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.

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.

Yellow

What do you mean, you don’t see September?

I mean yellow is April, or it’s June. Depends on the hue.

And it’s an hour?

From 4 to 5 o’clock every afternoon.

It’s a little smokey in here.

You think?

I don’t know, man. That’s some crazy shit. Like, I can’t even think where September is on the map right now, let alone what the fuck color it is.

You’re all fucking idiots. A) September isn’t an hour, it’s a year—last year—and B) it’s yellow.

Knock knock.

Did you invite someone?

Nah, you?

Nuh-uh.

You gonna get it?

No.

Knock knock.

Who you think it is?

Pizza guy.

No, man, we ate that an hour ago.

Well fuck if I know.

Knock knock.

You gonna get it?

Yeah, I guess.

(The door opens. A blue man stands in the doorway.)

Can I help you?

No, you’ve done enough already.

(The man yanks him out of the apartment and slams the door.)

Holy shit!

(His voice squeaks as he stashes the pipe behind the lamp.) What just happened?

Well open the door and look, dipshits! (He gets up and opens the door, looks around outside, then steps back in the apartment and shuts the door.) No one’s there. (He sits back down,)

Should we call someone?

I say we go find him.

No way, man. I’m not going near that fucking door.

Idiots. (He says to himself as he gets up and walks to the kitchen.)

Knock knock.

Shhh! Fuck! (He whispers.)

Knock knock. (Louder.)

I’ll get it, big babies. Someone’s playing a joke. (He walks from the kitchen to the door and turns the knob.)

(A blue man stands in the doorway, grabs him by the shoulder, then pulls him out and slams the door.)

(Crying.) Nu-uh! (He runs to the bedroom and opens the door. A blue man stands in the doorway, grabs his arm, yanks him in, then locks the door.)

I told those motherfuckers it wasn’t yellow. (He waves off the smoke and reaches for the pipe.)

a moment

Her head tilts back—a swan setting its eyes on the sun and giving in to the weight of its own neck. She is putty, malleable body and soul, and he knows how to shape her every curve.

~ ~ ~ ~

Her eyes open suddenly to the sound of prudence, and she shakes off the fantasy as her heart disappears inside itself.

The Affair

Sleep was her drug, her anesthetic. Sometimes dreams slipped in, at times returning her to better days when her heart beat with delight, when he loved her and she loved him and their souls rose from their distant bodies and met secretly above the chaos—their thoughts woven in a constant embrace. She was every word that flowed through his fingers and the nectar that dripped from his pen. She lapped the juices he prepared for her and left the paper dry, and to him she wrote songs of the sweet blood that he nourished within her veins. They fed each other and dined insatiably until their eyes met in a swift climactic and terrifying moment that made them flee in fear of a single touch. Their desire would have consumed the both of them whole.

The relief of her unconsciousness was short and always preceded a painful awakening to a constricted airway and knife handles protruding from her chest. Every bone ached and cried for sleep to reclaim her. But more often than not, sleep evaded her, maliciously exposing her to an unending hell of a tortured mind left to the cruel devices of a long, dark night.