the other day i was reading a piece written by David Sedaris, on the topic of becoming successful as a writer. I'm pretty sure the takeaway is that it's all about luck. He got his start
4th street where a car flew through my porch 12 feet of street level. 4th street full of xenos houses and drug dealers, the sound of the trains never far 4th st where i walk the sidewalks in the rain and the ice and snow and on hot hot nights in the summer time.
4th street I sit on my porch and folks stop buy to offer to mow the yard, shovel the steps, sell me gently used laptops
4th street full of telephone wires and electric lines crossing over and over and screaming drunkards and leftover Christmas lights
4th street i sit on my porch and watch everyone and they never know they never even guess
4th street i listen to your fights on the corners when you walk home from the bars i don't call you names i just let you walk on by
The last time I was in your house before the fire we were watching Top Gun, and it was so hot outside. Your mom’s red hair clung to a picking comb, to keep off her neck. My mom was canning pickle relish so it was no better at my house.
Your house was cloudy with cigarette smoke and your father, sitting on the sofa with his weird accent and his endless stained white tee shirts.
But your brother pulled me into the tractor barn where that old piano had been rotting into horse shit for decades now.
Your brother wanted to show me how his tomato gravy-red shorts perfectly matched his tomato gravy-red balls as though I’d never seen such a thing before.
Your brother always had that way of grabbing my hands, laughing, pulling me under trees and bushes and around corners. I always had this way of making him.
These are all the weird things I think of in the days before the funeral. How I’ll have to face Lily, wondering how much she knew.
Every second of every day I think about you and immediately I have this anger towards you-I’m going to yell at you the moment I see you next and then I remember that you’re dead and it doesn’t matter how I feel about you now and it will never matter how I feel about you and then this choking feeling comes up and up and up because I can’t think of going on any more days without you than I already have. I just smile and remind myself to take really deep breaths
For Lily’s sake I have to remain completely silent. You’ve gotten away with everything until now and fuck I could seriously choke the life out of you while making eye contact right this minute. But then again. There’s no point. There’s no you to choke the life out of.
Every time I get into your car--
How many more times until it doesn’t smell like you anymore?
Every time I get into your car every little hair stands up one by one one my neck I’m all
In the kitchen by the window I have been standing for hours vacuum sealing all of your dirty clothing into plastic bags because I know I’ll need them later I’ll need your smell later I want to have enough for the rest of my life I place them bag over bag over bag because I need at least 70 pieces of your dirty laundry and even then I’ll have to ration enough for—
These days when I go to spend time with you I go to the first place we ever made eye contact. That would probably make you laugh, since it was after. That crazy grave with the sphere inside and the vines holding it all to the ground, we stood inside and you laughed and said if we were in high school, we’d have to kiss right now and I admitted you were right.
We’re an embarrassing cliché, looking back. But I’m not ashamed. I can never be ashamed, where you come in.
When we first met, do you remember? You were so soft and new I had to let you simmer for years until you were no longer my student. Until you were no longer anybody’s student.
But what I was starting to say is that I can’t go to your grave because standing on top of you I imagine you are looking up my skirt, and then you are being eaten with worms, or you are waxen and see-through. Or you aren’t there at all, you’re just playing a joke.
I can’t stand on you and you would hate your stone, it’s so shiny and new. Once I stretched out all over you and prayed the rain would drown me but I was just being dramatic and of course when the sky was just beginning to lighten I awoke with blue lips and gooseflesh. I had been dreaming I was naked on the floor of a gym shower where the water was cold and I was alone but too scared to get out of the shower. Alone in the shower outside the lockers were dark and everyone had gone home and I thought maybe there was someone waiting for me to get out but I couldn’t be sure.
Lying all over you I imagine the rain softens the dirt that separates us and gradually I sink into the earth until I’m lying right on you, cold, still, just as you are.
Your brother found me here once. He lingered outside the gates, he walked around and around clanging a stick onto the iron fences when I was alone. He walked so slowly I couldn’t breathe in between the clunk of the clunk of the clanging of his stick on the railings, slow and slowly and slower still. When I get home he’ll be outside my windows but I won’t know. I’ll say I’m being silly but when I’m thinking of you late late he’s knocking on the windows.
Lily comes over and crying she asks me if I will help her clean you out. Of course I say but I’m not being a good friend. I’ll bring all of your folded tee shirts here and I’ll vacuum your scent into a bag forever. This makes me a bad person but you can’t just be thrown away. Donated, your scent will be washed away and you’ll be hung piece by piece until everything you have every been flung to the corners of the earth. I can’t have that.
One day your brother will find you, these stacks of you you, hiding in my closet and he will slash every inch of your scent out at once, and he will push my face into all this scent of you and I fight because I want this to last, this scent of you. Your brother will put his strong hands all over and I will beg him to crush out every memory of you but he just laughs. I’ll cry and hope my neck looks white and vulnerable and that it pulses in the shadow, this half light.
