Thursday, June 26, 2008


"Did you remember to take out the trash, Craig?" her voice filtered down the stairs into my little home office, interrupting the rapid click-click of my fingers on the keyboard.  She really had an uncanny knack of bothering me when I was in the middle of something important.
"Yes, honey, I did," I yelled back. "You know I'm workin' down here, sweetheart!"
"Oh, sorry," she said, poking her head through the door at the top of the stairs.  I looked up to catch a glimpse of her long, brown hair and her doll-like face.  She was scowling, but on her, a scowl was only a crinkled button nose and a delicately scrunched eyebrow.  "I'm always so tempted to talk to you because I know you're so close."
"I know, babe," I said.  "Just try to pretend I'm not here." 
"Well, I'm going out now, anyway," she said.  "I'll bring some dinner back." 
"Bye, darling," I said. I cringed a little, fully aware that I'd used four different pet names for her in as many sentences. I found myself hoping that she would ignore it this time, even though we were both aware that the pet names usually only came out for two occasions: when I was irked, and when I wanted sex.  The gentle thud of the front door told me that she had ignored it, and I laughed aloud at the folly of my mixed messages, mostly to fill the silent space with something before I returned to my work. 
The annoyed "sweetie"- and "honey"-ing had been going on for the past month, ever since I started working from home. I had been "decentralized" from the media and publishing firm where I used to work, which meant that it wasn't worth the price of overhead in this energy market to keep writer/editors in cubicles. They actually sold the whole building, mostly to pay the bills that had accrued during the transition from print to electronic media.  A number of my colleagues were downsized as a result.  In the small favors category, while I wasn't technically "downsized," my job functions were.  I used to be full time, but the work they sent me was often not enough to fill more than half of any given week. And editing is still one of those jobs that pays by the hour, unless you're some kind of superstar. 
I really feel like I inhabit my world right now, which is an interesting sensation for someone who had always felt like watching the nightly news was akin to sitting in the back row at a huge, foreign sporting event. When people realized that gas prices weren't going to go back down anytime soon, commuting essentially became obsolete.  Now, working from home is not unusual among my friends and former colleagues.  I move less during the day, and I eat less, but my meals end up costing about the same as they did when I bought them from the hot truck three times a week.  Such is the life of the middle class American these days, according to the "iReporters."  Such is my life. 
On my last day in the office, I was browsing the jobs in the back of one of the commuter rags and I found an interesting little ad. "Wanted: Testimonial Writers/Must have firm command of standard English/Multiple dialects and Internet speak a plus/Creative, self-starter, work from home/negotiable rate based on fiction portfolio."  I was going to be working from home already, so I ripped out the ad and put it in my wallet. It only took me a few days of running out of firm work and being bored out of my mind before I sent a portfolio of my short and flash fiction to the email address in the ad.
Not to brag, but they hired me within minutes.  I negotiated a reasonable per contract/per hour rate and signed and faxed back the employment agreement.  The next morning, the work just started rolling in.  It was every creative writer's dream job, really.  They would send me information about products or services, and I would write glowing testimonials from satisfied customers. Occasionally the contractor would ask for a couple of testimonies with reasonably bad grammar or spelling, just to lend them a little verisimilitude.  Sometimes, they'd ask for a negative one, but it always had to point to another of the company's products as the eventual solution to whatever problem the product in question was supposed to address. Dishonest?  It was fiction like any other, and as long as I didn't think too hard about it, I didn't really care.
I'm mostly just thankful that I was able to get a second job at all, considering the economy.  It makes little difference to me, as a writer and editor, how many jobs I'm working, as long as the work is sufficiently stimulating and it fills the days as well as it fills my bank account.  But for some reason, I was still unable to tell my wife about it.  When she asked, I told her I was writing "freelance ad copy for small publications."  I love her, but I didn't want her to know exactly what I was writing to supplement our household income.  Maybe it was misplaced machismo, or maybe the dishonesty of it rankled on some subconscious level, but then, I've always been secretive about my creative work.  In a way, getting to know my characters often felt like a betrayal, no matter how unattractive they were to me.  It was the intimacy of it more than anything else, and I loved her too much to confront her with all of that.
The loose timeframes on the work allowed me to really inhabit these imaginary customers, and I slowly built a stable of distinct voices that could be called upon to testify whenever their expertise was needed.  There was "Maryann," the mother of three whose children always had some ailment and were always too obstinate to bend to conventional remedies.  Then there was "Steve," the average guy who was always on the lookout for better, easier, and faster ways to do his dreaded household chores.  "Tara" desperately wanted a magic weight loss bullet, and "christine" only used the shift key on her keyboard to type out emoticons.  "Peter" often had problems with products, but was always able to recommend an alternative.  "Jack," "Lily," and "Dee" mixed modifiers, dropped verbs, and sometimes misspelled words.  If any of my characters, even the one-offs, had to claim to behave in an unusual way (for example, eating only one meal per day), I'd give them a compelling reason to do it (violent reactions to eating before or after sleep).  I often had to let them be gullible to make them beguiling.  I loved these characters, even if their purpose was slightly less than ethical.

