Now all I want to do is sleep. I lay down in the mud. For just a minute. Face down on arms crossed pillow above my head. Worms and dirt and cat shit funk and all I want is a minute. But that was a about a half an hour ago. I raise up on my elbows and I can’t feel my fingers. Maybe it’s the half an hour of cut off circulation or maybe it’s the air so cold now I can see my breath.
A half an hour and the steam on the inside of the window as dense as the dirt on the outside. Blonde, soft, silent movie curls up and down, in and out of sight in that little bit of window that is left to look through. He never fucks that long unless the girl gets on top. I hate getting on top. I hate the way it makes my boobs bounce. He says I look beautiful. I think I look stupid. More than stupid. Boobs bouncing in the graveyard. There’s something wrong with that. ©
Dreams do come true! Check it!
Now, I can post the link to my first published short story. I swear I will write about the entire experience sometime soon.
Cliff note version:
Tom Spanbauer challenged me to write a scene for my larger project based on an actual recurring nightmare I used to have. I took the opportunity to write that scene in a workshop with a former Dangerous Writer, David Ciminello, who happened to be teaching at the Attic Institute here in Portland Oregon.
While I was taking that class, a friend wanted a couple of copies of the Chronology of Water (COW) signed, and I, being big in britches and short on humility, bragged that I was sure I could get the books signed. I contacted Lidia Yuknavitch, the author of COW on her Facebook Page and told here I was trying to figure out a way to get a few books signed. I said I was working on a plan for a fellow Dangerous Writer to get them signed in a workshop she was going to be teaching, but if that didn’t work, would she be willing to meet up somehow. She was really cool and gave me her address. And even though Lidia seemed not to be worried, I promised her I wasn’t a stalker. But can any of us really make that claim? Like you have NEVER stalked someone? Not even once? Liar.
Plans fell through for the friend to get the books signed , so I messaged Lidia again and told her what my car looked liked and described myself as a big boyish dyke, or something like that. I told her I would wait outside her class that weekend at Crow Arts Manor, which is housed inside the Milepost 5 Art community. I went about an hour early, because you know how weekend workshops are. They get usually convene early. Not knowing at all what the layout of the place was, when I got there I discovered that there was a possiblity that Lidia would coming out of one of at least 5 exits. I waited at the corner of 81st and NE Oregon, so I could see at least two different exits. After about 15 minutes, I got paranoid that I looked suspicious, like a drug-dealer. Or a stalker. I decided to figure eight through the blocks a few times. I parked again, then circled again. Then repeated that a couple more times.
It was fifteen minutes after the workshop should have been over, and I thought for sure I had missed Lidia leaving. I stayed parked in the middle of the road, and down the street not far from a corner that I would not have gone around had I decided to circle again, I saw what could only have been Lidia. Long blond hair, sure stride, and a lot more books than most people would carry without a bag. I cranked the wheel and picked up pace. I rolled up alongside called her name. Lidia looked over and smiled. I told her who I was and she hopped in the passenger seat like she knew me. We talked for a few minutes about whatever. She laughed and told me it was her first drive-by book signing.
Forward to the next time we met.
I went to a reading at a local literary cafe. Lidia sat with us, and we laughed and talked and drank hard cider, then she got up and read a beautiful passage from COW. The passage that talks about throwing her baby girl’s ashes into the ocean. Hearing her read it was more touching and clean off the bone than I could have imagined. People were silent throughout, aside from a sniffle or two, then the place crackled with applause. Lidia’s face turned a little red.
Then she sat back down at our table, and we listened to the other reader. After it was all over, Lidia stayed at our table, and we talked for a good hour. I had asked her a couple of weeks earlier if she’d look over this story I wrote. She said yes, but to send it quick, before she was deep in grading papers again. I had done that and was worried that I hadn’t heard back from her, so I took this opportunity to ask her what she thought of it. Lidia said she really liked it and said she could see what I was trying to do with it. She gave me the name Roxane Gay and said that Roxane was the co-editor of this really kick ass Lit Mag, Pank. Lidia said I should contact Roxane, so I did.
I sent Green Man.
I sent Green Man.
Yes, I sent it. The first story I had ever sent.
I was going to just copy the link and say, here you go, but I couldn’t. I had to give context.
Then I wanted to regurgitate some gummy sentiment about how we are all dependent on each other, and that there is always hope.
I also thought about how much technology absolutely helped me here, and that no matter how isolated and cynical I feel sometimes having the majority of contact with people these days through Tumbltwitbook, I keep that little spark of whatever it is alive in me so that I can push through into tomorrow even when I don’t want to.
