The Body Demotic: Day 7

So yesterday, though nobody would know it to look at me, nobody would know it without going after me with a needle and a fine-toothed comb, was a hard, heartbreaking sort of day.  I’m not dating anyone, though, naturally, I kinda sorta thought I was.  And I kinda sorta am.  Still.  But not really.  I can’t claim the title.  Wouldn’t hold up in court. And that’s as much clarity as anyone can give me on the situation.  Wait it out until you don’t feel like waiting anymore.  Like, what, what does that actually mean?  Care about me until it becomes a problem for you.  What’s it actually require of me?  A woman with broader shoulders and some sense would say, okay, halfway is not enough, we’re just going to hurt ourselves on the sharp edges of this. But I’ve pecked at crumbs and ash my whole life when it comes to affairs of the heart, so this understanding that the porch light is going to be left on for me, always a dish of food and water at the door doesn’t trigger the negative reaction that it should.  Even if it’s clear I’m never getting in the house. I think, well, there’s food here. That’s not nothing.  And nothing ties me down.  I can keep my own devices as it pleases me.  It’s what I wanted, right? It’s everything I’ve ever believed, that’s all.  The best relationships are those conducted entirely by post?

And I thought I took it in stride, accepting the ambiguity of it all, the inevitability of my hope being broken down into a sticky sort of powder, until I realized, about halfway through the evening that I was acting like a teenage maniac.  A stupid, stupid maniac who is going to regret her choices when they spin around and smack her in the face.  Emailing the RP’er like some kind of ridiculous swanning princess who thinks she can set a world down for two years and pick it back up and find it entirely as it was.  That was never going to happen and I knew that.  But still, I was free! I was uncommitted.  I was not on a path towards anything or anyone.  I was officially and am officially single.  Sort of.  Only nothing’s changed.  And it was only ever going to be about me.

I don’t really feel comfortable writing it out, this thing in medias res which might well be speculated upon and swiftly deciphered if anyone were of a mind. I suspect they’re not, but nevertheless, I feel bad enough about it that I want the shame shield to hang up like a Great Wall of China (and not some evil, orange-hued paltry attempt at nothing) between us.  Sit down with me and a cup of coffee, glass of wine, and I’ll tell the rest.  Suffice it to say that it all had to be entirely as it was, but my own good intentions done effed me again.  The world has changed much since all these trains hit the station at the same time, and I am certainly not the soul to demand anything of anyone, certainly not punctuality.

It’s just going to be disappointing is all.  Not evil.  It’s not evil.  Not yet.

Given these truish facts, I am endeavoring to continue on something I know is benefiting me – my small, paltry attempt at getting this body on the same page as my mind.

Two-Minute Conviction

I am in it for the titles, baby.  The titles and the glory.

If I didn’t have this impulse that I wanted you to read this, perhaps I would find myself breaking away at top speed to write about all the goings-on of now.  How we have leapt forward into some place new and how this means something I am nervous to decipher.

I won’t let you read it, though.  That’s a silly idea.  Not all the things I think are meant for direct transmission.

What a fumbling, stumbling, space I am in.  My equilibrium is gone.  We now have not only spoken, we’ve seen each other whilst speaking through the marvels of video-to-video simultaneous broadcast.  This has been a generally pleasing development.  But it drops a veil.  It raises a portcullis.  I am known in a way I cannot be unknown, not with him, or anyone.  We smiled, giddily, at each other.  I became, in some ways, a real person. At least for him.  He has always been realer than anything I am used to, but nevertheless, I imagine J. will not actually become a human being until I hold his hand for myself.

I am not complaining that this has happened. I am just mindful that these things – romantic connection, delight in another human soul, caring about someone’s well-being so deeply you shudder with the weight of it – things I have so pondered for so long and been drawn to since I were aware they existed in this wide and often heartless universe are happening.  They are unfurling their crimson sails and the ship is sailing where it is steered.  Straight into the mists where lie rocky shoals or else some far distant land of milk and honey or else just more waves and water until we all run out of food and look thirstily at the salt-sea that surrounds us.

