Eaten Words

“I have eaten too many words,” Stephanie said, then proceeded to vomit an entire library across the kitchen floor.  Alan was halfway back from the linen closet before he realized a tea towel wouldn’t un-spill a library.  He dropped the towel where he stood, next to a stack of 700s, and rang a professional.

The librarian answered the phone. He hesitated, then stammered out “Do you, have… you ever tried printing all million pages of Wikipedia?” He couldn’t bring himself to say what just happened, not aloud anyway, that would make it real. The librarian wasn’t amused. She muttered about the importance of expertly verified content and hung-up. If he called back now, told the truth, what were the chances she’d believe a library much like her carefully curated one was vomited up in seconds all over his linoleum floor?
Alan wondered if he could be high? He wondered if there was any way he could go back in time to see if he’d taken drugs that morning? Time travel seemed more real that what had just happened, and that logic itself would have convinced him he had ingested something had he not immediately tripped over several copies of Gulliver’s Travels.
Stephanie was still standing in the kitchen door when Alan hung up the phone, she was wiping the corners of her mouth with her thumbs and looked paler than he’d ever seen her. By the way her body was slowly pitching, he could tell she was getting ready for another wave. There was no way Alan was going to let her vomit in his kitchen again, and fuck it all, if it was another library it wouldn’t fit in there anyway, it’d break out the windows and walls.

The smell of old paper singed Alan’s nostrils with nostalgia, it was overwhelming. His eyes stung and watered; thoughts of hiding his pockmarked teenage face in outdated computing books, trying his best to be invisible.  His emotions couldn’t take it, he had to get out of that kitchen fast, and he had to get Stephanie out of that kitchen before she completely destroyed it.
“Has this ever happened before?” he asked her as he forcefully grabbed her arms and tried to spin her out the kitchen’s back door. They stumbled and kicked at volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica as they went. “I didn’t even know they still published” Alan said, half amused.

Stephanie stepped out of the door and into the sunlight. She opened her mouth to answer but the language that came out was French and Portuguese and Spanish translations of Kafka, burying the begonias! Her knees bucked and she fell forward, scattering the stack of Kafka translations haphazardly into newly planted rows of string beans and squash. She began to cry big drops of black ink. They fell on the brick patio and beaded into small black pearls.

Alan watched the tears sink into the porous rock, leaving grey ghosts on the brick he and his father had laid the year previous. Stephanie’s hands were over her mouth as she tried to stop crying, her face was a red blotchy mess covered in greying stripes of inky tears. Alan, for the first time since Stephanie stepped into his kitchen, and maybe for the first time ever, felt sorry for Stephanie and patted her shuttering back. “I liked you better when you devoured math,” he joked, “At least it came back-up in tiny exponents.”

 

Not Quite Dating but Certainly a Mugging

[This piece was written and performed for a live audience in 2013 – I found it written out on a folded piece of paper in my coat pocket]

 

Eduardo and I had been going steady for about two months. Well, maybe not going steady, and you really couldn’t call it dating because we never really went on any dates, and we didn’t actually know each each other that well. I don’t know what you’d call it, it was more like… I would hang out at his coffee shop during the day, and by the night’s end, he’d be in my bed. He never really stayed there though, he lived across the balcony and would go home to sleep. What do you call it when you aren’t quite dating your neighbor/Latin lover? I guess it doesn’t matter. We did go on a walk once though.

After locking up the cafe late one summer night we decided to take a walk along the shore of Lake Michigan, I remember the breeze felt good on my face. Eduardo and I attempted to hold hands, but that wasn’t really who we were together, so we just talked, hands in our pockets.

What we realized then was that we didn’t even speak the same language. I mean, we both spoke English marginally well, I just mean, I spoke… still speak… like the world is held together with glitter and spiderweb silk; and well, Eduardo, he was a pragmatist.

Low on conversation and not even remotely in love, we did that one thing that we knew best; We made out, in the dark, on the shore, with the breeze against our backs; It was glorious. There was another couple maybe twenty feet away that looked to be doing the same, occasionally one of their heads would pop up like a prairie dog and look in our direction, then they’d lay back down and roll together with the waves. Chicago summer nights are enchantingly weird that way.

