01/22/16

My obsession with the Flint Water Crisis persists.

Up until today, I didn’t really know what to do. By now, we’ve reached a tipping point of national media attention and public support, so donating money and water through the usual channels felt like a drop in the bucket. (A pun about water. Ha ha. Ha. Ha. There are more to come.) Then this news story popped up in my twitter feed this morning, headline: Undocumented immigrants late to know about water, scared to get help.  Illegal immigrants can’t get donations from the Red Cross or the Michigan National Guard, because these sanctioned outlets require them to show ID, and they don’t want to get deported. Why they need to show ID in the first place is a baffling and infuriating question with no good answer. I can only imagine the scores of people taking advantage of this dazzling free bottled water giveaway! If a person shows up and says they need water, I would think at this point we’d be willing to just take their word for it, but whatever. I digress.

The church on Flint’s east side that’s dedicated themselves to distributing water, filters and other supplies to this otherwise forgotten segment of the community, as it turns out, takes about 35 minutes to drive to from my mother’s house in Waterford. It seemed like it would be incredibly easy to load my mom’s pickup truck with water and drop it off there myself. And it was. I was so right.

Everyone who lives in Michigan is familiar with this sign off of northbound I-75. It's been slowly fading since I was a baby. "Are you on the Right Road?" "Are you sure you want to drive to Flint right now?" The sign seems to say.

Everyone who lives in Michigan is familiar with this sign off of northbound I-75. His face has been slowly fading since I was a baby. “Are you on the Right Road?” i.e. “Are you sure you want to drive to Flint right now?” (The sign seems to say.)

 

Plus, me, my fella Aaron and my rottweiler Dorothy are underemployed and bored, generally. It would have been insane not to spend my Friday afternoon on this incredibly easy gesture. I asked facebook and twitter if anyone wanted to pay pal me some money to buy the water, and oh my god. I’m not made of wood: I was overwhelmed and touched by how many people immediately, without question and with a lot of trust in their heart sent me money for the cause.

We raised around $500 in a couple of hours. Just how many moneys worth of water can you fit in the back of a single pick up truck? The answer’s a lot less than I originally guessed. We bought around $80 worth of water at two different grocery stores and headed north. Water, you guys. It’s really cheap and easy to get when you live in a predominantly white suburb called WATERford.

Look at my foxy boyfriend. Also all of that water we donated.

Look at my foxy boyfriend. Also all of that water we donated.

stmary

And then I stole this cool statue and put it in my bedroom.

St. Mary’s Church looked tiny and underwhelming from the outside. There were just a couple of cars out front and the church itself was locked. For a moment we worried nobody was there and I’d basically just robbed a bunch of people of their hard earned money for no reason. Dorothy’s first and only act of charity was to take a dump on their lawn, but I mean, she’s a dog and she’d been in the car for an hour. I’m sure St. Mary understands.

Long story continued: We found the little church office where the people who run St. Mary’s work. They were adorable, overworked and grateful. I met one of the fathers of the church: a blondish, gangly man maybe five years younger than me. What a tall drink of water! “Is there a Mrs. Priest?” I thought about saying, but didn’t.

Talking with the people at St. Mary’s, I can assure you of a few things. These are good people who are working hard to do the right thing at the local, grassroots level. They don’t care about politics or accolades or the legal status of the people they’re trying to help. The woman I talked to sounded exhausted by all the attention she was receiving. She said, “People have been calling all day. I haven’t been able to attend to any church business. I don’t want to do interviews.” The compulsive journalist inside of me that wanted to ask a lot of probing questions immediately shut up and took that to heart.

The other thing I noticed was that in the fifteen minutes or so we were at the church, we didn’t see anyone showing up to actually get the water. They are still working hard to reach out to the immigrants in the area, which continues to be their biggest obstacle. The priest told us that that’s what they’re focusing on now: Using the contacts they have in the Hispanic community to reach out and let them know that St. Mary’s is a safe place for them to get water without hassle or fear of prosecution.

If you’ve given me money already, or if you’re planning on doing so in the next few days, I just want to stress that I’ve met the people at St. Mary’s church and that I trust that they’re doing everything they can to get the donations to immigrants specifically. And you can trust me, because I’m a doctor.

And I hope that you trust that I was totally lying just now when I said that I was a doctor.

I am a little concerned about overwhelming the people at St. Mary’s. Our truckload’s worth of water effectively doubled what they already had on hand. They had to move furniture around in a tiny kitchen to make room for the stuff that we brought. As I said before, I spent $80 on water and I cut them a check for $200. The remaining balance from donations so far I promised to mail them directly once the paypal transfer clears and the money’s available in my account. (The 200 I gave them today represents the extent of what I was able to front. I am a poor, sad person).

If you’re interested in helping but haven’t yet, here are two fun and easy options:

1. I’ll continue to take Paypal donations at mollylaich (at) gmail (dot) com over the weekend and then I’ll mail them one big check. This is a solid, lazy option for people who aren’t in the mood to find a stamp, mail a letter, etc. etc. It requires you to trust me, but like I said earlier, I’m a doctor. If you’re reading this after Sunday, January 24th, please, don’t send me money.

2. Checks can be sent directly to St. Mary’s Place at the following address. (People in the Flint area are also free to drop off water, filters, money, etc. here any day between 9 and 4:30pm.)

2500 N. Franklin Ave.
Flint, Mi 48506

To conclude: Thank you so much one more time to everyone who sent me money. You are great people, and I know that it’s going to make a difference. And please, don’t feel bad if you can’t/couldn’t send anything. Money is hard to come by. That’s why it’s called money. Just understanding the issues and having your head and heart right about the things that matter makes all kinds of difference.  I kind of sort of really believe that.

Also, lose some weight!

Also, lose some weight!

I see this guy on the local news all the time. Aaron and I were going to run up behind him and wave our arms around frantically, but then we remembered that we're not extroverts.

I see this guy on the local news all the time. Aaron and I were going to run up behind him and wave our arms around frantically, but then we remembered that we’re not extroverts.

Finally, a well deserved whiskey after an afternoon filled with saintly, christian charity. Also, the water looks fine to drink; there's probably not even a real problem.

Finally, a well deserved whiskey after an afternoon filled with saintly, christian charity. Also, the water looks fine to drink; there’s probably not even a real problem.

01/15/16

Sledgehammer

Here’s a story I wrote in 2012. I’ve tried to get it published in half a dozen places and I’ve had some near hits, but nothing’s ever worked out. There’s something a little wrong with this story but I don’t want to change it; I like it the way it is. I’ve decided to publish it here today in honor of the Flint water crisis. I hope you enjoy my story. I think it’s a lot of “fun.”

Love, Molly.

It was March in Flint, Michigan and the city was plagued with record high temperatures for no reason anyone could think of. The dog licked Paul’s face and he woke up thinking about blood and mangled bones. He thought of everything that had gone wrong and all of the nothing he had to look forward to. In his dream there were miles of hot sand under his feet and happy cactuses. Awake in Flint, every part of his body hurt. He hadn’t had sex in three years. He was 32 years old.

Out in the living room, Paul’s roommates were watching commercials.

“Not even 9 am and it’s 72 degrees outside with a high of 86,” Tom said.


“They were saying earlier that marijuana cures AIDS,” Elijah added.

“If they’d just legalize it,” said Tom. “Think how much the government would make on the taxes.”

Paul looked out the front window at the apartment buildings across the street, then down at the wet, uncomfortable grass.

“What do you think, Paul?”

“The weather is all wrong,” he said.

“No,” Elijah said. “About weed curing AIDS.”

“Seems like there must be more to it than that,” Paul said. He pinned his Citgo nametag onto a Tool t-shirt. He was supposed to wear a collared shirt, but what did that matter?


Behind the counter, Paul scrolled through women’s profiles on OKCupid. He tried to find smart, heavy girls. He wished there were a way to filter for it. He thought about his eight-inch cock going to waste, longed for a box to check, a way to get the word out.

People stood in front of the register and said things: a deflated complaint about the price of gas. What beautiful weather we’re having. What’s Tool mean? You got those 5-hour Energies?

The 5-hour energies were right next to the register. He didn’t know how much more prominently he could place the 5-hour energies.

Around noon, a girl with a poorly rendered fortuneteller tattooed on her bicep complained that the coffee was cold, but it wasn’t. The fortuneteller peered into a crystal ball and had a black mole on her cheek.

“On the house,” Paul said. “I like your tattoo.”

“It was free.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?” Paul had meant to say, “Did your boyfriend give it to you?” but it came out wrong.

She scrunched up her nose and he watched her walk out of the store. He thought about grabbing between her legs, whispering something mean into her ear. “Go ahead,” he wished he had said. “Think you’re fucking special.”



“Who are you?” Professor Harris asked. “Who are you, really? Why are we here, and what is this life for?”

Paul and the rest of his 300-level philosophy class had recently moved into a smaller classroom with more windows, to let the light through, but then spring came earlier than expected and in this new room, the windows were painted shut. “You can’t win,” Someone had said.

A guy in the back row took his shirt off to reveal a torso covered in freckles. It got the ball rolling and pretty soon most everyone had his shirt off. Paul looked down at his shoes and thought hard about who he was, why he was here and what life might be for. He raised his hand.

“It’s so hot in here,” one of two girls in the class said. She pulled her tank top over her head and set it on the table.

“Can we go outside?”

“Yeah,” went a third student. “Can we have class outside on the quad?”

“Jesus Christ,” The professor said. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He was old, black and tired. “What are you, fucking children?”


