Poor man's dollar is spent before he earns it. Life a cascading array of what he should be doing, could be doing - a better life watched from afar, stranded in a dream-life where no one wants to be. Real life glittering past the window of a fast-moving train(more) with no exits. (less)
He got up off the couch when he heard keys in the lock.
No-one else had keys to his apartment. He wasn't expecting anybody.
(more) His door wasn't locked.
Fact was he came home knowing the compost needed taking out; garbage too. He had indulged in a sit-down - shoes still on. A breather before riding the elevator back down, walking to the bins behind the building, weary because there would be people in the alley ready to sift through his trash.
He didn't usually leave his shoes on once he arrived home. The thought of all the shit he stepped made shoes a violation in his own house. Walking through the city it's all hork, shit, piss, spills. So he sat down for a minute only. Tired but wanting it tidy. The day had already been so long.
First thought was had he ordered food, and the delivery man was being presumptuous. He ordered food lots. Worked weird hours, week days bleeding into Saturdays, clock turning over to show midnight when his colleagues had left long ago, were partway through the sleep that would refresh them in time for the new day that for him was old and forming a crust. New old day.
Second thought (absurd): his mom entering his room, unannounced. Teenagerhood was the last time he had heard the sound of a turning doorknob when he felt himself to be in privacy.
It must be me, coming in. I am just getting home.
He got up off the couch to investigate but his inquiry was halted by the bullet that severed his maxillary artery. He bled out quickly, life leaving him in a hot red rush.
The intruder had expected to find her own home behind the door, and felt justified in her kill. (less)
Today is shit and this is already a fact at 2 am., 4 a.m, 5 - whenever the brain has a hiccup and wakes up, gasping for air the way it happens in sleep lately. Heart feeling too fat. Body breaking down, not that anything can be proven in(more) medical tests.
Wake up and the first thing one feels is exhaustion. Another day of 'no.' Saying 'no' all day until finally it is easier to not. When will it end? That terrible fight, and always giving in. If the fight could be won for one day, all of everything would change for the better. It is the fact of *one more day* that kills, every day.
Another day of wanting to dream while the eyes are still closed to the light. That terrible waking-up time. Yesterday still hurting, and today already breathing down the neck saying 'Open, open, open your eyes.'
A day being born where the jaw is aching for everything it let pass through the gates; stomach taut with nausea - yesterday's hungers still stagnating, like a clogged drain.
Own worst enemy. You dress together, eat together, meet each others eyes in the mirror. You barely know each other. It has come to this. (less)
His girlfriend slept at last, her pale cheek on his rolled-up sweater. It was not raining. He kept his shell on, cuffs tugged around his hands for added protection against the chill. He wanted a coffee! And Timmie's was just 30 feet away. He couldn't leave her. She had(more) just fallen asleep and God knows she needed it.
Her eyelashes like soot against her thin cheeks. Cold eating through the cardboard mattress.
Meanwhile the morning did the traitorous thing it always did: it changed from indifferent dark, the promise of drowsiness and time stopped. And instead the buses started, the traffic picked up. Heels clicked inches from her face, people hurrying into a world where the two punks on the sidewalk played no part. Dirty clothes and faces, audible alarm bells, visible need.
He'd cleared away the needles they'd accumulated through the long night. He would not leave her side even for coffee.
He felt as much solace looking at her sleeping face as a man waking in a marriage bed. He felt as much need to guard her. Coffee could wait, in light of her sleeping face, inches from the dirt and dirty itself.
The rich in their featherbeds might not understand, although they lived his feelings every day. Junkie, useless, rotten-toothed, lost. Cardboard buffer from the pavement, stolen hospital blankets to hide under. They lived his fierce need to protect, to go on with the farce. To guard the dusk those eyelashes cast on her sleeping cheeks. Her stilled mouth that kissed, that spoke of beauty - that gaped open as the stranglehold fix set in, rendering her senseless.
From then to now he did not understand when life had changed and started bleeding. How their teeth turned grey. Their love grey. Their sidewalks grey and everlastingly cold. (less)
It was a dream of a wedding. Not a wedding of the real world where there is divided feelings, doubt, boredom, and dread. It was a dream wedding of beauty.