That evening, I emerged from my office and greeted my wife with a kiss.  "You know I had an appointment today," she said, half asking, half telling. 

"No," I said. "What sort of appointment?"

"With Dr. Bhat," she said.

"Didn't you just see her?" I asked.  It was odd for her to go to the internist any more than she had to. She had a fear of doctors that she would never admit to, but she'd never had a proper blood pressure reading in her life.  She was perfectly healthy, but her blood pressure skyrocketed every time they slapped the cuff on her.

"She asked me to come back for a follow-up," she said, sitting down in a kitchen chair.  My wife was a small woman who was always bubbly enough to fill a room.  But right now, she looked even smaller than her five-foot-two.    

"What's the matter?" I asked, reaching out and rubbing her shoulders gently.

"I have a tumor," she said.

"Not..." I didn't want to say "cancer" because that word reeked of finality.

"No," she said.  "Not cancer.  It's just a tumor.  But it could grow.  And it could become cancer."

Relieved, I choked, "Oh!  So you can get it out, right?"    

"Yes," she said. "I could.  But I'm not sure I want to."

"What do you mean 'you're not sure you want to'?" I asked, incredulous.  This was not like having your tonsils out because they might get infected again in the future.  This was a tumor that could eventually kill her.

"I've been reading about some other options," she said.  "People have shrunk similar tumors with dietary changes, exercise, and herbs."

"Oh, honey," I said.  "You can't believe everything you read on the Internet."

"But some of these stories!  They're so compelling!" she exclaimed.  "I have already ordered a few things."

"Oh, no." I could feel my stomach falling into a deep, dark pit.     

How did sisters speak in the olden times?

"Every time I see him, I must look like a startled doe by coachlight. I'm surprised, nay, shocked, at the way the mere sight of," Julia complained, only relaxing her terse, clipped tones as she carefully decided on "affects" as her verb of choice. From the tone of her voice, I knew that she could have easily replaced that particular word with "elates," "thrills," or "exhilarates" to describe the phenomenon. However, Julia was practicing her signature restraint. "I consider myself to be a woman of densest moral fiber and most solid constitution, Helen," she said. Something about her is dense, all right. I sat in the living room crocheting a lace doily, trying not to smirk. I pictured her getting weak in the knees when the object of her affection, a small young man whose life appeared to be a series of quick, efficient motions, passed by her classroom door. "And I'm supposed to be a role model for all those girls! It simply will not do to have me...swooning...whenever the new headmaster walks into the room."

"Julia," I said, looking up from my work. She shuddered. I loved saying my sister's name because she appeared to hate it so viscerally. (Whenever it was announced in public, she would ask the heavens why our parents couldn't have given her a slightly less Roman-sounding name. I think she may have decided to work in the boarding school because everyone there was obliged to call her Miss Chase.) "Why don't you just go out with him? Isn't there a barn-raising on Friday?"

