Saturday, October 6, 2012


The rocky pathway crackled under her shoes as she walked beneath the dying trees. The noises ran away to hide in little pockets of sleeping children and snuggle with lint and discarded feelings. A few cars rolled along nearby but out of sight roads. Their roar permeated her ears and sang the song of loneliness.

Every day when she walked home, she passed the tunnel, jutting out of the old rock cliff. It was dark, overgrown, leaking smelly liquid over it's lip like black drool. The tunnel had fallen asleep over the drain pipe, comfortable, and loving, and oozing spitty drool over it's lap.

She looked at her cell phone, which was blank. The walk back from the bus stop to her mom's house lengthened each day. Her legs stretched and tingled as the brisk air whisked through her jeans. She stopped and played with her hair. Living at home was convenient and cheap, but lonely. She rubbed her aching head. The fluorescent lights in her cubicle gave her migraines. The buzzing of the elevators hurt her temples.

She reached in her purse and reached around for her pipe. She desperately craved one of those montages where the protagonist gets high and plays on bumper cars and dances in a daisy field and runs around barefoot and kisses some tall boy with blue eyes.

The movies always show those montages with the girl being quirky and the guy saying things like, "I've never met anyone like you." And it's the best montage and you cry for the protagonists. But they never show the montage a month later when the guy is saying things like, "You're an adult, get out of the bumper cars. Put on some shoes. Learn how to pay a bill and wash your feet for goodness sakes."

In the beginning the audience is like "Oh, she doesn't brush her hair and she mediates in DMVs. She's so goddamn quirky." And the plot escalates and reaches a turning point, then they're like "She doesn't brush her hair and she falls asleep in DMVs. She needs an intervention."

And then the tall boy with blue eyes invariably leaves for someone who understands him better and has her life together and "is attractive because she knows who she is." Despite the fact that the protagonist's inability to understand people and her messy life etcetera had kinda been like super hot initially.

So the protagonist starts drinking and smoking more and she loses her job and she gets a dead end worse office job and she moves out of their apartment and moves back in with her mom. And there is no happy endings or any endings.

The tunnel calls out to her, a soft whisper at first, a gentle verbal inquiry that sounds like her name. She turns and looks at the jutting pipe. Her imagination must have been playing tricks on her. Tunnels couldn't talk. Unless maybe inside the tunnel there was an animal or a person or a baby or a cassette player with a an audio tape of her name. That's ridiculous. The tape player would have run out of batteries.

At home was her bed covered with stuffed animals and her childhood pajamas and boxes of unpacked belongings from their old apartment. There is the family cat sitting in the living room, curled in front of the fire. Her mom would be up in bed, but listening for the front door. There was a bottle of half drank wine in the fridge.

The tunnel whispered, a futile song into the wind. What was the point? There was nothing in the end, just a rock wall. There couldn't have possibly been anything, no light, no air, just darkness. And the beginning was a struggle, a climb, a crawl. The middle was unknown. The ending didn't exist.

Friday, October 5, 2012


It was prematurely dark when I locked my bike up underneath the thick trees. I let my helmet fall from my head and I snapped it around my messenger bag strap, hanging like an awkward flopping canteen or melon  Inside the public pool I flashed my membership card to the guy behind the counter, with an air of confidence I lacked credence to.

Inside the girls' locker room  I undressed in a stall. It was mostly kids my age, giggling and smiling. There were a few moms, attempting to carall the girls into their clothes or suits, whichever they were changing in to. My mom didn't need to come help me get dressed. I was a star, I thought as I struggled to tuck my newly acquired wiry pubic hair up under my black one piece suit.

I rinsed off in the shower and walked out into the pool room. The smell of chlorine sucked up into my nostrils, absorbed into my brain goo, and permeated the stress of reality, comforting me. Kids screamed and ran around me, their barefoot feet slapping against the wet concrete. The lifeguard whistle blew, high and shrieking through the echoing concrete room.

I stood at the edge of the deep end. I felt all eyes on me, even though they were probably none at all. I dove in what I thought was a graceful swan swoop into the cool slurping waters. Around me kids fought with foam noodles and splashed each other. I rolled my closed eyes at that frivolity and swam forward in smooth mechanical strokes.

The cool water rushed through my subconscious, washing away the stress of chess club drama and the boy in band class who made fun of me when my underwear showed above my sagging jeans. I felt at ease, like I was sleeping. I turned my head and took a breath, my lungs filling with cleansing energy.

Kids laughed around me, their screams diluted by the water blanketing my ears. I imagined they were all jealous of my strong swimming abilities, while they played with their friends. I wondered if everyone was in awe of me, too strong of a swimmer to play with others. They teased each other and pulled on each others' suits. They climbed on each others' shoulders and jumped back off into the water, belly flopping in clumsy loud crashes. And I just swam onward in a straight line.

And these kids would have fun and play and be friends and grow up to have families and homes and jobs with coworkers and girlfriends and puppies. And I had some moderate swimming skills. These little kids screaming cannon ball would get married and grow old and hold hands and play in the falling leaves in the fall. I would practice clarinet and read a lot and work on my technique.

