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Signup Date: 12/16/04
September 15, 2007 – Saturday
oops. so, you remember how i said tha i had no idea what i was in for at the bundestag. aparently i really had no idea, because i left. straight up left the building because i was sick and they had nothing for me to do there. of course i told them that i wouldn’t be returning and all of that,but what i didnt knwo is 1) how fun berlin is when you dont have to work, and 2) how much i would piss my family off for mot sticking to it at the bundestag. so here goes:
i left because there was nothing for me to do. absolutely nothing. i followed my boss around when he left his office,a nd when we were back in his office i read harry potter (german style!) in a corner of his office. okay…so i got sick the second day because i actually had a pretty bad flu that kept me in bed for three straight days the weeks before, so i went home early and decided i wasnt going back. i was in the way and they didnt need me there anyway. i called in the next morning and that was that. then i walked, and walked and walked and walked. all over berlin, for two whole days. it was great. i was supposed to pick up a bus on friday, so i spent wednesday and thursday wandering around berlin, seeing things, meeting people, drinking a glass of wine in a park near my apartment every night. fantastic.
then i got back home to hamburg and found out i was in trouble with my uncle who ahd landed me the job at the bundestag in the first place. aparently he had to go to a lot of trouble to get me my spot there and everyone was confused as to what had happened to me. so i talked to him today and explain ed the mess, but not before freaking out and crying a little becaue i was afraid i made my uncle look bad in front of these very importan people. oops. to say the least.
thanks god my uncle uve is one of the nicest guys out there. he heard me out and said he’d take care of everything, i didn’t need to worry about it. i feel like an idiot, but at least everything is alright.
and now im just going to chill here in hamburg for another week and then im heading to italy for good. so BWAHAHHAHAAHAH. i have no idea why that’s halerious, but it seemed appropriate. so there.
ciao suckers. loves from across the ocean.
September 10, 2007 – Monday
alright, for those of you who are comletely ignorant about the german government (don’t be ashamed), the Bundestag is a fantasically important and pretty building. It’s where everything gets debated by the representatives of the German senate-like counsil, and nothing can be passed without going through the Bundestag. And I’m working there. Cool huh? But let me relate a little further about my sitauation here…
It’s a rather interesting development. I had no idea what I was in for in Berlin. In fact, I still have very little clue. I’m sitting in my office with my coworkers and I’m doing absolutely nothing. But enough of that for now. I have, however, met my first installment of my little adventure. I’m borrowing an appartment from a nice couple who are friends with my uncle Uve. I swear that man knows EVERYONE. The couple doesn’t actually own the place, they are holding it for a friend of theirs, a guy who is away somewhere and hasn’t been there for 3 months. The couple picked me up from the bus station (I took a 3 hour bus ride from Hamburg to Berlin) and stopped by their house to pick up sheets and a blanket. And a lamp and a sponge (“Schwamm” I learned in the car) and some bathroom cleaning soup. Appariently the bathroom is a little dirty. Hell, I’ve slept a few nights in a bush, no problem. We get to a nice building in a nice neighborhood near the center of Berlin. Ernst, my driver/blanket/keys man tells me about how Berlin is this great party city, a theme I hear a lot about because of my age. Appariently people are partying here from the time they can pass as 16, though nobody cares, until they get married. I indeed, fit into this catagory. I tell Ernst I’d prefer to see the Tiergarten, a big park in the middle of the city.
My apartment is at the very top and Ernst insists on carrying my one heavy bag the entire way. (There are no elevators in any apartment buildings in Europe it would seem. This is of course coming from someone who has only been in 3 apartment buildings so far – but they were of various income levels so…)
Anyway, my apartment is small, as I expected, a little shabbier than I expected, but I’m not picky, so I’m happy. Ernst turns on my fridge and shows me how to work the stove. Oh, the fridge is as tall as the oven. The bedroom is nice, with a good sized window, a bed, a desk, and a set of shelves. The bathroom is indeed the “scary part”. The tub/shower isn’t the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen, definately could use some elbow grease, but it’s not vomit worthy either. The inside of the toilet is a little scary, but it doesn’t smell and it’s the inside, so what do I care, I don’t actually live here.
So I make myself a quick bite to eat and as the lights outside grow dimmer I discover that there are no working lights in the kitchen and bathroom, just in the bedroom. At least in the bedroom. First thing to make house? Set up the Beatles on my laptop and groove while I pull everything out of my suticase and make my bed. I decided to wait until tomorrow to clean the bathroom.
Then I started laying on the floor of the bedroom, wrote a bit, and looked at my directions for getting to where I’m suppoded to work. I actually have no idea where thsi office is, nnor what it is called. All I thought I knew was that it has something to do with the Bundestag, so head there.
So I did. Next morning I get dressed and clean and presentable as I can in the dark. I eat my breakfast (choco Müseli) and with the directions double and triple checked to be in my bag, I head out the door. I have to wear my sister’s jacket, and inside a pocket I founf 20 euro. thanks deanna! (she left her jacket in germany by accident).
