Monday, January 28, 2013

Moment Before

She sat on the velvet couch.  For its age, for the number of times it had been picked up and moved across the country, the shape of its cushions and arms had held up nicely, all of them still firm and plush but for a bit of fabric worn down on the edges of the armrest.  She remembered its position in each of her many houses and the particular walls over the years it had been pressed up against; its presence being one of the few constants in a life full of change. 
She sat on the velvet couch.  She was aware of her body and the constant tingling.  Unlike when her arms  fell asleep, the sensation now was lighter. It felt like she was being lifted, as though her body was slowly rising, winning the fight against gravity like a helium balloon. 
In direct contrast to this sensation, the parts of her which touched the couch, the back of her legs and back and butt, they all felt heavy and organic.  It was as though roots or thick curling vines had grown out of her and merged her body of flesh with the wooden legs of the couch and she had become part of the plaster walls and found a new home in the cracks. 
She was both floating and grounded, tasting salt on her lips and smelling sugar.
The tabletop lamp beside her was on and glowing, it seemed as bright as the sun. Even though there was no other source of illumination in the living room and the curtains were drawn against the night sky, she could see every color and shape that decorated the space.
She looked down at her lap and at the black a-line skirt which covered her ample white thighs.  She saw the tiny mesh of the material and the faint way it reflected the light like a moon.
She saw everything at once and in perfect detail. The pale pink walls trimmed with a golden wood along the edges, the narrow planks of the hardwood floor below the Persian area rug and all the tiny scratches on the ground. The glean of the coffee table just a foot from her knees and the few streaks left over from the last time she windexed the glass surface. 
It all shone in the light of the single lamp, all of it amplified by her intensified perception.  She sat with her hands on her upper thighs and noticed the sweat on her palms, smelling lightly of iron.  The tingling had gotten stronger, lifting her up and up and up and that sense of earthly groundedness kept her planted.
She sat on the velvet couch.  The dark blue curtains were mostly drawn, just a crack between the two panels was open in the center, perhaps just an inch wide.  The night outside seemed slightly pale and she wondered how close it was to the full moon. 
She sat there waiting as the clock in the kitchen ticked rhythmically, the ticking ringing against the walls in great booms and crashes, both lulling and jarring. The constant sound seemed to come quickly and yet an eternity would come and go between those ticks and tocks. She would notice the delicate trail of a cobweb in the far corner of the ceiling and remember a long ago birthday party of a long-lost friend and she would hear the songs of long ago, long evaporated from public memory. Then another tick would crash down, wrapping around the walls and pounding down on her flesh.
She sat on the velvet couch. Moments of her life flashed through her mind like a mashup of moving images and slides that moved at such a rapid pace she rarely noticed their presence until it was gone and she saw some other scene in her mind.
In the space of one tick of the clock she would see dozens of memories, perhaps more as they merged and shifted together, becoming new moments of recognition.  A bright blue car on a gravel driveway, her sister running down the carpeted hallway of their old home and falling at the edge of their bedroom door, a scene of herself in bed with her first love.
She saw words and old thoughts which had long since changed.  The fights and the kisses and long drives across the country with views of wheat and birds and landmarks never seen again.  The moons and road signs which she once noticed, the lines in books and magazines and the long steaming baths she once had every other day.
The room was glowing brightly, her body was shining, tingling, flying away, growing heavier and deeper and merging easily with the contents of the living room and flowing down into the foundation and then past all that cement and steel into the rocks and dark pungent earth that had supported her life.
She sat on the velvet couch knowing that soon he would come, she could hear his footsteps on the sidewalk, he would be there soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


One time I was one of them. One of their kind. That was long ago, back when I used to practice shooting rag dolls out of the trees with Crispy.
We ran barefoot through the neighborhoods, me and the three sisters, following the strange music, our soles burning till they callused. Crispy was the youngest. Maybe that was why I liked to play with her so, because I was slipping away, watching childhood descend into the abyss beyond my reach. Shooting rag dolls with Crispy, I held on as long as I could.

But around then, that’s when I started biting boys. First Curtis, technically, though only very lightly. Because of this I’ve never known whether he changed, and maybe he didn’t because I never saw him again. He lived in the desert, but he came to play at our green lake.
The oldest of the three sisters, Angel, she liked him too, but could only express it through utter disdain which made it easy for me. I held his hand and we talked about eternity and something I would later learn that others called the eternal return, but at that time I’d never heard anyone else talk about it.
Curtis and I thought we were the only humans to ever think of it, and since we had both thought of it, it proved we were soul mates and that we had returned many times to this lifetime, repeating it every time we finished it, like re-watching a favorite movie over and over.
Considering this, the bite must have worked, but I never saw him again.

