Wednesday, January 30, 2008

As Yet Unnamed #3

The best thing that happened to me today was getting to hear Megan Olliges say "All up in my grill."

This one's for JWoolard.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Birthday List

(my mom woke me up Saturday afternoon to ask me what I wanted for my birthday. here goes ...)

external hard drive
-bike multitool
-enclosure for my iBook hard drive
-copious amounts of bourbon
-$30 for a massage from my neighbor Patty
-self-love (non-masturbatory)
-a trip to the dentist
-the ability to teleport when it's below 15 degrees
-a tattoo
-a publishing agent
-a buddha machine
-blue and orange bracelets from Anthropologie
-a personal trainer for my fat-ass cat
-fake diamonds (more bling!)
-a JWoolard print

My friend Pam started an awesome blog to get ideas for a screen play. Check it out:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Maybe ...

Maybe I'd be awesomer if I didn't keep yelling "There can be only one!" at other Virginia last night.

My brain hurts.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Gretchen and I are getting ahead of ourselves

I offered to write beats for Gretchen's MC project. We were talking about it yesterday when I was at work. I admitted that I don't really know how to; I can barely use Logic and haven't even looked at Garage Band. But still, it seems like I should try.
"I always get ahead of myself with these things," I said, standing to dump espresso grounds. "I'm already imagining us playing shows."
"Me too!" Gretchen agrees. "We're gonna play shows, do videos, get famous ... and I'll get to make out with Aesop Rock." I'm laughing as Gretchen continues, "I like that my big plan involves making out with Aesop Rock."
"Dude, we'll be so awesome," I say. "RJD2'll open for us."
"And Diplo ..."
"Fuck yeah!"
"Lauryn Hill will come to our show," Gretchen says. "I'm the only white person she likes."
I walk to the back, going to put dishes in the sink. "Justice'll want to make beats with me," I cry. "MSTKRFT will remix us!"
"MIA will be our best friend," Gretchen crows, then starts to sing, "M, M, I, I, A, A ..."

We're gonna be huge.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Old Zine

(Author's note: This is the zine I did in 2006.  I fit the whole thing on one post.)

Milkyboots (finally)

Issue 1, Spring 2006.

I’d rather be picking my nose, honestly.
Love, Virginia

Article A: A short list of strange place names in
Richmond, VA.

1. Shockoe Bottom
2. Totopotomoy Rd.
3. Three Chopt Rd.
4. Hull St. Rd.
5. Short Pump
6. Midlothian
7. Old Gun Rd.
8. Old Hundred Rd.

Article B: New Year’s Resolutions

Article C: Interviews with People Who Don’t Exist,
Part 1.

(From an interview taken in 1972)

MB: Tell me about yourself; where were you born, where
did you grow up?

Doris Newcomb: My name is Doris Newcomb, I was born
on April 15th, 1910 in south Philadelphia. I was born
in the house I grew up in, I still remember the
address: 1636 Fitzwater St. The house is still there,
my grandson lives on 18th St., so he walks past it all
the time.
My mother had me in her bedroom. She couldn’t afford
the hospital. Her sister helped her with the birth.
Not that my mother was inexperienced; I was the fourth
of seven children.

MB: What did your mother and father do?

DN: My mother worked at sandwich shop, north of Market
St., you know, where all the warehouses are. She was
a waitress. The men would come in on their lunch
breaks and tell her jokes. She was real pretty, so
she always made good tips and got lots of attention.
Tips didn’t help that much. It was hard raising seven
kids. We all went to work as soon as we got old
enough. I started working when I was ten!

MB: And your father?