Outside it’s raining of course, and I walk to the subway station near my apartment building and buy myself a ticket that will last 7 days and allows me to ride buses and trains within the center districts of Berlin as much as I please. It cost 25 euro, which is around 30 dollars, but it will help me out a lot, so i take it. then i get on train and listen for my stop. By the way, it’s 7 in the morning and my appointment with my boss is at 10am. I want to make sure i get there on time, and with my sense of direction…
Off the train and onto a bus, which Im not at this time sure takes the same ticket as the train, but it does and I’m good. Get off that bus and wait about 15 minutes for my last bus to come (getting around berlin gets a little complicated) and this takes me near the bundestag. so i take a lttle walk. i took about an hour to get there, so im 2 hours early and i have no idea where the office is. good. I decide to head into the bundestag to see if i can use a phone.
the bundestag doesnt open for a couple minutes and so i wait with a tourist group from england who are surprized when i ask them about their trip in english. aparently i pass well as a german. they head in and we go through security, but no one can seem to point me in the direction of a telephone, so i head upstairs where the famous dome is, with thte rest of the tourists, and see if i can find one there. there isnt, but there is a great view of the city, so i walk around the dom a bit and then head back down. the guy in the elevator tells me there is a information booth across the street, and maybe they have a telephone i can use.
i cross the street, avoiding the tourist buses, and the lady inside tells me i can find a telephone at the end of the street. okay, so, to the end of the street. i finally get to the phone, dial the number, and no one is in the office. of course. it’s only 8:30 in the morning. so i go back to the information both and sit down at the neighboring cafe to drink a espresso macchiato. mmm…
back at the telephone both i call again and jürgen schatz, who i’ve spoke with on the phone before, answers and gives me directions (in german of course! all of this is in german!) and tentatively i find my way to the building. I go through some more clearance, and jürgen comes downt o find me. yeah!
now i’m in the office, and I filled out a pice of paperwork that will get a special entrance pass, so that i dont have to be escourted by him around the place. i have to find the building that gives me that special pass though, so im waiting until the other “trainies” arrive. I think one is being brought up now. anyway, another coworker who showed a little after I did is Mira, she’s very nice and showed me where to pick up the post. and johannes kahr, my official boss came in soon after her, and he was sweating from some sort of hurry and didn’t pay me much attention. shook my hand, asked me how long I’d be hanging out with them, and then went into his rather nice office. and now I’m writing emails. I wonder if i’m getting paid for this?
September 2, 2007 – Sunday
alright, so i just got back from my little visit to italy with my sister. for all of those of you who are really confused about what im actually doing over here right now, here’s the layout:
1-plane to hamburg (stop in amsterdam, and no, i didnt get to smoke up)
2-chill in hamburg for a little to hang with the the fam at my aunt dolly’s house with her husband manoj, and son anil, plus my sister and my oma
3-tour germany and austria with the fam. my oma really wanted to show me wien and graz (where she grew up) and then munich
4-from munich deanna and i flew off to italy together. landed in milan took a train to florence (on the way we met frederico, an italian guy who doesnt speak english)
5-train from florence to perugia, where deanna and i spent 3 days checking out my new home and trying to find a place for me to live
6-full day of traveling: from perugia-bus-train-train-train-bus-plane to hamburg
7-few more days in hamburg until my sister and oma return to the us, leaving me here, yes, to myself, at my aunt’s
8-i go alone to berlin, to work around two weeks in the german government, and yes live with some random government fellow who i have yet to meet
9-return to hamburg, where i will gather al of my things and my uncle uve will drive me, yes, for some reason they want to drive me, to perugia with all of my shizznat
10-move in and start school finally
right now im at number 7. i returned last night from the full day of traveling, and listening to my sister whisper-sing whatever music she listens to from her ipod. not too bad. we didnt have to wait anywhere terrible. it was pretty chill.
but let me update the things that have happened before then…
1) plane was f*@ing long (<- why is it highlighted, i dont understand technology). anyway, deanna took a halerious series of pictures, from the begining of our journey to the end. as expected, we gradually become more and more scary looking. we might have exaggerated how we REALLY looked in the pictures though. and yes, ill try to snag those pics from my sister to put them up as well. one more thing, the plane food was surprisingly satisfying.
2) deanna wanted to go shopping. so yeah, i spent a LOT of time in hamburg shopping with my sister. we bonded, fo sho. we also met manoj’s coworker, who was actually the one who hooked me up with a job, and he looks, i wouldnt say disturbingly similar, but yes, similar o john lennon. deanna thinks im in love with him. alright, he has a cute butt. get over it. other than that, uve, my uncle, and tore, my unlce who’s 25 (and inadvertantly hit on us when he first saw us, much to his embarassment-ewwwww) took deanna and i to the reeperbahn, the red light district in hamburg, where ther is only place for drinking, dancing, and hookering. there was a street that deanna and i were warned for staying away from, because the hookers will apparently throw their own urine on you if you entire and you are a woman. nice. (i snuck a peek though, to a disgruntled hooker’s displeasure). seriously, it’s a street where naked women are posing in front of red tinted windows that they can open to make the deal. ewwww. it was fun though. my uncle got me a drunk that was on fire and it was actually quite tasty. sweet, and warm. went down really easy. so that’s hamburg.
3)ugh. i was stuck in a car or on a really tiny train or in a rom with my sister, my 3 year cousin, my aunt, and my oma. i got a little claustrophobic after a while. still, i got to see where my oma grew up, very weird experience and meet my oma’s cousin hansi and her husband peter in trofaiah, a really small town near graz. they were rally nice, and everything hansi made was unique and artistic, especially the sandwiches and food she made for us. very sweet woman. we spent a few days chilling in trofaiah and from there taking trips to graz and the surounding areas. got to go up and mountain and go on this funky tour inside a really really cold mountain.
4)plane was chill, and the train wasnt hard. in fact, met a guy named frederico on the train to florence from milan, and we ended up hanging out together in florence, where he bought both deanna and i dinner and then, when deanna went to bed, we smoked up together, my first time in italy…. took pictures early the next day of neptune’s fountain and naked david, conveniently located right next to each other.
