12/16/10

Other Terrors Lurk!

There are places you don’t and can’t know about. People are trapped there and God has forgotten them. No one knows anything about them. If anything, the statues are made out of them. There are worlds where damned children eat cereal made of maggots – worlds where you might watch your hands turn into hooves. Beware also ordinary horrors. Blood in your saliva, a bus stop and swollen feet, dropping your children off at school or a loveless marriage: imagine it. Know that other terrors lurk. Know that a person can dig a hole down into their stomach and then crawl inside of it like an imploding star. I talk to you from there.

This is a fun little prose poem I’ve been writing in my journal that never seems to end. I don’t want to publish it here, but I have to. The uglier the update, the more urgent the need to archive. I’m not saying I wasn’t influenced by this David Lynch film.

Things are going well for me in the writing world, except for the writing part. I believe I have the lifestyle pretty well down. There’s the crippling loneliness, the medicating, the fasting and repenting. I feel a little sick. I want to love but don’t always know how. Yes. I think I’ve got a great portion of it figured out, and the rest? Well, how important is the writing really? They’re just words. Writing is okay but what I’d really love to do is love.

I compiled this winter reading list from friends and lovers in the English department at the university of Montana. Please be assured that notable writers in the community may well have recommended some of the items on this list. I tried to make a new page for it but wordpress confuses me. You will find the list in the “comments” section of this post.

What the Hell’s it doing out there, Christmas?

You might be surprised to learn that I hate Christmas, but I love my mother, and the point is that I’m headed to Detroit for a couple weeks. Last I heard from the D, they were shooting disaster films and carrying one another to heaven. Is it true that you can’t go home again? With any luck, I will talk to you from there.

11/1/10

Ambien literature.

Look you guys, I have a prescription, okay? I have delayed sleep phase syndrome. It’s a real disorder and not at all made up. It’s been like over a month since I’ve updated, and once that happens it becomes a thing, like a beast, like a terrible chore that just grows larger and larger until it’s nothing again. It is not unlike the infinite folding and unfolding of the universe, maintaining a blog.

Anyway, holy shit I apparently wrote this last night. I don’t remember writing it, but those are my ideas – I recognize them. A sentence or two is from my little notebook where I write down little ideas. So it wasn’t someone else that wrote it. I did. It’s sort of like that trick you men do where you sit on your hand until it falls asleep and then you masturbate with said hand.

To review: It’s like the universe and masturbating with a dead hand, this tiny story I found. The ending could use some work but I’ll leave it exactly as a found it, as an artifact.


Tyson brings this other guy with him when he picks me up for our date. He’s sitting in the backseat drinking PBR’s out of a 12 pack one after the other, like someone eating popcorn.

Turns out we’re going way the fuck out of town to this saloon style bar that is also a hotel. They tell me that interesting things have happened there. Tyson’s friend is named Daniel and I’m Megan and this is mine and Tyson’s third time out.

“I hope you don’t mind if Daniel comes along with us,” Tyson says, but it’s already done, so what would it matter if I minded? The deal is that Daniel is suicidal. It will be good for him to get out of the city into the fresh air, with friends. Tyson tells me all this as though the patient isn’t sitting right there. I think this is just his style.

Daniel doesn’t seem so sad, and I tell him so. He’s got a patchy beard and unblinking, unmoving features, like he has a concussion maybe and he’s tired. “I have addictions,” he says. “I’ve slept with over a thousand women.”

“You must get up very early in the morning,” I tell him.

He looks out the window at pine trees blurring past. “It doesn’t make me happy,” he says.

I tell them all about my cold and its cure. I took 5,000mg of Vitamin C and drank 3 glasses of vegetable juice, plus a shitload of hot tea with honey and lemon, and I used the Nettie pot about 20 goddamn times.

“What’s a nettie pot?” Tyson wants to know.

“It’s like this thing. It’s for irrigating the sinuses. Mine is made of porcelain but they make other kinds. It looks like a Genie’s lamp.”

“I’ve made a woman believe I was a genie,” Daniel says.