DN: He worked on the river, pulling fish off boats.
Then he’d deliver them downtown, to all those fancy
restaurants on Rittenhouse Square. He’d do odd jobs,
too, repairs, other deliveries. He was still
delivering by horse and wagon when I was born. The
company didn’t get trucks until 1925.
In the twenties, though, with the Prohibition, my
daddy worked for some bootleggers at night a couple
times a week. He worked in exchange for liquor. He
liked his drink (laughs) but then so did Mama. They’d
have parties in the living room some nights, inviting
all the neighbors over. My uncle would bring some
hash and they’d laugh all night. My sister Ellen and
I would watch sometimes from the top of the stairs.
It looked like so much fun. My daddy fixed up a
phonograph from the city dump and they’d listen to
records. They’d dance in that smoky room until the
sun came up.

MB: Tell me about working as a kid.

DN: My daddy got me a job selling apples with my
cousin, near the docks. I still in school then, but I
quit going when I was twelve. I was so glad, cause
I’d have school in the morning then work until my
daddy got done at nine PM.
After that my mama got me a job waitressing with her
at the sandwich shop. It was hard work, but she made
sure those men didn’t bother me too bad. I worked
there until I was sixteen; by that point I started to
wish some of the men would bother me! (laughs)
I moved out of my parents house to work at my aunt’s
fabric store on 4th St. I was lucky when the
Depression hit; business was slow but since I lived in
the back room I was able to send some money home to
help out my folks. I was working there when I met my

MB: Alfred Newcomb, right? How did you meet?

DN: Yeah, my Al. He worked at a tailor’s up the
street, so he’d come in to buy thread. He was so shy,
but such a sweetheart. He’d bring me scraps from his
shop, so I could patch my clothes or whatever. It
sounds a little silly, I know, but at that time every
bit counted. He knew what I liked too, he’d bring
scraps of silk from China.
He asked me to marry him on my birthday, 1931. I was
twenty-one. We had a civil ceremony, couldn’t afford
anything else. I moved into his apartment.

Article D:

I am sitting, well laying on my back anyway, typing
away. At Andrew’s grandma’s house, Brandermill,
Midlothian, VA. Oh dumb. Typing away at my story
about a girl who can do magic. This is the only warm
room in the house. It’s like a sauna where the other
sweaty people are all my stuff, my bike, four times as
much furniture as should be in a room this size and
piles of records. I think they belong to the grandma.
There’s also some fake flowers.
My face feels puffy and my eyes sting and are half
closed. I think I am about to cry. I was trying to
write but suddenly I felt horribly depressed; the
words in my story seemed awkward and tilted (people
don’t talk like that...) I ate but am still hungry.
I don’t want to go anywhere, I am too lazy to figure
out where anything is in this alien land but I am
bored. I feel like someone is sitting on my chest and
sticking toffee in my throat.

Article E: Live through this and you won’t look back.

