wondered why, exactly, he was on his way to a memorial graveyard when the sun was shining brilliantly, striking through the crisp aromatic atmosphere and pulling even the most reclusive from their air-conditioned apartments. He was walking, at least, and with worn sneakers kicking up the fire-hued leaves that adorned the sidewalk outside the Library. But he could be carrying his books home, or to a friends; doing something normal that any college student should do. Instead, he had a book of records in his bag, a biography in one hand and three black roses in the other, and was heading for the nearby circle of graves that he could almost see through traffic.

“So, who are those flowers for?” The voice startled him, but it was only Jen. She started out as a lab partner, and became a close friend, letting Michael feel like he did more than study and visit dark places. Jen was strangely wise, in her own bouncing way. She seemed to have a lot more solutions than most people did, and she never had to search very much to find them. Jen’s answers to life just came and talked to her; they didn’t hide behind billboards and large trucks like Michael felt his did.

“Oh, no one.” He didn’t want to tell Jen; she only suspected that he visited the graves, (and other ‘haunts’, as she called them) out of mourning. He went to see Rita, of course, the object of his obsession. He didn’t know why he had to know about her, and talk to her, but after seeing her picture along with her song…he couldn’t give it up. Rita was like a sanity device.

Jen skipped ahead a step, and spinning fell into line with Michael so she was facing him. He relaxed a little at the smirk on her face, and bemused eyes. “Not a girl?”

Michael shrugged. “Nope.” They were for a girl, but not for a living one; Michael didn’t think that counted. Rita was in a class of her own.

“You could have a girl, easy.” Jen shook her head in disbelief at Michael’s apathy. “Look in the mirror man! Hot stuff.” She hit him playfully in the collarbone, and Michael winced. She was only joking around, he knew that, and it still bothered him. Jen wasn’t one to flirt, or lift the spirits of anyone she had doubts about. While it was flattering to be so trusted, he still likes his amount of anonyminity, something he felt was being infringed upon.

“I don’t need one.” Jen raised a knowing eyebrow at him, and he looked down. “Not like that, you.”

“Like what?” She looked at him again, pointedly, and pounded her chest in a ‘through the heart’ motion.

Michael had to laugh. “You’re different is all. And you torture me, so I wouldn’t like you anyway.” Jen laughed, and spun again, running ahead and kicking the leaves that fell on the sidewalk all over the place, making her exit into a side street marked with a glimpse of sparks.

With some regret, Michael turned in the opposite direction, and slipped between taxis, to the graveyard, and the object of his fixations.

The headstones were always cool, and never disturbing; just peace and serenity. Especially here, with the graveyard melting into a mossy park. The ground was warm though the air had a bite to it, as autumn went on, and more golden leaves fell. Much to Michael’s delight, they decorated Rita’s grave, but never seemed to cover the roses he put there every few days. Always black, save for white on Sunday. What else would one give to romance the dead?

She had been beautiful in her time, and spicy; it was a shame she had to die too young. Though perhaps this preserved her, making her forever young and letting her stay the innocent ‘meter maid’, for that was who she had been. Though loved by millions, Michael had the strange feeling that he was the only one to be so devoted. It put him further apart from people, letting him sink into his own world; one that was partly dead reality and living fiction.

Rita’s place of death was nearby as well, only a decade from her resting place. She had been killed in a car crash late at night, with all three automobiles no longer recognizable as such except for their location – all twisted together at the center of an intersection. It wasn’t her body that was buried, but more of her memory, and the small cap and bag she carried that were flung far out an open car window upon impact. It was these relics, as well as a picture, that were in the coffin. Michael longed to take them out and touch them, and always shook himself for the thought. He neither wanted to disturb her, nor admit that he was that far obsessed.

He contented himself with walking where she would have, and visiting her grave. Her face became more familiar to him than that of many living people, and many conventions of a normal life fell into oblivion. Night would find him wandering; dawn would see him poring over books and newspaper articles that contained even the most passing reference.

Jen’s energetic smile would follow him, slowly growing concerned. Michael knew that she suspected, and after one tense goodbye – for Jen always entered and exited life’s stage with a smile and a wink – he decided to give up for good. He had a very close friend; even Rita, who in some strange way, he had come to love, wasn’t worth worrying. If he could only ease up slowly, and then let go…but he couldn’t. The knot was too tight.

It took the falling of the last leaf – something Michael witnessed one cold, cloudy day, when deep in thought – for him to make up his mind.

The sky was gray, cold, and as overcast as it could get without the weight of it smothering everything on earth. Michael was going for his last trip to Rita’s grave; he decided that her death-day would be the day he would leave her – and his own coldness, his social death – after all, it was a day of departures. The last traces of summer and warmth had left as well, with every promise of snow.

Michael finished the hot bun he had in his hand, the last strain of its warmth heating him as he kneeled next to Rita’s grave. He rested his head on the cold stone, and breathed deep, trying to rid his eyes of that tight feeling at their corners. He didn’t even know why he felt this way; he had just been suddenly drawn to just the idea of Rita’s existence; a real woman behind a modern myth. He had become more and more absorbed in her – her life, her appearance, her supposed personality. After all these months, he had given her a history, a family, and a new life…all the things that he couldn’t discover from books. The love of the dead was safer, and more appealing, than loving the living at times.

He pulled away, more composed now, his thoughts slowing. He concentrated on letting go, on releasing the invisible bonds that held him to someone else’s past. He had almost let those glowing ropes go, had his mind empty…when he was brought into reality by a speck of cold against his cheekbone. Michael looked up; it was snowing, and cold pricked him wherever he had skin exposed. Sitting there in the snow, letting it collect in little spots of powder on his hair and shoulders, Michael was unable to let go of that thread. Everyone had to have a connection to the past, and this was his, however strange.

With this thought, the touch of the cold decreased, though it was snowing harder than ever around him. He felt embraced, like an invisible person was holding him in their arms. Looking up, he saw a very familiar face…and though it was nearly transparent it was beautiful, and caring.

Who said that ghosts cannot feel the love of someone, and return it?
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