A Parenthetical

I need to read those books. I want to read them. They broaden my thinking and infuse their voices into mine. My mind is shaped by the minds I see into, and my words, my form, are a gravy composed of other’s.

Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom are to blame for my choppy, incomplete sentences. Nick Carraway, boy, what can I say about his influence? He shows through now and then, but he holds back too often. Perhaps I should read what he has to say again. Double the ingredient. Rabo Karabekian and Trout and the rest cause me to use conjunctions at the beginning of nearly every sentence. And Rabo brings me down to Earth when I get too ethereal. Winston Smith makes me fear what’s around every corner, but my soul inherently finds thrill in turning those corners blindly. And Mona S. gives me all the creative liberty I care to take, though Denise N. sternly chastises me for ignoring the rules of grammar that she took great care to instill in my writing. James Joyce does the same as Denise does in his hypocritical way. He makes rebellion of proper form an art. He is the mad genius that drives me.

My stories lack maturity. But my thoughts don’t. Translating my expression into narrative form is my weakness. Perhaps what I’m missing is a message.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

What in Fitzgerald’s life made him think of something so profound?

I’m not digging deep enough inside myself to find the burning questions. My life has not been void; the questions are in me somewhere. As a child wrapped up in a world of mystery, I have much to draw from.

The form and content are everything, and I’ll find them. Or maybe it’s the message that matters most. Whatever the case, I need to read those books.

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An Infinite Existence

Their new home was a time capsule buried under dust.

Thick, expensive drapes weighed down by time and dust covered the windows. A chandelier with three working bulbs lit the entrance dimly, exposing abandoned webs that drooped between the ceiling and walls. The air was stale with a hint of perfume

They opened the curtains, uncovering beautiful, ornate windows that lit a once opulent room of velvet arm chairs and wooden furniture lined in gold. The walls were wooden with decorative molding, and on one of them hung a tapestry with naked women lounging under a tree. They found formal dresses and tuxedos hanging in the armoire and a treasure of pearls and gems strung on golden strings in a jewelry box on the vanity. Next to the box was a crystal bottle.

.

She stood nervously in front of the mirror, wearing an exquisite gown. Diamonds adorned her neck against the perfume from the crystal bottle, the same perfume that lingered in the entrance the day they first stepped foot in the house. She was stunning, not like she had ever seen herself. She looked different, felt different. She was different.

He waited for her at the bottom of the stairs, wearing a tuxedo from the armoire. His heart leaped nearly out of his chest when she stepped onto the balcony and looked down at him. The moment was magical, familiar even.

The couple dined and got tipsy on expensive wine. They then walked into the big empty room where a phonograph waited. The needle lay on the record gently, anxiously, untouched. 

A sweet waltz crackled from the horn and echoed throughout the ballroom while they danced, entranced. Other couples danced around them, seen faintly at first but appearing more real with every step. And as the needle reached the last curve of the groove on the record, the couples, all of them, faded away as though into oblivion. 

And the house was once again empty, gathering dust. 

But the perfume lingered.

Broken

Sitting up was especially hard. Like gravity times a thousand held him down. So he lay there, staring up through the long long tunnel into the blue sky. He watched clouds drift by. Then night came and the stars appeared. He watched those drift by too. Every day the same, every night the same. But sometimes the moon would pass overhead. He felt the loneliest on those nights. And sometimes the rain fell, which made him cry. But he never moved. Like a rock, the weight in his chest smooshed him down. It hurt.

A leaf floated down the well one autumn day and landed next to him. The leaf and he lay side by side, looking up into the sky. And days passed by, stars too, and he was comforted. When the moon passed over, he wasn’t sad. He shared its light with the leaf by his side.