“Really?” Tyson says. He can’t believe it, which is appropriate because it’s a fucking joke. This is the first I’ve seen of how stupid Tyson is, and now begins the plotting: how to switch dates?

09/24/10

The Significance of the Bear


I took this picture and I wrote a story about it. It’s in the second person. Bet you didn’t know you were an alcoholic named Carl! You are.
.
.
.


The Significance of the Bear

You know very well one day at a time isn’t going to last forever – not for someone like you. You feel trapped. When you go to the movies and the lights dim, the idea of two hours in a room with these strangers is enough to make you want to rush for the exit. The only reason you don’t is that you’ve played it out a million times before. You’ll be just as listless out in the fresh open air of the parking lot. In this way it doesn’t matter where you are or whom you’re with. On a long enough time line you will always want out. Still, you have to keep doing things. That’s what life is made of. So you moved from Michigan to Montana on the whim of a pamphlet and vague hope. A friend had told you, baselessly, that Missoula had the best meetings, and off you went into the pointless fucking void.

You don’t have to be a Christian in Alcoholics Anonymous. You can be other things, so you tried out dime store, new age mysticism. It’s hypnotizing to think that events have meanings, that thoughts become things. You started with The Secret and it was embarrassing. When you tried wishing for checks to come in the mail and they didn’t, you looked into it. You worked your way backwards to the heart of the matter, which is that it’s not enough to intend for things; you have to get your head buzzing right, and you have to be a good person and meditate and remember to say thank you, always, and still, even then, if the angels don’t want you to have it then you can’t have it. You despair in the bleak truth that there is always a catch.

When you were first made to admit that you were powerless over the sauce, you promised everyone you’d stick with it forever, but secretly, by forever you meant one year. It’s about that time and a voice in your head calls, wanting to know whether you’re planning on renewing your subscription.

Drinking a lot is like democracy: it’s the worst, but what’s the alternative? Still, you grew weary. You felt sick and ugly most of the time, so you got more drunk and woke up broke and embarrassed. You got so embarrassed one night you told everyone you knew that you recognized you had a problem and you wanted to get better. Later you were like, “just kidding about that thing I said about being an alcoholic” but they were all, “no take backs.” More or less.

Driving down from the Rattlesnake yesterday you saw a brown bear strapped on the back of a pick up. It’s the only bear you’ve seen in Montana - not alive but it was almost better that way, because you could see it close up. There was a cloth bandage around the bear’s paw, applied with what you could only interpret as misplaced tenderness. For a moment you fell in love with the driver of the truck. Was it a homo moment? It wasn’t love, you reasoned; it was admiration. (If it were romantic love it would be a valid and beautiful choice, but it wasn’t.) The man was an unapologetic killer of beasts and he was in no hurry to escape his situation. He would probably be content to drive up and down Broadway for all time, like the legend of the guy rolling the rock up the hill, but cheerfully. It's not sexist to assume the driver of the truck is a man, and not just because men are killers and women plant flowers or that only men drive trucks - remember, you're in Montana - it's just the whole scene. It’s the way the carcass is knotted to the truck bed, the sheer audacity of it. It’s like how everyone can tell girls’ handwriting from boys without understanding how. You took a picture of the bear and you showed it to your new AA friends.

-Hey guys, let's not talk about not drinking for a change, you suggested.

-That's a grizzly bear, they said.

-Look at the way the nose turns up. Those are round ears, not pointed like a black bears. No doubt about it.

-There's no hump, someone argued.

-Too young for the hump. That is definitely a grizzly bear.

They told you Grizzly bears are famous in Montana and it is always illegal to kill them. They decided you should report the bear to the state Fishing and Gaming Whatever. You were uneasy. Where you come from nobody calls the police on anybody.

-But look at the way the hunter nursed the paw, you pleaded.

-That’s not a bandage, one of them said.

-Nah, that’s just the tag. You have to tag animals before you take them out of the woods. It’s the law.

-Ironic, someone pointed out, helpfully.

You wanted to go around the circle and punch every one of them for telling you all these things you never wanted to know about hunting.