When Paul came home from school that night, he found a message waiting for him from a girl on OKCupid. Username: Moongazer611. Subject: Hey. The few times this happened in the past, it hadn’t amounted to anything, or it had and what it amounted to was bad. Once he agreed to meet a woman at Big Boy and she never showed. Another time he met a woman at Big Boy, and she showed up with a baby in her arms. She said the baby was his. “I’ve never seen you before in my life,” he’d insisted. “I know.” She clarified: “I meant from now on.”

When it came to internet dating, Paul saw himself in a casino, feeding a slot machine tokens. He’d been there an immeasurable amount of time. He never won and the lights and noise were crushing him, but he was bound to hit the money one of these days, wasn’t he?

The message from Moongazer611 said, “Nice weather we’re having, wouldn’t you say?”

It was difficult to argue with, but no. He wouldn’t have said that.

Her profile was mostly blank. Questions about job, religion and body type went unanswered. She liked hockey and dogs. Under diet she selected, “Strictly vegetarian.” She mentioned movies about romantic love and television shows with laugh tracks. Her display photo looked like it was taken at the mall in the nineties. In the other picture, she pointed a camera at the bathroom mirror and looked very serious doing it. She looked long. Not fat exactly, but over-sized. It was the same girl in both pictures but they spoke to each other not at all.

Paul looked into Moongazer611’s eyes and felt that familiar ache—anyone who’s lived enough to be profoundly disappointed has experienced it at least once—he knew; he just knew that he was going to meet this girl and that she was going to ruin his life.

It came to Paul as a basic, pedestrian question of free will versus determinism; he wondered what Professor Harris might say about it. It was determined that he would respond to Moongazer611, that she would seduce him, get pregnant, make him stay in Michigan forever and stifle his dreams of moving to Arizona. Knowing that, could he now choose differently? Suppose he didn’t respond to the query. Suppose he deleted his OKCupid account, picked up his computer and threw it in the flooded ditch behind the house. What if instead of responding to Moongazer611 he went out into the living room, knocked over the television set, picked up Tom and Elijah’s innocent blue heeler and snapped the thing’s neck? Where would he be tomorrow morning? He’d be sitting across the table from an incredulous man, a manila folder between them, just about to talk about what happened and why. Snap the dog’s neck, and everything is taken care of. Paul started to get up from his chair to go looking for the dog when MoonGazer611 came online and instant messaged him. She said: “Hi.”


She wanted to meet at the Big Boy in Grand Blanc. “No,” he tried to argue. “It’s haunted.” But he typed “Okay” instead.

It was March 23rd and 91 degrees in Michigan. “The air conditioner is filled with dust,” the Hostess said to Paul on the way to his booth, by way of explanation.

He’d been sitting alone, looking out the window at squirrels running up and down trees, when a towering woman sat down in the booth across from him, her shoulders hunched. She tucked a blond tendril behind her ear, apologetically.

“Paul?” she said. “I’m sorry I’m late.” The woman looked down at her tiny cleavage. She had long, thin arms and a wet face.

“Who are you?” Paul said.

“You’re not Paul? But you look just like the pictures…”

“I’m Paul,” he said. “Who the fuck are you?”

The girl’s bottom lip started trembling. It was a pink petal of a lip. Every inch of her looked laminated, really.

“I’m Misty. Why are you yelling at me?”

Two guys in dirty boots walked past their table just in time to notice the crying woman and the lumpy man with bad knees responsible.

“You’re not the girl from the pictures...” Paul said, but he’d already lost this fight; his words just swung through the air without landing.

“Is everything okay here?” The larger of the two men said. The other sat down at the booth behind them, took his hat off and put it on the table.

“We just met,” Misty sniffled.

The standing man cracked his knuckles.

“Lance,” the sitting man said. “You want coffee?”

There was a waitress involved now, and behind her, a mother with two small children trying to make their way through the aisle.

“I got upset,” Paul said. “She’s much prettier than her pictures. I thought she was playing a trick on me.” Paul thought back to the woman at home on his computer, then back at the girl sitting in front of him and invented a story that connected them. He could see it, a little. The skin was the same.

Lance pulled a bandana from his back pocket and wiped sweat off his brow with hands the size of trucks. “I can understand that,” he said.

“I feel insecure too, you know,” Misty said.

“Heck,” Lance said. “We all do.” He turned to the couple with eyes that reminded Paul of his dead father, and suddenly half the goddamn restaurant were in tears or on the brink.

“This is an unforgettable moment,” Lance said. “I’m going to rejoin my friend and let you two get to know each other.”

Paul looked at this sniffling unicorn in front of him. He watched her play with her hair using hands so awkward and fidgety they might as well have been hooves. “This pretty girl is scared of me,” Paul thought. He had all the power. “For once,” he thought. “It’s me instead of you.”


Outside, the sky was black and water hung in the air around them—not raining, and not about to rain but some made-up space in between. It was still so hot. It seemed that they were standing in a public shower together, outside with all their clothes on. It was erotic and uncomfortable.

His roommates were up watching Bones when the two of them came through the living room. The dog ran over and jumped up on Misty. Tom and Elijah said, “Blue!” as though it would make a difference, but Misty cooed like a mother and the dog sat down and looked up, wagging his tail. Tom and Elijah were shocked to see a beautiful woman in the house and showed it. Thunder and lightning crashed in front of the big bay window and all the lights went out.

“But…” Elijah said.

Tom patted his knee and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll download the episode tomorrow. Let’s go to bed.”

Paul lit his room with the two candles lifted from the dining room table. What’s the use of having homosexual roommates? The candles were pine scented and stale.

Misty sat on the edge of the bed. She pulled her long hair behind her and held it back in a ponytail. Paul didn’t know what to do. He sat down and rested his hand on her knee. It was a small, pitiful hand. For a second he imagined the man from the restaurant was in the room instead of him. He felt the girl buzz underneath his touch. With Lance’s hands, Paul reached under her skirt and touched between her legs. Misty squeaked and let her hair down. He thought of the girl with the fortuneteller tattoo. Professor Harris called out in a booming voice, “What are you, fucking children?” In Paul’s head, his bedroom was crowded with other people. Their shadows flickered against the wall. Misty grabbed his wrist and shoved his hand where it didn’t want to go. He jammed his finger, winced. She kissed him with a thin tongue. The kiss was bad, and then it got a little better, but mostly, their tongues were not a good match. They got undressed. Paul hated his body, but he remembered the size of his penis and felt happy for the chance to show it off. She put her hands around it, but it wasn’t behaving the way it should have. She held it for a long time and nothing happened. They rubbed against each other and panted. He heard Professor Harris mumbling something about agency. Lance was long gone. The girl with the Fortuneteller tattoo laughed at him.

“It’s okay,” Misty said.

“It’s usually much bigger,” Paul said. He wanted to catch the words and stuff them back inside of him, but it was too late.

Misty said, “I just want to hold you.”

She said something else, and at the same time, all the lights wooshed on, his computer sighed like an angel and the TV out in the living room screamed something about record high temperatures.

Paul looked at the stranger in his bedroom, saw that her eyes were frightened oceans. “Did you just say, ‘I love you?’”

“No,” she said. “God.”

“You did,” Paul said. Without really knowing why, he was angry. There were worse things than being loved by a beautiful woman, but he didn’t like things that made no sense, and nothing about this girl made any sense. Girls who look like Misty don’t live in Flint. They don’t sleep with men with busted up knees. Girls should look the same in all of their pictures. Girls should eat meat. “You said, ‘I love you.’ I heard you. Why would you say that?”

She got up and slid her top over her bare chest. She looked around the room, brushing her hair behind her tiny pink ears again and again. Still, she was so tall. Her limbs lifted up and down looking for her clothes as though pulled by strings. She went to the front door holding her bra and sandals in her hands. “I didn’t say that,” she said.

“I’ll drive you to your car,” Paul said, from the bed, in his boxer shorts.

She shook her head. “I followed you in my car. Don’t you remember?”

He didn’t remember, but he said, “Sure. Sure I remember. I’ll see you later?”


Professor Harris asked Paul to stay behind after he let the rest of the class out. It was the first week of April. People were getting nervous about the weather, but only a little. It was 95 degrees. There were rumors on evangelical radio stations that the sun had come unhinged and was moving closer to the earth, but science had other, better explanations. His roommates just watched game shows or network television in the evenings. Paul used to be really interested in the weather but lately he found he could barely get through the end of a news headline before his brain came unraveled. That’s what Professor Harris wanted to talk about. He wanted to know why Paul hadn’t turned in the proposal for his final paper. Paul opened his mouth to speak.

“Hell,” Professor Harris said. “Not that it matters. Why do you want a degree in philosophy anyway?”

Paul tried to remember. Something about wanting to wrap his head around things, to try and figure out why there was something instead of nothing? “I guess I don’t,” Paul said.

“It’s all falling apart,” Professor Harris said. “Of course, everybody’s been saying that forever.” He wiped his glasses clean with his tie.

Paul thought he looked like Danny Glover. A racist thought, probably, that a black man would look like any other black man.

“Still. It seems that if you’ve paid for the class you might as well finish it out. In case I’m wrong.”


Misty wanted to come over all of the time. She wanted him to bend down in positions his knees didn’t want to be in and kiss him and stay with him and stuff. They’d been on three dates since the first time, and always, his penis failed. Whenever she wasn’t around it behaved like a weapon. He masturbated constantly. When Misty wasn’t looking, Paul felt as though his hard ons could cut through cans, which would hurt a lot. It made him angry.

