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What I Did During My Summer Vacation
by Steamed Dumpling
Drank plenty of fluids, wore a reputable sun lotion, protected vision with quality UV-blocking sunglasses.
– None of these are true.
Very nearly had sex.
– It was very nearly a big deal.
Read a lot.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Failed to get off my ass / the couch.
– I had planned to take action.
Thought about the direction my life is taking.
– If I had figured something out – anything at all – I'd probably be doing something else right now.
the best summer ever. Meh.
Taking the bus home, I stood across from a young man. He spoke in a combination of Spanish and English to the two women who stood in front of him, one of whom was pregnant. I noticed that he did not offer his seat to the pregnant woman.
“I'm 25 years old,” he said, self-absorbed and trying too hard to sound wistful, “and I don't have any kids yet. None!” He wanted them to be shocked.
The older woman advised him not to have any, but he continued, not listening, “I'm just waiting for the right woman, that's all...”
I am at the center of an elaborate scam.
I've suspected it for some time, but now I'm sure it's true. Everyone around me is in on it – paid actors, all of them – pretending to be my friends and classmates and acquaintances.
“Hey, let's hang out on Friday!”
Yes, keep smiling, you bastards. The next round is on me, in fact. We're all good pals, aren't we?
I won't fall for it, because I see through your lies. When the trap is sprung I'll be the one laughing, because I never allowed myself to become attached to any of you.
The secret to life is that you'll eventually have to lose everything and everyone you've ever loved or cared about, and at the same time the things you dislike will gradually increase. Think of it as a graph: the blue line starts at the top and goes down, the red line starts at the bottom and goes up. Then, after you've lost everything and suffered as much as you possibly can, you die.
Fortunately, I come up with a new secret every day. Ask me tomorrow and I'll hand you some cheerful nonsense about bunnies to counteract this dreary nonsense.
Her voice is cold and distant on the phone, and the conversation is stilted and awkward. I can't seem to get a foothold; she brushes off my questions before I can finish them, and I struggle to establish some sort of topic or theme so that our chat isn't a random assortment of questions and one-word answers. Dinner? Tomorrow? We've reached a conclusion, and I hang up the phone.
The toothpick comes out clean: her cupcakes are finished. After they cool I'll lovingly spread the lovingly-made frosting onto them. If these don't cheer her up...
I'm an idiot.
That afternoon I managed to misrepresent myself as the most mellow and philosophical sort of character.
We were talking about the future; specifically, my failure to prepare for it. To her, the idea of an uncertain future would be the worst sort of torture. How could she ever have a moment of peace unless she had some idea about the proper direction for her life?
She was amazed by my nonchalant attitude, and my conception of the future as an adventure to be experienced each day.
She stared in admiration, and I secretly worried about who would pay for lunch.
“Don't be sad” is probably the dumbest thing you can say to a person who is seriously depressed, but that's what came out last night when we said goodbye. She forced her mouth into an uncomfortable grin and disappeared down her street.
The look on my face and the way I said it should have told her that what I really meant was, “I'm your friend, I care about you, I'm worried about you.”
The stupid things we say often have a very meaningful subtext, but how often is it understood?
Maybe I should have just given her a hug.
I not ten minutes ago told an extremely foxy girl that she was really
, but that I wasn't interested in anything serious with her right now.
I mean, we were on the couch, I was stroking her really wonderfully smooth leg, she was stroking my chest, things were just getting interesting, right? But I realized that we were looking for two very different things, so I decided to point it out to avoid hurting her feelings in the future.
So let the world take note: I did the right thing, and in so doing turned down sex.
She was standing near the punch bowl, looking at her feet. A likely candidate.
“Listen, I'm thinking about getting out of here. I found two or three other people who are willing to try to leave with me. Are you in?”
She realized that I was serious, and said that she was definitely willing if I had a plan.
“Fine. Just wait for me here, ok? Don't talk to anyone else. I'll be back in a few minutes.”
I casually strolled through the crowd, trying not to attract the attention of the large, alert men who stood at each exit.
A Conversation with My Boss
“You weren't supposed to send this back; these boxes can be blue now.”
“Right, Leonard just told me...”
“I know people get attached to the old rules, but when they change...”
“Wait, it's not a matter of attachment, it's a matter of not knowing that the rules have changed.”
“Right, you need to be aware of changes that take place to the manual.”