And now, today, I feel softened and urgent and needful.  I put on makeup and set my hair just so in order to face this new reality of being visibly available, not just via voice.  I have let go of security blankets I have clung to for eons.   Negative and sour milk beliefs, deep sincere faith in my absence of worth, shackles of self-doubt to let this little engine that could, do have been poured out and run haphazardly down the gutters and gullies.  All away and not towards me. If I can be honest and analyze this choice that hardly felt like a choice at all when it was posed to me, this is a Tower crumbling to the ground.

This is a level of vulnerability that is profound, visceral, and truly, one I never reckoned I could find a way to evoke.  Now, regardless of what ends up happening in this relationship, this relationship I’m in, I’ve crossed this border.  I’ve set foot here and I can find my way back. Mildred has just been silent, face agog, as I have marched along without her towards a life that can’t allow for her to be in charge.

This is not in alignment with you today.  You want to not be solely these people who hit this pleasure button over and over again.  You want us to have conversations.  Be  edifying and surprising.  Give each other knowledge, tell each other about arenas and universes that are new, that we can be enlightened by, that we can be illuminated.

It is our remit and suddenly, he’s the raconteur with all the cards pre-filled with esoteric knowledge of grand cinematic or epicurean or psychological or miscellany and I hardly know how to take a breath.  The absence of an easy, pat answer frightens me.  I blank so hard I feel dictionaries crack against the front of my skull and break into individual letters.

I know about surrealism.  I know about gardening. Trillium, delphinium, rhubarb, nasturtium.  I know some French.  Je sais un peu de Francais.  Un petit peu.  I know about…the sound my dryer makes as it tumbles on a Sunday night.  I know about the route I take to work that snatches tires with its teeth.  I know about panic, hot air hanging where it shouldn’t in your chest and ballooning until you lift your mind out of position.  I know about feminism or the feminist lens as presented by academia ten years ago.  Cixous.  Rich.  Valerie Solanas.  A bit. I know about the red and the white, Emily Dickinson peering down through history at us.  I know about the sestina, the villanelle, the haiku, the heroic couplet.  I know about the saga and the fabliau.  I know about Wyf of Bathe.  I know about how to read a palm.  I know about David Eddings (only about Sparhawk and the Elenium and Sephrenia, and once I recall the spelling of her name).  I know about the river in the morning when you are the only one awake.  I know about riding with relative strangers through downtown Los Angeles in the middle of the night, falling asleep at four am.   Yet, he asks me for something interesting and I stutter.

I say. I don’t know.  I’m not the kind of person who can talk about things.

Which is such a baldfaced lie and yet it comes to hand so quickly I have to try and swallow the last of it back before I think I mean it.

I like listening to him think aloud.  I like drifting off under the melodic tones of his voice.  I like the trust that means I can luxuriate in his presence.

But there is more to me than that.  And more is needed to sustain us both.  A bore who doesn’t think for herself is a depressing self-definition.  What a grasping, anxious pit gets centered in my chest when I think about myself trying to be a lover who has no opinion but yes.  please.  okay.  Not one of being beautiful enough, but of smart enough and that is a shock to the system.  A piece I’ve taken for granted so long that suddenly my bluff has been called and I’m sweating.

How much has deserted me in this effort to keep myself away from the danger of being known?  How much has been paid to an internet with no vested interest in insuring my intellect is exercised?  How much of a quicksilver facility for fact and fiction has been mortgaged for a silence I did not want after the first day?

More than is fair.

Time to read up, fill this well, and let the awe of being changeable yet still, find the words that match its feeling.

The Body Is A Robot: Elsewhere

I am waiting on the stoop for a sunrise to appear.  I hardly know what to say these nights when I aim to be so occupied that the words in me dry up.  My thoughts are singular, not kaleidoscopic as the work demands.

Where does the need to write go when it goes, if it goes?

It goes in a scrap heap, with every other sort of faith and belief in intangible things.  Go to work, press the start button, buy the coffee even if no one particularly likes the coffee – it’s too bitter, type the emails, remember to check the mailbox, follow the steps, twitch and snort when out of view, taste the salted flesh preserved and simple, and constrain your metal heart.