Misty brought him food that she called cake, but it was actually ground up nuts and carrots in a loaf that fell apart and crumbled when you tried to eat it. She had a handheld radio that she would hold up to his ear. He felt annoyed in particular by the New Radicals song “Don’t Give up.” They’d be driving and all of a sudden she’d pull the player out of her purse and hold the thing up to his head, cooing, “Here Paul. Listen. You love this song. Listen.” Inside her purse she kept a wet sponge. She patted his brow with it and hummed. That part was okay, but he wondered how the sponge didn’t ruin the radio.

Regular was four dollars a gallon, but the customers weren’t even cranky about it. They stopped mentioning the weather. They filled their cars up 10 or 20 dollars at a time, which meant he saw the same people over and over. He imagined the people were shuffled cards in his hands. That afternoon, he drew the girl with the fortuneteller on her bicep. She bought more oil, 10 dollars on number four and a bright blue drink in a dinosaur-shaped bottle.

“What are you, 12?” Paul said.

“Fuck you, Fella.” She smiled.

He asked for her phone number but forgot to ask her name. She wrote something on her receipt and he watched the back of her legs leaving the station. Sweat poured down the crease of her knee and her sandals flopped weirdly, because one of them was broken.

A man with a red face came in behind her and waddled up to the counter. He was carrying a sledgehammer. He bought a single pack of condoms and walked out the door without speaking.

Paul opened the receipt and looked at the number the girl had written down. He thought he’d text her something clever: “Watch out for the man with the sledgehammer,” but when he went to type her number into his phone, a digit was missing. “What a cunt,” he thought. He went outside and looked down the length of the street. He saw the man with the sledgehammer get smaller and smaller as he lumbered down the road. Paul squinted, turned his hand into a visor. His anger at the girl with the fortuneteller tattoo morphed into a piteous dread. He wished the number were complete so he could warn her about the man. He knew she’d driven off in her leaky Saturn by now, but Paul wanted to be a knight, and he imagined the man with the sledgehammer was gaining on her.


Misty wanted to go to the beach. “There’s a big beach near my mother’s house, on Pontiac Lake. Let’s go to the beach.”

“It’s April,” Paul tried to argue, although he didn’t know why he bothered. Paul lost every argument. All he wanted was a smart, heavy girl he could fuck, and instead he had this princess with a poison vagina. This was the new theory he was working on. Paul’s penis didn’t work because Misty’s vagina repelled it, like a magnet turned around the wrong way.

“No one will be there,” Misty said. “We can hop over the fence.”

It wasn’t exactly true that no one was there. A Mexican family had the same idea, but the beach was long and they kept to the other side. There was a man with a metal detector pacing back and forth along the water’s edge, and two more men throwing a football off in the distance.

They laid their towels out on the sand. It was gravelly and covered with slimy plants, blown in from the wind or something. It was only 80 degrees, but Misty assured Paul it would be hotter by noon. “They said it should get over 100 today,” she beamed. “The hottest day on record.”

Paul didn’t understand why people weren’t more concerned about the weather. A month ago, the lake was frozen solid so it was a little too cold for swimming. Paul’s arms and face were pink. He kept hidden under his shirt an impossibly white belly. Misty slinked out of her clothes to reveal a beige bikini clasped with oval pieces of wood; it was a suit from the seventies. Her body looked torn out of a magazine, and yet she slunk down into herself, embarrassed. Nothing Misty said or did made any sense. He felt the anger billow up inside of him from the start. He should have turned around and ran straight into the woods surrounding the lake then, instead of waiting until after it was too late to escape.

“So like, what are your dreams?” Misty said. “What are your passions?”

“What’s it to you?” Paul said.

Misty sat up and punched him playfully on the arm. He flinched. She started digging a hole in the dirt in front of her with a garden sized shovel, made of metal, not the plastic kind meant for kids on a beach. “Silly,” she said. “I want to know you.”

“I want to move to Arizona,” he said.

She smiled a little and dug the hole deeper. “Yeah? What’s in Arizona?”

He tried to remember what it was he’d left there. He remembered that it was flat. If you put your cheek down to the ground you could see the whole state laid out to infinity in front of you. It reminded him of the shelves in a refrigerator, but so hot. He’d wanted to go there for the heat, but now the heat was there on top of them, pressing down. There had to be another reason. What was the other reason?

“There are these boulders you can climb,” He started to say, but he thought about his knees, and knew that he couldn’t climb any boulders. The man with the metal detector walked by and started beeping. “But no. That’s not it,” Paul said.

“What is it, then?” Misty said.

Paul stared out at the sun, just hanging over the lake like a smug fuck, burning bright and unmoving.

“Try to remember,” Misty said.

“Do I have a dog?”

Misty made an ugh sound and threw the shovel in front of her, like a girl. The blade stuck in the sand as it landed. The shovel seemed larger than he remembered from a moment ago; it was weird.

One of the men out on the grass overthrew the football and the wind sent it rolling toward them. Misty stared out across the water. She brushed her wild blond hair away from her face and pursed her pink lips, trying to hold in her patience. She was so good to try to hold in her patience for such an impossible man, the action seemed to say. She was so kind and virtuous and patient.

Paul remembered Professor Harris mentioning that everyone had an equal ability to kill one another, which is why we had morals. That didn’t seem right at all. The man with the sledgehammer had the upper hand over the girl with the fortuneteller tattoo, for sure. Who would even argue that? And Paul could kill this waif in the swimsuit with his bare hands, because he was bigger than her and she was too polite to defend herself. He could have done it with his hands, but it was even faster with the shovel. All along, he’d been wrong about its size; it was a full-sized shovel that he brought down on Misty’s head, again and again. He didn’t even see her face before he started hitting her, it just happened. He felt the handle buzz in his hands when he made impact with her head. It sounded like someone pounding on a door wearing mittens. He thought of squashed grapefruit—in fact, he could almost smell it. She made a little squeak, but that was all. Her limbs were bent at odd angles and she’d landed with her head face down in the sand.

Paul would have stood there a lot longer, wondering why what just happened had happened, but the men throwing the football started walking in his direction. He noticed Lance’s hands first. The rest of him was dark from the sun, but the hands were white and large and swayed back and forth as he quickened his gait. The other one lagged behind slowly with his trademark disinterest. “Fancy meeting you two again,” Paul thought about saying, but instead he got up and ran toward the woods.

Not until he found himself trudging barefoot through thick, sticky brush did he notice the new strength in his legs. Making his way through these trees felt as easy as swimming. He thought he heard the men behind him, calling out, but it could have been birds or nothing. It was a long time before he got tired. The sun crept around the green and everything was wet; the ground seemed startled by the sudden thaw, spongier than it should have been and maybe even humiliated. He felt dirt on his face.

When it seemed as though hours had passed, the men weren’t any closer to finding him, and he hardly remembered what he was running from in the first place, Paul let himself sit down in a clearing at the foot of a tall tree. He thought about Arizona and the thing he was about to remember before Misty made him so mad and he beat her to death. Why had he ever gone to Arizona?

He’d met a girl on the internet. He flew to Arizona to be with her, because she was sort of pretty, because they both liked hockey, and it was okay, but he had regrets. He didn’t find out until it was too late to mention that she was a bad kisser. She got pregnant and he fell off some rocks, but look, he was better now. He just had the bum knees, and even those were feeling much better. Why again had he spent the last three years working at a Citgo in Michigan?

Paul was thirsty, that’s all. He’d get up and get out of these damn woods and go back to his wife in Arizona. He could quit the job at Citgo. He could mail Professor Harris his paper.

Paul looked down and saw a brown snake wrapping slowly around his bare leg. The snake had a diamond-shaped head and smart black eyes. Paul watched the head disappear under his shorts, and then he felt two fangs snap down on his flesh. It hurt! Paul sprang up from his spot and shook the thing away, and off it slithered under the brush, with purpose, like a contract killer on his way to collect.

On top of everything else, the sun beat down insufferably into the clearing on the brown grass. The scenes didn’t match. This kind of sun goes with green grass, but summer had come so early in Michigan. Nobody cared about the weather. Maybe nobody would care that he’d beaten his girlfriend to death with a shovel.

He could definitely hear shouting now, and men, stomping through the brush. He thought he felt a flashlight in his face, or else it was the interminable sun, split in two, floating just in front of his eyeballs. Either way, it was time to get out of the fucking woods. Maybe he could make it past Lance and the other guy in time to get to a phone. Maybe this wife in Arizona could wire him some money. Paul took two steps forward before the snake venom did him in and he fell down in the mud.


No. Okay. He was a little confused before but now he had it. Three years ago, he’d fallen off a boulder and hit his head, not his knees. Or maybe it was both his knees and his head, but it was the head wound that was most pressing. No, or rather, also, the sun had come undone and it made the magnets reverse. He had it: Not stuck in Michigan, but bed ridden in Phoenix.

People coming in and out of the linoleum tiled room, sticking thorns in his arms, slathering food on his face. Lance with a mop in his hands. Professor Harris in scrubs. The girl with the fortuneteller tattoo with her fingers snaked under his paper dress when her sister Misty wasn’t looking, and then the man with the metal detector walking by, or else. No. The persistent beeping of machines.

Overheard words spoken and scribbled against a clipboard: “Time to think about proceeding with the DNR paperwork” and “Some sort of contrived fever dream…”

It was too late. He was already married. He’d already fallen off the red rocks; it had been an error to pine for them. Nothing that happened in Michigan mattered—all those hours at Citgo unpaid, college, the shovel swinging madly through the air—and to think; outside, it was spring.

“He’s gone even deeper now,” a voice in a white coat said.

