I am nothing; I am everything.
I am just one person in a world overflowing with talent, teeming with competition. I am just one person with the power to change everything - to bring the world to its knees, to be the wind it needs to take flight. My own minuteness is perhaps my best quality. I am an oxymoron writing out of egocentricity and pleading selflessness. I am without contradiction; I am a paradox.
I am everything; I am nothing.
I am my own world, the cause for gravity - a forced orbit. I am unwavering frequencies and broken words. I am innately selfish and unusually humanistic. I am the words that ignite a movement. I am everything.
I am nothing; I am everything.
I am part of a world, pulled by gravity - a forced orbit. I am faltering wavelengths and haughty words. I am self-absorbed and yearn for altruism. I am the silence that falls short of sound, the breath between a revolution. I am nothing.
I am nothing; I am everything.
I am one; I am all.
I am me.
SO LIFELIKE IT’S ALMOST LIKE BEING IN A RELATIONSHIP!
Not a great reason to get a sex doll, but it makes for interesting advertising. The TV pops on to a guy sitting across the dinner table from a woman. The woman sits too straight. She’s slender and attractive, dolled up like a mannequin. Only the man eats. The woman watches. She says, “I am bored” like she doesn’t speak English. The man scoffs and says, “Well, I don’t understand. How can YOU be bored?” The woman shrugs and says, “I do not know.” The guy asks, “Do you wanna have sex?” She stands, then, and answers, “Of course, honey; it is all I am good for, after all.” She takes the man’s hand, and the two head into a back room assumed to be a bedroom. The screen fades out.
Three thousand dollars for a LifeLike brand Fuck Buddy. I’ve been saving for two years scraping together pennies, ignoring social obligations, and learning how to cook so I could save on pre-packaging. I needed the money for the girl of my dreams—no assembly required, thank god.
A gentle knock taps my door. It’s around eight at night. I answer, and there she sands—a six-foot, slender, pale-skinned girl with volumes of long brown hair to spare. Her eyes shine bright green. A tight pink dress hugs her body. On either side of her, a few suitcases of other outfits and costumes sit. She looks just as I put her together on LifeLike.com. She came with free three-day shipping.
No packaging required.
She’s more talkative than I imagined—smart, too. She doesn’t talk like the robotic model in the commercial. She knows contractions and slang. I wonder why they threw so much capital into an advanced brain for a toy that can only do one thing.
She’s a sex machine made-to-order, and I enjoy her features every night. When we finish she tells me I’m the best she ever had and means it. There’s no cleanup required. She makes me feel perfect, like an action hero. I think I’m in love.
But love doesn’t stop the rats from devouring my fridge from the inside out.
I don’t how, but they must be burrowing into the fridge. I haven’t found a hole. I haven’t see them. It’s like a cartoon. Every time I open my fridge, all my food is gone. I’m the only one who eats here. Could it be bugs? I’d lay out traps, but I’m not sure if my Fuck Buddy is smart enough to step around them.
It’s a problem I can’t solve now. I dress, get to work.
A not-friend of mine, Eric catches me while we march from the office to the parking lot. “You got any plans tonight?” he asks. He has Elvis hair and a rapist’s smile. “Because I thought we might go out, hit the bars. We could, you know, help each other find a tight hole to fill.”
“Ah, nah.” I shake my head, stepping in quick pats to out-pace him. “But I’ll remember the offer. I gotta get home. My girlfriend’s waiting for me.”
“You have a girl?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say over my shoulder, reaching my car. “She’s great.” I raise a hand. He waves.
I guess this is a lot like being in a relationship.
Flash to night. After we make love, I lie thinking I can hear my sex doll crying. I can’t be sure. The dark covers her face. Maybe it’s just my imagination. It could be a glitch.
A check for twenty-two million dollars stares like a lover into my eyes. I can smell its fresh ink. I sit on the edge of a hotel room bed with Jack Forsen, CEO of LifeLike Industries. Bodyguards stand to the sides of the door and sit against the wall. “I know it’s not quite a briefcase of cash,” Jack says, “but I hope it’s enough. I’m sorry for the inconvenience. I thought we had her fixed.”
Why is my Fuck Buddy getting fatter? I’m no chubby chaser. I’ve had her for six months now. Her stomach grows, but she doesn’t eat. Did I hit some unseen button, break a control? She’s like a Fatten-Me-Up Barbie. She lies in bed almost always, now. That would be fine, if she were still attractive.
“Why are you getting so fat?” I ask from the kitchen. My fridge stands white and bare as tundra. Fucking rats, where are they coming from? I never have anything to eat.
My Fuck Buddy doesn’t reply. She looks away. Her lips peel downward. I don’t know what the hell to do, but I can’t afford to waste three thousand dollars. I click to LifeLike.com and message technical support.
“You can understand how I don’t want this getting out,” Jack tells me in his lush suite.
My Fuck Buddy refuses to have sex with me. I try to mount her, because she might be fat, but I’m horny; she pushes me off. “No,” she says. “No.” I didn’t know she knew the word. “I’m too ugly,” she goes on. “I’m not what you ordered.” Is this some sort of fail-safe, an override? She gasps, lets out a shaking sigh. I pity her. I pity my sex doll.
Technical support emails me the next morning: Find a hospital immediately.
To the hospital.
“She’s pregnant,” the doctor tells me. He smiles. “What’s her name?”
“What the hell do you mean?” I snap. “She doesn’t have a name. She’s not human.”
The doctor scrunches his eyebrows over his glasses. Then, he assures me, “This woman is having a child.”
“I don’t care what you choose to do with the baby,” Jack continues. He snuffs a cigar in a silver ashtray. “You could keep it, raise it, put it up for adoption—you could even give it to us. We’ll handle the problem for you.” He leans in, then, with practiced sincerity. “We’re a company that strives to always satisfy our customers.”
I sit on my couch, staring at my TV. It’s not on. The screen is black. I stare at myself. I’m having a child with my sex toy. This isn’t exactly the idea of responsibility-free fucking I had in mind when I bought one. This is the problem with science. They made a robot that’s too real. “Shit,” I mutter. A silent moment passes where I try to hold down the lumps in my throat. Then, I stand, grip my hair under trembling fingers, hunch my back and scream, “Shit!”
At night I lie in bed next to this mother-machine. Her eyes run with tears.
“Are you all right?” I ask.
She parts her lips, closes them, parts them again. “Do-Do you…” she stammers, shaking. She tries again. “Do you want to have sex?”
It’s awkward, uncomfortable, but I do want to have sex, so we have sex.
It’s fine. I finish. She says nothing afterward. I don’t feel like an action hero. I decide it’s time to send her in. They can fix her. The pregnancy can’t be real, anyway. I’m sure they’ll give me a discount. I wonder if sex toys have warranties.
My apartment, the next day.
A messenger, blonde kid in a black suit, knocks. I open. He tells me not to press charges, that the CEO wants to meet with me.
They think I know more than I really do.
Behind me my sex doll screams, and something splatters.
My Fuck Buddy groans and pushes. I stare into her hole as she delivers I-don’t-know-what. Will it have plastic limbs and googly eyes? Will it even look like a child? Maybe she’s just overfilled with my sperm, and that’s what fattening here. No cleaning required, my ass. God, it’ll be embarrassing if these doctors deliver a wave of sperm.