“So every day I need to pop in ask you whether the rules have changed? Wouldn't it be easier for you to tell me about these things?”
“The manual does change sometimes...”
“Urgh, no more about the zombie apocalypse... you're creeping me out.”
“Come on, it wouldn't be so bad. You'd get to camp out and tell stories about the good old days when the living
stalked relentlessly by the dead. I think it'd be more fun than you realize.”
“Yeah, but for how long? And what if I became a zombie? I'd never forgive myself if I ever did anything to hurt you...”
“Listen, if you somehow turn into a zombie and I don't, I'll just let you bite me. Then we can be zombies together, ok?”
“Aww... that's sweet.”
The spider stared up at me from the sink. I noticed the strange markings on its body, and thought of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem.
“This glorious, dappled thing is going to kill me,” I thought.
I wanted to run, but I knew that if I did, I would never have a minute's peace. The spider would be gone when I returned, and I would always wonder where he was lurking, following me around like that crocodile followed Captain Hook.
* Gerard Manley
* Captain Hook -> Smee -> Bob
“Sorry, no points,” I said.
“I hate this game,” said my wife.
I wrote a great song once. I poured my heart into it. The lyrics and music matched each other perfectly, and I don't mind telling you that it was full of anguish and pain and intensity.
I got out my guitar and played it for a group of friends one night after we'd all had a few drinks. The song was very personal, but I thought it could bring us closer together.
They started to clap along, bobbing their heads back and forth, and a few of them shouted “
” right in the middle.
I gave them a dirty look.
A Human Interest Story
A pathetic dude's attempt at getting attention
When I finish a bottle of wine or gin or something, I leave it on my counter next to my toaster. I leave it there for a few days, because I imagine someone will make some sort of comment about it.
"Does he have a drinking problem?"
Well, I don't, but I wouldn't mind if someone thought that I did. They could then take an interest in my personal life and I could get something off my chest. I'm not comfortable bringing these things up in everyday conversation.
Those five (maybe six) martinis turned me from a strong, responsible person into a helpless fool.
My weakness and fear came spilling out of me from wherever I store them, unacknowledged, hidden from myself.
I'm afraid that I burdened my friend with my drunken confessions. I'm afraid that I may have revealed too much of myself. I'm afraid that I may have squeezed her hand too tightly.
Yes, I worry about stupid things. I don't like to admit that I'm a messed-up monkey, just like everyone else.
Holding yourself to high standards will only end up making you unhappy.
sometimes she comes over on the weekend and she calls me and we hang out, i wonder if she's calling me today, if she doesn't i'm going to assume that she's upset or bored with me and i'll be devastated in some minor way, i'll be
, why do i have to be such a boring old guy? i could pretend to be some crazy party guy to possibly make myself more attractive to her, but then i'd just be lying to both of us and that would suck
(stream of consciousness is easy to write but hard to read)
Was this tent here yesterday?
Walk up to the booth. For five dollars, you too can buy a small orange ticket.
You take your seat with the others, and after a few minutes I step onto the stage clutching a bottle of vodka.
Mouthful by mouthful, I start to fade away.
Be polite. Don't shout. Don't put your arm around people. Don't fall on the floor.
By the time I've finished, you'll discover that I've disappeared completely.
At this point, you might stand up and say, “Well, I'll be! A marvel of nature! He was completely made up of inhibitions!”
I was pretty tall for my age in school, so I was never picked on that much. I did get to experience the humiliation and pain of being bullied a few times, though, and I don't think I've quite put that behind me. I still have these weird fantasies of defeating the bullies of my past in some heroic, glorious fashion.
Of course, in these fantasies I'm at my current age, and the bullies are still in fourth grade. I tower over them. You want your marble composition notebook, Johnny? Want it? (
arms akimbo, throws head back
Tiny bits of the ceiling are falling around me.
The size of ice cubes, these pieces of plaster and wood are dropping to the floor, about one every second.
I wonder if my neighbors upstairs have noticed that their floor is disappearing.
The pieces fall onto my keyboard, typing out a meaningless jumble.
My first thought is, “This is a stroke of good luck, because I didn't know what to write about tonight.”
My second thought is, “I wonder when the bit right above my head will fall.”
I don't think I'll bother to get out of the way.
The first story I ever wrote was about Darth Vader. I was young, and had just finished watching all of the Star Wars movies for the fiftieth time.
