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She Hates Numbers

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Lovely Girl, a short-short story

illustration lovely girl
Lovely Girl, a short-short story

Jan. 11, 1979

Kenneth got into a big fight with his father last night. His Dad said that he follows me around like a puppet, and that he’s being bought. Then his Dad told him he was a lazy little bastard for not fixing his car & going somewhere with his mother. Then Kenneth said something back and his Dad tried to choke him and Kenneth left & went to the library.

I have a feeling Kenneth’s Dad hates me, or at least dislikes me. He would probably be a lot happier if I wasn’t going out with Kenneth. I would like to go up to his Dad and say that if he would prefer Kenneth not go out with me — because he thinks Kenneth would be better able to concentrate on sports & school — I will comply.

All I know for sure is that I don’t know anything anymore. Sometimes, I want to go far away – to Europe, maybe – and meet strange people and find out how to live. But then I get scared and I am suddenly glad to be in my safe room with all my possessions that tell me who I am supposed to be. I don’t know who I am – I used to, but things have changed so much, I’m not sure anymore.

Ever since Mom and my stepdad got divorced, it’s been harder and harder to just live. Mom is getting worse with the booze and sometimes I get so angry that I scream at her. Then I feel awful and try to hug her and tell her I’m sorry, but she’s so out of it she just stands there, swaying a little with her eyes half-crossed, and I end up stomping into my room and slamming the door and locking it. Then I lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling and sigh.

It’s the best just after I get home from classes at community college. Mom isn’t here, and I am alone. No one can bother me, and if the phone rings I don’t answer it. It gives me a sense of power – listening to that phone ring and ring and ring until whoever is calling hangs up, frustrated. I close all the curtains and put on records and smoke cigarettes. In my cool, dark cave I find peace for a few hours.

At six o’clock, though, I hear that fucking bitch, my mother, put her key in the lock, and I jump up and run down the hall to my room to get away. If Mom says something to me, I try to be nice, but it’s usually only a few minutes before our voices become sharp and anger is in the air again. Until she’s blotto, that is. Then, wobbling and bleary-eyed, she’s all lovey-dovey, but also by then all I want to do is shake her until her head falls off!

The only positive things in my life are Amy and Kenneth. Amy is my best friend and Kenneth is my lover. They know, and once in a while I can talk to them about it, but I know that friends can only take so much before they are tired of hearing it. The only person that would listen to everything you said and be interested was a psychologist or psychiatrist, and I’ve thought about going to one, but it’s really too expensive. So I just don’t let myself think about things most of the time.

I keep this journal and write my thoughts down, and that helps a little. Most of the time I’m fine, but it’s always there, hanging over me. Actually, I function very well. I graduated in the top five percent of my high school class, and after a year at junior college I have a 3.8 average. And I’ve never gotten into any serious trouble at all. I’m what grandmothers like to call a “lovely girl.” On the outside. Happy? What did happiness ever have to do with any of my fucking life choices?


Filed under addiction, alcoholism, child abuse, child neglect, childhood, children of alcoholics, college, compassion, daughters, development, fiction, identity, insecurity, mothers, relationships, short stories, teenagers, youth

Please Speak Well of Me When I’m Gone, a 397 word short story

illustration please speak well of me when i'm gone

Please Speak Well of Me When I’m Gone, a 397 word short story

October 11, 2012

5:00 a.m.

I had the strangest dream, where I was back together with K!!! We were together in this hotel room, packing our stuff, which was a lot, and getting ready to ride on a plane somewhere (what else does he do these days, but ride on planes!). It was as though we were back together, after all these years, something had happened; our subsequent, real-life remarriages were never mentioned. Clearly, we knew it was awkward that we hadn’t been together in so long — but there it was, we were going to try it. We didn’t have sex in the dream, although it was clear both of us were sort of thinking about the concept. But we weren’t anywhere near ready for that! And when I awoke, I started thinking about how sometimes I get confused about my life, about the sharp turns, the complete disconnections from my entire past life, etc., and how sometimes I don’t recognize the current terrain.

And why have I been thinking so much about K. these days, like that song by the Weepies, “Speak Well of Me When I’m Gone?” The one that has made me cry so many times? “I’ve been away, a year and a day….” That’s true of so many people in my life, isn’t it? Only they’ve been gone far longer than that: some have been gone for 35 years. How young, and blind, and ignorant, and how many horrendous mistakes it’s possible to make, etc.

“Looking back now, I only wish I had been kinder.” It’s the truth — some part of me has never stopped loving K. “And when I’m gone, please speak well of me.” Some part of me wishes we had worked out, because he was the first truly committed relationship I had, the first husband, the father to my first child, so many firsts. I met him when I was 22. He was 27.

Wouldn’t it have been sweet, had it worked out? Almost like high school sweethearts. Young — I was so young, so inexperienced. God! And I would apologize to him on my knees, if it would do any good. He wouldn’t, I don’t think, be able to hear me. The way I would want it to be heard. Still, I could try, couldn’t I?