"Helen!" she snapped. "Don't you understand? I am not the sort of woman who 'goes to barn-raisings' with gentlemen. Specifically not with gentlemen who are my superiors at work. That would be unseemly, and on the whole, undesirable."

"What's better," I posed the question: "An evening of companionship and possibly even some fun? Or being afraid of running into him every day for the rest of your tenure?"

"You don't understand. Not at all," she sighed loudly, collapsing into a rocking chair. For such an uptight priss, Julia certainly had a way of becoming melodramatic. Normally, when I tell a story about my life with my sister, it invariably ends up as a semi-tragic version of The Taming of the Shrew, in which the concerned father will not allow his younger daughter to marry until the older one is married first. Nobody dies at the ends of my stories, but nobody actually gets married, either. But after many stories of the kind, I'd sort of given up on ever even being pursued. All the eligible gentlemen had heard the legend of Julia Chase, and feared that the little sister would be just like her, but worse for having had to skulk around their house like a scullery maid to avoid her temper. Or so the boys said, according to my friend Emma. These rumors were, of course, much exaggerated versions of the truth.

Truthfully, I'd recently taken up crocheting. I found that the small, repetitive motions of it soothed me, particularly when Julia got it in her head to talk about emotions, relationships, or anything else she didn't really understand. Even now, my hands and fingers moved deftly, around and through, making lace while my sister was speaking of being in love. As smart as she was, and well-trained in the arts of nursing, Julia was still entirely unable to diagnose this particular ailment in herself. I smiled, knowing full well that she would skewer my logic if I even attempted to explain it to her. No, she and this headmaster of hers were going to have to figure it all out themselves. With my next stitch, I sent up a prayer for Julia to figure it out sooner, rather than later. From my crochet hook to God's ears, or something.

some old poetry

I am working on some longer stories right now, so I thought I would post a little bit of my old poetry.

Krishna, Stargu, Lisa, Talasi and That One Guy Who Wouldn't Let Neruda Go

Your names, my thoughts of you, are lazy snakes
hissing through my tall-grass lips and teeth:
you, unfamiliar friends, go undetected.
Yet, once upon a time you were
the local loci. The rotation of your words
made gravity,
music, like gyroscopes skipping across
the kitchen floor.
The rhymes and words and lines
in reedy teenaged voices, all ready to
crack mirrors, spewing beauty so extreme
that it became hideous: your meanings are forgotten,
but the hum remains.
We took turns lapping each other on the same circuit,
racing for three minutes and ten seconds apiece,
never knowing defeat.
With each of us in stages of poetic undress, we drove,
and hoped to find a sexless, skinless nudity
at the edge of the centrifuge.
Did we find it? Did we have fun?
And now the memory of you is snakes.
I grab one by the tail sometimes, and swing the serpent
like a sling,
in circles over my head.
I do this crazy thing to hear the hiss become a hum.

Storm Story

When the sky was painted, tumultuous gray
and we stood behind screens of dirty metal
your eyes reflected everything.
I could hear the moist, electric air
and feel the low rumble of your voice.

We watched as water bounced, defied gravity,
was thwarted by dry dirt and concrete.
We watched the parched earth
as it slowly learned to take its medicine.
It was not unlike
watching me with you.

Saturated with seeing, we closed the windows
and made our own rain.

“the object of someone else’s madness”

never have I been so loaded
as when, failing to avoid your stare
I thought I could be placated

into pleasure, with a blind eye
to slow approaches, your
fingertips. at least I hoped to try

to be myself. when the day is done
I like to kick back, relax,
enjoy an ice cold vodka
with a warm lemon gun.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


My mother never knew that I used to spend my summer evenings getting wasted behind the Safeway. There was a big parking lot there, and all my friends were stockboys, so that's where we went. They unloaded the flats during the day, and they would stack them up so that there would be nice places for us to sit when we got there. We sat around by the back steps of the Safeway and drank cases and cases of cheap beer.

