Short Stories & Essays

An Encounter with Sherlock Holmes

silvae: Es kann nur einen geben

It was a crisp October day and the wind kicked the leaves up to the second-floor window of 221B Baker Street. My companion Sherlock Holmes rose from his chair and gazed down at the entryway to spy a woman pacing back and forth. Within a few minutes, she was inside, and up the stairs. Sherlock looked unamused, almost annoyed, but, taking a glance at the woman’s somber visage, his own face softened ever so slightly, his tight jaw relaxed,  and he beckoned her in.

“Madame, kindly take a seat. I won’t have you here long, I can already see that yours is a problem you won’t solve here.”

“But… how?” She asked

“Allow me to explain. It’s simple enough-, there are innumerous details about you that even my soft-minded companion, dear  Watson, could see. You’re left-handed, of course, as shown by the watch on your right wrist and the ink stain on the side of your left palm”

I chipped in, “Indeed Holmes, I caught on to that detail about our guest, but if I know you, you have quite a deal more to say.”

“Well, Madame, the details of your situation is perspicuous in innumerable fashions visible from here, I required but a few of them to determine that I am unable to offer you my services. You are anxious about your impending divorce, and you have taken a young lover in the meantime. The anxiety is evidenced threefold- the raw cuticles on your right thumb, the blemish on your chin, and of course the status of your shoes.

The marriage ended sometime well before summer. There’s no ring tan on your hand, yet there is a visible tan line from your fitness watch- its face is new and unscratched, but you recently exchanged the original band for a  thinner, more elegant gold band. Your skin is of a tone that is reticent to tan easily, so it seems you spent a good deal of the summer outdoors, wearing your new fitness watch all the while.”

“But what does my watch tell you about my marriage?”

My dear, you have a rather obvious giveaway- you keep pawing at your ring finger, feeling for a phantom band.

You aren’t divorced yet, but you have a court date set sometime soon. The anxiety is eating at you, as manifest it your battered cuticles. As I mentioned before, there’s the blemish on your chin. No need to cover it, my dear,  your make-up has done a suitable job for the average eye, correct, Watson?”

“Yes, Madame, I would never have noticed.” I assured her, and she dropped her demure hand from her face back into her lap, gathering her finger together.

Holmes was already inhaling to continue his monologue when she tried to pipe in-

“But what does my blemish mean-“

“You are seeing someone new. He’s younger. He works in a job without much customer interaction, something low profile. Perhaps an office job. He’s taller than you. You’ve been seeing him for a few weeks now.”

“How could you know that?”

“Again, Madame- the blemish on your chin. The young man has a job of a nature that requires him to shave, yet he need not be too diligent about the matter. The stubble from his beard irritated your skin when you were kissing him, rather passionately it seems. You’ve picked at the blemish: again, a sign of your anxiety. The blemish itself is a few weeks old now, there is evidence of it healing and being picked at again.”

“But how can you know he is tall?”

“I have already told you all I required: it’s the status of your shoes. The shoes are new, with a modest heel. You are, as you know, of a diminutive nature, but you still haven’t gotten the hang of walking in the heels, and your left ankle is a bit swollen. The man in question is much taller than you, there is a crease in the toe of the leather, where you have extended yourself onto your toes past the height provided by the heels.”

“It’s true. I am much shorter than him- but how did you know his age?”

“Madame, forgive my impropriety, but there is a hickey on your neck. A marking most definitely the work of a younger man, somewhere in his twenties? Again, as I said at the beginning of our meeting- you won’t find your answers here. It seems that the divorce was a good decision, your jacket hangs loose, and your watch shows your commitment to your health, and despite the small scratch below your lip, your skin is radiant. More so than that, the new shoes are meant for dancing, and it seems from their scuffs that you have indeed taken them dancing. These are all signs of a woman restored to happiness, or perhaps on her way there.”

“How do you know why I came here?”

“I know that you don’t know why you came here. If it was looking for a good man, you’ve certainly come to the wrong address. If you wanted answers as to why your anxiety has surged suddenly- it’s likely the dread of the paperwork and legal troubles you expect to encounter soon. You are not as lost as you may feel, Madame. I cannot provide you answers to matters of the heart, but we can provide you with three small favors which will get you back in form.  Watson can surely provide you a salve for the blemish, and a bandage for the ankle. If I am not mistaken, Miss Hudson has some of her famous scones ready, and she is bringing them up the stairs now. Combined, they ought to do the trick,”

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Good Morning.

“How are you today?”

“I think if I drink another coffee I can emit a pulse which annihilates every straight cis man in Vienna.”

“That good, huh?”

“But you were nice to me yesterday, so this is your warning that the Reckoning is coming some time this afternoon, after I meet this deadline. I suggest you move beyond the city limits, swiftly.”

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The Rumors Of My Small Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.


It’s a strange thing, to invite you in,
To ask you to stay.
To let you hear me snore-
To let my breath escape.

You know you yell in your sleep? A sort of half-scream. It’s scary.

I keep telling you to relax.
I’m a hypocrite on multiple counts,
A mugshot of smeared lipstick and a half-finished glass.
I’m not trying to get you drunk, I’m just trying to get to know you.

I think you’re cute, but I’m not trying to get you pregnant yet.

You’re not particularly nice to me. Evidently that’s my thing.
Men who are scruffy and vaguely mean.
Maybe it’s my kink?

Nah, my kink is people that hold me.
My kink is men who make me feel safe.

I don’t want to fall asleep yet, but we should cool down.

I am apprehensive, and hungry.
I am many things.
I am weird, you keep reminding me.

You did all the right things, but
Succumbing to coming is particularly intimate,
It’s a rare feat, for me, on the first time.
The rumors of my small death have been greatly exaggerated.

But the pleasure was real.
The lie was ethical-
A half-truth, I was overcome with bliss but not quite reaching a precipice.
There was behavior worth reinforcing.
In particular, that thing you do with your tongue-

Do exactly that, but just-
Do it when I trust you.

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Eurydice, a further update.

Part One

Part Two

Eurydice and I have learned to understand each other. I appreciate the ability an orchid has to communicate: its roots bare to the world. Heart on her sleeve, it seems.

She takes after me.

Spoiled as ever. Her blooms continue to dry out, but her stem is green. She gets a steam bath in front of the humidifier whenever she loses her perk, and she responds quickly.

After too much googling, I learned less about orchids and far more about orchid people. Orchid gardeners are second only to mommy-bloggers when it comes to anxiety and judging. They are one step above vinyl record collectors when it comes to snobbery. But, after some waffling back and forth on the best watering methods, I have indeed fallen for the ice trick, and Eurydice seems to love it. It’s counterintuitive, but it seems to be working. It’s a technique which requires restraint, and patience. Eurydice and I are both learning patience.

I had to attend to a funeral this week, a former coworker’s suicide. In lieu of flowers donations were made to the local animal shelter. The only flowers were rose petals, we each tossed a handful of them into her open grave, over her urn, white and glittering. They buried her ashes by a young tree, which will be there for at least 400 years. Tree number 9. The deceased was 31. I am 32. Sometimes, when you cannot stop crying, it helps to focus on something else: numbers, letters, the names on the gravestones. A phalaenopsis orchid has a blooming cycle 2-3 months long, and many people throw them away after that. But they can live 10-15 years with proper care. Some have lived to be over 100 years old..

I watered Eurydice when I got home, with ice. I reminded her that she needs to live.

So do you, she said.

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