Wednesday 29th March 2006

i'm revoking my awesomeness license

that song, remembered from my childhood, that has been running through my head? the one with the fantastic tune? the one that seemed so excellent and sublime all week as i slowly reconstructed the lyrics?

yeah. barbra effing streisand. thanks a lot, mom.


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Saturday 25th March 2006

the real list

unlike some others i know, i prefer to deal in certainty and reality.

with that in mind: from the top, every girl i've ever loved—at the time. the careful reader will note that this reads like a list of french military victories.

1. age 6-7: emily ashlock.
i swear she was smarter then than i am now. she gave me a note one day saying i was doing well in math class—getting a lot of questions right or something—and drew a rainbow that made my little heart go pitter-pat. i saw her one day recently here in town and tried to strike up a conversation. she didn't remember me. that wasn't awkward or anything.

2. age 7-8: elizabeth burt.
jeremiah's cousin, though i didn't know jeremiah existed at the time. she kissed me on the cheek one early summer twilight. being young, i told a friend about it; she didn't take too well to that and our relationship cooled significantly. she moved away. i tell myself it wasn't because of me. when i was eleven i called her and we talked for about two or three hours. to this day i can't remember how i found her phone number, and it's a little disturbing that i could.

3. age 8: teasha hyer.
she was cute, and she didn't know i existed. the first of many. in the interest of saving space i have suppressed the forty or more who warrant this same description.

4. age 10-11: tina bradshaw.
my first kiss—sort of. truth or dare on the day before some vacation or another, literally underneath some desks. we "went out," which means we sat by each other at lunch and had boring recesses "talking" and boring stuff like that. by the end i was mean to her. when i broke up with her, i actually told her, by proxy, to go to hell. it's not my proudest moment. eventually we were friends again, and i was better for it.

5. age 11: mallory what's-her-face.
we went to summer camp together; someone told me she liked me and so of course i immediately liked her back. i don't remember talking to her—a good thing, otherwise it might not have lasted as long as it did. by which i mean for the remainder of the week.

6. age 11-20, on and off: tristi terrell.
in a plurality of all possible universes, i end up married to tristi. my first and only time "going out" with her lasted less than a month because i ignored her because at that age—some would say and still—i didn't know how to communicate with girls in any meaningful way. my strength was in writing beautiful, flowing, sappy, wretched "will you 'go out' with me" notes, and once that was all over with, i had nothing. she was infinitely more socially competent than i, and it was over before it was properly begun. as with tina, we stayed friends and again i was better for it. she once told someone—after our time was up—that for a very long time, she thought we would end up together, in the marital sense; independently i told this same person the same thing. you can imagine my shock. i never really got over tristi until one summer she found the right guy (or at least one of the many right guys) and never looked back.

7. age 12-13: sara kattenhorn.
against my better judgment. her cuteness devastated me and through it all she was immune to my charms. in retrospect, i'm glad.

8. age 14: naomi mendoza.
the package had a very nice wrapping job but was utterly empty, if you take me. i totally don't want to talk about it. nor, i'd wager, does jeremiah.

9. age 14-16: morgan johnston.
i now think of our relationship back then as very similar to that between tim & dawn or jim & pam, only without the reciprocated romantic interest. perhaps something might have come of it had i mentioned anything to her, or at least shown some depth of character, but no: i instead chose to act silly. so that's all over with. i recently found out she got married to precisely the wrong guy. not that i'm judging you, punk, but you don't deserve her.

10. age 15: malinda hessel.
nearly every male i knew spent at least a week desperately infatuated with malinda, and rightly so. she was probably the sweetest girl in my life at the time—and she spoke to me on occasion.

11. age 17: heather kellogg.
my first proper, official, healthy, publicly acknowledged relationship: three months, called on account of graduation. we had conversations that shimmer in my mind like chopin put to words. we could keep up marvelously with each other.

12. age 18: megan lacey.
once she touched my right pinky, and you'll never convince me she didn't mean to do it. she was just outside-the-box enough, and just british enough, to make me fawn, swoon, and otherwise twitterpate. we flirted well. at least she did. i'd give a dollar to find out what she thought of me then.