5)then the train the next day to perugia, wasnt bad. had a little adventure trying to find our hotel though. carrying everything on our back, deanna and i buy a map and discover that the hotel booked for us is actually as far on the edge of the map as it can get on some random little road that doesnt list it’s whole name. 2 hours of hiking up and down perugia’s hills, we were lost. deanna was drowning in her own sweat, and i was pissed to say the least. or at least hot. i just wanted to find this place, but it was ridiculous. then some 40-something italian guy pulls over and looks at our map. he offeres us a rie when he explains that it’s another 20minutes away by CAR and there is no bus to it. alright, ill risk my life to get to my hotel. so deanna and i pile in and we do indeed get to our hotel alive, the only awkward part is when i have to try to explain to our driver in broken italian that we aren’t interested to going out with his 40-something year old self this evening. we check in and our brains check out.
the next three days are great. we figure out how to find a bus somewhat close to our hotel that will take us downtown. once there we make friends with the two workers at this cafe that we visit everyday. deanna wants to shop some more, but i need to find a place to live, so i search desperately through italian classifieds. i also buy a phone. then, when we walk down a steep road to my university, we run into a very skinny girl who looks a little older than me putting up a page with her number on the outer wall of the unviersity. i chat it up with her, she speaks english really well, and we go immediately to her place, literally 2minntes walk from my university. it’s a cute house that is right in the middle of this random garden int he middle of perugia. around us are apartment buildings, but we enter through a gate and there it is. im in love. i meet her roommate molly. the house has a kitchen, 2 bathrooms, and four bathrooms. not to mention a washing maschine, and internet access. not to mention, she owns two guitars and wants to play with me. not to mention the view is amazing. not to mention i have a terrace that looks over the perugian city/countryside. not to mention she wants me to teach erh yoga. not to mention they both smoke like chimneys. and, she offers me one of the open rooms after we hang out for a bit. we exchange numbers. i put down a down payment. im feeling sky high. these girls are awesome. really sweet, really down to earth, funny as hell. neither are students, they actually both work int he same law office, and they are desperate for roommates because the two they had decided they wanted to disappear all of a sudden. they are relieved to meet me believe it or not, because aparently everyone else they have met have been really not cool. an rude, uptight german guy, and girl who cant speak english or italian. only japanese, and an italian guy who wont answer his phone. that, and a bunch of others who had to “think about it”. the rent for this HOUSE is only 300 euro a month, whereas, ive looked at holes in the wall “apartments” with nothing going for them for 500 euro a month. fuck that. im hooked. we hung out for a good long time the day before yesturday, just laughing about crazy people and in general getting to know each other. then, deanna and i went to grab a sandwich at the same cafe and i bumped into the most beautiful black man i have ever seen. he said he’d see me when i come back from germany. eheheheh and our waiter, nerti, from albania, hung out with us a bit and talked politics.
6) then the full day of traveling (<-what the hell???i dont ever care anymore) and now
7) im back in dolly’s house in hamburg writing emails and studying italian.
one more awesome thing. i read the first harry potter in german, and it wasnt hard at all. i only looked up stuff for the first chapter, but it was distracting, and as i went long i figured out the vocabulary i didnt know before from the contexts of the situations, and by the end of it, i was reading it like english. today’s sunday, so no stores are open, but im going to go tomorrow to a book store to get the second. i bought the thrid harry pooter in italian in perugia, but i cant read it yet. i dont know enough vocabulary yet to even get the contexts. but let it be known, that im becoming fluent because of harry potter. there you go.
ciao peeps. i love you. im also updating my pics, so check those out.
August 14, 2007 – Tuesday
ciao! tschuss! im gone! today im heading out, and for starters i want to thank seliber, chris, brett, alex, dj, andrew cheung, stefani and ben for showing me an awesome time last night and suffering through rush hour 3. you all are troopers! just to let you guys know, i got teary-eyed the minute i walked out the door because im really going to mis you guys a lot, my crew.
alright, enough of that sincere sorority girl high school yearbook bullshit. peace out suckers. loves, amanda
December 11, 2006 – Monday
Baby Brother (short story, Dec. 2006)
Edgar told himself to breathe. It was hard. His chest kept pulling tight on the breaths he was trying to make bigger. He couldn’t fill his chest up the way he wanted to. Instead his head felt too heavy, and his neck felt smooched. It sent nauseating waves all the way from the top of his head, through his eyes, and into the tips of his fingers. The energy of it shook his fingertips as he pushed his silver key into the slot above the doorknob.
Edgar stepped stiffly into the studio apartment over the hiking boots and sneakers in the entryway. Kyle was sitting on one side of the room on his bed and the setting sun shone threw in horizontal lines across Edgar’s own mattress that rested across from him. Edgar went to it and sat down with a heavy sigh into a sunken spot, and it too sighed under his gangly weight.
“What’s up?” said Kyle, looking up from his textbook. He was both protective and authoritative towards Edgar, even though he was eight years younger. In all other things besides financial, he provided for Edgar persistent counsel. In return, there was a constant quiet respect that Edgar paid his younger brother in his allowance of Kyle’s worldly lifestyle. It was because of Edgar that Kyle needn’t suffer from rent dues, work responsibilities, and grocery shopping. But Edgar also always questioned Kyle about his daily offenses and when he was silent it made Kyle immediately perk up and set aside his calculus homework. “What’s your problem?”
Edgar’s face turned upwards and his eyes lit up, dark pupils against bright whites. His mouth was drawn tight and creased at the edges, and for a second Edgar thought he was going to say something, but he felt the tightness of his brow ease and he swallowed a large, slippery gulp of the aching, burning rage that pulsated in his forehead, chest, and throat. His fists peeled open and revealed the crescent moon dimples in his palms where his fingernails had dug too deep. His throat was choking on the bile and the question, where was his soul, but instead he asked, “Did you know her name?”
Kyle raised his eyebrows and leaned back. His brow furrowed and he frowned. He stared at his brother for a moment and leaned forward. “Do I know whose name, exactly?” Kyle’s eye twitched in the corner.
Edgar’s brow was webbed with deep, troubled lines and his hands stretched like starfish over his knees. He blinked slowly, deliberately, and he watched Kyle’s face shift awkwardly through familiar expressions. Then Edgar used the same voice he had used when he and Kyle had played hide-and-go-seek, the coaxing voice to lure Kyle out of his hiding spot. “The girl you raped, Kyle. Did you know her name?”
