Close Cover Before Striking.



ccb4s type on cover

You’ve been warned.

ccb4s greem original cover This book was origianlly released in 1996, with a solid neon green cover. This original printing sold out (however, if you are desperate for the original volume, you could contact Janet Kuypers about purchasing one of her personal copies). But Scars Publications released this volume in a second printing - which now has a larger page size (6" x 9", versus the original 5.5" x 8.5"), and now has a full bleed color cover (it seems fitting to use matched for the new cover of Close cover Before Striking, doesn’t it?).




ccb4s 2008 matches cover The original contents of this poetry book are on this page, but they are only listed in alphabetical order (not the order in which they appear in the book). Order the paperback volume (for only $14.95).













accounts for the need of gun control
January, 1995

One day a man decided to kill people.
A shooting spree. So he went into a
gun shop, picked up a pair of assault

rifles, a number of rounds, each of
one hundred bullets. And he bought
these things, he didn’t need a

permit or a license. Just walked in
and out. And he went to an office
building to take out his revenge

on the world. My wife was there,
took five bullets in the back. I wonder
if she suffered before she died. We went

on a ski trip together last Christmas.
She looked so beautiful with the
snow in her hair. This man didn’t need

a license, and yet I needed a permit to
retrieve my wife’s ashes from the
crematorium. He didn’t just do this to

her, you know. Or to the other victims.
He’s tortured me, and our baby girl. Our
girl is darling. She’s blond, like her

mommy. We have to live with
this trauma forever. This should not
be how we have to live.

As my girl’s second birthday approached
this year, I asked her what she
wanted. She said she wanted

to see mommy. Guess what
she is going to want for her
third












all the loose ends

she bought her son enough clothes
to keep him tied over for a while,
made sure everything was in its place;

she went over to her parent’s house
when she knew they would be out of
town for a few days, and only long

after she died did her parents come
home and find her in the garage. the son
missed a few days of school, and all

his teacher could think was that
his mother bought her son some extra
clothes; tied up all the loose ends.












apathy

The crowds were screaming
One side of the stadium
in orange and blue
The other side in red and white
Thousands upon thousands
standing, cheering, doing the wave,
screaming for their favorite team

Pom pons were waving
So were flags, banners,
Not one person was silent

Except for one
He sat between the roaring crowds
his grey shirt spilled with beer
from the overzealous people
next to him

He didn’t care
He just sat there
wondering why these people
enjoyed this so much












arrowhead

you’re used to seeing it, you know
people killing each other one the streets

all of my friends carry guns
i started carrying knives when i was eight

the blade looked like an arrowhead
and the t-shaped handle
fit between the knuckles in my palm

i was tough for a girl, i guess

i’ve only killed one person
it was when i was fourteen

there’s one mad rush of panic
then you just finish the job
and run like hell

that’s why i’m in this house, you see
they couldn’t put me in jail

they’ve taught me a lot here

at first
i didn’t want to get away from it all
from the violence
it was what i knew
it was what i expected

and then
someone killed my sister
and i knew what they were all
talking about
i missed her

suddenly i knew
i made someone else
feel that

i learned
what guilt and remorse were
and ever since
i’ve wanted to get out












plush horse stories
ice cream parlor,
candy shop, bakery, 1986-1990
work stories

ask me if i’m a truck

so i worked in the summer time
part time with about ten guys
(since guys were stronger, they
could scoop ice cream better,
that was the idea). but they all
screwed off when they were
at work. they’d always write up
signs and tape them to each
other’s backs. Once i wrote on
the back of candy box paper,
"i’m a boy with raging hormones"
and for about an hour every
customer had a good laugh at
matt’s expense. but my favorite
was put on john’s back once. you
see, john used to tell everyone
the same joke; he’d say to you,
"ask me if i’m a truck," and when
you’d ask him if he was a truck,
he’d look real perplexed and say,
"no." like, why did you ask him
that? so anyway, we got a sign
on his back once that said "ask
me if i’m a truck" and when all
the customers did he got real
confused. it was hysterical.











at least i have this

how far will we push each other? i wonder
as we sit in the living room, waging this
emotional battle, knowing that in the end
it will still be with you having your sex
with me, leaving me when you’re through
with me. that is what i’m here for. that is
my function. but at least i have this, at least
i can make you fight me a little more for
it. i know you’ll win in the end, but at least
for these few moments, these few fleeting
moments, i have this control over you.
and then the pain of being with you comes
back, and you win. but let me have this.
just this. i know i’ll get no more. please.











brushes with greatness

Like when I was leaving the depeche mode concert and I saw the lead singer of Nitzer Ebb. I tapped his shoulder, and after I shook his hand I said, "I just wanted to say that you’re awesome." What a stupid thing to say. His response was, "Uh, well, thanks." But at least I shook his hand.

When we were driving down Lake Shore Drive, it was December 23rd, and I saw a limo with the license plate, “Governor 1.” I said to drive next to the limo, and there was Jim Edgar, talking on a phone in the back. It was only after we passed when I realized that I was wearing a red baseball cap with reindeer antlers and bells on it. I was so embarrassed.

Or when I met this soap opera star from Days of our Lives, he was signing autographs, his name on the show was Shane. There was this fat 40-year-old woman from Tolono, Illinois, standing in line and screaming every time she thought she saw a glimpse of him. He signed a newspaper clipping of mine, then took a picture with me. My mother thinks that in the photo we look like we’re on our honeymoon.

And in the first grade, when the weatherman Harry Volkman, from channel Two News, came to our school, and I met him because I made him a card that said, “Columbus discovered America in fourteen ninety-two, and I discovered a weatherman when I discovered you.”

Or like when I was almost in a band that opened for the Smashing Pumpkins. I sang with this band, but couldn’t work with them because I lived out of town. I guess that’s not a good one, since I didn’t meet the Pumpkins or anything. But at least I saw the show.

And I photographed the lead singer of REM. It was September, I was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt when everyone else was wearing denim jackets. Michael Stipe was walking through a forest preserve, with a flock of people around him. I couldn’t get to him, but I wanted a photo, so I looked ahead and saw an empty picnic table. I ran, sprung up on top of it, and started shooting. He looked up at me, and waved. Later, when he was about to leave, I got real close, took more pictures. I was right next to him.

Or when I talked to the lead singer of King Missile after their show at the Metro. Told him it was a good show, he thanked me, and then I said they should have played “Gary and Melissa.” “Yeah, we keep forgetting that one,” he said. Then he looked over at the t-shirt stand, pointed kind of blankly, then said, “You know, we’d make a lot of money... if we had t-shirts.” I laughed, but then I tried to walk away.

Like when Joe took me to the engineering open house and his wooden bridge won first place for holding the most weight. Or when Lorrie brought me to the darkroom and showed me how to dodge and burn a print. Or Brigit. Or Bobby. Or Pat.

And when I won the American Legion Award in the eighth grade. Or when I published my first book. Or when I sang at the coffeehouse and everyone actually applauded. Or at the end of counseling at the retreat weekend “Operation Snowball” and I got a note from a participant thanking me for caring so much. Or when I felt happy.












plush horse stories
ice cream parlor,
candy shop, bakery, 1986-1990
work stories

cashews

once, i was working behind the
candy counter and matt came up behind
me while i was serving this customer,
this young guy ordering a pound of
cashews. he was a heavy-set guy, this
customer, that is, matt was thin and
quite the womanizer at the ripe old age
of sixteen. well, matt walked up behind
me, while i was with this customer, and
he whispered in my ear, "fuck me
till i bleed," then he walked away. i was
sure the guy ordering the cashews heard
him. I stood there, candy scoop in my
hand, staring for a brief moment, then i
said, "oh, the people i work with," trying
to hid my blushing, and finished scooping
cashews.











changing the locks

and the children
got older, borrowed the car
or got picked up by friends
to go out

and when one was leaving
mom would joke around
and say

she was going to change
the locks
or mom and dad were going
to move away
and leave no
forwarding address

they never did that, though
they were always there












i’m really going this time

i pack my bags
say i’m really going this time

you throw my bags
scream at me to leave

before you get more violent
and you mean it this time

i’m sitting in my car
outside the hotel

see you at the window
holding the drapes back

why do i have to think
that means you care?

why do i came back,
asking you if you realize

what you’ve done to me,
if you realize what

you’re about to lose.
i’ll bet you think

you’ll call me once
and everything will be

forgotten. other times,
yes, i’ve forgiven you.

i’ve come back. but i
can’t take being thrown

to the ground, strangled.
when i realize what i

lost that night, i’m
scared. but i have to

remember that you
lost more. you lost me.

i’m really going this time,
and you won’t see me again.

carry this with you,
always. this pain, like

the pain you’ve given me.
you won’t see me. carry this.












chicago, west side

she knew who they were coming for

she crouched in front of the window
straddling her chair she moved from the corner
her coffee sat in the window sill
the condensation rising, beading

on the window right about at her eye level.
she took the side of her index finger
periodically and smeared some of the
water away to look into the streets.

the snow was no longer falling on the
west side of Chicago; it just packed
itself darker and deeper into the ground
with every car that drove over it.

she gunshot was ringing in her ear
still. it was so loud. the earth cried
when she pulled that trigger. let out
a loud, violent scream. she could still

hear it. for these few moments, she had to
just stare out the window and wait. she
didn’t know if she should bother running,
if it mattered or not. she couldn’t think.

all she knew was that this time, when
she heard the sirens coming from the
streets, she’d know why they were coming.
she’d know who they were coming for.












Child Molesters and the Government: Big Brother is Watching

I was listening to the radio the other night - talk radio (it keeps me awake when I have to drive a long distance during the night). It keeps me awake, usually because there’s enough there to get me so angry that I actually want to yell back at the radio.
Honestly, I actually once heard someone call in and say it was their constitutional right to food, that the government had to give them food if they didn’t get it themselves (tell me where in the Constitution does it say that citizens of the United States of America have the inalienable right to “life, liberty and blocks of cheese”). Last time I checked, The Pursuit of Happiness meant that you have the ability to do what you need to in order to acquire the things you need, such as food, not that the government has a responsibility to feed you.
So anyway, I was listening to the radio, and the discussion on this particular evening was about child molesters. Doctors and other experts has pretty much agreed that they are incurable, that castration doesn’t stop their urges to hurt children, because it is a power struggle more than a sexual venting. So the question arose: should people living within a community where a child molester is going to move into be notified that this person was convicted of molesting children?
A similar story arose after a convicted rapist abducted and killed a neighborhood child after he was released from prison and “started anew.” The neighborhood was in an outrage; if they knew this man was a rapist, they said, they would have been more protective of their children.
So the question going over the air waves on this particular night was whether or not it was right to notify people of the acts you’ve been convicted of in the past.
People were talking about the heinousness of these crimes, how these child molesters should be killed, etc. - some also brought up the fact that the information about these people is already on public record - the only thing this law would be doing is informing people about the child-molesting history of such-and-such, instead of making individuals search out this information for themselves, which they would undoubtedly never get around to.
But first of all, it is not the role of our government to intervene with every aspect of our lives. The government is not supposed to protect “society.” As the closest thing to a capitalist society on this planet, “society” is made up a a group if individuals, and the government should work for the individual. Currently, any individual has the right to find out information about a person (this kind of falls into that “pursuit of happiness” thing), but we should not expect the government to hand it to us on a silver platter.
If a potential law does not apply in all situations, it is not a good law. So let’s apply this idea to other crimes: if you move into a new neighborhood, should all you new neighbors know that you shoplifted when you were nineteen? I don’t think so - all it will produce are negative effects.
People should be more responsible for themselves instead of asking the government to help them out more, then get angry when the government gets out of control and continually hies your taxes to support the massive network of laws created on whims such as this one.
Furthermore, If this law went into effect for molesters already in prison, they would be in essence receiving two separate sentences at two separate times for a crime they were tried for once. That goes against everything this country was founded on. If they need a greater sentence, give it to them when they are sentenced.












Children Flying Airplane and More Government Red Tape

I was watching the news a few months ago, and I found another story that I couldn’t help but question. If you watched the news in the beginning of April I’m sure you caught the story.
The story was about a little girl, a very smart little girl, a seven-year-old girl named Jessica. She was a darling little girl; she was taught by her mother and was very head-strong and intelligent. She went to a farm to learn how to ride horses and instead learned every aspect of taking care of the farm. A driven girl indeed.
Then she decided that at seven she wanted to learn how to fly. It was her own decision; she wasn’t pressured by the parents (this is at least what we assume). The parents consented to giving her lessons.
She could become a pilot after taking lessons and getting 70 or so hours of in-air flight training. During her training there would be an instructor in the cockpit with her, and she/he would have an identical set of controls so they could take over if there was ever a problem.
Well, Jessica thought that if she was going to learn how to fly at such an early age, she may as well break a world record by doing so, so she decided that she would like to travel around the country on her plane during her training. She received approval from the city council, from her family, from her instructor. And off they went.
The first leg of their trip was a success. From the west coast they landed in Cheynne, Wyoming. It was raining, and conditions got worse. They decided to take off again, but within two minutes of taking off, Jessica and her instructor crashed and died.
Now, some of the details of this story cannot be verified. The parents say this was her decision, that they didn’t pressure her. For our argument, let’s say they didn’t, and this was all her own desire. In fact, the mother on the news said she asked Jessica what would happen if she crashed in the plane and died, and Jessica responded that her spirit would be in the plane.
We can’t be sure if the instructor took over the controls, or when he did so, and we don’t know why they took off in hazardous conditions.
It’s a very sad story, and it seems as if something should have been done so that this tragedy and loss of life was avoided.
But the next day I was watching the news, and one of the things they said was that there is now a plan to introduce into legislation a bill that would make it illegal for children to learn how to fly a plane. We got to hear activists that believed that the child must have been put under great emotional pressure to learn how to fly. We got to hear other children, some as young as eight, that know how to fly. Those children didn’t believe that should be legislation passed, but most everyone else did.
So this is my question: do we need to enact a law every time a tragedy happens in our country?
After the Oklahoma bombing, anti-terrorist bills were all the rage. We’ve heard about a law to notify a community about a sex-offender who served their sentence moving into their neighborhood. We see more laws to restrict airplane pilots.
Some people argue that the law to restrict child pilots is not for the safety of the pilot, but for the safety of the people the child pilot could possibly injure. But laws in a capitalistic society are designed to protect us from the force of others, not from the accidents that we may run into in going about our day-to-day business. When we decide to be a part of this society, we agree to take on the risks of interacting with public - we understand that there is a chance we may get hit by a car when crossing the street, we understand that accidents happen.
Have we finally relinquished the responsibility to governing ourselves to the whims of a select group? This country needs less laws, not more. The government was set up to provide basic protection from other, not ourselves. Let’s keep it that way.












cocktail hour

I remember when I was little
when dad would come home
from work, mom would always
have two gin martinis ready
for them. She’d put the glasses
in the freezer, with ice cubes
in them, an hour before he was
due home. That was their time
to sit together, talk about their
day.
Sometimes they’d joke, is it
cocktail hour yet?, and they’d
look at the time, 4:55, close
enough.
So little vermouth that some-
times they’d pour a capful of
vermouth in, swirl it around
in the glass with the ice cubes,
then pour the extra vermouth
out.
I never liked gin; the smell is
too strong. But I always think
of the end of the day when I
smell a martini.
And at restaurants, too, dad
would always order for them.
two dry martinis, on the rocks,
with a twist. You know, some
things just flow off your
tongue when you’ve heard them
said enough. two dry martinis,
on the rocks, with a twist.











cry for me

she never like to see her daughter cry
it would make her cry too

“you go in there, talk to her”
she would say to another daughter

i remember once
crying at my father
and running upstairs to my bedroom
i was laying on my bed in the dark

my sister tried to come in
i told her to leave me alone

then my mother knocked
and i couldn’t tell her to go away

she came in, sat on the bed
started crying
“you see, i always turn into a mess”

but it was nice
to see you cry
for me












decorating the palm trees

my mother
always started trends
in our neighborhood

take christmas,
for example:

one christmas
in addition to decorating
the tree we had inside,
she took italian lights

and strung them along
each branch of the
palm tree in front of
our house

dad even put me in the
bucket of the tractor
so i could reach

next year,
a few more houses with
palm trees decorated

the year after,
more than half the houses

then she bought
ornaments for her tree,
big, round,
foot-wide
ornaments

next year,
a few more houses
had ornaments

the year after,
more than half the houses

my mother
was always the first












domestic violence in america
nashville, tennessee

i have had my cheek bone
and nose reconstructed twice

we’re divorced now
but he still keeps calling me

he keeps denying it in court












domestic violence in america
nashville, tennessee

according to accounts, her husband
allegedly locked her and their
four-year-old son in their house

for about forty hours. They were
essentially hostages. The husband
then allegedly beat the woman

while the son watched. This is the
stick he allegedly used to keep her
in line, it looks like a metal broom

or mop handle, it’s hollow, and you
see, here is a bend in it from the
hitting. The bend looks like a twist

of a garden hose. And this bloody
knit glove, it was tied on here, at
the end of the stick, so that when he

allegedly hit her it didn’t scar her.
Isn’t that funny? You can tell that
the son was there for it all, too, he

doesn’t talk much at all, and he never
leaves his mother’s side. She limps down
the hallway now, and he follows.












dreams turned into nightmares

Analyze this. Get yourself on track. All men are scum anyway, Christ, this was just your reaffirmation of it. None of these people really matter. Just get back to your work, get yourself focused again. That’s how to demonstrate your worth.
You don’t care about your work. Who are you trying to impress? Let it pile up. It doesn’t matter. God, why does it always feel like this?Why is it that you have to depend on others for your worth, and when there is one little crumb of affection thrown at you, you savor it and pray that it’s a sign for more and you hope and your pray and then when nothing comes it’s all the same again except this time all of your hopes are shot.
Why are there times like this when you feel so alone? There are other times when you relish in your solitude. Look at the dishes pile up. You should be doing laundry. Slob. Bitch. Can’t even clean up after yourself.
Why does everything have to hurt you so much? Why are you crying so much more now? Why do you look for ways to feel bad, reasons to cry? What do you feel guilty for? Why do you go through this?
Oh, don’t even try to daydream and get yourself out of this. It will always be the same, you have to remember that. You can try to dream that you deserve something better, but don’t bother. You will always keep trying, with the hope that it will get better, and you will keep failing, every single god-damn time, and that’s the way it will go, forever and ever, on and on. It won’t stop, not until you do. Can you resign yourself to this? Can you resign yourself to not trying, or are you going to keep building your hopes up for nothing?
What is the good of anything that you’ve done? Are you any happier for it?
God, how do you go through these cycles? How the Hell can you deal with it? There’s got to be a way to get out of it. Try not to think of it.
You’re so lonely. All you’ve got left to you is your mind, and it’s destroying you, slowly. When will it destroy you altogether? When? It’s only a matter of time.
Why do you dream? Are you trying to escape reality? Are you trying to create a new reality? I think you dream and dream until you think that it’s all actually real, and then when someone in your life proves your dream wrong you whole world falls to pieces. Piece. Little pieces. Look, there goes a few now. Try to pick them up, you’re going to lose them if you don’t pick them up and try to piece them back together again, and then you’ll be destroyed. Can you create a new dream with what you have left?
You want to slip into it again. It’s what keeps you alive, keeps you going. It’s the only thing that gives you hope. What the Hell do you need that hope for? You’ll be let down, you know it, if you can step down from that dream of yours. Get out of it! Stop. All these good dreams keep reminding you of what it could be like, if only you were someone else, if only you were someone liked and successful and important. And those bad dreams, those are your way of punishing yourself for dreaming. Your mind slips them in there, when no one else is looking, and then, because you live in your dreams so much, you have to play it out, and then you’ll cry and cry and there’s nothing you can do.
You can’t face up to it, can you? You’ll be no better than this. Your life will be no better than this. Nothing will be better than this, better than dreams turned into nightmares.












especially at breakfast

mom was always cooking things, eating the
strangest things, especially at breakfast.
some mornings, felling especially groggy, i’d
walk down the stairs to find mom eating a
plate of cold pigs’ feet. only my mother.











everything was alive and dying

I

I had a dream the other night
I walked out of the city
to a forest
and there were neatly paved bicycle paths
and trash cans every fifty feet
and trash every ten

and then a raccoon came right up to me
she had a few little baby raccoons
following her, it was so cute, I
wish I had my camera

and she spoke to me,
she said, thank you
thank you for not buying furs,
I know you humans are pretty smart,
you have to be able to figure out a way
to keep yourselves warm
without killing me

and I said, you know they don’t
do it for warmth,
they do it for fashion, they do it
for power. And she said I know.
But thank you anyway.

