More writings [Writing]

I'm on a publishing kick.  Funny, because I work at a publishing company!  Ha Ha Ha!!!!1111one!

This is a short story.  It's not finished.  But I think that's part of the charm.

To answer your inevitable questions:

1.  No, it's not about me, although there are bits and pieces of me in the story.  How could there not be?
2.  It's not as hopeless as it sounds.
3.  I can't really make risotto.

Something reeks of repression.  Heavy curtains of muffling wool settle lethargically against the window trim.  I could move them, look outside, see what could be making that noise, but I don't.  I tell myself it's just because I'd rather imagine than spoil the surprise, that schrodinger and his cats would be proud.  The curtains know differently.

It sounds like someone is cutting down a tree with a chainsaw, but it's too quiet and yet very present.  Could there be an animal outside?  None that sound quite like that, and at noon in summer in a crowded neighborhood, I doubt the poor critter would stick around long enough to try.  Here, I'll lift my arm, force my hand to draw the curtains to one side.

Or not.  A breeze tries to ruffle the curtains but succeeds only in producing a long, low sigh as barely lifted it falls back into place.  I hear a car out by the road.  It's saturday, and not many people are out and about.  If I had to guess, I would say this one was a sedan.  Two 30-something adults in the front seat of assorted genders.  It doesn't sound like the back seat is full.  The vibration seems too light, too carefree to be carrying baggage.

I should go do my errands.  There's no food in the house, and no clean dishes.  I can smell the mold from last month's leaky roof all the way from the bedroom.  I feel the air change temperature against my cheek.  Another breeze.  This one can't seem to move the curtain at all.

Silence.  Peace.  Mist.  Now I'm in the kitchen, hot water running over my palms as I soap down each cold metal dish.  Red and green and orange crusts of dinners past flow downwards into the drain, caught by a piece of paper towel I've fashioned for this purpose.  Success.  The soap soothes at it cleans, leaving my hands red, cracked and dry with accomplishment.  Surveying my work, I notice a face in the window across the street.  A thin man, graying hair, not looking at me, cleaning his own dishes.  his loneliness speaks to me, and I feel sympathy for the middle-aged the world over.  To get halfway through life only to realize that happiness and love are not cumulative must crush one's spirit.  I am inspired to pity and to tears.

Calm.  Motion.  Confusion.  I am on the bus, reusable fabric grocery bags in hand.  A list of ingredients plays itself on infinite repeat in my skull:

fresh bread
chicken stock
air freshener

Tonight my lover will be a saucepan of risotto.  I already have the cheese.  Dinner for two:  myself, and my mind.  Someone once told me that I spend too much time "in my head," whatever that means, so I thought about it, loosened up, and now I only eat meals with my thoughts.

A woman is sitting near me, poised for nothing and ready for everything.  Her read hair drapes down below the top of the seat.  Two seats up, one to the left.  I wonder where she's going and how heavy her curtains are.  She gets off two stops before me, smiling at the bus driver and barely clutching a purse woven from discarded gum wrappers.  Laura, I name her.  I would have invited her to dinner if she had gotten off at my stop, I tell myself.  That makes the loss of her red hair easier.  I stand up, smile at the driver, and step off the bus.  Fresh bread, mushrooms, chicken stock, rice, wine, air freshener.  And a pack of Parliaments.  I'll find a lighter later.

We survive because of food, but risotto doesn't exist in the wild.  Native Americans, the Masai, and the Sumerians all did without, and they lived full lives anyway.  Perhaps theirs were empty lives, though.  No one should be deprived of this dish, this delicately crafted amalgam of alcohol, smokiness, and grain.  If love were a food, it would be risotto, and mine has learned to love me unconditionally.  Stir, watch, add more liquid.  I lead, but the bubbling saucepan is my dance partner.  Nowhere in me is the capability to create this without the help of a pot of bubbling foodstuffs.

Music wafts in from the living room, indie/reggae melding with cooking mushrooms, reminding me of phosphorescent clouds and created worlds at some festival or another in the hills of New York.  I can't even recall when that could have been, or why I was there, only that my soul was moved enough to try to learn more about itself.  The real delusion is expecting a drug to fix something you don't think is broken.  Shiitakes replace psilocybin.

Sleep.  I leave the window open to let in the cool night air.  Even in summer, Brooklyn is comfortable.  I think some would call me crazy, but I like to reserve that self-description for more flagrant differences of opinions.  My body's issue with my mind, for instance.  They both think the other is insane--but they're both wrong, and too stubborn to admit it.  Tonight, it's my brain's fault:

Body:  It's time for bed.  I'm closing the eyes now.
Brain:  Hey, wait a minute, I just need to finish this.
Body:  Listen, you're always dishing out some excuse.  Take a break, and we can both work on it in the morning.
Brain:  Why don't you want me to succeed?
Body:  Not this again.  We've been over this.  There's a time and a place for everything, and right now it's late and we're in bed.
Brain:  Fuck you.  I miss the way things used to be.
Body:  Why do you have to act like that?  You know I love you.  Plus, where else can you go?  We just need to find a good compromise.
Body:  Brain?  Are you OK?
Brain:...Goodnight, Body.
Body:  Goodnight, Brain.  I love you, Brain.
Brain:  I know you do.

