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Below are the 17 most recent journal entries recorded in lmfs' LiveJournal:

Monday, May 26th, 2008
5:15 pm
Quasi-Famous
The last time I saw Charles was a few years ago, home for Christmas, on winter break from school. In that tourist town of my youth, birth, and gestation, there was only one good coffee shop, and it was to said shop that I had taken my visiting housemate, band-mate, and occasional suitor, Tim.

“Gillian,” he said to me, and pushed his long, baffling cornhusk hair out of his eyes, “I need a latte with some heart in it.”

“I promise nothing,” I said, and hooked my arm through his. “They do make some mean scones, though.”

The place was threaded with a distinct hum when I opened the door. It was the hum of discerning tongues with freshly cultivated tastes. The walls were hung with pictures that didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen, but which must have been good, because they were hanging on a wall in a coffee shop. Tim threaded a path through some wayward tables and up to the counter, whereupon arriving, he crossed one leg over the other and clasped his chin in his hand.

“Good evening,” he said to the moon-eyed, blue-haired barista. “Tell me, would it be possible for me to get an eight-ounce latte with two shots, and the milk steamed to one-hundred-and-sixty-five degrees, Fahrenheit?”

Uninterested in this particular brand of snobbery, I turned to survey the décor on the walls.

A series of collages hung around the room, formed from newspaper clippings, coloring book pages, magazine ads, candy wrappers, and Polaroid pictures. Some were fashioned into silhouettes of recognizable objects, and some were formless, with no structure at all. As I turned my perusing glance about the room, I saw a skeletal middle-aged man in a yellow t-shirt standing under a frame, wherein roosted the outline of a chicken made from moist towelette packets. His thinning hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and he looked up at the chicken, and then down, past his spindly jean-clad legs at his right shoe, the toe of which was making a little circle on the hardwood floor. I recognized Charles directly. I was on the brink of deciding whether or not to approach him, when from the coffee counter there was a cry of, “Cappuccino, extra-dry, to go!” Charles was collecting his drink in an instant.

“Charles!” I said, as he approached the exit. He seemed to hesitate. “Charles!” again. He stopped for a moment at the door, and looked slightly to his left, shifting his weight between his feet. Then he looked back down and continued out the door, into the flood-lit parking lot. The room’s track-lit glare made a haze on the windows to the outside world, and my pride concluded that the man simply didn’t hear me.

“This milk is scorched,” said Tim from behind me, “but it’ll do.” I turned to watch him sip, demure as an Austen novel, and his eyes lifted up to the ceiling.

The first time I saw Charles, he was late to class the first day of Music Theory. He was carrying a coffee cup, though a sign on the door had clearly warned that no food or drinks were allowed. He had boots with zippers on the outside, and he was maybe 35. Maybe 45. He took a desk on my left. His mouth was a decided line, and it turned down on both ends. Cold, recycled air radiated up from the gray tile, and we were in the clutches of community college.

Our instructor wandered around the room for several minutes with a dull, slow-spreading smile. She introduced herself and insisted that we play a rollicking game of “Getting To Know You.” A girl sitting behind me suggested to our instructor the fact that we were all grown-ups, really, with real grown-up jobs and skills of communication. This notion was shooed away with the wave of our instructor’s hand.

“I’ll go first,” she said, momentarily dragging the tip of her pinky nail through the crack between her front teeth.

“I’m Ms. Henley, I’ll be your instructor for all of the classes you’ll take here in the music department. I love turquoise jewelry. I have been teaching music classes here for seven years, and I love to sing. And I have nine cats.” She looked left at Charles. He shifted in his seat.

“Well, I’m Charles. I play percussion.”

“Anything else?” Our instructor scratched the space between her eyes.

“I guess that’s it.”

“There’s nothing else you’d like to share?” She moved herself in small circles over the floor. She was a grinning sheep.

Charles put a thin hand to his chin and rubbed for a moment. “Well, he said, “I once crippled a man with a milk crate and some duct tape. Don’t ask how.”


Tim and I ate dinner with my parents that night.

“Gillian,” my father said with a chicken wing between his left thumb and forefinger, “how was the weather up there?”

“Freaking cold,” I said, and my mother’s hand reached out from the left and connected with my arm.

“Don’t say the ‘f’ word!”

“That…is not the ‘f’ word.” I looked across the table at Tim, who only smiled.

My parents’ house, and the house of my growth into maturity, sat at the pinnacle of a cul-de-sac. It dwelt squarely in a suburb of tourist Florida, where resided pastel colored attractions and lodgings for both spring break-bound twenty-somethings with no couth, and warmer-climate-bound seniors with no time left. The dining room table was flanked by two curio cabinets; one filled with dishware, and the other with ceramic angels of various shape, size, and ethnicity. My mother’s collection had expanded drastically since my move northward, toward culture and colder climates. My father sat on one end of the table, and my mother at the other, as was tradition.

“How was the semester?” My father reigned the conversation back in. “Did you do well?”

“Pretty well,” I said. “But I’m thinking about taking a semester off. The band might go on a little tour in the spring.”

I saw my mother throw her head to one side from the corner of my eye. She made a two-syllable noise with her mouth closed, so that the sound came through her nose, the pitch dropping from high to low. Loosely translated, it meant, “I disagree with such a choice.”

“Who was that you were yelling at when we were getting coffee earlier?” Tim materialized in the conversation suddenly, though whether because of a sensitivity to the spreading fog of tension or a total blindness to it, I could never be sure.

“Oh. That was Charles. He used to be in my music classes the year I was here for school.”

Tim stirred his iced tea with a bendy straw (a specific request he’d made of my mother when she set the table for dinner). “He looked kind of old.”

“He is, I guess. I don’t know.”

We made small talk with my parents, and inched closer to the door. Finally, we begged leave of dessert, pleading our stuffed bellies, and a strict itinerary which required us to be at my old friend Erin’s house within the half hour. In point of fact, Erin was not expecting us at any appointed time, but small talk, not unlike cross-country hiking, is exhausting. My father shook Tim’s hand, and my mother pulled me aside and handed me a scarf.

“Keep your neck warm. You know, Gillian, if you’re going to take a semester off, you could always come back here and stay with us for a while. No rent. We miss you.”

I looked into my mother’s round face, and saw, held behind it, those ancient reserves of worry. The home I grew up in was comfortable, and my stomach was full, and my mother loved me. It was warm outside. But the town of my birth, like all birth-towns, was a box snapped shut.

“Thanks, mom,” I said. “I’ll think about it.”

Tim and I sat in the car, stationary. I looked past the curb and the yard
and back at my parents’ house, the light from which turned the white drapes in the window a glowing yellow. They would be discussing, I was sure, the nuances of my posture, the subtle notes of meaning in my intonation. Was I happy? Was I eating well? Should they have sent their newly-retired vacuum cleaner back with me? I saw, through the space between the two drapes, a flash of sweater and jeans, where one of them crossed in front of the window. My heart, for them, was full. But still I couldn’t help releasing a sigh of great proportion, and letting my head fall back on the seat.

“So I guess I didn’t know you took music classes before?” Tim put the key in the ignition and turned it.

