Tuesday, October 27, 2015

a bit of nonfiction

Dust. I’m made of dust. In the wind i blow away. In the mirror I’m a sort of fish creature, wiggling back and forth in an obscene parody of swimming, gills opening and closing, goggle-eyed and utterly inhuman. I flee the bathroom mirror but the fish thing follows me, made real by my attention. Even as I write it hovers just behind me, between my shoulder blades where i can never see or touch but i know it’s there.

Some words are black plastic. They constrict around my son’s body. That’s why he’s always squirming. He has no idea it’s the words we speak that squeeze and jostle him so.

I close my eyes but then i am a room made of windows and it is night. A dying elm tree is just outside every window. It’s branches tap and scrape against the glass. I am the sound of dozens of branches rattling against dozens of windows. I am the empty space inside the room. I try to be nothing but I am always something. it is always worse than it seems.

A spiral stairway rises out of my eyes and twists the universe to match its curves. I feel so guilty about how my glance destroys the natural order of things but I can’t stop it and my eyes don’t close anymore. The twisting becomes recursive, spiraling spirals of spirals, a fractal mess of reptilian eyes in a shattered mirror that stare back at me and never ever blink.

The only monster here is me. I repeat it to myself as if it could make me feel better. But there are so many monsters and if they are all me then what am i? I see a volcano erupting but the lava is dead dogs and the ash is flies. What is wrong with me? The thing with tentacles is back, always under the chair or the bed, always trying to slip one up under my skirt. I deserve so much worse than that. The writing on this milk carton is a message sent to me directly from God. EASY FOOD. God wants me to stop struggling so God can finish consuming me. I would, I swear I would but I don’t know how to stop. Even my writing is writhing on a hook. I breathe in all the text, all the letters fly off their places and swirl like a tornado into my lungs. I can’t breathe I can’t breathe please just make it stop but it never. ever. stops.

My daughter looks through me. Her freckles are swirling galaxies and her eyes are rubber. Can she tell that I am falling apart right now? Does she know that I see her in this moment as a scarecrow stuffed with entrails instead of straw? Her gaze is a knife in my heart. She can’t know. The hands that type while I stare at my child don’t belong to me. None of this belongs to me. I don’t know how I got here but i wish someone would take me home.

A Beginning

Nothing sidles up
like a salesman to the doorway
politely asks to be let in

But we’ve got something here
we don’t know what just yet
but it’s worth keeping
that much we know for sure

we have this one chance
to believe the things we say to each other



That sound coming from the wall is unmistakable. Ellie can’t suppress a shiver, her mind racing ahead of itself. Breathe, she thinks. In 4, hold 4, out 4. It’s just a stupid beetle. I’m not about to die. But her heart was already racing before the sound started. Neither the wall at her back nor the blankets wrapped around her huddled body had been sufficient to quell the rising panic. And now, as if it weren’t bad enough, as if she weren’t already painfully aware of her own fragile mortality, the Deathwatch beetle call adds its voice to the anxious choir in her head.


Ellie wants to get out of bed and turn on the floor lamp over by the window. Her bedside lamp casts too many shadows that shift and slide at the corners of her vision. But her back would be unprotected on that long journey. Her hands shake as she picks her phone up from the bedside table. It seems somehow sinister- she can’t bring herself to put it next to her ear. It would probably bite. She knows she’s supposed to get in touch with someone but she’s just too scared.


There are no monsters here. It’s just a bug. I’m not going to die. I’m not! A vague shape moves outside her window. Just a tree. It has to be just a tree. Her heart is pounding now. A floorboard creeks. Something moves at the corner of her vision, behind the bedside table. Breathe, breathe, breathe, she tells herself. I’m feeling anxious but I’m not really in any danger. I’m a grownup and I’m safe right now. The closet door creaks open. Ellie’s heart pounds so hard she can feel it in her toes.


It sounds closer now, in the wall still but just behind her. And then, tap-tap-tap-tap, the call is answered, but on the window. And again, tap-tap-tap-tap from the open closet door, and again from the bed, tap-tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap-tap from every side as the window slides open and the shifting shadows sidle close and the blanket slides off to the floor.