There was no dialogue, no action, nothing at all. Just Darth Vader looking out a window.
I tried to capture what he was feeling, what he was thinking about, and the atmosphere of the moment. Looking for his son, the loneliness, the regret...
And come on, I was a kid, what did I know about any of that? For that matter, what do I know about it now that I'm twenty-eight?
Every Saturday night it's the same routine: hot jazz and martinis at the club, dance with a few girls whose names and faces I'll forget by the next morning, and then home around sunrise for breakfast.
That night, though, something was different. Who was the new clarinet player? I knew her.
How did I know her
? She was important to me once...
I was still at my table after most of the couples had left the dance floor. The members of the band started packing up their instruments, and I approached the podium with a devilish grin, straightening my tie.
I stole my friend's cell phone tonight.
I stole it so that she wouldn't call her asshole ex-boyfriend, because today is his birthday. She is drunk, and he is probably drunk, and she wanted to contact him... but I stole her cell phone, so she can't contact him.
She saw me put it in my pocket.
I'm slightly tipsy, but not drunk. I purposely stayed sober to help her out tonight. She needed it.
The point is, tomorrow morning she's going to be pissed, but I'm sure that I did the right thing
. That was the point.
They stumbled onto the train and into the seats across from mine, a flurry of angry hissing and cursing. She was unhappy with the rough manner with which he dealt with their luggage, and he was unhappy with the rough manner with which she dealt with him.
After the question of the luggage had been settled to her satisfaction, the relations between them improved long enough for a short session of enthusiastic smooching, which lasted until she began to criticize the selection of snacks he had chosen for the trip.
The first step to writing
(say this word in a funny voice) is to make sure that nobody has any idea what the hell you're talking about. This way, nobody will know that you actually have nothing to say, and they might assume that they're too dumb to understand you.
Well, thank you, there are several interpretations for this piece...
” (funny voice again)
Now, finish it off. Add some sexual imagery to show how
(funny voice) you are, and you're done.
The electricity! The fire! The burning! The itching! The redness! The swelling!
(extremely funny voice)
Some English majors do suck, yeah... but...
Ahab nails a doubloon to the mast of the Pequod, promising it to the first one to see Moby Dick. People come up one by one to look at the coin and interpret its markings and inscriptions. Everyone sees something different in it -- Ahab sees himself, Starbuck finds a religious message -- all this from a coin.
People will interpret just about anything, and whether or not our interpretations are “correct,” what we find in seemingly insignificant things can be revealing.
For example, those people who found the chowder so fascinating were obviously chowderheads.
A Party, not THE Party
Some of those shitty guys with the gigantic sideburns and backwards baseball hats were clustered around the raw vegetable platter. I hadn't eaten since breakfast, so I had to push through them to get at some broccoli and carrots. I was afraid someone might see me standing near them
“Is he in some way associated with those shitty guys?”
so I grabbed my vegetables and sat down near the window. The hostess testily informed me that eating vegetables on her couch while looking so glum was grounds for revoking my invitation.
I'm afraid I don't have enough vodka in the house to make me forget about this girl.
(By the way, this is not the foxy girl who was stroking my chest, nor is it the nice, depressed girl that I sometimes write about. This is the girl that I am totally and utterly smitten with. Just so we're all on the same page.)
I can't begin to tell you how much I like her. I just cooked dinner for her, we laughed a lot, we talked about everything.
And... I'm out of vodka.
I know none of this makes sense.
I think it was Bacon who said that people without friends are cannibals of their own hearts, since without anyone to discuss their problems with, they have nothing left do but “eat their own hearts out.”
(He might have thrown in a sentence or two about the efficacy of a stiff gin and tonic
of self-cannibalism, but there you are.)
The thing is, if you have friends but don't feel comfortable telling them about your problems, it's just as bad as not having any friends at all.
Therapy is probably expensive, which is why I choose
I was surprised to feel a shudder of relief when I managed to get away from my classmates this evening. I hadn't even noticed how much their personalities had started to press upon me until I got away from them and started to wander the darkened halls of the student center.
I had twenty minutes before my last class, and I decided to spend them reading the leaflets on the bulletin board.
Guitar for sale
It was quiet all around.
I took a deep breath and smiled. These little moments are what being introverted is all about.
[I think everyone is allowed to do one of these per year.]
I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug I need a hug
[Was that poignant or just boring? I dunno.]
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