Untitled; 72 words

I’ve always found a light shade of summer freckle on a man to be an attractive feature. Pair that with an effortless baseball cap and I’m probably halfway to love. 

It’s as if I’ve formulated this notion that if you’re a freckled man, you’re an approachable man, you’re a good man; worthy of my planting a kiss on the impression the sun has left on you.

If only all that were true.

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It’s a Dead Beetle

The dead beetle’s shell had broken and expanded like wings. Maybe it was kind of beautiful. I doubted anyone else passing by the stairwell would think so. I watched as with each passing day it spread its wings further and further. It reminded me of the cheerio by the elevator that I had been nodding to every morning for months. I wondered how long it would be until the beetle spread it’s shell-wings and flew away. That day would somehow feel momentous. I would probably pause for a moment, think of how I should react, and them move on down the stairs without a conclusion. I never really know how to react when small momentous occasions I build up for no apparent reason actually come around.

I said farewell to the beetle and exited the building, greeted by the cold I didn’t really feel. All I felt was the breeze in my crotch area that reminded me that I wasn’t wearing any underwear. I was suddenly self conscious about what my butt looked like in my leggings without underwear on. It was a good thing I was only going next door, where my butt would be concealed by the couch I would be sitting on in the coffee shop. I was a bit ashamed that I was joining the culture of young adults sitting at coffee shops with their laptops open. I looked at the older man across the room who had nothing but his coffee cup on the table in front of him. He was observing us. We locked eyes in a way that was more dramatic in my head than it actually was in real life and then were cut off by some type-A college student who spoke in a billion octaves too high for an actual human who was asking him for the extra chair at his table. The study group was apparently thriving.

A girl sat down near me on the couch and opened her laptop. Her computer background said “fly” in big fancy letters across the screen. I thought that was dumb and cliche and looked down on her for being so generic. Then I kind of felt like crying because I was the numb kind of exhausted where you don’t really know who you are and if you ever really knew who you were or ever really existed in a sense that wasn’t so boringly generic. My iced coffee was sweating. It tasted like bourbon.

The Work Crush

It’s the work crush. The one who suddenly catches your eye as he walks out to lunch and into your heart. Had you noticed him before? Maybe not. Maybe you were too busy learning the responsibilities of your job to partake in such frivolity. But suddenly he’s all you think about during the moments you come up for air amid the day’s work.

It’s the work crush. The one you daydream about while pretending he doesn’t make an appearance in your night dreams as well. You tell your friends he’s just a work crush; an innocent kind of pastime who you would never even consider touching in your real life. In reality it’s probably not healthy to be as obsessed with a person as you are with your work crush.

It’s the work crush. The one who motivates you to actually put together an outfit instead of wearing an oversized sweatshirt and leggings for five days in a row. It’s the one who has you reconsidering what a waste of effort liquid eyeliner is.

And when the work crush approaches you with a work related matter, he’s the one who gets the most thorough and expansive response as you hold back your hyperventilation.

Not an Age of Substance

An age has come where it’s slightly acceptable to try on men like I try on expensive shoes at Marshall Fields. This is an age of adventure over substance. The thing about expensive shoes and a less than unlimited bank account is that you can try the shoes on but you’ll always find a reason to put them back on the display so that you can afford the important things in life instead, like bubble bath.

What fictionalized romance fails to stress is the need to be ready at all times. By ready I mean legs that are ready for cute little skirts. Razors are your friends. Unless you prefer ripping the hair from your skin in the socially acceptable masochistic practice called waxing. Then that lady at the salon down the street is your friend.

The thing about being “ready” in an age of inconsistent romance though, is that the guy you were planning on wearing a mini skirt for tomorrow night suddenly wants to meet up right after work today. That kind of switcharoo sure makes the hairs on the back of your legs stand right up, doesn’t it?

It was supposed to be my first date with the artist guy tomorrow night, and my first date as a new single. We had bumped into each other on the blue line for the first time last month. I immediately recognized him as the kid who used to sit in the corner of our high school art room finishing up his various projects and he immediately recognized me as the ugly duckling who used to semi-creepily watch as he brought magic to canvas. He gave me the “you’re way hotter than you were in high school” look that I always crave from my former peers and I gave him the overenthusiastic wide-grinned “hey!” that told him I was newly single and just learning how to talk to members of the opposite sex again. He asked me out last week when we saw each other on the train yet again.