II

Then I walked a little further
and there was a stray cat
she still had her little neon collar on
with a little bell
and she walked a few feet,
stretched her front paws,
oh, she looked so darling
and then she walked right up to me
and she said thank you
and I said for what?
And she just looked at me for a moment,
her little ears were standing straight up,
and then she said, you know,
in some countries I’m considered
a delicacy. And I said how
do you know of these things?
And she said
when somebody eats one of you
word gets around
and then she looked up at me again
and said, and in some countries
the cow is sacred. Wouldn’t they
love to see how you humans
prepare them for slaughter, how you
hang them upside-down
and slit their throats
so their still beating hearts
will drain out all the blood for you
and she said isn’t it funny
how arbitrary your decision
to eat meat is?
and I said, don’t put me
in that category, I don’t eat meat
and she said I know

III

And I walked deeper in to the forest
managed to get away from the
picnic tables and the outhouses
that lined the forest edges
the roaring cars gave way to the
rustling of tree branches
crackling of fallen leaves
under my step

when the wind tunneled through
the wind whistled and sang
as it flew past the bark

and leaves

I walked
listened to the crack of dead branches
under my feet
and I felt a branch against my shoulder
I looked up and I could hear
the trees speak to me,
and they said
thank you for letting the
endangered animals live here amongst us
we do think they’re so pretty
and it would be a shame to see them go
and thank you for recycling paper
because you’re saving us
for just a little while longer

we’ve been on this planet for so long
embedded in the earth
we do have souls, you know
you can hear it in our songs
we cling with our roots
we don’t want to let go

and I said, but I don’t do much,
I don’t do enough
and they said we know
but we’ll take what we can get

IV

and I woke up in a sweat

V

so tell me, Bob Dole
so tell me, Newt Gingrich
so tell me, Pat Bucannan
so tell me, Jesse Helms
if you woke up from that dream
would you be in a sweat, too?

VI

Do you even know why
we should save the rain forest?
Oh preserve the delicate balance,
just tear the whole forest down,
what difference does it make?
Put in some orange groves
so our concentrate orange juice
can be a little cheaper

did you know that medical researchers
have a very, very hard time
trying to come up with synthetic
cures for diseases on their own?
It helps them out a little if they can first
find the substance in nature.
A tree that appears in the rain forest
may be the only one of its species.
Or one like it may be two miles away,
instead of right next to it. I wonder
how many cures we’ve destroyed
to plant more orange groves.
Serves us right.

VII

You know my motives aren’t selfless
I know that these things are worthwhile in my life

I’d like to find a cure to these diseases
before I die of them
and I’m not just a vegetarian
because I think it’s wrong to kill an animal
unless I have to
I also know the excess protein
pulls the calcium away from my bones
and gives me osteoporosis
and the excess fat gives me heart attacks
and I also know that we could be feeding
ten times more people
with the same resources used for meat production

You know, I know you’re looking at me
and calling me an extremist
but I’m sitting here, looking around me
looking at the destruction caused by family values
and thinking the right, moral, non-violent decisions
are also those extreme ones

VIII

everything is linked here
we destroy our animals
so we can be wasteful and violent
we destroy our plants
we destroy our earth
we’re even destroying our air
we wreak havoc on the soil, on the atmosphere
we dump our wastes into our lakes
we pump aerosol cans and exhaust pipes

and you tell me I’m extreme

and these animals and forests keep calling out to me
the oceans, the wind

and I’m beginning to think
that we just keep doing it
because we don’t know how to stop
and deep inside we feel the pain of
all that we’ve killed
and we try to control it by
popping a chemical-filled pain-killer

we live through the guilt
by taking caffeine, nicotine, morphine
and we keep ourselves thin with saccharin
and we keep ourselves sane with our alcohol poisoning
and when that’s not enough
maybe a line of coke

maybe shoot ourselves in the head
in front of the mirror in the master bedroom
or maybe just take some pills
walk into the garage, turn on the car
and just
fall asleep

in the wild
you have no power over anyone else

now that we’re civilized
we create our own wild

maybe when we have all this power
the only choice we have
is to destroy ourselves

and so we do












filled with such panic

i heard a woman jumped
from the john hancock building,
fifty-something floors.
i work on the thirty-
second floor of the civic
opera building, it’s older
than the john hancock, and
we have regular windows
there. you see, the john hancock
has bullet-proof windows
that don’t just open up,
whereas we have windows
that just slide up and down,
like the ones you have in
your own home. sometimes
i open the window, stick my
head out and look at the
street. the wind is so strong
when you’re up that high.
sometimes we spit out the
window. a few times we
threw a paper airplane out the
window, watched it soar
down wacker drive. i never
stick my head out past my
shoulders, and i’m one of the
more adventurous ones at
my office. i can’t imagine
looking out the window,
then going out past the
shoulders, opening that
window all the way, and
just going out. i’d be filled
with such panic. i did the
wrong thing, i’d think, then
i’d struggle to find a ledge
to cling to right before i’d
start to fall.











for c ra

this is a man
a thinking man

he wants to be condemned to hell
for a change

he feels the plight of too many
he is blamed for too much

these are the words
of a man

remember this, my friends:
this is a man
a thinking man
with feelings

this is his pain
this is his strength

does he know
that this is how
he is supposed to feel?

he lives life so fully
that it ages him

remember this, my friends:
this is a man












plush horse stories
ice cream parlor,
candy shop, bakery, 1986-1990
work stories

four syllables

tuesday nights were regular working nights
for me, and in the winter time the ice cream
parlor never had any business. so i worked
with vince, a regular guy, like me, well, regular,
like me, not like me because he’s a guy, because
i’m a woman, you know. wait, so anyway, i’d
work with vince and john, and john was like
a marine wanna-be, a real tough guy that
obsessed over his body. not a real intellect.
harmless, funny in his machismo, i guess.
so once we were sitting around, i’m talking
to john and john’s got his back to vince,
talking to me, and i must have made some
sort of cut-down to john, and i knew he
wouldn’t understand what i said, but then he
looked at me and he said, "elaborate." and vince
and i just burst out laughing, and i said, "ooh,
johnny learned a new word at school today,"
and vince was holding up four fingers and
mouthing, "four! four syllables!" john never
saw vince. vince and i were both so impressed,
john had a fifty cent word. we were laughing
so hard.











chess game again

we all watched the case on the news
together, the case where a man on a
subway train opened fire on passengers
in the car. nine people dead, i think.

they caught the man, they had their
trial, and by right he could have a lawyer
appointed to him. but no, he wanted
to act as his own attorney. so every

day he would come into the courtroom
in his suit, looking professional, and
he would question each of the witnesses,
the people that survived his shooting

spree and now had to look him in the
eye and answer his questions. “so what
happened then?” he would ask, and a
woman would answer ,“i saw you push

the woman to the ground, put your knee
to her back and shoot her in the back
of the head.” “can you point out the
man that did this?” he would ask, and

a man would respond, “it was you.” some
of the witnesses broke down under the
emotional strain. and finally he had no
further questions and the judge dismissed

the jury to arrive at a verdict. they found
him guilty, and when the judge asked the
defendant if he had any last words for
the jury, he kept stressing his innocence,

and never apologized. the judge told him
he was disgusted. he saw no remorse in
the killer’s eyes. and of all the violence
we see in the media, all the court trials

that are fed to us through our television
sets, our boxes of american dreams, i
don’t think any of us were prepared for
this. how did those people feel, when

faced with the man that has brought them
so much pain, how did they feel when they
had to quietly sit there and answer his
questions, when he didn’t even say he was

sorry? most of them sat there trying to
keep their composure when faced with a
man who lost all control. this twisted tale.
they were a pawn in his chess game again.












getaway

His wife told him that he had to go on
vacation, that he was trying to do too
much work and it was taking a toll on him,
that he was letting wall street put too
much stress on him, that he was
neglecting his family and that he probably
just needed a break. Besides, he had time
coming to him from work and he deserved
it. So the two of them went off on a little
vacation, to a little island where
there is nothing to do, there are no
televisions, there are no telephones,
there is no civilization. "The perfect
getaway from the hustle and bustle
of every day life," the brochure said.
And it was

They sat on the beach, just a few feet
from the outdoor bar they got their
margaritas from. It was quiet. His wife
glowed in the light of the setting sun.
He thought of wall street, and the work
he had to do. He thought of what he had
to put off doing just to go on this vacation.
What about the Erickson account? Will
he other clients notice he’s gone? Will
the company be able to get along
without him? Probably not, and he had
to sit here, without telephones or even
fax machines. He sat there, turning his
head, looking for signs of life as he knew it

He barely spoke to his wife the entire
time they were on vacation. He couldn’t
think of anything to say. All he could
think about was work, and the problems
that would probably arise because of his
absence. They finally left the resort. He
woke up the next morning in his own
bed (which was too hard), and began
to wonder if the past week was all a dream.
He quickly got dressed, poured a cup of
coffee into his car mug, tucked his
briefcase under his arm, and took off for work

He got to work early. He found stacks
of paper on his desk, and a pile of messages
on little pink slips of paper. His phone was
already ringing off the hook

His secretary walked in ten minutes later.
"Sorry about all of the work, sir," she said

"That’s what I get for going
on vacation," he replied

"Aren’t you glad to be back?"
she said sarcastically

"Yes, I am,"
he said with a sigh












Growing Up Female

Some argue that men and women have inherent differences - whether described as physical or genetic. However, a lot of the differences between men and women in general are taught to us by society, by all of the people and things that influence us daily.
When women are born, they are given pink dresses and bows in their hair. Little boys are given light blue jumpers. Even when they are infants, even if other adults can’t tell what the sex of the child, this is done - precisely to insure that the rest of the world will know what the sex of the child is. As they are raised, they are given toys to play with - girls the infamous Barbie, and boys the popular G.I. Joe. Girls progress to baby dolls they can dress and feed and burp, with accessories such as baby bottles, strollers and blankets. Boys progress to model cars and trucks, then on to guns and weapons, then the prized bicycle, then sports equipment, then building and erector sets.
As they grow, parents decide what clothes the children will wear, and what their hair will look like, and what toys they will play with, and how they will go about playing. Girls are clothed in little dresses, fully equipped with tights and buckled shoes, and are given little bows to hold back their longer, more cumbersome hair. They are encouraged to have a best friend to stay in the house with, to play house with, to play quietly with, to put make-up on, and to maintain a one-on-one, more intimate relationship. They role-play, and even in their play define roles for themselves - or at least define that there are roles that exist in the world.
As boys grow they are encouraged to go outdoors, to be rowdy, to find new friends, explore boundaries, play sports where they learn cooperation and competition, and even learn to battle in play fights. They are dressed in comfortable pants and t-shirts and athletic sneakers. Their hair is short and manageable. They learn to get dirty. They learn to win. They learn to lead other boys in play - larger numbers of children than women are accustomed to dealing with.
Each sex interacts with other children of primarily the same sex, but these same-sex children have been taught like them to do the things their sex is supposed to do. They reinforce the behavior of other children - the behavior taught to them from their parents, their siblings, their toys, their television, their movies, their fairy tales. Each sex learns about interactions with others, but they learn entirely different things. The traits each sex take from these experiences are vastly different from the traits of the other sex.
Girls learn the importance of intimacy and trust, fostered by their female best friend. They learn not to be rowdy - they learn a more sedentary form of play. They learn the value of taking care of others. They learn to pretend and role-play the position of mother. They learn the value of their physical looks. They learn from their physical idol - the Barbie doll. If Barbie was a real woman, at 5' 10" her measurements would be ***38, 18, 32***, and she would weigh 110 pounds - an almost unattainable figure at best.
Boys learn the importance of working with other people toward a common goal. They learn to get along with a large number of people. They learn to win - they learn the American notion of competition, and they also learn the harder lesson of not trusting others, especially when other children are working toward the same goal as they are. They learn to explore new things and not be afraid. They learn to stretch themselves physically. They learn to work toward their goals. They learn about pain, about losing, and about winning. And although boys do not necessarily gain close relationships in the same way girls do, they gain a common bond between other boys - any and all boys that can jump in and join the game with them.
Some of the values both sexes take from their childhood are valuable - in fact, most of the traits taught to both sexes are admirable. However, it is important to remember three things:
1. Both sets of traits are particularly one-sided. One learns the value of competition, but doesn’t learn how to interact on a personal level. The other learns deep trust, which can be detrimental when in a battle, such as a sport. One learns to build and create, but not interact. The other learns to imagine, but only on the level of interaction with a significant other.
2. These differences are taught to us, given to us, by our parents, commercials on television, by other friends we meet, by our siblings, by the colors that surround us, by the toys given to us, by our idols from out toys - from the likes of Barbie and G.I. Joe, by our cartoon role models, by our clothing purchased for us. Boys are expected to go outside to play and get dirty. Girls are expected to keep their pretty clothes clean, even if they were comfortable in their dress, tights and patent leather shoes to go outside and play.
There may by genetic or physical differences between the sexes, there may not be. I won’t even address that point; it is irrelevant. The differences that are present in the values the sexes distinctively possess are not exclusive to any one sex. They are taught to us by male and female role models everywhere in our society. They are imposed on us from the day we are born to long after we are adults.
3. These two separate sets of traits, when placed with each other, one on one, face to face, are suddenly in great conflict.
First of all, boys are taught to hate girls, and girls are taught to hate boys. Girls are taught to trust and develop an intimate relationship, boys are taught not to get close, but to win, whatever the cost.
As they grow up, the woman looks for a long-term relationship, the man looks for sex. The woman is taught to keep sex from the man, and the man is taught to feign a relationship to gain sex. The woman is taught to trust, the man is taught to use that trust against her.

•••

It is a power that society influences over each and every one of us. It is a power that each and every one of us as members of society play into and reinforce in each other, as well as teach to our children. It is taught, shown to us by ads in magazines, by commercials, by children’s toys and clothes, by the way girls associate with their mommy and boys disassociate from their mommy and run to daddy. It is evident by the way women are taught to make themselves look beautiful while men are taught to look rugged. By the want women are calming and men are forceful.
It is taught to us and perpetuated in this society by everyone in it that accepts it - women as well as men. Our mothers teach us this as well as our fathers.
But it is taught to us.
And these separations of personalities are not specifically inherent (genetically) to one sex or another - they have been arbitrarily placed in these positions because they worked for so long in keeping the sexes separated. And although women are making changes toward being more equal in this society, they are fighting not only against a work place that may not react to her so kindly, but they are fighting against everything they have been taught, against all the forces that have influenced them in the past.
And when some women do succeed in making these changes, they are looked upon by some (male and female) as strange because they do not possess what this society considers “normal” traits for a woman.
The problem is not with the people in this society. They are doing only what is expected of them, what has always worked in the past. That is to be expected. The problem is with what the society as a whole accepts as normal. They are created roles which further drive the sexes apart.
Only when we notice these things can we understand why we have been raised to differently, why there is so much conflict between the sexes. And only when we notice these things can we learn to accept that there are other choices for how to raise our children, and how we ourselves should live.












guilt

I was walking down the street one evening, it was about 10:30, I was walking from my office to my car. I had to cross over the river to get to it, and I noticed a homeless man leaning against the railing, not looking over, but looking toward the sidewalk, holding a plastic cup in his hand. A 32-ounce cup, one of the ones you get at Taco Bell across the river. Plastic. Refillable.
Normally I don’t donate anything to homeless people, because usually they just spend the money on alcohol or cigarettes or cocaine or something, and I don’t want to help them with their habit. Besides, even if they do use my money for good food, my giving them money will only help them for a few hours, and I’d have to keep giving them money all of their life in order for them to survive. Once you’ve given money, donated something to them, then you’re bound to them, in a way, and you want to see that they’ll turn out okay. Besides, he should be working for a living, like me, leaving my office in the middle of the night, and not out asking for hand outs.
I’m getting off the subject here... Oh, yes, I was walking along the sidewalk on the side of the bridge, and the homeless man was there, you see, they know to stand on the sidewalks on the bridge because once you start walking on the bridge you have to walk up to them, and the entire time you’re made to feel guilty for having money and not giving them any. They even have some sort of set-up where certain people work certain bridges.
Well, wait, I’m doing it again... Well, I was walking there, but it wasn’t like I was going to lunch, which is the time I normally see this homeless man, because during lunch there is lots of light and lots of people around and lots of cars driving by and I’m not alone and I have somewhere to go and I don’t have the time to stop my conversation and think about him.
Well, anyway, I was walking toward him, step by step getting closer, and it was so dark and there were these spotlights that seemed to just beat down on me while I was walking. I felt like the whole world was watching me, but there was no one else around, no one except for that homeless man. And I got this really strange feeling, kind of in the pit of my stomach, and my knees were feeling a little weak, like every time I was bending my leg to take a step my knee would just give out and I might fall right there, on the sidewalk. I even started to feel a little dizzy while I was on the bridge, so I figured the best thing I could do was just get across the bridge as soon as possible.
I figured it had to be being on the bridge that made me feel that way, for I get a bit queasy when I’m near water. I don’t usually have that problem during lunch when I walk over the bridge and back again, but I figured that since I was alone I was able to think about all that water. With my knees feeling the way they were I was afraid I was going to fall into the water, so I had to get myself together and just march right across the bridge, head locked forward, looking at nothing around the sidewalk, nothing on the sidewalk, until I got to the other side.
And when I crossed, the light-headed feeling just kind of went away, and I still felt funny, but I felt better. I thought that was the funniest thing.












hancock suicide, chicago, december 1994

so me and the guys
were just taking a break
from the construction

on the hancock building.
you know they’ve been
doing construction work

there, right? they put
that big wall up around
the block, the tall

fence, and they’ve been
doing remodeling stuff.
well, i had been working

on some tile work and
we were just walking
around the building, me

and three other guys,
walking kind of like a
square, in formation,

sort of, and i’m at the
back and i stop and step
back to check some of

the grout work, so i just
kind of lean back while
standing still. well, one

of the guys says he heard
it coming, like a big rush
of air, like a whistling

sound, but much heavier.
i didn’t even get a chance
to look up, though one of

the other guys did and
saw it coming a split second
before it happened. and the

next thing i knew there was
this loud cracking sound
and i felt all of this stuff

hit me, like wet concrete
thrown at me, but i didn’t
know what the hell it was.

and i opened my eyes and looked
down and i was just completely
covered in blood

and there was just this
heap of mass right in front of
me. it took a while for me

to realize that a woman jumped.
she hit the fence, her head
and spinal cord were still

stuck on the fence and the
rest of her was just this red
pile right in front of me.

the police had to take all of
my clothes. every inch.
they say she broke through the

glass at the fiftieth floor, i don’t
know how, that glass is supposed
to be bullet proof or something.

and the one thing i noticed was
that she covered her head with
panty hose, in an effort to keep

her face together. funny, she
was so willing to die, but she
wanted to be kept in tact. i know

i won’t hear about this on the
news, they try to down play suicides,
but other violence is fine for them.

and they say she was handi-
capped, but then how badly, and
how did she get the strength

to break the window and throw
herself out of the john hancock
building? she must have really

wanted to die.

it really hasn’t sunk in quite yet,
seeing her fall apart in front
of me like that. i don’t think i’m

ready to think about it yet.












hard of hearing

After Barbara finished the joke, everyone laughed
even her brothers Dave and Brian, who never seemed
to give her credit for anything she said

But then she turned to her father, who sat there
cold and motionless
His arms were crossed; his head was pushed down
into his shoulders

His furrowed brow framed his eyes,
which seemed to stare at her in contempt

"Maybe he didn’t hear you, Barb,"
Dave finally mumbled
"You know he’s hard of hearing."












have a party

if there was ever a time
when all the kids were
going to be out for the
evening, and dad was going
somewhere, too, and mom
would end up alone in the
house for a while, she
would say that she was
going to have a party while
everyone was gone, and
she’d smile











headache

whenever i get a headache
it’s right behind my eyebrows
and it’s a dull, constant ache

so whenever i say i have a headache
eugene takes my hand
and uses acupressure:

he pushes his thumb
right in the middle of my palm.
the pain disappears almost

immediately. but eventually
i have to tell him to stop
pressing my hand, that my

hand now hurts. he lets go,
and the headache, almost
immediately, comes back.












helping men in public places

so it was new year’s eve
and we were standing on
forty-second street and

the avenue of the americas
we were a few blocks away
but we had just the right

view of times square. and
yes, there was freezing rain
but i didn’t really care, since

i was just in new york for
a few days. it was 10:55, we
still had a long time to wait

standing with i don’t know
how many thousands of other
people, some of them were

climbing up the light poles,
all of us pushing forward
into the street, despite the

police officers on horseback
rushing at us back toward
the sidewalk. and our paper

bag fell apart in the rain, so
i let the glass water bottle fall
to the curb, and our friend told

us he needed to go to the
bathroom real bad, you know,
so i told him to go right here

in the street, no one will see
him. but he didn’t want to
piss on someone’s shoes, so

he asked if i had a bottle, so i
picked up the water bottle from
the curb, and when he finished

his job he closed up the bottle
and put it back on the sidewalk.
god, and you, too, getting on

the train after the ball dropped,
more rain and a bottle of
champagne later, saying you had

to go real bad, too, so i pulled
an empty beer bottle from my
coat pocket, you covered the train

window with your coat and i
blocked your view from the aisle
while you took care of the

matter at hand. i’m amazed that
that bottle didn’t tip over on the
train floor during that hour

commute, our first of the new
year, while i slept on your
shoulder. and i’m amazed that

i ended one year and began
another helping men i know,
in public places, piss into bottles.