“I can see it—she’s crowning!” the midwife announces. I see it. My mouth opens, and a strange sound pushes out my throat. It’s a child. It’s a real fucking child!
“I don’t think she’s human, if she doesn’t think she’s human,” Jack explains to me. This is the day after the birth. “You see, when we found her she was already a prostitute, a stripper; she lived in sex. All we did was prod at that part of her that lived there, until she forgot the other parts. Eating, sleeping, who she is, what she is, these are taken care of. With wires and tubes, microchips, anything’s possible.” He puts out his hands as if to expect to be absolved. “We can raise your reward if you want,” he offers. “I’m sorry for the negligence. Her pregnancy ruined her whole system. It made her a real woman again.” He pauses, lights another cigar, smokes. “You shouldn’t be surprised,” he goes on. “The perfect woman will always be a woman—one that doesn’t know she’s a woman, anyway. You have to do some disturbing things to sell sex at such cutthroat prices. There’s no need to make sure a company goes under for a small oversight.”
He writes up a new check and hands me fifty million dollars.
“What’s his name?” the midwife asks me. I cradle a bundled baby boy in my arms.
I look up at the midwife and shake my head. “Nothing,” I tell her. “He won’t need a name.”
Skip to the end.
Jack has me meet him at a loading dock. He walks toward me. Three body guards stand at his long black car. I offer him the baby.
He throws his hands back, shakes his head. “No,” he says. “I never touch the things.”
He waves to a large goon. The man saunters forward and takes the child from me with one hand. He walks with the baby held forward like it’s a bag of rancid trash. The trunk thunks open. He tosses the child in. Sitting half-out of the back seat of the car is my brand new Fuck Buddy, this time Asian. She’s the same height, same hair, bigger cup-size, though. I wasn’t able to afford double D’s before. Jack waves to her, and she crosses toward me with a dancer’s feet. The model kisses my neck with warm breath and locks herself around my right arm. My ex-Fuck Buddy looks from me to her, eyes big and uncomprehending.
“What’re you gonna do with her?” I ask Jack, pointing to my faulty model.
He shrugs. “She’s useless,” he says. “She can’t be refurbished. We’ll do the only thing we can do.”
He waves another goon, who steps forward, lifts a pistol, and casually fires. I leap and shout, my bones rattling at the bang. My ex-Fuck Buddy’s brains scatter out the back of her head and paint the ground like they’re trying to run away.
Jack shakes his head. “Get her in the trunk,” he orders. “We’ll incinerate her—baby too,” he assures me. “Please, accept our sincerest condolences, along the new model.”
“I will,” I tell him. While his guys pick up the body, wash off the blood, I shake hands with the CEO. His grip is firm. He nods, turns, and drives off. I watch after him for awhile. The sun starts to set, throwing a deep orange and purple to my side.
I kiss my new Fuck Buddy tenderly. We both smile. We walk arm-in-arm back to my car. Her legs sweep, thighs sway, shining under the setting sun. I open her door. She slips in. I climb into my seat. We drive off.
I hope for a pleasant future for the two of us, one that doesn’t feel so much like a relationship.
Fiction: The Wind Sweeps Over the Prairie
The Fiction piece in our May 2013 issue by Saraiya Ruano…
Pa said I could marry anybody, as long as I had permission first. Pa said I should pick a man who knows how to drive cattle but keep a gentle hand for his wife, a man who could crack the whip on stubborn rough hide but also deliver a colt with patience and tenderness. “A horse knows a man’s intentions,” Pa would say. A horse needs a gentle hand sometimes, or even whispered words. Some people think it’s superstitious to talk to animals because animals can’t understand. They think animals are stupid and can’t tell between cruelty and kindness. Some of the boys who used to work on our ranch were like that. They would knock around an animal and think it felt nothing. Pa fired a man who used to kick the turkey out of the way during feedings. The turkey would stand by the entrance all fluffed up, showing off shiny bronze tail feathers, and that man would give it a hard kick in its chest. He wanted to make it clear who was in charge.
“You kick my turkey one more time and I’ll kick you all the way to Texas,” my pa told him. “You can’t fool a turkey. You walk in there aiming to kick, it’s gonna know.”
We bought and raised that turkey to sell for meat, but Pa never told that to the turkey. He talked to it as if it were one of his cowhands. “Good morning turkey, lookin’ good this morning,” he’d say. The turkey only ever gobbled nonsense in return, but he was loved, even if he was born to be a meal.
I grew up outside Fort Collins, Colorado on a working cattle ranch. My pa grew up on that same ranch and learned how to take care of the land from his father. He knew where to take the cattle in the spring and the winter. He grazed them on golden prairie grass.
“The prairie used to hold thousands of buffalo,” he told me once. “They kept the grass short. Now we don’t have buffalo, but the cattle are doing the job.” That’s what his pa taught him anyways.
On our land we had hundreds of birds. Naturalists paid five dollars just to look at birds on our land. We used to let those people in for free, until more of them took an interest and we started seeing two or three cars out there every day. In the winter we had some white bird roosting on the horse barn. All the naturalists came out with long cameras and heavy-duty binoculars. You didn’t need those things to see that bird. It was white as snow, an owl with yellow eyes. It survived a blizzard in mid-December. Some of our cattle died that year and we found them frozen in the dry creek bed. Pa had rounded up as many as he could and some of them came home on their own, but some of them we found stiff and empty-eyed in the creek bed. The bird stayed through the storm. Ma worried it would die and even thought we could catch barn mice to feed it. Pa said snowy owls are built for blizzards. He was right. It stayed on our land the whole winter.
After that bird appeared, Pa said everyone who wanted to be out on his land needed to pay five dollars. Then the naturalists wanted to get specific: five a person or five a car? Some of them complained that land should belong to everyone, but Pa knew that if everyone started coming to see birds on his land, they would be out trampling his prairie and leaving their trash and God knows what else. Some of those men brought rifles to shoot birds to take to the museum, and Pa didn’t like that they were taking from his land and not giving anything back.
“Don’t marry one of those bird men,” Pa said. “Makes no sense, they want to waste daylight looking for birds. Don’t these people have jobs?”
“I think it’s fun to look for birds,” I said. I never noticed the birds until this man was looking for birds by our house and he said he saw one called a painted bunting down along the creek bed. He said it was red and blue and green. I must’ve been sixteen then. I thought I wanted to see that bird too.
“You marry a ranch working man, or a scientist maybe—like a doctor who makes good money and doesn’t waste his time. But no bird men,” Pa said.
I didn’t really have marriage on my mind at that time. Even when I left home for college in Greeley, I wasn’t thinking about marriage. I got a scholarship to study there and become a teacher. It would take five years to finish unless I took summer classes. I didn’t because I knew summer would be the best time to be home. It was after my freshman year that it finally hit me how lonely school was. I had some friends, but they didn’t talk to me much outside of class. It was hard to tell if I wanted a really good friend or a marriage, because I thought marriage might mean having a really good friend. My ma married my pa when she was only eighteen, and she said she did it because he was her best friend and she couldn’t stand not to have him around. They got along because they were both raised on the prairie. They both knew what it meant to work hard with the wind whipping up dust in your face. They both knew what it meant to lie still in prairie grass and listen to the sounds of nature: the whisper of grass sparrows and the howling of distant coyotes.