I accepted. We had scheduled for tomorrow but today he had done that whole switcharoo thing on me that made me hyper aware of my unshaven legs, despite the fact that I had no intention of wearing a mini skirt that day. I decided to just be that girl who’s cool with being spontaneous and I met him for drinks right after finishing my last project at work. My nerves were sky rocketing and my mind was racing and grasping for topics that we could possibly discuss. Then those little inside burps I get when I’m way nervous or when I’ve had too much pizza started. I hadn’t had any pizza since last week so it was clearly the nerves. I stood outside the bar and willed myself to chill out. By the time I sat down across from him on the insanely comfortable booth right next to the fireplace, I was exhausted. I began to care less and less about the horrible stunted conversation we were having as I drank some hard cider and enjoyed the atmosphere. He was no longer the artist I was intrigued by so I had a good time without him while in his less than stimulating company. That night I came home and shaved, because what else is there to do after a failure of a first date but begin again with clean legs?

Gone to Market

Kind of want to go to sleep, kind of want to write the next great American novel in the shade of my dark room with my laptop on dim while my sister sleeps in the corner. It’s funny how life takes you to these disjointed places and you can’t help but narrate like you’re in some kind of independent film or something. There are also those times where you can’t help but diagnose yourself as some sort of unhinged bipolar because sometimes your mind is a completely blank hole and other times everything is playing out all at once in the thematic slideshow that is your life.

I was drinking coffee and eating toast this morning and now I’m standing on this writer’s doorstep in the Chicago cold selling him energy with an overenthusiastic Cuban. Thirty minutes ago I was at a bus stop in the same cold with said overenthusiastic Cuban as he told me that this part of the interview would show how, as an account manager, I would go door-to-door advertising energy for our client. Seven days ago I was shaking the CEO’s hand and being offered a second interview. Two days from now I’ll realize that the overenthusiastic Cuban never answered the text he asked me to send him about how the rest of the interview went. I decided not to take the job as I smelled the coffee emanating from the writer and stared at the tattoo peeking out of his tinted tee shirt. The tattoo was a word that I somehow couldn’t read, as my brain had turned to cotton.

Most of my life is a blank space that I have no recollection of. Life happened, I’m sure, and sometimes I pretend to vaguely remember some great thing that happened that time with that girl at that place because someone else remembers it and so wants me to share in the memory of that time we were together. I can do that. What I won’t share with that person is that thing that I do remember in that hallway with that boy being shoved into the wall by that other boy who I ended up living above, because no one really wants to remember that with the same excited tone. The new kids never really stuck together when we should have.

I googled the writer. I probably wasn’t supposed to remember his name, from a legal standpoint, because I wasn’t the one who was supposed to be looking at his electric and gas bills. Although, a name like Fredrick Swank isn’t easily forgotten; or so I would claim if need be. He definitely didn’t want us on his doorstep. I kept quiet, so maybe he didn’t mind me, but he sure minded the Cuban. When he would ask a question pertaining to the importance of our visit the Cuban would make it sound dire; he needed us. In reality, we were saving him a small fee that he would incur over the course of the one month he would be staying at that residence after the electric policy changed in May. Nothing was fully explained by the Cuban, which I realized was a good sales tactic; just rush right through and tell the customer as little as possible. In reality, I did forget Dr. Swank’s name but woke up the next morning with it on the tip of my tongue.

Twelve years ago my cat ran away. I couldn’t help but blame it on the name we had given him. Calling him Shoo-shoo was in essence telling him to go away, twice. He never made it to the pet cemetery we kept in the corner of our yard. The writer had to bury his mother and brother at a young age. He wrote stories about that.

“We all started at the bottom,” the dashing CEO said before I shook his hand for the last time.

“It’s a long story,” the pensive writer said in answer to the overenthusiastic Cuban asking him why he wasn’t going back to his teaching position at the University of Chicago. The energy form loaded on the Cuban’s tablet.

