Monthly Archives: February 2012

Hillside

Here’s another antiquated story from back in the day.  Looking back at old work is always bittersweet for me.  I’m always judging.  I see only my mistakes, but I’m also convinced my voice, technique, and drive were stronger back then.  *sigh*  That’s the problem with memories:  they’re  selective.  Anyway, in 2005, I got this story published in a small Canadian literary magazine called Deliverance. Recently, I tried getting it published again, but that didn’t really work out.  So here it is.  Enjoy.

Hillside

        A look, a flash, a wad of cash.  The apathy I felt just then was as dangerous as the drug she handed me.  My hand shot out and in it she placed a smallish sheet, neat, perforated squares looking for all the world like little tabs of gum: tiny, innocuous.

            What do I do with it?”

        She fixed me with a hard stare, trying to decide if I was as stupid as the question suggested.  “You eat them.  But not all at once,” she said rather quickly, having decided that I was, in fact, and idiot.  “You can save them, or share them.”  Here her voice turned up; perhaps my stupidity would lead her to some free drugs.  I stifled a sigh and shifted my gaze from her vague, eager face, once again caught by the flashing neon road sign atop the broken television. I was already bored.

            “What happens if I take them all at once?”

        Another stupid question.   Apparently I was only allowed one per transaction.

        I put away my purchase and again found myself studying her.  A definite mod goth: her stockings looked new and purposely ripped; her false lashes and black lipstick smacked of pretentiousness.  And her wig was on crooked.  So much for showmanship.

        Out in the frigid air, I felt some of my apathy recede, and I quickened my steps in anticipation.  But instead of relocating myself to some dance club or art house-turned-opium den, I trudged on home, to my little apartment, as far from the area as the city could take me.

            My rooms were dark and damp, redolent of champaka and weed.  I gobbled the sheet almost immediately and began to prepare.  Water, water, soda, pocky and bread, all dumped onto the floor, along with a thin blanket and a mottled sock monkey.  More preparations: clothing picked up, tables shoved away.  The television started to look rather curvy, so I left off the tidying and tried to begin.  Sitting in full lotus, I decided, facing the wall, would be best for this type of thing, but my legs had grown considerably since I had walked through the door, and I couldn’t cross them properly.  So I lay face-up on the floor, arms spread wide, like a child on a hillside, waiting.  There was music, but I didn’t remember having put any on.  My bookshelf had melted into a puddle of light.

            Still on the floor, I started to spin, lazy circles describing paths of consciousness to my shifting mind.  Orange melodies swirled beneath me as I felt myself stretch and lengthen.  Two, ten, eleven, and the cry of grackles filled the room as I blended and merged with the carpet.  Every once in a while I would snap back and ask myself questions I already knew the answers to.  Commodore Washington was the first charlatan of our nation, with long flowing hair, as beautiful as the unturned sky.  All was blue light and magic behind my eyes.  I pressed down on the floor and let the deeper truths come to me.  Black star, red sun, cold moon, and where was that music coming from?  Throbbing, pulsing, syzygial beat teeming with flesh and wonder worming closer, closer still . . . a sitar made of golden glass strummed silently, and I had found God.

            Several hours later, the boredom was back.  The water lay undrunk, the pocky uneaten.  I was cold, I realized, and greatly disappointed, for I had failed to bring back the one thing I had gone for.  Sighing, I set off once again for the house on the hill with the self-made queers and closeted squares.  Perhaps I would have better luck this time.

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Opposed

This past Saturday, I went to Underground, the largest live art show in the Metroplex. I volunteered to work the door and stay after and clean up the space. In mentioning this, I’m not trying to talk about my boundless philanthropy or selfless, supporting nature or anything. I’m just trying to tell you guys a story. Honest.

So, I’ve walked around, and I’ve looked at everything there, but there’s still a bit of time before my shift, so I go to get a beer. The bartender and I get to talking over my tasty stout, when he mentions his girlfriend (subtle, no?), and how it’s been ten years since he had a girlfriend on Valentine’s Day.

I could swear your phone number came with this bottle.

“Whhhhere you guys gunna go?” I slur. Luckily, he’s a bartender, so he’s gotten used to pretending to ignore such things. “Well, she said not to make a big fuss, so nothing.” Wait, what?

This man is on the verge of relationship suicide. I must intervene. I must save him. Trying to forget the beer, I roll into action.  I explain that, though his girl told him she didn’t want a fuss and any of that highly commercial  and sappy Valentine’s Day romantic crap, she really does. “She’s just being polite, because she doesn’t want you to think she’s that girl. You know, that girl,” I say, making what I’m sure is a very cool and sophisticated hand/arm gesture. “Listen, don’t listen to what she said. I mean, about that. Listen to me. Okay. YOU. Need to take that girl someplace nice. Okay? Take her out. Now.”

I’ve never understood how guys don’t get this. We might say we don’t want you to make a fuss, but we really do. We want to know that you care, and we want you to show it in the goofiest and most embarrassing way possible. To women, that kind of cringe-worthy, mushy gesture is indicative of true affection. Don’t tell us you like us. Show us.

Is this embarrassing enough?

But then it occurred to me that maybe men don’t understand these things because they’ve never had to work with the same rules. Women are taught to deny their wants and needs, sometimes publicly, so people think us polite and demure. You might want that last cookie, but you decline because it’s the polite thing to do. This is also essential if you don’t want others to see you as that girl. You know who I’m talking about. The high-maintenance chick all the guys complain about. The bougie, not-quite-gold-digging princess you see in all the movies. That girl.

This dress is expensive. Get me another coffee.

Men are given something very different. Men are taught that if you want something, you need to stand up and ask for it, and if someone offers you something, you take it, no questions asked. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want it or need it. Just take it, and you can sort all that other stuff out later. (And, men, don’t think because I’ve glossed over this that I condone your behavior. This is pretty fucked up, too.)

Women who live declining life naturally (naturally!) expect fellow-sufferers will get it. Like as not, all women understand this behavior, because they’ve heard it before. Men, or most men, anyway, do not, because no one’s ever taught them that. They haven’t had to think that way.

 Interesting, innit?


Ancient

I dug this scrap out of my notebook.  I was watching Kate Hudson’s OD scene in Almost Famous.  For some reason, I always imagined Penny Lane as in her mid-twenties.

"Oh, Penny . . . ."

The despair when it’s over. The boy, so achingly young, and your heart literally gives out. You  feel empty of all emotion. You drain, you fade. You think you are dead, both more and less than dead, a ghost of a shadow clinging to a pale, pale wall. And all the dreams before you–of fame, of happiness–only serve to leach the life out of your still frame, leave you limp upon the carpet. Make you non. When they leave. God, it huts so much.