I came home the summer after my freshman year and met this boy Willie on the ranch. He was twenty-four years old and never went to college. After high school, he worked on a ranch in southern Colorado. He came up here because he said it was closer to his home. He grew up real close to our ranch. Pa hired him because he had experience. He knew how to drive cattle and throw rope. He even knew how to break in a horse. Pa asked him to break in the black colt my mother named Skippy. I watched Willie out there with his saddle and rope. He whispered to the horse then yelled and Skippy spooked. Skippy went bounding to the other side of the pen. It didn’t seem fair in the end, the way Willie shoved the saddle on Skippy and pulled that horse to its knees in submission. He was a powerful man, and confidant too. He saw me watching from the fence.
“A horse has got to know who’s in charge, otherwise it takes advantage,” he said to me. He walked over and put his arms on the top post of the fence. He had a lot of muscle and freckles on that arm. “A horse knows if you’ve got a weak spirit and will take advantage.”
He was real handsome, with red hair just long enough for the wind to play with. His nose was angular, bent at the top like maybe he’d broken it once. When he looked at me I didn’t dare move, like his eyes were holding me down. I saw he had a few wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, and that made me think he was a real experienced man.
“It’s good to have a gentle spirit,” I said.
“No, maybe with women, but not with animals.” He winked.
“Just don’t kick our turkeys. My pa will get rid of you if you kick the turkeys.”
He lived in the house across the field with the other summer workers. Sometimes I looked out my window to see if their lights were on. Those lights went out early except on Fridays, when I knew the boys would be drinking and playing card games and telling jokes I wouldn’t like to hear. I started wondering about Willie, if he was that kind of boy who made bad jokes about women. I wondered if he’d been with other women, because if he had I shouldn’t have been thinking about him. That’s where I went wrong, thinking about him at night.
I hung out around the horses where I knew I’d run into Willie. He cleaned the stalls and fed the horses and we talked about anything. He’d talk about growing up only five miles or so from my pa’s ranch. I asked him if any naturalists ever asked to be on his property.
“All the time. My father said no at first. But they didn’t listen and they drove around our property anyways. So my father started carrying his rifle around for show. He never intended to shoot it. If a car went blazing down the road he would go stand by the gate with his rifle out and wait for the car to come back the other way. He’d lift the rifle and pretend like he was going to shoot. People would swerve or step on the gas, but they never came back.”
“You must’ve had some good birds on your property. Did you ever have a white owl?”
“A white owl? You’re making that up. The owls on our property are dirt brown and ugly. They sound like old women hooting in the night.”
“Those are the Great Horned owls,” I said. “I’m talking about the white owl.”
“Well aren’t you a smart little lady,” he said.
I didn’t like how he didn’t believe me about the owl.
“I am in college you know,” I said.
“I know, Paula. You’re a real intelligent young woman. I know that.”
We were leaning on the swing door to Skippy’s stall. Skippy looked beaten, his head down, sheepish eyes flitting from us to the window. Skippy had a cottonwood tree outside his window and I could hear the yellow warblers. I don’t think Willie noticed them. He put his arm around me and I stepped back.
“I was just gonna kiss you,” he said. His eyes looked hurt. I wasn’t sure if he was playing or serious. He tried to put his other hand on my cheek all romantically and I turned my head away.
I tried to peel his hand off my waist but he grabbed harder and he did it right then. He put his hand over my mouth and undid his zipper and shoved me against the barn wall. I could still hear the warblers. I cried through muffled screams. I saw only his nose twitching sometimes because he was trying so hard. He smelled like horse manure. When he was done, I was just lying on the floor crying, not wanting to scream now and embarrass myself. I had been a clean girl until then. Like Pa always said, I was saving myself for marriage. I wasn’t clean anymore. Nobody could know. Willie put a finger to his lips. I never noticed before but they were skinny lips, hardly had any lips at all.
“You won’t tell a soul. Remember, it was you who came to me,” he said with a smile. He kicked up some hay in my direction and zipped himself back up. “You better put yourself back together,” he said. He nodded towards my own undone pants. I felt sore on my arm where he had held me. I should have fought harder. I did try to kick him but he had me so hard against the wall. If my pa had walked in right at that moment he could’ve stopped it. But he didn’t. There was only Skippy who didn’t know any better, watching from his stall.
After that, I thought I should marry Willie, not to make it right for God but to make it right for my father. All those things my father told me were like ghosts in my ear at night. If there was a baby, then there had to be a father to receive it. If there wasn’t a baby, then the marriage was only to settle my conscious. I was a dirty woman otherwise. No man would take a girl knowing she had already spilled her blood, and in a barn of all places. Unless he was a city man and I never liked the city or its people.
At the end of July I told Willie we should get married because I thought there was a baby. I lied. There wasn’t really a baby, I would’ve known. I would’ve been sick. He agreed we should get married, because my pa would find out anyways who the baby belonged to. Willie would lose his job and all the ranchers and farmers nearby would hear about it, and he’d have to move far away to get a job anywhere else. I told Willie we’d better ask my pa first and Willie said he’d handle it. My pa liked Willie so far because he knew how to break horses in fast. Around Pa, Willie was sweet as honey and he’d whisper to the horses that everything was alright. Pa was just too busy with the cattle in summer to keep a constant eye on every worker. He saw how Willie got the job done and trusted that he was doing everything right.
My pa didn’t notice yet how the horses were shy around Willie, waiting for his heavy hand to fall upon their skin. Sometimes it wasn’t even his heavy hand, but his heavy words, the way he shouted anger to make a horse hear him.
“You goddamned horse, you’re gonna do exactly as I say,” I heard him say to Skippy once. In that violent way he made Skippy into a broken horse for riding. I should’ve taken Skippy out for a ride. We were both dirty horses.
I didn’t go back to college. Willie said I could still go and come home for breaks and over summers, but I couldn’t be there with the other young girls knowing they still had the chance to find someone gentle in their lives. Their doors for marriage and jobs were wide open. I could still be a teacher, but I didn’t think I should be teaching little children after what Willie had done to me. I didn’t want to pass those things on to children. Children can tell when you got dark secrets to keep.
Willie built a house with some of the other workers and now we live just a mile west of my parents’. Pa gave us Skippy because Skippy was never good for much. He couldn’t be taken on cattle drives because the bucking of calves or the flinch of cow haunches would spook him into a frenzy. I rode Skippy out onto the prairie and down into the creek bed. Sometimes we meandered through the forest of Russian olive trees and I listened for the different birds I heard the naturalists talking about. There was some kind of owl with long ears that roosted in the olive grove. At night in the early spring I sometimes could hear their screams. If I didn’t know any better I would have said they were ghosts. I sometimes imagined they were the ghosts of my grandmother and great grandmother, screaming for shame and all the things the world did to them as women. I would be among them, was already among them.
There were wild turkeys out there too. I liked to see them outside of a cage. They could walk wherever they wanted and fluff up their feathers and strut. Sometimes I tied Skippy up to a tree and went and sat behind a bush just to see how close a turkey might come to me.
