Free Story Wednesday: Erase

Public Domain Image

Don’t forget about the Plotto contest at the Tin House blog.  That gets posted today, too.

About this story?  I love this story.  I love it more since I’ve started talking to some Jungian Analyst Fiction Writers, but I think I’m getting ahead of myself.

The only good anecdote about this story is that a good friend who was into studying film a lot wanted to make this into a movie.  I don’t know if he ever did.  I sort of doubt it, but I hope I am wrong.  I hope he made this story and a great many others into invisible indie films.

Also, today, I met the truck that one of my characters drives.  It strikes me that that sentence, on its own, doesn’t really mean anything.  But trust me when I tell you it’s significant and exciting.  I love it when characters introduce nuances of themselves to me as I go about the mundane business of life.

And yesterday was the biggest day ever here at April Line Writing, on one of the worst-written posts I’ve placed in a while.  But parenting matters, and so do guns and computers and opinions, and teenagers are a unifying force insofar as we are all affected by them strongly: whether we remember being them, whether our small children show us occasional glimpses of the teens they’ll be too soon, whether we are parents of teenagers now… It’s a fraught, hot topic.

Erase

She didn’t want to sleep with him anymore.  Didn’t want his name tattooed on her forehead.  She cropped her hair into bangs for job interviews, she told him.  Regularly ever after.  But really the bangs were a curtain, hiding him.  She’d thought getting sober would make him more mature.  Instead it made him stagnant.  Made him cling to her the way he’d clung to booze.  Eve felt queasy when he touched her.  Couldn’t look at his eyes, spent as much time at work as she could.  She didn’t want to break him, didn’t want him to know.  She was a little worried about breaking herself.  When she got home from work and he tugged her close and whispered in her ear, she rolled her eyes and said, “Do we have to?”  He snorted and let go.  She made coffee, and they drank it, holding themselves rigidly to the side of the dining room chair that maximized the physical distance between them.

“How was your day?” he asked.

She looked daggers at him and said, “Same as yesterday and the day before that.  What’s with the small talk?”  He shuffled his feet under the table and got up.

“Where the hell are you going?”

“The bathroom, okay?” and he did.  “I’m going back to school,” he said, wiping his hands on his pants.

“What for?” she asked.

“I don’t know.”

“It’s your turn to do the laundry,” she said.

“Can we go out?” he looked at her, pleading.

“No.  I’m tired.  And busy.  I have a manuscript to look at tonight.”  She scratched her knee.

“I’ll go then.”

“Go what? Fuck somebody else?”

“Maybe that.  You’re not a bundle of lust these days.”

She scowled, flicked him off, without a bit of irony.

“Bitch!” He spat on the wood floor.

Making a mark on the pile of papers in her lap she said, “Better wipe that up.”

He did and then he left.  Slammed the door.

Eve threw her stack of papers against it and grimaced.  Leaned her forehead in her hand and left it there until her palm tingled.  Then eyed the red creases on her wrist, imagined the way blood would bead up in them if they were cuts.  She waited a while and called a package store that delivered.  She thought of seducing the delivery boy when he arrived.  She wanted change.  She felt matronly.  Like she should own a girdle.  She thought she might answer the door looking undone and the delivery boy would seduce her.  Then she remembered Scott’s ugly name there on her forehead, indelible.

She rubbed at it, marveled that she could still feel the outline.  She thought, how stupid we were.  How stupid we are.  She didn’t feel the same kind of stupid about Scott now.  She thought in complete sentences now; compound-complex sentences with semicolons: sometimes quadrasyllabic words made their way into these sentences.  Scott was still thinking in fragments, glimpsing the deeper him occasionally but refusing to believe such a thing could exist.  That there was a reason for such a thing to exist.  He explained himself in excuses.  Once, he was a copy editor at the Register, but was fired for lateness and bad spelling.  He corrected the spelling of someone’s name just because he didn’t like it.  When his boss asked him why he thought that was okay he said, “It’s just who I am.”

She thought about how AA seemed to make him existentially paranoid.  Gave him a kind of spiritual awareness he lacked before.  That makes some men sexy, she thought, thinking of barefoot- Buddhist-boys and their rolled up Kerouac novels: their beards, beanies, cargo pockets, Camels.  She thought about Scott’s insecurity, calling her at work to make sure she loved him.  She thought about his stack of graphic novels on the floor next to their bed, how she’d wake at 7am and he’d be reading.

“But it’s literature!” he’d say, when she made faces.

“It’s literature for misplaced little boys who’ve found themselves all grown up with nothing to read, Scott.  Why don’t you try Carver?”

The doorbell rang and she took the steps slowly to answer it. She wanted to forget the relationship without having to leave it.  She wished she could order a perfect Scott from build-a-boyfriend.com.  She wanted parts of the old Scott back.  She wanted to want him.