If it goes, you go, really, with it to the scrap heap.  And the robot runs the work, while you nestle without pain into the witch jar of rusted nails and half-broken thumb tacks and sharp memories claimed to be forgotten.  You dream in the lemonade, you start floating around with the chili pepper, you burn and reformulate.

We do not say I love you afterwards, but it hardly matters when everything is kind and soft and urgent and sincere.  Sometimes I almost do, and I stop myself. We do not say the name so we do not conform with casings and shells and polymers and masks.  But we are somewhere while the body is the robot.  We are somewhere and we are there together.

I find it difficult to remember because I am trying so hard to recall everything about it.  Every breath and the way the voices sound as I make them, the one I lapse into without trying, this coquette, this flirt, this woman I never knew I knew so well.   I want to name her, this persona so casually undertaken, but already she feels like dream dust.  All of this feels like the sort of thing I would make up, with the bends in it to make it seem real even though it’s all a blue caravan trundling through the dark trees along the mountain pass.  Steady and not stopping, no matter your curiosity as to the nature of its contents.  It whirls in my head, that this is happening, and it’s heady like a drink first feels when the alcohol sets in.  It is chemicals, the scientists say, and I say, but the body is a robot. This is me and I am elsewhere.

Today has been marked down as Friday and perhaps the world will end soon.  Terrible things are happening – hate is just spilling out like so much acrid, poisonous sulfur bubbling up from caverns we had long held to be sealed.  So sealed as to be forgettable, paths forsworn, unnecessary for any travel reasonable souls would undertake.   Terrible things and as one of those things, we are given to watch from our robot eyes and these arms so new with such shoddy articulation that we have yet to finesse our grip.

Meanwhile, we are not there at all.





Terrible Craving for Bacon


They were insistent about the color.  It had to be that shade, in particular, and no other.  A silk gown the color of the dress the ingenue wore on stage at the Gilded Cage in a production of “A Marriage Proposal” several seasons back, a dusty rose.   The dress itself, however, was not the object of the clients’ desire.

Amelia would provide the garment as odd a request as it was becoming.  The pay was not excessive, but it was generous and generosity was rarely forthcoming in London these days.

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The woman let the sword scrape the asphalt as she walked towards the pay phone.  She could not drop it nor wield it, despite its weight, as she did not have the strength to untie the rope that bound it to her wrist.  It sparked and clattered at her side.  It tilted and slit into her bare, frostbitten ankles.  Nipped at the edges of her bare, bluish feet, leaving small paper cut-like wounds that should have bled, but merely darkened as though she had been marked by a quill, instead.

It was clear she was discomfited.  Her eyes bulged out as though she had been staring at a single point for days on end.  Here, a few ragged white bed-sheets knotted and twisted around her form to protect her from the elements, to provide a modesty that felt laughable to concern herself with.

But still she drug that anchor forward.  She couldn’t lose it, not if she wanted to, and she didn’t want to.  It was, on some level, as necessary as her own spine. She didn’t even mind the suffering that came right before a resurrection.  It never lasted as long as it should.

It was too early in the morning for many cars to pass her as she stumbled forward on the small 2-lane road that smelled as though it were Northern.  Her nose had not always been better for dodging blows than differentiating the delicate blooms, tasting the terroir between wines, but for now, all she knew was this idea of North of before.  Of colder than Then.  Of the phone call she had to make now that she was utterly and completely exhausted of all other resources.

It wasn’t much further if she remembered correctly.  It was less that she hoped that she remembered correctly, and that there was nothing else to hope.

If she were seen, this spectral figure on the road, she would appear as a ghost.  Some banshee, some eidolon, some half-known creature. She would not register as a person in need of aid.  No one would stop to inquire, no one would dare.  Another hope that by necessity was fact.

It was some time, step after step, pain after pain, when the wooded roadway opened up slightly and revealed a gas station.  She ignored the security cameras, she ignored the smell of North, the feel of not-Then as the here and now became corroded with gasoline and bitter coffee beans.  She clattered up the graffiti’d phone booth.