Helen and Harriet are twins. They live on South 9th
Street in the broken love city of Philadelphia.
Helen is all darkness and perfect roundness. Harriet
is thin as a broom and dark as her twin. Harriet
works at a health food store and Helen works at a
thrift store.
Today they are at the bakery on the way to work.
Sleepy-eyes and unbrushed hair, they both order a
coffee and a hot cross bun.
“What are these for anyway? Helen says, holding her
half-eaten bun.
“Something to do with Lent,” Harriet mutters. She is
trying to do the Times crossword.
It’s raining and gray outside. The bakery is warm
and empty; who eats breakfast at 11 am? The clerk is
sweeping the wooden floor.
“When’s your lunch?” Harriet gives up on the
crossword. She feels like her brain is full of fuzz.
“Three.” Helen answers. She is rushing because she
only has ten minutes to get to work.
“Should we go to the place?” Harriet doesn’t
actually work until four. She spends her whole day
until then in the bakery usually.
“Yeah,” Helen stands up. “Bring me some lunch.
I’ll see you then.” In a flash, she is out the door
and unlocks her bike.
Harriet sighs. Helen has left her cup and napkin on
the table. She works on the crossword for another
hour as the clerk watches the clock and some yuppies
come in to buy designer whole grain bread.
Harriet gives up on the puzzle and tucks it in her
bag. Their apartment is across the street, through a
wrought iron gate and tiny garden and up some stairs
(also wrought iron). She walks there and unlocks the
door. They live in an efficiency that they have
divided like a dorm room. Helen’s side is a
mismatched jumble, a pile of clothes on the
floor-bound mattress.
Harriet sits on her immaculate futon. She watches
the rain quietly, in a reverie. She dreams Helen’s
journey to work, through Old City, up 3rd Street. She
dreams Helen’s arrival at work, unlocking the store
and turning on the lights.
Harriet doesn’t know what to do with herself, so she
stands at the kitchen window and looks down into the
brick-paved alley for awhile. It is spring, so bits
of green are starting to come through the cracks.
Someone walks by under a black umbrella.
Finally, Harriet goes back to the couch and falls
asleep watching a DVD.
In awhile, Cary calls and wakes her up. He wants
Helen and Harriet to meet him for a drink at the Green
Lounge after work. Harriet listens to the message
from the futon. She get up and makes Helen’s lunch,
an avocado and cheese sandwich, an apple and a ginger
ale. She puts these in her bag and puts her bike on
her shoulder to walk outside. In the entryway, she
remembers it is still raining, so she sets her bike
down again and goes back inside to get her pink
raincoat. She knows she is leaving early but she can
take her time getting there.
The rain is lighter and so is the sky. The wet
garden smelled like spring, decay and growth. Harriet
takes a deep breath.
She rides faster than she meant to, for when she
leaves the sanctuary of her courtyard the city is in a
loud, abusive rush. In the alleys she takes, the
garbage and delivery trucks force her on to the
sidewalk. Taxis honk and surge on 3rd Street. By the
time she reaches Helen’s store she is wet with rain
and flustered, feeling as though the peaceful sadness
of the rainy morning has been shattered.
“I hate the city,” She says to Helen as she pulls
up. Helen is smoking in front of the store.
“No, you don’t.” Helen stares at the pizza place
across the street. “What happened?”
“Cary called. It woke me up,” Harriet locks her
bike to a street sign (there are no parking meters in
this part of the city. Yet.) “And then I destroyed
my bike ride. Everyone was going so fast.”

All that time you thought I was sad, I was just trying
to remember your name. -Stars