13. age 18: courtney gravett.
wide-set blue-green eyes, short hair, almost deitific skill with the written word—what more could a romantic idealist hope for? oh, right, steamy kisses in my dorm room. well, there might have been some of that.

14. age 18-20: kara cockrum.
you flirted in oh-such-a-sly way, had that smile, and that hair, and you expect me to be too young for you? (i repeat: i recently found out she got married to precisely the wrong guy. not that i'm judging you, punk, but you don't deserve her.)

15. age 19-20: avril atkinson.
older than i by a significant margin and so far out of my league i might as well have been playing a completely different sport, we still had some good talks. she calmed me. she was working on an advanced psychology degree and i've always liked to be analyzed; we were like two puzzle pieces. unfortunately we were not two adjacent puzzle pieces. i don't know where she ended up.

16. age 20-present: she who must not be named.
i win.


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Sunday 5th March 2006

fire and brimstone

subtitle: zen and the art of sneaking one whilst the wife is asleep


out the door. sixty yards. right turn—second guess; about face. one hundred fifty yards. left turn. to the end of the road—i pass another hooded figure; i am you and what i see is me? across the street, under the streetlight and into the blackened park.

if my mother knew what i was doing here tonight she'd maybe cluck her tongue at me. maybe.

i see the picnic table in the center of the park's single light, but the very fact of its visibility rules it out immediately. tonight's work suggests shadow. i lean against a wooden construction barrier covering a muddy hole where too many construction trucks have driven. fascist object, taking away my civil right to step haplessly into the filth if i damn well please, i'll show you.

i tear open the paper/plastic wrapper, pull out one of what i came for. click, puff, puff. for moments all i see is an afterimage of the lighter's sparks and tenuous flame. click, puff, puff. kindle, baby. click, puff, puff.

i had forgotten the taste of this particular brand. acrid to be sure, no cubano, but not wholly unpleasant and linked in memory to far more pleasant nights than this. i fill my mouth again and again, and try and fail to blow smoke rings. some of the foul stuff leaks into my lungs, and oh how i cough. some hobbit i'd make.

who originally thought of this? who decided it would be a good idea to pick some stinky weed, dry it, wrap it in paper, burn it, and breathe the smoke? and in spite of the lungs' immediate and intense instructions not to do it again went ahead and did it again? i conclude it must have been a teenager. probably looking for a way to piss off his dad.

puff, puff. at this short distance the combustion is audible. is it the actual oxidation, or some residual water flash-boiling out of the dessicated leaves and escaping into the entropy-addicted universe? at any rate it's beautiful.

and you: i watch you not seeing me see you trundle down the sidewalk, hands in pockets and mind in who knows what. have we ever been here before, you and i, roles reversed?

i dare a cop to spot me, approach and smell the smoke, ask questions. in my head i'm oh-so-brash, agreeing to produce my identification only when he produces the warrant, and only if it has been signed by the attorney general himself. puff, puff. what a troublemaker i'll never be.

and you: i see you jogging, see the thin white wires connecting your consciousness to some hidden marvelous device and wonder if i'd enjoy what you're listening to, if i myself have listened to those same words jogging that same road, syncopating steps with the same rhythm of inhale/exhale. i decide it's as unlikely as anything possibly could be.

puff, puff. i spit, trying to extinguish the burning that always fills my sinuses when i perform this foolish self-poisoning act, the burning that triggers so strange a response, the burning i hope i never get used to.

there, the school where so recently i made my slow four-year migration from front corners to rear corners. there, the water tower in whose shadow i have lived so long but which i have never climbed. there, the field where i made my first real football tackle. there, a house worth possibly more than all the money i've seen so far. puff, puff.

and you: i can see your balcony from here, can see how he's holding you, and think what you have might last.

existence in every direction, i think. i exist in space and time, always will exist. existence forever, in every direction. this does not comfort me. by ways nothing ever ends, but by the same ways nothing ever begins, does it?

uncharacteristic thoughts, even for such uncharacteristic circumstances, i think. perhaps i've been here too long. puff.

i crush out the cherry-red tip. i'm tempted to leave the ashen remains on the swing set for some naïve elementary schoolkid to find and titter over. the temptation passes.

on the walk home, the chill and the essential loneliness make me feel like a character in one of my own off-center stories. i consider how this one will end, and just who's doing the writing.


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