“Two dead rottweilers were found in the creek.”
“Eugh. How did they get there?”
“I don’t know; no one knows. They were just there this morning.”
“It smells fucking disgusting. Can we go see them?”
“They don’t really look like anything anymore.”
I found it strange to pass that creek to and from school, knowing canine carrion was feeding trees not ten metres from our steps. That something repulsive could be right under our noses and none of us the wiser.
But it was just like the rest of life. There was no reason to find it strange at all.
One time, you gave me a metal tin of peaches that you’d found. It had no labels, which was why you liked it, but you sharpied “[your name’s] can of secrets” on the lid, and gave it to me.
I kept it in the back of my desk for five years.
How could you forget how much I cared about you? When I held onto a tin of rotten peaches for five years, merely because you gave it to me?
We both did bad things: You replaced me. I wrote you a hate letter and failed to prevent your reading it.
It’s strange that the bad can outweigh the good so easily. But I guess a human heart’s a heavy thing to begin with, and like in the Book of the Dead, we weigh them against feathers. How can feathers outweigh even a single heart made heavy with bad blood?
Whenever I eat peaches I think of you, still.
We capped our fingers with raspberries plucked straight from the garden, and pretended they were ladies in fruit hats like Carmen Miranda. In the treehouse above our heads, the word “bitch” was carved childishly into a wall. The other day, our cousin had told us she no longer had a boyfriend, because he called her that.
All we used to do was pretend. After eating the raspberries, we imagined the family border collie as a Spanish bull. We made veronicas with sweaters unwrapped from our waists, and called, “TORO, TORO,” just like in cartoons.
Decamping to the kitchen for a chocolate sandwich, I thought to myself, how I would rather gore a handsome matador than a bull. I bit into my sandwich with a squish. Would a matador’s thigh make the same squishing sound? Would it squish at all?
All I knew is that this question gave me the same kind of feeling as the word in the treehouse.
I used to obsess over faces. When I drew, I really only drew portraits, and one could tell how little I cared for delineating the neck, shoulders, and hair, in comparison to the face.
Now in my low moments, faces all look the same. You know, in dreams, every face you envision is a face you’ve seen before, at some time in your life. The human mind cannot construct faces out of thin air.
Sometimes I feel that on the streets, every face I see is one that I’ve looked on before.
I wish that when I looked at people, I saw them with bouquets. Each person carrying a bouquet unique to themselves, indicative of themselves and their particular temperaments.
My own would have calla lilies… white roses, red poppies, willow catkins… holly, lilacs, and cherry blossoms…
Buttercups, snowdrops, and one blueish hydrangea.
Some virgins want to be fucked, and some fuckers want to be virgins. Oh what does it matter? The smarter you are, the sadder you are — isn’t that what people say? But what does it matter.
Last night, I heard the universe unbalance with a pitiful moan, and I thought, god, is that what I sound like? That can’t be what I sound like, can it?
Sometimes, I think it’s a low and worthless communication, the communication of grief. Because we all knew it when we signed up for this, didn’t we? When we were born, a white-gloved hand came down from the ceiling, produced a gift pen and requested our signatures on a dotted line, the terms and conditions laid out like a tablecloth on a dinner table.
God, this can’t be what I sound like, can it?
Things I told my therapist
I feel like there are two people inside of me: the person I would like to be, and the person I actually am. The former is always picking at the latter, picking and picking like she was a patch of skin liable to bleed. (And bleed she does.)
My therapist’s advice is to visualize the judgmental thoughts as a balloon, and to watch them float up up up into the ether. But I can’t do that.
I visualized putting them into a locked chest instead, and considered too long how this chest should look — if it should sport filigree, or be industrial and plain, or recall the walnut toy box I had as a kid. The person I am then handed it to the person I would like to be.
She hid the chest in a corner of my mind that I know exists but that appears blurry, like a pixelated face.
Is that where my loneliness comes from? My face is pixelated in the eyes of others… and people know I’m there, but can’t know who I am.
who I am. who I am. who I am.
Every evening at seven o’clock she makes her dinner. Grilled slab of salmon, black ground pepper encrusting it like beach pebbles on a naked thigh. A salad of shredded radish, chopped cucumbers, pieces of little octopine scallions, and cherry tomatoes. A lemon water so hot I wonder at how its thick glass mug doesn’t crack.
I never make the same for myself — the smell is all I need…
Have you ever felt that?
Satiation just from the smell of something? A sting just from a glance at a raised hand? Raindrops on your face at the sound of a cloudburst hitting your window?
It can be hard to feel human living like that. Very hard to feel.
A windfall drops at my feet and I wonder what I’ve done wrong. I kick the apple away, blunting it on my chelsea boot. I haven’t been a hunter-gatherer for thousands of years. No need to start now.
I come home and wash a cartoon memory of childhood with a bottle of my tears — a lachrymatory vial for innocence that nothing commissioned.
I pause to consider my hands. And I see that these nails of mine are the nails of a crucifixion. But they are also the instruments that will dig me up through the gravesoil, and one day save myself.
They are also that.