here it goes again

maybe this is what i deserve
this pain
but i can’t let you go

even if there is someone else
on the side
doing the same things to me
you do
i can’t let you go

i need that connection to you
i need that pain
i can’t be alone

even though i’m alone when i’m with you

i guess i feel
like i’m nothing when i’m with you
but then again
i’m nothing without you

so here it goes
here it goes again












plush horse stories
ice cream parlor,
candy shop, bakery, 1986-1990
work stories

his mom’s car

there was this kid who started working at the plush
horse, he was this fat little geek, thick glasses and
everything, and most of the guys that worked there
were older and not so awkward. well one of them, matt,
decided to make it his personal goal to make fun of
this kid whenever he could, god, i don’t even remember
this kid’s name, something like mark or something, but
i really can’t remember. i guess it doesn’t matter.

but this matt guy really didn’t like him, and no one did,
but i felt kind of sorry for the kid because matt was just
so mean to him. i figured, okay, he’s a geek, he gets
picked on enough, but this really isn’t necessary. well
one day this kid came into the plush horse, and he
wasn’t working that day, and i saw him come in, and
he looked really mad, like i’ve never seen him this mad
before. and so i ask him while he’s walking by, toward
the ice cream counter, i ask, why are you so mad?

and he says that someone keyed his car, messed up
the paint job and everything, and the worst thing was
it was his mother’s car. and then he walks to the ice cream
counter and starts talking to matt and i can’t hear what
they’re saying. so i’m minding my own business, and
the next thing i know i hear the kid yell, right in the
middle of this ice cream shop, he yells fuck you
to matt, and he starts walking away. and matt says,

yeah, that’s what i wrote on your car. and i remember
looking at matt with such disgust when he said that,
and after the kid left i told him that he just went too far.

so then two weeks later i went to the grocery store with
lisa and we bought a bottle of cheap dish washing
liquid called Pink Lady, and we went to the parking
lot of the plush horse while matt was working and we
squirted the Pink Lady all over matt’s windshield. we
figured that if he used washer fluid it would just make
this big soapy mess, but at least there was no permanent
damage. and the worst thing was that it was his mom’s car.












how to please a woman

i saw a movie once
can’t remember what movie it was, but
i remember this one scene:
it was after the protagonist couple made love,
and it was the middle of the night,
and the man got dressed and went outside,
and no, it was not to leave
(i know half of you were thinking that, admit it)

but he went outside, into the garden
and picked a bunch of flowers
and put them all over the bed.
So in the morning, when the woman woke up,
she was still alone, but she was surrounded in flowers.

now, i know it’s just a movie,
but i have these visions in my head
of how perfect life is supposed to be.
okay, okay, call it being raised on Cinderella
and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, but
in the back of my mind i still have this vision in my head
of being swept away. Wake me with a
kiss. Ride me off into the sunset.

i don’t want to tell someone how to
sweep me off my feet, how to be romantic.
Part of romance is the element of surprise.
yes, i know, this is the age of communication
and we’re supposed to tell each other how we feel
but i guess, as unreasonable as this is
about to sound, i want you to be able to read my mind.
Or don’t read it, and completely catch me off guard
(and i mean that in a good way - don’t catch me
off guard, for instance, by watching baseball
instead of celebrating my birthday).

sure, it could be flowers, i guess, but don’t think
that we’re trying to get you to spend your money or
that we’re trying to milk you for all you’re worth
because flowers picked from your garden -
or someone else’s - are often better than the ones from the store.
Maybe a bath. a picnic. those are even better
than flowers, because they give the gift
we really want - time. we want to know you
are not only taking time out to be with us,
but that you took the time to plan it to make it perfect.

we want you to tell us we look pretty
when we need to hear it. you don’t know
when we need to hear it? just look into our eyes.
you’ll know. we want you to look excited to
see us when you come home from work,
even if you’re tired and just want to eat.we want
to feel like we mean the world to you, like we
mean more than a beer does to you while you’re
sitting on the couch watching sitcoms.
we want foreplay to mean more than "oh, i’ve
grabbed her chest, now it’s time to insert."

we want poetry written for us: the sun rises
and it means nothing without us, that kind of stuff.
okay, you’re not a poet: maybe you could
write us a letter every once in a while. oh,
i know, it’s that damn time thing again,
but that’s what it takes, remember? even a note
just saying "i love you" on it would be enough.
here’s an idea: drop it in the mail. i know you
see us every day; that’s what makes it special.












hurt/cold

him
again

complaining
something

like
before
like
again

She
kitchen

splash
cold
water
face

she
walked
door

jacket
keys
walked
out

She
walked
cold

empty
field

November
first
snow

ice
ground

She
walked

grass
leaves
crack
water
frozen

hurt
cold

She
walked
field
She
sat
She
smiled
She
laughed
She
watched
her
breath
freeze

She
hurt
cold
she
laughed












i am the woman who loves pain

i am the woman who loves pain

i look for you
and i usually find you

one of you

i know you’ll all do the same things
act the same way
i’ve gotten used to it

they tell me i should find someone
better
that i am settling
that this is not love

but i’ve never felt love
and although this is pain
although i am hurting with you
it is better than hurting alone

i swear it is












I remember

I remember the hot tub party at the end of our junior year. Remember how I begged you to take me, because it was a date dance and not a casual party? You already had a date so you set me up with Reedy, and I thought it was just an innocent friendship set-up... Ugh, what a mess, there I was, trying to push him away from me, and then Chad came along and saved me. I have pictures of us from that night, in the hot tub together, with Tres, who won the palest-man-at-the-party award, or photos inside, with plastic lais around our necks.

I remember when we went to the They Might be Giants concert and managed to get seats in the third row. The two of us, along with four other strangers, then yelled requests at the band when they weren’t playing music. I still can’t believe we actually got them to respond to us while they were in the middle of a show.

I remember when we were travelling through Boston, how we stopped at Cheers to take our picture in front of the front door. We were soaking wet because it was raining on our only day in Boston. But we followed all the painted red lines on the streets to find historical landmarks, stood on the torture devises on the sidewalks, took pictures everywhere. And when we drove to Harvard campus, we took pictures of ourselves looking “intelligent” - looking upward, hands under our chin, poised in thought, looking as tacky as possible.

I remember how we would sit in my dorm room, in the window sill, feet hanging outside, my stereo blaring. You used to always joke that one day you’d push me out the window. But we’d sit there, listening to music, singing to people that would walk in front of my window. Remember how we’d sing to Potholes in My Lawn by De La Soul or Pump Up the Jam by Technotronic or Hoe Down by Special Ed. How you thought the lines to Istanbul (Not Constantinople) by They Might be Giants wasn’t “This is a recording” but “Give it to me, give it to me.” How you thought the lines to Headhunter by Front 242 wasn’t “Three you slowly spread the net” but “Three you slowly spread the legs.” We’d sing, make people look up at us, and either wave or laugh.

Yesterday was the first day that I hadn’t cried for you. Those first two days had been so hard, I might have been fine for a half hour and then something would trigger it in my mind and I would want to cry. I thought maybe I’m getting used to the news, but today I cried again.

I remember the Valentine’s Dance we went to together. It was at your fraternity house, you came over, dressed up in a nice suit, I was wearing a red strapless Vanna White-style dress, and you came over and you looked so mad. “Why are you mad?”
“I just came from the house, it’s an hour before the dance, and everyone is wearing jeans watching the basketball game. Decorations aren’t even up.” I look at my dress. “So what you’re saying is that I’m overdressed?” We decided to take pictures of us dressed up before I changed dresses. We went through a few photos, then I changed into a more casual, cotton, off-the-shoulder dress. We took more pictures with outfit number two. Then I felt a breeze. Apparently there was a rip in the back of the dress, making it indecent at best. So, back to the closet I went, found a casual black dress, and so we took yet more pictures. Then off to the dance we went.

I remember how you’d come over to my dorm on Sunday nights, and we’d order pizza, usually Grog’s, Home of Mold, I think, and spend the evening together. We’d play Stand by R.E.M. and do the dance they do in the video. Or we’d play Madonna’s Vogue and you’d contort yourself around. Once we even spent the evening writing up lists of exes, like we were in high school.

I remember how we met - I was sitting in the cafeteria with the other girls from my dorm, and you were friends with them so you sat down and ended up right across the table from me. And it was right after Christmas break and I just got back from visiting my parents in Florida and was tan, so your first words to me were, “Is that a real tan?” And I was so mad at you, I though you were a cocky jerk. “Well, you could have gone to a tanning salon over vacation!” I don’t know how that could have been the start of one of the best friendships of my life.

And when you called me on the phone to tell me the news you still sounded so happy. Your viewpoint was that anyone could die at any point in time and we have to live every day to the fullest. “And I could be hit by a car tomorrow,” you said. You can’t let the thought of death kill you. And you were telling me these things, and I was trying so hard not to just start sobbing on the phone.

I remember our freshman year in college, after the horrible way we met, of course, and how we’d go to Eddie’s bar for ice cream drinks. They were about the only things we could order while underage, so we’d spend I don’t know how many Saturday afternoons drinking Oreo shakes, or maybe peach, or mint. I remember walking home to the dorms with you one rainy Saturday after an Eddie’s excursion, and we just decided to walk in the middle of the street, jumping in as many puddles as possible. A truck even drove by, yelled that we were going to catch colds. And we just laughed. We were alive, and invincible.

I remember when we met up in New Orleans, I was with Eugene, you were with Randy and Jessica, and you found out how to get to the roof of the Jackson Brewing Company building. It was the highest building near the French Quarter, and we had a fantastic view, all to ourselves.

I remember our freshman year you invited me to see the Violent Femmes in concert at Foellinger Hall. You got drunk, and ended up trying to make the moves on me, knowing I had a boyfriend... I knew you had just drank too much, but I had to draw the line when you licked the side of my face. I still like to tease you with that one.

You’re not supposed to die. This isn’t supposed to be happening to you. I’ve always expected to be able to visit your family after we all retire, compare photos of grandchildren. You can’t leave this hole in my life.

I remember after I broke up with Bill I still tried to remain friends with him so I could periodically borrow his black convertible. So one day I did, told him I needed to get some groceries, but I picked you up instead and we put the top down even when it was sixty-five degrees and about to rain and cruised around the mecca known as Champaign, Illinois.

I remember the Halloween Dance we went to. We couldn’t come up with costumes, and last minute we went to Dallas and Company costume shop and you picked up a Dick Tracy bright-yellow overcoat and hat, along with a plastic machine gun with two water cartridges. I put on a black cocktail dress, pulled up my hair, added rhinestones and a dimple and was Breathless Mahoney, but we made a point to fill the machine gun water cartridges, one with peach schnapps, one with peppermint. Someone at the dance would say, “Don’t shoot me!” And we would say in unison, “Don’t worry.” No one could understand why we were shooting at each other’s faces.

I remember how every time we were going out for the evening and you’d be over waiting for me to get ready, I’d come out and ask you how I looked and you would always tell me that I looked really nice. Or sexy. Or fantastic. Or whatever. But you’d always say something to me me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world.

I don’t want to catalog these events, these times I’ve shared with you. I don’t want to feel as if there will never be any more memories with you.

I remember how every time you guys would come over to my apartment and start drinking, you would inevitably pull out my hats, particularly the wide-brimmed straw ones, and wear them. How many pictures do I have of you with Jay, or Brian, or Brad, all in a drunken stupor wearing women’s hats?

I remember how at your fraternity house, every time they’d have a party they’d have to play “Crockodile Rock” by Elton John once. And when they did, people made a ring around the dance floor (otherwise known as the living room), and your fraternity brothers would then proceed to do somersaults and other strange dances with each other. I’m glad this whole scene frightened you as much as it did me, because I remember how every time we heard the song we’d run into the basement where the kitchen was and hide until the song was over. Usually we’d find some potato chips or salad croutons to munch on, and we’d sit on the steel counter, amongst racks of generic white bread and bulk containers to tomato paste and talk.

I remember taking Dan out for his twenty-first birthday, this six-foot-five animal of a roommate of ours, and how he got so drunk that when he started to get violent in the bar you suggested that he “play with Carol” in order to entice him to leaving the bar. So we carried him through the bar until he broke free and fell right in front of the bouncers at the front door, and you tried to drag him outside, and then the five of us ended up carrying him blocks home, stopping occasionally from exhaustion and setting him in the dirt. When we got him in you suggested we write all over him, but me being the voice of reason suggested we only write all over his back, so in permanent markers you and Chad and Eric and Ray and I scribbled “I am a drunk moron!” and other intelligent remarks all over him. And you, you were smart enough to be gone when he finally woke up in the morning.

And you were on the phone with me saying that you just have to get used to the fact that you’re not going to grow old, have a family. That all you superiors tell you, wait till you get that promotion, and you know there is no waiting for the future, you won’t be around. People take for granted that they’re just going to be around. You never did, of course, you were the one that was always making a point to cram as much living as you could in a day, but most people aren’t like that. Most people are never as alive as you.

I remember you and Sara standing on Green and Sixth waiting in line for the cash station when a cop walked up behind the two of you, and appeared to be in line. You asked, “Do you think the cop wants cash?”

I remember visiting you in New Hampshire, trying to decide where to go out to eat for lobster, til I decided on the mess hall at the base. So while you were at work your mom showed me a private room in the hall, with one elaborately set table for two, with china cabinets and a couch and roaring fireplace. I reserved it, went home and put on a black velvet dress and waited for you to get home from work. When you got back, I told your brother and sister to tell you that I changed our plans and I was in the bathroom. You started banging on the bathroom door, and when I opened it you were stunned. You were wearing a uniform that looked like a gas station attendant’s, and there I was, completely dressed up for a formal dinner. Your sister took a picture of us in your hallway, you just after your shower and still in a bathrobe, and me in that dress. And after dinner we went for a stroll outside, and you were holding my hand, and I remember thinking that I wanted you to kiss me. It’s funny how we both have thought about dating each other, but never found the right time.

I remember shopping with you on the East coast, going into a clothing store and watching you look for sweaters. You pulled out a pink patterned one, asked my opinion, and I shook my head no. “I’m not a pink person,” I said. You kept looking, so I pulled up a dark brown and black cardigan from the rack and held it up from a few feet away. You shook your head no and said loudly, “I’m not a black person,” loud enough for the black security guard to give you a funny look.

I think I want all of my friends to die after I do. I don’t think I can handle this. You’re not supposed to leave me, I’m the one that’s supposed to make the dramatic exit. Besides, whenever I get married, you’re supposed to stand up in the wedding. If you die before then, I swear, I’ll kill you.

I remember once our freshman year we were sitting in the cafeteria, I don’t remember if it was lunch or dinner, my roommate Lisa was there, and we were screwing around trying to be funny. Well, I got up and got a soft serve ice cream cone and acted like I was tripping as I got to the table, like I was going to drop the cone into your lap. Well, I didn’t, but the ice cream wasn’t securely anchored to the cone, and the next thing I know all my ice cream was right in the middle of your food.

I remember visiting you in New Hampshire, and one night we just watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off over and over again. We learned half the lines to the movie that night. “I could be the walrus, and I’d still have to bum rides off of people.” “Drugs?” “No, thank you, I’m straight.” We’d always find something, a line from a movie or television show... Oh, and Heathers, we could probably recreate scenes from that movie, we’ve seen it so much. “Thank you, Ms. Fleming, you call me when the shuttle lands.” “Icklooga bullets, I’m such an idiot...” “Great pat, but I gotta motor if I’m going to make it to the funeral on time.” “Will somebody tell me why I smoke these damn things?” “‘Cause you’re an idiot.” “Oh, yeah...” God, these quotes make sense to no one else, just us, just you and me. It was like we had our own language.

I remember when you came to Chicago to visit me, it was around Christmas time, and you finally saw the house I grew up in. The only thing you noticed was that all of the lamps in the house were hanging from chains.

You said that some people feel like they are on death’s door with a T-cell count of four hundred, and some people can run marathons with a T-cell count of zero. You tell me yours is at eighty, and you feel fine. A little run-down, but that is to be expected.
This scares me. I know I’m being selfish, I know that deep-down inside of you it has to scare you too, but you’re too strong to let it beat you. I don’t want you to feel a little run-down, I don’t want you to feel just fine. I want you to feel alive, more alive than anyone else. I want you to live forever.

I remember once when you took me to an Air Force dinner dance, and afterward I went with you to a party of mostly Air Force people. There were people there I knew, and we were out really late, and by three-thirty in the morning you and Chris walked me home. And we stood out on Fourth Street and talked for a while, and before we knew it you had fallen to the ground grabbing you knee, screaming. You knew how to pop your knee back in place, and granted, from what I understand having your knee pop out is really, really painful, but watching you there almost made Chris and I laugh. After you got it back in place you were just drunk and sad and still in pain and all I kept thinking was “Oh, please, he just needs some sleep,” and I just kept thinking, “Oh, we’re right in front of my apartment, please, it’s four in the morning, let me just go to bed,” but I stayed out there with you and Chris until you were ready to get up and make the long journey home.

I remember the Halloween party I held on Friday the thirteenth of October - your birthday. I put up pages from the Weekly World News about supernatural sightings, lit candles and pulled out the ouija board, then you came over, put on one of my hats, I gave you a carnation, and then we all went out for the night.

I remember when you and Jay and Ellen came over to welcome Blaine to Illinois. You got really drunk, fed Ellen my pound cake that my mother gave me, then proceeded to fall asleep in my chair, sitting sideways with your head in my open window sill. And yes, I have pictures, so you can’t deny any of this.

I remember going to C.O. Daniel’s with you on Friday afternoons with the other guys from the house and how we’d dress up in our Greek Sweatshirts to fit in... Well, you always fit in, that’s how you dressed, but I had to make an exception in my dress code for these weekly happy hours. And I remember how we were wallowing in our respective depression one friday afternoon, saying that nobody loves us and we’re ugly and we’ll grow up old and alone. Well, the vision I had of my future was that I would be an old maid living in an apartment with forty cats, periodically picking one up and asking “You love me, don’t you?” Well, anyway, I remember how we made a pact that if the two of us were still alone by the time we were forty, we’d get married.

We made a pact. You can’t back out on me now.












i seem to know animals

i seem to know animals. so here i am
in the middle of a cafe and there’s this
dog here, it’s the cafe owner’s dog, i think,
and he’s just walking around trying to get
some food from the tables and he stops and
looks at the nachos on my table. and he
looks at me. and i say, "oh, i know."
and he looked at me for a second, and
then he walked away.











i want

i want a big house with filtered central air
and i want a big lawn so i can recreate nature

and i want a big fence so i’ll know what’s mine

and i want the evergreens trimmed into neat little
balls, because it has to look neat. plant everything
in a row.

and i want to spray chemicals on my lawn
to keep the dandelions away

***

and i want a plastic lobster bib
over my fancy dress at the fancy restaurant

and don’t forget the hundred dollar champagne

and i want a big fat car, and i want
someone else to drive it

and i want the two kids, one boy, one girl
and i want a nanny to take care of them for me

i want to be famous
i want everyone to love me

i want it
i want it all












i want love

i’m laying here in bed
and i’m looking over at him

he’s sound asleep
perfectly happy

you know, i can’t remember
the last time he’s held me

he has no idea what i’m thinking
he’s perfectly content this way

i decided to spend the rest
of my life with him

he’s my best friend
but i don’t know if he loves me

damnit
i want love












plush horse stories
ice cream parlor,
candy shop, bakery, 1986-1990
work stories

ice cream stain

so steve, a real flirt (it always annoyed me), once
noticed that i had an ice cream stain on my shirt,
from working, and it was right at the center of my
chest, and he said, you know, i bet you have it there
just so all of us will look at your chest. and i thought
that this guy was just trying so hard to be funny, but
wasn’t.











i’m really going this time

i pack my bags
say i’m really going this time

you throw my bags
scream at me to leave

before you get more violent
and you mean it this time

i’m sitting in my car
outside the hotel

see you at the window
holding the drapes back

why do i have to think
that means you care?

why do i came back,
asking you if you realize

what you’ve done to me,
if you realize what

you’re about to lose.
i’ll bet you think

you’ll call me once
and everything will be

forgotten. other times,
yes, i’ve forgiven you.

i’ve come back. but i
can’t take being thrown

to the ground, strangled.
when i realize what i

lost that night, i’m
scared. but i have to

remember that you
lost more. you lost me.

i’m really going this time,
and you won’t see me again.

carry this with you,
always. this pain, like

the pain you’ve given me.
you won’t see me. carry this.












plush horse stories
ice cream parlor,
candy shop, bakery, 1986-1990
work stories

in a cardboard box

so we were talking about out sat and act scores,
because were were all the same age and were taking
our college entrance exams. so i asked steve
what he got on the act test. it’s like a thirty-six
point scale, and upper twenties is good enough for
a four-year college. and steve said, i got a nine; i
tied with the chimp. what a card. then we were talking
about this party, and i told him that he should have
a party, and he said he couldn’t. why not, i asked, and
he said he was homeless, that he lives in a cardboard
box. and i said, then why do your parents drive a
lincoln town car? and he didn’t have an answer. and i
wondered if he sat at home at nights and rehearsed these
clever lines for the next day, or if they just came naturally.











leaving

She walked over to the thermostat again.
“It’s hot in here,” she said to him again,
but the temperature still read a cool 68 degrees.
He started complaining to her about something,
like he did before, like he’d do again.
She walked into the kitchen and started
to splash some cold water on her face.