Rather than fumble through pockets for a quarter, she plucked a greying red hair from her wounded temple, one of the few long enough to pull free.  She held it in her hand until it trembled, spun around itself, and slowly shifted into a bright, shiny piece of U.S. currency.

The phone number was several digits longer than any international call, and the silence much longer than she, nor any soul with reason, would endure.

She could feel this body beginning to mutiny, beginning to chase the foreign captain at its helm onto the plank.

“Thank you for calling your local Vitamin Spree!” An aggressively cheerful female voice chirped in greeting.  She frowned, a reflex the body could not deny her.

In her own voice, rusty from disuse, she whispered “It’s done” before fainting on the cement pad of the Loaf and Jug.  She did not hear the subtle ding of assent as it replied through the receiver.  It was some time before she heard anything again.

As It Was Long Ago



A softness rolls over me I was not looking for tonight.  The internet was out for a while and so I played games and now, turned on PBS, and there’s a fascinating and warm and revealing documentary on a family with a trans woman artist at the center of it.  I’m watching it and feeling the stress around me, but not it me.  I’m thinking the thoughts I don’t always want to think and letting them go.  Thoughts about marriage and love and moving on and taking care of yourself. How three ladies I knew as girls are now married this week, how I feel hurt and yet, the hurt is such a point, while the joy is a wave.  I can move off of the hurt and still have the joy moving through my system.

For a while, there is no election, there is no grand fear, there is no intense mission for self-improvement and staving off the end of the world with my own dazzling wit.

For a while, there’s a bit of quiet.

It’s a Sunday kind of Monday.  It’s a short week.  It’s going to be alright.  Right?


A bit of calm and faith.  The limestone columns rose up out of the stone on the outcropping overlooking the sea.  They were stately, even in their state of partial ruin, and the sun seemed to hold itself on the horizon a bit longer to illuminate each spire.  The wind was light, and from the east, and it fluttered the silken banners that adorned the stone canopy, a constant, gentle imitation of the waves below.

It had been something of a journey to arrive.  Storms of every persuasion, both literal and figurative, hampered the passage.   Every aspect of the flight felt dilatory, every light lingered on red, every phone call droned on and on.   Once she arrived on the island, her blood pressure began to normalize, but the urgency remained.  Even the slow roll of the oars as they dipped into the deep blue everywhere to pull her stride by stride towards the isolated faraglioni seemed to to take longer than ever before.  But now, now she was here.  And the day, or the final turns of the day before it was properly dusk, could not have been more beautiful.

After climbing the winding staircase behind the expert attendants she’d hired on the mainland to carry the supplies, she’d been left to her own devices and the sound of the sea.

It was time to make preparations.  The table was a limestone slab, ornately carved with fish and life as it passes along the shore.  It was set in the center of the pavilion, and had been washed this morning, and ten chairs, each as sumptuous and pillow-laden as the last, were set imperfectly around its shape.

After drawing out candles, and scattering honeysuckle flowers, there she laid out the feast.  The three trunks were pulled open, chilled wine, crusty bread, salty meat and olives, little sugar-spun treasures.

Now, it was only a matter of how quickly the oars would turn. The annual gathering of the first and last of her tribe.





Following at Willoughby’s heels, Amelia stepped into the daylit drawing room.  She felt as though she had new eyes. All of the heavy window coverings had been heaved aside, and light suffused or danced upon every surface.  Once it had been had been a hall of secrets, and then a gruesome crime scene, now…there was an emptiness devoid of both malice and hope.

Turning to her left, she could see into the dining room where she had eaten the evening meal with so many compatriots now lost, each seat now bearing some ghostly presence in her mind.  A maddening echo of laughter snagged against her skin, her own voice boldly asking for another glass of wine.  However, beyond the oilcloth-coated table and chairs, there was nothing else by way of decor.  The paintings, the candlesticks, all of it gone.