“Yeah,” I said.

“So why’d you switch majors? I guess you didn’t like it?”

“It was just hard. I figured I could still make music, if I wanted to, without knowing my tonal scales or how to transfigure chords.”

Tim drove down to the end of the street, and took a left at the stop sign. The flush of the headlights, rotating, cast a speculative glance on the suburban corner houses, as they were settling down for the evening. “So you quit because you were lazy.” Tim looked at me, sidelong. I laughed; a concession.

“I guess,” I said. “That sounds about right.”


There was a guy in our sight-singing class who sang louder than the rest of us on a regular basis. Most of us made sure never to sit directly in front of him. Charles had the gumption to sit next to him. One day he decided to match the guy note for note. Charles followed the other guy on a vocal marathon, from exaggerated falsetto to plunging baritone. Where one would crescendo, the other would do so in double, so that the rest of us were drowned, and eventually stopped. By the end of the piece, both men’s voices were suspended in a note somewhere high above our heads. They held it for one count, two, three and four, and—Charles’ voice cracked. There was nothing to be done. We laughed.

We held our stomachs, as our teacher Ms. Henley and Charles’ foe grinned, the joke flitting past them. Charles was shaking his head, his ponytail whipping from side to side. He shrugged and wiped his eyes. “Oh my god,” he said. “We’re never getting out of here, are we?”


After knocking at Erin’s door for a good seven to ten minutes, Tim and I finally decided on breaking and entering. Luckily, the door was unlocked, so no breaking was necessary. We walked into the living room, past the off-white futon draped heavily with afghans, and the coffee table, resplendent with plastic cups and cigarette butts. Across the wooden floor our shoes made our arrival apparent, so that when we crossed through into the fluorescent yellow of the kitchen’s light, I was surprised to see Sandra, Erin’s roommate, eating a bowl of cereal at the bar. She seemed unsurprised. “Hey,” she said. “Erin’s out on the back porch.”

“Thanks.”

The back porch was a marvel of light and gaudy taste. Two strings of paper lanterns ran the perimeter of the screen windows, dark from the outside, and a multitude of melted down candles encompassed the patio table, where Erin sat smoking. Since my earliest acquaintance with her in our pre-teen years, Erin had been blessed with small frame, and a sprite-like face. On this particular night, with the back of her boy-short, dark hair to us, with the orange end of her cigarette bobbing in the half-dark, she still looked like magic, but of the ominous kind.

“Erin?” I said.

She turned around quickly, and the spell lifted.

“Oh my god, you ass, you scared the doo out of me!” She smiled, dropped her cigarette into the open, pouting mouth of a half-burned candle, and stood up to hug me.

“Who’s this?” she asked, and pointed to Tim, who was looking up at a faded poster of Pat Benatar.

“This is Tim. He’s my…drummer.”

“Ah.”

We all took a seat around the ashen patio table. Erin’s fingers, I could see in the little lights from the screen, were mottled with paint. A perennial artist in every imaginable realm, she had been a fellow student of music with me in my short tenure at the local community college. Her interests, it seemed, had shifted once more.

“Hey Erin, do you remember Charles?”

“Which one? From summer camp?” Erin spoke around the cigarette between her lips.

“No, from school. You remember? He used to be in some big west coast band.”

Erin’s dark eyes opened wide. “Yeah yeah! That guy with the long hair! I totally remember that dude. He was pretty funny, yeah?”

“I think so.”

“What about him?”

“I saw him earlier tonight, when Tim and me were getting coffee.”

“Hmm,” Erin said, and leaned back in her folding chair. It was winter, but balmy, and I heard a mosquito’s whine near my ear, and slapped at the air next to my head.

“So he was in a band?” Tim asked from my left.

“Yeah,” I said, and took the cigarette Erin had placed on the table in front of me a few minutes before. “They were supposedly a big deal like, five or six years ago. I listened to them a few times, they were pretty good.”
“Wonder what he’s doing now,” Erin said, her head thrown back in her chair.

I shrugged. “What are you doing these days, lady?”

Erin blew smoke threw a demure part in her lips. “Oh, you know. Just whatever. Painting. Still working at the bookstore. I broke up with my, uh, “drummer” last week.” She looked at me and smiled. “How’s your band going?”

“Pretty good. We’re thinking about a tour in a couple of months.

“That’ll be cool.”

The following quiet came in on a breeze, through the tiny punctures in the screen door and windows, and flickered with the candles. We smoked.

Finally, Erin mashed the finished butt under the toe of her shoe and said, “Let’s look him up.”

The three of us marched in through the back door, and made for the kitchen. Erin and I dropped into chairs in front of her computer. The desk, veiled in a corner of the kitchen, was populated heavily by little people made from pipe-cleaners, in various primary colors. Tim stood behind us, with his hands on the back of my chair. We Googled Charles.

Most of the articles mentioned him in passing, eager to spend paragraphs and paragraphs rambling about the lead singer of the band, a man with no hair. In pictures, Hairless Man stared straight into our faces. Hairless Man was a “visionary,” he “redefined the face of power pop.” Hairless Man edged his way to the front of most of the photos.

“Okay, this one says there’s a documentary about the band. You want to watch the trailer?”

“Go for it,” I said.

We watched the thing through twice, but never saw a glimpse of Charles. I sat in my wheely chair with my hand folded under my chin, and watched the man with no hair speak about how he tempered his voice, his delicate instrument, and how he worked and struggled for years to say important things. The woman with the red hair looked underfed and sat in one corner, her electric bass silent in her lap. There was no ghost of Charles in the other corner.

The last page we visited was Charles’ personal music page. According to his own hand, he was performing in several bands all over town, from blues acts, to Brazilian, to lounge and cover bands. A long list of musical artists he’d played with over the years was meant to be impressive, but I shifted in my seat.

“Here’s his e-mail address,” said Erin. “You want to send him a message? Maybe we could get together and find out what’s going on with him and stuff.”

“We know what’s going on with him,” I said. “It’s right here on this page.”

“Come on,” said Tim. “I want to meet the guy, he seems cool.”

“I’m sending him one, and I’m giving him your address,” said Erin, with the light of the monitor in her eyes.

“Whatever,” I said, and made for the refrigerator to get a drink.

Eventually our interest in the humming computer monitor faded, and Erin and I made for the back porch. Tim hung back. “I think I’ll go lay down,” he said. “The futon?”

“It’s all yours,” Erin said, and grinned over at me, tactless and overt as a small dog. I pursed my lips, shook my head once.

Tim looked back and forth between the two of us. He put his hand on my head for a moment. “Good night, ladies.” He disappeared through the kitchen door.

“Nice,” I said, and followed Erin out the back door, who laughed.

We sat in the quiet for a while, though the wind blew a bit of chill through the protective mesh of the screen windows.

“I wonder what it feels like,” Erin said, a coffee mug between her small hands, and her feet pulled up into her patio chair. “To like, know that you used to be part of this great thing, and now you’re living in a crappy town and going nowhere?” She took a drink from her mug and looked over at me, gumption coming off her in waves.

“Well, I mean, I don’t know. Maybe he just didn’t like the band. Maybe he was tired of it.”

