Introductory Metaphor

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The Living Room

a pair of hand made socks
knit with cheap, colorful yarn
the mittens not quite the same size
a vase about to topple on my table
as the cats race-chase through the house
chirping and trilling at each other
their joy for grey days and wet food.
a couch full of hangars and clothes I need to put away
lit dramatically by the window
pillows that have been laid upon so lovingly they're flat.
a painting by my sister
and At-at in a hat with Mickey Mouse ears
and a skull whose brain has been replaced
with a number of dice.

Carrie is taking a creative writing class in school this semester, and I’m blatantly stealing her assignment prompts for my own use. In this case, the assignment was to write a poem introducing oneself to the class via a metaphor. I am a mess. A total disaster area of love and happiness, but a mess nonetheless. I particularly relate to the ceramic skull in which we keep our gaming dice.

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What’s With the Post-It Notes (and what I’m doing with the makeup you gave me)

I’ve been doing this weird writing/art experiment lately. I was in a bit of a writing slump, so this was just my attempt to try something new. When I start to explain it, I trip over my thoughts and ruin it, so I’ll just share a bit here without too much yammering.

It started with Post-It Notes. And a Sharpie.

The process involves hanging out with cats a lot. wpid-img_20141007_222140.jpg


Sometimes it gets political. And sometimes it gets sparkly. I don’t see any reason you can’t have both. wpid-20140930_140742.jpg

Sometimes I draw a little bit, or scribble. And I have some strong feelings.

Sometimes I outline a whole essay on Post-Its. They don’t always translate well to regular text. I think that’s because the colors, sizes and placement have become part of the text. That or I’m not a very good writer. Totally possible. wpid-20141104_101934.jpgSometimes it evolves in interesting ways. Here we have moisturizer, makeup brushes, donated makeup, and a gridded Post-It pad. Several of my friends have donated makeup they had just lying around, and I’ve been pulling from my own stash as well. The truth is, I hate wearing most makeup, so this seemed like as good a use as any for it. I got a lot more offers for makeup than I needed, considering that I don’t actually know what I’m doing with the stuff, but I’m starting to get some ideas. If you’re thinking about giving me makeup, please do not purchase any on my behalf. I intend to waste it, and I’d feel like an asshole if you spent money on that. wpid-20141027_201506.jpgTurns out makeup is not the greatest to draw with (that is, it doesn’t make my mediocre drawing skills look any better), but it can make for interesting paper textures. A bit of moisturizer helps eyeshadow cling to the paper. wpid-20141027_200638.jpg

This was my only semi-successful attempt to draw with makeup. I’m sure someone who understand make up and drawing could do something really fancy with it, but I’m not that person. My sister could probably do it. Me? I require words.

wpid-img_20141010_154706.jpg I honestly don’t know what the end goal is with all of this. It’s just fun. Ellie suggested publishing it, and I do have some ideas about that, but I’m not ready to share them because I will scare myself out of it if I speak too soon.


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Brain Experiment


Experiment with new beliefs. Try on an idea to see how it wears. Go around believing in magic. Just try to pretend, and see if you can convince yourself. No one has to know that for a minute, you believed you could pull a rabbit from a hat. Some beliefs grow impractical quickly. Some beliefs feel bad. Some are kinda fun. No one’s judging. Let your mind wander. See what happens.

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Little Lies: The New Neighbor

worn stairs

The man who knocked on my door last week asked me to turn down my music. I hadn’t seen him around before. This is not a big apartment building, nor is it the first time I’ve been asked to turn down my music, so I’ve seen the faces of everyone who lives here (I’m pretty damned sure). Furthermore, this building has one rickety old staircase up the center, which passes in front of every apartment door, meaning when someone hauls a couch up the stairs, we all know about it. Assuming we’re home, that is, and I was. I’m always home. (Thanks, Obama!)

I figured maybe he was visiting one of the neighbors, probably Molly upstairs. Molly dates a lot. She brings home different guys a lot. It’s not my cup of tea, but who am I to judge? Anyway, I assumed this guy was one of hers.

Most people, though, when they ask you to turn down your music, they make some kind of face. Maybe they look apologetic like, “I’m sorry my ears are so sensitive that I have to inconvenience you.” Or sometimes they look angry like they think I’m playing music just to piss them off. This guy, though! He said, “Would you turn down your music, please?” the same way you’d say, “I’d like a soy latte with an extra shot.” His tone was authoritative, gentlemanly even, and made me feel like some kind of gross creature who should be accustomed to taking orders.

