[I wrote this years ago after attending a writing conference. I can't say where the inspiration came from, but I just wrote and wrote and this came out. Also, my penchant for cussing tends to come out in this piece, and while I'd edit it out, it would feel a bit fabricated. It currently sits as a nice reminder that, while characters may certainly cuss in their regular dialogue, it may not fit the mood or direction of a piece.] Night 1 The dim light in the last room of the hallway lights nothing but the light-skinned figure of a lady. She’s but a corpse; skin drawn and dry, eyes shallow and shady, cheekbones that jut like crooked mountains, face with simply the expression of no feeling. They all appear like that, she’s nothing special. She’s just another one of the useless brain-dead bodies of a person who used-to-be. Patients with a family that had too much patience to realize the predictability of a failure; they just kept pouring money into a project of revival that was destined to fold. Pennies and dollars that could prove worth for the surviving, but had been chosen to uselessly preserve the dead.“Fools,” he mutters. “Just let her die.”He has worked at the hospital for close to fifteen years, never rising in station, nor declining, but then, what is there to fall to? He was only a janitor: a simple, isolated, uneducated twit who couldn’t accomplish a thing outside the obligations of his work. What was there to accomplish anyway? Being a janitor for fifteen years doesn’t exactly grant you many possible avenues of adventure. Nobody noticed anything exciting about him; he was just Tim the Janitor.Working six days a week, nine to ten hours a night left little time for anything else. On the rare days that he had off he would just relax at home and drink a beer, watch some Television, or just sit and brood in his dreams of happiness. Nothing these days, it seemed, grabbed him by the collar and really made him happy.When he first started working at the hospital he was told never to look at the clipboard hanging on the ends of patients’ beds. He was told that not only was it to secure privacy, but it creates a connection between himself and the patient, and strict professionalism and distance from a victim was the best way to avoid any hardships. These hardships being tough decisions made even harder by a direct connection, or holding onto a victim longer than the recommended time because of a false hope created by a relationship. Doctors were hard-asses that at some times looked heartless, but that was far from the truth. Being in such a profession held an obligation of conduct, regardless of what the individual thought.He is not an alcoholic, and neither depressed, he’s just simply existing, nothing radical about his way of life. Unfulfilling, as it was, he still can’t do anything beyond simply living. His life is robotic and strict; schedules never changed.After he finishes emptying the garbage he pulls out a small rag from his cart of cleaning supplies and begins wiping the desks an
To Charles Bukowski
"I haven't shat or pissed in seven years," she tells him, negotiating each word around the Marlboro.
Because he doesn't know what else to say, Isaiah asks, "Haven't you seen a doctor about that?"
"Of course." Her words fall out white clouds against an off-white carpet and light cream plaster walls. The air is a stinking thick haze of tobacco smoke. There are only a handful of boxes next to them; they sit on the only pieces of furniture he can see, two metal folding chairs. The room is bare.
"If you don't shit or piss for a week the body poisons itself -- drowns in its own filth," she says. "The doctors said there was nothing wrong with me. One or two actually went as far as to say I was lying. But I haven't defecated or urinated for about the last quarter of my life."
"That must be uncomfortable," Isaiah says, his desire to fuck her quickly subsiding with this new bit of information, thus he had no reason to stay. He'd made his delivery -- the last that evening -- a thirty-six pack of downy toilet paper, to one Beatrice Smith who, despite his usual gamut of old ladies and stay-at-home moms, turned out to be an attractive young woman, shorts tight enough to count her change at a glance and a tight white T-shirt thin enough to see the absence of a bra. Her hair was tied back in a red bandana. When she turned to get him the money and a drink he decided she had the best ass he'd seen in months. So they sat down for drinks, he a beer and she a Long Island iced tea. Then she told him she hadn't shat in seven years.
Kill the beer and go, he thinks. Bitch is crazy. Still. "So, why order the largest and most expensive package of toilet paper?" he asks indicating the behemoth sitting next to him.
She shrugs. "Entertaining guests. I've made a rule, you see. Once I've run through three of these I move. That usually takes about a year of entertaining guests, boyfriends and whoever else walks in."
"So," Isaiah says, "you have a certain threshold of shit you take before you move."
The wind blows, the apartment groans and the rain slaps the window at the termination of freezing, forming a sliding layer of ice on the glass. It looks like the whole world is melting.
"Want another drink?" Beatrice asks.
"Yeah," Isaiah says before he realizes he's handing her his empty. He calls to her after she disappears into the kitchen. "So, how long have you been doing the one-year-and-then-move thing?"
"Since your problems started?"
"Since my problems started?" she says and it sounds like she's telling the punchline of a dirty joke. "My problems started a long time before that."
She reemerges from the kitchen, hands him his beer, sits down and gets to work on a martini. "
I happen to love this exercise. Type for a pre-determined amount of time assuming you have no backspace key and your fingers will catch on fire the second you stop. This is what two minutes in my head looks like: The road isn't what I was missing. Close. not quite. Something that moves, sure, but not quite a motorcycle. Music does so much to my brain. Perpetually confused. Perpetually lacking in courage. music solves both. Courage. The great ones had the courage to move the way they wanted. Presented the fundamental threads their own way. universal audience. Found the rhythms that reached them and hurled them in every direction. Ultimate courage, facing everyone's response. Intensely personal. Trust. They trusted something. Ultimate courage, ultimate faith: That not only does one person's voice matter but that MINE matters, and that I'm accountable for its dispersal. Horrifying concept. Irrational. But only irrational because of personal effacement and sense of personal weakness, not genuine lack of worth. In which case, self-effacement is irrational. Self-hatred, irrational. Self-destruction, irrational. Self-deprecation, irrational. If worth is unknown, but depends on participation multiplied by an individual's self-concept, then to willingly nullify either variable with zero is an irrational act, and ultimately ineffecient.Participation X Self-concept = Personal well-being, feeling of self-worth and satisfaction(P) X (S) = Value (personal)Participation without self-affection is worthless. Self-concept with validation is groundless. No value without either. Either can be nullified by zero. MUST attempt. MUST believe yourself worthy of the attempt. Must fail.