“I doubt it pretty seriously. Who quits the band to move back to
Failuresville, USA?”

My ears and cheeks were warm. “Well. I heard him play, you know, and he was pretty good. Like, really good. I’m just saying.” I looked down at my feet. I recalled that I asked him, after hearing him play, how he got to be so awesome. “Years of practice,” he answered. “Or I was born that way.” He shrugged. I asked him if he’d ever been in a band before. “A few years ago, back in L.A.” I asked him if they were any good. He looked at the ceiling. “We were quasi-famous.”

“All I remember,” said Erin, fidgeting in her seat, “was he kept missing his timpani cues in orchestra rehearsal.”

My face was hot, and my fingers tingled. “Well,” I said, “a timpani ain’t a trapset. That’s all I’m saying.”

“I guess.”


The pangs in my heart, generally reserved for beautiful instruments and dark-haired boys across the room who would never know my name, were my companions in the dark. That night, on Erin’s bone-thin futon mattress, empty chip bags and an open party size pack of Skittles on the floor, and Tim, warm beside me, it was time that made the tightness in my chest. I got out of bed and tiptoed down the hallway, to sit in the blue-white light of Erin’s computer monitor.

In his reply e-mail, Charles said he remembered me. I was the “brown-haired girl” that used to “crack everybody up with my funny voices”. He was living on the beach, he said, and gave me his address. “Come by for a visit some time,” he said.

I climbed back in bed. With Tim’s heavy breathing close to my ear, I held my fingers up to the yellow light seeping in from the kitchen. I turned my fingers in the fragment of light and imagined I could feel time, like a spool of ribbon running through and between my fingers, continuously. If I had time, immeasurable, at my disposal, I thought as I looked at my fingers, I would write my own news articles. I would film my own damn thought-provoking documentary, about how success is probably, I don’t know, in the eye of the, whatever, and how sometimes people fall through the cracks, and sometimes it’s on purpose, maybe. Anyway, me and Tim can do the soundtrack.

I repeated, in my head, the numbers of Charles’ address.

He lived thirty minutes from my old home, but I didn’t take myself down to his doorstep. I didn’t linger outside the front door, which was in need of a painting. The plants on the porch were dying. I did not peer through the window on the right, my fist raised, but halting. I didn’t see my old friend Charles as he moved through the kitchen, the walls papered with trudging lines of ducks, the avocado appliances. He was moving a knife slowly over a piece of bread, and his hair was longer. I didn’t see him move to the refrigerator and open the door, and stare into it, wondering how he arrived at this cold gate, how he lost his name and his footing, how he came to be so comfortable there in that town where old people come to grasp at the sun before they die.
5:11 pm
Bird and Balloon
The sound of the hit, when it happens, is suspended in the air longer than the man himself. For a moment he’s up there, one gray nylon wing extended, the other curling around the side. His furry antennae, like his arms, are reaching up, feeling around in the air. He falls, though.

The thick noise of the car, plus man, connected, is still up there as people run close to see, their breaths whistling in their throats. I put my hands on my face. It’s Halloween, and the motionless face of this man, who is dressed as a moth, looks like the face of my favorite uncle, who died when I was eleven years old, stretched out in his bed. My mother, his sister, cried all the way, on the three hour trip to Mobile, and I twisted my ponytail and tried not to hear her. Here in the street, the man in the ridiculous moth suit shows no sign of struggle.

As a child, I collected the dust from the wings of many moths on my fingers. The insects, who smelled like earth and sugar, always spent their energy the same way: one wing flapping itself stupid, and the other pinched between my thumb and pointer. One summer on my grandmother’s red brick porch, my uncle told me not to rob the moths of their dust anymore. He held out his hand to me and opened it, and I looked down at a moth, one I had been playing with earlier, and which I had discarded. It moved lazily over the creases in my uncle’s palm, in circles, on one side.

“Why doesn’t it fly?” I asked.

“It can’t anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Because its wings aren’t strong enough.”

I looked down at the bug again, its spindly legs grasping at the space in front of it. A sudden flush of cold and warm, together, came into my chest.

“Will it die?” I asked.

My uncle looked at me. “It will.”

I cried. My uncle left the porch and, in my periphery, I saw him place the moth, gently as the air, into my grandmother’s flower bed. When he returned to sit on the stoop beside me, he told me a story, to make me feel better: that a bird, flying high one afternoon, passed a bright red balloon, floating, on its way up.

“Hello,” said the bird.

“Hello,” said the balloon.”

“What are you?”

“I’m a balloon.”

“And how do you fly?”

“With the air inside me. How do you fly?”

“With the air beneath me, and above me, and on all my sides.”

And the bird and balloon floated away from each other, both perfectly happy in flight, but each in their own way.

“Don’t balloons have to have helium in them to float though?” I said to him. “That’s not the same as air. And floating isn’t the same as flying.”

“Ok,” my uncle said. “Smart ass.” He got up and left me sitting alone on the front porch.

I sat and looked at my feet against the aging red brick. I looked out at the yard, and at the camellia tree with its dropped blossoms circling its slim trunk, until my vision blurred. I looked hard into that vague mixture of color and light for a picture, a sound, a word; a clue to whether it would be the wind inside me or around me, and how, ultimately, my flight would be taken away.

A woman, finally, approaches the man in the street, the tip of whose extended wing flaps lazily in the breeze. She lays a hand to his forehead, his neck, and pulls her hand back, a flash. A thrum of murmurs and gasps ripple through the crowd at large, whose concern is newly heightened by this brave contact. The woman looks at her fingers, bewildered, terrified. Her expression is familiar, like the long-forgotten lyrics of a song suddenly making their way back into memory, and I can feel her apprehension on my own fingertips; it, too, is a memory. At the wake, my cousin dared me to touch my dead uncle. I told him no, and he alluded that I, by denying, was a coward. I, eleven, proud as a royal, would tolerate no such insinuation. My grief, hushed and hidden, tucked itself behind my indignation, and I bade my cousin follow me, if he wanted to watch.

My uncle, laid out in a dark suit, had his hands clasped, lightly. With my cousin hovering near my ear, I looked around at my family members, distracted by their shock, and the absurdity of loss. I reached my hand into the casket and touched the hand of my dead uncle. The contact was cold, and thick, the way no flesh should be.

The man in the street is clearly dead, and I can only watch for so long. I pull my coat closer around me, and turn to walk. My feet quicken as I round the corner, and when I almost knock the handbag of a passing woman to the ground, I realize that I’m running. Shocked by the feeling of death beneath my fingers, I ran from my uncle too, with my cousin in tow, shouting my name. Through patches of our mourning relatives we ran, past the black leather guestbook on a pedestal and out the door.

In the diminishing pink that the departing sun was leaving, there was the sound of a coming train. My cousin and I, jogging, crossed the street. I took off my shoes and, in my best bereavement clothing, climbed a mesh fence. My cousin did the same, and we saw, in front of us, the dull rust of the train tracks. I ran ahead until my toes touched the bolts, and I heard again the whine of the approaching train, on its way to round the corner and, if allowed by our proximity, strike the life from us. Thus, I proposed my own dare for my cousin: to stand on the side of the tracks until the train approached, and then jump off. Defiant, pre-adolescent, he agreed, and stepped up. As the whistle of the train, which showed itself around the bend now, grew louder, I could see his resolve beginning to thin. I stepped up as well, with my feet right next to his.

