The Usual Story
It is the usual story. A man, a woman, a kitchen, a morphine pill. A brown plastic canister, small, with a white cap. Long brown hair, brown sloe eyes. A house, a visit, a winter’s day, a stove. A winter’s night, something smooth, actions taken.
A woman’s voice that winds about the stem of itself the way a cat’s meow winds about the meaning of its meaning. A man who will not speak his heart in any voice, not one old, nor one new, nor one borrowed. Nor one blue. A blue-eyed man desiring desire. A brown-eyed woman who comes to visit, stands at the kitchen stove, talking. She stands at the corner of the stove, the rounded corner of the stove exactly so high. The stove is cold. The man sees what is before him, sees her, what she touches, how she stands. He sees her hair, hanging to her waist. He sees her eyes. He hears her voice, winding around itself. He listens for certain things in her voice, certain certainties to be heard below her words, among her words, behind her words. He is certain he does not hear them.
He sees the afternoon light shining into the kitchen, shining on her back, her side, her face where she stands by the stove, the light shining in. He sees every part of her that he can see. There is nothing to be seen between her words, he looks and looks. He listens and listens. She has come to visit him, alone, in his home. She stands by the stove and talks. He waits, watching, looking, listening, but what he waits for does not arrive.
The morphine is not for her. It is not for him, either, but he has stolen it. The person it was for has died, has no further need of dreams held under white caps in brown plastic canisters.
He, the one who has stolen the morphine, who rents the house and looks at the world through eyes of blue, listens to her as if she were a kitten purring, as if she were a time bomb ticking. As if the words behind her words would tell him what he wants to be told.
Night. She is gone. He takes a morphine pill. In a little while, he throws up. In a little later while, he stands in the kitchen, where she stood, by the stove. It is cold. He stands the way she stood.
She was right here. She stood just like this.
He closes his eyes, opens his hands. He works, alone, in his kitchen, by the stove, in the dark winter’s night, for a long time. It is a journey he is taking. He sees her with him; she is with him. He works for a long time; she stays with him. He works, journeying, working himself to exhaustion, beyond exhaustion. The morphine deadens the pleasure, deadens the pain. She is with him to the end. He almost hears her voice, winding catlike. He almost sees her long brown hair, can almost feel it, can almost see her brown sloe eyes. He has blood on his hands. He strains, lifting himself up on tiptoes. The brown plastic canister clatters to the floor, spilling its few remaining pills. He will wash his hands before picking them up. Later, he will barely be able to walk.
the talking french cat
it gets darker and i hold my plastic frog in my hand and i pull the thumbtack out of my frog and i push the thumbtack into my frog and my talking french cat sits next to me in my chair and it doesn’t say a word my cat doesn’t and people
they come into my house but i didn’t
i didn’t invite them i
they look at my things and they take my things before they leave but i don’t
i don’t let them they can’t take my chair and my frog and my talking french cat
i always put the matches and the lighter in the cupboard before i go to work always always always because what if someone broke in and wanted to steal
they wanted to steal all the stuff i don’t have anymore
i don’t have it
it’s gone so they get mad and they set my house on fire they set it on fire i’d come home from work and there would be fire trucks and police cars and people all looking and saying what a shame the man’s house got
it got burned down there goes his talking french cat and his chair and his frog
did you see what he did to that frog
my gates i keep them locked now so
they’re locked and so people can’t even get into my yard i put
late at night i went out and i put razor wire on the fence i nailed it
the firemen would have to stand in the street and spray their hoses from there if the robbers broke in and set my house on fire the police
the police would keep the people back across the street sorry folks there’s nothing to see here there’s
i have a club
it’s a club that’s a branch from a tree and i wrapped
razor i wrapped
i wrapped razor wire on
really it’s a branch in the bedroom corner there’s a knife under the bed just in case and the windows are shut
i keep them
and the doors are locked i won’t be taken
no one will take me
i nail razor wire to my window frames on the inside
inside my house with my cat and my frog i check the pilot lights every
all of the pilots lights i check them every day
there won’t be any accidents no sir
i come home from
home from work and the windows
the fences are torn down the razor
someone cut my razor wire
cut it all to shreds the pilot lights
the lights are all blown out the matches and the lighter
from the cupboard where i know i put them i checked three times
three times three times always
i count i always count
it gets darker and
the wind blows
hard it blows hard
i go out
out to my back yard where i scream as loud
as loud i scream i want
i scream and wrap myself in razor wire and fall to sleep on the ground and dream my talking
my talking french cat
i dream my cat has found
it gets darker
my cat has found
He was looking up the meaning of vitrine when he was distracted by vagina. It’s the story of his life, his being in a nutshell, his be-all and end-all, Alpha to his twin sister Omega, in two words or less, the condensed version, chapter, verse and volume in a very small
And this was several years ago. He does not now all these several years later know yet what vitrine means. Never got to it. Never will. Never stood a chance. Never will that, either. Constantly distracted by