Now I’m sitting out on the prairie, on this bluff that overlooks the land. The cattle are spread out and feeding to the south. I can see Pa and Willie out there on their horses. They are specks. But way far out there isn’t anything but yellow grass and wind sweeping over the prairie. Sometimes it’s a gentle wind, a hopeful wind. Other times it’s rough and blows my hair all over and chaps my cheeks. I’m thinking how men are like the wind. Some of them are soft and gentle like that, and some of them wear you down and carry you away piece by piece. Some of them talk so much and so loud that you can’t hear your own voice over them, like storm wind. I married the wrong wind. I made that choice. My mother said you always have to live with your choices. You can’t put the blame on other people.
I like to forget my life after that day near Skippy’s stall. I can still remember how I felt before I met Willie, when I thought I would be a teacher and when Pa gave me advice on what to look for in a man. He doesn’t tell me things like that anymore. He says I married a fine man, but he hasn’t seen yet how Willie handles Skippy. Or maybe Pa just doesn’t care anymore now that I’m married, now that I’m not his anymore. Sometimes I think I will walk out over the prairie and keep on walking into the wind. Eventually the prairie will end and I will find something better if I keep walking.
She tried, but couldn't laugh
“Oh kitten…Didn’t you know we were born to run?” you purred, after you caught your breath.
“But aren’t you happy here?” I had insisted
“No. This town ain’t got anything left for people like us, baby. We wouldn’t even miss it. Take my car and just drive. Maybe move to the coast, you love the beach.”
“I like the beach in the summer. What’ll happen if you can’t find a job?”
“When have I ever not had a job, and hopefully my book will make it big soon.”
“I hope.” I had sighed and gotten up to put another record on the turntable. You started singing to me, the way you always did.
“Oh and if I never hear that shit again I’ll live and live and live.”
You picked me up and swung me around, kissing me hard and then you told me you had a surprise.
“Just wait. I’ll be right back. I have to go to the car.”
“Sounds good. I have one for you too. Sorta.”
I waited at our kitchen table, while you went down to your car to get my surprise and I rummaged in my pocketbook for the little plastic stick that held two bright pink lines. We were both bad Catholics, and we probably couldn’t have a high mass wedding ever again after this surprise, but who really wanted that anyway, I had rationalized in my mind all morning. I was sitting with my hands in my lap when you burst through the door and got down on one knee.
“It’s only 3 paychecks here in this ring, so I hope you still like it well enough. So, run away with me, Mrs. Robinson?”
I was shocked, more than you could have imagined. I had never thought you would propose, and when you had told me that we were broke I didn’t think it was because you were saving to buy me a diamond. You could have pushed me over with a feather in that moment.
“Of course. Of course I’ll marry you.” I nodded vigorously, and you heard the little plastic stick fall to the floor
“What was that?” You had asked as you bent down to retrieve it for me
Your reaction wasn’t what I had expected, as you came back up from the floor.
“This isn’t yours, I hope.” You chuckled
“It is. I’m pregnant. Probably 6 weeks, so we better get to planning this wedding if we want a chance of getting married during Mass.” I had giggled, happily.
“You’re a logical woman, kitten. We’ve talked about this. We can’t support a baby right now. Maybe when we are older, but not right now. Hell I work 10 hour days and we barely scrape by, what are we going to do with a baby. Plus, kiss a wedding goodbye if you’re pregnant, we could never afford that.” You were out of breath, and looked scared. I had never seen you scared.
“Well, my family will help prettyboy. Your daddy’ll be so happy, and my mom has been asking when we’re going to have pretty dark haired babies with eyes like moons.” I had smiled reassuringly
You had hugged me tight, just then and said, very low and slow “We aren’t doing this, baby. This doesn’t have to stick.”
I had put on a brave face, for you. I had wanted this, but it seemed you didn’t share the sentiment. I made my own appointment, and I drove myself, too. I was scared, but you were too busy with your 10 hour day to worry about me. You called me, hours after it was over and my heart had been ripped out and thrown into the trash, to ask how I was feeling. If I has wanted you to bring me home some ice cream or a movie, but I wasn’t okay. You brought me mint chocolate chip and The Titanic.
I’m still not okay.
Mrs. Collerson's Casket
My arms were tired by the time we finally laid her on the bier, and all I could think of was a raspberry iced tea, a cigarette, and how nice it would be to rest under the shade of the canvas for a moment. Some people have the courtesy to die in October or April, but the late Mrs. Collerson was not an particularly courteous person in life and so there existed no reason she should be any more so in death. Rather, she had picked an evening towards the end of summer for her lungs to finally give out, and therefore they had to put her in the ground on one of those terrible late August days in Utah with all of the oppressive heat of July and all of the melancholy of September.
Before I go on, I should clarify that I actually enjoy funerals. I think everyone enjoys a good funeral, even the people who say that they hate funerals. They’re tedious, and they’re completely pointless from the perspective of the deceased, but even when you’re watching the casket door close on someone you love there’s just this overwhelming sense of relief that they’re gone and not suffering any more and not your responsibility anymore. Saying goodbyes can be difficult, but funerals make that entire process a thousand times easier by letting you say goodbye without the danger that the person will respond and make you feel like shit for not visiting more often, or not trying to keep the marriage together, or whatever it is that you fucked up and should have tried to make amends for. People think funerals are useless because the dead person doesn’t get to hear any of the nice things said about them, but that’s exactly the point: They’re a chance for anyone who didn’t care nearly as much as they should have to cover up this inconvenient fact. Nobody calls anybody else out at a funeral, partly because it would be disrespectful but mostly because they’re all there doing the exact same thing. Mrs. Eda Collerson was probably the least popular person in Clarksville, Utah, and that’s precisely why well over half of the town showed up to pay their respects.
I’m not sure exactly why I showed up. It wasn’t that I felt any particular duty to Mrs. Collerson, and though I pitied her in a way, it wasn’t the sort of pity that leads people to attend funerals. I guess my attendance at the event was more an excuse to dress up in black and appear morose and melancholic and troubled by the impermanence of human existence. Also, they had asked me to be a pallbearer, which easily qualifies as one of the strangest requests I’ve ever received. I mean, here was this woman whom I barely knew, and I was supposed to help pick her up and carry her by hand on the last journey she would ever make. It seems somehow obscene that I should have this responsibility and privilege when I rarely spoke to her, never cared about her (nor pretended to), and probably helped kill her when I chose to make out with her granddaughter on the spotless white sofa that seemed as if it had sat in her front parlor for years and never been sat on. To me, it seems as if there should be some sort of bond shared between a casket’s occupant and its pallbearers, but as the considerable weight of Mrs. Eda Collerson was finally lifted off my shoulders I found that I didn’t think any more or less of her than I did when her lungs and heart were still working.