Or that maybe I was just so lucky to have all of these events come together magically, like it was a miracle from some force greater than ourselves.
The truth is, it is one story. A series of stories, really. Stories of my life that are minimally fictionalized, so that I can present them with some level of coherence. None of us can remember things exactly as they happened, and it is even a stretch to remember things as we experienced then thorough our own filters.
Some of that stuff is locked up so tight that it only comes out in nanosecond blips of recognition when a certain smell is in the air. Nanoseconds that leave you wiping memory’s condensation off the palms of your hands and onto your jeans until the memories either evaporate with the hundred proof whiskey you choke down or you are able to piece them together on paper and give them a place to be. Once written, inside feels wrecked. Dissected. Dismantled. Dis-integrated.
Until you put the pieces back together again.
Then again, maybe that’s just me.
So, here it is. Green Man:
Below are the first two paragraphs of a piece I am currently working on as a side project of the work I am doing in Dangerous Writers. I started writing “Queering Me” when I got the scholarship from the DW Army (Thank you, all you Dangerous Writers) to go to David Ciminello’s class at the Attic Institute, here in Portland. The class was called Writing Our Queer History. Instead of continuing this piece when the class started, I decided to write “Green Man”. Now, I am working on this piece again, so I wanted to share a sample.
The first time I saw her was through a dirty basement window. I say I saw her, but all I really saw was a knot of bodies rolling around on the waterbed. A knot that eventually stopped rolling and got down to the business of fucking. Missionary. I knew he hadn’t been fucking her for long, or she’d up on her knees and he’d be fucking her from behind. Me on my knees outside the basement window watching. All fours in dirt and catshit. Fucking strays.
Wasn’t so hard crawling in here. Didn’t think about getting out. But that must have been an hour ago. I am starting to sober up. My mouth tastes like a bottom of a birdcage. I am starting to not want to watch. But I keep watching. I want to know if he loves her like he loves me. Tears and snot and sharp. Sharp smell sharp. And the fucking boxwood scratching my arm to hell when I try to back out up. I burp acid and swallow. Knees of my white Levis soaking up just enough mud to make stains I still can’t forget.
Below is another excerpt from my larger piece. I am currently suffering from a mild case of Vertigo, and it is interesting writing when i can’t tilt my head back to think.
Mom’s perfect started to unravel a little bit more, and she stood even stiffer. Stood the way she does just before she says if we don’t quiet down, her head’s going to explode. I didn’t have to see her face to know what it looked like. Her mouth would be drawn into that thin tight line again, and her jaw muscles would be popping in and out just below her ears, like she was priming a detonator. Mom didn’t have to say anything about her head exploding, either. She didn’t have to say anything at all. The keys in her hand pierced the tension with a single teeth aching jingle. I could tell it took everything in her not to say something back to Dad. Mom knew he had reached that point that no amount of talking was going to change his mind come hell or high water. Just then another uncurl sprung loose and fell over Mom’s ear. Wiggled like bait.
written by ds (dangerousboi)
I read for the first time tonight at DW. I am not “at the table” yet, but I there was space at the table, so I was allowed to sit there. Then, there was enough time to read, so E encouraged me and I read the homework I brought to turn at the end of class. The experience was great. My mouth was dry and tasted like nervous, but I did it! And everyone was so supportive and encouraging. Happy about that. I am too tired to write about everything, but I wanted to be sure to get this down somewhere, so thanks.
This is an excerpt from my larger piece.
This is my attempt to go “on the body” and to speak to a decisive and pivotal moment of truth for the 4 year old main character in my story.
I try to be ” in the moment” and to add the element of “universal truths” in order to speak to the reader without ”reporting” the event to the reader.
I love the learning process. I hope you gain something from it, too.
Criticism and comments welcome.
From (currently) page 30 of “Stingray”:
“Let me see your head again. Mom said.
The mix of unclean and shame wormed up from my inside and settled hot on my cheeks. Mom holding on to me out in front of God and everybody going baboon through my hair. I wanted her to put her arms around me to tell me everything was ok. I wanted her hands to stop poking and to brush my hair down. I wanted her to say, it’s alright dear or how’s my brave little soldier. Say something sweet like a TV mom. She found the goose egg on the back of my head and pushed. Still no blood.
Oh, you’re alright. My not TV mom said. Now go on in the house with the boys.
No pain from the bump on my head, but my backside stung like punishment. That spot in my gut ached. That spot where I kept all my good. That spot that tells you everything is going to be alright after you go and do something like fall off a bike, and you come home and your mom tells you it’s all ok? Well, that spot stayed empty. Sore.”