“Nah,” I said, puffing my chest. I let my chin rise in feigned thoughtfulness and shook my head as though considering seriously whether turning down the music would be a possibility. “No, sorry, I can’t.”

And could you believe the fucker smiled at me? I don’t know what I thought he was going to do, but he smiled and walked away, and that pissed me off so much I had to turn my music up even more, and Mrs. Norton came knocking a few minutes later. I had to apologize to her. I didn’t know her baby was sleeping.

That afternoon, I went across the street to eat lunch and watch people. I was hoping to come up with a new story idea, but I got distracted thinking of ways to start a conversation with the barista. My attention had been wandering all day ever since that bastard knocked on my door. The music hadn’t even been that loud. And it was good. It was sunny outside, and I’d been sitting at my desk with just the perfect light streaming down on my page, and I was starting to get somewhere with this story when this gentlemanly fucker comes knocking like he’s got no taste. He had the face of a guy who humble-brags about how his marathon training is going. But if I knew anything about Molly, she’d be bored with him in a minute, and I’d never have to see him again.

I was gazing at the door when it opened and in he walked. His eyes, I swear, went directly to mine, and before proceeding to the counter, he smiled and tipped his imaginary hat at me. I watched him order something I couldn’t hear, receive it, and exit. As he passed the front window, his head turned sharply to shoot a grin straight at me.

I tried to refocus on my story, I tried people watching, I even tried to spin the guy into a character for a new story, but I was stymied. I called it quits for the day, hopped on my bike and rode to the park.

The next day, I got up, made coffee, turned on my music (a little quieter than the day before) and started writing. With my mind fresh from sleep, I had no trouble getting started. I wrote straight through till 2 p.m. before getting distracted by hunger. I locked my door and headed down the stairs, and I saw Molly coming in to the lobby as the new guy was walking out. He stood aside as she straight-armed her way through the door, then swiftly shimmied past her to exit the building without touching the door. Molly was absorbed in her phone and did not glance up at us.

At the sandwich shop, I took a seat by the window. I sat and pretended to write for a long time, occasionally jotting down notes about the people I observed but glancing up every time I sensed movement in the corners of my vision. It paid off. He returned an hour later, empty handed.

I snapped up my notebook and the remainders of my sandwich and jogged across the street in a way that probably did not quite pass as casual. I entered the door 15 feet behind him, and paused to check my mail in the lobby letting him get ahead of me on the stairs. I could hear his footsteps several flights ahead as I mounted the bottom step. He was still walking when I reached my door on the 3rd floor. I didn’t put the key in the lock until I heard him reach the top. A door opened, there were footsteps, and the door closed again. I went into my apartment and resumed work.

The next morning, I walked out into the stairwell and peeked over the edge, up and down the jagged leg of space with the skylight at the top. Feeling confident that no one was lounging outside their doors at 8 a.m., I began to walk up. It was a stupid thing to do. I didn’t think I was going to find anything. But at the very top of the stairs was a dusty landing, which was rarely used because there was no apartment door at the top. The path ended in drywall, and pinned to that was a piece of notebook paper with symbols scrawled across it. It was like a language a little kid would make up — all dots and squiggles. Some symbols were bigger than others, carved boldly into the paper with a ballpoint pen.

The next day and the next, I saw the man coming and going from the apartment building, nodding at people he passed on the way to this or that errand. When I passed him on the stairwell, I could feel his eyes boring into me, his smile growing wider, his cheeks more insistently jubilant. The harder he stared, the more I wanted to avoid his gaze.

Yesterday, I watched out the front window for him to come back, and when I knew he was coming up the stairs, I listened. His steps were slow, deliberate and loud. At each landing, he stepped firmly with one foot, then the other, and turned slowly. I counted the flights he must have risen, and only after I heard a door open and shut, I opened my door and counted. He’d risen 6 flights total, so he should’ve been at the top floor. Obviously, he’d faked the last flight because he must have known I was listening. He probably saw me sitting by the window when he came up the street. I went up to the 6th floor. Each floor had two doors (one on each side of the landing). Apartment 6A was the landlord’s, and apartment 6B had been empty I thought, but perhaps the creepy bastard had moved in without any furniture. Maybe he was some kind of sicko dope fiend. I’d be doing the whole building a favor if I could get him kicked out. I knocked on the sicko’s door. I knocked and knocked and knocked. It was starting to hurt my knuckles. I was going to keep on knocking all day if I had to, but a door opened behind me, and I heard the landlord’s voice.