There were scrapings of the metal chair legs against the wooden floor and the soft whooshing sound of the gathering of pencils and papers. Edgar curled up as if his chair was his shell and his arms wrapped around his knees that were drawn up to his chest. Over his arms he watched Maya scoot back her chair and reach for her backpack. Her thin arms reached down and he stared as if obliging her, silently appreciating the aesthetic gracefulness. She reminded Edgar of a dancer who, although doing regular things, still looked as though onstage. She stood up and her purple backpack swung in an arch and her other thin arm went through the strap. She tapped Sandra’s desk with a pointed index finder in passing and Ms. Sandra nodded at her leaving.
Ms. Sandra, a pale and robust, wheezing, older woman and his third grade teacher flopped a heavy forearm onto her cheap metal desk so that the sound of her palm slapping the cold surface was almost a ‘splat’. Her blue eyes matched the blue discoloration of the thin, hanging skin beneath them, and they smiled at him, bringing him to release his knees. Edgar felt the skin prickle up the back of his neck. He rubbed the hairs down with his palm, but kept in his seat. He put his head down, knowing he should be leaving, but the heavy feeling pressed harder and harder onto his shoulders, and Edgar wasn’t sure if was going to be able to get up again.
“Why don’t you move your chair up here, Edgar?” Sandra indicated the space next to her desk with a nod of her head. She coughed deeply in her throat, bringing her thick hand up to cover her mouth.
Edgar swung his legs out and he picked up his chair, and wobbled under the weight of it to the front of the room. He put his chair down and again sat, but looked down at his fingers. Sandra knew Edgar was smart and she observed him, sensing his quiet, fragile sense of dignity. She waited to see if he would speak first by clucking her tongue softly, a habit she had picked up over the years from her starch peers, and she thumbed through the pages of her lesson plan. When he didn’t speak or move, she said, “So, Edgar, what seems to be the problem?”
Edgar crossed his feet underneath the chair and slouched over, slightly hunchbacked. He was thin and bony and had large front teeth and purple bruises on his arms. He felt a deep red warm up his high cheek bones and he pulled his forearms in through the sleeves of his shirt into the body cavity. Inside he wrapped his arms around his bony torso and breathed slow, tired breaths.
Sandra put a hand underneath her double chin and smoothed the lines between her eyes with a thumb. She decided on, “How’s your brother coming along, Edgar? I hear he’s about a yard long now.”
Edgar shook his head and looked up seriously. “No, he can’t be.” His husky voice sounded like it was crawling out of a bucket of sand. He pulled his arms out of his sleeves and held them two feet apart. “He can’t be more than this,” he explained, “Or else my mom would be huge!” He stretched his arms as far as they would go.
They revealed cuts in his upper inner arms, lacerations that were surrounded by dark stains in his copper skin.
Kyle smiled without showing his teeth. He leaned back into the bean bag and muttered, “Hum.”
“Huh? What’s huh?” Edgar stared with open, unblinking eyes that betrayed his earnestness. They pleaded with gentle, watery intent, eyebrows pulled way back.
“Hum is where the hell are you getting the crazy idea that I’d rape some chick?” Kyle ventured. His smile had vanished and he leaned forward, glaring back into Edgar’s eyes.
Edgar hesitated. He had expected a full explanation, perhaps naively expected the same sort of bored explanation that he always received from his younger brother. He waited, feeling the hot pressure of Kyle’s stare press into his own eye sockets. He managed, “A girl named Victoria found me today. She went out asking especially for me.” His voice grew quiet. “She said you drugged and raped her.”
Kyle laughed deep in his throat. “Icky Vicky, huh? Jeez, Edgar. You had me going there.” He picked up his calculus book and flicked with his thumb to find his page, shook his head side to side with his smile still confident on his face. “A thing you have to know about chicks is that they don’t know what they want.” Kyle winked his eye. “You have to show it to them. Trust me. In any case,” He cocked his eyebrows up and one side of his mouth rose into a grin. “I think we both know hard A is hardly a drug.”
Edgar brought his arms down and looked away. He pinched his wrists with his fingernails. Out of the corner of his eye he watched as Sandra’s expression didn’t change. Instead she opened one of the doors of her desk and rustled through a collection of books stacked inside. She brought out a small paperback. “Here,” she said. “Try your hand at this.”
Edgar released his arms and took the book, turned it over, and read the cover. “Hamlet, very interesting…” Edgar said, copying a deep impressive voice.
“Yes,” Sandra choked. She sputtered and wheezed in breath like it was thick and painful, like she was breathing boiled water. She clutched her chest. “Whew!” She howled at last when it was over.
Edgar touched his own chest with small fingers. “Got a cold, Ms. Sandra?”
Sandra smiled. “A little more than that.” She waved a hand at him. “Forget it. What do you say? You like hanging out here so much with a wispy old hag?”
Edgar frowned, closed the small book, and placed it lightly on Sandra’s metal desk. “First of all, you’re not a wispy old hag, you’re just old.” He said very seriously, the frown still in his face. He fumbled with his fingers and inadvertently felt the scratches in his arms. “Second of all…” He picked at a scab to distract from the hard feeling in his chest. His skin reminded him of sand, and how sand was all stretched and washed out on a cold beach.
Sandra waited, watching him pick at the thin scabs on his wrists that were nothing compared to the wounds under his arms. She wanted to ask who had hurt him, which kid, so she could actually do something to help. She at least had authority over her third graders. But she was silent, waiting like she did when she asked a student to read for her, waiting for them to figure it out. Children were impressionable, often out of laziness, and would take any answer given to them when they could. She didn’t want to put any names into Edgar’s mouth for him.
Edgar started crying, started with shaking little sighs that broke the barrier and small, steady tears rolled down to the corners of his mouth. He whispered, “You love me, huh?”
