The man sitting behind me is named Frederick, that much I’ve overheard. Over my shoulder I’ve gotten a few solid glances, dark, tousled hair swept away from his face, bold glasses, a flannel shirt underneath a tweed blazer over a small frame, maybe five foot seven, acid washed jeans falling over Chuck Taylors at the cuff. He’s complaining, mostly, about the wait, how long the judge has kept us here, how one would think that they’d be prepared, and with no other cases. You’d think they’d be prepared to quickly pick juries by now, he says. The man next to him nods, huffs, his name I’m not sure of. I’ve decided that it’s Steve. Steve I haven’t turned to see but his voice is gruff, casual, the tone suggesting a stalk of wheat wedged between his teeth. A farmer, I think. An Iowan all his life. At one point he studied to be an architect at the University of Wisconsin, leaving everything behind to try and escape his family’s moderately successful cattle farming operation. He never saw graduation. Sometimes in college he sat in bars and drank with his friends and the more he drank the more he’d smell the farm, the wet barn stench of a rainy Iowan spring, and every time he’d think of leaving and going straight to the drafting boards and computers in the architecture lab, plugging as many hours as he could into his degree. Happened every single time. But someone would tell the right joke at the right moment, promise the right story or send the right beer down to his end of the bar, a dank and humid establishment with notches in the counter and carvings, men trying to leave their mark, say anything to anyone. He’d trace them over with his finger and think of leaving the bar, the farm, and that smell was never enough to make him think of leaving. And so he stayed, and when he came back home he stayed for good. He doesn’t say any of this, but I know Steve. Just happy to be gettin’ away from work, he says. Frederick starts to talk about his work, computer programming. Steve listens politely, saying nothing, chuckling when appropriate. Frederick details his college experience, the difficulty he had finding a parking spot, the work he’s missing. The book in my lap holds my attention for all of a second. The young girl next to me with chestnut hair has notes on her knees headlined “Thrombosis”. Blood clots, circulatory system. A med student. She’s attractive, but not intimidating, wearing an understated green sweatshirt with a V-neck over a white tee, modest cleavage, jeans that highlight her legs and hips. There’s a second when I think of saying something, starting conversation, and then I wonder if she’s tired of dealing with that, if men notice her on the medical campus. I see her walking through the biology building, working an internship, her male co-workers being careful not to flirt too overtly but offering to help her with every difficult procedure, doing
The kickstand of the bike came down in an inch-deep puddle on slippery ground, too slippery for my liking, but every repositioning within the parking spot met with the same result. Taking my helmet and gloves off made the rain feel different, just an enveloping, dull brand of cold and splotches on a visor at highway speeds, now pointed and direct on my hands, like it’d soaked them so long that the skin was brittle enough to break with quick, pinprick incisions. My father and my friend found their way to me, having not seen the same spot and parking together, farther away, now glad for it seeing the proud BMW packed to the gills standing, stranded, at the center of a small pond. The three of us stood there for a second, glancing over my bike’s positioning, holding out our hands and turning our eyes upward, sighing as we turned away. Each of us was wearing our impermeable, or semi-impermeable in my father’s case, rain suits, that let in as much rain as they did air, which is to say none, and our suits were shifting and sliding over a thick layer of sweat. We stood waiting to cross a street, adjusting our sleeves, wiggling our feet to recover some sense of feeling and combat the tributaries down our heels to the lakes at our toes. Stepping into the crosswalk the rain felt more severe and all-encompassing, the puddles and the noise from the car tires and the splashes making it more and more present and invasive. As we crossed we saw the sidewalk swarming with colored ponchos and umbrellas, everything from excited grins to deep, unending grimaces, pouting, unhappy children and adults alike, with one or two tiny girls with pastel rain boots leaping into puddles and squealing as their parents recoiled at their titanic splashing. There was a railing at the edge of the sidewalk that we approached, and looking over we saw Niagara Falls. My father spoke first, “Wow.” Then a pause. A sigh from my friend Dan and then another, longer pause. Then me, turning to my father and laughing, “Never had to pee so bad in my whole life.” The joke was planned from the moment that we’d decided to stop at Niagara, a moment that sprung up quickly in my imagination when three boys on motorcycles would look over the falls, awestruck, bound in place by just how much was being pulled downward. My father asked, not laughing, “Gotta pee?” “Ya know? All the water?” Then a pause. “But, yeah, kinda.” And he mustered a chuckle, saying,
Ridiculous instances are my inspiration,close calls reeling kisses blown at yellow lights,I toil with truth tursting too much in its vision,fighting over nothing I live for the fights.Instigate sight my strife inside sighs bored,windows to the soul bore lazily pastthe past enters beast's future manly endeavors,eyes rave with power but always crave more.While raging citizens buy into the pursuit of apathy,children grovel for a better tomorrow,totalitarians tremor and bow to babies in baskets,good samaritans wallow in mortal sins and sorrow.Overweight pedestrians stradling rockets of crotch, the vibrations vicariously leave me asunder,and desensitize, I can smell your perception,refreshing immaturity beckons to step it up a notch.