I used to walk to the far part of the parking lot with my boyfriend, whichever one he was at the time, and we'd share a joint and compete to see who was the bravest with the semi-public displays of affection. Sometimes we would just talk, though, and he would tell me how he ended up hanging out behind the Safeway. A lot of them had some real sob stories: mothers who didn't love them, or discouraging teachers and guidance counselors who advised them that their only options were manual labor or enlistment. A couple of them were just spoiled, and thought that drinking shitty beer behind the Safeway was some kind of rebellion. But me, I was the one who did it just to do something, slurping my Bud Light from the can and letting the summer night take me wherever it pleased.

Was I bored? Sure. Was I tired? Of course. Did I have a story that would make me rest my head in my hands as I imparted it to my boyfriend du jour? No. I was just the girl who listened as the buzz settled in and the long night behind the Safeway became a quiet therapy session for boy after boy. I don't think I loved any of them, but I listened as though I did. It was many years before I grew weary of always being along for the ride.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tuesday, 7:30, Community Center

It was a Tuesday, and the walls of the municipal building looked more like doors than walls. "All the best stories seem to be a delicate blend of careful nostalgia and unrelenting fear," my teacher said, a startlingly earnest look gracing her unwieldy features.  I opened my mouth to ask what she meant by that, but I suddenly remembered the three best stories I'd read in the past week and promptly shut it again. The stories that resonated with me were the ones that described seemingly insignificant details with loving precision: the crumbs on the checkered tablecloth, the dull grey of the living room sofa set.  You would imagine that these descriptions were written to lend verisimilitude to the scenes being set, the stories being told.  But you would, of course, be wrong.  Any painstaking rendering of my teacher's too-large, bulbous nose and beady, close-set eyes, or, for example, of my insistence on carrying a zippered pencil case (just like the one I had in grade school) to my adult-ed class would merely serve as reminders that each moment is but one more step toward our eventual, terrifying demises. Descriptions remind us that our time on Earth is ephemeral, and that we must notice everything we can before we die. There is always the unrelenting fear that we will have missed something when death has caught up with us, the idea that there will unexpectedly come a time when our senses will close themselves off to the sublime and leave us only an empty experience of the subterranean.  The doors opened a little bit wider, then, coaxing.
With every adjective, the authors of those stories insinuated that they knew we were afraid of dying, and outwardly proclaimed that they would do their best to keep us living in the moment from the first word to the last. That is why we read, after all.  Especially if it is a fictional moment of someone else's device, the reader forgets the self and all the ugly trappings thereof. If I were to allow you to read what I scribbled on my sheaf of looseleaf paper, and watch me sigh with pleasure as I zipped my number 2 Dixon Ticonderoga back into its case, you might think, perhaps for a moment, that something great was waiting for me when I strode confidently into the summer night. You might think, perhaps for another moment, that when a gust of wind carried my hasty notes to the farthest reaches of the subway platform, some handsome stranger would be there to help me pick them up again.  You might conclude by imagining my mouse-brown hair blowing in cinematic waves behind me, my thin skirt clinging to my legs while the stranger reads my musings on life and writing and learns my soul before he even knows my name. You would be wrong, of course, but the way you would be wrong would be much different than anything you expected, as you would discover when I disabused you of your false assumptions.  Then, I could enjoy my two small triumphs: if only for a few moments, you will have forgotten how to fear your insidious fate, and I will have learned how to write.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Memory/A Love Poem

Who among us remembers how to write a love poem? In this, the age of electric courtship, we have become slaves to expediency: shortened words abridge even the lengthiest sentiment. There was a time when the entirety of art was the commission of one's innermost fantasies to paper, when subject and object mingled in public without exhibitionism. In those days, each horseshoe from the village blacksmith was a tiny piece of genius. But now, even pen and ink have fallen into obscurity, like the smithy's anvil and chisels. If I were a blacksmith (replaced by a machine), I would try not to forget the way I used to hoist red-hot iron from the fire, feeling the heat of the forge against my skin like a passionate embrace. And you, the dangerous, beautiful iron, would try not to forget the way I used to bend to your desires.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Your voice is like music, he said, the saddest song. There are always tears in it, brining the rounded notes until they are plump and delectable. I moved to protest, but he spoke again.  I only hear it at the precipice of my despair, and every time, it pulls me back from the brink. Your eyes are much the same.