It’s the absences that are powerful now—the missing punctuation in a Cormac McCarthy novel, the cuts between film shots.
They said that digital projection could never replace film because we needed that infinitesimal pause between frames, that blink of an eye.
Well that blink is already missed.
Absence is perfect the way substance never can be. Too much of everything has been created and reproduced. More isn’t needed in a world that will not stop jabbering. More is obsolete before it’s even begun.
Stand alone, in nature. It’s the only time to feel genuine peace, and it’s because—then—absence is everywhere. It’s in the air bubbles of tree sap, and in the holes of the earth.
You can wonder what it would be like to be somewhere else. You can wonder how many drugs it takes to permanently change reality, and the tree sap will never interrupt with the answer.
Erase my memory, make me powerful, give me peace. Good things come in three.
"So, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it looks like we’re gonna have to put me down."
"Oh, no! You’re kidding!"
"No, no, I wish I was, but. We found out yesterday. There’s no way around it, this is the way it has to be."
"Wow. No other alternatives?"
"No, it’s for the best. It’s for the best really. I’ll go on to a better place, you know? I’ll be put out of my misery. No more earthly suffering."
"Well, I’m glad you’re seeing it that way. You’ve always been an optimist. That’s what you need to focus on. The good it’ll do."
"I mean, we had good times, didn’t we?"
"Great times, great times."
"I watched the kids grow up, you know? I was there every step of the way."
"How are they handling it—the kids? Have you told them yet?"
"We told them this morning. They took it hard, but they’re kids, you know? We expected as much. But they’ll get over it fast—until another playmate comes around."
"It is for the best."
"Now, I’m not the same, you know? We all want to remember me the way I was."
"And if we kept me alive, it would just get worse, wouldn’t it? And no one wants that, least of all me."
"Least of all me."
We sat like little plastic angels in a giant douglas fir, myself on a lower bough and my friend near the top. We were eight years-old then, wondering about childish things—what a planet’s made of, what fourth grade will be like, how a dead body smells.
This friend was named Mercedes, after the car, of which she had a miniature rolling around her bedroom vanity.
Mercedes ran away a lot; I always imagined her speeding off in that figurine, never to be seen or heard from again. She’d go through highways like Route 66, past the bee-bearders in adobe doorways to a place where she could finally be loved.
I remember staring at the stars through the branches. The twigs came together like a circle of supplicating hands, berries hanging as prayer beads do. In my mind, it was a secular invocation, a prayer for all the things you’re told to never ask for, but that you know in your heart you deserve: glory, fame, riches. It was a prayer for me.
Our heads were full of secrets then, ours to keep. I hid mine behind a diary padlock, right where they couldn’t get me.
Funeral For a Failed Musician
When I go, I’ll hang myself by a guitar string, with a black and a white piano key death-gripped in each hand.
Cover my face and hands in a layer of wax and lay me in a coffin of hydrangeas. I used to talk to the hydrangeas in the backyard, and it’s only right that they should attend.
Not a word about god will be allowed. Not a word about paradise will be permitted on the Memorial Cards.
The peanut gallery will not be invited.
And as for music, my threnody: a tape can be played, a tape of silence, with a runtime of fifty-nine seconds, no more and no less.
Fifty-nine is all you’ll need. (To hear the hydrangeas whispering.)
If people enter through the jaws of hell—
If hell has a set of jaws—do they belong to a face? What kind of a face does hell have?
A hard, art deco face, a kind of Nazi art deco, red white and black with permanent lines that go nowhere but never end.
Or maybe hell has a human face. If it does, I think it could be yours, or mine. Maybe it depends on who’s doing the looking. That doesn’t seem fair, but I don’t think it would be.
The last time we smoked, I tried to light from the opposite end. And I was so wasted, I didn’t notice for three straight minutes.
If we’d been standing in hell, that wouldn’t have mattered. It would have been on fire before I got started.
In hell, the cigarettes are always burning.
As I watched the balloons float into the trolleybus wires, I wanted to follow.
Instead, I metabolized the MDMA. For hours, the gay boys danced and thumbed the tears from my cheeks and clinked their highballs with mine. And I forgot about the doctor telling me he’d get me some help, and my never hearing from him again. I forgot all about everything that had ever happened ever, happy as an idiot.
I heard that in Japan, mirrors line the train platforms. It’s so people must look themselves in the mirror before jumping into the path of oncoming trains.
To me it sounds like the perfect suicide for a narcissist.
(The only catch is that your family has to pay for the train line closure, afterwards.)
And as I watched the balloons float into the trolleybus wires, I wanted to follow.
"I can’t afford it."
This is the most unromantic sentence in the world. Jarringly staccato, the ugliest of consonants push its syllables off our tongues like plates falling from a cupboard.
"I can’t afford it."
This sentence prevents me from drinking as much as I’d like to. It prevents me from buying birth control pills, and orange juice, and shoes that aren’t falling apart. It prevents me from playing piano.
And I just want to play my Clavinova. I don’t want a baby grand, I want my piano back, to play like I used to, like I used to every day.
I want to hear coins jingling. In the keys of the higher octave…