Paul thought, “No. It’s the opposite.” He wanted to get up and tell them. “I was a little confused before but now I’ve got it. I could try to be better this time.”

This world hated Paul. It never listened to him and it never let him do anything he wanted. The truth ran thick in his blood: not about to ruin his life, but waiting out a life already ruined. The heavy sun unhinged and coming straight for him.

11/10/15

The Incredible Journey.

On the other hand, why would anyone willingly move back to a suburb of Detroit, Michigan?

It became clear over time that life in Seattle with my dog had become fodder for an unfortunate narrative. “Well, thank god you have Dorothy,” my mother would say to me through heavy sighs on the telephone. I may not be a smart man, but I know when I’m being patronized.

Three days alone on the road with my dog. We murdered thousands of butterflies against the windshield. At a Motel 6 in Joliet, Illinois, Dorothy and I ate pizza so gross that we both puked on the bed spread, and you know the legend is true that those things never get cleaned.

Homeward Bound.

Homeward Bound.

There was something pretty seriously wrong with me. The fall leaves, everyone said. Look at all the colors. First of all, autumn leaves are at most three to four colors. Secondly, I’ve seen it. More than 30 goddamn times I have seen leaves die and fall off of trees. Why do they call it change when it always happens, answer me that.

My mom didn’t know what to do so she brought me home a fifth of Evan Williams every other day on her way home from work. After a week or so of that I was all, no mother, this place is a health spa and I am the earth’s humble student, so instead she sent me to the quack family doctor to get diet pills and anti depressants.

A lot of little things made me want to leave Seattle. I remember I was at a service counter at a Safeway in White Center. A customer said, “Why do you lock up the little bottles of booze but not the big bottles.” Before the clerk could answer, I said, “Because they’re the easiest to steal.” She said, “That’s exactly right.” We formed a unit in that moment, the three of us, but then I said, “Bob Marley says that locking your doors is like saying you don’t trust people.” Why do I always say this. It makes people uncomfortable. The customer said, “Right. Exactly.” I held the state of Washington responsible for feeling misunderstood in that moment, but that’s not fair. They respond the same way in Michigan. Of course you can’t trust people. There are poor people everywhere.

spaceneedletools

Then I took this picture of attractive young professionals my age in Queen Anne and that was basically the last straw. I could hear them speaking. The one on the left explained the view to the other two. “This is the space needle,” he said. If you don’t understand why I didn’t want to share a city with these people anymore, I can’t explain it. I am aware now that I may have overreacted.

The pills aren’t working, thanks for asking. They gave me a tricyclic anti-depressant, the old school kind, because it’s also a sedative and I told the doctor I couldn’t sleep. The idea that you go to a doctor and tell her what medicine you want based on what commercials you’ve seen is batshit insane to me, but this is America and this is how we do it. I told her my mom said I should ask her for a pill called “phentermine” that her friend from work said made her skinny, and that was it, she just wrote it down on a pad and said, “Anything else?” Then I got cocky. I was like, throw in a little ambien.
“I can’t prescribe ambien with phentermine,” she said.
“But I need a downer to go with my upper,” I said.
“That’s the exact issue,” she said.

I thought about the scene in The Departed when Madolyn valiantly recovers after Billy Costigan rattles her in their first therapy session. Theirs is the sexiest relationship in all of cinema. She gives him a script for lorazapem, and then she says,  “Have I done my job to your God damn standards? Because according my standards, you fit the model of drug seeking behavior. And too damn bad if you don’t like my initial clinical reaction.” It was a baller thing to say. I feel that I too fit the model of drug seeking behavior. The fact that I really am overweight, suffer from insomnia and exhibit symptoms of severe clinical depression are immaterial against this feeling that I’ve done something wrong.

“You can’t sleep,” she said, and I agreed. Her next question was, “Do you have kids?” I said no, and she prescribed the amitriptyline. What is the relevance of the question about kids (is a question with no answer).

My mother and I went down to Florida to babysit my sister’s six month old. Her name is Veda and I am her aunt. She stared at me for long, perplexed moments. I look like her mother but I am not her mother. Happy, sad and confused seem to be her three primary emotions. In Florida, my dearth of normal human feeling began to gnaw on the people around me. It was getting to Sylvia Plath levels of despair. I may have had three lines of dried red blood on my cheek, for all I know. I was so dead inside I doubt I cast a reflection in a mirror. Not to mention the tiny lizards that scurried under foot with every step on the pavement. I imagined them falling out of the trees and into my hair, or scurrying up my pant leg. I love every animal but a lizard. After Florida, my mother agreed to pay for my talk therapy.

I’ve known my therapist since I was 17 years old. He’s a smart, funny man who I am probably in love with, but only under the healthy umbrella of transference. It took me several minutes to tell him that David had died. I kept gesturing with my hands and trying to get the words out of my mouth, but they wouldn’t come. Three sessions later my therapist told me that my grief stacked on top of the depression, stuffed inside a pre-existing horror show like the chicken in a turducken, and there is nothing to do but grieve and feel the feelings. Finding out how sad you are: This is an example of progress and a good thing. That’s how bad it is.

lamb of god.

lamb of god.

 

I wanted to turn my head into an animal for halloween. Last year I was a crow, before that, a dog, and a rabbit the year before that. I tried to make a horse but the horse turned into a bear. I didn’t like the bear so I resolved to start over with a lamb. I imagined the lamb with the machete from the horror film You’re Next, isn’t that terrifying? I went to Goodwill and bought two stuffed teddy bears, for christmas, with a texture like a lamb’s tail. “These are cute,” the clerk said. “I’m going to cut them up and wear them on my face,” I thought of saying, but be proud of me, I didn’t.

 

 

 

 

bear of god.

bear of god.

 

I mention the manic making of the masks because I have to admit that this focused attention on an ultimately irrelevant task means that I am probably getting better. I punctured my thigh with a pair of scissors, but that was a harmless accident. The masks make me feel safe and desirous of your presence. I want to hover over your bed with the head of a lamb and watch you sleep.  I’m renewing my interest in things I once enjoyed.

Is that good? Are you proud of me? Have I done my job to your goddamn standards?

10/5/15

David.

My friend David went missing in late July. I’ve known him the longest of anyone, since we were 15 years old, and we stayed close even after I left Michigan for school in 2009. Always we were united in misanthropy and sadness, but somewhere along the line, it was like I went out the front door into the world and he slipped unnoticed out the back.

It started during the college years, when we were all in our 20s. He kept having these frightening breaks from reality. One time on acid he went mad on the Wayne State campus and allegedly attacked a security guard; I found him strapped to a gurney the next morning at Detroit Mercy Hospital. Another time he flipped out in the middle of a 10-day meditation retreat and the buddhists had to send him home. At first we didn’t know what was wrong with him, because there were all these confounding factors: drugs, the stress of meditation—but eventually he got diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic episodes. It’s an affliction that looks a lot like schizophrenia, with an equally dismal prognosis.

He was never really the same after that. The medications clouded his brain and made him lethargic and unmotivated. It stopped the mania but somehow made the depression worse. He couldn’t work, which meant he had to live on a pitiful disability allowance. Then his car broke down, leaving him stranded alone in a tiny apartment in Hamtramck. One thing stacks up on top of another, and after awhile it becomes a case of how much can a person take?

Lindsay texted to say she hadn’t heard from David in a few days. This was standard protocol. Many times before he’d gone off his meds and disappeared for a time, but always he’d resurface, the hospital would pump him full of meds and he’d be back where he started. I checked our gchat history and found our last conversation was about a week ago. When I saw he hadn’t logged into google in more than five days—I think that’s about the time that I knew in my bones that he was dead.

A day later, neighbors called the landlord to complain about a smell. They found him decomposing in his apartment with a plastic bag over his head. That’s how he always told me he would do it: with helium and asphyxiation. He’d told me many times before that he wanted to die and he wasn’t scared. He stayed alive as a courtesy to his parents. If you’re thinking I should have said or done something, you don’t understand. I am the friend you can tell your darkest secrets to without judgment. This is one of my few, unequivocal gifts. In the aftermath people said things like, “I wish we’d done more to help him,” but those of us that knew him best knew that it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t for a lack of love. It was something deeper, hideous and ultimately unknowable.

I flew in for the funeral. Somehow, my friend Travis and I landed the task of identifying his body at the coroners. I expected them to open a large drawer and then dramatically unzip the body bag, but these days you just go into a room and look at a picture on a computer screen. He didn’t look at all like himself. His face was black, bloated and without expression. When the lady asked us, “Can you make a positive ID?” we lied and said “Yes.”

Lindsay and I spoke at the funeral to a packed house full of people weeping. David was a gay man from a conservative Christian family. His spiritual beliefs were nuanced and intelligent and beautiful, so when the pastor said a lot of generic bullshit about how David had repented and embraced christianity in the moments before his death, my friends and I were, how you say, annoyed. Lindsay even got up and walked out of the room in protest. The worst part was when they played the most god awful rendition of “Amazing Grace” the world has ever known. It was dumb and sad, but I had the feeling that David would have understood and pitied his family for clinging to superstition. I weirdly thought of the part in the bible when Jesus says, “Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.”

If I had to choose, I’d say the most surreal thing about David’s death was when his mother handed me a felt pouch after the funeral service with a mini urn of David’s ashes inside. I said, “Oh. Thank you. I wasn’t expecting that.” Later I watched her give one to Lindsay, and she said the exact same thing. “Oh. Thank you. I wasn’t expecting that.”

