Excerpts

Upcoming Little Book–to be published Summer 2015

What I Kept From You

Listen, I’m the type of person who likes to spit out gum before it loses its flavor, and I told you that from the very beginning. Remember? I was upfront with you all the way through the end–it was only after we broke up that I began to keep secrets. For example, that winter when we were living out the remainder of our lease, I fine-tuned this list:

Top Five Pet Peeves

  1. When you misuse the word “literally.”
  2. When you slow to a dead stop before making a right-hand turn.
  3. When you hum off-key.
  4. When you speak inaudibly in that voice that sounds like a cartoon villain.
  5. When you start a sentence and fail to finish it.

Another secret I kept is that I died that February. Maybe not technically . . . but I did experience the calm adrenaline of dying. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt a peaceful panic in a quiet moment, a zooming out, an intense shift in vision, but it was the first I recognized death in the sensation. If I’d tried to explain it to you back then, you would have been dissatisfied with this description, skeptical of the details, and questioning.

It was 2AM and I was walking on the bike path, winding along asphalt through a shallow layer of trees that barely separated me from backyards and city landscape. When I crossed the bridge over the busy street, the lamplight glowed, crackled, buzzed, dimmed, and vanished. My vision snapped to black and I died for the smallest fraction of time. Into the cosmos.

The old cliché is that humans go towards a light when they die but I have it on good authority that that’s just back-light. We don’t walk towards the light of heaven but rather, away from the rear-view projection of the life we just lived.

I’m still hesitant to tell you about the person who I did meet that night. You might ask what she was doing out there and she’d become suspicious. Or you’d ask what color skin she had and she’d become a stereotype. Maybe you’ll ask “what are the odds?” and she’ll become just another figment of my imagination.

It’s your fault I was out there. Remember? It was the last night I ever woke you up in hopes of comfort.  The night I said, “I’m going to take Shadow for a walk,” hoping that you might say, “Are you crazy? It’s past midnight and we live in north county! Are you feeling okay?”

“Aw shit!” Destiny said excitedly. “You in love?”

“Um, no not anymore,” I said.

“I ain’t ever been in love yet but I know it’s gonna be epic. C’mon then, what was it like?”

“It was good,” I said.

Destiny stared at me with the expression of a bull-frog: eyes bulgy, expectant, and patient. I looked away. Our dog was watching the creek intently but I couldn’t determine what he was so focused on–there was only litter, glowing artificially in the moonlight. I tugged on the leash but he wouldn’t budge. Meanwhile, Destiny had kept up her stare, so finally I tried expand upon the statement, ‘love is good.’

“Look,” I said. “It’s hard for me to even remember. It’s been at least a year since I was in love, and then I only realized that I was out of it because I thought . . . Well there was maybe going to be someone else, but they turned out to just be some shiny distraction. So now love just seems like this dark force that’ll trap you and throw your whole life off-track—a temptation best avoided.  You’ll probably feel it when you’re about seventeen and then never feel it that intensely for the rest of your life.”

Destiny nodded slowly. I expected her to ask whether you were a girl or a boy, the way people try to simplify our narrative based on gender stereotypes, but she surprised me.

“Well at least that’s better than the shit these folks got to say about it.” Destiny held up Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. “My math teacher gave me this book and I was like, ‘Damn, that looks like some bull shit from the 90’s.’ And sure enough, that’s all it is.”

I chuckled. Destiny nodded at me with a wise-type facial expression that made me laugh outright, then she cracked up, too, and for a moment we shared in that punchy laughter that can only come after 2AM. Do you remember when we used to laugh like that, how good it felt?

I spent the next day falling asleep, dozing and snoozing with three moments of waking up. First, I woke under a bridge with daylight surrounding me, cars whooshing above. Second, I woke in our backyard, our dog standing on my chest and his tongue licking my face. Last, I woke in your passenger’s seat, you doing all five pet peeves, and me loving you & then letting go.

Art Credit: “The Other Time Piece” by Remedios Varo

‘Soon-to-be Ghost Towns’

Your bags are packed. Every item on your to-do list is crossed out. How do you kill the time until the flight? Your book and computer are tucked away in perfect backpack compartments and you don’t dare disturb them.

Would it be possible to do nothing? To sit still in one place,  to listen to music in the foreground for once, to single-task. You might consider listening to “The Lonesome Crowded West” by Modest Mouse. It isn’t a cheerful album, but complex enough to hold your attention. Maybe some distortion will help you process all of your feelings about this upcoming trip. Where are you going?

Nobody likes a long layover and your travels haven’t even begun. Your stomach twitches in anticipation of the ups and downs–a series of connected flights, stuffy airplane cabin air, strained conversations with strangers . . . too close for comfort, waging silent wars over minuscule amounts of elbow room. Will it be worth it, just to get there and to come back home?

Zooming (in)

An example of the sort of writing that happens while procrastinating types of writing that are slightly more real.

Two girls sit at a kitchen table on their Macbooks, wearing glasses that they suspect might help them focus.

“I used to have a pair, in college, that didn’t have any lenses in them. When I’d wear them, people would be like, ‘what are you doing?’ and I’d be like, ‘I’m focusing. These are my focus glasses.'”

“That seems ideal. Because people wouldn’t think that you’re like, trying to fake them out.”

“Right.”

“Cuz, it’s known as a hipster thing.”

“Totally hipster.”

They go back to staring at their computer screens, clicking and typing. Spotify plays an ad about finances, which ends in a phrase that hangs in the air, ‘pina coladas.’ In the silence that follows, the girl wearing the professor glasses starts to whisper a song, “gonna get a job, gonna get a job, gonna get a job . . .” and the one in red glasses joins in, “gonna get a job, job job job job job job job job.”

“That was a good song!” Professor Glasses says.

“Premium material,” Red Glasses says. She continues to sing the song in her head, though her goal was to work on a story–not to get a job.

Forty minutes earlier, she had asked Professor Glasses, “Do you think eating a brownie would help our productivity?”

“A real brownie or like, a fake brownie?” Professor Glasses asked.

“Um, a special one.” Red Glasses said.

“Done. Yes. Definitely.”

“Because it would be LYBLing. We have to LYBL!” Red referenced the acronym the invented for Live Your Best Life–something Professor had said, somewhat sarcastically, in text message to a boy.

So they split a brownie and debated whether to give the dog a piece. Decided not to because it would have been the dog’s first brownie experience. Too much pressure.

“Hey!” Red Glasses calls out suddenly. “You’re on the phone! That’s not resume-related.”

“Actually,” Professor Glasses says, holding up her phone, “I’m looking at this girl’s resume.”

“Oh man! I’m so bad at B.S.”

“Like the card game? I’m really good at it.”

They talk for five minutes about card games before Red Glasses realizes that she created a distraction by trying to make sure they were staying focused. She returns to a document on her laptop, where she has been free-writing in the style of Tao Lin instead of working on things, and she types:

I am attracted to anti-social jobs. Like, socially I hide under a rock and poke my head out every once and awhile. A crab? Yes. No, stop feeling jittery about all of your social interactions. You felt good about them at the time. Only later did you start feeling filled with regrets, which makes it sound like a one-night stand or something . . . Why are you typing so fast? Stop this. Work on the other thing.

The complex narrative that takes place in the afterlife? How am I even supposed to write something that Huge?

It all starts with opening that other window.

But what about this free-write, which vaguely channels Tao Lin?

He is an unpleasant person to channel. And besides, by now you have unconsciously switched to Miranda July. If you worked on the other thing, you could channel the dog instead. Stop the nonsense. Press X