She opened a beer and thought of Dane, who she lunched with at work.  Dane with muscles and a strong sense of self. He’d been an organic farmer inMontanabefore.  She thought of visiting there with him, touring fields of tomatoes, fucking in the dirt paths between stalks, cool leaves tickling them.  Limping, sweaty and dirt-caked, back to a wood-sided farm house.  Drinking lemonade on the porch.  So many times she’d imagined his thick fingers on her bare back.  She thought of who she used to be: an insecure, pink-haired girl with a coffee shop job and a college degree someplace on the blurry horizon.  She popped a second beer.  Gulped desperately.  Then a third.  Somewhere in the middle of the fourth, she dozed, her crotch throbbing.  She was jarred alert by the slam of the bathroom door.  Scott was home.

She banged on it.

“You in there, Sexy?” she slurred.

He opened the door and she fell forward, her head sliding down the door.  She grabbed his hand and straddled it, palm-up.

“Wanna’ fuck?” she asked.

He rubbed her through her jeans.  She sighed through her nose, leaned her head back, smiled.  He guided her to their room.  He savored the flavor of beer on her tongue.  They undressed each other.  She was impatient to have him inside.  He asked her to wait.  She said, “Fine.”  He kneeled, straddling her legs.  He pressed his hands into her ribs, drug them down, remembered the shape of her.  She fingered his penis, admired its color: somewhere between mauve and plum.

She’d always adored it and couldn’t think of anything else to do, it had been so long.  She didn’t remember the last time.  She felt out of practice, like being sixteen again.  She shut her eyes, let Scott love her.  He played with her breasts, kissed her limbs, made her orgasm with his hands, his tongue, finally inside.  She pulled him close with her arms, legs, feet.  Wanted him deeper.  She didn’t remember this intensity.  She didn’t remember this at all.  When they finished, they curled into each other, slept.

She dreamed of large, angry, black, block letters, with eyebrows and scowls, hemming her into this bed with this man.  They were the letters of Scott’s name, spelling themselves like jail bars.  It was morning, then night, then morning again.  Quick like a cartoon.  The letters refused to let her leave.  She felt that dry soreness in her throat that comes from holding down tears.  She tried to break the letters with her fists while Scott sat, passive, against one of them.  Watching her, his eyes wet.

When she woke, Scott smiled into her face as he fingered the letters of his name on her forehead.  Then he kissed them one by one.  Narcissist, she thought.  But she didn’t move.

Days 5, 6, and 7, and Why I Can’t Journal Instead of Blog.

Some of it I already told you: journals are supposed to be for absolute candor.  I can’t have absolute candor if I am sharing the pages on my blog.  What is public vs. private?  Apparently, lots.  And some of you might think that I’m pretty open on my blog, and that there’s really not a lot that I would want or need to keep private, and I applaud your close reading.  That’s what I thought, too.

But the truth is, old habits die hard, and journaling can’t be a productive exercise for me if I do not feel as though I am 100% uncensored, safe, and private.

These are two separate habits of mind, two separate objectives.

Things I’ve learned that led me to the decision to end the journal blog early, to blog here, and journal not here:

  1. It is easier for me to start stories in a journal than sitting at the keyboard.  Once they have begun, typing them over into Word and continuing is easier.  But writing to a prompt in a blank office document?  Not my cuppa.
  2. I process information very, very differently via type and handwriting. I do not think so much in my journal. I spew.  When at the keyboard, I have a list, and strategies to stay organized and focused.
  3. I do not need these with the old school handwriting practice, and in fact, when I was trying to apply my blogging thinking space at my journal, I was very frustrated and edgy.  It was obnoxious to have to try to write for myself and for everyone else at the same time.
  4. I forgot how obsessed I am with penmanship.
  5. Both kinds of writing practice are incredibly important for me, and are useful in separate compartments of my mind and my conscious thinking, though they help each other without any of my own intention.  It’s like they’re holding a conference call in my mind of which I am blissfully unaware.  It’s easy to ignore how much writing development occurs at the subconscious level.

So here are the last of the pages, and thank [insert deity/deities of your choice here] tomorrow I can start sharing this stockpile of excellent blog posts I’ve been stewing.  It’s going to be a good blog week here at April Line Writing.  Stay tuned.

Pages 16-17
Pages 18-19
Pages 20-21
Pages 22-23
Page 24

And oh yeah!  There is no 2.11.12, I didn’t journal that day.

The second entry 2.12.12 here, that’s the freewrite response to the Tin House writing prompt. Here’s the winner from last week’s prompt (it was about shoes).  I’m’a clean it up and put it in a word document.  Might not even be recognizable when I email it to the pepole tomorrow.  But there it is, and enjoy.

Four (or more) last things:  Here are some links I would’ve put in the entry from 2.10.12:

Michael Chabon, University of Pittsburgh, The New Yorker, Bullfrog Brewery, Alabaster, Grey Gallery, The Pajama Factory, Bavarian Barbarian.