I don’t mean for this to be a well thought out and beautiful essay about suicide, or an advocacy piece for people with mental illness or anything like that. Those are fine, I’m just not up for it. More than anything else, I am filled with an ordinary, overwhelming sadness. I miss hearing his voice and seeing his face. I miss his dry humor and cunning, compassionate intelligence. I inherited his army green satchel, a few books, his tarot cards and his crystal balls. We had this in common: our obsession with the divine tempered by a nagging skepticism. Since it happened I haven’t dreamed of him once or seen him as a floating aberration above my bed. It makes me sick in the stomach, this feeling that he’s lost. That I don’t know where he is.

I’m not angry at David for hurting us. Nobody has an obligation to stay alive in pain just because we don’t want to face the suffering of living without them. And I don’t subscribe to common ideas that suicide is selfish or cowardly. I don’t think it’s noble either, but don’t tell me that the scariest thing in the world doesn’t take courage.

When I got home to Seattle, it didn’t feel like home any more. David’s death turned Seattle into the loneliest place on earth. More than that, it forced me to take an objective look at my own depression, how I’ve been letting it run my life unfettered for more than three years. I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t making it. My friends and family kept saying, we miss you. Come back. So I said, fine. Thank you for still wanting me. And here I am.

 

07/2/15
dorothyranier

clap along if you feel that it’s perfectly reasonable for rooms to have roofs.

So much has happened since January that we might as well not even talk about it. Jobs, am I right? I spent four months in a basement for broken families and then another month chained to a desk in a terrible brain sucking factory. I don’t think it’s wrong to always hate your job so long as your job is always awful, and what job besides “revered author” isn’t awful? Eventually you just have to throw up your hands and go back to dog walking.

The merciless disaster of a relationship. My precious woof and our many homes. The moon, the sun, the moon, the sun, again and again and again.

What’s the expression? Working hard, hardly working. But things have improved. My big head is back, which you need to be a successful writer, I’m pretty sure. Last week I went to Missoula and hung out with my old friend Alice Bolin. She is so regal now, like a statue you leave gifts for on a silly superstition of good luck. I couldn’t stop laughing at her jokes, it was pretty embarrassing. Tim and I lost our hands at the Oxford’s poker table. Never mind who is Tim. We floated the river four times and saw one of every animal. I talked to Skylar about a new feature at the indy, although I wouldn’t hold my breath. Don’t Tell Mom The Flat Tire On the Way Home Overdrew My Account.

In July we work on tans and letters. When I hear my name I think Irish-German, but when I look at my red-brown arms from the sun reflected off of last week’s river, it’s German-Irish. It doesn’t matter where your parent’s parent’s parent’s came from, of course.

I am excited and eager to make new art. Here’s some of the things I’ve shared lately.

1. Doghatesfilm.com

dorothyranier

Hark the dog and the films she hates. The site is in beta but what can I say, you get busy. This piece about 50 Shades of Grey is probably the best literature to date.

2. After the Rose Podcast 

My friend Megan and I made a podcast about ABC’s hit romantic reality series “The Bachelorette.” Many wonder: Do you have to watch the show in order to understand/enjoy the podcast? At least one source besides myself says no. You may find that a good podcast feels very much in the brain like finding great new friends.

3. Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up to No Good 

I have a story in this collection with Joyce Carol Oates and Aimee Bender, no big deal.

4. David Gates interview

I read his book with my mouth hanging open. All other writing is made of garbage. When I finished the last story in the collection I sat in one place and stared at a wall for two straight days.

5. Oh, Canada

A 3,000 word personal essay about an okay time I had with a girl.

6. okey-panky

A 1,400 word personal essay about a fun date with a cool guy, and an interview from the aforementioned editor Alice Bolin to follow.

7. Twitter @MollyL  

 

02/6/15

best of 2015 already why not.

Dorothy Parker

First you’ll be wanting to know about my new Rottweiler, Dorothy. She’s an 8 year old spitfire with an old hip injury and a brain full of mysteries and secrets. The moment’s been about 7 years in the making but always in the past there’s been some dumb reason I can’t get my own dog. One day, I got that unequivocal, supernatural feeling about a certain craigslist woof, and I said, “This is the girl.” Also, when I got home from my Christmas vacation in Detroit I found I’d lost my dog walking job in Seattle, and I realized that this made me a person with a little bit of time on her hands. Maybe you’re thinking that the unemployed shouldn’t run out and get an animal, but hey, fuck you. We all of us do things in our own special order.

precious woof.

My friend Will and I drove to Mount Vernon to negotiate her purchase on December 30, 2014. It’s about two hours north of Seattle and a beautiful mountainous place that looks and feels like Montana. The dog’s owner was a hearty looking tomboy (or lesbian, not sure) who revealed that she ran a dog kennel and was a breeder and this rottweiler she’d acquired a year ago under mysterious circumstances was good for neither. When I first saw her she barked at me from inside a fenced outdoor kennel, but it seemed half hearted and even then I felt that if we weren’t in love at that moment we would be soon. So me and this cardhart wearing, curt, efficient if not unfriendly woman got down to the business of negotiating the sale of a living being. “I want to buy your animal so that I can love it and manipulate it into obsessively and single-mindedly loving me in return.” The action seemed to say. Of course, that’s what happened. I brought her home for 100 cash american and changed her name from whatever it was before (you don’t need to know) to Dorothy Parker, a wild guess really but the dog has turned out to be the spitting personification of the late great author: she is big, clumsy, smart and mostly sullen, with just a hint of suicidal whimsy. I always thought I wanted a boy dog so he could be my boyfriend, but it turns out it’s just as easy to pretend your girl dog is your boyfriend. She’s the best friend I ever had and my heart swells to think of her. I’ll conclude this section of the blog post with this poem my dog wrote about her feelings.

Coda

There’s little in taking or giving,
There’s little in water or wine;
This living, this living, this living
Was never a project of mine.
Oh, hard is the struggle, and sparse is
The gain of the one at the top,
For art is a form of catharsis,
And love is a permanent flop,
And work is the province of cattle,
And rest’s for a clam in a shell,
So I’m thinking of throwing the battle-
Would you kindly direct me to hell?

My New Job at a Women’s Shelter

Getting fired from the dog walking beat was dumb, but it had to happen. I’d love to be candid and tell you all about what went down but the thing about the real world is, you’re not supposed to go on record ever admitting to any dishonesty or irresponsible behavior. I guess the first best thing is to live a life beyond reproach, but who can do that all the time. The second best thing is to lie about your life or maybe just don’t keep a blog with your first and last name, you god damn idiot.

Around the first of the year I started working the graveyard shift at a shelter in downtown Seattle that caters specifically to single women and their children. The hours are shitty, the work is emotionally trying and I had to take a pretty substantial pay cut, but it’s all worth it because honestly, the truth is, fuck rich people. I would rather clean toilets for the homeless than spend another second feeding off the crumbs of some upper middle class family in their $3,000 a month capitol hill apartment. I don’t want to fucking tutor their kids and I don’t want to make them fucking coffee. The kind of people who make you take off your shoes when you enter their home. People who order fois grois out to dinner and never once feel bad about it. People who are so afraid of confrontation they’d rather call the police for a noise complaint than just come over and talk to you. I’m not saying we should round them all up and put them into camps, I’m just saying I’m not trying to be a stepping stone to further their world domination any longer. Somebody else can help Tiffany game the SATs.

My inevitable break-up with Phil

This really should have happened a lot sooner, but I kept holding on, maybe because his lips were so beautiful and he kissed me so infrequently. One night about four months ago I saw a glimpse of what I thought was our future. He was standing in his kitchen and I had a strong feeling that we would be together for years; that this thing would just go on and on and on. So every time I thought about breaking up with him after that, I’d remember that psychic vision and think, keep weathering the storm. It’s a bad habit of mine: rearranging the entire world to fit one anomalous idea. I wasn’t seeing THE future of course, but one possible future of many, like imagine a Star Trek graph that splits off indefinitely with all possible outcomes. It was dumb to get attached to one future. And of course he read this blog, eventually, and it made things pretty awkward. Here I was in real life stuffing all of my emotions down into the pit of my stomach but telling the truth on the internet to a bunch of strangers. He said to me, “I read your blog. That stuff should be in a diary.” But if I trap my feelings in a diary how will I get credit for them? It was weird to confess my love for him on the internet and then try to pretend like I didn’t feel that way in real life. It was really weird. If I learn anything from this break up, maybe I should learn not to do that.

Candy Crush

I’m addicted to the game candy crush and I don’t know if that’s okay. I play candy crush as a way to avoid intimacy and uncomfortable feelings. I want someone to try to stop me. There’s been a lot of articles circulating the internet on the true nature of addiction; it’s not about the drug, it’s the life you’re trying to run away from. They talk about it in terms of environment. Give the rats a cool maze and lots of rat friends to hang out with and they won’t lever press so much. But I’m thinking it’s more about what’s going on inside my head. I don’t know how to get away from my head. You have the thought, “Chop off your head!” but of course that just leads to bigger problems. You can’t win.

I worry about the atrophy of my brain, generally. On the day Phil and I broke up I saw a bed ridden future and so finally went ahead and bought a flat screen TV for my bedroom. Setting up the TV I managed to knock my electric typewriter onto the floor, most probably breaking it beyond repair, and if that isn’t a metaphor for my withered priorities in life these days then I don’t know what.