Dreams "I can't make it today," he says. It is six in the morning here but probably a more reasonable hour wherever he's calling from. What was it again? Ohio? Oregon? I've lost track. I usually do, because it doesn't really matter where they are. When they're away they're just away. When I was younger I used to think of away it as a place in its own right. If anyone asked I'd say it decisively, the way you'd say "the store" or "grandma's house," my parents went "away." It doesn't matter which of the 50 states they are speaking in, they could be as close as Indiana, or central Illinois, he still wouldn't come home for anything less important than the big game. I guess part of me knew that, even when he promised to get in a day early. I console myself with the fact that he'll be here tomorrow at least. Only for a few hours though, that's all he can spare. He'll be off again as soon as it's over, "Sorry about this, Johnny.""It's fine" I tell him. "I've got a lot of homework anyway, we probably wouldn't even have time to hang out.""Mmhmm," he murmurs absently. I can hear the scratch of a pen and picture the yellow legal pad in front of him. When he does come home they're strewn all around the house and the wastebaskets fill with crumpled yellow pages. Sometimes I don't empty them for weeks. There is a long silence from his end. "Well," I say finally, "I'd better get ready for school.""Right," he says, sounding a little confused, as if he's forgotten who he's talking to. The scratching intensifies, then stops. "Right," he says again, with more confidence this time. "You do that, wouldn't want to be late. You should get into the habit of being on time to everything Johnny, it makes a good first impression, and first impressions are vital.""Yes sir," I say."See you soon!" he booms heartily. There is a click, then the dial tone. It's disconcerting how he never says goodbye. Kim is waiting for me at my locker. There is still 20 minutes before first period so we go and have coffee in the cafeteria. She babbles on and on about homecoming. I couldn't care less what we do or who we go with but these things are very important to her. She asks for my opinion and when I have none to give she gets mad at me and stalks off. Guess I know what I'll be doing seventh period. We've been fighting about stupid shit like this all week. I don't understand what I'm doing wrong. Morning classes pass in a dull haze. At lunch I sit with Nate and some guys from the team. They talk about girls and call each other fags. I take out my own yellow legal pad and sketch out some plays. I have to be prepared. Have to be brilliant. I try to show Zach and Chris but they tell me to save it for practice. I tell Nate halfheartedly about my latest tiff with Kim but neither of us is too interested in the subject, by now its old news. Th
Here is a playful little poem about not wanting to wake up.
tendered flesh where your
found my skin—
[jaw lines, joints, appendages twixt]
indistinct regret as my
turnt my chin.
reminiscent of your essence,
everpresent in all my recollections
seeps between discretion.
you linger like a dream
lining my subconscious,
you stick to my clothes—
[jeans dirtied, hair tousled]
you re-emerge in inhalation and contemplation;
disrupt the surface with ease.
the smudges left,
the rubber burnt,
the charcoal scent stains
in a chest pit;
fueled with every
the skin-to-skin sensation
and each beat accelerated—
a feather-lined stomach
wont to sway in anticipation
stays its state
as if it were expected.
and to lie beside
is more than welcoming,
to sit with a firelit
until the morning; tempting.