Many answers came to the tip of Sandra’s tongue at once. The consequences of saying yes, his devotion, his dependency, his emotional health were immediately delivered to her as something she could proceed with or deny. The consequences of saying no, however, because of his obviously low sense of self-esteem, haunted her even more. It took perhaps two seconds to say, “How’d you know?” She petted his head. He was sweating.
“I don’t want to go home. My mom’s all full up with my brother and they don’t talk to me anymore. They just go to bed. Dad and her used to fight to read me stories…” Edgar squeezed the upper insides of his arms and winced. But he felt relieved, felt his shoulders fall a little, give a little slack. It was like he wasn’t wound up as tight, wasn’t busting at the seams. He felt Sandra wrap her floppy arms around his shoulders and he rested on the fleshy part above her collarbone.
Kyle turned away from Edgar, meaning that the conversation was over, meaning Edgar wouldn’t say anything about it anymore. If Edgar had felt the same as he had his entire life, he would have done just that. He would have shut up. He would have put it down in his mind as the disorientation of spirits in other lives. Kyle couldn’t be exactly what Edgar wanted him to be.
But Edgar was tired, more tired than he had ever felt. He watched Kyle turn away and felt his fists close up again. He stood up and went over to Kyle, took up the calculus textbook from his lap, and threw it across them room. It slammed into the wall next to the bathroom door and left a small indent.
“What, Edgar?” Kyle’s face contorted, revealing conflicting narrowed eyes and a wide awkward mouth. He stood and pushed Edgar on his shoulders, shoving him backwards a few feet. There was no doubt who was the stronger of the two. Kyle was lean but with broad shoulders and a stocky stature, more like their father. Edgar was tall and gangly, never having really appreciated sports or his own body.
“You’re not supposed to be this way,” Edgar said, and he started to cry. He started to shake and the barrier let loose in him until streams cascaded down his face. Edgar mourned the loss, and felt cold waves trickle through his insides into the hard, empty spot near his heart, where he felt the burn cold in his soul. Edgar put his hands there, and remembered her face in his mind, remembered how she had touched the wounds on his arms, dressed them, and never reprimanded. She had told him that she would never let anything like it ever happen again, but now she was really gone.
His eyes were red where the whites had always been, and Kyle’s eyes opened wide defensively, like Edgar resembled a demon, with glowing red eyes and stringy limbs that ended in curled fists. Shaking, he pulled back his right shoulder and punched Edgar’s weeping face.
Edgar finally walked through his front door as his mother was calling up the stairs for him for dinner. It was just the same, whether he was there or not, but Edgar at least didn’t feel the same. He didn’t take his knife with him after dinner. Instead he carefully pealed off the bandages Sandra had put on his arms and cleaned himself in the shower, like normal people did. He didn’t cry out, but hummed along to the Jeopardy tune he heard coming from the living room TV. He tucked himself in and slept.
Edgar was on the playground of his school before the sun had risen the next morning. He trudged faithfully through the parking lot to the entrance and frowned when the metal doors wouldn’t open, no matter how hard he pulled. He heard the sounds of a car pulling up and spun around, narrowing his eyes when the car’s lights flashed over him. They went out.
Edgar didn’t know the teacher and didn’t say anything when the broad, Native American man opened the doors for him. The doors closed swallowing a whoosh of air back out as they thudded heavily on the metal frames. The main hallway of the school seemed more enclosed in the dark. Edgar put a hand on the wall and followed it to the opening of his classroom. Only half the lights, the ones near the front of the classroom were on. Sandra was at her desk, flipping through her lesson plan. He stood in the doorway and waited, watched her throw a curtain of sandy blond hair behind her round shoulder. She coughed and drew her head down, drew in a shuddering breath. Edgar cleared his throat and Sandra’s eyes found his.
She blinked at him and sighed deeply. Edgar blinked back and itched a scab on his elbow. Sandra closed her eyes. She opened them again slowly and said, “Come here, Edgar.”
Edgar felt cold. He went to her desk and sat down. His chair was still beside it.
“You can’t be here, Edgar,” Sandra’s face was calm, her voice soft. She held Edgar’s bony hand in her own fleshy one.
“Why?” Edgar said. His brows furrowed together, cleaving old lines in his young face.
“Because, it can’t always be me, Edgar…” Sandra touched his temple and ran her thumb across his forehead, smoothing out the lines.
Edgar stared into Sandra’s face and watched her eyes drift towards the doorway. She leaned back, away from him, and he turned around.
“Thank God!” It was his father, heavy-shouldered, charging through the doorway of the classroom. Edgar felt his heavy hand squeeze his shoulder. He felt himself lifted up and turned around. “Excuse me,” his father nodded at Sandra. His breath blew hot down Edgar’s neck. “I’ve been looking all over for you. The baby’s coming, so we’re going to the hospital.”
Edgar turned around and Sandra nodded towards the door. Edgar felt like he was deep inside his body, or as if this body was bigger than he had ever felt it to be, so that he felt it surround him and his soul was small and shrunk inside so that he could see his body around him. Sandra said she couldn’t be with him.
This single thought occupied his mind in the waiting room. He was alone, and he felt waves of hot and cold pulsate in a spiral around him. Hot when he was angry and he dug his fingernails into his palms. Cold when he realized the hurt under his arms and the ache that pushed in the sides of his head. Then a nurse in a flowery scrub distracted him, held his hand, and led him into his mother’s room.
His father picked him up onto his hip, like Edgar never thought he would again, so he could see over the bed to his mother and the baby. He could only see the face, which was light brown and pudgy. It reminded him of Sandra.
“This is Kyle,” his father whispered into his neck. “Aren’t you glad you’re a big brother?”