Soon I was one with the water, invisible, made of blue chlorine saturated liquid. I swam back and forth in repeated laps, twirling when I got to the end and shoving off the walls with my feet. I wasn't tired. I was translucent and wet and everywhere. I swam faster and faster. Was the lifeguard impressed? Was he worried I would go too quickly and explode the pool? Was he jealous? Did he see me at all?

The sea monster winked at me and I waved back. They were envious. They were oblivious. They were laughing. I was water. They were screaming. I was solitarily everywhere. At the bottom of the pool was a tiny trap door, just big enough for me. I swam towards it. I hadn't been up to breathe in a while.

The kids were getting pizza after and going to the arcade. They were packing up their bags and heading out. It was time to close the pool. They wouldn't invite me. Maybe they were intimidated. Maybe they would be in a book club. Maybe they would join a commune. I opened the door and swam through into a tiny dark room, just bigger than my body. I closed the trap door above me and sat below in the darkness.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Sam had always felt comfortable in a bookshop ever since he was a little boy. He felt like he could hide in there. He loved the walls of stories closing in to create a maze of corridors that could obscure someone among the stacks. He coveted libraries with ceiling high shelves. When Sam was out in open spaces for too long, he felt anxious and desperate for those stacks. He craved the confining tightness of bookshelves with thick old books, heavy with cardstock, burdened with different voices calling out silently throughout the dimly lit yellowy arenas.

The used bookshop by his childhood home was a castle. The stacks stood like guards with their swords in a salute. The shelves tunneled in, as if trumpeters were about to announce the royalty. Sam imagined that the aisles between shelves were like red carpeted pathways leading to the throne, the raised platform of the cashier, who looked over the wooden pedestal from beneath white fine hair and dusty glasses. He himself was a used character from a used book, a storybook king who had already spun his yarn and know sat waiting for the other narratives to wrap it up so he could go to sleep.

Sam had taken Denise to a bookshop as part of their first date. They had gotten coffee and it was uncomfortable and awkward and sweaty, so it had gone pretty well. Sam felt out of place as he escorted Denise down the street, until he saw a bookshop. He suggested they walk through, and she found it charming. Sam found a few things he was looking for and Denise called him the next day to ask him for drinks.

The bookshop on fifth was particularly nice and dusty. Sam loved it and went there once a week, just to browse, on his way to work. The lady behind the counter said it would close soon and that made Sam nostalgic inexplicably. The bookshop on fifth was way older and emptier and less hipster funkified than the one he had taken Denise to. Denise had never come to the one on fifth. Maybe she had without him, with a girlfriend, with her mom when they went out to brunch, but never with him.

When Abigal (he made up a name for the girl behind the counter; it seemed to fit) told him the shop was closing, Sam decided to try to patronize it more, to help them out. Abigail said it was a lost cause. She smiled at him with chapped lips and pet her cat that jumped from the top shelf to her shawled shoulders without misstepping.

Sam asked if he could buy this book he was holding and she said he could just have it.

Denise hadn't bought anything that night of their first date. She was still in the middle of reading something and didn't want to get seduced by a new story and neglect the old one. New things attracted her. She loved figuring out puzzles and riddles. As soon as the plot of a book was obvious, she would speed read through the end so she could start something new, delve into a new world, start a new adventure, struggle to surprise herself.

Sam didn't surprise Denise. He was quiet and mild mannered. They watched television together and sat at coffee shops and worked or read the paper together. They didn't go on walks in the autumn leaves like he had always wanted to, and like she had always wanted to but never told him. They watched movies in the theater. They listened to live music at bars. They filled their ears and brains with everything except the others' words.

The book Sam bought was tiny and green. There was only a black outline of a man taking off one of his shoes on the cover, no title. Sam started reading it as he walked home. He could read while walking. He had a plethora of wonderful qualities.

Denise had curly brown hair and an impish nose and wore 1920's fashion with little bucket hats and pump heeled shoes. She had librarian glasses and spoke eloquently while holding herself with perfect posture. She had used to be a dancer, but she rarely danced anymore. Sam hadn't known. Sometimes when she was home alone, she would put on music and dance until she was sweaty and panting. And then she would button back up her shirts and resume her persona.

The book was full of nonsequittors and short stories that formed a bigger idea that was huge and empty simultaneously. The structure of the writing was so that Sam found it pretentious and then he got used to it and then he liked it. It was like a long narrative poem, a sonnet, a love letter to loneliness.

His shoes grew damp, saturated in the puddles. He wasn't watching where he was going and his pant legs soaked upwards. The streets grew darker, and he squinted, pulling the pages closer to his face, blocking out the world he walked through. The book sang to him, and it was pretty enough to drown out the screaming of the wind and the angry sobbing of the trees, bawling onto the pavement with recycled rain water as tears.

Abigail watched him walk out the door and then checked her watch. She pet her cat and began to count the register. It was time to close up the shop and Sam had been the only person she had spoken to all day. Soon she would forget how to use her vocal chords. Her voice grew smaller daily as it became covered in cobwebs of disuse.

Sam opened up the door to his apartment and poured himself a big cup of milk and a beer. Denise would have found this combination disgusting had she been there, but probably not vocalized it. Sam curled up on the couch, turned on the news, and sat there absorbed in his book, behind the shelves of rain that poured around him life safe bordering walls.