Two blocks away, now, from the death of the man dressed as a moth, there is a fear that clutches my throat, remembering the train’s approach, the closeness of death. Tonight I have escaped again, but the confidence I had at eleven, barefoot on the rails, is thinning.

The train came closer. I looked at my cousin, and he looked back at me, the fear pooling all around his eyes. The train horn honked at us, loud, admonishing, telling us that it couldn’t stop, for god’s sake. I could feel the heat on my face, and my cousin grabbed my hand. We smelled burning, and the wind lashed our faces. Hands clasped, in unison, we bent our knees and pushed off.

The power was there, in our legs. The end had approached fast and without mercy, and we jumped back. From the flat of our backs, we had watched it pass, quick as the air, and when we finally got up and ran away, we looked at each other, blessed and crying. We would run from death for as long as we had the power. We would, if possible, run forever.
Monday, November 5th, 2007
8:16 am
i don't think i'll marry a writer. don't think i'll marry a musician, either. i think i want a dabbler, his finger in the pool, master of none. this, i feel the sudden courage to confess, is because i am so small to myself, that i would never bear being forever chained to somebody who stood the chance of being better than me at something i love. a reader, yes, and a good ear maybe, the ability and occasional inclination to harmonize. but at the end of the day, i'm underdeveloped, and i want hugs, and a hand in my tangles, "you did a good job. i read you every morning, and i don't sleep until you sing."

--------------

i wish you'd shave your face. under that hair is a chin i've never kissed without some measure of discomfort. there is somebody i've never seen under there. it could be somebody i don't like, and that would be best for everybody, i think. i wish you'd shave your face. i wish you'd shave it right off.

(hello tugboat.)
Saturday, October 20th, 2007
6:22 pm
what i've got to work with
It’s dark outside. She rounds the corner where a Caribbean-themed bar sits. She sees a blonde lady walk out the door, put her right leg out in a limp goose step, and fall. “Step down!” she hears the blonde lady call back to her friends from the ground, and she keeps walking. A man in a wheelchair asks to borrow a dollar from somebody in a coat in front of her. The one in the coat shakes his head. She is smoking a cigarette through a short plastic filter, and would have said yes, but the man in the wheelchair doesn’t ask her.
She is wearing a jacket that zips, and the wind picks up. She looks at the grey sidewalk, colored at its edges by the efforts of a lone streetlight. She likes using the filter because of the feel of it between her front teeth, the sound it makes. If it were warm outside, if the air was damp, she would be afraid to walk home alone. It’s cool and the wind is gaining on her, and she feels as though she has a fair chance. She is cautious, though. Let’s be clear.
There is a park on her left. She clicks the filter between her teeth, inhales. She cannot see anyone in the park, but assumes they are there, under benches, trying to sleep, having lost the anxiety and the fear of being caught years ago. She considers Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” and how every girl in the continental United States is thinking of someone in particular when they sing the song, light-headed in karaoke bars, tired and alone in cars. She thinks of hers while watching the sidewalk again, and how he isn’t really all that vain, but still she feels that hot indignation, that fury, tingly and breathless when she sings. On the radio in the driver’s seat sometimes, it makes her take the corners sharp and shift into third gear with unnecessary force.
She stops at a crosswalk, in a vague circle of buzzing, electric light. Across the street, something moves in the bushes. The quiet is confusing, unfathomable. It is the city, and it’s only 11. From a few streets up the wind carries the evidence of activity and sound, but this street, half-lit, has been granted clemency. She walks when the sign bids her do so. She could walk and walk and things would improve for her, she is certain. But it is also certain that she is unable to walk forever. She wipes her nose.
On her left again is a house, short, painted red and green vined all over. There is a big window, unprotected by blinds or shades, and she looks in. The walls are white and the floors are wooden, and in the middle of the room there is a rectangular table. In the middle of this table there is a reading lamp, the only light in the room. There are no pictures on the walls, no other furniture, and no other signs of life at all. She stops walking and continues to look in the window. She wishes she knew the reasons for such a bare room, but is content to invent them for herself. With whom, she wonders, can she share the mystery of the lonely lamp? Because a lamp, she says to herself, is beautiful and fraught with possibility. So are most things. But to date, she has not made the acquaintance of anyone who would not respond by saying, “It’s just a lamp.” Or worse: “I’m not going to look into somebody else’s window!”
She crosses the street again, and hangs a left. She puts the filter to her lips again. She does not miss the burning at the back of her throat that she would feel without it. Mostly it is the faint implication of smoke that she enjoys, and the deep breaths, the slow release. Something rustles a bush again. It’s been a rough year. There will be worse years probably. There will be better ones, too. She drops the cigarette butt on the sidewalk for the first time ever, touches it briefly with her toe, keeps going. There is the off chance that, in a better year, she will not look into open windows alone. Lamps across America will have their histories co-written. She tries to remember everything about this walk home; the wind, the window, and the smoke. The uncharitable coat. The missteps of a drunken blonde. She must pin it down, make it stick, before she walks into her apartment and is warm again, safe and hungry and tired, and forgets. She pinches her eyes shut for a moment, and is sure that the best stories are true, or make you wish they were, anyway.
Saturday, September 22nd, 2007
10:10 pm
10:09 pm
Friday, June 29th, 2007
6:10 pm
ready for the next thing
Mr. Tibbs, afraid of his shadow, watched his feet as he walked home alone. The crickets rubbed their legs together, rubbed their own legs together for another night, and the white fence followed Mr. Tibbs’ right side, on the long walk home alone. He had worked until ten making copies for procrastinating twenty-somethings at the twenty-four-hour copy store. They examined their nails and the sore, white lights buzzed from the ceiling. They yawned and Mr. Tibbs yawned, and this they had in common. Still, they tapped their toes and waited for their papers. Mr. Tibbs watched the light from underneath the copier lid burn low and ignite, run right and collapse on itself, and be born on the left again. Three hundred times he watched the running of the copier light, and the stack of papers was warm on his hands, collated.
Mr. Tibbs walked more quickly as the wind picked up, and his hands broke the surface of his pockets. They dove deep, and he laid his palms flat against the cotton, the front of his thighs. There was no sound except the crickets, somewhere, but there was a cold, electric thing flitting over the bottom of Mr. Tibbs’ stomach. There was nothing behind or in front of him, but he walked more quickly, with the wind.
At breakfast he had eaten his banana nut muffin with coffee and looked at his watch. His gray green shirt laid tight against his belly, and there had been a rattling at the back door. He had turned in his plastic chair toward the back of the house, and the sun through the kitchen window made four yellow squares on the wall beside him, separated and floating. He had been poised on his toes, ready to rise and investigate, but the clock against the flower-bathed wallpaper sang out that it was nine. “Maury Povich time,” said Mr. Tibbs out loud to himself. It was the first time he had spoken that day; his voice cracked, an old record through a phonograph’s bell. He was forty-seven, divorced for twenty years.
There was no sound but the crickets, he was sure, but he curled his hands up inside his pockets, and held his breath, and looked behind him. There wasn’t anything there. He put his head down and continued walking.
Mr. Tibbs landed on his front step and stopped still. He thought he heard, for a moment, the sound of metal on metal coming from inside. He scratched an ear. He opened the door to his house, the familiar lamplight from the hallway greeting him, but the wrongness of a light from somewhere else in the house spilling out too, bright and uncomfortable. He walked slowly through the hall, and heard again a metal clink, and saw that the lights were on in the kitchen. He made his way around the corner. There was a man, a tall young man in black, buttering some bread.
“Ah, Jesus, I’m sorry, I was just making myself a little grilled cheese. I thought I’d be done before you got home.” The man laid down his butter knife. “Anyway, it’s time for you to go. I’m sorry, man, but it’s time for you to go.”
Mr. Tibbs stood by the kitchen table and changed weight from left foot to right. He blinked and put a hand to his chin. “It’s…I’m sorry, where am I going?”
The man in black dragged the blunt knife back and forth across the bread, twisting his wrist in a flamboyant parabola. He said, “Now listen, don’t panic. Everybody always freakin’ panics. I’ll tell you in a second.” The man put an orange square of cheese on one piece of bread. “If it’s cool with you, I’m going to finish grilling up this sandwich real quick though. You want one?”
Mr. Tibbs thought about running, and he thought about calling the police, maybe. Mostly he was hungry, so he nodded and sat down at the table. “How did you get in here?”
The man in black buttered two more slices of bread. “Through the back door. I jimmied the lock this morning on my way to another house. Mrs. Phelps down the road. You weren’t friends with her, I hope?”
Mr. Tibbs shook his head.
“Good. Not that it really matters, I guess, considering the circumstances.”
The man in black flipped two sandwiches in a large frying pan, then slid them onto paper plates, almost dropping one. He brought them to the table and laid one in front of Mr. Tibbs, took one for himself. “So here’s the deal,” he said, and took a bite. “You’re going to die tonight.”
Mr. Tibbs didn’t breathe for a moment. “You’re…going to kill me?”
The man in black shook his head and smiled. “No, it’s not like that. I’m just letting you know. I mean, I’m just overseeing, you know, making sure things go according to plan.”
Mr. Tibbs stood up and went for the front door, but there was no door anymore, only wall. He looked back at the table where the man in black sat. The man in black waved.
Mr. Tibbs walked quickly past the table toward the back of the house. The back door was gone too. He ran into every room, turned circles. No doors and no windows. He stared at the white walls, the blue walls, the blank walls. Shelves and light switches stared back. Electrical sockets looked back, each with two wide-eyed wide-mouthed answerless faces, as if to say, “I don’t know what to tell you.” He walked back into the kitchen and sat down at the table. “I’m going to die tonight,” he said.
“Good, glad we’re on the same page.” The man in black swallowed another bite.
“Who are you?” asked Mr. Tibbs, and he rubbed his face with both hands.
“Guess.” The man in black rested his elbows on the table, held his face in his hands, and stared across at Mr. Tibbs.
“I don’t want to.”
“Tough biscuits then, bro.”