“Are we going out with Cary after work?” Helen
finishes her cigarette and grinds it out under her
“Yeah,” Harriet unbuttons her raincoat. It is warm
out and the humidity and sweat of the ride give her a
strange sticky feeling like wearing a wool sweater.
“I brought your lunch.”
“I’ve still got awhile before Jane gets here. Come
in, you can look at books.” Helen holds open the
Harriet sits on the shoe-trying-on bench and tries to
read for half an hour. Eventually she gives up and
goes to stand near Helen at the counter. “I can’t
concentrate on anything today,” She says. “None of
the books look good.”
Helen looks at her and nods. George, the old man who
comes to the thrift store everyday trying to find
things he can sell on ebay, is staring at into the
case at the cameras. He stands with a handsfree
wireless mic in his ear and his arms behind his back
bent over the glass. “You’ve priced that one too
high,” He says. Helen shrugs.
Jane comes in and Helen can go to lunch.
Helen and Harriet walk two blocks to Poplar and turn.
They climb over the crumbled factory wall, carefully
picking through collapsed barb wire.
“You can hear it from here,” Harriet stops in the
debris-strewn warehouse yard. The sound of the
waterfall is louder than the interstate traffic or
squealing brakes of the El.
They climb onto the loading dock, glass crunching
beneath their feet. Helen slides back the door and
they step into the dark abandoned warehouse. In the
dim, the shapes of small trees were visible and
raindrops, falling through holes in the roof caught
the light from broken windows. One corner of the
building had fallen in but it was so dark outside that
little light came in the warehouse. Still, the twins
could hear the waterfall, much louder now.
Helen shuts the door. At once, the light changes.
Brighter, softer. The city sounds nearly disappear,
taken over by the low rumble of clear water over
smooth rocks.
The girls walk through the big trees that have
replaced the supporting pillars of the skeleton-like
second floor. The frame of the building has
disappeared, but the light still shines, softer and
golden, in the spots where the broken windows had
been. The carpet of glass shards and metal scraps has
become a patchwork of moss and grass. And where the
hole in the ceiling was, the waterfall pours.
They sit on the grass in next to the waterfall pool.
Harriet hands Helen her lunch.
This is their secret. They come here almost every
day on Helen’s lunch. They tell no one about it and
even Helen had been reluctant to tell Harriet of her
discovery. But they were twins, practically the same
person .
“You know that the front door of the warehouse is
behind the waterfall,” Harriet said. They have
explored it all except behind the falls because
Harriet is scared. The inside dimensions matched the
outside dimensions. The old brick walls are invisible
when the loading dock door was closed unless one stood
right next to them.
“I wonder what’s back there,” Helen says quietly
into her sandwich. Harriet glances at her but Helen
looks uninterested as usual.
“There’s no graffiti in this warehouse,” Harriet
says quietly to herself. She lays back on the soft,
soft grass and listens to the falls. Helen keeps
eating her sandwich.
That night, Harriet rides her bike to the green
lounge after work to meet Helen and Cary. Her bag is
bulging with apples and vegan cookies, she rides
through the drying night streets with a weaving ease.
She feels like she could float above the streets.
Helen and Cary are sitting with Kim, So-me and
Charlotte. Harriet sits and orders a lager, handing
out cookies.
“We dumpstered at the student dorms tonight,”
Charlotte says. “So-me got a whole new wardrobe.”
So-me grins. “New pants!” She tugs at the seams.
“I found a pair of knitting needles and a bunch of
art supplies.” Charlotte continues. Cary is
whispering to Helen. Harriet nods. “Awesome.” She
orders another beer.

When Harriet wakes up in the morning, Helen isn’t in
her bed. Her bag and bike aren’t in the house.
Harriet gets up to boil water for coffee. It’s
raining again; the sky is shiny light gray like
stainless steel. She drinks her coffee while making
Helen’s lunch. Then she goes to the bakery for
breakfast. She eats a scone and tries to work on the
same Times crossword. But she gets nowhere again.
She is staring at the rain falling and making tiny
puddles on her bike seat outside when she has an idea.
So she gets on her bike and leaves.

When Helen gets home that morning in rumpled clothes
from yesterday, Harriet is not there. She doesn’t
show up at the thrift store for Helen’s lunch. And
when Helen gets home from work, there is a message
from Cary on the answering machine but Harriet is not
Helen felt something in the morning when she wake and
Harriet was not there. She felt her stomach drop.
She looked out the window; it had stopped raining and
the sun was shining on the tiny plants in the alley
cracks. Helen felt her heart cracking.
She said some logical things to herself while making
coffee with shaking hands. Then she dressed and put
on her bag and carried her bike down the stairs. She
heard the phone ringing as she reached the garden but
she walked through the wrought iron gate.
She rode through the city to Poplar Street and she
felt. She didn’t see the cars or busses or buildings.
There was Harriet’s bike outside the warehouse,
unlocked and leaning against the brick wall. Helen
locked her bike, climbed the wall and clambered onto
the loading dock.
She opened the huge wooden door. Stunted trees and
weeds reached for empty windows in the dusty dim. The
waterfall was fainter on days it didn’t rain, but she
could still hear it.
Helen shut the door, without knowing why. She knew
what had happened. She walked through the silence of
the trees; they had eaten the city sounds.
She stood on the small moss patch where they had sat.
“Harriet?” There was no answer. Helen knew there
wouldn’t be; she knew where her sister had gone.
Helen felt half of herself fall away, with a crash
like rushing water.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sullen Choirboy #1, Continued

Sullen Choirboy #1, Continued:

(Author's note: More of my zine from the summer of 2001. "House Arrest" is a true story ... it's been so long that I don't think of it very often, even though it was one of the most traumatic things that ever happened to me.)