Well. More’s the pity, terrible shame, great loss in a very small
Think of all the words he could know the meanings of by now if he hadn’t got
so distracted. He has. Thought of all the words, that is, in his less distracted, less enmired, more unstuck moments, all the words he could know the meanings of, vizz and ee jee et all:
Vainglorious. Viremia. Vorticose. Vermiform. Venation. Vichyssoise. Vivarium. Velocipede. But instead, all the time it’s
that word he’s stuck on
Say it often enough and it doesn’t mean anything at all. Even when it meant something, to him,
and to him it really meant something, sincerely, boy and howdy it was the cat’s meow, it
Oh hell this is useless. In one word or less. Now and forevermore. Why did such a thing happen? The big picture now. The whole shebang. Pardon the pun--these kinds of accidents are almost bound to happen when all the time it’s
It’s just what it is. Too distracting. All the time
and the goddamn phone too, just now, ringing and then answered, held out--the receiver, held out to him by the telephone answerer, the very child who came from out of the very
that at one time had meant so much
It’s useless. It can’t be escaped. On the phone, the voice from the woman whose
you know the word, it’s not vitrine--the most recent
For him the most recent
It may as well be all the time. No escape. No escaping the thoughts
What a thought! There must be a god, if there’s a universe that has in it so many
Or even a planet, a teeny tiny obscure little planet that has on it
Well they’re not vitrines. What is a vitrine, anyway? Look it up for him, write it down in the margin, there is now, for him, here and now, no way to go back to the dictionary and look it up for himself and find out for himself what it is in itself without it always and forevermore being tied up tightly in his mind with
He must be joking. And this is all too
not at all what he wanted to talk about. Not at all what we wanted to hear when we paid our admission, took our tickets and slipped inside, into the darkness of
No escape. Who wants to escape? Who could possibly ever prefer to know the definition of vitrine when one could be--is--
cannot help but be--
rendered positively, indubitably, irredeemably, inescapably, forevermore dizzied and distracted and delighted by that which was stumbled upon while on the way to the vitrine?
In no words or less.
Or fewer, actually. No words or fewer.
There is no better place to be. There is no worse. There is no choice. There is a woman, she is lovely, she is young, she is on the phone, she is saying
Pardon me, but do you know the meaning of ‘vitrine’?
That man over there has a collection of rags, years’ worth, cleaned and folded and stacked in a stack about yay high on the pantry shelf to the right of his towels. He is a man of a certain age, a man with a past--and who is a man of a certain age who is not? His once tight butt has begun its sagward decension, gravity pulling him gravely down day by descending day. He is known in no circles for speaking his mind, nor even for knowing it.
He eats lunch twice a day, once early and once late, for reasons gleaned from a glossy magazine. He has been seen at the office swallowing the bits he nibbles off, the fingernail slivers, hangnails, other small pieces of himself. What he does there at the office other than put things in his mouth and chew is hard to tell. He can’t type to save his life, that is clear from every memo he writes and the time he takes to write them.
When he is done with the chewing and the swallowing, safely shut behind his office door he lays himself down on his back, flat on the office floor. His belly moves with his breathing, rising and falling. His left hand twitches a moment, fluttering subtly once or twice where it rests folded with his right, both riding his belly’s rising and fall. Muffled snoring can be heard by anyone standing just the other side of the office door and listening close. He works so hard, such long, long hours, days and nights of work. Proud to be the definition of tired, he looks it up in the book and there he is, there is even a line drawing, a pretty good likeness.
He dreams of being the sharp-dressed man. Of airplanes crashing. Of a woman he once knew. Of talking to people in the desert just north of town while the sun is hot. Routine dreams.
He can spin enough jargon to impress the impressionable, himself in particular.
Over the telephone, he is especially good: The problematization of the foregrounded codecs interrogates the substrate of received binary source root objectives.
He takes a deep breath, shudders a shallow shudder. Sex can sometimes be fun. Other times it is just sex. Sometimes it isn’t even that.
Some of the rags in the stack yay high had once been fine clothing, long-sleeved button-downs. Happier days then. Some had been fluffy towels buffing bodies and other objects dry. Wealthier times past. Now all are rags, equal in rank, democratic, threadbare. He can give them a woman’s name in the dark of the pantry where they lay on the shelf. He can kneel before them, make his nibbled and gnawed-at fingertips dance across them as though to bring them to life. He can press them to his face and make a sound that sounds like something stifled in the throat. He can make sure they are clean, wash them in the washer, hang them on the line to dry. They will snap in the wind, dancing, tormented.
He will wake upon his office floor, his arms feeling like they weigh their weight. He still won’t be able to type, not to save his life nor to give it away. The dilemma will call for a nibble. A nibble always calls for a bite. The boss will call for last week’s work: Where, the boss will say, is last week’s work?
He can’t save his life to save his life. There are patches on everything. It is too dark even to see his fingers anymore. In fewer than fifteen minutes, he will have a new scab. There will be a helpful seminar next week.
Oh, god, not another seminar! Not another week!