Edgar felt relieved. He reached his arm slowly out and brushed the tip of Kyle’s soft nose with his pointer finger. Kyle twitched his head to the side. The baby attracted him, and of what Edgar could see, it was pudgy like Sandra, and Edgar decided this was what she had meant. Edgar smiled, and he felt the inclination to coo at the baby, to make soft, encouraging noises at it, so Kyle would know who he was, and so Sandra would recognize him.
Edgar dropped to the floor and tasted the blood in his mouth and swallowed it. He couldn’t move his jaw and it felt like someone was jabbing a razor into the left side of his face. His eyes blurred and became focused intermittently and he gently shook this off, watching his hands until they came into focus. He looked up at Kyle and waited a moment to focus there too. Kyle’s hands covered his face.
“Get out.” Edgar whispered. It was surprising, that the thought of the statement was easier than the actual physical statement of the words.
Kyle’s hands fell from his face. His eyes were wide and his mouth was partially open. “What?” he said, unmoving.
“Get out.” Edgar said again. His mouth was bleeding and pulsated fire.
“What? Where am I supposed to go?” Kyle paced a few feet and back, avoiding eye contact with his brother. His hands went to cover his face, but he threw them down, and then covered his face again.
“Who do you think you are?” Edgar said, knowing the full gravity of the statement wouldn’t register. “Get out.”
Kyle stopped pacing and stared down at Edgar with his wide eyes. He hesitated, and then grabbed a jacket from his bed, went to the door, and slammed it behind him.
Edgar let himself fully rest on the carpet and felt the blood ooze between his teeth and out of his lips onto the floor. He spit into the blossoming smudge beside his head. He closed his eyes and his head felt cold, and he laid there until the tears slowly crept up on him again. Of course, Kyle would return, probably smelling like the inside of an alcoholic’s mouth, and like any responsible brother, Edgar would open the door. Edgar would let Kyle back into his own meaningless space, with a spot stained purple-red on the carpet of their one shared room. It was the last remnant of the floppy, pale spirit between them.
November 6, 2006 – Monday
The Model (short story, Nov.2006)
I slouched unsmiling in my plush green rocking chair swaying back and forth with a manuscript of 123 pages lying open on my lap. My eyes weaved back and forth across the page and my mind absorbed the words, translating the language into images in my mind. I tasted their cohesion, their flow, with my tongue slightly out, and made a little red, what I liked to call “tick” mark on the corner of those pages that lacked sufficient eloquence, or rather, made some part of me pull taut and even twanged some horrible note that meant it didn’t fit. It was my second full manuscript of the day, a task unmatched by most of my peers. I was a machine. I had thirty more pages to go and then a thorough reflection to write, though I could somewhat tell it was getting towards closing time. The interns were darting around like startled ants finishing and transporting grammatical proofreads and unfinished manuscripts. I felt their adrenaline radiating from their alert and tired bodies, and there was a subtle, hot, sticky smell from their sweat that swamped the office common room. I turned them away from my mind, coming back into complete focus.
My fingers manipulated the keyboard like crafty spider legs. It was all so routine. I was disappointed with my routine manuscript, a lack-luster romantic-comedy plotline dedicated to the twenty-something dateless readers our company tended to cater to. I slouched, rejected, as I wrote out the clone review I did for these sorts of stories. It had become so mechanic it felt like filling out a job application, back when I had been doing that. My mind drifted elsewhere, towards feelings that left me hollow in my chest, like my insides had been poured out through my mouth, and my eyes throbbed painfully before I realized I was crying. I sat there thinking about how I had changed since David, and then, how I perhaps had changed since the interlude with Malcolm. How I had opened up to something so completely different because I was tired, and felt old. I shuddered, feeling the tenseness in my neck. I had sometime stopped writing the report and sat swaying slightly back and forth staring at my blinking computer screen.
“Mrs. Parker, it’s eleven o’clock.”
I blinked. My eyes felt stale, like a wet rag left out over night. It was Jesse, one of the smaller, diminutive interns. He appeared slightly hunched in over himself, tall and gangly and his arms hung weakly out of his half-length sleeves like misshapen spaghetti noodles. In one of his hands he held a nine by twelve tan envelope.
I said nothing for a long time, feeling the redness in my eyes and I hardened in my chest at this betrayal. Jesse’s eyes avoided my face and I silently accepted his courtesy. “Mrs. Parker, this is for you.” He held out the envelope.
I took it and tore open the top. Before diving in, I held back, feeling the twang without even reading yet. Then I realized it, the envelope was completely blank. I flipped the package over and found the back similarly unmarked, an amateur manuscript in my hands. Strange. In the editing business it was extremely unlikely for an experienced client to send anything without distinguishing characteristics, a name, a number, a coversheet glued to the front detailing the contents, because it was more unlikely that an editor would subconsciously commit it to memory and thus it was more unlikely to be published. I wrinkled my nose. What was I doing with this?
“Who assigned me this manuscript?” I said, turning to Jesse. His pale cheeks flushed a soft pink and he quickly shrugged his shoulders.
I turned back to the envelope and turned it upside down, carefully sliding its contents onto my desktop. But instead of a manuscript, there were pictures. The second after it took my mind to register this bizarre exchange, I realized the picture on top was of me. I half-swallowed, the spit caught painfully midway down my throat. I shot up out from my chair, knocking it backwards so that it swayed violently and beat against the backs of my legs. My heart beat rapidly against my sternum and my eyes felt like they were swelling.
From the dimensions, the picture looked like it had been taken by a regular disposable camera, though the picture was in black and white. Could disposable cameras do that? In it I was lying in my bed in some awkward sleeping position that, from the angle of the camera, made it look like my neck and limbs were twisted grotesquely. My lips were calm, but there was a slight crease in my forehead, that now knitted tightly in my real brow.
I turned to where Jesse had been standing, but he had gone. I picked up the first image and threw it aside like it was red hot. I avoided looking at it. The second was of me walking across an empty street, my head bowed down from the rain and my body consumed by my long raincoat. There was a framing to the shot, like it had been taken through a window. I looked small.