We were closing in on midnight when we decided to leave the beach. Walking back to my car we passed the couple who were next to us on the shore, two men in black hoodies. I got a chill up my spine, only this chill wasn’t the kind that’s an ode’ to love on a strange Chicago night, this chill was straight up fear. The couple turned around and followed us just moments after we passed them.

That’s when I felt what I would later come to realize was the chilly steel barrel of a 9mm against my temple. It really is cold, it’s the first thing you notice before you start to panic. We were being held up, not only that, we were being held up by a couple of dudes that a few moments earlier had been watching Eduardo and I all hot and heavy on the beach. My cheeks burned with embarrassment and my heart raced. Holy shit. Were we really being mugged by the prairie dog couple?

I don’t remember everything, but I remember they sounded scared, I picked up on that and it confused me. THEY were the ones with guns. I remember they pulled on the hem of my shirt and demanded everything in my pockets. I was infuriated with them. I actually yelled at them “You have guns, you don’t have to pull on my clothes to get me to do what you want, back off!” – and they did. Then they took my car keys, my cell phone, my drivers license, and my bank card. From Eduardo, they took $600 cash.

With the gun still on my temple, they asked me to take off my shoes, turn around, and run into the trees. You think facing a gun is unnerving, take a few minutes to think about knowing it’s there pointing at the back of your head and not seeing what was happening on the other end. Will I live? Will I die? Will a bullet get lodged into my brain? Are they planning on hurting me? Will the prairie dog guys kill my neighbor/Latin lover that I’m technically not dating? Why did they take my shoes?

Eduardo ran into the thicket and then I did, the grass was cool against my feet. We waited for what felt like hours. Then he whispered “Melissa, I think they ran away” and I swear to you that sounded better than any admission of love I’d ever heard before or since.

We walked the two miles home barefoot and in shock. We laid in my bed and tried to sort out what came next. To be honest, that’s not true, we didn’t actually sort anything. When we got back to my place we had incredible adrenaline fueled “we could have been killed” sex. It was the first and only time that Eduardo stayed all night in my bed.

In the morning I realized my bank card was FDIC insured and whatever the muggers had taken I could get back, so I called the police. They sent an officer over to take my statement, annoyed I hadn’t called them right after the crime. Eduardo wanted no part of it, I don’t know why – maybe he had a criminal history, maybe he was in the country illegally, maybe he just wanted a shower. Like I said, I didn’t really know him that well.

Sexy isn’t the Kitchen Sink

The article I just read says “men who do housework are sexy.” The article is dumb. Decent human beings are an imperative. Sexy is a hundred steps beyond that. Why do people keep writing this crap? It’s as if the entire pay per view media complex is conspiring to keep your expectations low.  These types of articles make you believe that the best you can do is settle for decent – why stop there when sublime is what you want?

Pretending decency is enough to get you off is a waste of your god given creative power. Settling for decent is a betrayal to yourself and your partner. Aren’t we here to challenge one another to be more? Don’t you want to be more? Decent is a low bar. No one wins a championship ring for wiping out the sink, why give something as incredible as your heart for that?

And some will tell you it’s hard enough to find decent. When they find it they just want to rest there at that easy plateau and wash dishes together. They’ll say “What you are looking for is a fairy tale, it doesn’t exist.” But I think, No, YOU are the goddamn fairy tale, and if you exist to make your dreams real, they better be fucking sexy.

Paper Cups and Paper Cuts

Love sits in folding chairs, packed trains, and idle thoughts waiting for a break in conversation

Love sneaks a poem into your pocket that is destined to become a hard pearl of dryer lint;

Love under cooks your steak and demands your praises. Everything bleeds out;

Love paces, wandering the cracks in the hardwood floor questioning the integrity of its foundation;

Love tears a hole in your screen letting moths and birds and debris in. Love refused to filter. Everything bleeds in;

Love keeps you awake at night with worry. Love doesn’t care what you expect. Love waits in the dark, a hard pearl of dryer lint;

Love scribbles in your margins. Love crosses out your key words. Love sends you to the printer and lets the best part fall past the bleed;

Love leaves you no options. Love doesn’t come with insurance. Love doesn’t carry a first aid kit;

Love waits for you in paper cups and paper cuts;

Love sits in the library and reads you, skipping all the dialog.