Then I started high school and met Xavier. He was beautiful and I bit him over and over,  never explaining anything- even though I was starting to understand it myself.
But with him I never talked too much about eternity. To him I preached a life of pleasure which was quite contrary to the blanket of misery he was wrapped in. So all the more I bit him and preached but he never showed a strong sign of enjoyment.
By my second year I knew what I was, that I was not like others. I was ready to embrace this, my true nature, whatever it was.

So I left high school and met Rex. Now Rex was a gunsmith and he cleaned my old six guns for me so I resumed my old habit of shooting rag dolls out of trees. But the three sisters were not so much a part of my life bv then and anyway Crispy had grown up, so I sent Xavier up into the tree to hold the dolls and made him flinch with the rabid barking of my guns.
Rex and I left the lake and Xavier behind and went into the snowy mountains.

Of course I bit Rex. With him I talked about the old Gods and we looked up the ancient rites and brought a tree stump into our living room for an altar and stole toilet paper and spoons from the local diners.
We got ourselves a little gray familiar but Rex was jealous of my relationship with the cat and he and I fought heatedly and frequently. But the familiar little feline followed us to the diners leaving adorable paw prints in the snow around the shadowy edges of buildings and pounced on us all night so that we never slept.
Then the apocalypse came and we went back to the sunny lake to eat my parents' rations.

I met Xavier at the S.S. Burger Basket one night and he was very bitter that I had left him. He spent the whole time talking about how awful Rex was so I made him stand on the table and shot burgers and gyros off of his head until he was shaking.

Rex and I fought more than ever. He was constantly afraid I was going to leave him behind, outgrow him. He also wanted to bite other women. For some reason or other we got married. 
Then I met some of my own kind out by the old Mission and told Rex I wanted a divorce. He said no and I shot him with a Russian SKS he had fitted with a special grip. Then for good measure I chopped his head off with the bayonet and buried it at a crossroads.

I moved in to the old Mission with my new found brethren imagining I would spend the rest of eternity with them. It was a very exciting time.
We ran an occult bookstore across the street from the Mission and lured people into “workshops” where we could dim the lights and bite them. We had very strict policies. Anyone we bit either came to live with us at the Mission or we killed them after they had attended a certain number of workshops.
Due to these policies, I never mentioned Xavier, or Curtis.

The leader of our group was called Calliope. He dressed like a clown,  led most of the workshops, and insisted that we should misunderstand his message. He had a childhood friend called Kaptin that lived up North  and occasionally came for our black Sabbaths.
One night Kaptin stole in through a mission window, put a black hood over my head and abducted me. He carried me off to his dilapidated castle overlooking the bay. I was incredibly flattered.
He chained me up and bit me each day. His wife, Delicious, was furious, as was Calliope.
Delicious joined Calliope at the Mission and together they launched an offensive and laid siege to the castle.
On the fifth day Kaptin and I came out of the castle together, guns blazing. I shot out Calliope’s eyes. His group carried him home and took his blindness to be a sign of greater wisdom. Delicious fled to the caves to hire a lawyer.
Kaptin and I formed a band and bit people here and there. Some joined us at the castle. We were very discreet.

The three sisters invited me to visit for the holidays. On one of these occasions I saw Xavier and took aim. I felt responsible for his abominable existence. But I couldn’t pull the trigger so I sent him a fruit basket and a card with a hand written apology.
The following year he responded by carrier pigeon., informing me that he would accept my apology if I attended a Christmas Party with him. At the party he carved the roast duck and showed me a wedding ring encrusted with emeralds and diamonds.
He had purchased it for a mail order bride in June. But after she arrived,  Svetlana stole his car with him in it and drove to the City of Lights. She hooked up with a muscular skinhead by the slot machines.  Xavier served as the flower girl at their wedding.

It was a very pathetic story, but he told it without crying so I was impressed and showed him how to use my guns. I got up on the table and danced while he shot at my feet.
Afterwards he told me that if we had ever married we would have worn flowers in our hair. Then he swallowed the ring and shot himself in the heart, ruining a nice leather sofa.
The hostess was terribly dismayed and asked me to leave the party. I cried, mostly because I would miss the white elephant gift exchange.
Tearfully I lugged Xavier’s cadaver to the crossroads and removed his head. The later I saved so I could use his skull as a drinking cup.
Thus ended my lineage, unless it’s true that Curtis is out there somewhere, biting his way through the world. I’ll never know.