Seven Minutes in Heaven: or, Revisionist History

I had never heard of the game "Seven Minutes in Heaven" until Allison Crawford's fourteenth birthday party. She was new in town, and her parents desperately wanted her to be popular, so they let her have a big boy-girl party with minimal supervision. My parents probably would have shit bricks if they'd known exactly how often Allison's parents planned on checking on us (which was three times: once when we arrived, once in the middle of the party to see if we needed more snacks, and once when we went home, just to make sure nobody had gotten into the liquor cabinet, or if we had, that we'd sobered up enough to be presentable to our parents).  Allison was old for her class, so we were only eighth-graders at the time, and many of us hadn't been introduced to the wonders of kissing games until that night.
I soon saw that it wasn't just a kissing game, this "Seven Minutes in Heaven." It was a game where you were thrust into the spare coat closet with a boy for seven minutes.  It was pretty much too dark to kiss without making a horrible mess of it, so all you could really do was grope and be groped for seven minutes, hoping to avoid an accidental elbow to the head or poke in the eye.  The boys in our class were certainly not clean enough to make this a pleasant experience for the girls, nor did they have any idea how a young woman (even one who was adventurous enough to actually play this game) might want to be touched.
I stood off to the side, epitomizing the wallflower as I watched the faces of those who had entered the coat closet as children and emerged as full-fledged, emotionally scarred young adults.  Some of them (mostly boys) came out with stupid grins plastered to their faces. Others (mostly girls, but still a good number of boys) returned to the light with a confused look that practically shouted, "What the hell was that all about?"  When Allison came out, looking incredibly self-satisfied with her experience of the captain of the lacrosse team, I caught the eye of a fellow wallflower and shared a grin with him. His name was Dave, and he was as quiet and shy and smart as I was, and I felt a sudden kinship with him that I'd never felt when I saw him in school. I imagined that he shared my train of thought, feeling out of place at a party with kissing games and no parents: these were things that popular kids did, parties that would become illicit keggers just a few short years into the future. 
It was no affront to Dave's popularity to say that he probably wouldn't be invited to those future keggers. Even though he was on the lacrosse team, he wasn't a star player. And he was cute, but he had an uncanny knack for wearing unflattering clothes, probably hand-me-downs from his near infamous older brother.  But he was highly invested in student government, the engineering team, and the concert choir.  He was much more likely to spend a weekend night at the library than anyone else at school.  Except maybe me.  I'd seen him there a few times.  Allison's friend Lindsey snapped me out of my reverie by grabbing my hand and pulling me toward the center of the crowd. "You're going in!" Lindsey cackled.  She pushed me into the closet.  Someone in the crowd said, "Who wants to go in with her?" in a tone that was part question, part insult. Yes, I know I'm a nerd. Thank you very much for reminding me.  But then I did wonder about the answer to the question.  I was standing in a dark closet, about to be joined by some boy who would volunteer to grope the least popular girl in school for seven minutes.  It all happened so fast, I'm not even sure how it all unfolded. But the next thing I knew, there was a boy in the closet with me, and the door was closed.
"All right," I said quietly.  "Do your worst."
"What?" said the voice in the dark.
"Go on."
"No," he said.  "I came in here because I didn't want you to get pawed like those other girls."
"Oh," I said, starting to relax.
"You're too good for that," he said. "I like you."
"I'm sorry," I said. "But it's really dark in here.  Who are you?"
"It's me, Dave," he said. I could hear the smile in his voice. I thought he was cute before, when I was watching him from across the room, but now that we were in the closet together and he was practically invisible, he was even more attractive.
"I like you too," I said. I reached out to where I imagined he was standing and accidentally smacked him with my hand as I tried to hug him. 
"Ow," he said. "What was that for?"
"Sorry, I can't see you," I said. "I'm trying to give you a hug, though. I really appreciate what you did for me."
"Oh," he said. He slowly reached out until we could touch each other's hands and arms. "Your skin is so soft."
"I use a lot of lotion," I said.
"It smells nice, too," he said. I noticed then that Dave didn't smell like the other boys in our class. He was probably the only one who bothered to have a shower before coming to the party.
"Thank you," I said. I ran my hands up his arms, to his shoulders. He was developing a fine musculature, probably from all the lacrosse. I vaguely remembered that he was also on the winter track team. "How much time do you think we have left?"
"Enough," he said. He leaned down and pressed his lips to my forehead, then lower, to my cheek, then to my nose, then to my other cheek. He must have eaten eighteen carrots a day to be able to see so well in the dark.  I was surprised by the kisses, but in all, still quite pleased with the experience. Then, he moved in for the kill, his perfect lips pressing softly against mine, then a little harder.  I had always read about kisses in scores and scores of novels that I probably shouldn't have been allowed to read.  But they couldn't prepare me for the rush of adrenaline that rose up from my stomach and made my heart flutter.  At the moment when we were about to make the kiss even deeper, the door opened and thirty bratty kids were ruining my first kiss with their leers and cries of, "oooOOOooh!"
I pushed him away and he looked down at me with his beautiful icy blue eyes, which were, now that I saw him in the light, welling up with tears.  Was he so nervous about kissing me that he couldn't help it?  Was I doing it wrong?  I grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the closet, out of the finished basement party room, and up to the top of the stairs, where I sat.
"Are you ok?" I asked. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.  
"I didn't mean to," he said.
"You didn't mean to what?"
"I didn't mean to take advantage of you," he said, still finding errant tears to brush away so that he wouldn't have to look at me.
"I didn't mean to take advantage of you, either," I said. "But I'm glad we both did." His expression seemed to melt as an unbidden smile crossed his lips. The other kids were now egging on some other poor pair in the closet, and they had long since forgotten about us.
"It was my first kiss," he said.
"Mine too," I said. "But I think I'd like to try for my second."   