In the dream, she followed her best friend down the street. A playful chase. A destination on mind(more). A place was waiting for them. They were expected.
It was raining out, so hard that the dirt embedded in the asphalt floated to the surface of the puddles. The flooded streets offered the hem of her dress a drink, and at the hem the pink turned grey. The dress was a fine one. The first gown of her life! Though it was only a dream:
Pink satin. Stiff, luxuriously thick. A mermaid tail and fitted bodice from a 1950s designer, still famous even in the careless waking modern world. An old gown from days when evening wear was inspired by beaches.
In her dream, she knew her dress was finer than the pure white lace of her friend's wedding gown. The pink was a blush colour, by chance suiting her better than white suits any bride.
It was an occasion of beauty, pure beauty, one she she had never known in the waking, mortal world. In her dream she knew her beauty was not just the freedom to run in a dress. It was knowing she was looked at. Looked at in love, and envy - not of looks, but freedom. Love and envy of the freedom we are each born into, and can maintain with only the purest hope. Her dress was a dress of childhood. Pink that can get dirty easily.
There was no suggestion of grooms in the dream. Just women running toward whatever waited for them, something they laughed in anticipation of. (less)
Rachel looked at the customer's ID. The girl was buying the sort of liquor that attracted minors: sweet as soda and the colour of Crayolas. It raised suspicion.
The girl was very clear-eyed and pretty, in a pain-in-the-ass kind of way. Born 1999. People from every year of(more) the 90s could drink and smoke and participate legally in vice, Rachel knew, although for her that decade had been one of innocence and a different sort of dirt.
The liquor would go to the kid's head. The world being what it was, Rachel reasoned, little chickie could end up a clip on Pornhub or some shithole Tumblr, overestimating the importance of her first taste of letting go and allowing too many liberties to be taken.
The smirk in the black&white ID matched the smirk leveled at her now. Where did girls get their confidence? At 40, Rachel still flinched under scrutiny. She couldn't say anything bad, or forbid the sale.
Blue eyes rimmed with purple eyeliner. Blue streaks in her hair. God, it had been so hard to be unusual or punk in Rachel's 90s. You couldn't find weird hair dye or makeup anywhere. Nowadays even Walmart has it. Rachel had spraypainted her hair pink in high school and wore a Masterlock to keep her jeans closed.
People born in 1999 and beyond can smoke. They can drink. Rachel handed back the ID and rang up the purchase. She remembered the days when a bit of wine cooler was enough to get her drunk. She remembered when being drunk cheered her up.
Her tolerance for alcohol had increased at the same rate her tolerance for people, parties, and bullshit decreased.
She wondered if her hope had ever seemed smug, if her gaze had ever been so naive it caused someone pain. (less)
Ruth could open her eyes at almost anytime of day or night and not remember where she was. The consistent thing was her bed. It was a familiar rumpled den that smelled like her. But beyond that, the world was an ocean she was unmoored in. The easy forgetfulness(more) was like a force of nature or a superpower. The lapse in understanding whenever she opened her eyes was a lost, crawling feeling - like the sand scuttling beneath a tide that is going out - grains of sand trying to cling to their position despite the pull of something larger and hungrier.
In Ruth's case, so much of her life occurred in dreams. So many of her memories took place in dream countries barely articulated, nevermind explored. Sleep had a larger pull than wakefulness. In the walking-around world ambulances crawled the streets and people roamed and muttered furiously. Their rage spilled out of the margins. People drew guns for no reason; people walked off cliffs to relieve themselves of misery. Walmart tills jangled as people filled emptiness with DIY projects and discount groceries. Everybody everywhere waited for a friend to call, for someone to notice, for a kiss to feel like it meant something. Whenever Ruth woke up she knew she was too late for something - that she had been born too late - that life was not a matter of accomplishment or hope, but only forever catching up. (less)
Jesus Christ, mom would say, but it would sound like swear words, not a prayer. Jesus Christ. Being late for church made her swear horribly, because in church we were all lined up in rows, like roll call, and social failings were on display each week. Bad clothes, tardiness,(more) hair rinses that turned out brassy. Church was a shit-show, yet a mortal sin to miss.