-What’s the big difference between killing a grizzly bear and killing a black bear? you asked them, and then you realized it was stupid. Because there are less of them?

-Yes, they said.

-Well, I mean, it's a respect thing, another added, but the reception for this comment was mixed.

It’s true that you don't drink or live in the Midwest anymore, and you’ve changed some, maybe even a lot, but you still can't see yourself as the kind of person who would ever call an 800 number to report a crime. You try to imagine the right scenario. If it had been a naked man up there, phallus dangling wherever, stripped of not just life but also dignity - Hell, if it had been a naked woman, still, you would hesitate. Perhaps they had it coming, and maybe not even in a "she was a real bitch" way - maybe she came at him with a knife. Plus, why would a man have a human strapped so flagrantly to the back of his truck if it weren’t somehow legal? You do that sometimes - reorganize the entire world to fit one anomalous idea.

You tell everyone you're going to call the wild life people, but you're lying. You're not going to. It's the same way you’re lying when you say your name is Carl and you're an alcoholic. You don't believe it, not really. It’s not that you love drinking, it’s that you hate life. You should say instead, “Hi, I’m Carl and I hate life.” And when you tell the others to keep coming back, the truth is you don't care either way.

What's the significance of a bear? You think about crossing the room to look it up in your spirit animal book, a relic from when you believed in things, but what will knowing do? Anyway, it's just as cold on that side of the room as it is over here. You try to draw connections between the two things on your own: There’s your alcoholism, a disease of the spirit, and there is the dead bear and your cowardice. Or indifference. Whatever. You try to weave it together in a rich tapestry of truth to create a synthesis and nothing happens. You get caught up in the events of the day. A third thing comes up that doesn’t match the other two things, then a fourth, until it all becomes one big thing again and you’re back to not believing in magic.

You’re standing in a church basement in the center of the room, fluorescent lights dangling overhead, surrounded on all sides by smiling men seated in metal folding chairs. They want to give you a keychain. The room is hot and you’re sweating and all you can think is: what the fuck. Why.

09/1/10

the rain…

looks fake today, like you could turn it off with a switch if only you could find it, but you can’t. You can’t find it.

Got a story published here at burnt bridges press. I was really excited and told everybody, but now I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that I’m excited. Still, look.

School started this week. The class I teach is filled with women, which just means it will take me longer to learn their names. (I’m sexist like racist. 18 year old girls all look alike to me.)

Mostly I am exhausted and thrilled re: everything and seek others that feel similarly. Cursory look outside reveals somebody found that switch after all. The end.

05/24/10

Apologies.

Molly says, it’s been well over a month. Where are the angry letters? Why is no one storming my castle? Oh well. Yeah, what can I say, you get busy. Except I’m not at all busy. What can I say, you get lazy. School is over and it’s “summer” in Missoula, Montana. (It’s cold is why the quotes. Imagine I’m doing air quotes.) This is a magical place and the people here are possessed with a secret satisfaction I can’t even reveal to you here, because it’s a secret.

I’ve been writing, and trying to figure out what being a writer is all about, and editing and revising. Without school it feels very “without a net.” I spent most of last semester in varying stages of unrequited love. It was very 17. It filled me with all sorts of imaginary passions, and it informed a lot of my writing. One morning I woke up and I was released from the spell, but I’m left with all this stuff I wrote. Weird residue on the pillow. What to do with it? Give it away. Garage sale. Everything must go. “The Sting” is imperfect (the ending is bullshit, for example) but it’s sort of neat and tidy and complete, and I’d like to offer it to you here as a way of saying I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything.

I want to update this a lot this summer. Starting rightnow! Go!

04/13/10

The Joy of Williams.