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Just a little crush

Having spent the morning trudging through wet leaves and heavy mist, my eyes had grown accustomed to the low visibility and my lungs were almost enjoying the watery air. Although my friends and I were just barely pubescent, we liked to think that we handled ourselves at least as maturely as the leaders who hiked with us.

It was therefore a complete surprise when an acorn connected with my temple, the hollow little knock echoing through my head while the point of contact started throbbing. I was so shocked, I didn't even say anything at first. I simply turned around to face my attacker, half expecting a squirrel to have bombed me from a tree. When I'd turned sufficiently to see that it was the leader (looking incredibly sheepish as he perched on a rock), I was finally able to choke out, "Hey!"

"I'm so sorry!" he said. "Are you ok?"

"What, did you expect me to duck? This pack is heavy!"

"Sorry!" he repeated. I felt a quick surge of energy before the throbbing returned. Did all women have this kind of power over men? To look them in the eyes and let them know with barely a sentence that they'd done something stupid? It was, no pun intended, a heady feeling for a thirteen-year-old to have such sway over a man who was at least twice her age.

"Heh, well," I said. "It's fine. You have really good aim."

"Or really bad aim," he laughed.

"One or the other." This hiking trip had basically been a ploy to spend some weekend time with our favorite teacher. He was our favorite, of course, because he was only twice our age, and about ten times better-looking than our short, greasy-haired middle school classmates. If I had been a sillier girl, I would have picked that acorn up and framed it in a heart-shaped shadowbox.