“Could you get a can of sardines while
you’re in there?”, he said to her.
Without saying a word, she walked to the
front door, picked her denim jacket off
the brass coat rack, grabbed the keys
hanging from the hook, and walked out the door.

She walked a mile and a half in the cold
before getting to the empty field.
Late November brought the first snow,
and bits of ice clung to the ground
in the early December night. She walked
out into the grass and leaves, and
listened to them crack as she moved.
The water she splashed onto her face
before was now frozen. Her ears,
her nose -- the skin on her hands and
cheeks -- were turning red, then purple.
The tops of her legs hurt from the cold.

She walked to the center of the field.
She sat down in the dirt. She smiled.
She laughed. She watched the moisture
from her breath freeze as soon as it left her
lips. She hurt from the cold. And she laughed.












gas stations and gun dealers

there are more gun dealers
in america
than gas stations

in california, more children
are killed by guns
than by car accidents

the rate of violent crimes
went down last year, but
the number of deaths
by guns increased

gun shot wounds
to people under sixteen
doubled
in the past three years

a young person
commits suicide with
a handgun
every eight hours

five hundred thirty-eight of
four thousand, nine hundred
ninety-eight
gunshot deaths last year
were accidental

my niece was over
at her grandparent’s house
she saw a rifle
sitting on the hallway floor

and she said to me,
hey, that’s a gun
and i told her
not to touch it

guns scare me
but she was fascinated

and i was more scared

there are more gun dealers
in america
than gas stationsdo












letter, 4/14/95 one

I’m kind of dead in the water. My burger-flippin’ gig fell through, or I fell through it. The morning I was to start, I put on my idiot uniform & got into my car to make the gig, & I COULD NOT DO IT. Big time anxiety attack. Telling myself that if I don’t get some bread together I’m gonna end up in various kinds of hell did not work.


is this what I’m reduced to? I can’t
go through with it, I can’t, I just can’t.
I deserve better than this. More. Some
thing rewarding, something fulfilling,

something not so empty, useless, life
less like the feeling left in my stomach.
At least I still have feeling, or is it just
a numbness of sorts, a numbness and an

anger. Numbness alone isn’t enough to
kill myself over, apathy and lack of
feeling doesn’t promote action. What do
I want? What can I do? What range of

emotions to I still have to go through,
before I’ve hit them all? I feel like I’m
near the end. When I get there, I’ll
know. Maybe it’s anger. I don’t know yet.












picking my friends

I had a friend while I was in
high school, her name was Kim,
she was a bit... progressive,
shall we say, a bit outspoken.
She was the type that followed
rock bands with hopes to get
a photograph or sleep with them.
She had bright red hair in a mohawk,
wore dark make-up. I remember once
she came over and dad looked
at her and said, are you going
to sue your hairdresser for what
they did to you?
Well, anyway, I spent a lot of
time with her while I was in
high school, and while I didn’t
chop all of my hair off (I was
too insecure to make a statement
with no meaning at fifteen),
our friendship had an effect on
my well-being. She was often
ill-tempered, and I found myself
getting into arguments with
her, feeling stressed because
of her. And mom saw this, and
long after the fact Sandy told
me that mom considered telling
me I couldn’t see my friend
anymore.
But she decided not to, thinking
I had to make my own decisions
about which friends I had, and
besides, if she told me I couldn’t
see Kim, I’d just want to see
her more anyway.
And yes, I learned, and I ended
the friendship soon after the
trouble began.
Well, I know I’m not supposed to
know about that, but I’ve always
wanted to thank her for the trust,
for letting me make my own
decisions.












the Fourteenth

grade school, lace and construction paper cut outs -
mimicking our hearts with school glue, a
sixty-four pack of crayons,
a doily, perhaps, and a child’s scribblings,
“Be My Valentine.” The beginning of every cold February
the classes of children are taught to make enough little hearts
for everyone, so that no one may be disappointed,
so that everyone can be your Valentine.
Nonetheless, one little child’s construction paper mailbox
come February fourteenth
always had less than everyone else’s.

And then it gets easier as the years go on
mommies buy little packs of Valentine cards
for their children to sign and give away to all the little
children at school. Saves them from having to
make all those cards,
the glue and the glitter and the cut-outs are messy.

Every fourteenth, second month
when I was little
I remember daddy bringing heart-shaped boxes
home for all the girls -
myself, my sister, my mother. I can remember mother now,
her candy box on her ironing board, thanking him once again
for the lovely gift. And so it goes.

And the card shops get fuller this time every year
husbands saying "my wife will kill me
if I don’t get her a card" or young women complaining
“my boss told me to get a card for his wife”

And the flowers seem the same, don’t they? Carnations
arranged in a big ball atop a little basket. Red,
yellow, pink, white. Lovely.
All the adornments of the holiday. Don’t stop short of the best.

A girlfriend said to me once
she’s sure boyfriends break up with you by the
beginning of February so they don’t have to
buy you anything. So they don’t have to say they love you.
Last year I spent Valentine’s Day
taking those chalky hearts with messages on them
and scribbling my own on the back.
“Screw You”, “Go Away”, “Leave Me Alone.” I never
liked the taste of those candies.
And the Valentine’s Day party,
where all the single people were thinking,
“Please give me someone to go home with. Don’t let me
be alone tonight.”

And the women getting lonely
and the married couples arguing
and the suicide rate going up

And the woman looking at the carnations on her
dining room table
holding the card in her hand that says “love, Jake”
wondering why it doesn’t feel good yet












let’s go

One summer day in August, I was
sixteen at the time, Sandy and I
were in the house, it was an
average Thursday, mom was out
golfing, dad was at Bob’s form
yard, doing something man-like,
cutting wood or something. The
cleaning lady was at the house,
I was getting ready for a summer
job interview that morning.
The phone rings, I answer it,
suddenly there’s this strange voice
on the other line talking, asking,
"Is your mother there?"
and my first instinct was that it
was Greg on the other line, a friend
of dad’s, he always liked to put on
a fake voice and try to fool the
kids. So I put on my most cordial
voice and said, "No she’s not, may
I take a message?"
and then the voice starts going on
about how he’s cut his finger and
he has to go to the hospital, and
then it finally occurs to me that
it’s my father, and he was in
so much pain that he could barely
speak. So he hangs up the phone
and Sandy and I try to call the
golf course, hoping to catch mom,
but she already left, and while
we waited for her to come home
dad came home to get us and
bring us to the hospital with him.
His hand was wrapped in a shirt,
half-soaked in blood. Sandy got
in the wagon, but she told me
to wait at home for mom. So dad
whipped the car out of the drive-
way and down the road, And I stood
in the driveway, watching him
drive away.
I was so distraught, I started to
cry, but I had to keep myself
together, because I didn’t want
to make it sound serious when I
told her and make her more nervous.
I didn’t want her to cry, he cut
his finger, he’d need stitches,
but he wasn’t going to die.
So I waited at the front window,
and when I saw her car drive down
the road I went to the garage.
When she pulled in I hopped in
the passenger side before she
turned off the engine. "Come on,
let’s go," I said, with a smile on
my face.
I tried to preface the story with
"Let me just say, that everything
is fine," but you just know when
bad news is coming up. But I tried
to make it sound funny, like dad
the klutz cut his hand.
I hope I did a good job. For eleven
blocks I was the one that had to
make sure that everything was
okay. I hope I did a good job.











letter, 4/14/95

Now it’s just sort of a daily refutation of going ahead and cutting my wrists. But I really don’t want to die. The intake dude at the clinic asked today, "Well, are you in immediate trouble? Are you into killing yourself TODAY?" "Well...I have IDEAS about how I might pull it off, and yeah, man, I do feel AWFULLY bad." But the doctor wasn’t buying it enough to see me before Monday. I guess I should learn to froth at the mouth & pull a razor blade right out at the beginning of the interview.

i keep seeing reports
that there are going to be
more cutbacks
saving us from the horrid

government waste,
and being a taxpayer
that manages to sustain
myself, I often tend to

agree. I think, why can’t
they get a job? I’ve done
it, why do I have to support
them? But then I see

you, and I wish there was
more I, or the government,
could do. I sit here, read
letter after letter, wondering

if this is the last piece of
mail I’ll ever receive from you.
Wondering if that doctor
ever feels any remorse

when she hears that a person
she turned away died by
their own hand. If anyone
feels any remorse. Does it

take knowing someone to
worry about them? Probably,
we americans learn to close
ourselves off to everyone we can,

to avoid pain. I feel your pain,
and I don’t mean that to sound
like some bad presidential
cliche. I wish there was something

I could give. Not medication.
Not words. Not even an
embrace. A new feeling. A
new lease on life. Anything.












letter, 4/14/95

I haven’t worked in 8 months. I CAN’T. The despair & shame & guilt & sorrow & hopelessness & despair are immense. My family thinks I’m jerking off. They’re TIRED of me being a problem. & they don’t have the wherewithal to help me. What more can anyone else say? “Don’t die. Get some help.”

Every time I’ve felt the despair and pain
I knew it would go away. And it would.
I knew there was always hope, somewhere,

and I would be fine. I feel so lost now. I
don’t know what to offer you. I feel a
little piece of your death in every letter,

only wishing I could take your pain and
pull it into me, then make my pain go away,
like I always do. I know I can’t. But

I don’t want to see you go, damnit, I
don’t want to see you slipping through
my fingers just as your letters do.

My hands are tied, and the despair &
shame & guilt & sorrow & hopelessness &
despair are immense. I want to help you,

I don’t want to be a victim, too, by having
to watch you die and not be able to do
a damn thing about it. Don’t die. Get

some help. Don’t die. Get some help.












letter, 4/19/95

The depression is so fucking bad I can’t work. I’m applying for disability, but that may take months. I’m losing this place, & where I’m going is anyone’s guess. I have a shrink appt on Tuesday, but how I’m going to pay for the medication is beyond me. It hardly seems worth it. I know I have things to accomplish; my soul knows it. But the doors of possibility are slamming closed one after another, & I’m not sure I can hang on much longer.

your soul knows it. hang on.
they say that a soul not at rest after
death will travel the earth through

all eternity, searching for peace
but never finding it. you want
your peace. i know it. this is

not the way. you have so many
things to accomplish. that
book, that lover. christ, that

extra six-pack stuck in the back
of the fridge. just find something,
anything, fix on that, and let that

take you to the next day. do that
for long enough and maybe you’ll
find that peace you’re looking for.

but don’t stop searching. things
have to fall into place first.
they have to. they have to.












letter, 4/19/95

I’m kind of dead in the water. My burger-flippin’ gig fell through, or I fell through it. The morning I was to start, I put on my idiot uniform & got into my car to make the gig, & I COULD NOT DO IT. Big time anxiety attack. Telling myself that if I don’t get some bread together I’m gonna end up in various kinds of hell did not work.

is this what I’m reduced to? I can’t
go through with it, I can’t, I just can’t.
I deserve better than this. More. Some
thing rewarding, something fulfilling,

something not so empty, useless, life
less like the feeling left in my stomach.
At least I still have feeling, or is it just
a numbness of sorts, a numbness and an

anger. Numbness alone isn’t enough to
kill myself over, apathy and lack of
feeling doesn’t promote action. What do
I want? What can I do? What range of

emotions to I still have to go through,
before I’ve hit them all? I feel like I’m
near the end. When I get there, I’ll
know. Maybe it’s anger. I don’t know yet.












Letter on Religion

Thank you for writing to me about how you felt about your religion. You wanted a response - and I wanted to tell you the things I’m about to over the phone so you could actually hear my voice - I wanted you to know how honest, sincere and open I’m being in what I say. How much I believe in what I’m saying. We never seem to get the chance to discuss this, and when we are on the phone, it does seem a little difficult to say, “hey, let’s change the subject to our differing religious beliefs.”
So, so you don’t think I was avoiding the questions, I’ll answer them now, point-by-point, from your previous letter.
You first ask me what I think happens to us when we die. You believe one of two things happens - you’re either saved by Jesus Christ and spend eternity in heaven with God, or you spend eternity separated from God.
Whoa, I think I’ve got to cover some other ground about me before I even respond to that one. Okay, here goes: I’m a very rational person by nature (you may not think so by some of the stupid things I’ve done in the past, but I’ve grown up, as have you, and I’ll get into all that later). There is no proof that a God exists - that is inherent and necessary in religion, abandoning reason and having faith that a God exists. And for every situation where a religious person refers to God’s influence, I can give at least three other possibilities that are more grounded in reason - reality - than theirs. The concept of a God doesn’t make sense to me when there are so many other, more rational, possibilities. Something has to be proven to me in order for me to believe it.
Or at least be provable.
Morals taught by religion and the notion of a God are not usually bad, in fact, they are often quite redeeming in society - not killing people, being monogamous, being kind to others - but those are morals, virtues, values, which by definition are not based on religion. One can learn good values, morals without a God or religion. It’s just that most people, as I see it, cannot see a consequence to being “good” unless the consequence is a God. I see consequences in doing good, for myself as well as others, and that is why I choose to be a good, kind, successful person.
Okay, I think that starts to cover the basics, so now I can go back to your letter...
You believe there are two possibilities for you when you die. Since I don’t believe in a God, I believe one thing happens - you die (worm food, to be rude). That I believe is the other major reason why religion and this notion of God has existed for so long - because people are afraid to face death - people really don’t want to believe that death is an end for them. Well, it is an end - for their body, for their personality - of course, their matter and energy go on to exist in new forms after their death, but when you die, you die. That’s what I believe. Your memory can last in others, you can have an effect on other people’s lives after your death, but when you die, you simply cease to exist.
Then you say that you want me to be in heaven with you. Thank you, I really thought that was very sweet. If there was a heaven, I’d want to be there with you, too. If there was a heaven, I would hope that your God would look at the life I’ve lead and think I’m a good person and give me the chance to be a part of his Kingdom after my death. After I’ve seen his existence. If your God was unwilling to give me that chance, then I don’t think I’d like your God.
Then you refer to sharing the joy of heaven with me, and the joy of being with the Lord. There’s another joy I experience, not related to a God, which I don’t think you realize. I’ll explain in a moment.
Yes, you’ve always claimed to be a Christian, and sometimes you haven’t led a very Christ-like life. Most people are that way, and it bothers me that people claim to have beliefs but don’t live by them. They’re not really beliefs then, and all these people are lacking a belief system that they understand. The fact that you’ve decided to actually pay attention to the beliefs you claimed to have before is an admirable thing. Personally, I think you’re going in the wrong direction, because I think the structure your beliefs depend on - Christianity - is a falsehood, but at least you’ve decided to live by the beliefs you’ve claimed for so long.
You write that since your decision to grow in the Lord, you haven’t felt like running away and trying to fill an emptiness in your life with alcohol or sex. That’s good - we all have to come to that point at some time in our lives in order to adhere to a value system. I think I’ve come to that point as well, but by a different means.
Then you ask me: which is better, being a super-intellectual who doesn’t believe in God and has an emptiness in their life, or being the person who has Christ in their life filling that void?
Wow. There are a two things I’d like to say about that last sentence. First, it’s funny how a super-intellectual doesn’t believe in God, but apparently you can’t be a super-intellectual and believe in God (well, that’s true, but I didn’t think you’d write it). Second, you forgot my category - being a super-intellectual who doesn’t believe in God and has no emptiness in their life. I fill my own void. I am whole.
You see similarities between us, and you say that in my searches for the right party or the right man I was looking for Jesus. Well, in the past I suppose I was searching for something else when I was looking for the right party or the right man, but I found it. Myself. I’ve discovered that I’m an intelligent, powerful, beautiful, dedicated, driven woman who can do whatever I set my mind to. I’ve discovered that when I use the best tools I have - my mind - I can succeed in making myself happy, in accomplishing my goals. And you know, knowing that about myself, believing in my abilities as a person - gives me the drive to do what I want and need with my life, and makes me truly happy, deep-down happy. It gives me what you call joy.
And it gives me even a greater joy knowing that it is my mind - my mind, my abilities, my power, not some God’s - that makes my life complete. I have complete dominion over my life. I’m the one I answer to.
I can have a bad day or I can have a good day. Something wrong can happen to me or my circumstances. But I know who I am and I know what I’m capable of, and I have no regrets, and I know that I’ll make it though anything I choose to tackle. I’ll make it through what I choose to tackle, not what your God helps me through. And knowing that I’m a complete human being gives me great joy.
You write that God has helped you in your dealings with AIDS. I’m sure it has - when your world doesn’t make sense, when you’re faced with your own mortality, it’s a great comfort to make sense of it all.That’s often a course of action for many people who get AIDS, when they don’t feel they are strong enough to depend on themselves. People I know in AIDS groups say that’s one of the common routes for people who find out they have AIDS. That’s one of the steps most sufferers of traumatic events go through. That’s what victim-blaming is in cases of rape - it makes no sense that a man did this to a woman, but if it is the woman’s fault, the woman could know what she did wrong - correct the actions of the woman, and the woman is safe from rape - but it’s just not true. This is what you’ve done with your God. God was your answer to all of your questions - not the right answer, in my opinion, but an answer when you could find nothing else.
You say that God is using your situation to help others. No, you’re using your situation to help others. It’s that simple.
You feel that your church is a place for activism. Your church rejects homosexuality. Your church doesn’t believe women are on equal footing with men. The Bible says so. Activism within the church could mean the sharing of values and morals and good beliefs, but I fear that activism within the church would mean the spread of narrow-minded ideas such as homophobia and sexism.
Then you share a few verses with me. The first is John 3:16 (He gave His only son...). You then say “That’s unconditional love. God loves me and you no matter what we say or do. I think that’s wonderful.”
I don’t think that’s wonderful. It makes no sense to give unconditional love. If love is unconditional, then there is no value in it. If you love something or someone whether that something or someone is good or bad, you love something or someone whether you want to or not, then it is not earned, it is not chosen, and it is not a value and it possesses no worth. Value is a standard to be judged by; worth is defined as deserving of or meriting. To me, love is a standard that people earn and therefore deserve, and that is what makes it valuable to me.
You say you can’t believe you lived as long as you did without believing these words. “Yes, it means you don’t get the credit for the things you’ve done, but at the same time, you realize the Lord has a hand in it,” you write. But God didn’t have a hand in it, Gods have been created by people throughout the ages to answer the unanswerable. People created rain gods when they didn’t understand the weather. People created gods for harvests when they didn’t know if they could sustain themselves, when they didn’t have the knowledge to harvest successfully. People created gods that reflected the stars and planets when they didn’t understand the universe beyond the world. People created a God to explain how the world began, how to live well, and what will happen after our lives end. All these gods reflected the image of man and earth. But they were all created.
God doesn’t have a hand in what you do, you do, and you should thus take responsibility - and credit - for what you do.
“Yes, bad things still happen, but you know that God will see you through them,” you write. Yes. bad things still happen, but you know that you will see you through them, you, not your God.
And that brings us to the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness comes and goes. Joy is forever. I even have times that aren’t happy, but I never lose Joy or Hope.
You wrote that sentence, and you wrote it about your God. I could have written that sentence, but it would have been about me.
You really want me to experience the same joy you have. I think I do. And my joy comes from within. You can’t find joy from within, so you find it in your God.
Then you write: “Now let’s say I’m wrong. When you die, you’re just dead and there’s nothing else. Well I’m still happy trusting in God and I won’t have lost anything.”
The thing is, if there is no God, you have lost - you’ve lost your life. You’ve spent your life living for something that wasn’t real, that didn’t exist. You’ve spent your life relying on something other than yourself. You’ve spent your life under false assumptions, not to your full potential, doing what you were not meant to do as a human being. You’ve wasted your life. And to someone who doesn’t believe in a God, you’re life, this lifetime, is all you have, so you’ve lost everything.
“But if I’m right, wouldn’t you like to be with me in heaven?”
As I wrote before, if there was a heaven, I would hope that your God would look at the life I’ve lead and think I’m a good person and give me the chance to be a part of his Kingdom after my death. If I saw a God, if he was shown to me after I died, I think I would be on my knees praising (I mean, you’d have to respect the guy if he really did everything religion claims). If your God was unwilling to give me that chance, then I don’t think I like your God. Besides, that wouldn’t be a God that loves me unconditionally.
---
I don’t think you’re some brainwashed right-wing preacher, as you write. I do think you have intelligence. I also think you’re scared. I think most of us, most people our own age, still feel as invincible as we did when we were too young to understand death, and none of us are really ever ready to face our own mortality.
I wish I could help you with your fears. I don’t know the right words to say, but I know that the answers are within you, and you just have to look for them.
I have thought about this, I wouldn’t just cast aside what you say (I think this letter is evidence to that...). But I’ve thought about this for years; you’d have to do that in order to have a cohesive value system.
And I don’t think this because I think the world is cruel and evil. In fact, I think there is the opportunity for great happiness and joy in life, for great achievements, and for great minds to prosper. But for great minds to prosper, they have to follow reason. Faith may be acceptable for hunches about unimportant day-to-day events, but not with your life.
You have to take your life into your own hands and make it what you want.
I know you won’t read this and agree with me, I’m just hoping you understand me and not worry about me (I get the impression that you do - that you think I have a void in my life and it is only filled with depression, and that’s simply not true). As we grow up, grow old, mature and gain knowledge, we have to come up with a comprehensive value system in order to make our lives complete. I think I’ve done a pretty good job for myself; I’m sure there’s a lot more learning I have to do in my lifetime, but I think I’m on the right track. I hope you are, too.