I didn’t read a lot of female writers before I came to Montana. I think it’s because I believed that women didn’t know how to do much besides cry and make babies. I would like to soften my position. Mary Gaitskill, Mary Robison, and Joy Williams are three writers I have come to appreciate. Besides a penchant for the name Mary (one of my all time favorite names, ordinary as it may be. It is often my pseudonym. I am named after my Aunt Mary. etc.) and being white, these women share the gift of nuanced, informed prose. They know things about humans. In this sense they are like mystics. I think writers are sort of magical. I have created many unpleasant things through my own writing, for example. Once, I turned a man I knew into a coke addicted maniac. I turned myself into a data entry person. I may have turned one of my old bosses gay. I digress, big time. I just wanted to share with you this Joy Williams impersonation. Mother, I hope you don’t read this, and if you do, I hope you don’t take it personally. I love you. I wouldn’t change anything. What has and hasn’t happened made me who I am today, and I’m grateful.

Look Out!

Every year my mother and I went to the city to see the Detroit fireworks. Afterwards we would eat at a restaurant in Greektown where men made of rock wore nothing but leaves in front of their privates. The year before I circled around one of these statues and put my hand under the leaf. A table in the balcony above me cheered when I did it, and I got embarrassed and cried, but my mother hugged me and said that nobody thought I was gross. She was always on my side. She told me that everyone thought I was cute and funny and loved me, and I believed her, but suspiciously.

That was a full year ago and this year I knew a lot more. My mother had a boyfriend that summer named Lou that I didn’t like. I hated when Lou came with us places because he always got to sit in the front seat. Mom couldn’t hear anything I said in back and kind of seemed like she didn’t want to. I sang along loudly with the music and kicked the back of Lou’s seat.

My mother clutched my hand tightly when she led me through the crowd. I liked all the black faces and I felt like they liked me too because we were different from each other and that was very interesting. My mother was a drinker. Every year she brought a thermos full of Vodka. We laid a blanket on the grass in front of the river and we stared at exploding lights and the smoky shadows they left behind. Years later, in that same spot, the fireworks would remind someone of Vietnam and he would shoot three strangers, but nothing bad happened that year.

Before the Greek restaurant and after the fireworks mom and Lou got drunk and yelled at each other a lot on the sidewalk while I stared into an alley. At the time I thought anybody who set foot in an alley got raped, and I thought getting raped meant a strange man beat you up and then took a razorblade and ripped holes in your clothes. I’m through, you crazy bitch, Lou said. He walked off in the other direction and my mom started crying. She took my hand and led me around the city, wheezing and stumbling. It took us a really long time to find the car, and I was mad because I didn’t want to find it, I wanted to go to the restaurant where they set the cheese on fire and the waiters scream, “Opa!” which means, “Look out!”

My mom rested her head on the steering wheel. Fuck you, she said. Fuck you. Fuck you. It was embarrassing, her talking to someone who wasn’t there. I didn’t answer. I think the silence upset her even more, the no one answering. No, she said. Fuck him. Not you, honey. Fuck him. She put the key in the ignition. I had the thought that it might have been safer for an eight year old to drive the car home than for my mother to.

* * * * * *

Lou was through with her that night, but not overall. Like twenty years after that, my boyfriend and I had an apartment in Detroit, in that same neighborhood even. We filled old water bottles full of whiskey and walked down to the river to watch the fireworks. When we drank too much and screamed at each other on the street, at least we knew where we were, and we could walk home. Fuck you, I would say to him. Fuck you. Not fuck her. I said this right to my boyfriend’s face. In this way, my mother and I are different.

03/10/10

Hemingway hates women. I think they’re okay…

Am I on a roll, or what? That’s not a real question. This week we discussed Hemingway and this is my Hemingway impersonation. I was trying to convey his conflicted feelings about women and sex, but even with these mock-ups I feel you can’t help but essentially remain yourself. Hemingway writes from a personal place, it seems to me, and he’s held accountable for the beliefs of his characters as if they came from him personally. This piece similarly comes from a personal place, in me. I think I’m creeping everyone out. This may be a phase. It may be I’m at that phase in my MFA career where I think that everybody hates me and thinks I’m a terrible writer. Oh well.