Shortly after this episode I began to feel disassociated from reality. I had frequent fantasies about being an ordinary woman who did ordinary things with other ordinary people. I imagined that I would forget about eternity, bury my guns, and become a dental hygienist who sold Amway on the side and raced in triathlons on the weekends.
It wasn’t hard to imagine. After all, one time I was one of them, wasn‘t I? One of their kind, back before the biting and the shooting got out of hand.
I imagined that I would see a therapist that resembled Crispy and would work out my Daddy issues on a  burgundy sofa instead of by tormenting defenseless young men with instruments of violence. I would be a member of a homeowner's association, I would join a gym, I would buy wrapping paper from neighborhood children.

But I never  really was one of their kind. I was a latent whatever I am. A dark caterpillar waiting to turn into a black butterfly.
It took me some time to come to this realization. It was Delicious’ tortured screams that lured me back to reality.
One day I awoke again and found myself in the crumbling tower that overlooked the bay. Hearing the screams I shook off the torpor I had been bound in and crept into the bowels of the castle where Kaptin was playfully removing Delicious’ fingernails one by one.
“You’re back!” Kaptin greeted me joyfully. “Now you can help me to bite Delicious.”
It was only then that I noticed that the person chained to the dungeon wall was in fact not Delicious. Certainly they shared certain physical traits and even their names were similar, but this was someone new.
I tossed my hair and smiled merrily,
“Certainly. I never did mind the little things.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


I posted comments and sent emails on Facebook when I clearly should have been watching the American football. Now everyone will know that I am that despicable outcast that does not luv the American football. I wuz not invited to any parties full of potato chips and beer and 49er fandom. I did not even know that there would be parties to miss because I did not even have the good graces to realize the football wuz happening!

It wuz today! Oh my godz! And I didn't know to scream stuff like "Go 9ers!" I didn't even know I should be posting scores in my status. I didn't even know the name of the opposing team. It is a ball fashioned from pigs skin that is not shaped like a ball but rather like an inflated vagina pictogram, or possibly a lemon. Very big mens will run with it and throw it and crash into each other to take possession of it.  It's not a sport I likes.

I will tell you about the sportz I do likes.

I likes to watch the Christians being thrown to the lions. This is my favorite event. Also,  I like it when the big mens are given pointy objects and made to fight to the death, and if they wont fight, then the lions eats them too. When the lions is full we bring out the bears. We don't want the bears to gets hurt so when the mens fight with the bears we don't let the mens have any pointy objects. Instead we roll the mens in honey and give them a football, then let the bears in. We call this "Goldrush Rugby."

When the bears is full we take away the footballs but keep the honey and bring in the South American ants. We don't want the ants to get hurt either, so we tie the mens to posts.  We calls this event "Raisins on Celery." It's very slow but the mens screams the loudest in this event.  We usually use this time to replenish our supply of krispy Kale Chips and  refill our horns with mead. Then we plays some drinking games while we listen to the mens screaming and Katy Perry improvises a Merce Cunningham inspired dance routine in a skimpy patriotic outfit for the youngsters on a hovering stage above the field.

If Katy's not naked enough the kidz boo and then we chain Katy to the lego wall on the hovering stage and release the dragon. We never worry about the dragon getting hurt. He is bad ass. By then the ants is done and the field is cleared for the fireworks and laser show, but the people is already leaving the stadium or turning off the tv and posting the scores on Facebook:

Lions 30 Mens 0
Bears 10 Mens 0
Ants 4 Mens 0
Dragon 1 Katy Perry 0

Go Lions!

Then we run out into the streets to tip buses over and light them on fire. We play kick the can and freeze tag  by the warm light, organizing teams in accordance with which corporations sponsored our technical educationz or put our party's politicians in power (as is their constitutional right) or issue our paychecks. Then those of us who don't need abortions (our constitutional right) or some cosmetic surgery head home for bed so we can get up for work in the morning. The rest beat feet to the clinics before they're closed for the midnight Taco Bell run.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Wanderer