letters from war time

Dear Jeremy--
August 3
Hi!! How are you? I’m doing okay, but I’m really kind of bored. You see, I have a lot of work to do and all, but I really just don’t feel like actually doing any of it. All I want to do is lay down in my bed and put my head on your shoulder, and feel you holding me.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I am still thinking of you. Really. I want to see you in October. My money situation may be a little tougher than I had originally anticipated, but I still want to see you. Okay, I’ll walk across the country to see you. That’s probably the cheapest way to go. I’ll find a way. Dreamy eyes misses you--

Dear Jeremy--
August 28
Hello... I’m bored again. It’s not as if I only think of you when I am bored, honey... don’t think that... It’s just that I try not to allow myself the privilege of thinking about you too excessively when I have a lot of other things to do. Right now, it just so happens that even though I have a lot of things to think about, I can’t help but think of you. Okay, okay, so I’m babbling again.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your trip. I hope you didn’t think that I was a crab for part of the trip-- in fact, you were the one thing that made me feel better. You have a knack for doing that. Anyway, thanks for the flowers. And the meals... And everything. I really had a great time with you. I enjoyed sharing the champagne with you, and I really enjoyed sharing the grapes with you. Dreamy eyes already misses you. I don’t want to have to resign myself to merely writing you letters again. I have to see you again soon. Okay, I’ll drive. Well, maybe, if I can’t afford a plane, I can take a train. Fine-- I’ll walk-- just as long as I see you. dreamy eyes misses you--

Dear Jeremy--
September 1
Hi, honey. How are you? I’m okay-- I talked to you last night, when you first found out about your ex-girlfriend’s car accident. I want you to know that I really am sorry to hear about it all. I know that it has to hurt... a lot. I could just imagine what I’d be going through if something happened to my ex-boyfriend. I’m sure I’d be a wreck-- crying all night would be just the beginning of it all. Wow. It would really be a messy sight, if someone I cared about was hurt-- especially if I was all alone. Wow. Really messy. You better not let anything happen to yourself. I don’t know what I would do.
And I want you to know that I think it’s okay to talk about it-- to talk about your ex-girlfriend-- and even to me. First things first, Jeremy-- I’m your friend. Don’t you forget it. And if anything ever happens to us (which, by the way, I’m kind of hoping that nothing ever does happen to us-- I’m beginning to grow attached to you, you know), I want you to always know that I will be your friend. You can talk to me, Jeremy-- and that means about anything. The first thing that I’m concerned about is your happiness. So I’ll listen. And you don’t have to worry about hurting my feelings or putting any stress on us or on our relationship, because-- well, you’re not. I really don’t mind talking to you when you have a problem-- that’s what I’m here for. Even if I’m just listening to you talk about your ex-girlfriend... besides, right now you have a legitimate reason to want to talk to someone, or to have a shoulder to lean on. Actually, I only wish that I could be there to give you that shoulder to lean on, and not resign myself to merely trying to make you feel better by talking to you on the phone. I wish I could be there to make all of the hurt go away.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that. Dreamy eyes misses you. Misses you something fierce, Jeremy. Talk to you soon--

Donna--
September 9
I don’t know, I just feel lonely. I get so insecure without a guy. Jeremy doesn’t help when he’s so far away. I want things to work out for us-- I really do-- but we’ve known each other for less than three months. I can’t base any sort of future on that. I can’t count on that. So I look for people like Eric, just to keep me occupied in the meantime. But that doesn’t even seem to be working out... and, by the way, it’s not because I’m thinking about Jeremy or anything. Something seems wrong at his end-- I don’t know, maybe he doesn’t want a commitment, maybe he doesn’t want to get too close... But then I start wondering if there is something wrong with me-- I get the mentality that there has to be something wrong with me if someone doesn’t like me. It has to be my fault. It gets depressing.
Anyway, I really should be going. Write back soon-- I don’t know when I’ll be able to visit again--it may not be October, but January, but I will let you know. I would be very happy to see you again, honey... I could use it.
keep in touch--
p.s....Yeah, things were good when Jeremy was here. We had a few little arguments in the last two days-- I think it was because we in such confined living quarters and spent nearly every moment together for so long (how does the saying go--guests are like fish-- they both get old after three days?). But it was so nice to feel like I was actually worth something for a couple of days. What a refreshing, comforting feeling...what a foreign feeling...

Dear Jeremy--
September 10
Hello, honey... how are you? I’m all right... It’s 7:50 in the morning, I got up early just so that I could write you a letter and send it out in the mail today, so that you wouldn’t feel like you weren’t getting much mail... hint hint...
Anyway, there was actually a reason that I wanted to write you a letter this morning. I got to thinking last night... granted, I’ve only had three hours of sleep last night, and I’m kind of weary, but I got to thinking last night. About you. And me. And this whole distance thing-- okay, I know that we both want to give this a good try-- at least I know that I do. But I’ve been in these long distance relationships before, and I’ve been trying to figure out for the life of me what I’ve been doing wrong in all of them (obviously I’ve been doing something wrong in all of them, or they wouldn’t all be over with now...). Now, you’ll agree that long distance relationships are pretty unorthodox, and therefore probably require pretty unorthodox rules to go by in order for them to work... Well, I probably sound like I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, and that I have no point whatsoever. I’m working on it... I just think (now, this is the rational side of me talking, and surely not the emotional side of me talking, which is the side that will probably hit me on the head once I send this letter out) that maybe you and I shouldn’t be so closed-minder about seeing other people. Maybe you’re not... but I just started thinking that it’s really unreasonable for me to think that you should be 2,000 miles away and totally faithful. You have needs, and there is no reason why I should interfere with you doing what you would be normally be doing if I wasn’t in the picture.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want you to be unhappy. I don’t want you to be stringing yourself along because you feel compelled to because “you’re going out with someone”-- even thought she’s 2000 miles away. I don’t want you to feel burdened because of me. Granted, if you really don’t want to go out with other people, please don’t feel the urge to go out and screw some slut because you thought that that was what I wanted-- I’d be happy to know that you were waiting for me, it’s just that I want to be sure-- and I want you to be sure-- that you’re waiting for me because you want to be waiting for me.
I don’t know. I guess I’m just babbling. I just don’t want you to ever feel like I’m an inconvenience or anything. You’re my baby. I don’t want to lose you. Dreamy eyes misses you... something fierce. I just want you to be happy. A big part of me hopes you can find that happiness with me.. it may take a little more work to be happy, then, but I only hope it’s worth it. I love you--

Dear Jeremy--
September 10
It is an hour before I’m supposed to talk to you. I decided that I had to get out of my sweat-box of an apartment, before I passed out from pure exhaustion from the heat... Granted, I’ve only had three hours of sleep, and that would be another reason that I would want to fall asleep before 1:00. I told you that I wouldn’t be asleep by the time you called tonight...even if it killed me. I know how you must just hate having to deal with talking to me on the phone when I’m nearly comatose... I know that usually a speeding train can go through my room when I’m asleep and it won’t wake me up. I’m a really heavy sleeper, to say the least. Please forgive me.
I got a letter from you today-- right after I dropped that other letter of mine in the mailbox. I feel like a real idiot for writing that letter-- and I feel like an even bigger idiot for mailing that letter, even when I knew that mailing that letter was a stupid thing to do. Please take my mood swings with a grain of salt. With a fifty pound block of salt. No, this isn’t PMS... this is just me. I go insane from time to time. For the last week I’ve been pretty much depressed and sad, and very tired. You know how I get down on myself so easily-- well, I was just thinking that everything that was going wrong in my life was ALL MY FAULT, and it was just all of these inherent deficiencies within me that causes al of the problems that I seem to get in my life. Then for a few days I was pretty happy, kind of like a more content feeling than being joyously happy... I think it was partially because I was working full-time for a few days, and I was starting to feel a sense of accomplishment. I think it might also have had something to do with the fact that the weekend had sprung upon me, and I was free to go out and get plastered with my friends. Then this morning, I suppose after so little sleep, I went nuts. You would have thought that I just would have been overly tired or something-- that would have made more sense-- but I went to sleep after four in the morning, and by 7:40 I was up, dressed, and writing you a psycho letter. For the rest of the day I was going nuts, too-- I was arguing with some people today, saying that they were the yuppie type that would have a kid and send them off to day care and expect some organization like the PMRC to regulate what their children can and cannot hear instead of regulating and explaining these things to their children themselves. I was freaking out.
But now I think I’ve come back down to earth... Maybe it’s just because of the lack of sleep that I’m experiencing right now... You know, my eyes are really sore. They’ve been open for far too long, without much of a break.
Anyway, I really should be going. If I don’t end this letter soon, I’ll miss your call. And hell, that’s the whole damn reason why I’m staying up in the first place, right? Well, happy birthday, my love. I wish I could be there to share it with you. I love you. Dreamy eyes misses you.

Dear Jeremy--
September 14
Hi, honey... How are you? I’m okay-- actually, I’m in a much better mood than I have been in recently... I just found out that I got the account I wanted for my business... I mean, it’s one thing to have a part-time job and make money the way that everyone always does, but it’s entirely another thing to create your own business and set your own rates and make money ENTIRELY ON YOUR OWN. I don’t have that much work yet, but I really don’t have the time for much work-- and the work that I’m doing is very easy for me and very fun, as well. For the time I’m putting into it, I’m making about $20.00 an hour, and it’s doing something that I really like...
So, in other words, at least for my business-- things are going really well.
But I’d much rather be seeing you... which is what I want to do in the beginning of November. I first thought that it would be good to see you near the end of October, but then I realized that I have too much going on. I think it would be better to come and visit you on the first weekend of November. I hate to have to wait that long, but it really seems like the best thing to do.
But I know that I’m going to see you in January-- if it kills me. Right after some of my Army friends’ troops are sent out-- I’m going to need to see you. I’m going to do it. I miss you, Jeremy. Dreamy eyes misses you. Various organs in my body miss you. I will see you soon-- I love you--

Dear Tim--
September 16, about 7:00 p.m.
I miss you a lot. I really miss you. I don’t know why. I have to admit that there is something that makes me miss you-- a lot. Maybe you can explain it; maybe you can explain it to me.
Maybe I’m just babbling. That’s probably it. I’ll try to shut up now.
I hate men. I hate them all. I mean it. They’re either geeks, or... They either want to use you or they want to “just be friends”. Fuckers. I hate them all. I mean it. I can’t find one, I mean ONE, out there. What is my problem?? I’m ugly, I know, but I didn’t think I was THAT ugly. And plastic surgery is out of the question.
But I’m going to beat myself into a floundering pile of flesh if I continue to talk this way. So I guess that this is all for now-- I miss you--
p.s.: Do you know if Steve is going out with the first batch of troops? I never see him anymore. Maybe I should visit you guys in Iowa, just in case he’s leaving.

Dear Jeremy--
September 16
Hi, honey... How are you?? How are you??? How is one of the sexiest men in the universe?? I’m feeling a little better, as you might be able to tell...
Sorry. I’m being really weird, aren’t I?... Whatever. That’s just my style. I went out last night... and I stayed out until after four in the morning. Ouch. I was out the night before, too-- until after three. Shoot me now. It’s weird, though-- I never get hangovers. Not even a headache. It must be from all the sex I’m getting... JUST KIDDING!!! Geez-- can’t you take a joke? Actually, I’ve been getting pretty lonely over here, and horny as all hell. You better come and visit me.
Better yet-- I’ll come and visit you. How does the second week in November sound? I just checked the rates, and they’re about $220. I think I could easily cover half of that-- If you could cover the other half, I could come and visit. I hate to do this to you, but if I’m going to be taking two more trips before February, I’m going to have to save my money and really budget myself. I don’t have a job where I know I’m going to get any money at all.
And if you can’t come up with the money now (you know, that really makes it sound like a ransom or something), I can cover it for now, as long as you promise that you will eventually cover me. How does that sound??
Here are the pictures from when you came to visit. I thought some of them were cute, and I gave you extras of the ones of you so that you could give them to people like your mom or something. Mind you, I don’t want you giving any of these pictures to any other women. I don’t want anyone else to even have a photograph of you to admire.
Anyway-- I should probably get going. Dreamy eyes misses you. Write me soon-- and if you want, I really don’t mind if we limit the calls for financial purposes. Actually, I do mind, but I also understand. I just need the occasional reminder that you still care about me. I love you-- keep in touch--

Dear Jeremy--
September 20
Hello, darling.
I’m in a weird mood. Last night-- after I talked to you-- my friend Christine came over and we had dinner. She’s the type of friend with whom I only do things like have dinner with-- I don’t know, she just isn’t the “going-out-and-getting-really-drunk” type. So we had dinner, and talked about our love lives-- you see, she’s starting to go out with this man from Seattle, Washington, so we’re kind of in the same boat. She’s not so crazy about Bob, however, the way that I am about you. Anyway, then Christine left and I went out with my friend Tara (she used to be my next door neighbor-- she’s really cool, I like her a lot...) and a bunch of her friends that I didn’t know. Then I saw my friends Jessica and Rachel, and I eventually left the bar at close and hung out at Jessica and Rachel’s place for a while. Then they walked me home and stayed over and talked-- until about FOUR IN THE MORNING. It was like they would never leave.. I was about to fall asleep while they were over. But it was neat to talk to them... I think I’m going over to Tara’s place for dinner tonight. This has really been a pretty busy weekend. I thought it wouldn’t be, being Labor Day weekend and all, since everybody usually goes home. Maybe I’ll even get the chance to go out tonight!!!
Oh, and another thing, young man. Young, virile man. Young, sexy, strapping studly man... Sorry, I’m getting carried away again. I was just going to say that you don’t have to worry about being jealous over me. I mean, it’s cute when you say the things that you do over the phone, but I really hope that you not really worried that I’m cheating on you or anything. First of all, if I was going on a date with somebody else, I surely wouldn’t tell you-- unless you specifically asked about it, of course. So when I tell you that I’m going out with somebody who is just a friend, you don’t have to worry about it. I don’t want you to worry when there is nothing to worry about. Secondly, I think I like you just a bit too much to really think about looking for some other stud muffin to hang all over-- maybe that will change in time, I don’t know, but right now (if you don’t ming me using stupid, tiring, worn-out cliches), I only have eyes for you.
And one other thing, my beefy burrito of love... I’ll probably get so jealous if I even suspect that you’re looking at another woman, that I’ll hijack an airplane or something, come down to Arizona and teach you a thing or two about trying to cheat on me. It won’t be a pretty scene...
Now that I’ve just succeeded in sounding really stupid, I’m going to get going. Dreamy eyes misses you. It’s true. No, really. I mean it.

Dear Donna--
September 23
How are you?? Thank you very much for the very nice letter...
I want to make a little note before I go on with this letter. This letter is confidential. I don’t want a word of this getting out to Jeremy, do you understand me?? As soon as you read this letter, I want you to throw this letter away... No, don’t do that, because it could then be found in the garbage or something. I want you to eat the letter. No, better yet, I want you to burn this letter when you’re done. Burn it, and then eat the ashes. It’s that important to me. Do this favor for me.
It’s weird, but I have been so busy in the past week that I really haven’t had the time to be too depressed, so during this past week I’ve been fine. But this weekend, as soon as I had the time to think about my life, I got mortally depressed, and for the past day and a half, if I haven’t been crying, I’ve been wanting to cry. I’ve already dumped my depression on two of my friends in long talks-- I probably would be bothering more of my friends if so many people weren’t out of town.
Friday night I got really depressed. I was okay when I woke up Saturday morning, but then I started getting depressed. I cried. This is the way that I’ve been lately.
And I can’t even really explain why I’m feeling this way. I’ve been getting along with Eric pretty well (and I do say PRETTY well for a reason... it just seems that even though we go out a lot and get along well, we’re just not very close. I need closeness, I suppose...)... I guess I’m just thinking about all of the things that I think are wrong with my life, and I’m thinking about all of the things that I could like to change in my life, and I’m thinking about all of those things which I cannot change... and it just all seems so damn depressing.
I start thinking, for example, about my last relationship, and I start wondering what went wrong there. I just keep thinking that I had love once, and I let it go. I HAD to let it go... but I let it go nonetheless. I just keep remembering that I was once happy, and I keep wondering if I will ever find that kind of happiness again.
And then I start to realize that the only thing I’ve been doing in my spare time is getting really drunk. What the hell kind of life is that?? I remember last year when I was spending wasn’t unattached... I had BETTER things to do with my spare time that getting drunk. I had nothing to escape from by drinking. Now all it seems that all I’m doing is escaping. I want to find something in my life that I won’t want to escape from.
But then at the same time, I find myself sometimes pushing people away from me. I wonder if that might be because I don’t want to hurt the way that I did when I lost love. Maybe I’m just starting to feel like I’ll never find it anyway, so there’s no point in getting myself in any sort of situation where I might feel vulnerable. I don’t know.
And then I keep catching myself holding a glimmer of hope that something might work out. I catch myself thinking that Eric might actually open up to me once, or that he might show me that he cares. All of the other guys he is friends with keep calling me his girlfriend. All of his close friends keep trying to reassure me that he actually does like me. But the thing is, why do I need his friends to reassure me? I shouldn’t have to be reassured by his friends that he likes me. I should be able to know. He should be able to tell me. But he doesn’t. You know, come to think of it, some of Dave’s friends kept telling me that HE liked me... They kept trying to reassure me... and Dave turned out to be the biggest ass-hole... I wonder if there is any sort of correlation there...
And I don’t even want to think about Jeremy right now. It’s not that I don’t like him or anything, but... well, there are two reasons why I’m thinking this right now. The first is that he really doesn’t fit into my life right now. He can’t make me happy from 2,000 miles away, and there’s no point in getting all depressed when there’s nothing I can do about the situation. The other reason is that I don’t want to get myself too close to someone that circumstance says that I can’t be too close to, because then I’ll only get hurt. The less I hurt, the better right now.
So here I sit, dating Jeremy from afar, while trying to salvage this miserable relationship with Eric.
Sorry that I’ve been babbling all of this time, but I’ve really needed to get this all out, and there really is no one around here that really wants to hear all of this. I know that none of this probably makes any sense to you whatsoever, but at least I got it out-- somewhat... I hope this helps out.
Anyway... Please don’t tell Jeremy about ANYTHING that I’ve been writing. I’m probably just an insane woman babbling right now, and I’ll probably change my mind in about ten minutes or so. Sorry again-- and I hope that things are going a little better for you-- keep in touch-- thanks for everything--
ps-- and how ARE things going with you, anyway?? I don’t mean to sound so self-centered when I write my letters and never ask about what is going on in your life... I know that you know that I want to know all of the gory details. Keep in touch-- love you--

Dear Donna--
September 24
Hi... It’s 12:37 in the morning.
And here I am again, just babbling. I’m in a bad mood. I got some great news today-- Eric just broke up with me. Yes, I know-- I wrote you that whole letter yesterday and now we’re “just friends”. Aren’t those words really awful? And the thing is, he says that he likes me, and this all has nothing to do with me-- it’s just him, and he doesn’t know if he wants a relationship at this point in his life. So here I sit.
I guess I have Jeremy. But what good does that do me?
No, I haven’t cried. I kind of wanted to, thinking that it might just get it out of my system. But I haven’t. If anything, I’ve wanted to cry because I hate feeling sorry for myself, and I hate having to feel like I need someone in my life in order to feel important, and I really hate not liking myself.
I think I’m going to stay away from all men for a while. In fact, I think I’m going to stay away from all people for a while. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of the system. I’m tired of me, and maybe I should just try to get all of the work in my life in order -- just devote myself for a while to doing my work, getting myself organized.
Well, I’ve got to go. Life goes on. Talk to you soon----

Dear Jeremy--
September 25
Hi. I just got one of my letters back that I had sent to you (all of the preceding pages, in fact). It seems that the Post Office didn’t like how I put the stamp on the damn envelope or something. Don’t blame me...
Anyway-- I have to make this letter really short and sweet. I’m really busy--
I’ve been really down all week. I can’t help it. I have never liked myself. Not at all. I’ve just deduced that I don’t want to hear that other people don’t even like me, when I can’t even like myself. It’s a pretty simple theory. Pretty straight forward.
Anyway, on that pleasant note, I’m going to get going. Keep in touch, jeremy. Dreamy eyes misses you something fierce. Just a thought... i love you--

