Thursday, September 5, 2013

Steamheat: When The Pressure Drops, Will the Fire Still Burn?

 What is going to happen to Eliza now? Was it just one night of passion? 

When the Pressure Drops, Will the Fire Still Burn?
Ben Hannigan
    She lay against the metal of the boiler room door because noisy as it was, it was somewhere 
to think where she wouldn’t be disturbed: tucked away in a corner, hidden by the clouds of 
condensation. She needed the noise, needed time to think, to wonder. 
    She was scared, scared that what happened the night before was a result of pressure. Her 
and his joining as a release, blowing off steam. It was too much too fast too intense. She knew 
that she desired him but wasn’t sure what would be beyond that.  Is desire enough?
     She had heard him talking to her family, but was that simply because she was close to him? Was
that because she was there on the ship?  And really, what did she want?  Did she want that night to be
the fling they had on ship and when she hit terra firma in the new world, for her to set down in new
Amsterdam and leave him forever?  Or. . . . Is it more?  Does she want a life either in the new world or
back and forth? If she wants him, she has to face the contract, find out the truth. 
     So she wrote a letter, a long letter explaining her fears, her hopes, her dreams, and walked up through
the decks of the ship.  Up and up to the crows nest tucked away atop the balloon of the ship and
curled up. Long jacket and windproof goggles with an oxygen mask bundling her up, looking like the
storm trooper of the first world war. The jacket an ochre, the mask bleak and stark against her pale
     The letter had been left on his desk, the coat and mask taken from the chest of his old clothes.  All she
had to do now was wait.  It wasn’t long, maybe thirty minutes before she heard his voice on the
intercom.  He talked softly, slowly, not touching her just talked, asking her every question.
“What do you want from us?”
“I don’t know. I just, I cant say goodbye in new Amsterdam like nothing has happened. I just cant do
that. I will still need to know you are OK, that you are sleeping, eating, that you're happy.”
“What do you want from new Amsterdam, from the colonies?”
“I wanted to run, to hide, to bury Eliza (insert last name) and to start again, but now I am close to doing
that, I cant. I cant lose myself to their greed.  The fear and the loss has been replaced with a cold
burning anger, a need, a thirst to find out why: why I was chosen, why my life was destroyed.”
“I’ll help.  We can travel, take leave and ask questions.”
“What do you want? Do you want Ellis? Eliza? A cabin boy? Or me as a person? Do you want this to be
real? To be an equal partnership?”
“I want whatever you are prepared to give me.  It's why I didn’t run to you now, why I am not up there
trying to prove to you by holding you tightly and reassuring you. It's why I am here at the bottom of
the stairs waiting, talking through the intercom.”
She paused and stared at the hatch back into the ship, she was close to deciding.  She could choose
anything here.  She took a deep breath and unlocked the device that pressurized the entrance and

stepped inside. Each step clanged on the heavy brass and iron staircase. The steps echoing inside her
head to the rhythm of her heartbeat. She breathed deeply as she reached his position the pair
dressed identically. As they began the walk back to their shared chambers she moved her
hand slowly, taking an age it seemed, but eventually sliding into his hand. Through the gloves he felt
her warmth, her nerves, and her future.
He smiled inside the mask. It wasnt a passionate, erotic, toe curling kiss. It wasn’t a long drawn out
hug exploring each other. It wasn’t him being pushed against the bulkhead and plundered but it was
a start.  Somehow a comfort that the pace was slowing and he focused as they walked on the heat
and the promise in her eyes behind the visor. The promise in her voice of time, of togetherness, of
something more.

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