loyal like a dog,
loyal to a fault,
knuckles colliding with wood, fissures of relief. short-lived and the complication is raw: tangled, knotted, red, like this fist. like this fucking sorry heart.the friction rises, flesh inflamed; slowly purpled as a sunset, slowly darkened like my horizon, the future splayed. I reel, surreal, come down I spill and fall. fool. and you wonder why it frayed.juxtaposed and incongruent; I've tried to sate this expectation. he sits in a ribbed cavern, purging out into this hole and I thought it had been sweetness, swore it was a medicine. it rots, allergic to this imitation: this. this. affirmation, all my second plans, all the fall-back-never-should-couldn't-be is left. disappointment seeps, softens all the skin until a simple breath can bruise. a simple fucking implication wounds.you will laugh and I will too, the salted streaks. you will roll your eyes at me and I will rub them until they bleed.
and you, you're a magnetism;
tether-taut, heartstrings complected in a
coupling of locution, though obscured,
a saccharine guarantee
and I, I'm a zephyr;
wafting on your subtle exhalation
twined with words writ of softened breath,
of auditory emotion undulated
that stirs a flutter long inanimate.
just a lid, slow-motion shut
screams of contentment, of don't-stop-the-texture,
of fingertip elicitation
and I'm-your-translator skin
and we, we're twixt like vines;
our lips, exploratory, saltate forth & fro
ebbing as a tide, nudging in & out like curiosity.
a snag of brevity made a series,
once interlocked & mortise-made
renders the senses electric
& our lungs, our nerves,
our neck-hairs & fingertips
This piece is a collaboration between myself and the XRIVO Writing Interns. Each of them were given the same introductory paragraphs and told to creatively interpret them. They could do whatever they wanted, whether it was to completely rewrite the paragraphs or simply continue with the story. Each of them have a different focus when it comes to writing - from poetry to journalism - and they interpreted the initial paragraphs with that skill-set in mind. The result is a rather fun collaboration of the different directions a single story can take when multiple perspectives are brought in.
Watch, where you’re going!” you sneer at me and move on with your nose up.
“sorry…” I mumble back, picking up my books
Actually you ran into me. I was standing at my locker, not like you even care.
You see me in the halls every day; I sit in the desk behind you in history, and have a locker down the hall from you.
Do you know I’m homeless?
My dad, brother, sister and I stay in abandoned buildings. Our family didn’t split up when we lost our house, and I think it’s better that way. It still feels a little like home because we somehow manage to have a few rules existing.
The rules are simply: go to school as much as you can and don’t fight or get arrested.
Before we were evicted we were a proper “use-a-napkin and write-your-thank-you-letters” kind of family.
But that was before dad was considered a disposable part of the company. That was before all the bills and their ever-so-pleasant collectors. That was before the power was cut and our tap ran dry, and a nice blue paper was nailed to our door.
Don’t think this all happened overnight, oh no, this was a prolonged suffering. My dad fought every step of the way, “just some more time” he’d say. Oh dad, why would time make an exception for us?
That gave me time to prepare though.
Step 1: Go through the stages of grief and then accept the fact that you’re moving into a new sort of residence (probably a refrigerator box)
Step 2: Practice. To get what you need you are going to have to steal, lie and beg. No need to dance around it. Homeless people tend to acquire sticky fingers. I wasn’t always a thief though, but you reach a certain breaking point. Like when that blanket in the store is so soft and warm and the temperature is dropping outside. 44 degrees… 37… 33… and there’s your breaking point. So people should check their pockets when they walk past me, and pat me down at every store exit, but they don’t.
Still, stores are only good to an extent. Homes are the real bonanza.
Breaking into houses is best during the day when most are at work. Usually it takes a little patience and surveillance. Now contrary to popular belief, we aren’t about to break into your house and rob you blind. That would put you and the police on red alert and it would have been a one-time thing. No. We are subtle. We’ll observe the house: When do the adults leave for work? The kids for school? Are there security codes? A dog? We need to get to know you in order for you to be the “hosting” family. We don’t take everything, just some crackers in the back of your pantry, a blanket from the bottom of the linen closet, and the shirt that you never wear. Nothing big enough to notice, just the stuff you forgot about already. We’ll stay with you for maybe a month or two, and then leave. You’ll never even realize we were there.
Those are the days I miss school.
And although I may have stolen many things, I still have a conscience and I won’t forget those I’ve taken from. I made a list of all the names (taken from IDs)