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I split my motherfucking pants today. Nothing is as demoralizing as putting on a pair of jeans, only to discover that perhaps that squat intented to loosen the fabric near the crotch actually had a paradoxical effect on the seam running up the crack. The rip was almost a sound effect; in fact, the whole scene was probably pulled from a shitty romantic comedy. Some upbeat, Natasha Bedingfield tripe would be playing in the background, and as I dance around my apartment, optimistic about the day ahead, the record scratches and screeches to a halt, perfectly timed with the tear.
"I liked Kent. It was hippie-lite. The hippies around here, man, they're serious. They'll fucking knife you with a recycled knife if you're not vegan, or not voting for Ron Paul. They don't fuck around."
She drew long and hard from an American Spirit. "'Course, I'm automatically in because I'm a dyke. They automatically assume I bag up my
and head off to the local recycler. I don't have time for those reindeer games. I have to make a buck, and I don't care if I have to club a few locally-grown organic baby seals to do it."
Today I dressed up like White Trash and went to Wal-Mart. I needed to pick up cheap household goods, and I needed to affect an entirely new persona, a personality split, to justify $5.99 laundry detergent, when a week earlier I was lamenting the Downfall of Society as a Direct Result of the Evil Empire. I put on ginormous hoop earrings, eschewed undergarments, and lined my lips with a pencil ten shades darker than the actual lipstick. Ten items or less, I was on my way out the door when the Department secretary stopped me. "Doctor? Is that you?"
How dare I. How dare I waltz into your group, your tight knit community, as an imposter, as a child playing make-believe: "Oh, today I shall be a princess! Tomorrow, a writer!" You should have skewered me with haughty insults, pompous factioning, general distaste. Instead, you fed me fudge cubes and herbal tea, listened politely, and then took me out for a beer. Now, how dare I. How dare I assume that you would have acted otherwise? Because that other world has taught me to look over my shoulder (twice), to question motives, to benefit at the expense of others.
i am sundowning. the night exacerbates that which lay dormant during the day, breathes terrifying life into that which should never be animated. i am confused, and scared, and alone, and i strip down, reach out to unfamiliar faces, and accept their word without question.
"Night is purer than day," Elie Wiesel said. "The echo of the words that have been spoken during the day takes on a new and deeper meaning. The tragedy of man is that he doesn't know how to distinguish between day and night. He says things at night that should only be said by day."
google has become my magic 8 ball. "what shall i do with a year off?" i query. there is no longer the option to "ask again later" or a placating "all signs point to yes." i get a return from careerbuilder.com, and christistheanswer.org, telling me exactly what i should do. at length.
"why can't i spell correctly anymore?"
"should i move?"
"how do i get 8-minute abs?"
"what is the EX BOYFRIEND doing now?"
"what am I doing now?"
"what is the mechanism for heparin-induced thrombocytopenia?"
"is mariska hargitay really the daughter of jayne mansfield?"
"if i left now, would anyone notice?"
"does anyone notice anything?"
"what am i doing?"
Holy fuck, nothing fertilizes writer's block faster than a deadline. I don't think I could write without swearing. This does not bode well for a future in
, missionary work, or politics. (I vaguley recall a night out, grabbing someone's boob, and declaring loudly--as the flash went off--LOOKS LIKE I CAN'T BE PRESIDENT NOW. Of course, out of all the political sins committed by the forefathers and mothers, that was more venial than mortal.) I'd like to think that the
editor drops the C-U-Next-Tuesday over a Leah Rehmini interview, or that God dropped the F-bomb when the Holocaust started.
There’s an axiom floating around these parts that was, at one point, attributed to someone seemingly noteworthy and credible—think Benjamin Franklin, or perhaps Anheuser-Busch—that Beer Is Proof That God Loves Us and Wants Us to Be Happy. Yeah, ‘cause alcoholics are a rip-roaring good time. Matty’s fallen off the wagon again, and while this time he didn’t go so far as to put a bag over his head and snack on an entire bottle of Xanax, he is in a 30-day intensive rehab facilty.
“Great,” Matty’s Mom deadpanned over the phone. “Becase rehab worked so well for Lindsay Lohan.”
The IRS didn’t find the receipts, so Daddy went to jail. He’s been there for about five years now, and he still writes Mom every day. I know, because I still get her mail. Plus or minus two months after he was convicted, Mom and the pool boy ran off together and are living in Chlorine Euphoria on the Upper East Side. As it turns out, keeping a pool was more of a hobby than a career path for the independently weathy Travis McMillen. Which is okay, because Travis was Mom’s hobby, so I guess the world makes sense again.
Mom left me with the cooperative, reparations, and attorney fees. Faced with the reality that the twenty bucks in my pocket could very well be the last monetary substance I’d touch for a while, I figured I might as well make good use of it. While it’s generally considered uncouth to snort a line of cocaine with anything less than a C-note, my dealer at the corner of Madison and 62nd took pity on me, brought me back to his den, and slipped me a parting rock as we took turns gorging ourselves under the watchful eye of Andrew Jackson.
