Today in my speech class, someone giving a presentation said something along the lines of, “…third world countries, like Africa for example…” and then I don’t know what happened, I just blacked out and when I woke up, I was alone and there was blood everywhere and the word “continent” was scrawled all over the chalkboard.
I met her at a fuck party on the lower east side. She sat naked on the couch, reading a dog-eared copy of Tropic of Cancer. A raven-haired girl knelt before her, lapping at her cunt. An older man sat beside the naked girl, uncomfortably close—even for an orgy. He was wearing a grey suit. He watched them intently as he stroked his cock through his pants.
I took a seat on the opposite side of naked girl. “Now we’re symmetrical,” I said. She looked up from her book and smiled. She reached out for my beer and took a long greedy pull before handing it back to me. “I’m Betsy,” she said. She grabbed a fistful of the raven’s hair and repositioned her head slightly. “How can you concentrate well enough to read?” I asked. “I can’t,” she whispered. “It’s just a prop.” “Bringing Henry Miller to a sex party? A bit overkill, no?” She laughed. “I know. It’s redundant but it was a special request.” “Do you mind?” said the older man, angrily. “You’re fucking with my scene.” He flared his nostrils at me, like an old gray bull. A tiny nugget of cocaine, hung from a hair in his nose. Betsy winked at me and smiled. “Let’s talk later.”
Betsy and I left the party together at 4:30 am. We had coffee and hotdogs at Katz’s Deli, holding hands beneath the table as we got lost in conversation. Her mind worked like some glorious pinball machine, bouncing from topic to topic, lighting up on long-forgotten tangents and shrieking with excitement. I fell in love with the lilt and meter of her voice, and her enthusiasm for the most obscure of details. It was morning by the time I walked her home to her studio on Ludlow Street. She pulled me into the doorway and kissed me softly on lips. “Come upstairs with me,” she said.
The floor of her apartment was covered with dirty laundry, old paperbacks, and pages ripped from magazines. A futon mattress sat on the floor in the corner of the room. Several canvases leaned against the wall, in varying degrees of completion. She used the walls of her apartment as her pallet. They were covered in steaks of color and dried-up globs of paint. “Everything’s a work in progress,” she said with a laugh as she nonchalantly stripped off her clothes. She held out her hand to me. “C’mon, let’s fuck.”
By the light of day, Betsy looked different than she had at the orgy. No longer disinterested, her body screamed of sex—a soft and creamy landscape drawn from spit and come. I spent hours exploring her body, languishing over every scar and bruise. “I fall down a lot,” she said self-consciously. She sucked my cock, as she took swigs of orange soda and told me stories of her childhood in Indiana. We fucked for hours, pausing for the occasional cigarette or to let the air dry the sweat from our skin.
When I woke up, she was gone. She had left a note for me on her pillow. Had to go to work. Call me some time. -B. I never got her number. I never saw Betsy again but sometimes I wake up at night with her voice in my ears and the taste of orange soda on my lips.
*A collection of my short stories,Trash and Vaudeville, is available for the Kindle here and in paperback here.
Every time I come to school, I am reminded of an incident from my childhood.
I think I was in second grade. I was always running late in the mornings, throwing my clothes on in a panic as the carpool mom of the day honked her horn out in the driveway.
One day, I forgot something. It wasn’t until the very end of the day, when I was walking to the car with my mom, that I realized anything was amiss. I looked down at what I was wearing: an oversized t-shirt that came down to the middle of my thighs, undoubtedly something fluorescent on the front (as was the style at the time), a pair of pink tights, some Keds, and…. NOTHING ELSE. I was MORTIFIED. Do you know why? Do you understand why I was so embarrassed that I wanted to crawl into a pillow fort with my stuffed animals and never show my face on the playground again?
Because — God damn it! From now until the day I die I will shout this from the mountaintops! — tights are not pants!
There is a moment that comes early on in any relationship where you realise you are going to have to define it. We’d been spending a lot of time together recently, just us. We’d previously spent a lot of time together with others. Now it was time for that conversation.
Inevitably, it began as we were lying in bed. It was late afternoon, we had met for lunch and now we were naked and wrapped in your duvet and the setting sun was peering through the half-closed blinds spilling fractured shadows over our comfortably exhausted bodies.
Your hand was lolling casually on my shoulder and your eyes were closed. My hair was spread out like an open sea anemone across your shoulder and chest. It was warm and hazy and in that moment I heard the words as if they were coming from far away, almost a beat before they slipped from your lips. “What should we call this?”
I tried to stay still, not wanting to appear alarmed. I tried not to, but sighed a little as I breathed-in to respond, “Do we have to call it anything?”
You shifted to lean on your elbow, looking down into my face. My head bumped the pillow as I readjusted my position so I could focus on your eyes. They were by far my favourite part of your face, then, sleepy and blue but intense even when the rest of your body was languid.