Dear Donna--
September 25
Hi... It’s 7:20 in the morning. I went to bed at about 2:30 last night and set my alarm for 5:30 in the morning,. So yes, I’ve been asleep for a whole three hours... Other than the fact that my eyes hurt a little, I’m really not tired. I think I have too much on my mind.
I talked to a friend of mine for a while last night-- Lori-- and I ended up chain smoking and eating pizza at about 11:00 last night. Not very healthy. I figure I need all of the help I can get if I’m going to try to make myself look good again. I can use this little break-up with Eric that I now have under my belt as a sort of fuel-for-the-fire. I think people would call this a positive way to burn negative energy. I don’t know what I’d call it.
I think I’d call it feeling really bad because I hate being alone and I hate hating myself that I want to get my frustrations out on something. Maybe it doesn’t make too much sense, but then again, nothing I ever do makes too much sense. Such is life.
Well, I’m going to go. I look like hell. Granted, I have no one to impress... Well, enough of that. Keep in touch---

Dear Jeremy--
September 26
Hi, Honey! How are you? I’m alright-- especially now that I just got a card AND a letter from you today in the mail!! I was in an okay mood, at best... So when I got back today and found that you had sent me all this neat stuff, I was really excited. Well, not that excited-- I reserve those feelings for when you are in the same part of the country as I am...
I hope you like the birthday card. It was one of three (at least) that I wanted to get, but since I couldn’t afford them all, I had to choose only one of them... Maybe I’ll go back and get the rest of them another day. I just kept picking out the perverted cards and saying, “I want to get THIS one... and THIS one...” I really couldn’t help myself.
Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for all of the attention that you have paid me. I know that sounds kind of queer, and I know that you’re thinking that I don’t have to thank you or anything, but I want to. There are times when I’m feeling awful, and then I’ll find a card from you in my mailbox that says something like, (and let me quote from your card) “besides, I love you something fierce!”, and I won’t be able to help but feel better. If nothing else, those little cards and letters and phone calls keep me just a little more sane-- and it seems like I need all the help I can get these days...
But it’s not as if that is the only reason that I like the cards and letters and phone calls-- not only do they help me feel just a little closer to you, but they also help me to believe that you really do care about me. And I need that. It’s also nice, by the way, to know what’s going on in your life... I just wish that I could be more of a part of it.
And I hope I can do the same for you with my letters and cards and phone calls. I hope that when you need someone to make you feel better, my letter gets dropped in your mailbox. It’s the least I can do for someone I love.
Anyway, I should go. I’ve got so much stuff to do. Dreamy eyes misses you-- especially at times like this. Keep in touch, love, and keep thinking about me--

Dear Jeremy--
September 27
Hi, honey... I miss you. I’ve been really down lately. I don’t know why. I don’t even want to spend time with other people at all anymore. It’s strange, how I can make a turn around in the way I feel about everything so fast.
I just wanted to drop you a little note and tell you that I thought of you the other day.
Well, I think about you every day, but this one time stuck out in my mind. I was thinking that I wanted you to make love to me again. But I was thinking that I didn’t want it to be kinky, or really horny, or very creative. I just wanted you to make love to me. I wanted to feel your love again. It didn’t have to be anything special-- just the fact that you were making love to me would make it special.
That’s what I was thinking. Dreamy eyes misses you.

Dear Tim--
September 30, about 8:00 p.m.
I’m always doing things for other people. I’m nice. Too nice. Why am I so wonderful? No, you’re not supposed to be laughing. Okay, okay, so I’m getting a little carried away, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why I’m so nice to people. People just use me.
But of course... I forgot... That is the story of my life... Things just can’t go well for me... that’s just the way it is...
I hate people.
Oh, the guy that I’m spending time with used to like me, so now I’m worried that he wants to rekindle the flame. Oh, there’s this geek on my back and I can’t seem to shake him off. Oh, I like this guy, but he doesn’t seem to like me, so I’ll just sit here and stew in my own juices. I’m sick of this. I wish people could be open and honest with each other. I wish I could be open and honest with other people. Such is the price for living in a society such as ours.
Do you feel like you can be honest with me?? I really hope that you feel that you can. I think that people, because they are too afraid to open themselves up (for ridicule, most think), they never get the chance to really live. I think nobody lives on this planet. I think they’re just going through the motions. I don’t want to just go through the motions. I want to live. But I’m afraid. I feel like if I don’t break out of my shell, I won’t see what the rest of the world is like.
I wonder if I really want to know.
My mind strayed from the real point that I was trying to make in that last paragraph, and that point was that I hope that you feel that you can be honest with me. Openness and honesty is so important with me. You should know these things about me, but in case you’ve forgotten (or are just trying to forget), let me remind you. I’m not the type of person that makes fun of another, and I’m not the type of person that would cut down what anther person thinks. If someone tells me what they feel, even if I don’t like it (which usually isn’t the case), I’m very flattered that they felt that they could say it to me, that they could share it with me, that I’m never disappointed.
I think I’m losing the point again. Honestly, at this point, I don’t know what the point is. I think I’m just tired of dealing with people who won’t be honest with me. Honesty is all I ask for.
I think I’m going to go. Thanks for reading my babble, and making me feel as if someone really cares about how I feel.

Dear Jeremy--
October 10
Hi, honey... how are you? I just wanted to send you a little note (it’s 12:20 in the morning-- it’s about the only time that I ever have to write you letters...) and let you know that I still care about you. Honestly, my feelings haven’t changed for you at all, and I don’t want you thinking that they have. I’m still looking forward to coming to see you in November... it’s just that I’ve been so busy lately and I’ve been so worried that I really haven’t had the time to think about writing you letters, and all of the problems I’ve been having lately have made me, well... very edgy, to say the least. And I don’t really want to talk about it-- and there is nothing to talk about, since there are no problems-- but it just had a bad effect on me because I was so worried. Please bear with me. I don’t need any more complications in my life right now, that’s all.
Maybe it’s part of this defense mechanism that I use to make all of the hurt in my life seem a little less severe... maybe I just want to distance myself from people, because it’s usually people that hurt more than anything else. You’re a wonderful person, Jeremy, but it really hurts when you’re 2,000 miles away, and maybe I’ve been acting the way I have been because I want to emotionally distance myself from you so that I hurt a little less from missing you. It’s just a theory...
But I do care about you. And I don’t want you to forget that. I wonder if I push you too far at times. I hope I don’t. I hope you can stick with me.
p.s.-- I love you. really. It might not seem like it at times, but I do love you. I miss you...

Dear Donna--
October 10
I just wanted to let you know that there is nothing to worry about concerning my health. I don’t really want to get into it-- I hope you’re not taking offense or anything, because it has nothing to do with you-- but... well, I was really scared. I just thought that there was going to be some major problem with me. Thank God that there wasn’t, but I was still worried. I’ve never had a problem with my health before-- hell, I’ve never had a broken bone. So I guess I’ve taken my health for granted, and when I thought that there was something wrong with me, I went crazy. I’ve really been on edge lately.
And I don’t want Jeremy to think that I’m mad at him or anything. I mean, when he was on the phone with me before he was pressing things when I told him not to, and I wasn’t really in the mood to battle with him on the phone. It just seems that lately we’ve always ended up in an argument by the time we get off the phone. I don’t need that, and I don’t want that.
I don’t want to argue with him. I don’t want us to have any problems. But I think that when there are no problems, then I just miss him a lot and feel miserable. Why feel like something that you want is just out of your grasp? I don’t know... I guess that I just feel that right now I have other things to worry about instead of thinking about Jeremy and merely adding to my misery.
Anyway, I should be going. Have a good week... (couple of weeks, knowing the way YOU write)... hope that your time with your boyfriend goes well... keep in touch--

Dear Jeremy--
October 12
I know, I know... I haven’t written in a while. Sue me. Honestly, though, I’ve been having some medical problems lately, and besides the fact that I’m in and out of the doctor’s office, I’ve just been really preoccupied with the notion that something is wrong with me. Don’t worry, honey... Nothing is wrong with me, as far as I know. It’s just been the new emergency lately, and that’s why I haven’t written to you until today.
You know, I think I’ve just decided that I don’t like being around people anymore. I think I’ve gotten really tired of it. I don’t want to go out in big groups anymore. And unless I’m really in the mood, i don’t think I want to even go out to crowded places (like bars). I don’t feel like drinking anymore. Actually, I don’t really feel like doing anything anymore. I just don’t think that I like people right now. Does that make any sense?
It’s just that everything is so superficial to me. I think I don’t let anybody in to see me, or to actually be a real part of my life here. I talk to people, I get close to people... but I think that the only person that I can count on is me, and I think that right now I just need something that I can count on. Most of the time, I care about what other people think of me, and I would therefore care about whether or not I was close to people. But right now I think I’m just looking for something that I can really lean on, something that will never let me down, something that will never desert me or not be there for me... and the only thing in the world that fits all of those descriptions is myself. So I think I’m going to be staying home for a while, not going out, not talking to too many people.. Just listening to what I need and acting on that. It’s not selfish, I don’t think. It’s just what I need to do right now.
Okay, Okay, I’ll shut up. In fact, I’ll get going-- I have to check to see if my laundry is done. Dreamy eyes misses you--

Dear Tim--
October 12, 11:33 a.m.
I found a map, so now I can figure out how the hell to get to your house. That should be exiting-- I’m imagining either a National Lampoon’s Vacation thing here or an Ernest goes to Iowa thing. Ernest probably IS from Iowa. Whatever. It’ll be good to see you and Steve again.

Dear Jeremy--
October 14
I just wanted to say ‘hi’ to you, because you think that i never write you letters anymore.. well, actually, I don’t write you letters much, so I suppose you’re right, but it just seems like there’s nothing of any value going on in my life to write about.
I just had people over last night for a little get together in honor of halloween, I guess... I think I told you that I was having a ‘shindig’... By the way, it was Doug’s birthday yesterday, so the party last night was also kind of in Doug’s honor. He just turned 20. I feel so old. It’s disgusting.
Anyway-- I should be going. I have to wash all the dishes from last night sitting on my desk in my apartment... It’s pretty gross. It should take me a while. Miss you, honey--
p.s.-- thank you for you last letter. It was sweet. I liked the poem. What would I do without you?? Dreamy eyes misses you-- I can’t wait to see you in November--
i love you, honey-- call me, or write me a little note. love you--

Dear Tim--
October 26, 6:40 p.m.
I don’t want to do anything anymore-- I’m so hyper about going to Iowa tomorrow that I can’t do anything. I want out last night to the bar Gully’s, and me and my friend Doug sang Happy Birthday on a mike to the entire bar for the radio station that was playing songs for the bar all night. For the embarrassment, we each got Peter Murphy’s new tape. I haven’t even listened to it yet. Today I went to Eddie’s to meet my friend Tara-- Eddie’s is a restaurant attached to a bar that will serve infants, I think. We always get ice cream drinks there. I had an Oreo shake today-- with creme de cacao in it.
Anyway, I should go--

Dear Donna--
November 14
Hi, honey!!! How are you? Oh, I’m getting by. It was really nice to have a little vacation during the year-- and it was really nice to be able to see Jeremy again. It had been far too long. He just left a few days ago, and I can’t wait to see him again. I know you keep asking me over and over again how I feel about Jeremy, and I know I keep pussy-footing around the subject by saying “I like him, but there’s no sense because he lives so far away, blah, blah, blah...” But now I’ll give you the whole scoop. I think the reason why I kept saying that to you is because I didn’t want to admit to anyone-- especially myself-- that I really liked him, because then I would only feel crappy that I never was able to see him. Well, all of that has changed. Now that I’ve seen him again, I’ve realized that there’s no way that I could ever try to lie to myself again. I’m afraid that you can probably guess what I’m about to say, honey... Yes, I’m in love. At least I think I am. I could really see a future with this man. And I could see it being a pretty damn happy future, too. Going out with Eric again was such a stupid idea-- and I know you told me it was-- so I broke it off with him yesterday, within three days of being home, and I don’t have the tiniest regret about it. I wear that ring Jeremy gave me all the time. I don’t know... I’m always the one that’s always so pessimistic about our relationship, but now I can’t help but think that one day everything will work out perfectly and we will be together and i can actually be happy. But today I just got a letter from Jeremy, and he was saying that he didn’t want us to get our hopes up because he might not be able to find a job near me. It was kind of depressing, especially when he’s always the optimistic one and he has to pull me out of a slump. If he begins to lose faith... what will we have?
Then the frightening part is about my friend Tim...
I went to visit him Halloween weekend, the weekend before I saw Jeremy. Just friends, friends for years. Wanted to see our friend Steve, too, who lives out in Iowa near Tim, since he is leaving with the first set of troops in January. So then we drank too much, and Tim and I fooled around. I can’t believe I did this. I could tell Tim was miserable after the fact, too-- we didn’t even want to look at each other the next morning.
So now I’m wondering if I’ve lost a friend. And I had to do this just before I saw Jeremy. I hope he didn’t suspect anything.
I don’t know of this is sounding all weird or something. I can’t help it. The whole situation is pretty weird, if you think about it. Now I just think of Jeremy all the time. I can’t visit Jeremy in the end of December/ the beginning of January, the way I had originally planned (all of the flights are booked). That really depresses me, because I’m going to be sitting at home by myself for two weeks wishing I was with him. I figure that I can visit him in a weekend in January, but it’s a real shame that I have to squeeze in this short amount of time when I’ll have so much time to kill two weeks before hand.
And he doesn’t even know if-- or when-- he’ll be sent off for duty.
I hate war.
Everything else is all right-- I’ve got most of my work out of the way. I just found out that my father is going to be in town for Thanksgiving weekend, so now my visit home will be a complete dysfunctional family gathering. It’s just yet another thing in my life that I’m not looking forward to. Like the doctor’s appointment I have in an hour and 20 minutes... I’m scared. Scared as all hell. And on that note, I’m going to go.

Dear Eric--
November 18
Hi. I’m writing this letter because I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately, and I’ve been thinking especially about the conversation we had when we broke up. I think there were some things that I wanted to say to you that I didn’t know how to say at the time. But I want them to be said.
I wanted to learn about you. I really did. I often try to act aloof and keep people at bay, I know I want to do that, and you might have had the impression that I wasn’t interested in you as a person. I’m telling you now that I wanted to know about you. A part of me still wants to know. But I suppose it’s too late by now. If there are some things you still want to teach me, I would love to be your student. Just don’t laugh at my ignorance, and don’t be amazed at how different I am from you.
When we were going out I didn’t want to stress our differences. You did that enough by breaking up with me every other week, I wanted to do everything I could to underscore our differences. Although I wanted to learn, I also didn’t want to lose you. Not earlier than I had to.
I wanted to think that you were willing to spend the rest of your life with me, that you thought I was worth it. But you didn’t, and I guess I wanted to blame something, or to fight it somehow. I didn’t know what else to do; I was in a losing battle.
A part of me thought you thought less of me. That you didn’t respect me. I started to feel alienated. I hope you don’t think I blame you for it, though - I didn’t, and I don’t, although I think I wanted to, just so I’d have something to blame other than circumstance.
But I couldn’t blame you. The things I loved about you were the things that kept us apart. If you didn’t have your personality traits, you probably wouldn’t be as driven, as passionate, as successful as you are. You wouldn’t have the strong moral background you have. And I loved and respected all those things about you.
Oh, there was something else I wanted to say in response to that evening we talked. I had asked you if you loved me, and you ended up saying that you did, and you still did, and you always will. I wanted to hear that so much, I don’t know why. Maybe because I felt the same way, and I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone. I wanted to say it back to you that night, but the timing seemed wrong, or something. But I love you, and I always will.
I don’t know what writing this is accomplishing for me, I don’t know why I’m doing it, but for some reason I thought it had to be done. I know I didn’t do all the right things when we were going out, but I guess I just wanted you to know that my intentions were good, that I really did care, that I wanted it to work out. A part of me still does want that, and always will.
Oh, great. Now I’m sounding like an idiot. I didn’t want that. I hate losing face. I guess I just wanted you to know how much I value you. And if I can’t have anything else, I at least that won’t to change. Thanks for listening.

Dear Tim--
November 22
Hi, honey.... Thank you for writing. I understand exactly where you are coming from. I am so glad-- and I mean SO glad-- that you were as honest as you were with me. You know I like honesty and openness, and I am so glad that you said what you have to say. Now I feel I can be honest with you.
Obviously, I knew that it wouldn’t work out. I was even surprised when you kissed me goodbye when I was in the car. I just thought of you as a friend-- a good friend-- cute, maybe, but just a friend.
When I came to visit you, you hugged me. When we walked down the stairs, you made a point to make sure that I didn’t step on the glass that was broken in the stairwell. You picked me flowers from (i think) every flower bed that we passed by. You acted differently than I have ever seen you act, Tim. I couldn’t figure out why.
I think it was just circumstances. I’m not trying to make any excuses: you’re cute, smart, interesting, talented-- honestly, I’d have to admit that if I were to go out with a guy, he would probably be a lot like you. I do like you, you know that, but you must realize that I like you as a friend. I feel the same way as you do, Tim. And I’d never want to lose your friendship. Most importantly to me, you are my friend.
I never, never want to lose you as a friend. Remember that. I think we can forget about this-- or even look back on it without remorse. It is just something that happened-- that probably shouldn’t, but did anyway-- and I can live with that. I hope you can, too.
I knew that it wasn’t ultimately right. That’s why I stopped us before we got too far. But there is a part of me that thinks that what happened that night brought us a little closer. If nothing else, it can be a good sign, a good test to strengthen our friendship.
You’re my friend. My close friend. My good friend. That’s what’s important to me. And more importantly, I don’t want to lose that. I’m worried that I will. But I think you were worried about that, too, and we’re actually worrying about nothing. I think that, if you want it to be, everything will work out fine.
I love you Tim. I love you as a person, which in my opinion is more important that any other way a person can be loved. Remember that.
I know what you mean when you say that you need a relationship. I do, too. A real one. But I also need a friendship. And that can last over the distances. So-- what do you say?

Dear Donna--
December 1
Just got a letter from Tim. Said he just wanted to be friends, that what we did shouldn’t have happened. What an ego boost.
I just wrote him a letter back saying “friends is good.” Like I need another long distance relationship. Like I need another relationship with someone who isn’t really interested in me. I’ve had too many of those.
p.s.: Managed to get a Christmas airline ticket to see Jeremy. Finally got something I wanted for Christmas...
p.s. again: I know what you’re thinking, so... No, I didn’t sleep with Tim. I wasn’t that drunk...

Dear Jeremy--
December 5 2:30 p.m.
Hi, honey. I’ve been sitting here working for 2.5 hours, but I haven’t gotten anything done. God, I love work. Really. I just love it. To pieces. Little tiny pieces, hacked up with a big knife. Love it.
I just thought I’d write you a note while I was working to tell you that i love you... and something fierce, I might add... so write back soon. I love you. I miss you. I can’t wait to talk to you again tonight. keep thinking of me--- and I can’t wait to see you at Christmas--

Dear Donna--
January 13
Hello, love. How are you doing? Thanks for the card-- it was so nice to actually get some mail. I’m glad i got the chance to see you while i was at home for the whole four days.
Anyway... I have to tell you about how things went with Jeremy. He brought me to this apartment. He prepared a candlelight lasagna dinner, champagne-- the works. It was so incredibly romantic... and then we exchanged Christmas gifts... I got him a bunch of stuff, and he got me some stuff and a RUBY HEART PENDANT AND A GOLD NECK CHAIN. I think there’s about 18 rubies in this thing. He even wrote me a poem to go with it. Donna, everything is so wonderful. I want to tell you all about everything....
In person. So come and visit me-
p.s.: I’m still waiting to see if Jeremy is called for duty. They’re sending the first troops there in two days, if nothing else works. I don’t want to see my friends go. The government can tell me it’s for the good of the whole, but they’re not losing half of their friends. They’re just signing their name and killing us.

Dear Jeremy--
January 17
Hello, angel. I love you.
Sorry. I just wanted to get that one out. I’m writing to tell you about a dream I had last night. I was on the phone with Donna, and you were there. She said you would call back in two minutes. It was just like when I was waiting for your call the night we went to war. You didn’t call. So I waited and waited, and finally I called back. Donna answered the phone. She seemed hesitant about giving the phone to you so we could talk. She seemed like she was hiding something, and it was scaring me. I started pacing the floor, biting my nails. The middle finger on my left hand had a short fingernail, so I started biting it. She then told me that you were busy and that people were over. She gave me the impression that you were there with another woman. I started bombarding her with questions until she told me that you were there with an ex-girlfriend of yours-- I think her name was Julie. I was sobbing on the phone.
I don’t remember what happened next, but I remember in the dream that I never bothered talking to you on the phone. I sobbed. I remember that when I got off the phone I went to sleep.
Then I woke up, and it was about six in the morning. I was trying to remember for the life of me what was real and what was a dream. I remembered talking on the phone last night, but everything was a blur. Then I checked my left fingernail. The only way I knew that I was just dreaming was that my nail wasn’t bitten.
I miss you. There better be no Julies in your life, young man. You’d be giving up a pretty wonderful thing if there were. I love you.