Then a wind came through and lifted the leaf and him to the surface. He was free of his dungeon but so was the leaf. And off it flew, that leaf, and with it the wind. And when the wind went away, he fell back into the well and shattered into a thousand pieces. And the moon passed over. And the rain fell. And he was so broken that he couldn’t feel the loneliness anymore. He couldn’t feel anything anymore. So he lay at the bottom of the well, broken and numb, with not so much as a tear. He was all out of tears. All out of hope. And with nothing left to do or feel, he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Dear Stella,

I wandered down blocks of streets for I don’t know how long and watched the ground pass by my feet. When I looked up, I didn’t recognized a single building, not even a street sign. I swear I thought that I had walked to another town entirely. But what I didn’t see right away, what I should have recognized immediately, is that I was at my front door. Not my front door now—I live in an old apartment building with a radiator that chooses at whim when to not let me freeze to death—but the door of the warm home we shared long ago when you still thought I was good at something, so good in fact that you stayed with me all those 26 years. You left when you realized that I never was any good, not skill-wise nor other-wise. You loved me for who I almost was, and I almost loved you back. And all that almost lovin’ was just enough to make us believe that we were happy. And maybe we were.

You weren’t easy on the eyes, Stella, but you could stir a man’s soul. I didn’t care whether you had one head or three, least of all whether you were good at anything. You were a warm body on a cold night, a person who wanted to be with someone important. I was a sorry excuse for a writer, but your blind faith—your ignorance—gave me hope.

I’m home now from my long walk, and I’m typing, tossing and retyping a letter. This letter. This letter to you, Stella, or to me, or to some other cad out there in the world who is amused by my attempt at a thank you. I want to invite you to the book signing, but I can’t decide whether doing so is in poor taste. Surely you’ve seen the window displays in the bookstores with my face and name painted, written, etched, into every corner and fold of fabric in the window cases. The bookstore on 29th has a sign out front advertising the event this Saturday. Maybe you’ve seen it. Maybe you’ll show up. The book is about you, after all, and how you loved and left me. I changed our names to protect our innocence, to portray our life together as a work of fiction by exposing it for what it was. But I left out the most important part of our story; it’s the part that came after us—the part I have reserved for this letter to you. And here it is: Dear Stella, had it not been for your loss of faith in me, I would have never amounted to a hill of beans.

The Typewriter

The typewriter was old and heavy—a black metal beast. Its round keys stood tall and firm, annoyed and waiting to be punched. But the typebars were anxious, and the tape didn’t care. The paper glared, empty with promise, daring her to take the risk.

Type something.

She stared back at the paper, then down at the proud keys. The embossed letters on some of the caps were worn but still visible, while others looked like they’d never been touched. She was starting to think that none of them would be touched again, not by her, not tonight.

Type.

A small brief flame lit the cigarette as she sat back in her chair and exhaled the toxic fumes of that euphoric first drag. Cold vodka burned her lips, and the slow sizzle of red hot ash filled her senses as she sucked in another breath of smoke and tar. Her eyes squinted at the paper. Her fingers lightly, nervously, stroked the keys. And then they gave in.

–It was a dark and stormy night.

She sat back and took another drag. Another sip. Looked at the keys, and they looked back unflinchingly. She then pulled out the paper with a zzzuhp, crumpled it, and threw it to the floor, where it reunited with most of the members of its reem.

Another.

Snapped the bar shut. Committed. Imprisoned.

The sound of rushing fingers punching on heavy keys could be heard from the adjacent room. A high pitched ding followed by a shuuhmp repeated again and again, disrupting her. Agitating her. Those fingers were beating her by a mile of strung words.

They were winning.

You just gonna let that other machine beat you, you piece of shit typewriter?

tick     tick     tick     click

yes

She lifted the heavy metal piece of shit typewriter and flung it out of the window. She then settled back into her chair and lit another cigarette. A sinister grin slowly rose as she exhaled that euphoric first drag of smoke and tar.

And the sound of keys punching furiously in the other room was, for one glorious second, blotted out by the crash of a soulless hunk of black metal against the concrete below.