Posts tagged writing
Posts tagged writing
He’d stapled the Patterson report improperly. This his boss tells him in a two-minute dressing down at his cubicle. It isn’t shouting but it isn’t been quiet either. He concedes that yes, it is his biggest client load, if there’s one client to pay attention to it’s that one. He promises never to slack again. One time he’d been a nineteen-year-old. ‘You’re damned right it won’t,’ his boss concludes, stray locks falling from her bob, fanning her forehead into slices. He’d been nineteen with a hundred dollars, or less, in his pocket. Ansell had promised to run away with him. His boss closes her door. She never closes her door unless incurably pissed.
He remembers Ansell as he works the staples out of their incorrect corners. Remembers the brine of his lips, the buckshot freckles between his shoulder blades. They’d make it to the city, they promised to one another. Starve as artists, live forever in the lines of poems and frames of short films. One midnight he parked down the road from where Ansell lived with his parents, as they’d arranged, only Ansell wasn’t there. All the lights off. ‘Eh, it coulda been worse,’ a co-worker confides over the cubicle wall. He’d thrown pebbles at Ansell’s window. ‘A lot worse.’ Tck tck tck. One after another, bounding off the glass. Ansell will open his window, he thought to himself, rooting for more stones in the wet grass. He’ll help me escape. In the break room the coffee pot refuses to turn on. A tightness blooms in his chest.
We’re all of us oceans, kaleidoscopic shells beneath our surface, our depths populated with blind terrors scrabbling over shipwrecks.
And then there was Shay, who took sugar packets from the dispensers at dinner and tore the paper into tiny strips. She bent her soup spoon backwards. She promised me that no matter what, she would be gone by the morning. She asked if that excited me and I said I didn’t know. She asked if it terrified me, and again I wasn’t sure. Maybe she wanted me to be sad at the prospect. Her laugh was bright and so obviously fake that I wanted to stop with the jokes, but how else are you supposed to have a good time?
I offered wine and she took whiskey. By midnight she’d dragged me into my own bed and had me wriggling and shirtless before asking if this was what I wanted. I breathed Yes in a handful of dust.
Only she paused and reminded me that she would leave before dawn. Nails curled and black hesitated on my chest, the thumbs torqued backwards. I told her that that would make me sad, very much so, and I might as well have been laughing with her voice.
'I think it's time to sleep now.' Her voice low, chirruping.
'Not yet. Just a little more time.'
'You'll always want a little more time.'
I woke lightly hungover and tasting iron in the back of my throat. In bed beside me, Shay’s clothes slumped deflated, empty. A baker’s dozen of sparrows flitted about the opposite end of the room. They hopped along my bookshelves and questioned one another in their sparrowspeak. I opened a window with one hand and covered my nakedness with the other, shooing the birds into the frozen morning. All but one took wing, the holdout flitting onto the windowsill. It squeaked once, twice. A third time, high and bright, fake the way a photograph is fake. A featureless simulacrum of the actual.
Then it too turned and sped off, laughing all the while.
The tragedy was, we thought there’d be more time for [blank]. [Blank] was so many things, but each one plugged in just as snuggly. For each one, there simply wasn’t enough time. With more time we might have [blank]ed more, and [blank]ed more, and let ourselves [blank] instead of waiting.
Every creative act is a defiance against the natural laws of the universe. Creating form when all things trend toward dissolution. It’s simple thermodynamics. Artistry as perversion against the inevitability that all matter will one day come to rest, not the barest burst of hydrogen daring to stir in the coldness on eternity’s brim. Writers and musicians, sculptors and dancers, the charcoal-smeared illustrators and grimacing poets, all composing in light of their own decomposition. It’s irony, it’s beauty, it’s tragic corruption! you clamor, wielding the pen as the stars continue to grow more distant.
A black ribbon of thaw runs through the center of the river but the bayous are still frozen. On a blank disc of ice, far from the safety of the reeds on shore, I spied a turkey. Ducks and unseasonal gulls cluster in the open water safety beneath the bridge but the turkey stands alone in the bayou center. The sight of such a bird near open water was itself an odd sight, but to be so far out in the open without so much as a thistle to blend in with. An improper image. A misaligned tooth, a miswoven wicker lattice, a ship’s prow rising from Mohavian sands.
The turkey did not move in the few seconds I could see it. I tried to take a photo but fumbled my phone in one hand and the car wheel in the other. The picture was a charcoal smear, the ice canting the frame beneath a frozen implosion of feathers and beak, a dark matter shrike caught in mid-transcendence. I doubled back for another shot only to find it had since moved on.
an optimist’s guttering candle
'You've got to take each day one at a time,' said the lonely man, believing it. 'Come what may, there are good things in store for you.' A darkness lapped at his ankles like bilge water leaking on a boat.
In a bourbon-and-Coke fuzzed conversation that blossomed into a bar fight, a former friend once accused me of being nothing more than the low-hanging fruit. He meant it only in the sense of me being average, and called me worse things minutes after. But me and my stupid brain, always grasping for the image, always needing to visualize before I conceptualize, struggled to envision that tree. Stately but wide, almost grandfatherly, fleshy baubles swollen from whorls of seeds. Fruits like pears but not quite pears. Not quite anything. And there, fat and spotty, hung me on its lowest branches.
Of course these fruits were all the lives I could have lived, quite literally branching away from the crucial moments when I jigged instead of jagged. One fruit was the person I could have been in the mountain, living on well water and fish wrestled up from out of the icy river, a stack of manuscript pages neat beside a typewriter. Another was the traveler, wiry and baked brown from a thousand miles under foreign suns. Another still a shrewd businessman, a loveless father, a hitchhiking vagabond, a struggling actor with a bleached smile.
I wish I’d reminded this schmuck—who, inside ten minutes of his first insult, would sucker punch me in the ribs and rub my face in the alley mud between the bar dumpsters—that the low-hanging fruit has the shortest distance to drop. As I am now, my stem can snap and I’ll land softly in the summer grass while my imagined selves dash themselves to pulpy bits around me. That’s the lie, the comforting a-ha! I tell myself at night. This was the safe life. I’m safe like this, safe when the stem breaks. I’m safe, I’m safe, I’m safe.
Never acknowledging that that stem will break.
Consider yourself from five years ago. Young and fresh, plucked off the factory floor, plastic in your pristine newness. You think you understand the ways of the world, you say presently, the scars hanging low off you like mats of Spanish moss. You know nothing, you haven’t even fucking lived yet. Keep smiling, kiddo. And how, five years from now, you’ll repeat those very same words, wondering how you could have been so oblivious, so naïve, so blissfully unaware. Consider the world-weariness grinding gritty and thick in your joints and how you’ll never be as young and ignorant again as you are this very moment.