The graveside service was brief, just an epilogue to the memorial they had held back at the wardhouse. The bishop went through all the motions of a prayer, but in this heat, he stumbled quickly towards the “amen” and took his seat under the canvas, which he seemed a good deal more thankful for than anything he had mentioned in his prayer. Among the attendees, one could sense a consensus that religious and moral duties to the corpse of Mrs. Collerson were holding up access to air conditioning and that great Mormon delicacy of a funeral party dinner. A few concluding remarks were said, a bouquet of lilies was laid on the casket, and then just like that it was over. Mallie MacAdams, the aforementioned granddaughter, stood and placed her right hand on the coffin, her starch-pale lips moving in a soundless tribute to a woman who had never known the meaning or value of silence. On her way to catch up with the procession, Mallie averted her eyes from me, and for a second I wished things were still the way they had been before. I think that was the first and last time I ever missed Mrs. Eda Collerson.
For a few seconds I watched as Mallie walked back to the limousine, not quite hurrying but certainly not lingering either. I turned the other way and buried my hand in my pocket, feeling around for the emergency cigarette that I knew I had brought with me. I found it and situated it cautiously between my lips, lighting it with a little metal lighter that I produced from my jacket pocket. Mallie hated it when I smoked, which is probably why I wanted a cigarette so badly. Besides, smoking in cemeteries seems almost like a necessity to me. There’s nothing that keeps living people from getting arrogant like the knowledge that you’re slowly killing yourself.
I could hear them gunning the engines on the funeral limousine for the trip back to the wardhouse, and the hot stillness of the afternoon was pierced by cordial goodbyes and car doors shutting. I breathed in deeply, letting the acrid taste of smoke fill my mouth, and then I started towards home, thinking that maybe a phone call wouldn’t be as difficult as I was making it out to be.
It stopped raining a couple of hours ago. I don’t like going out at night when one feels humidity everywhere – there are puddles on every street in the city. But Paco, the troublemaker, he had to show up at my door with his power to dissuade me from not staying home. I was ready to start watching my favourite show, online, with my sandwiches of organic cheese, organic onions and organic ham. I wanted to eat them slowly, to enjoy their subtle taste, but I had to eat them quickly instead, before leaving my house.
So here I am at this soiree, outdoors. I must say that, at first, I was wishing I were in my own room writing songs, drinking ethically produced wine or beer, thinking about life in general, with no rush, and no disturbances. Is there any better plan for a rainy Friday night? I really don’t think so. These people. Their attitude disgusts me so much. They value things that I don’t appreciate, and that I don’t plan to appreciate any time soon. “Wonderful! That looks very nice!” the woman that just arrived is shouting. Paola, our hostess, replies with a squeaky loud voice “Isn’t it the coolest thing? My daddy did a great job, didn’t he?” And she wiggles. They refer to those marble sculptures around the quarry fountain, in the middle of this vast backyard we’re in. Those lamps, which were designed, as if they were the streetlights that illuminated the façade of the Hotel Iturbide during autumn nights of 1940, illuminate those statues with eerie and erotic combinations of light and shadow; they give them magnificent silhouettes. I would dare to say they look artistically sublime. Are they Greek gods? Who are they? I will blush if someone asks me. My ignorance would be dismantled. My intellectual look would be exposed as fraudulent to all of them. I should know to whom belong those angular faces. I prefer to stay quiet, and so do they. The music stops abruptly. A technical hitch? The woman who’s really fascinated by the statues starts to walk towards us. I can just tell that she is trying so hard to look like a swan, crossing with artificial grace her superficial pond, upon which the moon spreads crumbly silver threads. One can hear clearly the clinking of the jewels she’s wearing, the whistle of a train, and the distant clatter of the wheels colliding against the rails. Everyone looks at her. I imagine they look because she’s the daughter of a famous man. She finally gets to Paola, who stands up. They pretend to kiss each other’s cheeks, and they hug each other with fervour. They’re like politicians, boasting about the fact that they fit in the same clique. There they are, the pats on the back, the twisted smiles. “Hello, everyone!” she says, shaking her perfumed, long blond hair. She doesn’t care whether we say hello back or not. Immediately, she sits down on Paola’s right side, and she starts talking to her, and to another young woman that was already here. Lady Gaga’s voice enters into the atmosphere, unexpectedly.
Monterrey is not on the border, but we cannot deny that the United States of America is just around the corner. Does our geographic situation condemn us to embrace every piece of shit that our neighbour country squeezes out? They are absurd, chanting bland and meaningless words, with plastic characters to sweeten the ridiculous melodies. They move to the rhythm of this music. Some of them say this is the music that nice people listen to. Those fresh-faced bourgeois young people would never listen to the popular Mexican music that the industry produces for the working class. Talking about sweet tastes: our hostess served ‘Swiss’ balls of chocolate, actually processed somewhere near Jacksonville, and other ‘exotic’ candies in a crystal bowl. These people revel in that artificially sweet stuff, as if those pieces of crap were the ambrosia of the Olympian gods. One not lacking in sanity would experience a severe headache after eating those packages so cleverly filled with refined sugar. They’re drinking Coke. This is so embarrassing!
Rocks, differently sized and shaped, are embedded in the turf. The rocks make a path that leads to a flower garden. I imagine that these people didn’t even notice the gentle blooms. They must be asphodels. Yes! That must mean that the statues are related somehow. Greek. Mallows, I see mallows, right there. The wind blows. Leaves draw a vague route in the air before they touch the earth, on which the flowers wait for the winter to bite them, ruthlessly. In a couple of months, it will be a little colder. Oh, what a beautiful garden!
As Paco stands up, he says he has to go to the washroom. He walks away, leaving me at the mercy of these strangers. They shall not talk to me. Of course not! They wouldn’t be interested in anything I would say. The woman who wears a fine scarf finds very creative ways to insult others, but her words are like blunt scalpels. She makes her incisions grossly. She hurts them, and she’s aware of her cruelty, but she pretends it’s unconscious. “You’re not fat, you have lovely, wide, chubby cheeks!” she says to a woman, who wears thick glasses. The latter smiles, like a child pretending to be a big girl, then she takes the poisonous thorn out of her body. Women and men laugh at her. She has no other choice but to laugh with them. I’m glad that they’re nothing like me. Never did I feel happier, to be aloof and different from the others. How can they be entertained with such banalities? Our world has become something fragile. A house of cards. The slightest touch might make it collapse. And these people have fun talking about proper clothes to wear for yoga. It’s insane!
Our privileged hostess has parents, rich enough to acquire a mansion like this. But she doesn’t have the ability to coordinate the words that spring from her lips. She doesn’t think about what she says, and she doesn’t feel it either. On the other hand, I applaud her mannerly behaviour. She’s careful, trying not to disagree with the leaders. She agrees with them, uncritically. She gives a nod of agreement to those who can be more bloodthirsty in their schemes. Now everybody speaks at the same time. Paco comes back to join their lightweight conversation, but he does so cynically. Oh, he doesn’t sit near me. Vladimir – I know his name because I’m interested in him – comes back, walking, showing off. He was absent for these few minutes because he went to make a call. That’s what I heard him say.