Dismantling mollylaich.com

I’ve been thinking about discontinuing the blog portion of this website for a lot of reasons that should by now be obvious. I want to talk about the real things and I don’t care too much about myself at this point. I mean, humiliating myself, big deal, this is just one idiotic life of many, but it’s not just about me. Always you have to consider other people’s feelings and that tends to water down the truth. I know I’ve been bad about this in the past but I hope you believe me when I say I’m trying to do better. A lot of interesting things happen at the shelter but it’s like, illegal to share, and yet this document persists as a breathing temptation.

And then there’s money. You can’t go around telling the truth on the internet without worrying that someone will read it and it will cost you a job. Is anybody out there going to let me teach middle school after admitting my addiction to “candy crush?”

Thirdly, in this world, you have to maintain a combination self. If I keep writing this god damn blog it’s going to blow my cover.  I spend so much time in real life trying to manage my weirdness. It makes me a total liar. I kind of can’t believe how often I lie sometimes in an attempt at guessing what normal behavior looks like. One thing I do a lot is pretend to care about things I don’t really care about. Like, “Oh, there’s a lot of crime in this neighborhood. Yeah, I’m totally worried about getting robbed or raped.” That’s a lie. I’m not scared of those things because I don’t care if I live or die, but that really makes people uncomfortable. To pretend to fret over dangers I don’t really fret over is in service of the larger lie that I value this life. Having said all of that, I promise to try my hardest to stay alive anyway. I don’t think it matters, but life is still a game that I am competitively in pursuit of winning.

So I’m considering shutting down the blog but I don’t know, I probably won’t. Right now I’m still trying to decide if this life is worth salvaging on a professional level, like do I want to pursue a professional career or keep doing shit jobs forever? I want to start another blog soon on the subject of movies, something with universal appeal that could one day parlay into more commercial writing gigs. Keep holding your breath for that one! but really, I hope to launch my second blog in the next week or two. Stay tuned.

February. The year’s very worst month. Do not fret, friends. I have my own dog that I bought with my own money, and for all I know, you are also doing well. Just go grimly on!

11/26/14

top ten thanksgiving horror films

There’s no such thing as a thanksgiving horror film. Here are the ten “best” of the 12 or 13 spooky movies I watched this October and beyond. The Halloween season spans from January 2nd to the day before Thanksgiving. This is a time when corpses rise from their graves and all murder is legal. A lot of people don’t know that. Thanksgiving through New Years is the Lord’s time.

The order’s been thought through a little but not too much. I include the movie’s taglines when they exist. What an art. I hope to someday get a job writing horror movie taglines.

10. Devil (2010)

Bad things happen for a reason

The PG-13 makes me not want to put Devil on the list. Murder is rated R. Any life worth dying in gets an R rating—whatever. All these bad people get trapped in an elevator. The lights flicker and then there’s a dead person, on and on until one or two are left. It’s an Agatha Christie-esque whodunit. One of them’s the devil. The devil is in the elevator. Mindy Kaling’s TV boyfriend Chris Messina plays the detective tasked with bringing the lord of darkness to justice. You can’t tell that he’s too short for me when everybody’s shrunk down inside the television. [Netflix streaming]

gurl, look dem lips.

gurl, look dem lips.

9. Buried Alive (1990) 

One of them put an end to the marriage, until the other came back for revenge

The worst tagline of all of them. I’d blame it on an unpaid intern but I don’t think they had those in 1990 for made for TV movies. Frank Darabont fucking directed this, the guy who wrote The Shawshank Redemption. The creator of TVs “The Walking Dead.” I remember seeing this movie on TV in my apparently unsupervised childhood. Jennifer Jason Leigh wears shoulder pads. Good dog acting by the Rottweiler; holy fuck I want my own Rottweiler. Movie’s a classic noir setup. The wife hates her husband, plots her death with her lover, people are betrayed, he’s “buried alive,” there’s a lot of woodworking. If Buried Alive were in black and white and starred Humphrey Bogart, we’d be talking about it in college. If you’re looking for this movie, beware: there are about 10,000 other films with the same title. [I can't tell you how I found this film.] 

 

If the widow looks like this at the funeral, she did it.

If the widow looks like this at the funeral, she did it.

8. Resolution (2012)

Why is this a horror movie? The horror elements of this are not even. I can’t even. Michael’s friend Chris loves crack so much and who can blame him, but drugs ruin your life and turn you into a bad friend, so Michael chains him to the wall to force him through withdrawals. Then some stupid supernatural shit happens, I don’t recall exactly, a haunted video tape or witch or something. But in between all of that, they manage to say poignant shit to each other about what drives a man to the pipe and the human response. What’s Michael’s true motivation and is life really so precious, really? This movie is a documentary about what I would like to do to my friend Will, but who has the time. [Netflix streaming]

Dick move not having a tagline but really good poster.

Dick move not having a tagline but really good poster.

7. Hider in the House (1989)

You can’t lock him out. He’s already in.

 Made for TV movies from the golden era of cinema are nothing to fuck with. Gary Busey doesn’t exactly play against type as the recently released mental patient who builds himself a room in the attic of a nice family’s new home. The new family has a dog. Do you guys think the dog is going to be okay? Busey wants to be normal so bad. He just wants the Dad to be gone and to marry the Mom but he’s Lenny Of Mice and Men and people in his way are frightened girls squashed dead under his thumb. This is a buy-the-numbers horror story but suspiciously well written and acted. The characters are 3D and smart. Everybody Hates Busey. Good body count. [In full on Youtube.]

 

6. Ravenous (1999)

You are who you eat 

Hey, this one’s about food and it’s set in Civil War era America so it’s basically a legit thanksgiving horror movie. The turkey’s made out of people, though; everybody running around with their mind’s lost. The best thing about the film, unequivocally: the score. What instrument even makes those sounds. How tonally inappropriate. And yet. Check out these idiots arguing about it on the imdb message boards, subject: What an Annoying Soundtrack… Comments include, but are not limited to:
“Halfway in I wanted to stab my already-busted eardrums, it was SOOO loud and annoying. :(
“I find the music utterly unfitting for a movie set in the 19th century”
“Sorry, I actually like interesting soundtracks in my favorite movies.” [Netflix streaming]

The next three films are directed by Ti West, a hip new filmmaker that people may very well be talking about.

5. The Innkeepers (2011) 

Some guests never check out 

A film about a couple of hip young people with sexual tension. The hotel is haunted. Not particularly scary or memorable; I don’t know why I included this. [Netflix streaming]

Creepy basement, second only to creaky houses.

Creepy basement, second only to creaky houses.

4. The House of the Devil (2009)

Talk on the phone. Finish your homework. Watch TV. Die. 

This, on the other hand, is a legit 1980s horror film throwback. Shot in digital I’m sure but they threw on an instagram-style old school film filter. [correction: turns out I was exactly wrong; film is legit shot on 16mm. That makes me want to put this at like 1 or 2.] Tom Noonan needs a babysitter for his mom. Girl wears a walkman and Greta Gerwig plays her friend. The babysitter eats pizza for two straight meals. Things start off one way, then shit gets dark as fuck. [Netflix streaming]

The pizza's out of frame.

The pizza’s out of frame.

3. The Sacrament (2013)

Live as one. Die as one. 

Sometimes it pays to be stupid, but for this example I’m about to deprive you of that luxury. I didn’t know this film was basically a modern adaptation of the Jim Jones, everybody drinks kool-aid and dies cult story. So when everybody in the cult got together and drank poison kool-aid, I was horrified and surprised. (I clearly did not read the tagline, either.) It’s a palpable series of scenes. They scared the shit out of me; I dreamed about it for days. Beyond that, meh. It’s a “found footage” movie which is just unfortunate. Bunch of Vice journalists visit the cult, they get camera access that they would never ever get in real life—such a dumb conceit, I hate found footage, why they gotta do that for a film that could have been so, so good. Instead it’s pretty good. Awesome Gene Jones performance as “the father,” just an unfortunate coincidence he has the same last name as the real guy. This movie’s proof that liberals can be scary and batshit, too! The box says “Eli Roth presents.” Not a compliment. [Netflix streaming]

a real People's Temple cult member.

a real People’s Temple cult member.

2. You’re Next (2011)

Forgive me for being so mainstream. Of all my pics you’re most likely to have already seen this one. Maybe you’re one of those people who takes pride in not having seen any movies; go fuck yourself. I appreciate the savage simplicity: A rich, grown up family get together for a dinner party and people outside are trying to kill them with arrows. At first you don’t know why, and then a motive’s revealed and it makes perfect sense. It’s not some ridiculous bullshit. They hear bumping around upstairs and somebody says a line about this being an old creaky house. I know that sounds terrible but in fact it felt like a breathing organism of a wink. [Netflix streaming]

animal masks frighten dogs, try it if you don't believe me.

animal masks frighten dogs—try it if you don’t believe me.

1. The Signal (2007)

This is not a test 

It doesn’t get any weirder. A psychotic poet I know, a man who’s one dirty look away from killing everyone recommended this film to me. We might as well have met in an underground tunnel at night. He handed me an envelope with a slip inside that said “The Signal” on it, followed by, “the 2007 version. Not the new one from 2014.” Anyway, TV’s are sending out a signal that’s making everyone go on a murderous rampage. Never mind the why, it’s the how it plays out that matters. The film stars AJ Bowen, who irrelevantly enough is in four out of the ten movies on this list. (He’s the cutie pie with the beard.) It’s hard to make a movie with a slippery reality whose puzzle doesn’t also bore you. I decided this film was number one under the influence of ambien. Now I’m just like. I don’t remember, but probably I mean it. [I can't tell you how I found this film.]

Dead person at a birthday party.

Dead person at a birthday party.