After the Fifth One

And last night I could've sworn I was dying.
Shaking on a sheetless mattress on the floor.
My life so easily completed in my head.
A pact to be made, the threat response, so over dramatic.
Never ending waiting for things to get better.
Idiotic suggestions and assumptions drift in through the layers of plaster.
Our attempts to mas our fundamental incompetence.
A Wednesday, a fruitless drunken effort to answer ends counting the times you've counted tiles.
The simplest of plans is a failure as I pass out in the attic.
There can be no clarity when the only thing to save you is the ringing of the phone.
You can wake up drunk and stumble across the room to hear the inevitable bad news.
I have lost any dignity, I can no longer spare respect.
Always a worse reason to end. The deep-seated flaws can be over looked in the beginning,
In the dark and awkward first steps. In the first brush of lips.
And in the fear of acknowledging the death, we push away any sense of self.
Innocence drowns cynicism, tension held onto as an affirmation so long released in an exhale.
Turned to a tentative hope, however.
It will all be over soon enough.
When you understand the weight of dependence and the depth of illness.
And the end comes on the same jarring note as the beginning.
The delicate smudge, a drop of alcohol, the sinking, sickening weight we carry.
We feel fragile and the day is made in stale colors.
I can no longer find strenghth in the endlessness of suggestion.
Drinking cannot convince me of the lack of perfection.
And it cannot give me what I need to face this.
Protection in lover. Epiphany in a bottle.
No amount of purging brings catharsis.

And I hate the shape of my own words.
Beauty lies in the emotionlessness of type.
In the crisp reason of thought glowing on a screen.
The cold reflection of the never ending.
You cannot see the end of the line.
So you reach for the next bottle marked "A Simple Plan."


Song for Twitchy, the Bane of my Existence

There's the box with the button I found on the floor of my basement inside.
I can't hold you up, when my life is already a precariously balanced stack
Of scraps of paper, CDs, the clutter of conversation,
Paycheck stubs scribbled with phone numbers,
The words that get stuck in my head, pennies, bottle caps,
Books only half read, hairclips, pencils, pictures of people I never see,
Japanese lunch boxes and other things I've saved for reasons I've forgotten.
And I can't really get away, when Ji keeps knocking on my door.
She's the clever bitch who knows when I try to crawl out the window.
Pregnant and barefoot, she stands in the kitchen.
Full of the pauses in uncomfortable conversation.

So do you really think I could fit that ring on top of that stack?
Then we could call it the ring that broke me.
And Ji would still follow us. She knows the end is for sure.
Last night she came over, sat on my bed smoking a cigarette
While I listened to
Some miserable song fifteen times in a row.
"Structural change does not guarantee correct intellectual awakening,"
She said. "Is history determined by comprehensive understanding,
Or passion, bias, and other irrational forces?"*
I didn't answer. Ji knew the answer.
"You're an arrogant whore." I muttered and went back to reading
Today I looked around the room and wondered,
What can be saved and what can be thrown away?
Why do I need to think that at all?
Because when Ji shows up later,
I'll tell her I can be reasonable.
She'll probably just laugh.
But, I'll say, there's the box with the button I found on the floor of my basement inside.

*Yu-sheng Lin


Not Safe, Sad

I finally wrote that letter today.
I've started planning the next day every night.
I'm walking through parking lots while folding my clothes.
I wanted to tell you how I almost fell,
Watching a crane swing concrete next to my friend's house.
And how the house was dark and quiet when I got home and
Was washing my face in the dirty mirror.
And how my feet still stick to the floor.
I started to write this on scraps of paper
That mysteriously have disappeared, like cameras and penny jars.
I've forgotten my original reason for writing.
But I did want to tell you that I am safe, not sad
That silence and I are getting along fine
That I am trying to sleep more so I will feel better
And when I'm not sleeping, silence walks with me in the morning and between classes
But she won't help with the dishes.
I hope that you too are safe and not sad
And will call me tomorrow to tell me about your day
And how you saw me walking up the street
When you were eating lunch.
You were going to say hello but your mouth was full.
And it looked like silence had my attention anyway.