Things get a little hazy; my dealer took the twenty, gave it to the stripper on the pole in the corner, and had his thugs strong-arm me out to the alley to convey to me via half-nelson and kidney shots that it was best for all parties involved if professional ties were severed. It’s a business decision, they said, you understand, MBA Girl. Tell Daddy I said Hi, the short one said. I inhaled deep, the conjuring blood and spittle from the back of my throat and beyond, and hocked a loogie squarely at his forehead. And then I ran.
shhh. don't tell anyone that i'm eating candy cigarettes. this is wrong and blasphemous for at least two reasons i can think of: one, they are made of gelatin, which my vegetarian sensibilities tell me is completely undoing the groundwork that i laid down earlier by eating soy pudding; and two, they are a poor substitute for the real thing. not that camels lights are flavor country, but seriously, it's not like they're filling up my lungs with delicious, delicious monoxide. the don't make me light headed and calm the rapidity with which my heart now pumps in anticipation of things to come. i have two left.
I bake for my coworkers. I send out vague emails alluding to location, identity. Monday: “Do you know the Muffin Woman?” I query. The following Monday: “Banana bread, usual spot. The Secret Ingredient is Tears.” They eat with fervor, any real vestigial flavor eclipsed by AM hypoglycemic gluttony.
They don’t know that Sunday, I set the oven to 375, and allowed 50 Cent, Alice Cooper, and other murderous performers to preside over their creation. You’re quite the homemaker, the coworkers say. “I suppose.” I say. “Or perhaps I am trying to fatten you up so that I may eat you.”
stuntkid, lowercase s, was every hacker that I had ever met. Except he wasn’t a hacker. He was a graphic artist; a wiry, dark haired boy—and he was a boy, his marginal crustache angrily fighting to surface from his upper lip—who showed up at Thad’s place at 12:34 AM.
Jesus, Thaddeus, I say. Who’s the infant?
Him? Thad says, his southern drawl languid, indifferent. That’s stuntkid. He was at the NONCOM last year. Does mad work.
Huh. I say. I was at NONCOM, I didn’t see him.
That’s ‘cause you were too busy teabagging Kevin Smith, he said.
It was a Q&A, I reply. I had a lot of cinematic inconsistencies I needed to address.
The light in Thad’s is dim, and each keyboard has accumulated a thin glint of processed cheese and body oil; half-eaten Gorditas sit on consoles, petrifying moments out of their wrapping.
We’re having a LAN orgy, and listening to a mix CD produced by a little goth girl who has been trying to get Thad’s attention in all the wrong ways; for example, by thoughtfully crafting a burned CD entitled I Love You and I’m Going to Slit Your Throat.
Good beats, though.
Thad doesn’t notice; his attention is entirely focused on massacre:
Stars and Stripes III: Death to Infidels
came out at midnight, and after a three-day stake-out at Best Buy, a $200 down-payment care of Capital One, and a serious round of Adderall, Thad had rounded up the usuals for a celebratory all-night gaming session. The goth girl just got capped in the back by Thad, and while most would take offense to being killed, goth girl interprets this as hopeful, and sticks her foot in the door.
Thad, she says, so not cool. You owe me big now giggle snort.
Hey, he says, but he’s not talking to her. I look over. This is redonk.
I’m outta Dew, he says, and tips his Big Gulp in my direction without averting his eyes from the screen.
I’m not your Mom, I say. But she’s upstairs if want me to get her.
PAUSE, someone yells, and I see the 24 eyes of the 12 bespeckled players simultaneously flick upward from their monitors. BURN! they howl in unison, and Thad defects with a curtsey.
I grab his Gulp and head for the kitchen. So not cool, I say, you owe me big now.
My ass is falling asleep why does my muse come to me when I am driving and can’t write and oh the inspiration when I get it makes my heart weep and my stomach soar, and my veins will course, pulsate, tingle, surge. Alive, I think, for the brief few seconds when a new idea comes forth and apocalyptic devastation when I realize it won’t go beyond my inner monologue, when it will be lost, forgotten, leaving a scrap of paper a receipt as its grave its exoskeleton, its molted shell leaving the core long gone. Tomorrow, I try again.
i think when you're blocked you're just supposed to write and write and write and disregard the fact that what you're writing is shit or doesn't make sense or has no punctuation or instead has punct! uation! in the wrong areas. but in college i had this attractive (a former seminary student), older professor (Thorn Birds) who was salt and pepper grey, distinguished, and even wore a tweed jacket with bilateral leather elbow patches. the high-yield, take-home lesson procured from his tenured doctrine consisted of "orchids are sexy things" and "i write because i want to know what i think."
i drank merlot, made various comments about how i was being anti-
, but fuckit, because the bottle had a poultry cock on the front—who can pass that up? it was tasty, dregs and all—i would know, i had dumped the last of it into my glass, taking care to swipe my tongue on the rim only when he had focused his attention elsewhere/something that was not difficult for him). i stood by the window to smoke a cigarette, my lips tingling from all substances that had graced them that evening, the sole absence of which was his own.
