Six Stories


Just Give Me Something to Burn


But the fires will not listen as they do not like to starve.

—Russell Edson, “Fire Is Not a Nice Guest”


The fire was hungry so it took a chair. My body is hungry so it takes a man. I’m so intense, my voice climbs the walls when I bemoan my lack of cock at the bar in the afternoon. Floats so high that my friend figures this must be why men don’t pick me. At the other bar, crowded, night, I jape for the electricians from Brighton, fetch a beer for the freshman down from Vassar. And now get passed off to his fat friend in the hat.


Was that not nice? Am I too mean? I’m sorry, it’s just that last night I came until my knees hurt and then until a headache ponged around my brain pan, alone conjuring dick and fingers, everything hard. I came until I lost consciousness and I wrote until I couldn’t breathe. Even now my left hand cramps from want. I go to sleep with one fist under my chin and the other between my legs, ready to punch in and up, hoping to wake all feral and brain-damaged and fucked.


But not really! I’m kidding. Am I? The man who married me said I had a certain vibe, a feel, an aura that promised depth and complication, deep engagement, and that this is why no one ever took me home from the bar. That’s kind of a compliment, but is it really? I thought I was easy and smooth, hot and cheap, fancy as a shot of Goldschlager, I thought you might take me down that fast and hard. And the same man said that to ask someone if you might come and stay a week in their apartment and fuck its tenant’s brains out is scary, intense. Asking a lot. And I get that but only via association and metaphor, like I understand why one might also demur from kitfo or uni or haggis, but in theory only, because in real life that shit is fucking delicious.


When I talk cock and mouth people find it fake-cute-actually-gross-terrifying, and while there is a lady element here which is to say sexism I don’t think that it is the only or even primary element at play. I think it’s me, because when the fire is hungry it eats a chair, and when I am hungry I eat a man, and I am a furnace with three mouths down here in the basement screaming JUST GIVE ME SOMETHING TO BURN.




My Idiot Paramour


I don’t mean to call you dumb but you were not smart. Not stupid, not exactly—you’d been to school, held a job, had a blog. None of it took from you the bouncy obliviousness that held hands with your best quality, enthusiasm for everyone and everything—gas station attendants, university administrators, pantsuits, chairs. You loved to make drinks and arrange them prettily on a tray. You were always serving, and in bed it was like that, too, your face wedged between my thighs those three nights as if I was a teacher who could give you an A.


Between the sheets you were fantastic. Except we didn’t use sheets, kicked the coverlet off and went to town on the fitted alone. But as soon as we stopped speaking that language of hand and mouth you abandoned the loyalty showed my cunt. Out of bed you didn’t want my help, thank you very much, or even really my opinion, and seemed hysterically certain I pursued you for a mate when in fact before you put your dick in me I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be your friend, although you seemed nice enough.


After, a madness for your approval hit in a haze, a dream I knew was a dream, and all your dopey general generosity fell on me like ash, indiscriminate, unidirectional, nice enough save for on the Sunday afternoon six hours removed from a you-under-me face-melting rearrangement of space and time. You wouldn’t even look at me as you prattled on about an older lady’s ensemble, how pretty she looked. I buffed my nails against my thighs, shook my glass at you for another. You wouldn’t refill.


Now, it’s okay, it’s good, I can appreciate it—the fact that with you it was not spiritual. That night it all started, you hung upside down in the gym. Your nose ran a faucet of blood. I helped you and lapped my palm. What came after—the best hair-pulling of my life, for a few months anyway—was church for me only. I was on my knees in front of the altar alone, receiving your eucharist tongue. My power right there, spread like a peacock.




My Heart Is Broken


I broke it myself. Put it on a high shelf and leapt on the bed until it fell. Laid it on the floor and clomped around in my highest heels until accidentally on purpose it punctured. Dreamed a heart so pure and lovely that, seeing itself in a thin pane of metal it shattered.