House Arrest

The waiting, in silence. I sat next to Jeremy on the steps leading to the third floor, wrapped in a blanket. The officer, David1, sat in Jeremy's chair, between the doors to Jeremy and Logan's rooms. John sat on a chair under the phone, Ty on the floor.
I had stopped shaking, not because of the blanket's warmth, but because of its familiar comfort. During the winter I had sat wrapped in it, watching TV and doing my Japanese homework. Jeremy and I smoked desperately, one every fifteen minutes. The blue ashtray filled up. I remembered walking up the stairs and being relieved that the officer was smoking with Jeremy and John. I hadn't dealt with cops very much.
A couple hours ago, Sean had come home from the grocery store where he worked third shift and brought us the cigarettes, because we couldn't leave. That's what house arrest means Sit there till you get the call. Don't sleep.
We had a short conversation every hour. What's going to happen to us. The officer didn't know. Jeremy talked about getting arrested for jumping the El in Chicago. A police photographer came and went. Our criminal records were checked. Silence. It had finally stopped raining. Jeremy asked if we could listen to some music. "It's your house." The officer had replied. Fuck. We're in trouble. Jeremy turned on the Weakerthans. We listened to the whole album.
I remembered. Someone came into the living room and said, someone fell. Off the back balcony. I ran out - raining - saw a kid in white laying on the concrete. Called 911. "I don't know, I can't see, I can't get down there, I don't have a cordless. Why do you need to know, just fucking send someone." Then standing in the mud. Uncomfortable boots, the medics hovering over the body. Flashlights picking up the rain like diamonds. Yellow lights - topaz. I was dumb - as dead as he would be in a few days. I was arms crossed, a knot of why ... why did you do this, kid? A stranger's arm around my shoulders, shaking. Talk to the cops. "Anyone know ____?" No, no one knew ___. Everyone left. Curled up in the armchair, shaking, vacant. Having to tell Keith "Go stay somewhere else, there's been an accident, the cops are here." when he returned from the bar.
And now the waiting, in my smoke-filled hallway. I deal with this well. I was exhausted, not like ever before. I wanted it to be about 6 p.m., yesterday, before the party. I wanted Patrick not to pull through with the kegs. I wanted to be sitting on my porch in the cool of the afternoon with my roommates and Gloria and punk rock Nick. Tallking, happy - no one's gonna show up, where are the fucking bands?
John had gone downstairs. After a few hours, Jeremy and Ty went down to check on him. He had passed out on the toilet. They moved him to the couch.
The detectives came, we have to take you to the station. Wake up Johas. How did you sleep through this ... through me screaming into the phone "Get off the fucking phone, Jonas, I need to call 911." The squad car, the metal grating between back and front seats. No leg room. 6a.m. the sun was out. To be twelve hours ago. Sitting in the police station for three hours. The metal bench had holes in it for handcuffs. John and Jonas had both slept. The detective gave me coffee - flavorless, scalding hot. I remembered what Jeremy had said about jail food in Chicago. We tried to talk to Jonas about what had happened, but the cop told us to talk about other things. He stared at us intently every once in a while, as if we might run.
The interview with the detective. I got a ride home with the officer who had been assigned to my high school. The sun was out, everything was still damp from the rain. Standing in my driveway at 9 in the morning. I hadn't slept in 24 hours, and faced with the possibility I couldn't go into my own apartment, I started to cry. I remember clearly every time I cried that week. The officer asked me if I was okay. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I just wanted the silence of my empty house.
They finally let me in. I slept for three hours, not bothering to change clothes or take out my contacts. I woke up shaking and went to work. I couldn't stand it ... customers kept asking me how I was. I couldn't face people. I left early. Talked to my roommates. Every conversation that day trailed into silence and blank stares.
For weeks afterwards, we all followed the same regimen. I smoked a pack a day, didn't eat. Just drank coffee and slept, badly, when I could. I had dreams that would wake me up.
The last week of class, Jeremy and I were standing on the fire escape on a sunny, warm day. We were smoking. "I want to go to Philly now ..." I exhaled. My shoulders ached. "Get the fuck away from here and this house."
And months after the accident, Jeremy and I were sitting in a diner in Philadelphia. We had done nothing that day, just overslept. Excessive coffee and hunger put us in a strange mood.
"I think we all played our roles perfectly that night." He said. "It's funny how that works."
We both stared out the streaked window, at the Philadelphia skyline, the careful sunshine.