Dear Jeremy--
January 18
Hello, love. I just got back from work and I’ve got a little time to kill. We all went to C Street last night (that progressive bar that you’d probably hate), and Joe seemed to emotionally flip out while we were there. I’m sure it had something to do with me, so I think we’re going to talk for a little while about it. I’ll let you know how it all went.
This afternoon I’m looking at an apartment. I’m looking at a few more apartments tomorrow. I have to decide soon. If you’re going to move here next year (if, by chance, the job that you end up getting enables you to do that and you decide to), I’m still going to live alone-- sorry-- especially when I have to sign a contract soon. Besides, it would probably be wiser if we didn’t live in the same place. It’s not like we wouldn’t see each other enough, right???
I talked to you last night. You were so very depressed... I wish I was there to make you feel better, honey, but as I said on the phone, but when you get back it will seem as if we were never apart. I think that since I was in such a bad mood before because I’ve been so worried about everyone I care about and the war, I just came to the point where I had to say that I couldn’t take the depression anymore and I had to get on with my life. So right now I’m just trying to be happy that I’m alive and that everyone I know is safe-- at least for now. A good friend of mine-- a very good friend of mine, one that you met-- well, his father is a high ranking Air Force official, and he’s been briefing his son on what danger he could be in because they are related. He’s been told about how he can tell when a package is a letter bomb, and he’s been told that he should avoid crowded places and that he should change his route to work every day. He’s scared.
And he’s been told that because we have an extensive computer system in town that is directly linked to the Pentagon and has access to very privileged information, there is a good chance that if there were to be an attack (terrorist or otherwise), this town could be one of the first places hit.
So I’m hearing all this, and I should be scared, but I realized that there really is nothing I can do about it all, and if I continue worrying the way I have been, I just might fall apart. So I’ve decided that I’m just going to keep thinking about you. I’m just happy that I know you’re out there, somewhere, and I know you’ll come back safe. Just knowing you exist makes me smile.
Which is how I want you to think from now on, Jeremy Stevenson. You have two options: you could either be mortally depressed and end up only hurting yourself, or you could just keep your chin up and let our love for each other keep us strong through these tough times. These are the times that we need each other. You say that you hate not being there for me-- well, you are there-- you’re in my heart all of the time, and I feel blessed for it. Think of things that way, Jeremy, and things won’t seem so bad after all.
And just remember, I won’t let you down, either. I’ll never let you down. I’m always there for you, even if it’s only in your thoughts. We’re blessed to have what we have. Let me help you be strong when you can’t be alone. Dreamy eyes misses you... And I love you.

Dear Jeremy--
January 18 1:40 p.m.
Hello, angel. I love you.
Dan is having a party tonight. I told him I’d go... but I’m not really in the mood to go out and drink. Maybe if I go, I’ll only go out for a little while... I’m not even going to happy hour today.
I’m starting to get ahead on my work... I really don’t even know why. I can’t help but either want to watch CNN or call you on the phone at night. I haven’t had my mind on work too much lately.

Dear Jeremy--
January 20 9:11 a.m.
Hello, honey... How are you? I’m getting by. I stayed home last night -- I just didn’t feel like going out the way I usually do... I’m going to stay home tonight, too. I’ve just felt like a homebody lately -- I don’t know why. And I’m still tired, but for some reason I decided to wake up and do my laundry now, thinking that there would be no one else there. I got the last of the washers, and I had to wait for them. I think everyone uses the same philosophy as me, and then they wait for the weekend because they have no other time for doing their laundry. That’s why I’m writing this letter now -- because I’m waiting for my clothes to finish washing.
I saved the newspaper from the day we went into war. I want to have the front page mounted on a black board, along with the front page of the day when I was on it. I keep thinking about how I’m going to arrange furniture and decorate the apartment I have this summer... I’m so excited about it all. I really hope you’ll get back soon, and you’ll be there. I can’t wait to see you.
Have I told you that I miss you lately? Well, I do, honey, and I just can’t wait until I see you again... I just keep thinking of how good it will be when we’re together again. I can’t wait to be in your arms again... You know, I’m looking forward to when you come home and we just curl up at home and be boring and snuggle up together for the night. I think anything we do together makes me happy.
Which includes basketball. You would have been proud of me, honey-- I turned on a basketball game on TV last night. I wasn’t paying attention. But hey -- this is a good start. Give me credit.
And I was thinking-- we used to go to the theatre to go see french operas and the like, and the symphony orchestra plays there usually every other week, and so we could go to see them perform when we wanted a change of pace. Maybe, in fact, we could go to see some little performance when you came back. It would be fun.
Yes, I’m planning for when you come back from the war. Because I know everything will be perfect when you do.

Dear Jeremy--
10:00 a.m.
Hello, love... Oh-- I found the perfect apartment! There’s a spiral staircase, there are wood floors and oak kitchen cabinets... The furniture is nice and the apartments are totally new. It’s all high security, and it even has an underground high security parking garage. It’s got it’s own washer and dryer, 11Ú2 baths, and the upstairs bedroom is actually the entire loft; it’s about 15 feet long, and it’s got a slanted roof... Oh, everything is great, and the guy said he’d even bargain it down to $650 a month. The catch??? Well, it’s basically really far away. There are also at least two bus lines that run by it. But... I’ve got some heavy deciding to do...
With that out of the way, I can write to you about how much I want you... You know, I really can’t wait until I see you again... Until I can get you alone, take off your shirt, kiss your neck, your chest... feel your hand running over my shoulders, your tongue running along my ear... I want to be able to run my hands through your hair again, slide my nails down your back...
Should I stop there? Well, I really don’t want to, but I probably should...
I love you to death, Jeremy. Can’t wait to see you again. Dreamy eyes misses you...

Dear Jeremy--
January 20 5:00 p.m.
Hello, the love of my life... the light of my nights... the apple of my eye... how are you? I Just thought I’d let you know that yes, once again, I’m thinking about you. I’m thinking about you in your hot tub... you in those cute denim shorts you have...
I love you, honey, and I miss you--
p.s. -- I was at Dan’s party Friday night, and he made a comment in a group that led me to believe that he didn’t know about us (I know I’ve told him... he was talking about the men/women ratio, and he said “I think you’re the only single woman here...” It was weird). So I told him on the phone today. I was always worried because I thought he’d be mad... I don’t know, I just thought it would be a touchy subject. But it was over the phone, and it was short, so everything seems to be okay.
I mean, I wouldn’t want you thinking that I was trying to HIDE you from anyone, so I’m just trying to fill you in on these things... I love, you--

Dear Jeremy--
January 20 11:45 p.m.
Just got off the phone with you. Why is this happening? I might not even get to see you for Valentine’s Day. I know we’ve talked about this over and over again, but I don’t feel any better. I know you don’t want to go. I don’t want you to go, either.
So, leave. Skip the country. Go to Canada. I’ll go with you. We can find jobs there.
I just don’t want you to die. Not when we’ve just begun to live.

Dear Jeremy--
January 22 11:55 p.m.
Hello, honey. How are you? Doug came over tonight. And when he came over he brought food, and I just pigged out on chips and salsa. He bought french fries, cheese sticks and pepperoni pizza, too. And a diet Coke. Yeah, I just DARE you to understand it.
I wanted to write to you today because I just got your card -- you know, the one where you say that you love all the little moments we spend together, too... I just wanted to tell you that your card made me cry. I waited until I got home from class, then I fell into my bed, pulled over the covers, and opened it up. I cried. You’re so sweet, Jeremy... and it’s funny, but I think we sent out similar cards on the same days, because I figure that you got the card I sent you like that just a little while ago. Maybe we’re getting into the same mood swings or something... or maybe it’s just that we’re both growing to care about each other in the same ways.
I don’t know what my problem is right now... I’m acting really strange.... I’ve been thinking about what I’m gong to do with my life...
Who am I kidding? I know what the problem is. I don’t want you to be shipped off to war. You leave the fifteenth of February, and I don’t know if I can see you before then.
Will we make it?

Dear Jeremy--
January 23 5:52 p.m.
Hello, love. I want to start off this letter by telling you that I love you so much sometimes that it hurts. Really.
Let me explain. I have been feeling down lately about the fact that you’re not here, that you’re leaving soon. I miss you. It’s my turn to be depressed about it, I guess. I even was calling Midway Airlines to see if there was a flight that could bring me out to see you Tomorrow. Well, there is, but it’s $757. No, that wasn’t a typo... So I was calling around to see if I could use my Northwest Air voucher. I would have to take two different buses just to get myself home. And I’d get in Friday night (or should I say Saturday morning?) at 12:45 a.m., leaving Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m.. Yes, a whole day and a half. That’s how much I want to see you, Jeremy. I was feverishly calling airlines and bus stations, as well as friends, just to see if I could lose a lot of sleep (and a lot of money, too) and see you for a day and a half. I just don’t think I can afford it.
I’ve been trying to keep myself busy, but it just doesn’t work. I miss you. I got your message on my machine today -- I loved it -- in fact, I think I’m going to tape it, just so that I can listen to it whenever I want to. I miss the sound of your voice. I just want you to hold me again. Here I am, about to cry... See what you do to me?
I mean, I’ve tried to sound happy to you on the phone, because I don’t want you to feel all depressed about the fact that we’re not together. But I can’t help it any longer... Christ, it has only been 16 days since I’ve seen you. It feels like months.
I just want to feel you kiss me, to hold me. I don’t want you to let go of me. I feel miserable. I want to fall apart, or sleep for days, or something. Since I’ve sworn off liquor, I can’t even go out and get drunk over it.
It’s just that I don’t think you realize quite how much I miss you. Or quite how much I love you. I don’t think I can say it creatively. I just want to feel your cheek next to mine when you hold me. I just want to feel you squeeze all the pain out of me when I’m depressed. I just don’t want to feel so alone any more, so lonely. I just don’t want to feel like a piece of me is missing.
And when you go off to war I’m afraid I’ll feel this hole inside of me forever, that I’ll never be able to fill this void.

Dear Jeremy--
January 23 7:54 p.m.
I’m feeling a little better, got my mind off my depression. I’ve been drinking coffee all day. I must be at least on my fourth cup since dinner. I’m not sure. But I’m starting to shake, I think. I can’t really tell. My arms feel kind of weird. So does my head. Maybe I shouldn’t drink this much.
I want to see you. I want to be able to crawl into bed with you while you’re laying on your back, lean my head on your shoulder, put my hand on your chest... kiss your cheek... shit. Why do I keep doing this to myself?? I’m just going to make myself feel worse. I just want to hold you. I want to watch t.v. with you, and sit on the floor with you sitting between my legs... so I can put my arms around you and unbutton you shirt, then your pants... or sit on the couch while you lay your head in my lap, so I can stroke your hair... run my fingers along your jaw... take your hand, kiss your palm, run my tongue up and down your fingers... I want to wear a negligee and come up to you while you’re sitting on your bed and sit on your lap, straddling your legs, and kiss you for hours. I want to give you a face massage, so I can kiss you upside-down. I want to wrap my legs around you in a hot tub. I want to take a bath with you. I want to be able to run my hands up and down your body in the water, with a bar of soap... I want you in the shower. I want you to pick me up while we’re kissing so I can wrap my legs around you. I want to grab onto the corners of the bed really tightly so you can push yourself into me over and over again, harder and harder...
I have to stop. I’m sorry. I just can’t take that any longer. I should go, I have to leave in a half hour. I’ll be back in time for your phone call. Take my word for it-- I miss you...

Dear Jeremy--
January 24 7:11 p.m.
I have such an awful schedule... I thought I would have an easy time in planning a visit to see you later in this month, but I’m working on the weekends a lot. And everything is so well spaced out that my days feel like weeks.
Well, I’m going to keep this short, since I’ve sent you so many letters already... Love you...

Dear Jeremy--
February 10
I hope you get this letter before you leave. I don’t know how easy it will be for us to correspond when you’re stationed in a war zone.
I wanted to get you a Valentine’s Day card, but I couldn’t find anything that said what I wanted to say. I guess there’s just too much to be said.
I wanted to card to be serious, and yet I wanted the card to be funny. I wanted to make you laugh. Because that’s exactly what you do for me.
I wanted to let you know that I do notice it when you do things for me. I notice it all the time. You’re so sweet, Jeremy, and I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have you to call and talk to. Hell, I’d fly across the country for you.
I think I wanted the card to be funny because we always crack jokes and act funny around each other. But I want you to know that I value you for more than that. You mean too much to me.
I know I say it all the time, but I suppose I just want you to know it. To not have any doubts. I love you. It sounds hokey; it sounds stupid. I don’t care. It’s just that there are a select few things in life that I have learned to treasure. I may not say it enough, but you are one of them.
I just remember thinking when I was down that I could tell you anything. I value that. I value being able to share things with you when I feel like there is no one to turn to. That means everything to me. If I didn’t have you, Jeremy, I don’t know what the hell I’d do. I’d probably just fall apart at the seams or something. It would be pretty messy.
I’ll put myself on the line for you. I’ll hold you when you’re feeling down. And maybe, every one in a while, I’ll do something even when I don’t owe you anything. Just because I love you.
A lot of times I feel lonely, and I get to feeling down about myself and my life. I guess those are the times when it’s just good to know that you’re there, somewhere.
I like being with you. You make me feel like I might actually be worth something. I need that every once in a while.
And I guess that’s why I’m writing this. I want you to know this, to have this, before you leave. I don’t think I ever tell you enough that you’re special, and that you mean a lot to me. I realize these things every once in a while about you, and I want you to know that I care about you so incredibly much that it hurts sometimes. May be you don’t realize it sometimes, the way I realize it. So I’ll tell you. I love you.
I want you to know that I never want to lose you, and that I love you. I’ll always treasure you, and value you. And I’ll always be there for you. Let me know if I can ever make you feel as special as you make me feel.
I love you, Jeremy, always remember that. I’ll be waiting here for you, for the minute you come home. I love you.












leaving for work

you’re walking down the street, it’s morning, and a man tries to mug you with a knife. it’s a nice street, you’re thinking, there’s no litter here. their garbage day is the same as your sister’s in the suburbs. how strange. you pause, don’t know how to react to this mugger-guy, and another guy walks up behind you, another regular joe, he’s not with the mugger-guy, trying to jump you, he’s just walking down the street, probably on his way to work, like you, so then the mugger-guy tries to mug him too. so the other guy pulls a gun, this regular joe, and then a lady from a house on the street calls 911.












meant to be

Every day for two years
she thought of him

Every day for two years
she woke up thinking
he was next to her

Every day
when she would open her eyes
she would find nothing

One day he knocked on her door
“I want you to meet my fiancee
This is Marie”

“It’s nice to meet you, Marie
I wish you two the best”












medicine

A few years ago, I felt so much pain in my joints that I couldn’t walk or pick up a carton of milk in the morning. At age 21, I limped and ached; my right ankle, left knee, and right hand were swollen. I was also sore in my back and shoulders. I cried in pain daily.
I went to the first doctor. He x-rayed my hand, told me that I may have a jammed thumb, but that there would be no evidence of it in an x-ray and that the pain and swelling would just go away. Then I went to the second doctor. There may be a stress fracture in my right foot, he said, but it was nothing serious. There were no drugs prescribed for the pain, and he handed me an ace bandage and a pair of crutches and headed me out the door.
I went to my third doctor, who happened to be the first female doctor I saw. She put all the symptoms together and thought I may have a form of arthritis. She referred me to a specialist at a nearby hospital.
She was the first doctor who listened to me. Every other experience of mine was of a doctor addressing only one of the problems I mentioned, then brushing the problem off as minor. I felt as if I was getting nowhere in discovering the root of my illness. I felt as if no one wanted to help me.


A friend and co-worker was recently hospitalized with an ulcer. When she came back, the pain still remainedÐespecially during menstruation. She always had severe menstrual cramps, and with the ulcer present there would be days at the office when she would have to lay down underneath her desk until the pain went away.
Sometimes the pain would make her cry at her desk. Once I had to help her walk to her train station in the middle of the day, because she had to be bed-ridden and she didn’t know if she could walk the block to her train without collapsing.
She didn’t want to go back to the hospital after being admitted for days with an ulcer. She told me about how uncomfortable she felt with her male doctor. That the doctors she had never listened to her. That she felt they dismissed her problems as all in her head. I told her to see someone else, and to tell them how she felt, even if she had to be belligerent. She was paying for and had the right to proper treatment.
She finally saw a doctor. Then another. A few times it was suggested to her to go on the pill, since hormonal therapy may reduce the cramps. But she took that advice from a doctor years earlier, and she knew the pills made her more violently moody, and often didn’t help with the pain. No one suggested other alternatives to her. She followed her doctors orders.


My grandmother was a feisty and strong woman in her mid-eighties. Her bowling average hovered around 176. She lived alone in a condominium. Our family had dinner together weekly with her.
While I was away at school, I started getting phone calls from my family about how grandma hadn’t been feeling well. She went to a doctor complaining of stomach pains, and his diagnosis was that she had a yeast infection. She told him she knew her body well enough at this point in her life to know that she did not have a yeast infection. That a yeast infection wasn’t causing this pain. She thought his diagnosis was ludicrous. The doctor brushed her off.
She told us this. We told her to get a second opinion. She saw another doctor. The stomach pains persisted, and due to the cold weather her asthma was acting up. She was always out of breath. Tired. In pain.
Still no answers from this doctor. He told her it was probably a stomach flu and that she would be fine soon. He gave her a prescription.
Within two weeks she was in the hospital with a laceration in her stomach. The laceration was worse because she had it for a while and it wasn’t treated. Strong acidic fluids were seeping through her body and infecting other organs. She was admitted to the hospital on a Friday; by Saturday morning, she was dead.


I told friends about my grandmother’s experience with the doctors. More than one person mentioned that my grandmother’s next of kin could probably win a lawsuit against the doctor who misdiagnosed her, especially when she complained to us when she was alive that he didn’t listen to her. But the problem was deeper than that.
That doctor, like the ones myself and my friend had been to, didn’t think he was doing a poor job. If you asked him, he probably would have thought that he was doing a perfectly good job.
The problem was as simple as not listening. Those doctors didn’t take us seriously. Simply put, they didn’t listen to us.
Why? Is it that all doctors are callous? No, from my experience alone I knew that the female doctor was helpful and took me seriously. Was it that male doctors didn’t listen to anyone and female doctors did? Not from what I knew. Stories like these of doctors ignoring patient’s feelings and statements are relatively foreign to men I talked to. In fact, often when I mention stories like these to a woman, she usually has another story like it to add to the list. It almost seems that most women I know don’t feel comfortable with a male doctor. But men don’t feel that way at all.
Most men don’t feel that way because they have never had that problem. They have always been listened to. They have had doctors pay attention to them. They have received better treatment, on the whole, than women.
I decided since that last bout with the doctors that from now on I would see a female doctor whenever I could. But that doesn’t solve the problem either. I should be able to go to a doctor, no matter if the physician is male or female, and feel confident that I will get the medical attention I need.
But I don’t feel that confidence. Neither do a lot of women.












more than stories

your grandchildren come over now
my nieces, nephews
excited to see grandma

you give them a treat
before they leave
candies, cookies

they’re not pickles
but they remind me
of my grandmother

the stories i’d hear
about how good she was

i love her now
without ever seeing her face

but you see,
these kids
claire, marshall, joel, edward
your grandchildren

they get to see you
they get to spend time with you
they have more than
stories

they know your face
they know your voice

they love you now

but remember
they’ll always love you
they’ll always remember

they’ll always love you












musical

she never wanted to sing,
dad was the one that was more musical,
i guess, she always said she
sounded just awful, and dad even
agreed. he’d make a humorous threat,
like, be careful, or i’ll make mom sing.
but one thing mom was always
musical at was yawning,
i think she could hum a song while
she yawned. usually, though, she
would just start her yawn with a
high pitch, then change key by key
for five or six notes. the most unique
yawn i’ve ever heard. sometimes
we’d all just be quiet watching
television and out would come one
of mother’s original scores. it would
always make one of us smile.











My motherMy motherMy mother

We went to see my mother this weekend. You see,
my mother has cancer, and we decided to go
across the country for a weekend to surprise her
and see how she was doing. it was breast cancer,
so it really was the best case scenario, i suppose,
so i managed to put it out of my mind until we actually
had to fly there

The night before i couldn’t bring myself to pack. it was
two in the morning when i finally pulled my suitcase out
from the pantry shelf.

i kept telling people at work, "well, you see, I have to go
visit my mother because she has cancer, so I have to
miss a few days of work," but I was always able to
say it so matter-of-factly until I had to actually
visit her

In fact, when my sister told me the diagnosis, it
was right around Christmas time, and there was so much
work to do and I still had presents to wrap and a
meal to prepare and Christmas was supposed to be a
happy time

that I managed to postpone even thinking about it until
we all decided to surprise her for a visit. And then I
had to pack. To decide what to take, what to leave
behind, put my life into a little black box with a handle
and wheels, and go

It shouldn’t be this way, and I knew that, I knew that I
shouldn’t be visiting my mother under these circumstances
and I knew how she never wants to think about bad things
because they always make her cry and this would make her
want to cry and cry because the only reason why we’re
there is because things are bad

But I wasn’t supposed to think that way, things would be
just fine.