There’s the list. That’s it. Do you like it? Why don’t you like it. Be my facebook friend if you aren’t already! Creepers creep me out. 

10/15/14

a day in the life of depression.

You feel like a fat piece of shit I guess. When it’s really bad for me it makes my limbs feel heavy and it hurts to move. Dog walking is a good job for the sullen. The dogs are nice to me; I let them drag me down the sidewalk.

Drugs and alcohol help so long as you have no interest in getting down to the root of the problem. The drugs bide the time between how you feel now and how you hope to feel in the future. If you can stand it, though, it’s better to feel the feelings and grieve. Otherwise you just grieve the same things over and over, stuff them down again and nothing ever changes.

Feeling blue all the time is a moral failing, I think, because it takes so much energy to be kind when you feel like human garbage. And always, always, you’ve got to try your hardest to be kind. For example, one bad thing about walking dogs is that animals bring out the best in others. Strangers smile at me and want to talk. It takes everything I have to smile back, and look, I was saving that smile for myself. That was mine and you took it and now I feel deflated and resentful. A person all out of fucks to give is dangerous. They snap. So that’s what I mean when I say that figuring out how to be happy is a moral imperative and to not try is derelict. Think of your parents, what they wanted you to be, and now look at how you’re acting.

Some days it really seems like the dogs can tell and they care. They look at me with concern without asking what’s wrong. Depressed people always answer this question roughly the same. Something like, “Oh, nothing in particular,” or “It’s everything and nothing,” but I’ve actually never found that to be true. You say there’s nothing specifically wrong because to go on about what’s really bothering you is impolite and embarrassing. But I can tell you exactly what’s wrong: I want to be a teacher and instead I’m a dog walker. I should be writing more. I’m broke. I miss my old friends. I’m trapped in a body I hate. I’m in love with the guy I’m dating, and to quote Jerry Maguire: “He sure does like me a lot.” That’s what’s wrong. Make even half of those things right and I won’t be depressed. That’s just a fact, like melting ice burgs are facts. On the days you’re depressed those problems are circled red and underlined and that’s the only difference.

Who ever said life was supposed to feel good anyway? Ask the Buddha, she’ll tell you that life is made out of suffering. You can’t concentrate on the book you’re reading so you think you have ADD? All God ever promised anyone is one good skull; the brain inside doesn’t come wound up right. Brains are born wild and usually they die that way.

I don’t take anti-depressants, do you? I’m not judging, exactly. Some people really need them. But most people I know on meds are self-medicators to begin with. They take their Effexor and pile the booze and drugs and shitty food on top of that. A pill is a short cut and there are no short cuts. The very best thing to do is eat real food, exercise, meditate and get enough sleep. It’s hard to find the will to do that, I know. I don’t mean to lecture, all I’m saying is try. You gotta try that good stuff first. I’m talking to both of us right now. All of us. You know what the fuck I mean.

Anyway. I’m fine. See, I wrote something today. I’m feeling better already.

In other news: It took over a year but I think I’m all caught up on my outstanding free letters. I’ve got my typewriter plugged into the wall and my lips are feeling real loose. Send me your address, let me sink your battleship.

09/4/14

I’ll gaze your navel.

It’s starting to become a problem. (“Your looks have become a problem!” #namethatfilm) I get in these funks where I wait too long in between blog posts, and pretty soon every day I just feel sick and sad that I haven’t posted anything. It really gnaws at me! It causes a lot of undue suffering. Like one week of not writing equals one dead cat in my backpack, and then one day I wake up and find I’m carting around 5 or 6 dead cats. Then I try to write and I’m hypercritical and self-conscious about what I’ve written, I throw everything in the garbage—anyway, it’s this whole gross, boring cycle.

Long story short, I solved the problem by finding this inexplicable list of free interview questions on the internet. For a change of pace, I tried to answer these questions as plainly, honestly, and un-sarcastically as possible. Next week: My novel, in its entirety. ha ha ha. l o l. It turned out really long! All free! Enjoy!

GENERAL QUESTIONS

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR PROFESSION?

Walking dogs is mind numbingly easy. I’m good at it. I like animals. My job burns calories. The pay is okay.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE LEAST?

I have a fucking master’s degree; this shit is humiliating. Particularly when I see my friends publishing their books and/or talking about writing their class syllabuses. It makes me feel sick. Every day I feel like I’m wasting my life.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DOING THIS?

A little over a year.

SHOULD YOUR PARENTS HAVE BEEN MORE OR LESS STRICT?

I chose my parents before I was born. They got divorced when I was 4 which I don’t think is good or bad, contrary to what we’ve been brainwashed to believe. My mom wasn’t strict at all and I turned out okay. I do wish somebody had told me to brush my teeth and sit farther away from the television, cuz now my eyes and teeth are fucked up.

HOW WAS YOUR CHILDHOOD?

My hair was snarled; I was always covered in dirt. We took the boat out to the lake. I played a lot of soccer at my best friend Dylan’s house. I used to stay up late at night and write fake reports from topics in our world encyclopedias. I idolized my brother and was mystified by my sister. I had the feeling that everybody thought I was special, in both the good and bad way. We rode our bikes to the woods. In my memory it was good, but I'm sure at the time it felt like the present moment, which usually feels bad, or at the very least, uncomfortable and incomplete. I know that as I got older I had more and more social problems in school. I was often sullen and at night I would make myself sick with worrying about why there was something instead of nothing. It scared me and still does. 

ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

If I’m happy, then the word happy has no meaning.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?

I’d be more careful with men’s hearts. And I'd try to not be an obese teen.

IF YOU HADN'T BEEN BORN IN THIS CENTURY, WHEN AND WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE LIVED?

I’m a woman, so anytime before say, 1968, no thank you.

WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?

Any artist who overcomes their depression enough to make good art. No specific names come to mind. I see a person who’s smart and kind and cool and I think: I want to be like you.

WHO DO YOU HAVE NO RESPECT FOR?

I think everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?

Beat myself up.

ARE YOU POLITICALLY ACTIVE?

Nah. I think the best thing anybody can do is to develop her spiritual self/moral compass. Policy is actually very nerdy and complicated. People imagine there are malevolent forces out to get us when in reality I think it’s just a big dumb machine and the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. I’m resigned to just keep my head down, stay out of trouble and try to carve out the best life given what I have.

DO YOU DO ANY VOLUNTEER WORK?

Not unless you count this circle jerk of a website. You’re welcome.

HOW HAS AMERICA CHANGED IN THE LAST TEN YEARS?

We’ve pretty much come around on the gays; that’s nice to see. Looks like video games and computers keep getting better. Good job, America.

HOW HAVE YOU CHANGED?

I haven’t that much.

WHAT'S THE SIDE OF YOU THAT THE PUBLIC NEVER SEES?

I think in real life I can be very sweet. I don't know if that comes across as much on the internet. And maybe it's not even true.

DO YOU SOMETIMES FEEL THAT THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT

________________? (SUBJECT'S NAME, PLURALIZED)

Yeah. There’s the Molly that is me and the Molly that is a dumb ass drug people say dumb shit about that my brain won’t let me do anymore.

DO YOU WISH YOU HAD MORE PRIVACY?

If I did, that wish could come true.

If you haven't figured out by now, these questions are written with celebrity in mind, so. I will say that I don't think I would mind if my tits got leaked on the internet. (See Morgan Murphy's hilarious stand up on this topic.) But of course, it's also totally okay to mind.

DO YOU THINK THE PUBLIC AND CRITICS EXPECT TOO MUCH FROM YOU?

No. I’m flattered whenever anyone expects anything of me at all. It’s a compliment.

HOW HARD DO YOU PUSH YOURSELF?

Not very hard.

WHEN ARE YOU COMPLETELY SATISFIED WITH YOUR WORK?

Never really. I come close when people compliment me a lot.

WHY HAVE YOU SUCCEEDED IN A FIELD WHERE SO MANY OTHERS HAVE FAILED?

I genuinely consider myself a failure. As for my few piddly successes: They were because the work was really good. That’s the only explanation. It’s not because I’m good with people or networking or any of that shit.

WHAT'S THE MAGIC FORMULA FOR SUCCESS?

Work really hard + be really talented + know the right people.

I don’t know if that’s the right order or not. It’s more like a circle than a linear line.

GENERAL QUESTIONS, PART 2

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT REINCARNATION?

I totally believe in it. I feel it in my bones and I’ve seen it in my dreams.

HOW ABOUT ASTROLOGY?

Bullshit. Or even if it's not, most people don't know how to decode it. The enneagram rules!

WHAT ABOUT LIFE ON OTHER PLANETS?

Lots but far away.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?

Weed.

IS THERE A BATTLE OF THE SEXES?

Only in people’s heads.

WHO'S WINNING?

Depends on the head.

ARE WE RETURNING TO A MORE ROMANTIC TIME?

I don’t know about this “we” business. I know I’m not. The older I get, the less romantic.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE MACHO?

Anybody who can carry me on his or her back is macho.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE TRADITIONAL ROLES FOR MEN AND WOMEN?

Nah but there’s something to be said for division of labor. One person chops the wood, the other peels the carrots. Shouldn’t matter who does what of course.

IF YOU WERE A MAN (WOMAN) HOW DIFFERENT DO YOU THINK YOUR CAREER WOULD HAVE GONE?

It’s hard to get hired in this city as a dog walker if you’re a man. People think women are more trustworthy, which in my case is hilarious. If I were a man I’d probably be some sort of day laborer. Maybe somebody would have taught me a goddamn marketable trade when I was a kid.