the opening and closing of doors.
The sullen refuge in isolation.


can i find solace in the pointless.
The sinking sickening feeling,
its like waiting for the phone.
You've got to hang like nothing else.
You've got to stay far away.
Don't let it stick inside you.
Unshaking faith in my ability to fail.
Tomorrow won't be spinning this much.
A delicate decision. Innaccurate calculation.
It can only get better.

Sullen Choirboy #1

(Author's note: This is a reissue of the zine I made when I was twenty. It's in its entirety, including grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes and super-emo angst! Enjoy. Summer, 2001.)

Part One:

Sullen Choirboy #1 Nothing
(Empty: Not Revolutionary, Lacking Strong, Well-defined Beliefs)

I have been planning to do this since I was thirteen. I finally felt I had enough to write about this year-and I realized I can do a zine without writing about music. However, I'm still lame enough to put it out under a pretend name. Sorry. Thanks for reading. Let me know if you hate it or whatever.
Lots of love, Verg

PS. Names have been changed, except where I felt lazy. Sorry Dan, I thought it was funny. Everyone else, I have my reasons.

Sullen Choirboy

"You're the only thing gone right today"
My life is a movie.
The light changes with the song.
Sat at the lake, drinking cheap red wine.
Smoking cheap cigarettes.
Talk about each other. I've been analyzed.
Nothing happens, but there is too much to think about.


She was doing the dishes, alone in the kitchen in the middle of the day. No one else was home. The sun filtered in through the blinds, turning the kitchen yellow, shining on the messy table. A song played softly on the stereo sitting next to the phone, the same song he had sang to her in bed that morning months ago.
There were a lot of dishes, but she was almost done. She washed them in the same order as always - plates, bowls, cups, silverware, pans. She was on silverware.
She was tired ... exhausted, actually. At that point where any sudden event, however insignificant, seemed monumental and stunning. She felt like crying, but she really wasn't that sad. Doing the dishes gave her time to think, though, about everything that had happened in the last couple weeks, months, year. And she prayed she didn't hear the jangling of keys going upstairs and the door slamming a second later that meant he was home. She didn't want to talk to him, but he was always there. And so she enjoyed, in a miserably happy way, the time she spent alone doing dishes.
Knife, fork, fork, spoon ... the stereo sang "...all those late night, desperate phone calls ..." She remembered doing the dishes when she didn't have the weight of the year and her mistakes pressing down on her, just the weight of three weeks worth of dishes to worry about.
The phone rang, startling her so that she pressed the knife she was cleaning into her other hand. It slid into the soapy water, leaving a trail of red across all four fingers. The blood dripped onto the foam, forming strange patterns on the soap bubbles. The dirty water stung on the wound. She stared at her hand, immobile. It seemed monumental, symbolic, as it should when someone has reached the level of exhaustion she had. She was tired of this routine, this place, the role she played in the lives of everyone she lived with, especially him. The phone continued to ring.
It's not for me anyway, she told herself, and cursed herself because she knew she would answer it just the same. "All those late night, desperate phone calls," the stereo was skipping ... it sang urgently from next to the phone. She grabbed a towel and pressed it into her bleeding hand. She stumbled into the other room, weak with pain and the sight of blood, and picked up the phone. "Hello?"
A girl's voice: "Hello, is Seth there?"
"No, he's not. Can I take a message." She didn't even think about what she was saying anymore. This was routine.
"Yeah, can you tell him ..." She didn't listen, and hung up the phone after the routine completed itself. She wasn't part of it ... just a vehicle for the system. She leaned back in the chair, and feeling the blood soaking through the towel, closed her eyes. She could smell it, metallic and chemical, like oil. She felt faint and sick. But the knot that had sat in her stomach the whole year and grown in the last month seemed to be unraveling.