When he broke up with D, just three weeks ago, his friend’s advised him to fuck a lot of women. “Not just a few women,” they said. “A lot of women.” It was the typical advice that men tend to give other men in times like these, but when he actually stopped to think about it, what the reality of that entailed, it made him a little queasy. Just the notion of confronting so many foreign bodies like that. His own body was disgusting enough. Pale and hairy, moist crevices, and the exhausting effort it can sometimes take to get to that stage with women… still, how many had there been since he and D broke up, three or four? He hadn’t had to do anything to get this one. She’d scolded him for his bad behavior and in the same breath invited him back to her apartment. It was disgustingly easy, and her apartment was disgusting.

She was sort of beautiful but incredibly crass. She was uncomfortable in her body and had a weird gait. You could tell that she didn’t think she was beautiful at all. Her apartment was gross and she sort of thought she was gross too. It was the morning after. He wished he hadn’t spouted a lot of bullshit about being a vegetarian and treating his body like a temple because now he was dying for a cigarette, luckily we found a company that could deliver cigarettes to your door. They were sitting up on her bed and staring at elaborate cut outs of birds she’d pasted to the walls. She must have done them months ago when she cared something about the way the place looked. Now they were sort of tattered and hanging off carelessly. There was a mallard and a female duck swimming together. The female duck swam ahead but the mallard was in the foreground.

“What do you suppose that says about men and women?” He heard himself ask her, although he hadn’t the foggiest idea why.

“They’re just fucking ducks,” she said. She actually sounded bored or irritated. “It’s not a treatise on male, female relations. The point is that they’re cut out so carefully. It’s an art, cutting them out of the background with such precision. That’s the point. It’s not about how much you hate your mother.”

Later they were on her front porch and he was incredibly irritated. He looked at her shyly. In the harsh light of morning they both looked ugly to him. She hugged him.

“God, even the way you hug is gross,” he said.

“That’s not true,” she said. She sounded bored with him. “Kiss me on the cheek.”

And he did.

03/9/10

Just more words.

Note: This is a knockoff, homage, imitation of The Isaac Babel story, First Love. It’s from a class I take in college where we read hotshot writers, talk about them, and try to write like them. Isaac Babel kind of had it rough. Comparatively I can’t really say the same. If I had to choose I would say the worst thing that happened to Isaac Babel was getting shot by Stalin’s army.

Last Love

When I was 28 years old I responded to an ad on craigslist regarding an apartment with an extra room for rent. The place belonged to a handsome couple named Swen and Amy. Their last names were both Smith, weirdly, because they were not married. Upon first meeting them I locked eyes with Swen and felt an immediate, suffocating desire that seemed painfully reciprocated. Amy was insufferable, ogrish, and I’d have liked it if by some miracle she had dropped dead on the spot. Instead, with full faculties, she eyed me up and down while candidly expressing her discomfort with the situation. There had been some confusion. My name is Chris and all the preliminary correspondences had been done over email. They’d assumed I was male.

Still staring into Swen’s handsome blue eyes, I did what I often do in these delicate situations, which is to say the exact opposite of what I am really feeling. “The truth is, I’m a lesbian.”

And so we lived together for some months in this unfortunate arrangement. Swen and I brushed hands at the coffee maker, stole glances during commercial breaks, and generally felt the heavy weight of misery hanging down on us. All the while I took care to stifle any overt signs of heterosexuality (moments of shrillness, romantic comedies) and accentuated the homosexual (flannel). On the loneliest of nights, through thin walls, I could hear them making love, signified mostly by Amy’s harsh commands, a voice ravaged by too much smoking and vinegar. She insisted loudly where to stick things and at what speed and duration. It caused me great agony, but what’s the use of talking about it? Our unhappiness persisted.

A mob of hired murderers ransacked our shared apartment and murdered Swen and the kittens. For 14 years of my life I had dreamed with my whole soul about kittens. Eventually, through a series of convoluted circumstances, Amy permitted me to bring home two of them, and then this unpleasantness. I found Amy there on that sad morning cradling Swen’s remains, his entrails spilling out like long strands of sausage links. When she saw me walk in, the truth of my subterfuge suddenly came to light. In revenge, she lunged toward me with a handful of red kitten sludge and smashed the mess into my temples.

“Now we should probably clean up,” Amy said. “We should clean up, Chris. Our hands and faces are covered in fur, and the fur is bloody.”

