Purge and Binge

On  the floor, her note lays in dozens of ripped pieces. I can’t even glance at them. Each shattered word reanimates the sentence it belonged to; every reason she left echoed in her apoplectic voice. Without her things, the room barely changes. It lived as my representation; my confections, my ropes lassoed to the past. Hers wedged themselves between, found homes on the edges of ledges and the bookcase, and without them mine appear cozy.

I run through our memories together, pissing the good times away with the stroke of a thought. I’m a time-bender, and in each place I find her grazing, a bottle of alcohol smudges presence and she becomes blur. Her voice. Her voice. It lifts above the liquid. It does not drown. It stirs inside me, and the words I tore again come out to play. My hands curl to fists.

I want her things back. The bottle-opener from Peru, a wooden Incan tribesman, stares at me. Its mouth is drawn wider with a little more room to spare. Her little vial, some mysterious creamy liquid, is a hole in the dust. I storm over and rub against the ledge, rub away the dust and rip the tribesman from its peace. I don’t hear a voice in it, hers or anybody’s. Like her vial, it was a gift. It conjures the memory of one-time use and reshapes as wood. I don’t speak to him anymore. Its weight settles in the trash.

There are other spots, more vanished items. At each place I stop and stare, try to recall the piece that once mingled with other litter, and hoist the nearest object into the trash. Where is she right now? My things can vanish, too.

There’s no reward. No escape. Every book, candle, gift, and little joy is attached to invisible rope, bound around my neck. From the moment they found me, I them, I know what they’ve done; how they performed. Where they fell once. How they were replaced. The trashcan does nothing. It sits closed, with ropes oozing out and to me. I’ll know where they wind up. Not her. Throwing them away does nothing.

I catch myself before the floor turns mosaic, staring at bits of paper that follow me around the room. They’re bound to me, too. So stupid. Why did I rip it up? In the trash, too, they’ll follow me. I’ll think of them. It will break my heart. She’s gone. I want to scream, but for what? For who? She’s gone. I let the floor turn, and teardrops trickle off the ridge of my nose. But only for a moment. I stop without want. I cannot cry. My eyes well, but the tears remain with me. She’s gone.

On hands and knees I begin to ball up each piece of note. I like the feeling they have between my forefinger and thumb. I like the smoothness of their roll. Each tiny ball, I place lovingly on the bed. I feel happy for the first time since I walked into the room. Since I first noticed her vial missing, and thought nothing at all of it. Since I saw this damned note and let it, and all things, lasso me to this room.

26 tiny balls. I smell my inky fingers and count again. Still 26. I pluck one from the group and toss it into my mouth, swallow. 25. She can’t take this. 24. This one is mine. 23. And so on. After the last piece is stuck with me, I take the trash bag and pull the door closed behind me. I’ll never speak to anybody about this. She never left a note. I never had a bottle-opener. You haven’t seen her? Lent the book to a friend, oh, you don’t know them. A coworker. Think I’ll move somewhere warm. We just weren’t right for each other. Here’s a candle. You can have the ropes.

Poor Lawrence

For 5 nights Lawrence had to sleep on his side so that he wouldn’t choke on his own spit. His neck was stiff, his cheeks swollen, and the left side of his face barely moving. When Lawrence went to work the first day he was noticeably ill, he tried making a Phantom of the Opera joke, but he couldn’t decide which side to put the mask over; at which point he decided to go to the hospital.

“Fallopian Neuritis, also known as Bell’s paralysis, or I Sleep With The Fucking Fan Too Close To My Goddamn Face Syndrome!” Though it didn’t sound like that when Lawrence tried joking with coworkers, it sounded more like:

fhullopien neuritish (futilely sucks back spit from the sides of his mouth) alsho known ash Bell’sh (sucks in again, meekly swallows) shorry. Bell’sh Paralyshish (spit bubble on the side of his mouth, spit dripping onto his shirt)

…it went on like that for a while. One thing was for sure, Lawrencsh (sorry) Lawrence was in bad shape. But it was true! Lawrence did sleep with the fucking fan too close to his goddamn face! In fact, he slept with it inches away, it dropped on his head multiple times a night until he duct taped it to the sheets. It was close enough to lick, though Lawrence could never. Lawrence loved the wind blowing on his face, it was the only peace he really felt after his long shifts as a delivery truck driver. His fan wasn’t very loud, and it reminded him of leaves rustling, other times right back to his bullshit job, but then he’d force the blades to rustle in his mind, himself to relax. He had only discovered his fanbed a month ago from July heat desperation, with it discovered its ability to give Lawrence his dreams back. It was love at first switch.

Lawrence had been swollen for 3 nights without a fan, doctor’s orders, and hadn’t slept a minute. No work dreams. No leaves. Just silent darkness.

“ooh ma gahchhh” Without people around, Lawrence had no reason to pronounce his words entirely, or coherently; just so long as he got them out into the world, a tiny part of his pain left with them.

He tried not to think about it, but he missed his fanbed. He’d become so reliant on it over the past month that he couldn’t sleep at all without the damn thing. When he closed his eyes, all Lawrence saw was himself behind the wheel, or scanning packages, or stacking them into his truck. It was tough, long work that again invaded his dreams. The fan saved him from work, gave him back some sense of freedom. Some mornings he’d wake up with both arms wrapped around it with his face pressed against the grates, but it was gone now.