We were late every week. As if Sunday morning came as a surprise every time. Screamed awake, locked bathroom door, burned toast, hot water used up, last minute ironing, pairing a navy sock with black. Nothing ever good enough, and always being surprised by this fact: that was Church. Towels that smelled like the hamper. One bathroom. Brush through the hair with assorted malcoloured strands stuck in it. Knowing you'd never really look good, or be good.
Dad would smoke until the very last minute, standing at the window that overlooked only grass, dragging on his dented, roll-your-own Lucky #7 and surely seeing something else, something seductive out that window. His window-gazing was to our family what a mistress might be to another. Daydreaming delayed him, took him from us, made us wonder what he saw there that we didn't have.
Filing in late. If you made it before the Gospel you weren't officially too late.I'd bring a book to read. I liked mysteries at that time. I had more patience then. Now I can't stand someone knowing how things end before I do. I avoid that sort of fiction. It was OK then, as the whole world was a mystery, summed up by panicked traipses to a church no one believed in for a God that didn't see us for reasons no one could explain, except duty. (less)
On holidays Mo sees her brother and his wife for the meal. They are all getting old now but this custom remains. The wife, who never forgets a slight, still hates Mo from early days.
Things are always the same. Their house always too lavish, and Mo always(more) the guest. A savoury, table-buckling meal is served which she eats hungrily, being hungry, but can never enjoy knowing the swill of dirty dishes is growing higher. She feels a sense of duty although she doesn't know how her sister-in-law expects things done. This never-understanding is one of the reasons Mo is resented.
What is washed in the sink? What goes in the dishwasher? How does that expensive machine work?
And Mo doesn't know where to find Saran-Wrap for leftovers.
What is saved? What's thrown away? (She doesn't often have such dilemmas.)
She is not reverent enough about certain things: the wineglasses, the heavy-bottomed saucepans that need a special cleanser she doesn't know about. The meal begins to turn into weight: the weight of richness (butter, gravy, second helpings), the weight of duty and ignorance.
They joke about serving her the children's cider, stating a teetotaller (is Mo such a thing?) could not appreciate the good wine. Mo laughs along, although the wine does taste sour. How can they be drunk? She doesn't want them to consider it a wasted glass.
She's nervous about the cost of things around her, the casual excess. Plentiful wine, the stereo whose music gets on her nerves, the swampy-sweetness of vanilla candles.
Her gift is always soap and lotion. Not personal but costly. Not chosen for her, Mo is certain. Just extra, more idle purchases of an idle woman (her sister-in-law), with money and time. Nothing Mo could afford to replace, should she ever want it.
Coming away from her most recent visit with fresh tears in the corners of her eyes, my grandma always had a delusional way of explaining why my cousin Leila was the way she was. "Overindulged," "an only child," "doesn't know how to share herself," "shy."
(more) I knew the actual answer. Leila was a cunt. Fey, blonde, gangly - she was lovely to look at. It was a continuous shock to stumble into septic field of her personality; it created a dissonance that made less ruthless spirits like my gran second-guess themselves. Nevertheless Leila was loved desperately by my gran. It was her son's only child, a gorgeous girl late to the family ballgame, arriving when the other grandkids were all well into our teens. So I kept my yap shut.
At family dinners Leila sat cross-legged, playing with her anklet, never saying much. Quiet, but that didn't make her shy. Smiling, but that didn't make her sweet. Her utterances had two parts: 1a.What she'd say aloud when kindly overtures were made in her direction, 1b.the part she would mutter.
1a.No, she didn't want seconds 1b:she didn't want to be fucking fat like everyone else. 1a.Thanks for the gift, granma 1b.Walmart piece of shit.
Leila grew older, made straight-As, worked out, and kept my gran at a distance. Like a lovelorn suitor my gran piled on the gifts, the requests for lunch, and wondered aloud what Leila was doing any particular moment.
At her funeral Leila attended the church service but didn't go to the grave. "My nylons have a run," she explained.
Later I saw she'd Tweeted about the time the coffin was going into the ground.
"The ass you ate for doesn't compare to the ass I worked for," with a pouty-faced, flexing gym selfy. It had 46 "likes." (less)
there's a fine batch of writers here on TT. I hope you all are saving on your own computers your "300 words or less", if you value these dispatches.