She tiptoed quietly across the glassy, wet pavement in front of her home. She quickly stopped as she heard the sound of her front door. Breathing softly and quietly as she could, she turned around and saw a man stick his head out of the door, look around and re-enter the home. She looked down towards the street with a sigh of relief. She saw a pale, skinny girl, whose straight brown and hot pink hair slipped down into her tear-stained eyes. This couldn't be her, but it was. This was what she had done to herself. She looked up and continued to walk. Her walking slowly becoming faster, more hurried. Her phone rang and she slid her small hand into her pocket, pressing a button and answering it.
-"Hello?" No response.
Suddenly, whoever was on the other end began to softly cry.
-"I knew you wouldn't answer. It seems crazy, but I thought that if I heard your voice, you'd come back to me."
-"Jack?! Jack! I'm here! I'm fine!"
-"Your dad keeps looking for you. Everytime he hears a noise, he checks."
-"JACK! Why can't you hear me?! I'm here!"
-"I can't sleep anymore, baby, I need you here. I guess I'll never see you again. Some wishes don't come true. Besides at the funeral, I'll never see your eyes again. I love you always."
Her phone hit the cold, hard ground as she dropped to her knees. She really did it, this time...
A draft of an idea that I've been playing with for a while about a guy who wakes up to have his world rocked a little bit, and then a whole lot, both times because of a young lady.
like a wave
end over end over
throat knots and
she/ her/ you know,
nouns and adjectives.
could you believe it
still turns my stomach?
quickens the beat of bitter
and ripens resentment;
it doesn't matter,
(I've always been heavily influenced by latin magical realism, but it's a hard form to write. I always end up tying myself back to reason and force my stuff to obey unnecessary rules. This is one where I deliberately forced myself to be non-linear and a bit stranger, and I'm fond of the result. Hope you like it!)
Every seat on the bus is taken and much of the space a person could stand in is filled by something that perspires. There are hands running through hair and gathering wetness, brushing the damp bangs from in front of faces. Mothers, sons, daughters, the occasional father, they’re fanning themselves with whatever papers they have, slow as they can, to draw out every ounce of the cool from the heat that hangs around each of us.
20 minutes ago everyone on the bus was milling around in the lobby of the University of Iowa’s main theater, Hancher Auditorium, trying to navigate crowds and lines and follow signs telling us where we might go to begin the process of freshman orientation. My mother and I had snuck in the side door and I watched, from outside the largest throng of people, the parents with proud, nervous smiles and the prospective students with jittering insides. My step carried a swagger, my hands resting in my pockets, the right corner of my mouth turned up slightly with eyes half-closed to create an all-knowing smirk. But the hands in my pockets had torn apart an old receipt in a fit of nerves and my walk was slow to calm my heartbeat. The swagger didn’t exist for my sake, but for the sake of the several hundred girls my age that, at least from my perspective, encompassed most of what was interesting about the scene.
On the bus there’s a smaller group than there was then and I can overhear most of their conversation. Conversational zones insulate the bus, no one ready to expand out of the immediate, comfortable interaction their families and friends can offer. A boy gets frustrated with his mom for trying to fix his hair, a bit mussed in the heat of summer. In response, she’s wise enough to smile, enough to see her days in his.
2 hours from now I’ll be sitting in a conference room being told what I should expect from my college experience.
The future CEOS, the astronauts, the authors and the entrepreneurs, those are what I see. There are people around me who will fulfill their dreams or won’t. I look over the sweating faces and find it difficult to see the academics and the substance abuse and the quick, sudden expansion of worlds and horizons that I’ve come to associate with college. It’s more, I think, that I’m surrounded by futures. And in this moment I choose to look to my right from my spot standing at the left rear of the bus. There’s a girl sitting down at the back that I can see in between the arms of someone grasping at something to brace themselves for the bus and its nauseating swerve. Their arms form an odd, ovular frame around her face and torso that secures my focus.
if you've never worn my boot
don't judge the way it looks
it's been from here
to hell and back
and it still holds my foot.
it's tattered, torn, and shredded;
ripped from seam to seam,
but you'll never wear these boots
If you'd known what they have seen.
From broken hearts
to shattered dreams;
To all the times I'd hurt so badly
I'd only want to scream
To things I've said
and all I'd done wrong;
to all the places
I no longer belong.
To all the people that I had hurt;
I'd take back all that dirt!
But we're only given one pair
to last us through this walk ahead.
So wear 'em proud and do 'em right
or these boots will find you dead.
So, if you've never worn my boot
don't judge the way it looks
it's been from here
to hell and back
and it still holds my foot.
Circular rugs fraying
at the edges, underfoot and
disappearing, ground into smaller and
smaller fibers, the unwashed
flags of exasperated sighs and
prayers gone unanswered tucked underneath the corners
of aging sofas, turned to hide the stains under lounges and dark
bare witness to endless soles and the dry
dust of experience fall off our heels.
Our keepers, timely graces,
last line before the ground we fall to,
rug then wood then dead and dirt
and the strands intertwining in August
and wilting apart by December,
and the place you laid down at midnight
and told her all about freedom
and said something quoted from Tolstoy
and broke yourself and your misery
and your worn, microbial being,
You who forgot what it was to be everywhere,
you who wove away from teh middle in fine, concentric
circling 'round everything,
everything under your feet.