The man in black chewed. The two men stared at each other in silence.

“But I’m not ready.”
“Well, you better get ready, man!”
Mr. Tibbs blinked.
“Dude, I’m sorry, was that insensitive?” The man in black got up and began to open cabinets. “I mean, this isn’t really a negotiable deal, but I don’t want to be a dick about it. Where are your cups?”
Mr. Tibbs indicated one of the cabinets, and the man in black gave himself a glass of water.
“Don’t worry, I wasn’t offended,” said Mr. Tibbs, and poked a finger into his sandwich. “I just haven’t had a lot of time to get used to the idea. What’s it been, ten minutes?”
The man in black sat back down and said, “Longer than usual, man. I just happen to be in the mood for a sandwich. So we might as well enjoy it.”
Mr. Tibbs looked at his sandwich and shrugged, and took a bite. “It might sound silly,” he said, and he tore one half of his sandwich in halves again, “but I think I knew.”
“You guys always think that,” said the man in black, “but you don’t. You don’t know, and that’s kind of the whole point.” He threw up a hand. “That’s the beauty! That’s the supreme awesomeness of it!” The man in black scraped some melted cheese from his paper plate and ate it. “Ten times a day you people get this feeling like you could go at any second and so you better do something drastic, but you never really do. You forget about it. Then I come and tell you the jig is up and you say, ‘You know, I knew it all along.’ Horse shit.”
Mr. Tibbs drummed his fingers on the table. “I guess I just figured I had at least a good 20 years left in me. I was thinking about taking up sailing.”
The man in black took a drink from his glass, and swished the liquid around in his mouth. “Well,” he said. “I got nothin’. I can be reassuring, I guess. I mean, sailing’s not really all that great. It’s kind of a lot of work for like, not that much pay off.”
“That’s not really the issue, though,” said Mr. Tibbs, chewing.
“Oh I know, dude, I’ve been doing this a while. There are some people, I give them the news and they’re hysterical, you know, ‘Please please please, I haven’t even really lived yet, just let me have another week, another day, just another hour,’ blah blah blah, you know. And some people are kind of happy about it, you know, they’ve done everything they want to do and seen everything they want to see, and I guess they’re ready for the next thing.” The man in black swirled the contents of his glass. “I always think to myself, if any of these jerks have done one good or nice thing, then they’ve served their purpose. And if they haven’t, they should’ve been gone a long time ago. It makes the job easier for me, anyway. I’m not really a heartless bastard, you know.”
Mr. Tibbs was silent. There was this time he went to the movies on a Saturday. He saw a movie where a character nailed fliers to posts and trees, but they didn’t say “Missing” or “Lost” or “Found.” There was no distressing news in bold black letters, and there was no urgent message to deliver to the public on an eight-by-ten inch sheet of paper. There was only the proud announcement of a new father: “IT’S A GIRL!”
Mr. Tibbs didn’t have a new baby girl, or any other exciting news to share. But after he had stared out the window of the cross-town bus and walked the two blocks down to his doorstep, he went into his bedroom and took from his drawer a piece of paper and a pen. He sat down at the kitchen table and let the pen hover for a moment. He put the ball-point tip to the paper and drew a shell, some flippers, a gnarled and irascible face. He drew a giant sea turtle, and around its head he drew a garland of flowers. He drew the waves lapping around its side, and a bird flying low, to touch one foot to the turtle’s shell. He drew the sun hanging low too, getting ready to close the day. He had no crayons with which to color the picture.
Mr. Tibbs walked the mile-and-a-half to the copy store where he worked, and waited for the suited man who was using the copier to check his watch, pay the cashier, and leave. He made one hundred copies and departed. On seventy-nine posts he nailed his sea turtle picture, and on twelve trees. On eight benches he taped them. He left one in the men’s bathroom of a McDonald’s. When Mr. Tibbs came out of the McDonald’s, he saw across the street a man scrutinizing his picture, attached to a post at the man’s eye level. Mr. Tibbs watched the back of the man’s head tilt slowly to the right, and then to the left. The man shrugged and walked away. Mr. Tibbs sat at one of the cold, concrete tables in front of the restaurant. He sat for an hour, and then a young girl came by with a bag across her shoulder and headphones surrounding her ears. She passed the post, and then came back, to stand in front and stare. She put her hands in her pockets and she laughed. She looked to her right and to her left, and then laughed again at what she saw. She walked away smiling. Mr. Tibbs decided to stay for the day.
“I guess I could think of one,” said Mr. Tibbs to the man at his kitchen table. They finished their sandwiches.
“So…does it hurt?”
The man in black threw his paper plate in the trash. “Now that I can’t tell you. I’ve only been on the giving end of this whole business. But like anything, I guess, it doesn’t last forever, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.”
“How’s it going to happen, then?”
“How do you want it to happen?”
Mr. Tibbs put a hand to the back of his neck and looked up. “Sailing accident?”
The man in black laughed. “I like that.”
The man in black stepped out the front door, and Mr. Tibbs followed, and shut the door behind him. The white fence followed the side walk and the crickets were still hanging around, and the two men walked away from them, toward the dark and the open water.
Wednesday, June 27th, 2007
8:38 pm
quasi-famous
I see Charles in a review in Rolling Stone. The issue is from June 1998. It’s archived in the university library, on the sixth floor. I have been whiling away the better part of an hour, flipping through various publications on this shelf with half my heart engaged. Here is Charles’ face staring up, looking slightly to the left. His hair is long but departing from his forehead, pulled back into a ponytail. His t-shirt has a cartoon of a boy scratching his head. He has neglected to smile.
“The band’s second album is a solid effort; a commendable follow-up to the first, which emerged on the L.A. underground scene in late 1997.” I read aloud to myself here on the sixth floor. “It is due primarily to Charles, the band’s excellent drummer, that the folk-pop record contains elements of rock and jazz.” Charles’ picture stares up from between his band mates: a slight woman with red hair, and a large man with no hair at all.