Before I broke it I played with my heart. Cat with a mouse. Do you want to come over here, little pink heart? See this vision of light and beauty, wrap yourself in it. Walk in fantasy until I pour boiling water over your frail carapace. Are you dead already, or can you hear me laughing over the kettle’s scream?


I let my heart imagine. What if this room were white-curtained and full of wind? What if this mouth were the one to whom I promised you? What if my hand belonged to another, what if my hand was another, what if it were possible to hold you between my rapidly shrinking dugs? What if you could feel safe there, pretty heart?


The most exquisite torture was possibility. I could wake certain the weather had turned. I could steep this gray smog with tea steam of roses and diamonds. I could go out, take the world’s blood, transfuse it to you. See you smile and rush again, dear heart.


Anything could happen. Here is what did: I went to the airport in the opaque yellow yawn on a July Monday, clutching a man’s hand, and I left alone. There were so many things I wanted to say to you, my heart. But you put your hand to my lips. “Don’t tell me now. Tell me when we are old, when we have lived a whole life together, when we are old and dying tell me then.”


When you were gone, heart of mine, I put my hand in my chest and felt your absence. Closed that hand into a fist and beat against my ribs. Broke up the soil. Planted, withdrew. Moved my hand in the fabric of the day. Where two have been, let there be one. Sunchapped, bleeding from the eyes, new.




Box Fan


It's me and the whiskey tonight in my new kitchen where you are not and will never be. Boxes labeled with your name line the walls of the room that was to be for living but will now be for work. O, how you'd have struck and made this place with your terror and footfalls. How you’d have carved a nook just my size in the floor of the closet, tucked me in. It did not feel good, but it felt.


Air makes me better. After we spoke today I laid only a few minutes on the hardwood floor to cry beside the cardboard. The rest of my tears can extrude through my pores. It’s hot enough.


My mother bought me these beautiful new glasses, blue and short. I pour in the rye, weaving crazily down the beach street we walked six and a half years ago now, I am wrong, eighty-one months ago now we walked there, and just think, you said, this time next year we'll be going home, going home together, just think.


I push myself past into pink aphasia. See, it's working, with him in my mouth I can't remember what you did to my name. How not to breathe. How to climb into the floor and how to close it over me. How to disappear. See. Now you have to see.




Chaconne


More than anything else I'm curious. What it feels like to be the one a man thinks he wants forever, forever. Is it like a mortgage, something to pay down and idealize then resent and eventually gain a grudging acceptance of, before it gets too big and you have to sell? Is it like a pet, soft, pliant, shitting everywhere until you realize you have to put it out of its misery?


Maybe it's like the engagement ring row at the jewelry store, the excited couples and the shopgirl lingering politely on either side of the counter until one, dazzlingly, makes up their mind. Or maybe it's the shopgirl after, lifting the velvety displays out of the glass case, locking the door, secreting them into the back, running the vacuum, double-checking, clocking her hours. One final glance and out she slips.


I was thirty-one before I saw a face crimp in pure want as it hovered over me. All the lights came on in the holy cave, flamed that place straight up.




Stoned Sunnyvale Uber


What is beautiful in the world but a man in a black Prius coming to get me? What is beautiful in the world but California? I came back ill advisedly to find the horizon as pink gold shot as ever. Dear God save me but I'll never get off this time zone. The ridge against the sky always promising me something here in these minimals and bad dreams.


The driver merges onto a freeway. I learned to call them that when I was new here. Sky colored flesh. Flesh colored sky. Take Five on the stereo and I'm dreaming a cock. This place where they opened to me like flowers. Do you know I am thinking you California even as I die?


But I won't, I will not, out there in the temperate east. I'll come back and come to and come for and come with you. All I ever wanted was to be with you, Cali. Kali. Destruction and all of my hills. I should delete this app. Put on real pants. Fuck that. I'm home. The bridge suspended in my veins.  

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