Beam me up, Scotty!

Grant me Serenity. Public Domain Image

I read this great essay today in Tin House.  It was called, “Mirror Mirror: A Guide To Pathos” by Crystal Williams.  It is a lovely essay, poetic, and passionate, and brings up all kinds of terrific ideas and issues with cultural notions of beauty.  There are some haunting images from Detroit in the piece.  And it kind of gave me a eureka moment about the essay.  Like, you don’t always have to conclude something, man.  As Williams said, “I think I’m late to that party.”

And I was going to write a laudatory blog post about Crystal Williams’ essay.

But instead, I’m going to wax mom-austic about a decidedly ugly event of this season of sick.

Diarrhea.

It was Child’s first time today.

She went up to her teacher and said, “Ms. H___, my vagina hurts.”

Ms. H____ was, of course, worried and called me as soon as she could.

Turns out, Child was sharting all day (which accounts for the sore body parts) and spent at least the last hour of her day with a remarkable, yellow diarrhea slick in her poor, un-padded pants.

I asked her why she didn’t ask to go to the bathroom, and she said, “We’re not allowed to go to the bathroom during X”  I said, “If you’re not feeling well, it’s okay to ask to go to the bathroom, even when it’s against the rules.”

After the third bath, Child said, “Diarrhea Sucks!”

Oh, the mouths of babes.

It’s 6 loads of laundry and 3 baths later, and I am too tired to tell you about my lovely day.  I’m too worn out to contribute anything.  Aside from a few crass lines about poop, I’m tapped.

Goodnight.

Tin House, Woody Allen, Terry Gross, Soon-Yi, Mia Farrow, Fresh Air, Mag-gie-Ship-stead!

Public Domain Image

Yesterday, Dave Davies replayed a Terry Gross interview with Woody Allen on Fresh Air. You can read about how I feel about Woody Allen here.  I also really like Terry Gross.  She is an excellent interviewer.

This morning, I read this short story in Tin House by Maggie Shipstead called “You Have A Friend in 10A,” that was about a young famous person (actress) who’d been absorbed by a cult, and has a horrible relationship with her mother, a daughter who’s still in the cult, and a bunch of strangely self-conscious ego.

And the piece was lovely, fabulously written, and uncomfortable and funny and strange, kind of like that Woody Allen movie Celebrity.

In the end of the Terry Gross interview, which was done in 2009, and was about Whatever Works  (a movie that Allen did before marrying Soon Yi, Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, who was 19 to Allen’s 6o-something) that addressed May-December romance, she asked him what parallels exist between his life and his work. Kind of insistently.

Of course, Allen denied that the movie him is really anything like the real him, who is a guy who likes to watch baseball games in his underpants with a beer.  Gross persisted.  Both struck me as deeply disingenuous.

Like Allen was saying, “Everybody thinks you’re such a sensitive interviewer, and I’m going to show you to be a bumbling jerk.”  And Gross was sying, “Everybody thinks your a child molester, and I’m going to corner you into admitting it.”

In the Tin House story, the cult leader is also a celebrity, which is how this young woman is absorbed into the cult in the first place.

The piece opens with her at 14, in her own bathroom, holding the adult male testicles belonging to her movie director while he jacks off, immediately after she bumped her first line of cocaine.

I couldn’t help but think about Woody Allen and Soon-Yi.  Which I wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t heard Gross and Allen posturing at each other.  It seemed like they were kind of beaming each other with deeply politically correct and polite contempt.

I couldn’t help but imagine how watching Woody and Mia do their strange, not-domestic/domestic thing, how being reared in the shadows of celebrities would affect a kid.

I couldn’t help but be a little bit grossed out, couldn’t help but see the parallels:  Woody Allen was that movie director in Shipstead’s story, and Soon Yi was that defenseless, naive innocent.

And I am sad.  Because I strongly, firmly, adamantly believe that other people’s private lives are none of my business.  I don’t want to know about them.  I don’t know anything about them by looking at them from the outside. I don’t care about politicians’ sexual orientations.  I don’t care if they’re faithful to their wives.  It doesn’t matter.

But when people choose celebrity–when they choose to live in the public eye–do we hold them to a different standard?  Do they do ridiculous things just because they know people like me will write blog posts, and other people will write barely true magazine articles, and follow them around snapping photos?  Is it some kind of secret, celebrity in-joke?  Is it that you actually go to LA or Hollywood or wherever these folks live, and they’ve got station wagons and sweatpants, just like the rest of us?

I know it’s old news.  But I’ve been doing my best not to think about it.  It’s just way too close to pederasty.  Which fills me with sadness and disgust.

Will I keep watching Woody Allen movies?  Yes.  Will I suspend judgement?  Eventually.  Why?  Because.  It’s none of my damn business, and who knows?  Maybe it’s a wonderful, healthy, rewarding, beneficial thing for everybody involved.