(more) This site appears basically unsupported and incommunicado. The emails to the founders bounce back, the "News" page is a 404 error, and the TT Facebook page has not been updated in years.
One day the domain rent will evaporate and I think all the writing will go up in e-smoke.
I wanted a bass guitar when I was 13, 14. I had dreams that just owning an instrument would be my way out. I would immediately make punk friends, they would identify with my shitty poetry, we would smash shit on stage, get paid. We would live together &(more) shave each other's heads; we'd get rich. We'd be free.
I deliberately scored the flesh above my breasts with broken glass, bottle caps, a Swiss Army knife. So that I would automatically disgust any potential boyfriend. The wounds healed without leaving scars before I ever had a boyfriend.
I went shopping at the music store. The seller was sexist and said sexist things about women with guitars, that girls were groupies not performers. I remained starry-eyed. Nevertheless $500 was beyond my wildest imaginings. I was still dumb enough to think my no-money mom could procure expensive Christmas presents, like Santa. The magic of Christmas lingered but since her divorce life was all deliveries from the food bank and fighting, fighting, fighting. She didn't even want to recognize the season, it was just another day. That is how the punished think, those forced to work on happy holidays for $7 per hour.
She bought me a $200 wool coat from Australia. The guy she wanted to fuck was from Australia, but she was so stupid and fresh she could not have even admitted the connection. Even 20 years later she says they were just friends. But I know my mom wanted that newcomer to the town, to the church. He sang so loud in the choir and she played the organ. He was trash from Down Under and she was a trash divorced woman. She wanted him; I know now he never would have thought of her in a sexual way. (less)
But I hate to travel. If I even leave my house for too long I have a panic attack. When I am leaving for work, I make it to the end of the driveway before I have to go bac(more)k in and make sure everything is unplugged and nothing is on fire. I check the outlets and utter a mantra so I will remember later when doubt sets in: "Oct 31. Everything's off. Door's locked. All is well, all is well."
I have never been anywhere hot. Yet I think of beaches, not the rough kind of beaches in the Pacific Northwest, but the faraway kind where the sand is white and radiates the glare of a tropical sun. Where the ocean is an improbable swimming-pool blue. I have never experienced a warm sea or a shore that isn't rocky with barnacles. Yet somehow this white beach is a fixture in my brain.
I know that if I could look down from above, that swimming pool ocean is a-swarm with sharks. That sand is groomed and milled, trucked in. The debris of storms is hauled away, no logs or garbage left, no corpses of crabs, no dead fish. But that sandy crescent seems like a peaceful cradle for dreams, for letting go, for serving as a mental refuge when the world around me is itchy, when I feel chased away from sanity and my own skin, when nothing seems possible and everyone around me is outpacing me ten steps to my one. I dream of a brochure-esque silence, the salt air, the salt skin. I dream of being absorbed by that kind water. (less)
I'm good to my mom, I take her to dinner. Two-three times a year. She likes Chinese. We have a place we go.
OK, it's slightly less sometimes, being honest. Time flies, et cetera. And she's old. Ma or not, she doesn't have much going on. Cries, say(more)s she misses me. Acts so happy just to eat. It gets depressing, to tell you the truth.
Today I figure it's been closer to 9 months since I've even thought of her, never mind seen her. That's bad, even for me. So I motivate myself by picturing how one day she'll be found dead in her apartment and how crappy that'll make me feel. Remembering I could've made her happy by taking her to a cat-serving Chinese shithole on this random autumn afternoon. Thanks for the advance guilt, mom.
She likes to eat super-early so at least I can get my duty done & my evening's still open.
She always insists the Golden Rooster is good, cheaper than groceries. It's my pet-peeve she never buys decent groceries, never has any food. I always have to explain to her she needs to eat better, money or not.
She orders the same shit as always. Sweet-n-sour pork. Red blobs that stain the Uncle Ben's. I pick at my kung pao chicken. I don't eat pork so I refuse to trade bites when she asks. I keep having to tell her to close her yap when she's chewing. My ma thinks asking a barrage of questions makes it a conversation.
These meals make me feel suffocated. Like I need extra oxygen just to see her, and sometimes in between visits it takes a long time to catch my breath.
Our waitress looks like she's gained weight but says no when I ask her. (less)