There was a third, of my townhouse. This one looked up the front of my house from where my front stoop would be. From this angle a glimpse of my naked upper body could be seen through a gap in my sheer curtains.
My chest heaved up and down and my breath felt sharp and cold, like I was swallowing shards of ice. The pulsating pumped around my hairline, expanding outwards into the space around me and contracting until it felt like a tight knot in the very center of my head. My eyes blurred slightly, a foggy curtain drifted over my iris.
I gathered the images and put them back into the envelope and stepped away from them. My mind raced but nothing cohesive came. Things inside spun in my internal typhoon that also began to make me feel dizzy, lightheaded. My throat felt enclosed like something was wrapping tight around it, and I finally gasped in breath. Aislin.
I picked up my leather bag from the ground and threw it on my desk. I pitched my wallet, my keys, and my phone inside. I didn’t bother to turn off my computer or my screen, though I did hesitate at the envelope. I held my breath and then let go, shoving it hastily inside as well.
Aislin. The shining black street in front of my townhouse attempted to reflect the streetlamp light with warped dimensions. The other buildings squeezed in around me and even my own home towered over me menacingly, like overhanging branches in a half-dead forest. I shivered violently and fumbled with my kids.
My house was unearthly quiet, like it hadn’t been for a long time, and a pulsing flash of cold crept up from my lower abdomen at the thought of Aislin not being there, leaving the house vacant like a new tomb. I locked the door behind me and grasped the wooden railing of the narrow staircase and waited at the bottom, listening like a burglar for signs of life in my own home. The silence descended down the stairs with the darkness, pressing down on me and trickling down my insides like freezing rain.
Small, cold fingers curled around my open hand and I gasped, ripping my hand away. Aislin, narrowed hazel eyes and immobile pink lips, flipped on the light of the stairway and stared at me. She was quiet, and the hand that had reached for mine hung limp in the space between us like the wrist was broken.
I grabbed her hand back and held it to my lips, kissing the little fingers. It drew her closer to me and she pulled weakly for her hand back. “What are you doing?”
I didn’t let her go, but grabbed her wrist and pulled her toward the front window. “Did you lock the back door when you came home from school?” I searched the dark space in front of our lot.
“You’re late, again.” Her voice was earthy and slightly bitter, like red wine.
I tuned back to her and stared hard into her face so that her eyes blinked and avoided the full affront. She turned her focus away from my face and to my hand that grasped her hard around the wrist. I let go. “Did you lock the back door?”
“I came through the front. What the heck is wrong with you?” She rubbed at her wrist and sat down at the foot of the stairway. I exhaled deeply as I took a seat next to her. She scooted an inch away.
“It’s Malcolm. He’s been watching me.”
Aislin flinched. “What?” She stared back up at my face, her eyebrows came close together and she frowned, a look that said she was angry that I was crazy without having to say it.
I hid my face in my hands and shivered, began to convulse slightly. I rubbed the parts of my body that felt cold and exposed, the back of my neck, the backs of my arms, my inner thighs. “He sent me pictures, Aislin. He’s been watching me at work, in my sleep…”
Aislin’s frown deepened. “What did they look like?”
“Ugly,” I responded immediately, and then reflected on the statement. They weren’t anything, they were just pictures, but they were ugly, like the photos themselves had betrayed me, catching me unawares and vulnerable.
Malcolm. It wasn’t the first time he had done that. Malcolm, with his large hands and five o’clock shadow who for some reason captivated my disoriented attention for a short while. I remembered the feeling of his rough hands against my skin, callused and strange, and I shivered again, and a soft upwards thrust clenched my throat. I swallowed. My face grew hot and I shook hard then, my shoulders shuddering up and down. My fingers hook and my stomach clenched. My legs curled up to my chest and my toes curled up in my boots as my body shook without command and I silently wept. Tears so hot I thought they would rise, steaming, leaked down my numb cheeks.
Except for my sobs, there was silence. I couldn’t open my eyes to see her, so I couldn’t read Aislin’s face. I was scared to, hesitant, afraid I would catch some glare of blame. I told you so. At thirteen she wouldn’t understand that no one told me so, that no, I didn’t know better. Or maybe I wouldn’t be able to read her at all. She would look at me and her face would be strange to me, unrecognizable, because I had slowly been emptying out everything I had ever known all this time. Maybe I had rung myself out of her. Malcolm had filled me up with nothing but air, and now I drifted, hollow like a drum. Where was my girl in that? I had forgotten her.
“We’re leaving.” I said, forcibly pulling myself back inside my body. “Go get some clothes for tomorrow.”
“Mom, you’ve got to be kidding. Where the hell are we going to go?” I could see Aislin’s face now. She wasn’t glaring but her eyes were wide in her face, her mouth slightly open, like she was trying to suck up all the stuff that didn’t make sense. “Mom, where are we going to go?”
“We’re going to Dad’s new place, said unflinchingly, though a hard part in my chest recoiled in on itself, tying all the tissue and tendons of my chest into a knot.
“Who the hell do you think you are, Mom?” Aislin stood up her skin blotched red at her temples. She clenched her fists and tears began in her eyes. “You think everything’s about you, don’t you? You are such an idiot!”
“idiot or not, I’m your mother, in case you forgot, and I’m telling you to get some clothes and get your butt back down here so we can leave.” I stood up and my legs felt like gelatin. I pointed up the stairs, “Go. Now.”
She glared at me for one more moment before turning away and charging up the stairs. When she was out of sight I grasped quickly for the railing and braced myself while my legs wobbled. My head was swirling, but I no longer had any confusion. David’s place was the safest place to go. Aislin thumped back downstairs wearing jeans and a new shirt. She carried her backpack and I marveled at how she could remember school at a time like this.
