And some would have described her as a girl with piercing blue eyes, but we knew she was not the Main Character, so we left off with that. Interestingly, the next customer was a man with piercing brown eyes, which we hadn’t thought of before. However, this observation led more to us discussing what piercing really meant than to our decision about the man’s status as a character. In that way, he was allowed to be more real than the rest of us.

     Should we consider the contest? That was what some of us wanted to know, to define the rules, fix them to the board and our minds. Unfortunately, the line was starting to get held up. We served them coffee. Some had tea. When they needed eggs, they were cracked. When they needed lemons, they were sliced. We did more sometimes, but that was the gist of it.

Doppelgänger Lovers

I love to love, but I am not good at it. My bed has seen many loves; my pillow has heard talks and tears from quiet nights with either John, Jimmy, Justin or Jane—all are blue-eyed with curly hair. The tears on the pillow are always mine. Letting go of one love conjures memories of our dinner dates, hiking days and movie nights. The bed clutters with endings and new beginnings, and each goodbye welcomes new lovers that resemble the former—blue-eyed and curly haired—my doppelgängers.

Indeed, I love to love—when I find one lover in another.

     At midnight, he invited me back for curry, and I am a sucker for shy excuses. He never turned on the lights. We never had curry. I heard the scratching then but ignored it. I was drunk and wanted his pants off.

     I screamed, waking at dawn. A clear plastic tunnel ran over my head, around the room, and through the walls. Looking down at me was a penis with sawed-off teeth.

     “Naked mole rats,” he said into the pillow. He’d brought home that many women.

     Teresa, you have one new match on Tinder.

     For all the fucking good that’ll do, says you. You’ve one new match on Tinder, your screen blinking under the glare of too-bright sunlight as you expire alone in the foothills of the San Jacinto, midsummer Californian heat haze melting you into nothing. What a world, indeed. Dying of dehydration is among the worst ways to go out, up there with drowning, (which’s ironic, really). When they find you, you’ll still be yourself, just without the water weight. Skin clinging to the bone underneath it, thin, almost transparent. “Withered”, Teresa, is the word you’re looking for.

     Teresa who cares what word you’re looking for when you’re as good as dead. And worse, unable to meet your new Tinder match. She’s an Irish ex-pat, too, you two would have so much in common already. Well, maybe she’ll come to your funeral. She can spend the rest of her J1 holiday mentioning how she matched on Tinder with the girl who got lost in the desert, and sure Jesus isn’t it awful altogether. That’s how you’ll be remembered, Teresa.

I catch my breath when I see the spangled curtain of the night sky. When did I last see stars? With the vicious smog I’d almost forgotten they exist. I want to stand still, stare up, but it’s not safe. I must get back.

The roads are treacherous, more so in the dark. Dwellings loom on each side, hulks of black, for who can afford light, nowadays? The wind blows its warm breath in my face; I taste acid. I clutch my bag closer, with the meagre haul – coarse bread, roots – that will have to last till next week.

my horoscope told me the sun would be returning, cycling back to its eleventh house, that when it came, finally, I could release the meat of my tongue after a month clamped, cut between my teeth, biting back each word I would have spit, if I could, at Annie, to Heather, each fuck you curdled in my mouth, held there with nowhere to go because I’ve forgotten how to swallow, because it’s impolite to curse the dead, because when I try to make a sound I feel something squeeze; a fist with rotting digits, that smell like calf-skin, like a garden shed, spilled gasoline, mechanic’s gloves it found somewhere, stole in exchange for a body, put on though the devil doesn’t leave fingerprints. In each curse I try to spit is a dead thing come to finish a job, a man-sized creature, hungry, wringing tighter until something pops, shatters, until the wishbone sound of my cracking neck is painfully audible to the nosebleed seats and here, now, again is the sensation of waking up still walking, teaspoons of ashes collected in my throat, gasping and pleading and feral, a dirt-fed fairy tale princess who has survived battles only to lock herself away in a second floor tower, donning a cape of twin sheets, stationed by a picture window, forever watching the driveway, watching the neighbors come and go, watching parents come and go, watching you ring the bell, day after day, you, coming, showing up, sitting on the steps, waiting at the curb keeping your own watch in your rust bucket of a car, you waiting for me to – what? –  let down the hair I twist anxiously around nails bitten down to the beds? For me to talk to you? For me to ask to see you when you come to pick up my homework? I am a monk now, a nun, you bring me worksheets and assignments, you collect them all, folders full of endless essays on anything that is not that day, that is not that bullshit moonless night, that is not a homecoming, a Halloween, the crush on you I cannot keep, the safety I once felt in a stranger’s house. You bring me charity case flowers and I pass down to you 5,000 words on a shattered visage, a wrinkled lip, a sneer of cold command, mangled equations, paragraphs of all the fucking nonsense they would have given me shit for, all the work I shouldn’t be doing, all the books I could be forgetting, names, dates, places, a treatise on the Treaty of Versailles, the anatomy of the inner ear, stars and crescents, labeled maps of pieces of our bodies and the ways they are connected; bones that can be shattered, the ligaments and striated muscles too easily sliced, and I touch the scars, the unruly line across my shoulder, my upper arm, the itching nicks on my palms, disruptions of life, fate, head, heart, a palmistry chart of what is lost, of Annie, of Heather, of Brad, even, of what I’ll never prove to them, of the fuck you they deserved minutes, hours, days before I could scrawl, without irony, some half-hearted regurgitation of thoughts on teen angst and body counts. My horoscope told me I’m in team-player mode, drenched in the spotlight of the sun, that my feelings could erupt into a consummation of some romance, some crystal-clear articulation of my desires; but if I called down to you I would want for you to take me somewhere, to help me figure out how to speak the words I haven’t articulated yet, to repeat, to repeat, to say everything but what you wish me to tell you, your wide-eyes, your dumb virgin letterman’s jacket, your stupid good hair, the way you never gave me the proper time of day before and the way even this Cosmo quiz tells me one day I will beg for you to do something, take me back, pull me apart, fashion a crude machine from a wire hanger, to bleed me or make me forget, reverse the spell or, maybe, leave me where they found me, that terrible place, that Laura Ashley guest room, that immaculately organized closet, a place dark as pitch, a place where I dotted every “I” and crossed every “T”, the place where I lived, where I live still, where I will live again, where the logic of the movie says maybe I should stay away from you to save myself.