He expects nothing of anyone.
He looks out into the dust of the world, scorching fallen bones to white stones.  Water is perhaps days away and he does not expect to find it.  The desert floor is scattered with the fallen, both man and beast have succumbed to their thirst in this vast yellow wasteland, all of them left there uncovered as food for the scavengers. 
He expects nothing and gives nothing.
He takes what he finds, what he needs. Men have died beside him and he has stepped sideways as they fell. It is by chance that bullets and arrows have all but missed the target. 
He continues on, his face cracked and blistered and burning, an unrelenting sun high above that has no mercy for the weak. Sucking on stones as he stumbles over the few patches of withered grass, he has not lost the desire to live, just the expectation that life somehow belongs to him. 
There is no god above to save his soul, to pluck him from this dry bed of dust and wind. There is nothing, no one beyond his own skin, nothing but the determination to keep moving and follow the stars. Perhaps he will stumble upon a watering hole. 
He does not pray for rescue or grace, does not hope to find some other man along the path with a full canteen and dried meat. There are no friends in this place, not in this desert or in any town he has ever been. There is no sweet smelling woman that does not hold her hand out for coin or gift, no act of mercy ever granted without expectation of consequence. 
The men out here come as vultures and thieves and even those he has ridden side by side with watch him with suspicion, as he does with them. 
He expects nothing of them and he gives them nothing. Each man rides until he is unable to do so any longer. Then he is left and forgotten, stripped and left to the sun and rain, to the vultures and time.
Scanning the ridges of far away mountains for signs of smoke and silhouette, for enemies and arrows and bullets aimed at his chest, he walks on, his mouth dry as the desert sand and cracked earth.
The wasteland is for the solitary drifter, each man experiencing the earth with eyes colored by his path and choice.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

When Genres Collide

You know how art imitates life, and then sometimes life imitates art imitating life? After a while you have to ask yourself  what is life and what is art.  More important: what’s real?
But if you were art and you asked “What is real?” would you really have a hope of finding an answer? I mean if you’re unreal and your world is unreal, what would you have to juxtapose that unreality against? You could hope, I suppose, that the author has left you some clues as to her reality, but what if she is art imitating life, and you're just art imitating art imitating life?

I ordinarily wouldn’t be allowed to ask questions like these because I’m a romantic comedy. Lucky for me, however, I’m a romantic comedy that centers around a cute 30 something who happens to be an aspiring author, a little nerdy (sans glasses though, that would be too stereotypical) , but pretty. The kind of gal that keeps looking for love, but misses the opportunities because she over intellectualizes everything and often misses the obvious. For example, last week I was signing my self published transcendental comics at an expo and had a near miss with a handsome fella that works for the book store that invited me.

Wait, we should back track here. I’m leaving out the details that really define my genre.

So I was invited by a bookstore that has been carrying my self published graphic novel. They were exhibiting at this big convention in Oakland. My creative partner, the one who draws, the one who usually deals with the guys from this store, couldn’t go. Her sister's baby shower fell on the same day.
Thus I found myself strapped into high heel sandals and squeezed into skin tight leggings paired with an oversized t-shirt that hung off one shoulder as I wriggled my way through a convention center, toting a small blue suitcase full of our books, alone.
I never actually wear high heels, so I was totally unprepared for the pain and obstruction of mobility. As I approached the entrance hall, I attempted to call my contact from the bookstore, who I’d never met. In theory he would bring out the badge that would gain me entry.

The call went straight to his voicemail.
“Hi, this is Annabelle from Sophist Comics, I’m just outside. Give me a call back when you get this.”
I stood there holding the phone in one hand, the suitcase in the other, my oversized water bottle tucked under one arm, my purse under the other, teetering like a two year old's block tower, alternately fumbling phone and water bottle, biting my lower lip anxiously.
I called again with the same result and realized that he probably wasn’t getting reception in the bowels of this beastly mega-building. I’d have to convince someone to walk me to the booth, or page them on a loud speaker or something.
But just then my bladder was too incredibly full, so I waddled to the ladies room. I’d just locked myself in a stall when the cell phone rang. I hesitated. It’s kind of weird to talk to a strange guy for the first time from a bathroom stall. I might not get another chance though, and he doesn’t need to know I’m in the bathroom right? So I answered.

“Hi Annabelle? This is Rory from Amazing Comics. I‘m outside, you must be here somewhere.”
“Hi Ro-”
Flush, flush, FLUSH. Suddenly the toilets in the neighboring stalls become active and somehow this triggered the motion detecting unit in my stall to flush too. Loudly.
“-ry. I just stepped into the bathroom. I’ll be right there.”