We had taken a rest near the highest point of our hike, at a clearing near a cliffside. It was difficult to see the cliff itself as the heavy fog rolled in over the edge. If we didn't know it was there, we probably would have fallen off of it. I did pick up that acorn, after all. But instead of shoving it in my pocket as a romantic keepsake, I tossed it over the side. And when I watched the mist swallow it whole, like a hook falling into a murky pond, my headache subsided completely.


Although my mother was claustrophobic, I never really understood the fear of small, enclosed spaces. When I was twelve, my favorite hiding place was in my closet, on the side where I'd pushed away the old shoes and hung all the sweaters and sweatshirts so none of the skirts and dresses could reach down to strangle me in the unrelenting darkness.  My closet cave was too small for anyone other than me, and much too dark for any activity other than sitting and being surrounded by my secrets.
I can only guess at my motives for designating those few cubic feet of closet space as a hideaway.  Who or what was I hiding from?  Was the blackness of my cave just another layer of security for my precious secrets?  I remember some of those secrets, those nascent sexual fantasies faithfully penned in locked diaries. I can recall my fictional accounts of eroticized corporal punishment, which turned into rescues and romances and things that I knew the mechanics of but never thought I'd actually have an opportunity to try. Did I know even then that society would have looked down upon my impetuousness?  Or was I simply taking the space and time to learn how my most powerful sexual organ---my mind---really worked?
There were other secrets too: I'd gotten extremely bored of Barbie dolls; I wanted to live in a  spacious New England farmhouse and write for a living; I thought the Gap was the be-all and end-all of designer clothes, and resented every girl in my class who could afford to shop there even though nothing in the store fit my precociously curvy figure particularly well. Those were equally worthy of guarding from everyone and everything. Perhaps my body had started to take up more space than I was used to, and I wanted to reassure myself that I could still fit in something that resembled a womb.
In hindsight, my attraction to the inner sanctum of my already private sanctuary was probably just a symptom of my larger-scale malaise. I was afraid of the big, wide world and all the people in it.  Certain people scared me more than others: "strangers" of all stripes; people who gave out stickers at Halloween; garbagemen; the teenager who lived a few doors down; and people who drove unmarked vans, to name a few.  The very idea of talking to a store clerk was akin to facing a firing squad. Traveling anywhere alone was like setting out on the Oregon Trail with an empty wagon and a cannibal. 
Every adult I had ever dared to trust (my parents, my teachers, and the police officer who lectured at my school) had imprinted upon me a distinct fear of the unknown.  The idea that a predator lurked around every corner with a piece of candy in one hand and a rope in the other was a common meme in that era. That picture of the stranger with candy pounded itself firmly into my innocence.  When horror stories of rohypnol started filtering down from the college scene, I swore to myself that I'd never drink anything at a party unless it was from a sealed container, which would be promptly reclosed after every sip and would never leave my hand or my sight.  I learned early on that people simply could not be trusted.  Every person in the world was a facade of friendliness with a heart of evil intent, paving the road to kidnapping with a smile and a cleverly disguised bottle of alcohol.  My overprotective trusted adults had unknowingly raised a misanthrope in their midst.     
Perhaps that is why I recognized my fantasies as just that: flights of fancy that never had a chance in hell of reaching fulfillment.  In order for me to have sex, I'd have to meet some people to do it with.  And I'd have to trust them enough to let them into my smallest spaces.  Maybe my closet was the only place I could hide from the cognitive dissonance of it all.     

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Alcohol makes everything an epic

Suddenly I noticed how easily we fell into step. With equal strides, we pressed forward into the darkness. It was as though we had found a way to communicate with only our footsteps, or that we had both tapped into the steady beat of a quiet, unknown drummer. Our little walk had a destination; a door through which you would pass and I would not. When the door closed, you and I would be a world apart. That is why I did not hasten to break our embrace in the doorway. I strained to feel the drummer's quickening thrum one last time.