Yes, I felt disgusted by all of this, but he’s the only reason why I didn’t leave earlier. He sits next to me, on the chair Paco left empty. He’s right next to me! I just can’t believe it! That black jacket can’t fit any better on any other man. I can’t even start a conversation with him. My palms are sweating. I have to admit that I’m hypersensitive, and my subjectivity knows no limit or ceiling, that’s why I prefer to not say a word. I don’t want him to notice my negative features. They might make him run away, to never see me again. He looks so interesting. A man of a sound mind. Caramels, and other refined sugar products, haven’t damaged his brain. I saw how he rejected the crystal bowl when somebody offered it to him. I’d surely take the train that doesn’t carry passengers. Where would we go? I wouldn’t mind, just as long as he’s with me. I’d go to any distant city with him, even if he asked me right now. I wonder what he thinks about me. Does he want to leave this place as much as I do? Why doesn’t he go? Maybe he’s attracted to me. Oh, I’m so vain! If only I could say something, anything. “Can you imagine all the better things we’re missing for being here tonight?” he asks. Is he asking me? Yes! He’s talking to me! I stammer nervously. My face is the face of Joy.
Our conversation is so low-maintenance. It survives, feeding itself with these very few words that he and I articulate. People around are still noisy as hell. There’s a prolonged silence between Vladimir and I, but we both feel very comfortable. I feel an (how should I call it?) infatuation. But it might be a sensation that, as vampires, won’t be alive after the sun rises. Who knows? I don’t think I should worry about it by now. I drink brandy, and so does he. Alcohol is in my blood, unblocking my instinct, giving me the courage to say things exactly as I feel them, like the poet who speaks the truth. I’m uninhibited. At least, I like to think I am. I feel so brave. I could be adventurous and kiss his lips. Yes, I will! I suddenly moved my arm, and I accidently spilled brandy all over the place… What a shame! Ice cubes fall on the floor… drops of brandy fall on our laps. “Don’t worry!” he says, “nobody cares!” he adds. I look around to make sure, and he’s right. No one noticed a thing. “The table was already wet anyways,” he concludes. Yes, indeed, Paola didn’t bother to clean the rainwater from the table. We won’t leave these plastic chairs. He serves me more brandy and we continue drinking. Despite the fact that it’s a cool night, our wet legs don’t bother us at all.
It’s too bad that it’s not only he and I! Shrill fools surround us. There’s no need for me to say it out loud, because I smile in such a way that I communicate telepathically this fact to him: gestures fill a secret code that we’ve developed while we’ve been talking. “Their rotten words come out of their smelly mouths,” I whisper in what I imagine to be a poetic tone, loud enough for Vladimir to hear it. “Had they the appropriate glands, they’d spit acid on the flayed bodies of the people they’re talking about,” he waxes poetic. Oh my god! We’re so freaking drunk!
“Yeah, I mean, there was a detour, so I had to drive through La Campana, that seedy district!” a woman says; “I cried lots, I swear to you! Gangsters were looking at me with lust!” she dramatizes. “Talking about trash,” the boy who wears a purple shirt says, “Hilda, the girl who has a scholarship, asked me to hang out with her on a date. Have you seen her clothing? Gawd! I turned her down.”
“Can you imagine how that girl named Hilda would feel if she heard what this guy is saying about her right now?” “They talk shit about her, as if she wasn’t a part of them,” he replies. “They can’t control that: we’re all as one,” he adds. I know we’re under the influence of alcohol, but I’m aware enough to notice how my heart beats vehemently for the fact that we’re like-minded people. He adjusts his black jacket, because his unconscious actions, those of a drunken man, had twisted it strangely. “Carlos’ father is a working-class man!” says Karina (I know her name only because I have a friend with that same name), “Who would’ve thought?” she exclaims. They think a BlackBerry or an iPhone in their pocket raises them over other ‘individuals.’ They firmly believe the lie that is repeated, over and over again, by industrial capitalism. Sadly, they’ll never accept the death of the ‘individual.’ Without words, Vladimir and I feel simultaneous shame for belonging to the human race. They talk behind each other’s backs. I loathe them. I shouldn’t. Vladimir reminds me of this, and he prevents me from exploding.
“Which movie?” the most annoying woman (the one who surely thinks herself as graceful as a swan) asks. Seemingly, she’s been going through snippets of our conversation, and she could hear the title of the movie Vladimir mentioned to me. “Sin Nombre,” he repeats. “Ah, I thought you said Papa por Siempre,” she responds, turning her head to her clique again. She expresses her wish to go to a theatre with a man who can hold her hand for the whole show. But, “who’d want to be seen with a woman whose laugh sounds like a magpie’s?” Vladimir murmurs, “don’t get me wrong, I do love magpies, but a person that sounds like one isn’t very pleasant to my taste.” I laugh so hard. Oh, god. He makes me laugh and then he guilt trips me. It doesn’t matter; my laugh is the most sincere laugh ever. Here’s the pain in my stomach as irrefutable evidence! We keep talking about movies. As someone who feels the temperature of limpid water of a pool with one foot, we’ve only touched the superficial layers of our personalities. But we’ve come to a very important conclusion: we have sort of the same kind of taste about movies. I think going to the movies is a great idea! Should I ask him for a date? Maybe he will… later.
The wind blows, and it moves the brown leaves on the lawn. The wind reminds us of our legs, because they’re still wet, and we keep touching the edge of the table with them. Oh, nevertheless, I feel warm thanks to Vladimir. I wonder if he feels the same. I think he does. Our conversation has been the perfect therapy to endure the people around us. How happy I feel! If only I could freeze life right here and now. The moon pierces the thin clouds around her with silver arrows, while alcohol runs through our veins and makes us crack up. I want to seize this moment and hold it in my hands. I want to perpetuate it, but it runs through my fingers… time keeps flowing…
If nobody else were here, I would’ve kissed his lips hours ago.
“I remember when I was a kid,” Paco says, “I used to dance around in a circle with my childhood best friends. We would sing Doña Blanca and other silly songs.” “Oh, heaven forbid I be like Doña Blanca,” the young lady with thick glasses (the one they like to laugh at the most) replies, “I don’t want gold and silver pillars to protect me from good-looking wasps, who would sting me willingly, if you know what I mean.” She completes with some kind of humour. “Childhood can be so damn beautiful!” A man with small but aquiline nose, from which gravity pulls his glasses too often, (he adjusts them now) says, “you just don’t have to face the problems that increase as you grow,” he sighs. Oh, they try to be deep now. Yes, Vladimir says that all those things come down to one simple thing: “Bullshit!” He’s right. I totally agree with him. They spit the words. There can’t be more idle and pretentious people than these. Paco has bad taste in friends.
Heavens! Time flies! We’ve spent several hours out here. But I haven’t made anything rock-solid yet, something concrete I could offer to Vladimir. I still feel like an erasable mark. It’s so late, and tomorrow is a working day for me. “At seven, I have to wake up at seven because I have to be in the office at nine! That means I won’t sleep for longer than two hours!” I say merely as rhetorical complaint. Of course, I’d love to discern, with Vladimir by my side, the green and diffuse line that shows up in the horizon when the sun rises. But probably he doesn’t think that would be appropriate. He doesn’t say a word. I wait. Please say something! “It’s so fucking late!” he says finally, “I have to go now!” he exclaims. How it hurts, but I don’t have another choice. I have to say: “Oh, me too! Jesus!” I look at Paco, and I say to him: “I’m leaving now. Are you staying?” Paco stands up and starts to say goodbye to his friends. I say goodbye to Vladimir. I feel as if I attached a fine filament of me to him. We start to walk in opposite directions. How painful it is, he pulls my strand. My reel starts to spin slowly (his remains steady). Paco gets in the car and, from inside, he opens the door for me. Vladimir gets in his car. Then we drive in different directions. He’s going home, and Paco is taking me home. My reel is spinning faster and faster, until it’s finally tense – really tense! His thread splits, and there’s this little fragment of his attached to mine. I start to reel in. I’ll analyze this little piece over and over again. Then I will save it in a secret place. But Vladimir won’t even remember me. He will lose interest in me as soon as he shuts his eyes tonight.
write your way to the tree
There is a new project; its newness thrills.