Bladder not relieved, I hustled back out of the stall, but I had to wash my hands to prevent the spread of disease. I pumped soap from a plastic dispenser into an outstretched palm then waved it under the faucet. Nothing happened. The motion detector didn’t respond.
There was another silver protuberance hanging over the bowl so I waved my other hand frantically under it and it promptly dispensed more foamy soap. I then had two hands full of soap and the water still wouldn’t come on. I began to pass my hands under the faucets of every sink in the row to no avail.
I started panicking. This was taking forever. Rory would be wondering what was keeping me, and would, no doubt, come to the simplest vulgar explanation.

At last, an aged and diminutive Chinese woman holding a broom and upright dust pan emerged from the side lines. Wordlessly, she shook her head and pushed a small black button at the base of one of the faucets. Water gushed freely.

Despite my embarrassment and nervousness, or perhaps because of it, Rory was extremely nice to me. He sat beside me at the table where I waited to sign the comics that nobody had ever heard off. We chatted casually and soon I was completely at ease.
We joked about his name, about attendees in ninja turtle t-shirts. He confided that he used to have to wear huge glasses until a recent eye surgery. We had one of those sweet awkward moments of intense eye contact after I blurted that I would have liked him even more with the glasses. Then at last I packed all of my books back up and started saying good bye to the surrounding exhibitors.
“Can I help you carry your things out?” Rory asked, his hand lingering on mine after the parting hand shake.
And here’s where my quirk, the overly analytical mind, provided the necessary plot driving obstacle to the romance.
“Uh, I got it in here. I guess I can get it out again. Thanks. It was really nice to meet you!”
Smiling one last time, I waddled , awkwardly, painfully away, a modern, self sufficient gal.

Only later did I realize it had nothing to do with whether or not I needed help carrying stuff out. That was just an excuse so we could leave the convention together, share an elevator ride, stop at the hotel bar for a drink, exchange numbers, meet in a few days at a coffee shop, rendezvous for dinner a week later, escape for a weekend in Quebec, lick frosting from an engagement ring plucked from the crest of my birthday cupcake, etc.

I slap my palm against my head when my creative partner explains all of this to me. We will have to plot another encounter, a trip to the comic book store, a walk past the French school where he also teaches, a slutty dress worn to somebody else’s book signing where I will hide behind a shelf when I see him laughing with a pretty woman who will turn out to be his sister.
You understand, a romantic comedy. That’s me.

When I walk down a sidewalk there’s a smile on my face and my hair bounces in slow motion. I say hello and good morning to the elderly. I don’t know how pretty I am. The sun comes out when I stroll through parks, poets stand me up for dates in tea houses, I’m accidentally rude to nice guys, I rescue kittens from fire escapes and handsome divorcee Dad’s rescue me when I get stuck on fire escapes with kittens. That’s just how it is. And I don’t mind at all. Well, maybe a little, but for the most part I’m content. Embarrassment and awkwardness may fill every scene of my life, but we know two things for sure: I am pretty and eventually I will live happily ever after despite all obstacles. So it’s totally worth it.

That’s why as I shop for groceries on a Wednesday afternoon I smile at everyone that crosses my path. My floral patterned dress is conservative but flirty, my cardigan bright. Tonight's the night you know, I’ll go out for coffee with Mr. Wrong and meet his best friend Mr. Right.
An old woman smiles back, so does a middle aged man, a teen in skinny jeans ignores me, and then it happens. I have an encounter with another genre.
It’s not his clothes. They’re almost unnoticeable. T-shirt, jeans, black jacket, everything slightly rumpled. It’s in his eyes, in the deadened but slightly predatory way he glances at me.
My smile evaporates, I divert my eyes, suppress a shudder. Here is a man accustomed to hurting others, a man who wouldn’t think twice about it if the opportunity arose for him to gain something by it. The knowledge is very clear in me. I need to get far away from him fast before my genre changes in kind.
I will not be a  surprise turn for the worst Takashi Miike story. I hurry out of  the store, heart still racing.

The parking lot seems different, grayer, awash in a dingy murk. The shopping carts look rusty and run down. There is some trash in the flowerbeds. The music of the world has shifted.
I rush forward to my car. Don’t look back. Don’t fumble with the keys. You’ll play right into the thriller author's device.
Once inside the car I avoid rushing to lock the doors. Striving to maintain calm, I start the engine and drive.

Three blocks away I reemerge in my genre when a man in a red convertible pulls alongside me at the light, looks my way and flashes a smile.
On cue I spill iced tea into my lap. I’ve never been happier to be a klutz. I am back.