11/10/09

There’s really only one thing to talk about.

Things MFA graduate students are good at:

  1. Writing perfectly crafted text messages to one another, a symphony of mystery, intrigue, flirtation mixed with aloof detachment dosed out in perfect proportion to the situation.  We are all lyrical wizards, and it’s frightening sometimes, they way we misuse our power.  What I’m trying to say is that Kristen G*****n is a witch.
  2. Any variety of parlor games that require extensive lying and trickery.  Balderdash.  My Dad is… (either A- a successful magician.  B- a real estate agent turned puppeteer in these hard financial times.)
  3. Selecting songs from jukeboxes that don’t just sound good, but also really speak to the time and situation.
  4. Crossing out every adverb I ever audaciously put in a story, helpfully.

So, Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month.  The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  That’s about 1700 words a day.  I’m behind schedule but thats what the end of the month is for – tireless cramming.  Here’s my first paragraph.

Chapter 1: The Guest Poet Spoke of Birch Trees…

The guest poet spoke of birch trees, something about the white bark being like his mothers ghost, only less interesting.  He stopped (for effect, they thought) clutched his chest, gasped at the air like the tree itself was lodged in his throat, and finally, the whole lot of him cascaded to the ground.  The podium tipped forward and an older woman in the front row caught it gracefully as it fell into her lap.    This caused the chord to come unplugged and during the surge, the oomph that punctuated this awful poets collapse, the woman silently righted the podium again.

Incidentally, the poet is dead.  Later some other characters will conspire to kill a dog.  A girl locks herself up in her room and does drugs continually for days and days.  Magic is attempted and failed.  In all seriousness, writing a novel in one month is a meditative and beautiful process and I recommend it to everyone.  It’s not too late to start now, but almost.  Visit Nanowrimo and be my friend. (user name: Mollykills)

11/1/09

Post Halloween Slasher Lit

My graduate studies in creative writing leaves me no time to write blog updates.  Creatively.

Let us not dwell on the absurdity of that statement and instead move on to other unpleasantries.  I’m beginning to see why I’m the only person I know who posts their stories on the Internet.  It’s because we’re supposed to come to the conclusion that are stories suck at worst, and are never ever finished at best.  Still.  I continue to think it’s a good idea.

I work-shopped a piece a couple of weeks ago, for the second time,  called You Shut Up, Please. (Reviews of the title = mixed.  I like it.)  Revision is hellish and interesting.  Kevin Canty, or KC, as he cryptically addresses himself in his notes to me, tells me that revision is important.  He had the audacity to suggest that one should give up the idea that they’re going to write a perfect story the first time around, that you need to learn how to let go and let God when it comes to your brilliant sentences/ideas.  If I knew how to let God write my stories I would have “let go” a long time ago, but that’s a point for another time.  He said my 23 page story should be cut down by 6 pages.  6 pages!  That’s like asking me to gouge out one of my cat’s eyes, because hey, who really needs more than one eye.  (It’s probably not really like that.)

I tried, KC.  I tried so, so, hard, and it hurt.  Well, sort of.  Some sentences are easy to part with.  Others was like plucking out eyelashes individually with a pair of tweezers.  I managed to get 2 1/2 pages out.  Do you want to see what I cut?

Why would you want to see what I cut?  The whole point is that this shit doesn’t need to be read.  Whatever.  I declare November 1st opposite day.  So here is what’s left on the cutting room floor.  My favorite is number 19.  ”Incidentally, they played a great set.”  Oh, incidentally, eh?  Ha.  I crack myself up.  Number 20 is completely racist out of context, and to be fair, also in context.  37.  ”It’s just supposed to be a metaphor.”  Oh Molly.  It’s show, not tell.  I don’t care what your verbose, Holden Caulfield wannabe first person narrator thinks.  When you read the entire list, your brain tries to turn it into a story, but this story is rambling, makes no sense, and is apropos to nothing.  These are all good arguments for the revision process.

