This is the site of her 100 days project--one new fiction every day for 100 days.
Moon hung low over Maria’s, sickly.
We walked slow under branches, prickly.
Love will glow in shadows, thickly,
but put me out now—darling—quickly.
In the time it took Lucas to finish rolling a cigarette (his second), Jane had jiggled the tab of her beer can loose, chanting under her breath A-B-C-D-E-F—F. Fred, Frank, Filip. She wrinkled her nose. But at least it wasn’t G. George. It sunk to the bottom.
Lucas came in from the rain, shaggy, soggy. His hair was blonder than Jane’s but her skin was paler, blue in the neon lights: BE NICE’S. Missing the R. Tacky, he thought. Sad. He hated how much she loved that bar.
“I think the only thing left to do is to put this in someone’s mailbox.” She folded the exquisite corpse into a neat square.
“Two different mailboxes.”
He drained the can expertly and set it down next to hers. He could see the veins in her fingers pulsing under her rings. It was surreal, blood bending metal. It was an illusion. “What a wonderful Saturday morning.”
“I hope they’re neighbors who talk to each other.”
“I hope they’re not.”
“Let’s go. It’s time to go.”
They passed like ghosts under the streetlights. He stepped on her shadow as she skittered up the block, hand over her hat. It rained, a little. They found an apartment complex that was really a row of split houses and she opened the gate with a flourish, draping her arms like Vanna White over the chain link.
“Whatever happened to ladies first?”
“Shh! Shh shh.” Her ring touched her lips and caught the last light. He dragged his laces through the mud and up the concrete steps to the rusted mailbox where he paused for a moment to consider: units A, B, C, or D?
We slipped up marble stairs in bare feet, spilling our laughter down the hallway where it settled, pooled, waited. My high school English teacher said that once the shoes come off, the rest is easy; but what was she talking about then? Could she have known? And what would she say? What would she say of the shallow puddles on the roof that shone in shards of dying sun? And the footprints we stamped across shingles that started out slow, meditated, hesitant, and finished in the same heap—toes like Impressionist petals. And how we flattened ourselves out under the giant canopy sky and watched the stars turn into birds and felt the sun burn our clothes up. Burned up. Burnt up. This is what she would say, from her perch on top of the desk as always: that when we were done with our edge of horizon we jumped to another and the next; that the magic of the night was not lost upon us, no, you caught it in your beard and I held it on my tongue; that we dipped the dawn in our inky pupils and felt it pulse between us, an electric brushstroke. And so we knew the only when was now and the only where was here and we descended from our rooftop heaven down the shadowy stairs where our bodies met, pressed, bloomed from the earth.
We started out politely enough, napkins in laps and small bites prepared by forks. But politeness had no use for us. We, the intemperate—the hot-headed, the stubborn. We clashed in different languages and the others joined in, knives pointed emphatically in air like exclamation marks, like lightning bolts. Passionate. Later they would say we were having a discussion, not a fight. They wouldn’t know the secret delight, the euphoric lightheadedness. But for now we battered the walls with our voices. Shaking the ice to drown your voice out, I walked my drink across the room.
Somebody picked up the guitar again and soon the songs smoothed out the stubborn wrinkles left to hang in the air. Warm wind wafted through the room. Calle Lopez de Hoyos blared from one floor down and cups clinked as more drinks were poured. My skin felt gummy. Your eyes smiled, even then, sun shining after the storm. Tempting. But the alcohol burnt me dry. I emptied my glass, deciding it would be better not to forgive you. More? you asked, bottle in hand. No. I thirsted for more water, more rain, more thunder.
Everything buzzed. The light switch flicked to On set the bulbs blazing and a match started the oven humming and we passed slow electricity from blade to board to bowl as the heat rose to High. Too many cooks in the kitchen. Not enough knives for the chefs.
Everything sizzled. Oil danced along edges of burger patties and the heat made the hairs on my arm perk up, alarmed. You mashed chickpeas in a cup, smiling or singing. I pulled onion skins with my fingernails and rubbed sleepy potato eyes with my thumbs.
In the kitchen, I indulged in daydream: lips pressed to hairline, mothwings in repose. Well. Another: stubble grazed by cheek and lobe. Elbow-jabbed ribs, playful. Fingers trapped in curls. Arm muscles tensing across shoulders—No. Stop. The secret decadences scattered on puffs of steam. I chopped the top off of a pepper and it slipped, tumbled, fell into your cup.
The drive home is quiet, the tempers of June subdued by AC to a tolerable 75. The drive home is bumpy, hell for the minivan’s already-shot suspension and the neck’s bones, C1-7, slumped awkwardly against a headrest.
