He lurched to his feet and threw up. All over his new leather boots. Not literally though. Nothing had escaped his mouth; no half-digested food particles had been brought up in the sour half-liquid-half-bile solution to mark the cool tiles of his friend’s bathroom floor. Or his new leather boots.
He sat back down toilet where his butt met concave air. The lid was put down, and then his butt, meeting blessed solidness in contrast to the painful twists in his empty stomach and the tumble of thoughts in his mind. He had once sat – as he was now sitting – on a stool in front of the laundry machines in the basement of his college dorm watching the therapeutic rounds his clothes were making when the machine started vibrating violently, which caused the clothes inside of its cloistered stomach to spin faster and faster until with an ultimate wheeze, it shuddered to a stop.
The memory took momentary precedence before being pushed to the side by a mahogany table located in the campus’ main library on which a thick sheaf of papers lay – his friend’s thesis, completed weeks before the deadline – before that memory was swept into a sea of smiling faces he had found during one of his rare Facebook forays – before the present sounds of the party taking place in the spacious rooms downstairs filtered through his mind and the vision of Alice and his best friend sharing a kiss threatened to swamp his mind and spill out through some orifice in his body.
But as his thoughts began to weigh heavily on his mind, another sensation began with insistence to clamor for his attention: his feet. Slowly, they were turning into wooden clubs in this unheated room. His hands had already found shelter under his arms, but he did not want to pull out his feet from his boots, boots which Alice had bought for him on their first anniversary together just a month before. He hated all things leather – they had a rubbery texture that did not suit his aesthetics – but from Alice, the leather boots were his most prized possession.
He at first had refused to wear them. They were kept on top of his dresser and kept free from all dust motes by frequent wipes – had a rather easy life until Alice suggested that he wear them to the party tonight.
He looked down and to his amazement, saw leather feet instead of shoes. How long had leather and feet been fusing into one entity? When had his life turned into one long offering for the girl he had once imagined would stand by his side for time eternal?
With a thrust, he pulled off the new leather boots and threw them into the corner, where they lay on their sides, their leather tops already sagging from the unaccustomed wear they had taken the day.
“I’m going to caper off into the mountains where no one can bother me. I’ll pick greens from my garden and wallow in solitude.”
Behind the welling silence, the TV that drones on without care.
“Don’t run away. Please.”
I glance sharply at him. “Why not? You’ll do fine without me! But me, I’ll die here beside you.”
Provocation does not work. It never has and it doesn’t disappoint today. His face pinches inward and the usual silence shrouds over him. He has used up his word limit for the day. I sigh and shove down the thoughts that arise from deep within… lonely … I long for … I stay for … I will stay for … too late for …… a conversation! … hurt….
My mind capers off and onward until I am upon death’s threshold, where I turn around and see him left behind. Before I can take another step, Death has also taken a look, rescinded her invitation, and sent me back home.
It is a known fact that our forefathers praised the quill as being mightier than the sword.
Nowadays, quills, if at use at all, have their origins from the ordinary pigeon and the porcupine. The colonists on the other hand snapped their feathers from the heads of bald eagles. They had noticed how effective these feathers were against the blade, against the reaches of death itself.
The Founders knew old Ben had floundered in his judgment when he suggested the turkey as the national bird – turkeys only fed the first pilgrims; they did not win wars. They had not sacrificed their plumage to states of baldness. How could Thanksgiving compare to Independence? Without the turkey, the country might not have started; but if the country had been lacking in its bald eagles, it would better not have started at all. Did not even the Teacher say that man does not live on bread alone, but on the Word? So let Ivan choose his bread. May we choose the Word.
Ms. Savage writes a sentence on the whiteboard and turns around to explain.
Her strawberry-blonde hair is pulled back into her usual pony tail. She stands at a compact five feet in height, and pulls off pencil skirts and stiletto heels with ease. She looks all around savage: a bulldozer blasting away all grammatical pitfalls and wolves in lambs’ skins. Her explanations are manicured, sandpapered raw, and sharpened on several whetstones before they are presented on the table. Staring back at 30 pairs of eyes — some drooping with boredom, some directed at windows or at each other, some glazed over like the skins of munchkins — she looks imperturbable.
You have remained in my mind for these past years. Here’s my homage to you.
The jangling of keys, hung from the janitor’s belt, echoed through the hall and entered classrooms. Stealing glances at the clock, the students wait for the bell’s final ring.
The keys jangled as they hit the blue ceramic bowl on the mantelpiece. Splash. Hole in one. Uno. The fireplace sputters to life.
The children wait, huddled together, as they hear the familiar jangle of keys and a lock turned aside. Their hollow eyes and hollow hearts beat in tandem with the discarded rooms in the apartment. The floors are strewn with bottles.
The key jangles in the confines of a glass bottle released into the sea. The current carries its load away from me and pushes it into the abyss, where its jangle is silenced at last.
Tether (n.): a teether that has lost one of its teeth.
I frown and type again.
Teether, (n.): one who has teeth, esp. infants or infantile cats.
I look down and see my cat curled up against my stool. A minute later, a disgruntled tabby goes streaking down the hallway, mouth sore from meddling human fingers.
So. Alice isn’t a tether – although he is infantile and seems to be teething all the time. Perching back on my stool, I don’t know if I’m relieved at my cat’s absence of conditions or disappointed at my possession of an ordinary cat. I try again.
Infant, (n.): one who is in the stage of development.
Might I say that I am an infant? Isn’t my desk at this very moment strewn with self-help tomes, covers plastered with smiling folks with the smug desire to help others pass from stages of infancy to success?
I had lost several teeth to cavities.
Well then: so I am tethers.
“I wish you had more pluck in yourself,” her friend texts.
She imagines herself as a plump chicken with feathers begging to be plucked. The other day, she had been gutting out her computer of unnecessary files and had come across a diary entry: “I have grown more plucky after my harrowing 10-minute presentation in class.” Dated seven years ago.
Had she not been accumulating more pluck since that budding repertoire? Or had this pluck been slipping out through some unmonitored leak while she had been sleeping?
Harrowing: maybe her life hasn’t been harrowing enough. Swapping horror happenings around the globe with her friends (…refugees denied havens, mothers fed their own children, children’s stomachs bloated with hunger…), she has questioned life that has yet to hoist hardships upon her. How was she supposed to prove her pluck if there had been no tests thrown her way?
“I like you as you are though,” another text chimes. “Pluck or no pluck.”
My boss suspects there is a nest of flies hidden in the door’s closer. That’s that metal box on top that automatically closes the door.
One day, I came in through said door with suspect closer and found a swarm flying upwards and away from me, with synchronized strokes. They’re probably attracted to the dried syrup drops, my boss said when he came in, that are not wiped away by my coworkers who close at night.
I guess it really is true that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
There is, however, a question that needs to be answered first: Why would anyone deliberately attract flies? (They are not a rarity after all: gossiping coworkers, persistent telemarketers, relatives whose judgments outweigh blood compassion, strangers who beat down my ideals.)
Or maybe the more important question is what happens as a consequence of holding out your honey for those fly-like neighbors. For when I see these flies’ love of honey — my honey — life opens up a pair of eyeglasses and points to the barest of interstices between “me” and “them.”
“Yes,” she says. “There are spaces, gaps, and differences — but they are miniscule.” After all, aren’t we all attracted to good, especially in the form of viscous sunshine? Aren’t we all gravitating towards a land flowing with milk and honey?