If we’re talking about writing, I don’t know. I think it bodes well for me that I’m a woman because I don’t think I write like most women. I think people give me a harder time for navel-gazing because I’m a woman, but I mean. I can’t really deny that I do that. I’m interviewing myself on mollylaich.com right now, for example.

WHAT'S THE MOST UNBELIEVABLE RUMOR EVER PRINTED ABOUT YOU?

I wish. Closest thing I can think of: Somebody once wrote in a comment section on one of my indy articles something like “Molly must be sleeping with the editor in order to keep getting work” which I found, you know, incredibly insulting (and really untrue, I should add, if anyone was wondering. Robert and I are great friends but we don't fuck, christ.) That same person left a comment on another article. They were all…wait, let me get this verbatim: “Great interview? I don't think so. The interviewer insinuated herself nearly a dozen times in this brief dialogue with the words I or me.” I often jerk off at night to an image of this person hunched over their free weekly paper counting the number of times I used the words I or me.

WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF YOUR LIFE?

I don't know.

DO YOU WORRY ABOUT WHETHER PEOPLE LIKE YOU FOR THE REAL YOU, OR BECAUSE YOU'RE A CELEBRITY?

Haha. No.

DO YOU MAKE FRIENDS EASILY?

Also no. I don’t think I’ve ever successfully pursued a friendship on my own. If we’re friends, you did the work. Thank you. It means a lot. Unless we’re talking about the internet, in which case, I consider myself wildly popular.

WHICH DO YOU ENJOY MOST: A NIGHT ON THE TOWN OR STAYING IN WITH THAT SOMEONE SPECIAL?

To answer this question would imply that life is one way or the other when we all know it’s always both and neither. Side note: I'm enjoying the inverse of "special someone" here.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PIG-OUT FOOD?

Gross.

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR EXERCISE?

All kinds of boring stuff.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS TEAM?

My fantasy football team “The Detroit Lions.”

DO YOU THINK AMERICANS PUT TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON COMPETITION?

Every American is different.

IF YOU WERE PRESIDENT, WHAT'S THE FIRST THING YOU'D DO?

Resign.

SOME PEOPLE THINK THAT __________________(SUBJECT'S NAME) HAS IT ALL. WHAT DON'T YOU HAVE?

It all.

QUESTIONS FOR AUTHORS

HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU STARTED WRITING?

I was really little. In first grade I wrote this thing about how I wanted to be God. Everybody thought it was cute and wise. I remember filing that away under “This is a way to get attention and love.”

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT THIS WOULD BE YOUR PROFESSION?

First of all, I don’t “know” anything. But I decided to make a go of it and take it seriously around the end of undergrad when I realized I thought I was better than everyone else in my workshop. So far I’d say I’ve pretty much failed.

WHO'S YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR?

David Gates.

WHY?

I worked with him in grad school. He helped me publish several stories. He called me shallow once. His writing is really smart and good. On the sentence level: calm, poised and true. Funny but not annoyingly witty. It's like every line winks at you under the surface with the knowledge that the world is bullshit but we still need to carry on and try to love one another anyway. His writing is like if David Foster Wallace understood the virtue of brevity. Seriously, read one of his books if you haven't yet. I'm mucking it up trying to explain it.

ARE THERE ANY WRITERS WHOSE SUCCESS MYSTIFIES YOU?

It would be unwise of me to name names in a town this small, but a lot of people seriously bore me.

DO YOU READ MORE FICTION, OR NON-FICTION?

I used to read way more non-fiction but that flipped once my heart died and I decided I knew all I cared to know.

WHAT ARE YOU READING LATELY?

Wild by Cheryl Strayed and some garbage novel I won’t mention by name.

WHAT ARE A COUPLE OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE BOOKS?

The Road to Los Angeles by John Fante, Jernigan by David Gates, Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson, Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill, The Catcher in the Rye by you know who, and so on.

CAN AN AUTHOR WRITE FOR THE PULITZER AND THE PUBLIC AT THE SAME TIME?

Any author “writing for the Pulitzer” can fuck right the fuck off. I know people like that. They’re gross.

PUBLISHING HAS BECOME BIG BUSINESS. HAS THAT HURT?

It has? Oh god yes, it hurts. It burns.

WHAT INSPIRED YOUR LATEST BOOK?

I’m going to cry.

DO YOU THINK TELEVISION IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ILLITERACY?

I’m not a doctor, but I think literacy rates are at pretty much an all time high. I just looked it up; the internet says literacy rates in America haven’t changed in 10 years. It also says Seattle is the most literate city in the US. I thought it was Boston. Anyway, that would explain why everybody here is a smug fuck.

WHEN YOU GO TO SEE A MOVIE, DO YOU TRY TO READ THE BOOK FIRST?

You know, sometimes. Particularly if I think I might be assigned to review the movie.

MANY SCHOOLS HAVE BANNED CERTAIN BOOKS FOR VARIOUS REASONS. WHERE DO YOU THINK THE LINE SHOULD BE DRAWN?

No line. Leave it up to the librarians. They’re some of the raddest people on earth.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME WRITER'S BLOCK?

I look up bullshit interview questions on the internet and answer them.

HAVE YOU EVER WRITTEN ABOUT YOUR OWN BAD HABITS?

Oh lord, yes.

DO YOU EVER FEEL FORCED TO WRITE?

Like there’s a fucking gun to my head pretty much all the time.

HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF A PUBLISHER WANTED TO CONDENSE YOUR WORK?

Good.

07/24/14

murder the bird.

Do yourself a favor: Take however you’re feeling; hold the feeling in your hand like a baby bird and then fucking murder the bird. Squash the bird with your bare hands and smear the blood and guts all over everything while screaming. If you can’t do that, I mean, if you don’t have it in you, just take the tremendous wealth of your feelings and scale it back by about 80 percent. Behave as though your feelings are controlled by a series of knobs and levers and turn that shit down. It works.

Of course I’m talking to the pansies. If you’re one of those hardened people who’s all “I haven’t cried in eight years” you should take this advice and reverse it. Obviously in this case you should put the bird in a cage and pet it and feed it worms and tell me you love me and call me your girlfriend.

I really need to stop writing about my crushes on my blog. Seriously, they’re going to find out, and it’s going to be really embarrassing. The other day the maritime civil engineer was like, “Maybe I should just break down and get a Facebook.” And I said, “NOOO!” (Even that is scaled back 80 percent. If I were operating at full capacity I’d have flipped over the table while crying.) He said, “Um.” Then I said, “Okay, well, you can get a Facebook, let’s just not be friends on it.” And then he said, “Why don’t you want to be friends with me on Facebook?” and I said, “NO REASON.”

Here’s when I knew I was really done for. I stopped by the engineer’s house at around 10 am on a sunday morning, after a long weekend away. I had a lot of thoughts and feelings stored in my chest and hands, and when I walked in, I saw a foreign pair of brand new converse tennis shoes and some adorable, baby blue robot socks sitting next to them.

“These are the shoes and socks of a woman,” my brain immediately concluded. I looked at the engineer’s closed bedroom door. “Whoever bought these shoes is in bed next to my crush.” I wrote the whole story in my head. He met the love of his life over the weekend, they got drunk, he brought her home and now they’re wrapped up together in one big blanket. It’s not like he’s cheating on me, since we’re only dating in my head, but I do technically live with him. If he brought home another woman it’s not wrong, per se, but a tad indelicate. I felt like a person who had been wronged a little but not enough to cry or flip over a table.

I didn’t know what to do, so I did all the dishes. After I did the dishes I went back and looked at the receipt sitting next to the slut’s shoes. They were purchased at Target at around 1 in the afternoon the day before. It was just the shoes and the socks, nothing else, paid for with a 100 dollar bill. The shoes were 60 percent off. I’m a goddamn detective and these were important clues.

I still didn’t know what to do so I went outside to talk to the guy who lives in the garage. It wasn’t my first choice; he’s not a mean guy but he’s not exactly friendly, either. I said, “Did Phil bring home a girl last night?”

“I don’t think so,” the guy who lives in the garage said. “Why do you think that.”

I told him there was a pair of girl’s shoes on the floor in the living room. “Did you see him last night?”

“He came in here this morning saying he was super hung over. He didn’t mention anything about a girl.” I think there was actual kindness in the garage tenant’s voice. I think he felt a little sorry for me.

“I don’t want to just barge in on them,” I said. “I mean, kind of I do…”

The guy who lives in the garage laughed. His english bulldog whinnied at me. I pet her big weird head and went back inside.

I stared at the shoes again. Whoever this woman was, she was a giant. I tried on the shoes and they were just a little too big for me, and recall, I am a giant myself. Also, not to stereotype, but what kind of woman goes to Target to buy a pair of shoes and socks and nothing else with a 100 dollar bill? I looked again at the shoes and wondered why I ever thought they were women’s shoes in the first place. The maritime civil engineer never buys anything at full price. And surely you don’t fall in love with a girl on a Saturday afternoon and then immediately go out and buy a pair of shoes and socks together, right?

I opened the door to the maritime civil engineer’s room and of course it was just him lying there, his long, gangly frame stretched out across the bed like an open hand. He said, “Hi Molly!” as though not a goddamn thing had happened, and indeed, for him, nothing had.

I turned down my emotions by 80 or 90 percent and laid down in bed next to him in what I hoped was a casual way. Eventually I said, “I thought those shoes on the living room floor were a girls.”

He was like, “You did?” and then, “Aren’t they sweet? I got them for 60 percent off.”

And that’s when I knew for sure how completely fucked I am, that I’m not the boss of me, and let’s face it: I probably never was.