They strode with urgency that had already driven Amelia’s legs to quaver, with no pause to linger in such fruitless reverie, into the laboratory itself.  Amelia felt her stomach clench, but this room, too, was empty even of the supplies that had made had aided in the scientific research that the Professor and Willoughby had been working on the night that all of the horror began.  The ivory oilcloth covered the table, the

Willoughby pulled out a drawer which left a single pocketwatch. For several moments Withdrawing it and flicking it open in a swift motion, for the first time, Amelia observed the man disturbed.

“He should be here…he should be…”

He turned to her, eyes wide as he sunk to the floor. “To have done all this and lost Ammon…”

Amelia had no idea what to say and did not mind if the silent reply felt cruel.  The Professor was meant to be alive? As though Death were nothing more than yet another tactic for men of means to get at what they desired, nothing more than a short-term distraction.

“When did you arrive?” The assistant began to assist as though he were an automaton, pouring himself and Amelia a cup and filling his employer’s cup back up to the brim.

“Last night.  It was meant to throw me and it did.  The matter came to fisticuffs and you know how little I enjoy the sight of blood.”  There was no ignoring the state of him, or how it wrenched her spirit to see the Professor so viscerally wounded, the map of his skin now home to islands of plum and crimson.

What madness to forgive in an instant the death of three men, her own near-drowning.  She couldn’t do it, but she felt the impulse.  She did not move to the table, to the tea, or towards the memory of an equally sunny morning spent in this kitchen.  She stood in the threshold as dream that lingers too long into morning.

“I let the servants go.  They will no longer be needed. The end has begun, but do understand that it was not my choice.”

Willoughby shook his head, relieved at the result, but disgusted at the chaos.  She hadn’t realized it, but the Lamb was a servant to the pocketwatch first.  The tower of Order he presided over in the Professor’s absences was toppling.

“I was not here to help you.”  Willoughby’s voice was plaintive.

“It was a challenge.”  He smiled weakly and only for a moment.  “Still, as you see, I found my way to the teakettle.”

“Ammon…we are not ready.”

“No, we are not.  But perhaps that was always true, we would never be ready for what was to follow.  It still follows.  It is still happening.”

“You could turn away.  You could give it up and let the interference we have offered be enough.

A single look from the Professor’s

“There are wounds, Madame, that the lily cannot mend.  Wounds in bodies

He struggled to his feet.

“Am I meant to believe this?  Any of this?”

“You have your eyes.  I am sorry.  The journey has not been a simple one and there is little enough time

“I’m afraid I cannot be satisfied by a ‘suffice to say.’  If I have been duped

Willoughby laid down

“I am absolutely desperate for a cup.  I imagine your morning would also be improved.

He offered the cup with two hands as a priest offers the blood of the Lord.   The hands were flagrantly covered with the

“Tell me what I need to know…no, first, tell me these markings. The marks on your hands, what are they?”

“A passport.”


“I am not whatsoever it is that you have molded Willoughby into.  I am not capable, much less willing, to clean up this hell.

Somewhere in the far off distance, she could hear a voice, youthful, but anguished.

“It does not open but for a death in this other world.  And the monsters that rule there have a vise-grip upon its control.  At the appointed time, on the appointed day, we climb to the ritual font and

He looked down into his teacup, as if it held the only warmth in his body.  When he looked up at her, she could see the birth of a tear in the corner of his eye.  Amelia couldn’t help feeling unsettled at this.

“All the time we dined, and as we waited for the pudding, some poor soul was facing their end.”
“You may understand why it was impossible to be of good cheer.  It has not been for a very long time. Even if I wished it, for your sake. I have never made for a good actor, myself.”

“For my sake? Why should this be your burden?”

“I owe your father my life and the lives of all those who are crushed under

“What should destroy mad magic if not mad science?
“My father was not a scientist.”
“No, he was a procurer of what was needed, be it souls or scientists


“I…this is not a conversation for this world, Amelia.  There is a context I cannot give you, no matter how many cups are shared between us.  You must come back with me and see for yourself.”
“See? What?”
“You are what I am to gather, on this, my final trip through the looking glass.