Morning.  that noise, the chainsaw, is still right outside the window.  Leaves and trash are whipping down the street.  I smell the faint damp smell of light rain on warm pavement.  Time to get up.  The curtains are unperturbed by the storm building outside.  Pitterpatter.  Splash.  A car slides by on slick rubber, insulated from the chill of rain and wind.

Time to get up.

I assume the sun continued to rise.  My immobile body sweats through and glues me to the blue cotton sheets on the bed.  Now I'm committed to this, I think, as the clock int he hallway counts off the moments I am wasting.  Lazy Sunday, I say, but the excuse sounds thin, fake, false.  I want to reach for the glass of water near the bed that I placed there last night, but when my mind looks for the impetus, it finds only a river of distractions and envy.  My mother has Parkinson's disease.  I remember the first day she called me, unable to get up out of bed and crying, scared and stuck in her too-young body.  I cried with her, out of empathy and out of fear that my mother may have slipped away from me while I wasn't looking.  I don't have Parkinson's disease, so what's my excuse?

In a way, all our bodies begin decaying the moment we are born--even as we grow out of infancy, through toddlerhood, and onward towards adolescence our bodies are accumulating toxins and making plans for us without our knowledge.  I tell myself that this grand conspiracy of flesh is only one way to see it, that my body is mine to control until it isn't, that my best years are still ahead of me.  I don't think I believe myself.

Brain:  Prove me wrong, body!  Come on, I need you now!
Body:  NOW you come crawling back!  Why should I let you into my heart again?
Brain:  Because Sam needs us--don't do this for me, do it for him.
Body:  Alright, but understand that I'm still upset with you.
Brain:  We can talk about it later.  Now get up!

Shower.  Clothes.  these things seem so basic yet entirely out of reach, and then suddenly, they're done  My shirt even matches my eyes.  Success feels like a lukewarm cup of coffee.  All the elements are there, but if only the context were a bit different.  I stand at the counter while my bread toasts.  The gray-haired man is at his window again.  The loneliness returns.  His loneliness.  I wonder if he's happy, if his life has been interesting, whether he's visited Europe.  He looks like he would enjoy Paris, or Barcelona.  He would probably not like London.

Work.  Clickity clack goes the keyboard.  New words and numbers appear on the screen and old ones disappear, endlessly.  Data changes places delicately on smooth platters of magnetized metal.  I dream of a moment when someone will have a nervous breakdown after realizing the fragility of this digital world.  It seems that we refuse to acknowledge the tenuous nature of data storage and electronically controlled machinery.  The headline would read:

"Big Magnet Destroys World.  No One Injured"

Suicides would follow.  Money, meaningless.  Cars, trains all non-functional.  No electricity, television, or credit cards.  My stove runs on gas, not binary.  I'd still have a way to cook my risotto, once the grocery store riots ended.

And then I imagine people after such a catastrophe, all frozen in place, waiting for instruction.  no alarms or digital organizers, traffic lights or news reports.  Hands held in midair parallel to the ground, hailing taxis that will never come.  Staring unfocused at a dark computer screen.  Hopeless, paralyzed, and confused, the world would grind to a halt.

It's thoughts like this that make me realize something's wrong.  The small uncomfortable smile creeps across my face, alerting me of this fact.  My fingers stop their incessant clatter.  I become aware of the sheer volume of noise in the office--countless keyboards, ringing phones, now and then a copier warming up, and the chatter of dozens of voices, droning on about this and that, never really saying anything.  My ears are full.  The weight of the noise starts to press on my temples.  Panic.  I am being pushed into myself, trapped, forced to tune into the millions of miniscule details that normal people deal with every day.  I feel nauseous.  I make it to the bathroom, shut the door behind me, and vomit.  All I hear in the stall is the gentle massage of the ventilation system.  I close the lid of the toilet, flush my panic, sit down on the closed seat and close the door to the stall.  My skin feels prickly, like I've been running outside during the winter and I'm just about to start sweating.  Eyesight blurry, I disappear inside my tears.

I read somewhere that the self is like a swinging door.  When a person breathes, there is no "I," no world, only a swinging door.  I guess that's a way for a newcomer to understand the contradictions of Zen.  it's also my mantra for putting up with myself.  Actually, I'm not sure what that means.  I guess it implies balance and the cyclical nature of the universe.  Whatever it is we lost on the exhale will be riding back in on the next inhale.  It's that sort of organized hope that always gets me into trouble.

I haven't been back to work in three days.  I've called in sick each day, knowing that if I went I would just end up on the tiled floor of the bathroom stall, panicky and confused.  In front of me are a glass pipe and a lighter.  one hand reaches for the pipe, another gropes for the plastic lighter.  Flick.  Inhale.  Hold.  Exhale.  Repeat.  I calm myself with organic, locally grown marijuana because we must all do our part to save the environment.  My shoulders lift and I'm floating above the world, lightly tethered to my sob-wracked body.  I don't think pot can fix me tonight.  On second thought, what needs fixing?


Debra said...

I like it. I like it a lot.

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A blog about social change, written from Brooklyn, New York. Currently looking for contributors.