     Sluggo straw-slurped the last drop from his 64oz beverage cup. “Mommy, Daddy, is it true that some people cook their own food?” Sluggo wore an empty fries box for a hat.

     “Daddy, why does Sluggo only eat fries?” Mommy bled from her nose. Daddy thought nothing of this.

     Daddy caught a fly with his hand. “Our son is a humanitarian, Mommy.”

     Mommy tilted her head back. “What, if I may ask, is a humanitarian?”

     Daddy looked around. “A humanitarian is someone who doesn’t eat burgers, or nuggets, or sausage patties.” Daddy liked the feel of a fly in his hand. “Just fries, Mommy.” (more…)

Waves breaking waves breaking blue from the spectrum. Fallen angelfish falling prey to pyrosome glowing in the open ocean. A zooid tactic: congregate in funnels and tunnels in colonies; clone, reproduce and replicate. Lucifer! Lucifer! with a pulse of blood and fire, bless this festival of lanterns released into the atmosphere.

The undertow navigates, give to its guidance. Swallow the current — it moves through you, it feeds you. Weightless and waiting (an adult an adolescent an infant an embryo) for the world much larger and marvelous within the amnion, until once again the water breaks and drowned into nurturance by flood of mother’s milk and daily toil. (more…)

I awake in the sand near a body of water. I ask a man wearing a mask, what is this place? The man says, a place near the dark forest. The sky is a beautiful grey. There’s girls in red cars and children playing games on the tarmac. I see a horse tied to a tree. I say, the horse, who does it belong to? The man Alejandro says, that horse belongs to no one. I take the horse and whisper into its ear, your name is Samuel. A woman separating pebbles and stones from dried kidney beans looks up and says, what did you say to her, the horse? I tell the woman, I told the horse its name. A boy laughs and says, that horse is a girl. I ride the horse to the train station. I tell Samuel, wait for me. I see a man in a blue suit. I point to the train. The man says, yes. I say, a ticket, to go to where the train is going, how much? The man in the blue suit says, it’s going to cost you, and he points to the train like I pointed to the train. He says, the train is full right now. I say, how much, to get on a train that is full? He says a number and I look up into the sky, as if I am searching for something. The man says, you don’t have much time. I call for Samuel but Samuel does not come. I walk over to Samuel and look into the saddlebag. There is no money. Instead, I find a moon rock and earth magnets. I go back to the man in blue and say, I have a moon rock and earth magnets. The man in blue says, the earth magnets are useless but the moon rock, I can take. I wave goodbye to Samuel. We take the passageway between the canyons and the dark forest. I look up into the sky and realize, the moon is closer today than it was yesterday. The earth magnets move around in my pocket.

I hadn’t expected to see a woman in this dump, but she seemed to have the knack of making everyone else look out of place. Her elbows took the weight of her height as she propped up the bar. Her deliberate black roots scorched through the peroxide in her hair.

I wanted to talk to her but I knew women alone in bars definitely didn’t want hassled. Besides, she terrified me.

Instead, I watched her discreetly from the other side of the bar. She slugged from a bottle of beer from time to time and didn’t seem to look in my direction.