It is all possibility.
I make notes, follow unexpected paths. Discover that one idea is linked to another and then I am scurrying around the library at lunchtime, stacking books.
As to the writing itself, it is difficult to know where exactly to begin.
I turn back to Mary Ruefle’s “On Beginnings:”
Paul Valery also described his perception of first lines so vividly, and to my mind so accurately, that I have never forgotten it: the opening line of a poem, he said, is like finding a fruit on the ground, a piece of fallen fruit you have never seen before, and the poet’s task is to create the tree from which such a fruit would fall.
No small task, tree creation.
I sit in on the final presentations of graduate students in architecture and in the conversation that follows, there is talk of beginnings. One young woman has chosen to design interventions for four city sites. Instead of presenting one problem, she works with four.
“This is a project about beginnings,” someone says.
“I guess I now know how to begin,” the student says when she is offered the opportunity to speak.
She says: “I was sitting in a courtyard in Oaxaca and it was a public space, but set back a bit, so it was also quiet. I wanted to create that sense of quiet in a public space.”
An act of the mind. To move, to make happen, to make manifest. By an act of Congress. A state of real existence rather than possibility. And poets love possibility! They love to wonder and explore. Hard lot! But the poem, no matter how full of possibility, has to exist! To conduct oneself, to behave.
In the class, an observation is offered:
“You are working with beginnings. Each one a kind of experiment. Perhaps what is useful to know is that if you keep repeating experiments, a methodology will emerge.”
The repeated act of beginning itself revealing its hypotheses.
To begin with one small thing: a breeze through a quiet courtyard in the afternoon sun.
To extract something of value and attempt to translate - through form, through the page, through material objects - that value.
To recreate it. Translated through self. Self as translation. Intervention as machine.
Text as machine through which value is extracted then reproduced.
A thought came to me while watching the presentations and hearing the questions they engendered and I carried it, turned it over in my mind, throughout:
How might you frame the problem such that your solution seems inevitable and urgent?
This is not so different, I think, from the fruit and the tree.
A breeze through a quiet courtyard in the afternoon sun.
Sun on the skin is a place to start. Light and shadow.
A point of entry: An archway in the courtyard.
Stone steps leading down to water. You can also say they are leading up.
Here is a way in. Here is a place to start.
Here is tender fruit on the ground.
History, too is written backward.
Start here. Write your way to the courtyard, to the sun on your skin. Write your way to the tree.
The moon is full, and so are my breasts.
The soreness in them, loathed in adolescence, is now a joyous sensation in my experience. It feels natural and grounding. Without it, I would not be reminded that my body obeys the moon and the tides. Without it, I would be plastically adrift, ignorant of the knowledge that my womanhood is inherently bound to all things.
My two fathers each bring me something to read tonight. How fortuitous I am to be humbled thus by these two strong, loving men.
My biological father comes bearing food, wine, and a reading for my creative mind. The article details everyday, non-criminal sociopathy; the dark triad of personality traits. We discuss it enthusiastically over dinner - how the words echo a recent short story I wrote, and what it says about us as people that we so strongly identify with the descriptions. We argue potential narrative plots back and forth, and in the end agree that while I unquestionably inherited my skill with a pen from him, and we both may indeed be (gentle) sociopaths, the two of us are wildly different kinds of writers.
My Stepfather visits quietly in the dusk. He leaves an envelope in the door with my name on it.“This has helped me,” his note is signed with love. I am deeply moved by the gesture, even before my eyes kiss the neatly folded pages. We often talk about Buddhism, he and I. I eyeball my ancient woven hardcover of the eightfold path as I sit down to read before I close my eyes in sleep.
“One of the chief ways we do our grasping is in relationships. This manifests as craving, and can lead to aversion if we feel our craving has been thwarted by the person from whom we’re craving something. If one’s craving is greater than one’s contentment, that colours one’s non-appreciation and rejection of others. There is a sense that the object is something to devour, not to respect and love as an individual.”
“In Buddhism, we say everything is interdependent, we don’t say that you are the victim, we don’t say that others created this for you. Only when you start taking responsibility, can you begin to heal the hurt. Without that, there is always our mind which seeks to scapegoat someone, and is always waiting for someone else to rectify the situation. And so we wait, wait, wait, and how much time is there to wait? There is no time.”
I weep softly as I light a candle, feeling a bittersweet sense of release. The flame flickers under my gaze, and I lament how much of my magick I have wasted in the denial of my spirituality. How much time is there to wait?
When I’m feeling brave, I try to peer deep over the bounds of my mind and soul, and I find with terror that there are no limits.
I recoil hastily into myself, into this shroud of superficiality. I go to sleep, and when I wake, I reassure myself that the pleasant numbness of my existence is okay. That my burning hurt, victimhood, my non-contented craving is just… life itself.
If for nobody but myself, I must learn to take responsibility. To conquer this that sustains me; this oxygen of fear.
There is no time to wait.
There is systematic error in how we learn to define ourselves.
It is the way we refuse to believe that we are pronouns. It is the way we pretend that beauty is a noun that can be conquered through skirts-so-short and tops-too-tight. It is the way we see ourselves as fillers— unnecessary, irritating, and all-too-common.
This is the way you are to be pronounced, this is the way you are to be enunciated. This is the slur of a man’s drunken breath while he mutters your name, and this is the shame that you fit in between each letter.
This is the way we pretend that we are all jigsaw puzzle pieces, and this is the way we substitute size tags into our daily equations. This is a lie you will take with you to bed, this is the way you will repeat it without fail. This is the hate that you will smear on your lips, and this is the kiss that he never forgets to give.
We will always forget to label identities of the scars on our arms. And we will always remember the insults that slowly label us.
This is the way our legacy will work, point to point, generation to generation.
It is the way they pack you into tiny columns and it is the way they number you. It is the way they flip through catalogues and it is the way you hope they will not flip past yours.
It is the way we think that we might be adjectives, and it is the way that we are all synonyms.
And this is how we will define ourselves.
‘I’m a musician actually.’ I told him warily.
‘Oh a musician!’ His ruddy cheeks lit up, ’Like Dudley Moore, innee.’ When he said musician it sounded more like magician.
‘Uh, yes, I believe Dudley Moore was also a musician…’
He gave a particularly West-Country grunt of affirmation. There was a pause.
‘You don’t know that there Beethoven do you? By wife loves he, inner.’
‘Well not personally.’ I said without confidence, attempting small talk humour.
