When we were kids my mom used to read to us at night, a chapter or two at a time, as parents do you know, and once she read “Where the Red Fern Grows,” and SPOILER ALERT both dogs die, spoiler alert the dog or the horse is always gonna die and this book has TWO dogs, but this was the first of the…
I remember reading The Red Pony for the first time as a stalwart Horsebooks Girl, like “yay ponies! And this one’s gonna be red, most of my horse-protagonists are black*, what a charming departure from form!” & then it was all AND THE PUS BURBLED GREEN FROM THE DYING PONY THROAT AND THE BOY SPONGED ITS GAPING RED TRACHEOTOMY WITH A DOOMÉD TENDERNESS AND A FUCKING BIRD IS LITERALLY EATING THE GLASSY DEAD EYE OF THE HORSE YESSS KILL THE BIRD EVERYTHING IS DUST AND DEATH and I was just like
*not like, ‘I’m not racist, some of my friends are black!’ just, you know, Black Beauty/The Black Stallion/etc.
That point on a Friday night when you aren’t totally sure if you’re talking about a John Berryman poem, a Donald Barthelme short story, or Bananas in Pajamas.
"Picture this: we were both buck-naked, banging on the bathroom floor," bounced off the street corner, strained out of the window of a car stopped at the light up at DeKalb, a SHAGGY song, of all the things to be coming out of a car stereo in 20fucking14. I physically cringed, and it took a minute to match the memory to the instinct.
During my freshman year of college (you might be surprised to learn) I pledged a sorority. Fueled by a half-baked combination of peer pressure, anthropological curiosity, and a young iconoclast’s desire to disprove the bandied-about claim that “anyone who thinks sororities are dumb is just mad that they couldn’t get into a good one,” I tarted up in black pants and a cashmere twinset and struck out into rush. After a blur of choreographed conversations and lo-fat cheese cubes, I found myself with a bid to what was generally considered “the second best sorority on campus” (smacking of “the second cheapest bottle of wine on the menu,” a bit, there).
It quickly became apparent I really wasn’t cut out for that shit. For one early party, everyone (prefiguring Mean Girls even!) was to wear pink, and, owning approximately zero pink things, I was forced to borrow a “cute top” from another pledge, only to be taken aside later by the “pledge mom” and reprimanded for looking “slutty” in a too-tight shirt. But I’d already forked over a semester’s-worth of books in dues so I figured I’d stick it out until summer, and learn all of the hallowed secrets of the hazing and rituals and handshakes, hoard the details, the experience, for some future purpose.
Of course they were all so hackneyed & dull that I almost immediately forgot all of them. Now, I have only vague memories of sitting in a dim attic wearing a white dress (legs crossed at the ANKLE not the KNEE, ladies!) and carrying a candle past a fake coffin with styrofoam bones in (symbolizing rebirth I guess) and a nautilus (symbolizing god knows what, maybe connectedness?) and some weird handshake that will supposedly allow you to recognize your sisters in the distant future, like anyone is wandering around shaking hands wrong just in the recipient might, too, be an ex-Blerga-Delt.
The “hazing” took place in the same attic, only brightly lit, and mainly consisted of things like not wearing makeup (and I’m someone who, upon losing her luggage en route to Heathrow, went directly to a Boots to buy toothpaste, deodorant, and eyeliner, but come on), making dream boards out of cut-up Cosmo’s and Elle’s, and one feeble exhortation to sort some of those tiny ball-shaped sprinkles by color (after about 1 minute with those little fuckers my two suggestions - and I bet you can figure out which one was agreed upon - were 1) to claim that our strength as a sisterhood came from our differences & it was wrong to sort them; or 2) to just soak them in water until they all turned white (keep in mind the Italian American from Jersey was their 1 sop to diversity)).
But to bring this indulgence of - what’s the opposite of nostalgia? whatever that is - full circle, the one truly terrible hazing ritual was that for eight hours a day for 3 days straight, “It Wasn’t Me,” by none other than motherfucking Shaggy, was played on repeat in that little upper-middle-class hazing-garret, at full volume, and that trial above all other trials has crept into my bones, so that thirteen years later, when the hook creeps past bodegas and the dead basil plant in my window and shudders in my ears, I draw my fur blanket closer around my shoulders and narrow my eyes and think to myself, “that wasn’t you.”
When you’re walking the last leg home from work and it’s late, maybe not unforgivably late but four-digits-firmly on the clock-late, and the fifty-whatever degree air feels marvelous, almost indecent on your bare neck, but also kind of malevolent in the way that a a candyvan or a good-sir-my-uncle-needs-to-transfer-4745885-dollars email feels malevolent, and you walk with delicious amble up to your building and lying right beneath the keypad is a stick, a three-pronged branch shaped just like a capital T, and even though the sidewalk is littered with the snowgummed detritus of a melting March, dogshit and cans and brownpasted Christmas tree needles, this fucking stick just hanging out alone in front of your building somehow feels the most malevolent of all. And you press in your code like always and enter the bright lobby and you remember for the first time in decades how your mother once told the creepy gradeskipped kids down the block that there was a terrible alien race called the Twinkletoes who looked just like normal humans but were physiologically incapable of keeping their socks all the way on their feet, so that there was always this awful flipper of sock past the end of the foot, and what that limp empty space might contain was not to be discussed, and - most importantly! - you would know if the Twinkletoes were after you because they’d leave sticks shaped like capital Ts to hound your path, and by god she meant well, your mother full of stories, but they weren’t allowed to play with us for the rest of the summer anyway and as you get in the elevator you aren’t sure what you’re still disturbed about, the reminder of someone else’s enforcéd overly literal childhood or the idea that even now, as an overly-literal-scientist-adult, the Twinkletoes might still be waiting, there in the warmish air, strewing your walk in branches like capital T’s, waiting to get you at last.