“Smithson? You doing OK?”

I froze. How to explain this?

“Uhh,” I said, shoving my hands in my pockets as though to hide the evidence of my insanity. “Sorry to be so loud, Mrs. Davis, I just, um. I been trying to talk to this guy who moved in here. He doesn’t really seem right to me, you know?”

Mrs. Davis furrowed her eyebrows at me. “There’s no new tenant.”

“Well then! How embarrassing,” I said. “Maybe one of Molly’s guys, then. Maybe I should mind my own business.”

When Mrs. Davis finally disappeared behind her own door again, I tiptoed up the last flight of stairs. There was a new note on the wall.

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Little Lies: Freddy’s Winter Commute

icy road
This is the pretend Freddy.
This is the first in what I hope will be an occasional series of fiction
experiments. Thanks to my friend Freddy Nassar for volunteering his 
likeness for my studies.

It would have been appropriate to get on the road a little early, but he didn’t. There were numerous little things to be done before he could leave the house. Shower, shave, feed the cat, clean the litter box, and scrub the spot on the floor where the cat had expressed his dismay with the state of the litter box. He checked his e-mail while waiting for the coffee to brew. He checked it again while sipping his coffee pensively, quickly, wishing he could gulp it down like water, knowing he should be getting on his way. He checked his email once more from his phone as he sat in the car waiting for the engine to warm up and melt the ice on his windshield. No new messages, except for the usual barrage of sales pitches from online retailers used once to purchase a Christmas gift for a girlfriend who was no longer so much as a friend. At 7:45, he put the car in reverse and began to move only to glimpse a dark, hulking figure in the rearview mirror. Brakes. Park. That fleeting moment of insanity: Is that a fucking bear? A fat, ruddy face lowered into view, leathery red cheeks smiling idiotically.

“Sorry!” shouted the stupid face. Two hands appeared alongside it, one wearing a mitten, one bare-fingered, both waving stupidly. “Have a nice day!” The idiot bear man moved on with snow and ice crunching under his feet.

At 7:54, the car was warm, sitting at a traffic light, and grumbling away like an old man. Freddy checked his phone. Nothing. Greenlight. Acceleration. The way the tires spin until they can get traction on public roads when winter catches them by surprise. Freddy’s car scrambled as though having a bad dream of its own, then bolted into the intersection just as the cars behind him began to honk. “Fuckoff!” Freddy shouted as he fishtailed through.

The next time the car stopped, it was facing a low, grey building nearly identical to every other building within a radius of about 5 miles. The front door was locked, and Freddy opened it with a key that he carried along with his car and house keys. His gloved fingers fumbled for a moment, human error, but the key slid into place and the door recognized its partner, and the grey building opened itself up, offering him a slightly less grey and rewardingly warm interior. Lights, automatic. Carpet, grey berber, that bland mélange of colors that is not a color unto itself, intended to disguise the stains of everyday abuses.

Freddy’s lungs overtook him with a spasm that produced something that he was compelled to expel emphatically onto the floor. “Ugh,” said Freddy, as he scuffed the filth into the carpet with the sole of his favorite shitkicking boots.

Freddy used to enjoy being the most competent person in the office. That was before he learned there were no rewards for competency. If you are good at your job, efficient, if you ensure that rules are followed and schedules are met, you get the occasional pat on the head or an invitation to lunch with the boss. You get invited to play golf. Freddy did not want to play golf. He had learned the rules of the game and how to swing that stupid stick at that stupid little dimpled ball, and he sometimes tried playing mental games like in fourth grade — imagine your boss’s head on the ball, et cetera. He drove around in golf carts with old men droning on and kept score for them and was jolly about being the looser of every round. After all, bosses and clients love to win. They invited him back often when he’d been good, guided some tough project through the weeds and made everyone a bit of cash.

Good-boy Freddy rolled his eyes, pulled off his gloves, and stuffed them in his pockets. With a groan, he unzipped his pants and pissed on the carpet, letting the morning’s coffee finish it’s journey to an unexpected destination. He listened thoughtfully to the sound of piss on berber, a sound he’d never contemplated before, and at the same time felt a thrill not entirely unlike the first time he dragged his tongue up the length of a woman’s body. Strange, he thought, that those two things should be connected in his mind. But then, life is certainly strange. Sex is strange. People are strange. What wasn’t strange was this office and golf and the coworkers who were now officially late.

8:46. Work started at 8:30. No fucking respect for schedules, Freddy thought. No fucking respect for each other or themselves — what a waste, he thought.

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