“Seriously, though,” you pursed your lips, “What are we doing here?”
I tried to refrain from the mental eye-roll. “We’re lying in bed, we just had mind-blowingly great sex… But that isn’t what you mean is it?” I half-smiled, to show you I was happy and to show you I meant it.
You smiled back, but there was a touch of coldness, “So, if I introduce you to anyone I should say “Hi, this is Annie, we have mind-blowingly great sex.”. Okay, fair enough.”
You smirked and I slipped my hand out from under the covers to stroke your face.
“Obviously not. But, do we need to say anything? Couldn’t you just say “This is Annie”?”
You frowned, “But what I’m asking is, what are we to each other now?”
I looked at you, searching for a clue. “We’re friends.” I spoke softly.
“Friends. Yup. okay.” You fell back on the bed.
For a few minutes we lay just like that. You with your intense eyes closed, me with my hand stroking your cheek.
You shifted again, staring long and hard into my eyes. “It’s just… What is the first thing you think about when you wake up every morning?”
Your cheeks were flushed, there was a trace of a flutter in my chest, I felt the warmth spread through me as your fingers brushed a strand of hair from my face.
“Breakfast.” I offered.
Your smirk reappeared, “Well, alright then.”
I raised an eyebrow.
You held my gaze. “Breakfast. Good. Glad we got that cleared up.”
The Ort materialized on the old wooden stool next to Daisy’s highchair as Sandra gave Daisy her breakfast. It’s saggy bulk made the old thing creak, it was the oldest piece of furniture they had.
Daisy chortled merrily to see the creature, and then she bagan spooning the porridge into her mouth. The Ort burped encouragingly, looked over at Sandra, then returned it’s attention to the feeding human infant.
The toddler and the creature giggled together, then Daisy took up banging the highchair table with her spoon and the Ort dripped residue onto the linoleum.
Sandra and Alan had become aware their child was communicating with an invisible entity as soon as she started talking. At first they believed it to be a passing phase, but when the Ort started assuming an actual physical form it began having a serious effect on their marriage.
Alan was convinced he was losing his mind, Sandra tried reassurring him, no, it was real, the thing was real and it was happening to them. Soon, Alan was demanding they call the authorities to have it “removed”, but predictably the Ort failed to appear at mealtimes if any third party was present, and the more calls they made, the more Sandra felt that they were risking having their only child taken away from them. So she insisted they stop the calls.
It was soon after this Alan left them. He maintained he had fallen in love with the receptionist at his new work and had decided to move on. Sandra wasn’t even sure they had a receptionist at his new work. She found the idea amusing.
It made life simpler not having him around anyhow. The Ort was much less agitated with Alan gone, and, consequently, the stink it gave off mellowed.
Sandra finished mixing Daisy’s drink, looking across she caught the Ort’s blank stare, it nodded at her encouragingly. She placed the drink in front of Daisy, the Ort farted it’s approval and Sandra turned to the sink.
breakfast is important, so we’re told. over and over and over.
breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
there was a long period of time where breakfast was the most dreadful (and sometimes only) meal of the day. i would wake up with such anxiety, either from having terrible dreams that i could not separate from memories, and thus, thought they had been real, or from the stress of real life and constant depression. breakfast was gut-wrenching because i knew that if i ate it, i would surely throw it up soon after; but if i didn’t eat it, i would feel weak and dizzy all day.
sometimes, breakfast was safe. when mom would put gel in my hair and spike it just the way i liked, but was unable to do myself. a chaotic mass of jagged protrusions at the front, and the rest tight to my skull like a protective shell. but i could see her frowning with frustration at my inability to eat a proper meal, and at the despair locked away in my eyes that she just couldn’t destroy, no matter how much she loved me.
years later, when i moved out, breakfast became every sunday, with my closest friends joining me at the house with my parents, and spending the day there. family day. breakfast was ritual and welcoming and wonderful.
now, breakfast is occasional. not in a way that’s intentional or painful. but there’s no thought. breakfast happens before work so i have the strength to lift heavy objects. breakfast happens with sarah on the weekends, sometimes in our pajamas, sometimes at restaurants. sometimes breakfast is going for a chai with mom, who is trapped in her own well of despair, and that only i can see, now that i am happy.
It’s a little after midnight, but not late enough to be considered morning. There hasn’t been the clean delineation of sleep to differentiate night from morning and it’s still dark. Time has assumed a homogenized state. It no longer matters if it’s 12:30 or 2:30 or is it really 4:30 already? Christ. Light is a lamp, and the rest is as dark as it has been and will be for however long since I forgot to notice the sunset to when I forgot to finish reading the page that sends me to sleep. And once I do go to sleep, when I wake up, it will probably no longer be morning. So: Does this bowl of cereal, consumed just almost quickly enough not to be soggy at the end, count as breakfast?