There was another long pause while he appeared to be cogitating somewhere in his cider impeded mind. As realisation dawned a smile began to break across his face like an egg yolk and the uncomfortable silence was dispelled by his wildly disproportionate laughter. Several people within the laugh’s radius were consequently ensnared by its potency and began laughing with him, to the rhythm of his profoundly shaking stomach.
‘Not personally, innee!’
I used this spectacle of comic contagion as cover to slip out unnoticed, and left the ruddy warmth of the pub for the comforting bitterness of an outdoor smoking area.
‘Smoking Kills.’ The Benson and Hedges packet kindly informed me.
I remained largely indifferent to this valuable intelligence.
The smoke licentiously crept from the cigarette’s glowing end and touched my face in a conspiratory, carcinogen caress. I began to relax slightly.
‘I’m a musician.’ I said out loud, redundantly. ‘m-u-s-i-c-i-a-n,’ spelling it out.
The cold night air did not respond. It seemed to think it sounded silly too.
Today, I will write about a reflection.
Tricia watched from the bathroom mirror as Megan step out of the shower with clear droplets on her flesh. That was how Tricia liked Megan best: warm, soft, and dewy. Megan bent over slightly and squeezing her hair with a white towel, and Tricia couldn’t help notice tiny specks of water cascading down Megan’s skin and falling off the peaks of Megan’s breasts. Then Megan draped the towel around her body, and Tricia noticed that the slightly foggy mirror made Megan’s reflection glow with a soft blur. She looked back at herself in the mirror, with pasty undertones from a lack of coffee and toothpaste foaming at the mouth, and Tricia wondered how she ended up with a goddess.
Queen of a Ragged Court
I wasn’t the one that turned our bloody gang fights into heroic romances. That was human poets. Most of them drunk. When I’m honest with myself, I admit that it’s always been like this. A thousand years of war. Seelie versus Unseelie. Faeries we may be, but we’re just more refugees. Immigrants from another time.
The world spun faster. Light from cellphones when read in the dark tricks the brain into thinking that there’s still plenty of daylight out there that the body can have a lot of fun in, but the alcohol was turning off the lights and lowering the shades and flushing the toilets and dumping the trash down the chute and locking the doors and turning off the porch light and closing the garage door and starting the car and letting the engine idle until it ran out of gas. Good night, Clare. I tried.
one mystery solved
Dragons, long thought to be a myth, turned out to be real and much, much smaller than imagined.
Microscopic, in fact.
It seemed that everyone had dragons in their blood.
What was it like to have this majestic creature soaring through your veins?
What was it like to be this creature, suddenly finding yourself observed and studied.
You might be surprised. You might release the fire in your belly in a sudden gasp. You might…
Well, let’s say this: the mystery of spontaneous combustion just got a little clearer.
Catturd's - 2
This is part of an ongoing series…To read from the beginning, click here.
We arrived at Catbird’s at 1:10 A.M. We hadn’t started calling it Catturd’s yet. That would come later. At that point, it was one of only three bars I could really drink at on a regular basis when I was underage, and it was worlds above Sliders and Numbers—which both boasted a heavy playlist of shitty eighties industrial and goth music, and also, along with it, the sadfaced mimes-on-drugs looking crowd with the white face-makeup, the purple eyeliner and lipstick, and the black nail-polish on both the guys and the gals. Catbird’s always had some dixieland jazz playing in the background to go with the generic amateur mural of jazz legends on the wall over the baby blue pastel coated with beer stains. Oddly enough a bunch of drunken punks like us along with a smattering of crazy looking mexican thugs and possibly homeless old men mostly hung out there. Maybe it was for the free stale popcorn they gave away.
We were on a mission. Not even an hour until last call, and we had yet to drink a single drop of booze that day. There were shots, ordered three at a time, and then more shots, and then more shots, and then even more shots, and then I was passed out on the sidewalk on Westheimer.
“Dude, get up! What are you doing? You’re gonna get arrested…Mike…Mike…Oh Christ, will you help me get him up? He obviously can’t drive.”
They were right. I couldn’t. The bar tab was two-hundred dollars for the four of us. In forty-five minutes! And on the cheap shit too. If you ever read this, thanks Nathan’s mom.
Since then, I’ve been at this place and time a million times, but this time might have been the first time. Show up to the bar with an hour to go worried you’re not going to have enough time to get drunk and then somehow you get drunker than you’ve ever been before. Luckily, we had Zack.
Don’t get me wrong, Zack matched us shot for shot, but liquor has always seemed to have the opposite effect on Zack that is has on everyone else. The rest of us slur and slow down and fall over and look dead if not for the snoring, but Zack, liquor wakes him up, makes him more alert somehow. With a blood-alcohol level of what can only reasonably be assumed of over two-point-o, twice the legal limit at the time, Zack managed to maneuver my bumper-sticker laden Buick at ten and two, the whole forty-five minute drive back to Pasadena.
Notes to self:
You are sexy. You are so fucking beautiful and sexy and desirable. The world, they try to make you feel like the person you love doesn’t want you. They give you recycled sex tips and watered down inspiration to keep you just below that line of owning yourself—so they can get you to keep buying their magazines and their vanilla kama sutra suggestions. You are sexy and amazing and you don’t need some sexually anorexic Cosmo editor-who probably hasn’t ever touched her own vagina for other than technical reasons—directing the action going on in the theater of your bedroom.
Somewhere out there, someone you like wishes your hands were all over their body and most of all the someone you like is out there wishing and daydreaming and fantasizing about their hands being all over you.
“ time for bed” whispers the sun to the moon. “oh but I’m not tired yet, come watch with me for a while. Just a little while. I want you to see people at their best.” The sun looked down at the earth, and saw a woman screaming at her mirror, and a man ripping at his hair, quietly crying at the stars out his window. The sun did not understand. He saw no light here. “but they are dying” he says As a man and woman claw at each other in their car, and a baby screams from its crib while the mother pours herself another glass of wine. “look again” says the moon “you must always look again.” and now the woman screaming in the mirror was caressing a man’s shoulders as they danced quietly. The man pulling at his hair had it brushed back, and was singing softly to his little girl while she slept in his arms. The couple in their car were inside, muttering apologies in between kisses and sheets. The baby was sleeping in her mother’s lap, and the wine was poured down the drain. “one thing I’ve learned from the nighttime” says the moon, “is that people are at their best directly after they are at their worst. They still, through all the sadness that I bring, know how to save each other.” With that, the moon went back to sleep as the sun took its place in the sky, watching the small miracles that took place just before the dawn”—conversations between spheres
// the season of you
they say that summer’s when you hate yourself. you look down at the valleys between your thighs and the hills making their way across your stomach and let the beach towel drape across your chest instead of on the sand. they say that summer’s where you find yourself, in the internships between semesters and the hours spent with your fingers wrapped in a telephone cord, your feet dangling off the edge of the desk. yet i think that summer’s where i lose myself. in the time that seems both endless and ending, and the sunrises that i both greet and miss (usually the latter). the ocean is crisp and clear, yet the grass is just as inviting and so is a game of football or even a game of “who can eat the most marshmallows” in between swallows of laughter and air. summer’s the season of love, emanating from the records in my room to the hot air outside. it doesn’t matter what tomorrow means, or when he’ll come home (or if he ever will at all). you are young. you are beautiful. you are the summer. and you’ve only just begun.