My Pervert Friend’s Lawn Chair

There wasn’t much I thought about during the summer I was fourteen and basking in the glory of living in 1993. What I did think about that summer, I really thought about; so that I made sure there was no room to think about the other stuff. I stuck my tongue through endless blobs of pink bubble gum to get just the right amount of pop in my fading pink bubble. I would lie out on my chair at the end of our lawn in Apple River, Illinois enjoying the fact that my figure was beginning to attract attention. I let Marshall Ponce, older than me just by a little, walk by me five or six times in an hour without stopping my Discman to tell him to scram. Man on The Moon by R.E.M would be on constant replay in my ears. I would think about what “the game of life” really was, as R.E.M. sang about it. I thought about what ice creams my dad would bring home that night after his managing duties at the pharmacy ended for the day. Because my dad worked a lot I thought about different meals I could plan for the two of us if he wasn’t up for cooking. Sometimes over that summer I thought about the guy in the news whose wife had cut off his penis and thrown it on the road. I read about it in the paper after Marshall Ponce shoved it in my face during one of his trips by my lawn chair.

That was also the summer that I thought a lot about changing my unfortunate name. My name stirred up comments such as ‘What the heck?’ because of the effort it would take to say it. It’s one of those names that you have to consciously think about while you’re trying to sputter it out. I asked Marshall Ponce more than once what he thought about my name, and all he could come up with was, “Meriwether MacGinnis, you better not change that name of yours.” He really had a way with words, that one. But not really. He was always all awkward and greasy but he had a nice face. He was also the closest thing I had to a friend after that other stuff I was talking about happened; the other stuff that I tried to avoid thinking about.

That was also the last summer that the pack of girls, who Marshall Ponce said were just jealous of my “smokin’ hot bod,” would make up stupid rhymes about my name. A lot of times it went like this, “Meriwether Macgi-MESS, what a mess, she can’t even wear a dress because of her big fat chest.”

These girls were so stupid they couldn’t even come up with a proper rhyme. I also had plenty of dresses that fit. Whenever they would walk by my chair on their way to the community pool, Marshall Ponce would stand by my side all puffed out like a guard or something and covering his crotch just in case the girls decided to pounce.

So I was fourteen with a pervert for a friend who wouldn’t stop staring at my “big fat chest,” and a few thoughts to keep me company. Those thoughts were a pretty dark at times, so I should probably tell you a little bit about that other stuff. By now when I say “that other stuff” you should know that it’s the stuff I tried to avoid thinking about but couldn’t really completely avoid. Before Marshall Ponce came along as a stand in, I had a friend named Allen McGee. He was the one person who offered to let me ride on his bike’s handlebars home from my mom’s funeral so that I didn’t have to ride in the ugly, stale smelling limo again. That was the summer when I was nine and he was ten. He was at the funeral because our school had sent out some big announcement and his mom was big on “community,” whatever that means. Allen McGee was soon upgraded from “friend” to “real-close-best-ever friend.”

Anyway, he was fourteen the summer before I was, and that summer he decided to blow his brains out with his dad’s stupid gun. I walked home from that funeral and didn’t speak even a single word for a month. I started speaking again when I found some brochures for a children’s grief support group in my dad’s room. No way was I going there to be forced share my feelings. So that’s that other stuff I tried not to think about the summer I was fourteen and was really missing Allen McGee.

That summer is really important because that was the summer that something kinda happened. Besides for meeting Marshall Ponce, I mean. I had seen him around in the past; he was one of Allen McGee’s baseball buddies. Whenever Marshall Ponce would pick Allan McGee up from my house to go to baseball, he would always politely wave in his quiet little slimy way. I guess he kind of felt responsible for me after Allan McGee had given up on everything. The summer of 1993 was the first time Marshall Ponce had made his own trip by my lawn chair. So what happened that summer was that I was sitting on my lawn chair like usual, halfway through my fourth piece of gum for the day and listening to some other songs by R.E.M, when Marshall Ponce showed up. I hadn’t seen him in four weeks. Apparently his parents had banished him to summer camp for a session. And let me tell you, Marshall Ponce looked different. In that month he had turned fifteen and lost all his awkwardness and greasiness. It was weird; he actually looked about as good as Allen McGee had looked last summer before he fed his brains to the yellow walls in his parents’ living room.