Dear Lab Members,
Please let us know if you use guillotines. For those that do have guillotines we will be reaching out to those labs to arrange for annual servicing/ sharpening of the guillotines. If the labs have submitted their guillotines for sharpening then we are requesting that they inform us of the last date their guillotine was sharpened so that we can maintain this date in our records.
—Campus-wide email, though sadly not from email@example.com
Looking for a photo to accompany a theoretically upcoming super-secret (not secret at all) essay, I found this thing that I wrote when I was oooohh 22? and wading through the end of a semi-requited very-chaste love affair? and which I decided to post here as a rare glimpse into the nascent psyche of the mollycule. I mean, if Kristen Stewart can release a poem I can handle a 9 year old blogpost.
Also, for reference: Lord Percival is my taxidermied weasel I have had him for a decade I love him.
“Pass the Corbusier: I have not yet met my housemates. I heard them on the stairs. I meant to report the snatch of conversation but all I can think of is the phrase “Aw, fuck around, fuck around, lady. Bus’s already ten minutes late.”
That is almost certainly not what they said.
I can spend three minutes looking at the carbonation rising in my vodka tonic, but only ten seconds looking at the condensation reflected upon its surface while drinking. My teeth become cold.
I made no comment. What should I resent?
There are many things.
It is too easy to charm people, and too difficult to keep the ones you want.
People swim out of the past like carp lazily rising to the surface of the pond and vie for my attention with the ripples from their long-whiskered mouths, but my gaze is fixed upon the reflection of a cloud that looks like a fish. I can spend hours looking at it, and my teeth remain at ambient temperature, though they grind slightly in frustration.
I think Lord Percival is lonely. He has the advantage of a fierce facial rictus and painted teeth. I look at him and think, oh Percival, I know. I know.
We all live in curio cabinets of our own devising.
Mine contains more squid than do those of many people. Noses are pressed against the glass but the one with the key is busy stocking other cabinets, ones with fewer squid and more handbags.
My teeth are not painted, but soon, four of them will be removed. While under anaesthesia, I will dream of fish shaped like clouds and subsequently will reveal these dreams to my mother, who will sit beside me.
Percival will remain in his cabinet during this time. He will resent me for this, but he does not understand if I were to let him out, he would remain within a cabinet, this one more complex, more filled with regrets and with squid. One day, he will understand, though his teeth will remain painted and in a fierce rictus.
The bus is now fifteen minutes late, and I am waiting still. I am duly fucking around, but it is only so long before this becomes unbearable.
The lime in my vodka tonic once grew on some implacable tree. This tree is now included in my cabinet, if only in theory. I have many drawers for theory, but only the key is real.
If everything is permitted, nothing is true.
Or so they say.
Update: I am still fucking around, fucking around. Time stretches like cello strings around the pegs. I am beginning to wonder whether the bus must also be consigned to the drawers of theory. In that case, I can only wait for the key. Wait, wait here, with my unpainted teeth of which there will soon be n minus 4 and my vodka tonic.
The fish are now bumping against my ankles and the cloud-fish will not relinquish the non-cloud-key. I wasn’t expecting him to.
Nor was Percival. For all his sculpture, he is wise. Wise, there in his cabinet with the abstract of the lime tree. (I have given it to him, he might find it a small comfort in the night. It offers me little, so I will give him a shot with it. We are both just fucking around, after all.)
Twenty minutes late.
I would like to give up hope, (because I do not hope), but in its drawers the cabinet lists hope. Clearly. Drawer 35 Section 2: Hope; preceded by Section 1: Cartography; followed by Section 3: That Look He Gives You When You Are Wrong, Wrong As A Stick, But Too Excited For Him To Correct You.
Drawer 14 Section 5: Invertebrate Biology (Subsection 17: Propidium iodide staining). Drawer 14 Section 6: Trees (missing, of course, the entry of the lime tree, which I haven given to Percival). Section 7: Resentment. Section 8: Keys And Those Who Possess Them.
I have yet to assign a drawer to “Fucking around”. It may encompass all other drawers.
The long-whiskered noses are more insistent upon the glass. I attribute this to Charming, mentioned above. I hear a click but it is only a notice on the tall, black board that proclaims “The bus will arrive in …” and here the board becomes illegible. It is dangerous to assign all clicks to imagined keys in our locks.
Drawer 56 Section 11: The Danger of Assigning All Audible Clicks to the Actions of Faraway Keys. Section 12: Thinking Of The Key, Each Confirms His Prison. Section 13: Aetherial Rumors and Other Methods for Revival. Section 14: Despair. Section 15: Phylogenetics.
My teeth bite my lip. I am sick, sick to death of fucking around. The teeth are not painted and they, at least, are not fucking around. The bus has already come, and we have missed it.”