Charles was late to class the first day of Music Theory. He was carrying a coffee cup, though the door had clearly warned that no food or drinks were allowed. He had boots with zippers on the outside, and he was maybe 35. Maybe 45. He took a desk on my left. His mouth was a decided line, and it turned down on both ends. Cold, recycled air radiated up from the gray tile, and we were in the clutches of community college.
Our instructor wandered around the room for several minutes with a dull, slow-spreading smile. She introduced herself and insisted that we play a rollicking game of “Getting To Know You.” A girl sitting behind me suggested to our instructor the fact that we were all grown-ups, really, with real grown-up jobs and skills of communication. This notion was shooed away with the wave of our instructor’s hand.
“I’ll go first,” she said, momentarily dragging the tip of her pinky nail through the crack between her front teeth.
“I’ll be your instructor for all of the classes you’ll take here in the music department. I love turquoise jewelry. I have been teaching music classes here for seven years, and I love to sing. And I have nine cats.” She looked left at Charles. He shifted in his seat.
“Well, I’m Charles. I play percussion.”
“Anything else?” Our instructor scratched the space between her eyes.
“I guess that’s it.”
“There’s nothing else you’d like to share?” She moved herself in small circles over the floor. She was a grinning sheep.
Charles put a thin hand to his chin and rubbed for a moment. “Well, he said, “I once crippled a man with a milk crate and some duct tape. Don’t ask how.”

I rip the page carefully from Rolling Stone. I fold it and place it in my back pocket. I heave stacks of scholarly publications back onto their shelves, and I take the elevator down.
This is a town with a big, big school. The courtyard is considerably populated today, and I amble down the library steps. People run around throwing plastic things at one another. People lie on blankets in very little clothing. People hold impertinently small phones to their ears and stare at the ground. At our tiny school in the past, we moved about the grounds like shadows and shades.
I wake my way to coffee. The place is threaded with a distinct hum when I open the door. It’s the hum of discerning tongues with freshly cultivated tastes. The walls are hung with pictures that don’t look like anything you’ve ever seen, but which must be good, because they’re hanging on a wall in a coffee shop. Heads are bent low over books with severe titles.
The girl behind the counter does not know what a breve is. She is unconcerned when she gives me something else. I take it and say “thank you” and auspiciously avoid the tip jar. Here is a table with one chair. I take my seat, take out what I’ve stolen. Charles’ face is creased down its right side, and it makes his frown all the more pronounced. I sip my drink.

Charles couldn’t get a grasp on figured bass any more than the rest of us. From these small notations were magically to grow entire chords, whole pieces of music. We would sit with our hands in our faces. “Figured bass is crushing my soul,” Charles said.
There was a guy in our sight-singing class who sang louder than the rest of us on a regular basis. We made sure never to sit directly in front of him. He opened his mouth wide and closed his eyes. It was supposed to be sight-singing.
Charles had the gumption to sit next to him. One day he decided to match the guy note for note. Charles followed the other guy on a vocal marathon, from exaggerated falsetto to plunging baritone. Where one would crescendo, the other would do so in double, so that the rest of us were drowned, and eventually stopped. By the end of the piece, both men’s voices were suspended in a note somewhere high above our heads. They held it for one count, two, three and four, and—Charles’ voice cracked. There was nothing to be done. We laughed.
We held our stomachs, as the instructor and Charles’ foe grinned, the joke flitting past them. Charles was shaking his head, his ponytail whipping from side to side. He shrugged and wiped his eyes. “Oh my god,” he said. “We’re never getting out of here, are we?”

I swing the door of the apartment open, and it’s dark. We need new light bulbs again. The hall is quiet and the bedroom doors are open. My roommates are gone.
I drop into a chair with wheels, truly the best chair of all. I lay my fingers on the keys. I write out Charles’ name in a little box that says it can tell me everything there is to know. One, two, a hundred blue lines of text say Charles’ name, articles about the band.
Most of them mention him in passing, eager to spend paragraphs and paragraphs rambling about the lead singer, the man with no hair. In pictures Hairless Man stares straight into your face. Hairless Man is a “visionary,” he has “redefined the face of power pop.” Hairless Man edges his way to the front of most of the photos.
One article says that Charles left the band in 1999. I read it over again, and once more, but it doesn’t say why.

The orchestra director put Charles on xylophone. Charles did not read music. He practiced his parts every afternoon in the practice hall, holding the little mallets with gusto. We stayed and listened and helped when we could.
One day he threw up his hands and said, “I’m taking a break.” He turned his music over on its stand and walked to the trap set on the other side of the room. He picked up the sticks and churned out an earnest, astounded block of sound. The rhythm was angry, and his face was pulled tight. His hair, not in a ponytail, took to the air around him.
When he finished, he dropped the sticks to the floor and let his arms hang down. We asked him how he got to be so awesome. “Years of practice. Or I was born that way.” He shrugged. We asked him if he’d ever been in a band before. “A few years ago, back in L.A.” We asked him if they were any good.
He looked at the ceiling. “We were quasi-famous.”
On the night of the orchestra concert, Charles missed his first cue for xylophone, and later lost the count, and dropped one of his mallets. One of the other percussionists said something rude, but the clarinet section was at his aid. Charles stuck with the triangle after that.