The Matchbook Language of Bars

During a drunken phone conversation in a noisy room, he said he wanted to meet her to talk about King David and Chinese radicals. "We'll get drinks, tomorrow. I'll come by at nine ..." Followed by the obligatory guilt-inducing complaints and hangups.
The next night she sat, still waiting at ten, sipping on a vodka tonic and an imported cigarette. Hu Shih had come with, to provide an extra barrier against the world. She believes that next to drinking and smoking, turn-of-the-century Chinese intelligentsia are the best form of protection against human contact. He was drinking a Blue China, of course. He was smoking English cigarettes, of course.
As an exhale of the finest British tobacco, Hu said, "You know we've got to change language, it's juvenile, it's not how we think. Language can be a tool, not a trap. We need to say what we think. No more messing around with subtlety, sub text, hidden meanings. I want language to be honest the way eyes are honest. Because there are enough barriers between people and people's ideas."
"I'm awfully tired of having these meaningful conversations in bars," she interrupted, "But you know, I've tried the brutal honesty thing, and I'd like to think I'm too nice to make it work. And I know we all want to say what we're thinking. And I know I'm tired of people who hide meanings in every sentence the way paper hides paper cuts, thinking I won't find them, or trying to provoke some reaction. But you are just as guilty as them, and me." She tried to stir her drink, but realized there was no straw. Instead, she lit another cigarette.
Hu adjusted his jacket, slightly flustered at the attack, and said "I've heard you say there is nothing better than drunken honesty. And I've seen you be your most honest when you are drunk, because you have lost fear. The problem with honesty is the consequences are not always good. Unfortunate consequences mean losing power over a situation ... this is what the Confucian scholars feared in my time. So honesty can mean bad consequences, and bad consequences make you humble. And there is nothing like being humbled to keep someone honest."
There was a moment of the jukebox overwhelming the conversation, during which she thought about what had been said.
After it died away, she said "I think that sounds kind of counter-revolutionary, a circular argument, Hu ... you sound quite Confucian. I have been humbled so many times ... and yet honesty still eludes me. I am getting better at it, but still. How many more times must I make these mistakes before honesty will stop hurting?" She realized she was being melodramatic. She was probably tired and a little drunk.
"When you learn to stop hiding your meanings like razor blades in apples. Because you know you do that too ... you believe you've got more control of your words that everyone around you. Honesty will make you humble."
"Why should I listen to you?" She said, sinking into the defense of brattishness. The defense she always used when she knew she was defeated.
Hu sighed. "Because I'm one hundred years older than you."
She straightened in her seat, resolute to try one last round. "But doesn't honesty take the art out of language?"
"There is an intrinsic beauty within language, one that is only magnified by honesty. Dishonesty is a travesty, a heretical warping of meaning and intention. There is an art within honesty. There is an art to honesty. Only through its misuse can language become ugly. As for you," Hu helped her put on her coat and said, "Keep changing and your language will keep changing. Don't hide under your language, don't use it as a wall against others. Language is a tool, not a trap. Make your words as honest as your eyes. Then you won't need me as protection. But for now, I will always be there to walk you home."