“Pleasch…” Lawrence trailed off, his pillow drenched with spit and unswallowed Newcastle. He wrestled with the idea of turning the fan on, but he didn’t do it. At around 4 in the morning last night, he went so far as having the fan in position and duct tape in his hand. He’d blame it on the paralysis, but a few tears of sadness rolled down his limp face when he decided not to turn it on and laid the fan back on the pillow next to him and pulled up the covers.

The cocktail of 4 nights’ sleep deprivation, a stiff, swollen neck, and a barely functional face had driven Lawrence off the deep end. He realized he was in love with his fan; without it by his side, he saw no reason to live.

“I jusht want peacsh.” He slurredly cried under tear streams.

He had to do it, there was no other option. Lawrence sat on his bed, positioned his lover between the square shaped worn cotton, and grabbed the duct tape from under his pillow. Each rip of the unrolling tape brought Lawrence closer to serenity, he was frantic. He caught a laugh halfway through, looked around his empty room, and felt a bit weird about himself … but he kept ripping and pressing anyway.

Lawrence rested his head on his pillow facing the fan’s delicate blades, its softly vibrating metal base. He switched it to “On” and the first twists of the blades almost put him to sleep immediately. He had to stay awake just a little longer, just enough to know he was dreaming his own dream. He stared through squinted eyes at the fan, eyeing it up and down affectionately as it blew slightly less warm air into his face. Lawrence thought about it for a bit but was hesitant, he couldn’t. He sucked back his saliva, sticking his tongue out and towards the fan’s warm base. It wasn’t more than a slow lick, but it was enough to satisfy Lawrence and send him sailing into thoughts of rustling leaves, autumn, the fan, and finally deep into his own imagination.

The next morning, Lawrence’s Fallopian Neuritis became increasingly worse, his entire face had ballooned, and his doctor prescribed him sleeping pills in addition to his pain relievers, which did very little. His face cleared up and resumed working status a month and a half later, and he was back to his old, hardworking self. Lawrence hid the fan in the back of his closet, under some sheets and blankets, and tried not to think about that night so much. Dreaming about work wasn’t the worst thing in the world …

Suburban Tragedy

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“I did it, I finally got them. Finally.” George glanced at the rear windshield of his car and imagined them there, neat and silent. When he got home, he could barely contain his excitement.

“Em. EM! I got them! The last ones! I told ya I’d get ’em!”

“You didn’t …” George opened the plastic bag to Emily, her eyes widened when she realized her husband had finally found them; she had always known him to be capable and true to his word but this surpassed her every expectation.

“Oh! Oh … hunny.” Her eyes glistened with happiness. “We can finally begin our family now!” Emily put on some Luther Vandross and together they began their family with every door and window in the house opened.

“The entire block should know that we’ve bought them!” The entire block was mostly disgusted by the pig like noises George made during sex.

Emily held their baby in her womb for 9 months and finally in her arms. Her eyes glistened with the same happiness she had found in George’s bag.

“I’m so proud of you, Em. She’s so beautiful. You’re so beautiful!” It was a wonderful moment for the two of them. The next day Emily was released from maternity, “I have a surprise for you!” George barely made it out of the elevator without spoiling.

“Oh, George! It’s beautiful!”

On the rear windshield were three smiling stick figures; George, Emily, and their beautiful daughter Fran.

“You fish?” Em was a little confused.

“It was the last male they had.”

Emily’s stick figure sticker wore a dress and red lipstick. Em wore lipstick on special occasions but certainly not regularly. If George settled for a fisherman, she could settle on some lipstick. Little Fran was a ballerina; she hadn’t been out of the womb 12 hours and she was already dancing.

George looked into the rear view mirror many times on their drive home, thinking of all the possibilities for their little Fran. The stick figure family was a symbol of everything possible for them, a reminder of this moment stuck to the lower right corner of their Chevrolet Suburban.

Years passed; Emily and George’s family and stick figures grew. Though the stickers never changed, their children grew and altered in front of their very eyes, or behind closed doors. When the second child, a boy named Sam, cashed in on his changing hormones and body with a girl he knew from school, George was very alarmed to find he’d inherited his same pig-like noise. His stick figure held a guitar at the neck that, at quick glance, looked less than innocent; it was pretty accurate.

Their children, it turned out, were fairly disappointing to them. Fran and Sam never went to college, they both took retail jobs with a thinly layered resentment that swirled around them; neither had any real hobbies, friends, or achievements to speak. Neither spoke openly about anything, they both grimly came home from a long day’s work, watched reality TV, and ate their parent’s food. When their mouths opened, it was to complain. When closed, they frowned. Emily and George never spoke openly about it but Emily was aware she had left her glistening happiness back in the hospital.

George looked at the stickers on glass and sighed every morning before going to work. The children grew and consumed more of their parent’s earnings, never trying, never succeeding, never failing, and never really living. The stick figures remained the same and became a memorial to George’s ultimate disappointment. All of Fran and Sam’s potential seemed stuck to the adhesive of the stickers. George and Emily continued through the monotony of life, giving all they could to their ungrateful, oinking children at the sacrifice of their own futures and happiness. George couldn’t bear to look at the damned things anymore and tried peeling them off, but was unable. The only thing that tore neatly off the glass was the fisherman’s smile. A second try at clawing off his fisherman face took only the eyes. The symbolism was lost on George, he a simple man. The rest of proud stick family remained silently staring at George as he drove to and from work.