  1. the big surprise
  2. She wanted to socialize me, so when she met interesting people doing grown up things, she made a point of dragging me along with her.
  3. I in turn didn’t know until much later that she wasn’t just a guest at the party, but that she lived there, and was kind of a big deal.
  4. I let myself become her social works product, which now in retrospect was probably a mistake.
  5. She flurries around the house, putting everything methodically into place.  She puts her mittens in her coat pocket, the coat on the rack, and her many school supplies back in their designated places on the bookshelf.  I follow her everywhere.  She sets her purse on the chair next to the coffee table, deliberately askew.  It’s a labored, practiced casualness.
  6. She stands behind me and stares at the blank canvas, save a few leading lines that mark the beginning of more nightmares.
  7. She puts her hand on my shoulder, and it’s more like a father son thing than a gesture between lovers.
  8. She wants things to either look like the thing, or not at all.  It’s true that I can never seem to accomplish either state.
  9. Twenty minutes later, when my body is attacking me from the inside with hunger, she’s finally ready to go.

10. I note my cynicism, but I’m too tired to correct it.

11. My ass hurts from sitting in the same swivel chair all day.

12. She lives in the world of bad films and TV sitcoms, and since the networks rarely make them anymore, I don’t think she understands that things have changed.

13. My tongue feels dipped in ventilation dust, securely wrapped in gauze bandages then dipped in plaster.

14. He exhales with the force of ten thousand elephants.

15. Birds come, and then they go.

16. I don’t paint real people, but stick figures.  The rest is as realistic as Rembrandt.

17. , …the first moment of contact, the fire that burns inside of us when something extraordinary is about to happen.

18. …he robbed it of all its dirty manliness…

19. Incidentally, they played a great set.

20. I’m scared that when I listen to the message he’ll try to offer me a bride price or dowry or whatever it is they do.

21. On any other day I would take great pleasure in prolonging his meek fear of asking for anything directly.  If the Christmas spirit of giving hadn’t inexplicably struck me, I’d have let him hem and haw for hours before offering him a ride, just to teach him some kind of lesson.

22. Adam is a terrible giver of directions – he mumbles things about left turns and one-way boulevards – but all I need is the name of the subdivision – “Harvest Springs” – and the name of his street, “Sycamore Grove.”

23. I recognize the house when we pull up – it’s made special by the gigantic red door, which without fail means at least a four-dollar tip. Nothing, not the size of the house, the cars in the parking lot, or the food order itself is more indicative of tip in this town than the homeowner’s willingness to shed extra money on a big ass door. I even remember Adam’s dad – a shorter, nebbish man in dressing socks, cordless phone wedged on his shoulder and a yelping, little white dog at his feet.  When was it, two, three years ago?

24. “I don’t understand,” Adam keeps repeating.

25. It never ceases to amaze me how the wealthy always manage a fully stocked bar – every bottle, three quarters full. I wonder if someone like the milkman comes around once a month, topping the bottles off.  Maybe successful people don’t drink, but only sip.

26. There’s Crystal, of course. There’s the Johnny Walker Blue, and me, thirty years old and certain I’ve never sipped Alcohol so expensive before.  More than anything…

27. I want to cheer him up.

28. Adam takes a sip of his father’s Scotch, the stuff that sells for something like twenty dollars a glass at the kind of bars Anuj and Crystal will soon be frequenting.

29. I grope blindly for some positive spin on the situation, when…

30. Adam interrupts me.  I don’t think he hears a word of what I’ve actually said, of what I’m trying to say.

31. I’ve always wanted to be an excellent judge of unconscious tells, the hidden contradiction between our actions and our true intentions, but the truth is, I never have been. I think I’m too self-centered to remember to look closely at people’s faces, to gauge a twitch of an eyebrow or panicked flash in the eyes. But this time, despite extreme drunkenness even…

32. He giggles a little bit, and starts staggering away with uncoordinated exaggeration.

33. …he sort of whispers, except it’s a drunk whisper that sounds more like loud, airy shouting.

34. I see red.

35. …with the same level of clumsiness…

36.  - as if he thinks it really warrants being said –

37.  It’s just supposed to be a metaphor.