Filed under apologia, apology, divorce, justice, karma, kindness, love, marriage, mea culpa, men, mysterious, personal responsibility, regret, relationships, short stories, women

August In Florida, a poem


August in Florida

Outside, people crowd around water.  Heat, the bright aqua of water, smell of chlorine and sun lotion.  Coconut, spice.  Young girls with slender hips, high breasts.  Mincing, they walk barefoot over the burning concrete.  Ankle bracelets.  Hairless women, hairy men.  Some men look vaguely female–lack body hair, possess slender torso, a feminine grace.  They practice diving off the high platform, catapulting through the air like minor gods.

Spindly little children, bowlegged, one girl like a large walking doll, Wedgewood eyes, white skin, hair almost white, but so fierce.  She puts her face in the water, proud of herself, comes up spitting, does it over and over.  This girl’s mother, slim, pale body like a teenager’s, but her face red and sun-aged, enormous Southern twang.  A former cheerleader, rural Georgia or Alabama.  Lying on the blistering concrete, eyes closed, listening to the sounds of laughter and splashing.  My sore back, the heat melting the ache away.

On the towel closest to me, a young girl, pretty, bleached blonde hair with dark roots showing, golden-brown string bikini that matches her skin, her perfect feet.  Sudden thunder, the pool closed, into the locker rooms for 20 minutes.  Live oaks, huge spread branches like arms reaching into the sky.  The arms are shading, watchful.  The oaks are like sentinels.  The moss hangs like underarm hair.  Young boys, thick and awkward, walk stiff-legged.  They turn dark reddish-brown, but look silly next to the black kids.  Tall, skinny black boy with red hair, a crew cut.  His mama, a large woman in bright blue tank suit and neon orange shorts, matching neon bathing cap.  Her earrings graze the sides of her neck.  She isn’t ready to leave yet.  He watches the girls, pretending not to.

Over there, a skinny, burnt woman with bad teeth, yet her daughters are so lovely, so young and fair and smooth.  How did she produce them?  A hippie girl with a blonde baby boy, crooning one minute, yelling the next, she holds him on her hip, sways in the sun.  More and more women look like those prehistoric clay fertility figurines, heavy hanging breasts, stomach overlapping their thighs.  I lie still and watch, lazy with the heat, my own weight.

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Why I Hate You, a poem

illustration why i hate you

Why I Hate You

You know why I hate you?  You’re a weak vine, needing to be propped up, needing more comfort than a baby.  You imagine bugs, crawling up the walls, down your hair.  Their wings whir in the night like soft sobs.

I hate you because you’re ugly — a slob, a slut, a sucker.  Because you saw your mother passed out on the carpet in front of the television, one too many times, but you didn’t kill her the way she wanted to be killed.  You didn’t help when she needed you.  Because you let yourself be unimportant for so many years and did nothing to help yourself until it was too late, until you’d already lost the war.  Peace came on unfavorable terms, the enemy couldn’t be placated.

I hate you because you’re afraid of the dark.  When you’re with a man, you lean on the solidity of his body, the real beat of his heart, you listen to his rhythmic breathing, and you’re not afraid anymore, but you start to get antsy.  His body sounds so much stronger than yours.  They don’t cry the way you do.  Does that mean they don’t feel?  Why do they want to be with the likes of you?  You don’t have the slightest idea what you want from them.  Late at night is the worst.  The stars unfold ahead of you, and you can’t find your way to the future, stupid bitch.

That’s when I hate you the most.  You’re utterly without honor.  You imagine your ex-husband, fat and happy in his bed, eating candy.  He doesn’t suffer like you do, he has already forgotten why he married you in the first place.  He is perfect.  He is way above you in the cosmos, he is light, reason.  Your life is insignificant, ignorant and small, and won’t leave a shadow.

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Heavenly Dances, Heavenly Intimacies, a short story

illustration heavenly dances heavenly intimacies

Heavenly Dances, Heavenly Intimacies, a short story

“Isn’t there any heaven where old beautiful dances, old beautiful intimacies prolong themselves?”

Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

How can I be “dead” to any of the men I once loved?  They are not “dead” to me.  Not even H.  How can I be “dead” to H.?  They — even H. — are each as alive as when I was with them; as alive as the first time they touched me, whether tentatively or with confidence; whether softly or roughly; whether with passion or mere lust.  It is shocking and appalling how H. lurched so radically to the right after 9/11.  He began that journey to the Tea-Party-Mad-Hatter-Neocon-Bill-Buckley-Wall-Street-Apologist-Fringe-Brainless-Faux-News-Right when Ronald Reagan was shot; I was with him the very night it happened.  We had a short affair, right then, because we started thinking the end of the world had arrived and we decided, like the crazy college students we were, to get married to celebrate our courage in the face of chaos!  I realized very early on (but still way too late!) I was embarrassed to be seen in public with him.  Did you ever start seeing, and marry someone whom you later realized you were embarrassed to be seen with?  Perhaps the person in question was “dorky,” “geeky,” dressed “badly,” or had questionable “taste.”  H. readily admits he was a “dork” in high school.  He was on the debate team; need I say more?  When you can’t bear to be seen in your lover’s/spouse’s/significant other’s/partner’s company, things usually don’t work out.