They are making a documentary about Hairless Man and his band. He is an underground pop god, and now they’re going to sing his praises on film. I watch the trailer seven times, just to make sure. There is no Charles.
I sit in my wheely chair with my hand folded under my chin, and watch the man with no hair speak about how he tempered his voice, his delicate instrument, and how he worked and struggled for years to say important things. The woman with the red hair looks underfed and sits in one corner, her electric bass silent in her lap. There is no ghost of Charles in the other corner.
I spend the afternoon staring at his address on my computer screen. He lives thirty minutes from my old home, but I won’t take myself down to his doorstep. I won’t linger outside the front door, which is in need of a painting. The plants on the porch are dying. I won’t peer through the window on the right, my fist raised, but halting. I won’t see my old friend Charles as he moves through the kitchen, the walls papered with trudging lines of ducks, the avocado appliances. He’s moving a knife slowly over a piece of bread, and his hair is longer. I won’t see him move to the refrigerator and open the door, and stare into it, wondering how he arrived at this cold gate, how he lost his name and his footing, how he came to be so comfortable here in this town where old people come to grasp at the sun before they die.
Or maybe he is wondering what happened to all the damn pickles.
Saturday, April 28th, 2007
10:32 am
uh huh, true story
I had a relapse today. Besides needing the money for all the various adventures I fully intend to have, I work every day of the week because it affords me very little opportunity to think. On an off day, like today, I sit down to do some work toward getting into grad school, and I fall apart. I’ve snapped back into consciousness just now, realized I’m listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, sobbing. How am I ever going to get anything done if I can’t get past this thing that’s hanging on my heart? It’s just annoying.

I’ve tried to move forward in much the way the cautious will remove a band-aid: in little pulls, taking care to remove as little skin and hair as possible, swallowing the pain in segments. Would it be better, wiser to take the whole thing in one rip? I wouldn’t even know how to do that, but then again, my patience wears thin. I want so badly to get past this.

Yesterday one of my co-workers came in for a drink and said to me, “You know, I was driving the other day, and I happened to look over, and I saw this girl dancing around in her car, waving her arms around…” He imitated what he had seen. I immediately covered my face with my hands. What he was describing was my “You Can Call Me Al” dance. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed, because in no way will I ever stop doing my favorite dance. It was more that the absurd humor of the situation, from someone else’s perspective, became plain. Apparently he’d been in the car with his whole family, too, so that was pretty ridiculous. I had to sit down and think about it. I do that dance, like so many of the stupid things I do, in order to extract some joy from myself. Joy can be a taxing, an exhausting undertaking. In no way am I happy most of the time, but I pursue joy with everything in me. How could they know, from their side of the road, that it wasn’t the flailing around of the silly or the mildly drunk that was going on, but the earnest attempt at looking forward to a better time by the very, very sad? I remember this time I was in the passenger seat in Tallahassee, and “River of Dreams” came on, so I rolled down the window and started singing as loud as I could to those in cars around me. My traveling companion said, “What’s wrong with you?” It hurt my feelings so badly, I didn’t recover for the rest of the day.

The same co-worker that saw me dancing a fool has recently been dumped. Last week I came into work, and he had with him a pair of shoes with elephants painted on them. I found out later he’d painted them for his ex-girlfriend. “Why?” I asked. “Why do that?” “Because she’s moving away.” What a strange and ridiculous impulse, I thought. But I understand. Why do we do these things? Maybe it’s because we just don’t know what else to do. It’s what we would have done anyway, I guess. It does not occur to us, maybe, that when we get hurt, it isn’t because we are lesser people. I look inward, I look downward. I put names to things, and make lists of things I should improve. I want so badly to be good enough, to be better.

But it wasn’t me that didn’t understand the impulse to sing Billy Joel. If only I’d swallowed my indignation and said, with no trace of malice, “There’s nothing wrong with me,” and then again, “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

It’s hard to remember, at the grocery store, sitting in church, watching movies alone, writing stories, at the bank. In my car, though, listening to Queen and Bowie and Paul Simon and Billy Joel, I can consider the notion. There’s nothing wrong with me.
Tuesday, November 14th, 2006
6:27 pm
notebook stuff
I sat at a desk in the very back of the top floor of the library, alone and pretty cold. Pencils and pens and what looked like small instruments for cutting had come before me to announce that certain people (and their mothers) were capable of giving one a good time, and even left phone numbers so that interested parties could call and ask for these talented individuals.

I took out my pencil and scribbled:

FOR A GOOD TIME
READ

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I wonder what it means that I am left standing at the crosswalk , when everyone else goes. The hand is red, folks. The hand is clearly red. I [am going to] wait until I'm told it's ok to go. What gives them the right to be so bold?




I walk through the plaza and everybody's head's pointing the same way, we're all making for the same place, the streeet corner, and the boy that brushes past me smells just like New Orleans, I swear, sweat and incense and stolen hotel soap. I say to myself, "Can we go can we go can we go?" But we will not go, we will never go, and I can feel it now, deep to my toes, we're here, it's time. We're grown-up. Here on the street corner, with your life looking right at you from a black box, is the paradox they told us about when we couldn't reach the candy in the jar. "When you grow up," they told us, and they didn't smile, "when you grow up you can do whatever you want, but you won't be able to."

"What the hell does that mean?," you'd say to yourself, only you wouldn't say "hell," because you were six. Well, now you knkow. It's the most unpleasing thing you've ever seen.
Friday, July 28th, 2006
8:42 pm
THIS IS RETARDED
He keeps a journal and he hides it. He thinks it’s hidden, anyway, because he forgets that I am both sneaky and a genius. When he’s thinking of something else I can take it out and look at it. I flip back to a few years ago, the time before I knew him. His spelling was much worse then, by the way. In November the other girl was starting to go mean on him. The way he wrote, you’d think she’d Indian-burned his heart. He was always head-in-hand, hand-on-mouth, mouth snapped shut ‘cause he didn’t know what else to say. Except in his journal. Those men, with their penises, they don’t like to admit certain things. As everyone knows. Anyway, she wasn’t very nice, and it got old, I guess, and it went under. Even in his private words he is a little cryptic, like he’s left himself a puzzle. Through Christmas, through the New Year, he wrote about the things that he talks about; some music is good, other music is bad, trips to the bathroom that require multiple flushes are awesome, as are gaming systems and swordfish and Batman. Every once in a while he would write something about her hair or her white hand or that time they sat and talked about oranges for an hour before he finally got the courage to kiss her. Have you ever been in a contest at school? You know, like a poetry contest or an oratory competition or like lawn darts, I don’t know. Anyway, you know how it feels when they announce the winner? And it’s not you? Your stomach goes all soft around the edge and your hands are warmer than is probably necessary. That’s how it is for me when he writes about her. I go on and read through February, through the 14th he laughed off and shook off and tried to ignore, and into March when he saw her at the movies and couldn’t hide in the back row. He bought groceries and went to concerts and went on road trips with friends and came back. There’s this one part in April where he started writing out this whole story about how he thought he’d lost his keys but really they were in his pocket the whole time and how that was totally typical of him, but he never really finished that thought because he started thinking about giant squid and wondered what part of the giant squid actually kills you if you get attacked by one. Does it strangle you? Eat you? Are you poisoned by its toxic sea-ink? Then he remembered this time they went out for calamari, and, well. He put his head in his hands and his hands on his mouth. And then my fingers always start to tingle a little. I know what happens next. In May he’s going to get a cup of coffee and sit in the park. In May he’s going to let his eyes wander. In May he’ll see a girl who looks kind of like her, but not anything like her at all, if he really thinks about it. In May that girl will tell him that his shoe’s untied, though he’s clearly wearing flip-flops. In May he’s going to meet me. After that, I swear, his spelling gets much better.
Saturday, July 1st, 2006
7:26 pm
But they were used to long, verbose conversations about anything and nothing. They were particularly fond of adjectives. Eccumenical. Unequivocal. Eschatological. They really knew the way to spice up a sentence. Bewildered. Quixotic. Crestfallen. They understood that meaning was something they put there, something that rested entirely on how they fel, and whether or not they could draw it out. Their adjectives were lines sweeping infinitely close to the axis, but never quite converging.