I wake up on 476, a broken and anemic road that leads to 202—girthy, curvy, smooth, like cherry wood Buddhas on display at the fucking mall and as familiar as the one around my neck. My brother is plugged into his iPod, charging. Dad drives with his left hand and Mom sleeps, or pretends to sleep. We don’t talk. Surprise. We’re a godless family; we trust only the dominion of silence.
The sky has darkened. A mask of clouds gives the illusion of modesty. This ain’t no 11am East Village…12pm Murray Hill, 2pm Madison Square, 3pm Queens. I fucking hate that city. New York, Nueba Yol, Niu Yue—I curse you in every language that will untie these knots shackling my neck, unarm the stares of strange men still stuck to my skin, unbreak my family apart. The clouds gather at their sun, their temple, ready for evening prayers. I hate you. I curse you in the language of cirrus and thunderstorms and wind. For I am bitter.
The drive home is bitter, a lingering taste of sidewalk puddles on the soles of feet. We exit at Great Valley and the clouds blush orange, purple and settle on grey, like inky ghosts that escape the calligrapher’s brush at the fucking Flushing Mall. Horsetails, streaked like whispers across the sky. The lights reflect in Dad’s glasses and he blinks them out of his eyes, tired. And I can’t feel my face anymore, can’t move my dry tongue to spit your curses back out. I stare at the clouds through the window and swallow my bitterness whole.
The window was left open through the night so magnolia petals blew in with the morning sun and I woke up cold, pink and white tongues tickling my bare skin, and for a moment I forgot that the city had gutted my heart and I picked my clothes up from off the floor and watched the light etch out all the unfamiliar angles of you and I remembered how sad I would make you and I remembered how old I’ve become and I remembered how we threw the eggshells in the tulips to rot and the dog trampled everything and I chipped my tooth on the last kiss so I’m glad this is goodbye, anyway.
Inspired by Allison Nadeau.
Sometimes I wake up at night to make sure she’s still there, next to me in a wide ocean of darkness and quiet. In my dreams I feel for her freckles, look for her lines; the familiar crest of her body near mine. We will have drifted, inevitably—arm’s length, but barely. She will have unscratched my shoulders with the points of her nails, unhinged my look with her wintry eyes—I will have unclenched my grasp from her curved back and unkissed her smiling mouth. She will seem so far away in the gloom of night, and I can’t sleep without her.
Inspired by the moons of Jupiter.
The windows start to blur together and your face falls away—a handful of crushed flower petals yellow and orange that blow away in the wind and I have to look away, let the rocking boxcar take me home where I should be, and I plug my ears with music from four years ago that makes me think of the pale pale pastel dust that was left caked in the grooves of my fingerprints after art class yellow and orange and blue and green, and as I sit in the train with the colors crying into my ears I realize I stopped being your favorite song some time ago, and the colors in the window are smearing across my eyes in blue and green and yellow and orange and I thought I could hear them but I can’t and I thought I could see them but I can’t
I see the same people when I come home because I only care about the same people and there are only a few people left back home who are worth putting real clothes on for, anyway, and actually they wouldn’t care if I wasn’t wearing real clothes so it doesn’t matter. When I see her pull up in a red Prius, I decide it’s time for a bra and clean underwear and deodorant because she deserves it. If anyone deserves it, she deserves it. We cruise slowly, waveringly down Swedesford. To someone else she’s polite or elegant or awkward but since I’ve known her for all of this millennium I know it’s probably the product of being noticed and unnoticed for being blond and beautiful in spite of being comfortably white bread and quiet. White-bred white bread. “We Kingans are late bloomers, but when we bloom we become sex flowers.” I don’t think she owned up to her sexiness until college, and only after she was thrown out of the windshield of a car in DC and her body was a sack of broken bones and bruises and I came back from school crying.
Past the shorn cornfields, we talk about this semester’s bad ideas. We want validation and vindication but mostly we just want the other to listen and laugh and shake her head and say “whatever” and not care too much because there are too many people at school who care too much. I notice how thin and white her knuckles are. Her ring is falling off her finger. She’s a nervous driver. Actually no, she’s a bad driver. I’ve witnessed her murder a row of potted tomato plants in Rachel’s driveway and now she’s slowing down to let someone else make a left turn. But I trust her. How can I not? Her nails are perfectly painted green, for the holiday, you know, and she’s wearing a green cardigan as well, and I’m glad that I put on clean panties and pulled my hair up but still, what a fucking pair we make today.