Your brother steals every bit of you from my room, he locks me in from outside. At night your brother comes crashing in, one of your shirts stretch to wrap around both of his fists. Your brother comes crashing in and the smell of you obliterates everything else. This is how we’ll choose to live, your brother and I. I want to tell you before anyone else does and then I remember.
Grovery Jay this morning I thought I heard your petulant meow
you were the unloveable
who loved only me
we used to spoon with my hand on your
tummy one leg thrown over my wrist
i knew your disgruntlement
we were two peas
Grover Jay you were pure Steinlen Cat
black black shoulder blades
fur like silk you were my panné velvet cat
Grover Jay you
jumped nine feet in the air
going for that
you were acrobat cat,
terror of 4th Street
Gover Jay we spent more nights together
than the Mr and I
you were far more tolerant
of my snoring
you slept along the ridge of my body
your paw on my shoulder
patting it's okay
you're just like me, too
Groves we thought you were too mean to die
too full of and hatred and vitriol
held together with sinew of misery and evil plans,
you were basement cat with a heart of coal
your heart could break too
and whining all the way is how
you preferred to go one last
naked asshole on one forearm one last
full-paw scratch on the other but I can still feel your warm body
spooning next to mine,
my hand on your tummy,
one leg thrown over my wrist
I can still hear your grumpy meow
just like my voice it sets
I remember this moment:
playing a sonata in piano lesson. I was 7, I imagine. My piano teacher to my right, my mother, just behind me and to the left and I was playing and playing.
I was playing a sonata. Something simple, in C Major, but my hands were flying, my mind was gone
and as I was playing my teacher turned to my mother and i was playing and playing and my teacher said behind my head, quietly as though I couldn't hear, my teacher said to my mother "boy but she can make that piano sing can't she?'
and that's the best I have felt in my life ever.
scene: at a quite bar. an angry, indignant man and a resigned woman.
indignant man: why would you tell you him all of your plans before you told me?
(there's a pause as the woman smokes a cigarette from a holder, breathes for a few beats, takes a deep breath and says all in rush:
Woman: Because he didn't interrupt me when I began the story.
A friend told me to write fiction for an hour a day, and throw out whatever's shitty. Here's effort #1:
Miriam was drifting off to sleep when she showed up to herself, sitting on the bed and smoking a cigarette. the Miriam who was sleeping coughed lightly, and awoke, and beheld the smoking Miriam on the bed. This Miriam was wearing a grey cashmere sweater set with a locket made from a bird’s skull and coated in silver around her neck. The cigarette was, of course, being smoked from a black Bakelite holder with a silver mouthpiece. Fancy Miriam with her cigarette holder shifted her legs onto the bed and revealed a pleated black wool skirt and nude stockings with a black seam down the back. She was wearing cordovan ankle-strapped high-heeled shoes which were either the height of fashion or horribly outdated.
Newly awakened Miriam sat up in bed, and fluffed her pillow behind her. She pulled the comforter close around her and basked in the crinkly sound it made. It was her favorite thing.
Fancy Miriam leaned across Sleepy Miriam to retrieve an antique Nippon teacup which she held in her left hand and with her right forefinger, tapped the ash from her cigarette into it.
Sleepy Miriam scoured Fancy Miriam’s face for wrinkles, because Sleepy Miriam no longer smoked, and she wanted to be sure she would have aged more had she continued smoking. Otherwise, what had been the point.
“MiMi,” said Fancy Miriam, who was probably actually called Mimi in her world, looked around the room, which was full of piles of clothing into which Miriam no longer fit, partially packed into bags with the half-hearted notion of being giving to charity. There was a robust antique mahogany dresser in the room which was empty, and somehow Miriam knew that Mimi knew that it was empty. All of her clothing was stored folded in laundry baskets around the room. If Miriam couldn’t see something, it no longer existed. She had cherished possessions she hadn’t thought of in years, because they were stored in boxes, in the basement, and she had moved them from house to house for 15 years, never opening them.
“Mimi,” said Fancy Miriam, “what is this, seriously. Can I give you a cigarette? I even have an extra holder,” Mimi laughed like an old girlfriend and from nowhere produced an actual alligator bag and Miriam remembers that it took three entire alligators to make one bag, and they cost over $30000. But this Mimi, she was old school, and had probably managed to buy this vintage kiss-lock bag from some hillbilly at a flea market by making him think it was worthless all the while knowing it was a work of art.
From this reptilian-work-of-art handbag, Mimi pulled a matching cigarette case, which she snapped open to reveal a mirror, and a lipstick, and a cigarette holder which snapped together in 3 pieces, and a row of cigarettes held snug with a copper-rimmed alligator strap, and in 30 seconds she’d constructed a masterpiece which she pressed into Miriam’s mouth and then lighted, with a giggle. “We have to make eye contact, when we light cigarettes,” Mimi laughed, “it’s really the only way to beguile.”
And Miriam laughed, and thought about the woman she used to be.