It was grand, and dramatic, and involved sharpened number twos tumbling to the ground; a treasured copy of Elizabeth’s cancer memoir displaced in favor of hot, fervid, democratic sex. Main Street, John Edward’s headquarters, last July: I was making my own little political scandal. Mitch was the local director campaign office director; he was tall and pale, skinny, and had an odd port wine stain across his solar plexus that was unceremoniously revealed once the polo came off. He was Southern, and had known the Edwardses from back in the day. Tell me again about the electoral college, I cooed.
I’ve acquired a copy of
A Farewell to Arms
out of spite. Its pages are ratty, and it has seen its rounds through many an Intro to Lit class; there are notes in the margins that question theme, and tone, and whether Julie Is A Slut. M says his favorite author is Hemingway; I have it now, in my possession, to prove him wrong. I say Hemingway’s a misogynistic, drunken hack who cannot go a paragraph without mentioning rain. I’ve acquired this copy so that I may highlight said references, and shame him for having such a silly literary mistress.
They tell me I’m dry and pithy. To me, it sounds like a drink order, like a martini. (Pour me over rocks, sip me casually.) Is this a good thing? They laugh when they say it, but I know, and you know, that a laugh says everything the words won’t. And each one is telling me something different. One of them is very sad over this. One is amused; another, anything but. One is indifferent, one doesn’t even laugh. I’ll add these adjectives to the list of words I should know the meanings of but do not. Droll. Pragmatic. Terse.
I told her not to go. You agreed. He said she was ready, she certainly thought she was ready, it wasn’t about to stop her. We all went together. You all watched. They all laughed.
I leaned in, and whispered: “Where is the bathroom?” You informed me that I smelled of vermouth. “He gave it to me when she wasn’t looking. AA makes you sober, not stupid. Fuck. We’re all going in the same car, aren’t we? You all gonna stand there, or are you going to help me in the backseat?” Faceplant to the snow bank. They all…
You know what you can’t do when Z moves in? You can’t pee with the door open. You can’t eat directly out of the fridge when you’re waiting for the TV dinner to heat up in the microwave. You can’t call me up and talk about what an unbearable hill jack his sister is. You can’t lay on your back, on the kitchen floor, smoke cigarettes and drink sangria as you wait for cranberry bread to bake. You know something else you can’t do when Z moves in? You can’t talk about things you can’t do when Z moves in.
Twyla tells me to stop ashing into the batter.
Mom, she says, that shit will fucking kill you. And turn down the radio, I’m trying to read.
What are you reading, I ask.
Hemingway. It sucks. it’s always raining.
It’s a literary device, I say, it’s symbolic for… shit. Come hold the pan while I pour the mix in.
Nah uh, she says. I’m not coming within ten feet of your death cloud. Put out the menthol and then we’ll talk.
I don’t know where she got the mouth, probably some latent gene from her daddy, god rest his soul.
Alright, he ain’t dead, literally anyway. He’s down in Houston working a rig, but that doesn’t mean he’s not gonna die soon. Alcohol and crude ain’t exactly winning numbers.
Twyla comes over reluctantly, and holds her nose away from me.
Do it fast, she says. This house is already so stanky, I don’t want it all over my goods.
Don’t start smoking, I say. It’s bad for you.
And she gives me this look, this look that says, in my grandmommy’s voice, No Shit, Sherlock. What is this, she says, it looks like gruel.
Wasn’t Dickens last semester? I ask.
Fine, she says. It was raining, and it looks like gruel.
It’s your grandmommy’s whiskey biscuits. I say. And don’t start drinkin’, it’s bad for you.
She rolls her eyes. Too late, she says, and flops about the kitchen like a tavern regular. Look at me, I’m as sober as a priest on Sunday. She pantomimes a chug from the milk carton. Look at me, she continues, I ain’t got no liver left, Hallelujah amen!
I whack her on her backside with the batter spoon, tell her to rope it in, and either crack a book or wash some dishes.
Mom throws back another Xanax and chases it with a Diet Coke. It’s her fifth today, but her first Coke.
“Mom, I’m missing softball today. I was going to be short-stop,” I say.
She grabs my checks with her hand, squeezing hard with her thumb and index finger.
“Stacee,”—two ee’s—“I told you to refer to me in public as Deena”—also two ee’s. The room was chock-full of electro-tanned mothers, also named Deena. “Make like a Lohan and clinch this, honey. Then we’ll talk about softball.”
The door opens, and a Suit stands between my mom and stardom.
The Tip Jar