1. He Wouldn’t Say
He was a fox. I was a goat. Among other animals. He mentioned FOXNews. I said I didn’t watch. What a difficult thing to sleep among the howls. The violence of reporting: everything uncovered was under fire, lashing out or blasting. What a horrible thing to qualify for free beasts at every response. What to feed the noise. Feed the fish until they float. Feed the giant wiggle to the whale. Feed the dog his instructions. This really wasn’t food it was more like an infection. This was garbage not fit for throats.
There was a room that was mine that I shared. He left for a day, his clothes were taken from the closet, I thought he was dead. After the baby foxes hunted the baby deer and dragged their bodies back to the den, he returned as if he stayed and never left. But he was never really here. He didn’t say where he was or where he got his leather biker jacket.
It was like if James Dean, Mickey Rourke and Val Kilmer all took a shit in the same bucket and Judy Chicago, while strung out on meth, sculpted the shit into my lover.
2. Well, I’ve Always Loved You
We were sexing it up on a very fine mattress. Experts said sleep would be improved but sex sketchy on memory foam. Sleeping and sexing was pretty much the same for me so I didn’t notice much difference. When he poured mouthwash on my chest was that part of the act or the dream? Did he really liken our sex to slitting our throats? That made me think of my father and I didn’t want to remember him while I was sexing on a memory foam mattress.
What did it mean that this lover masturbated all over my scarf collection? Was this a trick to keep my neck exposed? Was he serious when he said he wanted to see the latest Johnny Depth film? Was that what reminded me of Heath Ledger in Monster Ball? Were the hysterics the film’s or mine?
3. What They Wished For
I never forgot sexting the monstrous faces of butter, but for a long while I did forget the bloodied whales pulling themselves out of the river, beaching themselves on the road like a bloodworm tossed in a bowl of pasta.
We maneuvered around their bloated corpses like an art form. Those whales and their tired, flabby arms made us sick in all kinds of ways. Was it death or escape they crawled toward? Or did they just wish to be dicks and fuck up traffic? If I had a toilet big enough, I’d have flushed them all.
A big truck full of men swerved to avoid a whale and rolled over. An impatient motorist hit-and-ran the truck and the inevitable cop chase ensued. Some lady stood in the middle-of-the-road yelling at the cops.
I yelled, Hey lady, you’re an dingbat.
She yelled back “How am I an dingbat?” and I yelled Look around you, these are extreme days. Pick a side and get out of the way, wolves are coming for the blubber!
Until that moment, I always hated the police, but with all the whales and the abandonment of the overturned truck the world seemed different, harder and more putrid. Something expired and the soft and foamy stopped doing it for me. I wanted those pics to stop popping up on my cell. I needed the beeping to stop.
4. Pacing Is for the Impatient
Clearly I didn’t know what I was doing because I lingered. I lingered too long over short lines and sped through the longer passages. The passage through the hole with the scuba diver who said it didn’t get much deeper than this. I imagine it was a time out of my depth, not that I was sure what was my potential for depth.
I remember the advice: “Don’t slink around it, sink into it, like a rock encased in cement paying big bucks for love from the fishes.”
I remember the slow movement through the hole which was many years long.
I don’t remember ever getting to another opening or an end.
The _____ at the end of the tunnel I never reached is a blank I do not possess.
5. I Couldn’t Pronounce His Name
As we laid in bed together my lizard dragged his long gaze across my recollection. My lizard the lover, the iguana, the prickly vulcan, the seizure delivered by butterfly. This was a widespread affair that no one prepared to fight.
We prepared for other events. We prepared for traveling and camping, duffle bags tagged and zipped, ready for flight. We prepared hiding places for when the authority invaded to confiscate our pipes and pills. We dug bomb shelters, practiced drills, stocked gas masks.
Aside from some adequate meals, my preparations amounted to crumbled toys. The lizard came and I took him to my bed without inspecting his tongue or asking his name. The lizard kissed me with his mouth full of gears and robotics ready to collect and compute all the violent data with dates. Crumbs on the bedspread. Crumbs on the floor. Scraps. Morsels. Splinters. Bits.
6. What I Always Wanted
By the time Mother returned from prison, I was a teenager. You’d think we’d be happy living in our mansion overlooking the swamp, but she never let me go to the bathroom. Every time I was in there, she’d bang on the door and then another door would open and people would flood in like it was a public lobby. She ran that mansion like her personal prison yard with heavy-foot traffic and revolving doors.
I told her that I couldn’t pee while she banged on the door and people walked through and she said, “Good.”
My bedroom was like that too. I said that I couldn’t sleep with her banging on my door and people milling about.
She said, “You poor delicate porcupine.”
Then Mother said, “Your therapist is here.”
While I wanted my therapy, I wanted to fight Mother even more.
Come on, let’s go, prison rules!
Not only did I want to show that I wasn’t afraid of her, I wanted to smash in her face with a bar of soap wrapped in a sock all while giving her the prison-rule advantage so there would be no question who was in charge.
Also, I enjoyed yelling “prison rules.”
7. Nobody Thought to Ask What She Wanted
Between a gauntlet of opposing dogs, she walked through the two rows.
It was her path.
One side light brown coats, the other dark brown, each with the markings of jigsaw puzzle pieces on their behinds. She was light brown, with dark spots. She could go either way but for now she moved straight and kept to the middle. She didn’t want anyone to think she had an opinion or preference. The alphas would fight for the honor to be the one to mate with her for life. Most of the dogs weren’t alphas and weren’t in contention to mate with her for life.