“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” she said as she reached the bottom step. She bowed her head and lowered her voice. Murmured, “You’re such a bitch.”
I straightened myself and swung my own bag back over my arm. “Let’s go.”
David had relocated to a two bedroom apartment closer to the market district. I had turned his life backwards. There was a fish vendor next door to the front of his building and the stench consumed my nostrils as I rang the bell. I held onto Aislin’s arm that was folded across her chest. She bowed her head and wouldn’t look at me. She was quiet and I wondered if she was afraid.
“Yeah? Who is it?” David’s friendly tenor voice came in crackly through the intercom.
“David. It’s me. I’m sorry, can you let us up?” my voice shook harder than I thought it would, worse than when David and I had our first date. It sounded like I was going through puberty again.
“Nadya?” David’s voice dropped in tone. “Yeah. Of course.” A harsh buzzing was released by the door and I pushed it open, pulling Aislin beside me. David met us at the top of the stairs. He took Aislin’s backpack and kissed her forehead. She didn’t smile, but she took his hand. How could he make her do that? He had left his door open and we walked inside, me for the first time.
It was a spacious two-bedroom apartment, too big for just David on his own. Aislin took her backpack and left us, shutting the door to her room behind her, still with no word.
David’s eyes followed her until she disappeared and then he turned them on me. His eyes were wide but his brows were furrowed which put splits in his forehead. I felt like I grew smaller the more I looked in his face, literally shrinking away from him.
David jumped to catch me. “Jesus, Nadya! Sit down. Here, sit.” He took my bag from me and eased me onto his couch where I folded inward. He put his arm behind my lower back and rubbed slow circles. “What’s wrong?’
I looked into his face as I leaned forward and grabbed the envelope tucked in my bag, setting it on his lap before I fell back onto his couch. He took his hand from behind me, narrowing his eyes, and turned over the envelope on his lap. He picked it up and fit his finger in the top and pulled out my sleeping image. His eyes scanned the print and his body hunched over it. He drew his finger over the odd angles in my neck and legs.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
He didn’t take his face away from the image and his fingers traced the lines in the sheets that loosely wrapped around my body. He frowned.
“And I’m not just sorry because of these.” I put my hand on his forearm and pressed lightly there. He turned back to me, dropping the image in his hand on the floor. He didn’t say anything, and I felt myself beginning again, filling the void. “I really fucked things up.” He flinched. “See? I can’t even say that anymore…”
David shook his head, his curly dark hair falling into his face. But he was still quiet. I wanted him to say something. My heart felt like it was reaching out to him, pulling painfully outwards from my chest at him. Then I felt the reaching go past him, behind him, down the hallway to the closed door that radiated outward for me. My mind stuck there and buzzed like a broken television set. My heart drew back, folded in on itself. I looked up at him.
Hot tears blurred my vision and my hands began to tremble. I felt her cold fingers touch mine again, felt myself rip my hand away. Broken. I hadn’t known. “I might have lost her.” I muttered. I was trembling all over now, muffling my words. I felt like a helpless child, blinded and sniffling snot. “I want to ask her things, I want to talk to her, but I don’t know how to begin. How are you supposed to start something like that if it was supposed to be there forever? What am I supposed to say?”
David blinked at me and his mouth pinched closed. His brows furrowed and he closed his eyes, leaving me for a moment. When he wasn’t looking at me I felt far away, and I felt myself strengthen a little deep in my stomach, like some breath finally permeated through my system. I felt lighter and sat up towards him, felt the strength to grasp his hands.
He opened his eyes at me, opened his lips and leaned close. “She’s here, in her room,” he whispered softly into my lips, warming me with his breath. “Listen to what she has to say.”
I breathed in deeply and released. I lifted my chest up and used my hands holding his to push myself up. “What are you going to do?” I asked, more to test my voice than really to ask.
He stood up beside me and walked towards the kitchen. “I’m going to call the cops about your problem.”
Aislin’s door wasn’t closed. It stood slightly ajar and I watched my hand push it open like it belonged to another body. She sat immobile on the floor, hunched in over herself. I couldn’t see her face and she didn’t turned towards me when I sat down on the floor beside her. She looked smaller, and for the first time all night I noticed her hair. The wispy brown strands were tangled , and a sense of curiosity mingled with nurturing instinct brought my hands to touch the back of her head and stroke her there with me fingers, winding the fingers through the strands.
She shuddered hard at my touch, but it was an inward shudder, like she was letting something go. I knew the feeling. It was like something hard and strange, almost like a wounded animal, which had been clawing at your insides, had finally found it’s way out, and the empty feeling of the space it had left bubbled up inside, and then disintegrated. My voice pressed against the inside of my mouth. “I’m sorry.”
Aislin shook her head and pulled her hair away from her face, looked hard into mine. She wasn’t glaring at me, but small tears rolled down her cheeks and her eyes were moving, searching my face like she couldn’t recognize it. I felt self-conscious, but forced myself not to turn inwards, keeping my attention on her.
Aislin pulled her backpack towards her. Sniffling she unzipped the top and her fingers brushed through the insides. I watched with my mouth slightly open, and she pulled out a small rectangle of shiny paper. She pushed it facedown towards me across the carpet and watched me as I picked it up, as I turned it slowly over in my hands. I was afraid of what I’d see and what it meant. If Malcolm had taken pictures of her, how far had he gone? What had he done to me and to her?
The picture was of her, but it was different from what I thought I’d see. It was her face, her glassy eyes penetrating me with a hard, desperate, tear-stained stare. Her arms extended outward from her body, towards me from the picture, framing it, her hands not visible because they were behind the camera, pulling the trigger. My heart slowed and I put the picture aside, facedown and away from us. I took my fingers again and put them through her hair, touching her head and drawing patterns there. She closed her eyes and leaned back into my fingers, drawing her face up, letting it relax. “I’m sorry too,” she said.
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