Still, I put in ten dutiful years, trying to make amends for my mistake in marrying H.  The second he started making the big bucks, he dumped me.  He left me for my best friend!  I guess I deserved it, not taking control of my own life & filing for divorce two weeks after we married.  And I guess I deserved how my ex-best-friend S. ruined me, as she subsequently did.  She was in charge of the whole group we had socialized with:  dictating how everyone in our “circle” should think, speak, act, or react.  H. was dead wrong about most everything, but, to his credit, he was dead right about her.  At the time I thought him merely woman-hating, but I see now, even though he did hate women, there was something more than simply being a “woman” he hated about her.  He was covering up the fact he loved her by pretending to hate her.  Now, I have no desire to see her, not ever again.  She is definitely “dead” to me.  Yes, I understand intellectually, a living death (call it shunning) can happen to anyone.

The upshot of all this boring history?  I’ve been waiting for something a long time.  I can’t blame anyone but myself for my unhappiness, not anymore.  There is something dispirited inside me, something empty, drained, and beaten — something sick, something tired, something that has surrendered.  I gave up, when?  When my first ex-husband arbitrarily said no to children, breaking his solemn vow.  When I realized I couldn’t find happiness outside myself — not with an old love, not with a new love, not with any of my subsequent husbands, my friends, my eventual children, or my family.  Yes, to casual acquaintances and virtual strangers I am “happy, happier than I’ve ever been.”  And it’s true!  I’ve never been this happy, this contented, in my life.  Yes, there are still problems.  My oldest son is still half the world away, fighting an endless war on behalf of my “country.”  My youngest son still has an ignorant, racist, rabidly conservative father.  I am getting old.  My face is melting.  My neck is turning into a wattle.  I am drooping.

Still, I cannot imagine any of them, the men I have loved or made love to, being dead to me the way my former best friend, S., is dead to me.  Yet that is how they must feel about me, the way I feel about her.  Wanting her removed from my memories.  Wanting never to have met her.  Not missing anything about her.  She wants to see me, I heard from a mutual friend I still speak to.  I don’t want to see her, or even see the mutual friend.  I don’t even want to get as close as that!  Because of reasons.  Top secret, NSA, DOD, CIA, FBI, SEC, IRS, FDLE, GPD, ACSO reasons!  No further comment!

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A Lot of Men That Year, a novel fragment

illustration a lot of men that year

A Lot of Men That Year, a novel fragment

I was going through a lot of men that year.  All men seemed like works of art to me, like sculpture.  With body hair, without ‑‑ the buttocks, the thighs, the chests.  They were all quite lovely to look at.  Their emotional content was something else completely.  They seemed cruel, without love ‑‑ not that it mattered that much to me; I kept myself armored against hurt pretty well.  It was all casual dalliance, a form of gymnastic exercise, no permanence intended.  That was how I was protected.

Francisco was the handsomest man I’d ever dared let myself be attracted to.  We were cast in the same play, that’s how it started.  His friend, Vincent, was also quite handsome, though not my type ‑‑ blonde, blue‑eyed.

During this same time, my father and I were trying to get to know each other, 20 years too late.  He wanted instant fatherhood:  I was just confused by it all.

His VW van ‑‑ his hippie ways.  He thought I was so conservative.  When he told me he was attracted to me physically, sexually, I was only half‑shocked, because I suppose I had felt it too.  I almost wished he would act on it, just to see what it felt like.  It wasn’t like I really saw him as a father figure.

Meanwhile, I slept with every guy who interested me, except the ones who had love in their eyes.  Lust, intellectual curiosity, and admiration for my body ‑‑ these were all OK.  But love?  It gave me the willies.  Long‑term commitments were the last thing on my mind.

My father was living in his van ‑‑ I didn’t want to see him all that much, and that hurt his feelings.  I don’t know what, exactly, was going through my mind.  Attraction and repulsion, like magnetic phenomena.

Then there was the boy who punched the wall and broke his hand.  The short boy, musclebound.  He had sort of, kind of, almost-but-not-quite fallen in love with me.  He wanted to sleep with me, but I refused him.  He didn’t understand why.  I was sleeping with everybody else.  I sensed that a sleeping relationship with him would get too messy.  He would be jealous, passionate, moody, and neurotic.  I only wanted men who were vaguely indifferent?

I loved my film as literature class teacher from afar.  He was balding, blonde, and wore thick glasses.  I mean Coke-bottle thick.  I wanted everybody to make passes at me.  I was almost offended if they showed no overt interest in taking my clothes off.  My only excuse?  I was nineteen years old.

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