So my pervert friend, who didn’t look like such a pervert anymore and wasn’t even sneaking peeks at my boobies, was standing in front of me kind of looking like a god. I don’t mean he was sexy as all that, I just mean he was blocking the sunlight so it was glowing all around him. And he wasn’t so bad looking anymore. That’s all. I’m giving you all these details so that what happened next makes more sense. What happened was those stupid girls who didn’t know how to rhyme walked by my lawn chair right at that moment on their way to the pool. When they saw Marshall Ponce, they did something so unbelievable. One of them tapped him on the shoulder and asked, while twirling her stupid blonde lock of hair, if he wanted to go to the pool with them. They were so stupid! How could they expect my pervert friend to go to the pool with the same stupid girls who made up stupid rhymes to make fun of me? I’m the girl he stood watch over for goodness sake! They never paid him any attention then! What was so unbelievable was that Marshall Ponce actually said yes. He said yes!

I was so mad silly that the rest of the afternoon I sat in my living room on the dumb yellow couch. I was so mad that I even took off my headphones and stopped listening to Man on The Moon. I didn’t even pop a new piece of gum in my mouth after the piece I had been chewing started to taste like plastic. I felt like dismembering Marshall Ponce in his crotch region and then throwing it on the road. But realistically, I debated about whether or not to run to the pool and grab Marshall Ponce by the neck and drag him back to the side of my chair. I wondered what his neck would feel like, now that he wasn’t awkward and greasy anymore. Then I told myself to shut up and stop being attracted to Marshall Ponce’s traitorous neck.

About twenty minutes after Marshall Ponce deserted me, I heard an incessant knocking at the door. It was Marshall Ponce! And you know what he was holding? A huge bundle of everything the stupid girls had brought to the pool, including their bathing suits! I walked outside and saw that he had pulled another lawn chair right next to mine. Marshall Ponce was brimming with excitement. After I came outside again, he made a trail of the towels and clothes that stretched all the way down the street. When he came back he was all flushed but in a nice sort of way and I was still standing idiotically on my front stoop.

“Meriwether,” he said as he dragged me over to the lawn chairs, “come sit down, you’re gonna miss the show!” I let him touch my wrist without even slapping him. An hour or so later, after I had given Marshall Ponce a piece of my bubble gum and he had started telling me all about summer camp, the angry girls walked down the road. The three of them were trying to cover up with some gross towel they had found in the corner of the pool house. They gave us nasty looks and called us names as they picked up their belongings all the way down the road. I guess I should tell you that they weren’t the only ones throwing out the name calling. I told one of them that she was the queen of cankles.

For the rest of that summer Marshall Ponce left his lawn chair next to mine and he would sit by me during those summer afternoons. We talked about music, life, cooking, and that guy’s severed penis. At one point we even talked about Allen McGee and we were able to miss him together. We talked and talked and it turned out he really did have a way with words.

Delusions

It was on a cloudy morning in the beginning of August that I tried to get back to myself. I played the baby grand until my fingers felt like they could bleed and then cursed the piano keys for having blunt edges. I couldn’t feel any of the music. I was at a point where I needed some stability for my delusional mind. All the living I had done up until that point was for the purpose of unhinging my sanity to see what came of it. I always said living was compiling notes for writing, and I wanted to live in the most interesting of fashions.
In the first warm days of May as I traveled, I met a young man who called himself Nuttah. The fact that he had adopted a Native American name was only too fitting to his character. He was a high intensity strong soul who also knew how to laugh at himself and at the situations and people around him. He would look at me like he was trying to peel the layers of facade away from who I truly was. I really wanted to let him see me so I would stare back and hope that was enough.
He had gone on journeys through his mind and his music that made my purposeful unhinging of sanity look like child’s play. Wherever we went we would have music in the mornings and at night and we would find meaning in anything and everything. It seemed that we had become one androgynous soul. I soon realized that I had unwittingly left a piece of my heart with the spirit of the world; condensed and distilled and then injected into a man of small stature.
I came home from my travels in late May with a high intensity and a sharp admiration for Nuttah. I was convinced we would meet again. I soon began writing him long letters in the hopes that the time we had together would stay as sharp in his mind as it was in mine. The letters were filled with pondering about life; any topic was open to exploration because Nuttah was an explorer and I was open to him. Most of my letters went unanswered and the letters he did send back never satisfied my craving for his words. My attempts became more furtive in the passing days and my letters began to sound manic. Despite my attempts there was no response. I soon fell into an abyss full of agitation and empty space. It was that morning in August when I was trying to get back to myself that I realized that the magic we had had was merely a delusion.