One of those not-alpha dogs wanted to mate with her for life very much. A woman appeared, perhaps his fairy godmother, and told him how he could win the bitch’s paw despite not being an alpha. She explained that the secret to a lifetime of mating with the bitch was to find the woman who kept a very special pillow underneath her bed and to take that special pillow from her while replacing it with a decoy.
This special pillow had the special embroidered message: Play like you’re poking out their eyes & be generous with your own vision.
The Edwardian women watched from afar and discussed the non-alpha dog’s situation among each other.
From afar I watched the Edwardian women watch and discuss the non-alpha dog’s situation, then I turned to Lily and said: This doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test. There’s the bitch, the fairy godmother and the woman with the magic message pillow, but they don’t speak to one another and then a room full of women who do speak to one another, but choose to only discuss the mediocre man-dog.
Lily nodded her head. I made a good point. I often made very good points.
She asked, “Yes, but do you have a name in this scene? Anywhere in the script? How will you appear in the credits? Will you ever be given credit? Does this memoir pass the Bechdel Test?”
8. And That Is Why
It was late, my invitation was rebuffed, but the cats were getting along so it could have been worse. It seemed a simple solution. I recalled all the men fitting in a single compartment. We played a four-piece game that wasn’t particularly difficult for them to master. The difficulty came with the math equation afterward. I forgot how and couldn’t relearn, no matter how much I tried.
He was in disbelief. He was mocked by both the media and his peers for ever crawling into this drawer with me in the first place.
Give me a simple recipe, I pleaded. Or a simple question or machine.
I wondered if I had brain damage. It would be a relief to have brain damage. It would be nice to have an excuse, I thought.
I discussed the possibility of an excuse with my aunt and she offered one. There’s an Italian descent in our family that makes the women get pregnant early and that’s why we don’t know math. I disagreed, I heard we were of Greek descent and those are two very different places to descend from despite often being confused by amateurs. Besides, my aunt was often wrong, she didn’t finish high school because she had a baby.
Eventually when I found our family tree, it was all Slovak and Celtic, not a Greek or Italian for centuries. We were raised making excuses to cover up that we were raised to search for mythical mates. Nobody ever said go to class or do your homework. They said, “you’re the prettiest” or “you look like you’re six months pregnant” before your ever had your first menstrual cycle.
So yeah, I embraced my true excuse.
Then the tremors came. Our tribe was disbanding. The women were taking their babies and settling elsewhere. We were expert settlers by genetics. “This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen,” my grandmother said.
But this is how it’s happening and I laughed because she was old and the world grew into a scary place for her, but not for me. I was young and swung. The ground opened and the Greco-Roman stairs presented themselves. Turned out we all were a little bit right. We were to sink underground, find a myth and fuck him until we get something of our own to take away.
I couldn’t recall whether I escaped from the tribe or if the tribe abandoned me, but same result either way. My fucking days were above ground and what I wanted in my belly was a bird.
Who was going to give me my bird?
9. They Accepted It All
Like a school teacher educating hoards of young lovelies who don’t know their own loveliness, I pointed out their squalor.
I will be your advocate for five hours a week until I find my bird.
There was no time to waste coddling these pinked and tanned beauties.
Just look at your squalor! Look at it!
We rose to recite the Pledge Of Presence along side the governor and his wife.
“Please like us,” the wife urged as she squeezed my hand, “this is our time. We waited so long.”
We demanded scholarships to which the governor and his wife quickly agreed. Scholarships, a new soda fountain in the teacher’s lounge, whatever we wanted, they pledged it as her grip on my hand grew tighter until my fingernail disengaged from its nail bed. The governor nodded his head so furiously I felt my neck crackle a little just trying to keep up. Bruises and lacerations decorates the classroom walls. This education delivered from a battered classroom.
THE KIND BOMB FELL HERE announced the chalkboard.
The little girl in the front row quoted her grandmother: “Love thy elected official as he loves you.”
The governor pledged a revised school lunch plan to include fresh, locally grown produce for any child willing to eat it. He shared his vision for vocational training and community college for any child willing to work for it. But don’t ask him to love these children when he already had children of his own to love. Specifically he had boys who had his name who were trained to develop and maintain his legacy.
If the girls would just accept the extra classes and food, we could all get along.
Toleration and commendation! We promised to never desire the love or respect of an elected official again. Nor would we expect the love our of kings and queens, nor the love of our parents or teachers or anyone possessing any status or power over us whatsoever. We would not expect what they did not wish to give.
THIS IS YOUR TIME TO PROVE YOURSELVES.
For speaking up, the girl in the front row received the honor of the tinsel bomb. She could have kept it, wore it as a pendant for it was beautiful and showy and would have made her very popular for it was much better than a tiara. She could have had all of that.
BETTER LIVING THROUGH OWNERSHIP.
But she was not that kind of girl. She tossed the sparkly grenade right between the governor and his wife. The tinsel swirled, spread, exfoliated their flesh, covered their eyes, nose and tinsel gushed forth into their hard lovely mouths. Sparkle mummies. Glitz-crusted cocoons. Bling wraps.
SPECTACULAR SPA DATE
Tinsel removes distinction. Tinsel as a beauty solution for the masses. Tinsel invites the spiders so the spiders spin more tinsel to catch the worms, break them down, make them digestible. Tinsel attracts the eyes. Too much tinsel ruins the tree.
WARNING: USE TINSEL SPARINGLY
The girl quoted her grandmother again, “You can dip a turd in tinsel, but it’s still a turd.”
We were OK with tinseled turds. We desired nothing more than their tinsely turdiness. Have we proved our appreciation for our many gifts?
THANK YOU FOR YOUR BOMBING.
Reb Livingston is the author of God Damsel (No Tell Books, 2010) and Your Ten Favorite Words (Coconut Books, 2007). She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and son.