They tried writing on paper. They brought a spiral ring and a pen to the small round kitchen table and pulled their chairs close together. He picked up the pen and wrote

how was your day?

He laid the pen down and placed it on the notebook and slid it to her.

She picked up the pen and wrote

it was

She put the tip of the pin in her mouth and looked up at the ceiling.

it was pretty difficult considering the overflow from last week's

She looked sideways at the paper, scrunched her nose, drew a line through the sentence.

it was pretty difficult considering the overflow from last week's

it wasn't so bad but there were a lot of things that didn't get


She crossed throught that one, too.

it was pretty difficult considering the overflow from last week's

it wasn't so bad but there were a lot of things that didn't get


you remember that story we read about the old guy who died from throwing out his back and falling on a fire ant hill?


She stopped. She sighed. She crossed again.

it was pretty difficult considering the overflow from last week's

it wasn't so bad but there were a lot of things that didn't get

you remember that story we read about the old guy who died from throwing out his back and falling on a fire ant hill?


it was fine.


He looked at her as though he didn't understand. This was because he didn't understand.

this is really counterproductive

she wrote.

wtf?

he replied.

n/m

she answered.

And then they had a better idea.
Thursday, April 27th, 2006
5:35 pm
1

Fifty year-old divorcee; to them, it would be like I should have killed myself years ago. But you forget these things, you know. If you smother them with time, they will go away. The only thing you remember is the falling.

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It is not so unusual. I don't know why everyone was acting like it was so unusual. At my work, when I walked down the sputtering grey halls to my boss' office, always smelling of paper,paper with ink,paper warm but nowhere near burning. "And what's this for?" he asked when I told him I was taking a few days vacation time. For? Why did it have to be for something? Not everything has to mean something, I thought, rolling my eyes up to the watercolor print above his head, fish of dull red and green, narrowly missing each other. OK, it did mean something this time, but that was beside the point.

"Wedding," I lied to his face, his desk actually, the top of my head distorted and looking back at me from the polished wood grain. Men my age went on vacations all the time, vacations to Europe and to Mexico City and, I don't know, Green Bay, and they never had to have a reason. They never had to say what it was for. Why was I being held accountable?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2

After I finished the book I wept. I knew how ridiculous it looked, a round, dirty girl sitting alone in a big white van, sniffling and wiping at her face, her dirt mustache. I could have lied, said I'd got sand in my eyes, because that kind of thing was believable out here, palmettos bunched together and straining to be taller, their progress impeding by the stark white [chastening] hand of South Florida sand. I wouldn't like, though, had never been able to lie that ridiculously, and in any case the "crap in your eye" excuse is [way past cliche] now, and everyone assumes it means you're holding back the tears anyway, even if you've really just got some crap in your eye.
Saturday, April 15th, 2006
3:27 pm
Look, I really hate to burden you with this right from the start, but the fact is I have died. I'd wait [till the end], but I don't want to shock you, and death is [apparently] quite shocking. I don't know why, really. There should be nothing less shocking than death. There is literally nothing else that we can be so certain of.
Friday, April 14th, 2006
10:12 pm
FUCKABEES

Current Mood: workshops full
Thursday, April 13th, 2006
7:36 pm
When I died, it wasn't like what you hear about. Which I never understood; who really know what happens when you die? Near-death experiences don't count. What do they say abouthorse shoes and hand grenades?

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We rented a Buick Regal. My daughter didn't remember, I don't think, but it was the same car her mother drove, my wife, before she decided she wasn't the sort for motherhood or wifedom. Actually, for all I know, she's still driving that lazy-colored piece of you-know-what. I wish I could pretend like I wasn'tone of those who looked for her car on the street and in parking lots, when my eyes would slide left driving the interstate. I can't. I am that guy. I am, and you are, and there's really nothing we can do about it.

________________

Suicide denotes very little imagination.

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This [sudden urge] wasn't fueled by Ronnie's sudden and tragic death or anything. It just appeared one morning, like a windshield frost or those little spots of mold floating on the surface of your coffee. No, Ronnie was still alive, but he was fat and living on beautiful Vanderbilt Beach in South Florida, because apparently "buy low, sell high" is a good idea. His condo was pretty and pastel-colored, as was his wife, and I guess I could have called him, but I didn't see the use. I was aware of his new proficiency at polite excuses, and I don't suppose I really blamed him. Isn't having money and [dreams] kind of like having a hose and an empty pool?
Monday, April 3rd, 2006
5:11 pm
tell me on a sunday please
It was harder to do because she had ice cream on her face, but easier too, because that's the kind of thing that was way past annoying at this point. I wish I could think of a better word than "pathetic", but that's how she looked; carnival-pink ice cream melted around her mouth, while she fixed me with those big eyes, what I'm sure she thought was a dignified gaze. It sort of felt wrong to do such a thing to somebody who looked so cosmically ridiculous. Like scolding a kid with Down's, or something.

Anyway, I'd already done it. "I don't really love you, you know." I don't know why I said it like that. I'd never said "I love you" at all, so it wasn't like I was negating anything. But she had this look about her sometimes, when we'd watch a movie or sit on a bench, when she would scoot close and put her head on my shoulder, like she thought I loved her. Was it the expression I made, maybe? Slightly pained, a little uncomfortable? Really, she shouldn't have laid her ear right on my shoulder like that, it always made my arm fall asleep.

She just kind of looked at me, though, that little sticky ring around her mouth glinting a little, throbbing at the back of my head. God, why didn't she ever wipe her mouth when she ate? She looked at me and didn't blink, and she made a little noise like a cough. She said, "This doesn't really make sense." What don't you understand, I wondered. So I said that too. "What don't you understand?" She made that weird little noise again and I thought she might look away or cry or something, but she didn't.

"So why are you saying this?"
"I don't love you, is all."
"Yes you do."
"I don't, I swear."

She scooted away from me. "Yeah, well...", she said, and stood up. She started to walk away, dragged the back of her hand across her lips as she went.
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