So I finished packing at four in the morning and the next
thing I remember is I was on the plane with my sisters,
cracking jokes as we picked up the rental car. and then we
got to mom and dad’s house

and everyone was so happy to see each other, it was
one big family reunion and we were laughing and talking
and trying to figure out where we were all going
to sleep

and the sisters and dad walked into the front room to
see if the couches were good enough to sleep on or if we
would have to get out an air mattress and I was alone
in the den with mom

so I suddenly became serious and sat down next to her
and asked her how she was really doing. And that is when
she started to cry, saying that the cancer spread, but
what she was most concerned with was the fact that she
didn’t want to spoil the time that we came to visit her.
But what I don’t think she understood was that we couldn’t
have come at a better time, and nothing she could do would
spoil our trip.












new vacuum cleaner

Elizabeth was only five
she thought she was doing the right thing

She accidentally sucked up the goldfish
when she knocked over the aquarium
as she was vacuuming the floor

She was going to surprise mom and dad
with a clean carpet, but now it’s covered
with aquarium rocks, shattered glass and
fish water

But she had to try to save the fish before
she could clean up the mess, so she poured
water into the vacuum cleaner to try to give
the poor fish something to breathe

Now mom and dad have to get a new carpet,
a new aquarium and a new vacuum cleaner












no consequences

the average child,
watching the average
amount of television
in their lifetime

witnesses eight thousand
murders
by the time they leave
elementary school

by the time they are
eighteen years old,
they witness
two hundred thousand
acts of violence

and they laugh
when they hear
their leading man say
"consider this
a divorce"
then pull the trigger

or
"do you feel
lucky, punk"

suddenly there’s no
consequence to violence

no pain, no remorse

we’re the mtv generation
we feel no highs or lows

we’ve learned life by watching it
not living it

"have you killed people?"
"yeah, but they were
all bad"

how funny, what wit

they witness
two hundred thousand
acts of violence

what are we teaching them?

suddenly there’s no
consequence












on an airplane with a frequent flyer

"I was once on a flight to Hawaii and I was waiting in line
for the lavatory. There was always a line for a flight
this long, you know, it seemed the washrooms
were always on demand on a flight this long. So
I finally got into the washroom, you know, and I
looked into the toilet, and someone, well, lost the battle
against a very healthy digestive system and left the
"spoils" in the toilet, stuck. Maybe it didn’t want to go
down into the sewage tank where all the other
waste from this long trip went to. Can you imagine
all the stuff this airplane had to carry across the ocean?
Well, anyway, so I saw this stuck in the toilet, and I
went to the washroom, and when I was done i flushed and
it still wouldn’t budge, and so I opened the door and walked
out into the aisle of the plane again. And there was this
long line of people waiting to use this cramped
little washroom, and I just wanted to tell them all,
’you know, I didn’t do that.’ And then it occurred to me
that everyone, when they leave the bathroom on that
plane, will think the exact same thing."











over my skin with such ease

The satin sheets were stained with blood.
Her face brushed up against the pillow.
The satin cut into her face as she tried to relax,
to stifle the tears. He walked out of the room.
"I always loved spring," she said as she
leaned over toward the flower bed. There was no smell.
"I have to tell you something," he said.
She didn’t listen to him. She touched
the daffodil to bring it closer to her.
The stem sliced her palm. The deep red blood
thickened as it trickled down her wrist.
She looked up. He was gone.

The tears burned into her skin.
The acid left behind a trail of scars
whenever it traced her jaw line.

The memories flooded my mind.
Every day, every hour, every minute,
every second, every moment.
The alcohol didn’t help anymore.
I turned toward the kitchen, went to
the far right drawer, shuffled
through the forks, soup spoons,
butter knives... I found a knife
with a sharp enough edge, not to
kill, but only to hurt. I put
the knife to my wrist. I wanted
to take the memories out of me,
any way I could. I took the tip
of the blade and ran it along
the inside of my wrist. As the
blood began to trickle from the
cut, I put the knife down and
ran my fingers along the cut.
The blood, like silk, glided
over my skin with such ease.












packing

there are too many times
when i’ve said this before

never thought i’d really leave you
and now i sit here

in this apartment
popcorn bowl on the cocktail table

eleven thirty at night
the television playing static

it looks too clean in here,
not lived in

so i decide to take a trip
get out of this place

into the bedroom, time to start
packing: two dresses, two

pairs of shorts, shirts, loneliness,
anger, make-up, extra socks

it’s amazing how much of your life
you can fit in a single suitcase












paint a suicide picture

to the family of Jocelyn Burn

I found these letters, you see, and I didn’t know what else to do with them. I just moved into an apartment on the lower east side, and there was a box of belongings left in a storage space in the back of my pantry. There was mostly old pots and pans in there, so I didn’t think anything of it, but then I came across these letters. I assume they are from your sister, because I liked her music (I even saw a show of hers in Phoenix), and the date of the last letter corresponds with the day she passed away.
I didn’t know what to do with these letters. They weren’t in envelopes, so there was no address, and my landlord refuses to tell me who used to live here. Security purposes, he tells me. They haven’t tried to get their belongings back, and I waited a while for them in case they did. I almost wanted to keep them for myself, they just seemed to say so much, I felt like I had almost felt these things. I didn’t want to give them up. But I know your family would have wanted to read them. They belong to you.
Let me just tell you to prepare yourself for these letters. They are from the last month of her life. She was going a few shows... I don’t know why she felt the way she did. Her band was starting to make it. The radios gave her air play in the last two months. These letters are sad to read.
I don’t know who the letters are addressed to. Maybe you do. I wish I did. I suppose it doesn’t matter now, though i would like to see the mystery revealed. I’m sure you feel more strongly about this than I do, but I would like to know why.
The fame and love she looked for she received partly because of her death. She is now revered. If only she could feel it.
I hope these letters answer some questions for you, or possibly bring you some peace. They are strong letters. I am sorry for your loss.

Joe Pagliano
New York, New York


September 23
i hate everyone and everything. why can’t i find someone that cares about me? even a best friend? even someone who claims to want to spend the rest of their life with me? even if i can’t stand them? why do i feel so worthless? why do people stab me in the back? i hate you all. i really hate the fact that you hurt me so much.
i really want to not exist for a while. i’m tired of people hurting me. i’m tired of people.
there are some times when i feel so lonely and unwanted that i want to die. i want it all to end. i just hate having to deal with the people in life that make life difficult.
when i start in this cycle i just know that i fall farther and farther down. who do i blame for this? i want to blame someone, so i can think it isn’t my fault. that i don’t have a terrible fault that brings all this pain on me.
i really need to get away from here. i need to find someone that cares.
i think i care about myself, but god, i want to know that i am not the only one. i feel so lonely, so betrayed. i have no friends.
everyone is so fucking fake. why can’t i count on anyone? why can’t i find someone to lean on, just once? Every time i try, every time i start to feel confident about myself, someone has to come along and shatter it all.
i hate feeling like this. i wish i had people i could count on, for once in my life. i hate crying. i hate feeling this way about myself. i hate it.
it’s over

October 1
i keep getting screwed over. i’m supposed to do this show. i make plans for it. then i find out though the grapevine that i’m not going. my managers couldn’t even tell me. i have to ask and pester and bother in order to find out what i’m doing.
then i’m not going. then four days before the show i find out that i am going, it’s back on. how am i supposed to prepare for this?

October 3
i really don’t like tom. he doesn’t understand that i just want a little attention. he thinks i really like him. i couldn’t like that. no, i just want an ego boost if i can’t have someone real.

October 4
i just want to feel like i’m alive again. i don’t feel that way now, and i don’t know how to get that feeling back anymore. i was sitting in the hot tub yesterday evening, and it put me in the best mood ever. i was in a good mood all night, until i realized that i wasn’t going to be going out, then i just went to sleep.
I like doing the shows, i guess. i like going to different towns for shows. it was nice for a few hours to be in another city, high up in the air in my hotel room, half dressed, thinking that i owned something. myself, maybe, or maybe just some ideas. for a little while i felt alive. i miss that. i want to feel alive all the time. i want to feel alive.

October 11
i hate feeling lonely. i hate feeling alone. i can’t believe a one of the managers wanted to sleep with me last night. a part of me still doesn’t want to have to deal with it. i wouldn’t want to date him if he was single because not only do i work with him, but i also know what a woman watcher he is. it’s not as if i should think it was because i was special, though. i think it was pretty much because i have breasts. what a joke. always me.
i didn’t wait for tom to call me back yesterday, and he didn’t. i thought at least he would try to screw me. i didn’t even get that effort.
and i’m sure todd won’t ever want to call me back. i’m just sure of it.
and i’m sure jeff looks like a horror movie creature.
where is my soul mate?

maybe i have no soul. that’s why i can find no one.

i think i should just start fucking everything that moves again. at least then i had an ounce of physical satisfaction.
god, and i know my life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. the more depressed i get, the more people don’t want to be with me and then the more depressed i get.
why do i have

October 16
all of my true goals are destroyed by other people. i want someone to lean on. i want someone who doesn’t make me feel like shit. i want to achieve my goals. i want to be successful. i want to be famous. i want to be rich. i want to make everyone jealous and feel like they are worthless compared to me. i want to feel like i am above everyone else.
everyone hates me. i am so worthless. i hate everyone. i am so worthless. everyone hates me. i am so worthless. i hate everyone. i am so worthless. everyone hates me. i am so worthless. i hate everyone. i am so worthless. everyone hates me. i am so worthless. i hate everyone. i am so worthless. everyone hates me. i am so worthless. i hate everyone. i am so worthless. everyone hates me. i am so worthless. i hate everyone. i am so worthless. everyone hates me. i am so worthless. i hate everyone. i am so worthless. everyone hates me. i am so worthless. i hate everyone. i am so worthless.
people are such liars. i hate them all. why did i let myself get like this? why did i let people do this to me? i’ve just destroyed my future musically and it was all because of someone else. some one i thought i could count on. someone i thought loved me. some who i thought would always love me.
i was wrong. i was terribly wrong. no one loves me. no one loves me at all. i am not important. i am not important at all. i am worthless. i mean nothing to no one. i am worthless. i could just drop off the face of the earth and it would only matter to the people who had to prepare my remains for the funeral. and to them it would only be another client in their day.
why do i have to be so alone? why do people have to be so fake? aren’t i talented? aren’t i successful? aren’t i funny? aren’t i important?
if you’re so funny... why are you on your own tonight?
i can’t do anything. i can’t sing. i can’t perform. i’m useless. i’m worthless. i’m nothing. i wish i could be something, but i am only nothing, and i will always be nothing.
i wish i could count on someone. i can count on no one. everyone i thought was important to me, well, i was not important to them. i hate being nothing.
even the people i thought would always love me, well, i should know better, they don’t care about me either. every single person i thought was a part of my life, well, i was wrong, they aren’t. i mean nothing to them. i always thought i did things to improve myself because i care about myself. i was wrong. i still do things because i care about how other people think of me.
and i have failed.
i have no one. i have no talent. i have nothing - even in myself - to count on. i have no one.
i feel so alone and i feel so incompetent. and i feel as if no one cares.
no one does.

October 18
life is so interesting sometimes. it’s amazing how one conversation can change my whole outlook on life. i need to be reminded sometimes of what i am doing, of who i am, of what is deep down inside me. i have to be tested.
i don’t know if i will ever get to sing - and be appreciated for it.
i don’t know who i want to spend the rest of my life with. who they will be, when it will be, anything.
it is almost nice.
here i am, in another country, sitting once again in some lounge with absolutely no soul, drinking something. i figured i have $27 canadian, oh, probably $30 with my dollar coins, that i won’t be able to spend in the states. i could go window shopping, but that would require motion, besides, david might be trying to get a hold of me, and i don’t know whether or not i should wait for him.
never have enough time. when i do, i do the same things - drink, and think too much.
amaretto stone sours are particularly good.
and then i will get on the plane and... uh... mark will pick me up (yes, it really did take me that long to think of his name).
david was laughing at how i throw men around. well, none of them are good enough for me to keep.
show went okay tonight. i do like the travel. it makes me feel better for some reason to be alone in another city than in my home town.

October 20
why am i that worthless to you? am i that worthless to you? i guess i am, since you treat me the way that you do.
i came here hoping to get out of my depression. you only succeeded in sinking me deeper. i want to die.
you succeeded in your mission. i hope you’re happy. now i know that everyone hates me.
i can’t do anything tonight. tonight was supposed to be the beginning of the rest of my life. i was supposed to start anew. you’ve destroyed that for me.

you’ve used me, that’s all you’ve done. you’ve succeeded in making me feel even more worthless than i already did. are you happy? were you looking to destroy me? probably not, you were probably not even thinking about me, giving my a single thought in your head. that’s how little i mean to people, and i know it.
don’t worry, i guess you’re not the only one, but i think you were the straw that broke the camel’s back. i wanted to hear it from you because no one else would tell it to me. but you didn’t either, and now i know the truth about myself and what people think about me. i guess i should almost thank you, for showing me the light. it is a painful light, but it is the truth nonetheless.
i’ve always said i wanted the truth out of people, and now i guess i’ve got it. no one cares for me. i am useless in this world. maybe i’ll be more useful in the next. what a fucking joke. if there were a next world.
when i die, i don’t want any ceremonies done. i don’t want to be filled with any chemicals so my body can be displayed for people who claim to mourn, i don’t want to be a part of that modern-day ritual. i want to die, and i want body to decompose that way it normally would so that maybe at least my remains may benefit nature somehow.
i feel like kurt cobain, except i’ve done nothing that would make me revered. i’ve done nothing. no one appreciates what i’ve done in my life. i’ve overcome so much, and it still isn’t enough.

nothing ever works out for me. ever. i’m alone

October 22
my dreams are always just that, dreams. if i ever achieve anything, it is in a half-ass way that proves that i really can’t achieve my goals after all. i feel so lonely. lonely even when i am in a crowded room. alone.
i want someone to know me and appreciate me for my talent. i want someone to feel as if they can follow me just because of the work that i do. i want to be accepted and appreciated in that realm. when that doesn’t happen, i look for someone that appreciates me in a physical sense. then i find them and i realize that it is only temporary, that no one has any respect for me, that i have still lost. that no one really cares about me. that i am nothing. that i am worthless.
i wanted to think that you would always care for me. i should have known better. i should have known you were just like all of the others, even after all we have been through.
gone through? what the hell have we gone through? you followed me like a puppy dog. you have a small penis. i don’t know, i guess other than the harassment i felt from you after we broke up, after the bout with arthritis after dating you again, you haven’t brought me much. i want to think that i have happy memories in my life, but i can’t think of any. with you or with anyone.
life will go on without me. i just wish a lot of the time that it would end for me sooner than later.
i’ve always said that i know that i will always lead a long life because i know that with my luck, i’ll be forced to live this miserable life for the longest time possible. what i’ve never said is that that notion really depresses me. there are a lot of times when i just want to die. i just want to disappear and never have to deal with anything - never even have to live - again.
sometimes even breathing seems like a chore.
i wish i could feel alive
writing used to help me, but it doesn’t seem to anymore.
i don’t even feel like getting drunk now. usually that is my answer for anything. i don’t have the answers anymore.

October 23
when someone reads this, i will be gone. i want to die. no one loves me. i am worthless. every time i tried to reach out to someone they always failed me. i’m tired of being there for people when they are never there for me. i’m tired of being strained, i’m tired of being pushed around, i’m tired. don’t you understand? i’m tired of crying. i’m tired of hating myself anymore.
i’m never going to make anything of myself. no one will let me. let me die.
i haven’t felt like this since my father beat me. now i should be stronger, but i can’t fight the whole world.
fuck my dreams. i can’t achieve them. fuck the causes. fuck them all. i can’t beat everything in this whole world. i give up.
give me some pills.
wait. i have some.
soon it will be over for me. don’t let the world remember me. i want to die without a trace, the way i lived. i never found the answers.
why couldn’t anyone love me? was i that difficult? why did everyone destroy me? i can’t fight you.
why aren’t these pills working? i’m so tired.
by the time someone reads this, i will be dead. i will die crying. i will die knowing no one cared.
i wish someone could have loved me, once.












people’s rights misunderstood

I had a dream the other night
I was walking down the street in the city
and a man came up to me
a skinny man, he lost his hair
and he walked right up to me
and told me no one cares anymore
and he took my hand
and asked me to care about him
"I’m not supposed to be like this" he said
"I’m not homeless, you know
I have AIDS"
and I wanted to tell him that
someone did care,
that he didn’t have to die alone,
but you know how sometimes
you can’t do things in your dream
no matter how hard you try,
well, my mouth was open, wide open,
but no words were coming out

and you know, I’m afraid to go to sleep tonight
I’m afraid I’ll be walking down that street in the city
I’m afraid that a pregnant woman
will come up to me
and ask me for a hanger
and I’ll tell her there has to be another way
and she’ll say this is the way she chooses

I’m afraid I’ll be walking down that street in the city
and a woman will come up to me
and tell me she doesn’t want to live
because she’s just been raped
and her world doesn’t make sense anymore
and I’ll tell her that she can make it
that one in three women are raped in their lifetime
and they all make it
and besides, the world doesn’t make sense
to anyone
and she’ll say that doesn’t make me
feel any better

and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to
walk down that street in the city again
without it looking like a Quentin Tarantino movie
where everyone is pointing guns at each other
yes, Mr. NRA
you are right
I feel so much safer
knowing everyone out there has a gun
that there are more gun shops than gas stations
and that everyone is so willing
to do the killing

why do my dreams have to be
so much like real life

I’ve got to stop dreaming
of that damned street












perfect

once when i was in florida
visiting mom and dad
(i think it was a sunday)
mom asked me,
"what do you want for dinner
tuesday?"

and i thought,
i don’t know what i want
for dinner
tonight, or even if i want
to eat, much less
what i want for dinner
two days from now

i wanted to tell her
to relax,
not to worry about me,
and i thought,
there she goes again
making sure
everything is perfect












philosopher at the blue note

he seemed so interested in
philosophy, which seemed strange,
sitting at a bar at about one-thirty
in the morning, it didn’t seem
the time or place for philosophy.
but i asked questions anyway,
so do you believe in a god, and
if so do you believe in a mono-
or polytheistic religion? and he
answered by saying that everyone
has a god, whether it be their
soul or an icon they pray to
every night before they go to bed.
and that it doesn’t matter what
form the god takes for a person,
because the moral values are
similar in most every religion,
what matters is that we have a god
of one sort or another. that most
people don’t pay attention to
their spirituality, who they are
or what they really want.
no, they don’t, i thought, and was
amazed that this drunk man
was able to formulate cohesive
thoughts at two-thirty in the
morning. but then, of course, he
had to mention something about
sexuality, and then i realized
that it was all one long, drawn-
out come on, then he asked me
for my phone number and i gave
him a fake one, and then he tried
to kiss me, and i pushed him away
and he ended up running out
of the bar. so much for phil-
osophy, i thought, and i went home
once again, alone with my morals,
or values, or whatever the hell
you want to call them, wondering
if there is anyone out there like me.











phone calls from brian tolle

I came home the other day to find three messages on my answering machine, each nearly two minutes long. They were all from my friend Brian Tolle, who lives in Indiana and is working on a film. Now, Brian is a friend of mine from high school, in fact, I asked him to go to prom with me as friends, but he turned me down, saying he wanted to save the experience of prom for someone he was dating. But that was eight years ago, I went to prom anyway, without him, but I still think it would have been more fun if he was my date and not Kevin Farrar.
Well I got home the other night and had these messages on my machine and they were all from Brian Tolle, and I listen to the first one:
and he says “I’m sorry I haven’t called you in so long, and I hope you don’t hate me because I love you, and I’ve moved, and that’s my roommate you hear in the background, I don’t think you met him before but he knows who you are and he hears your voice on my answering machine and he thinks you have a sexy voice”
and then he says “oh, I really hope you don’t hate me because I didn’t mean to not call, there’s just a lot going on, and oh, I have a new email address so write to me, and I love you and I hope you’re not mad and I might be coming up to visit in Chicago. Well, anyway, call me if you don’t hate me, I love you”
and that was one of the messages, and then I listen to the second one:
and he says “hi, it’s me again, I forgot to give you my new phone number, since I just moved, so here it is, and did I tell you I’m making a film? I’m finally doing it, I’ve scraped enough money together so I’m doing that in the beginning of March and did you get my note? You said you didn’t before but I wanted to make sure. Well, call me”
and that was the second message, and then I listen to the last one:
and he says “hi, it’s me again, and I just wanted to get back to you and tell you that yes, I’d love to go to prom with you. I’ll wear a tux and get a tie and cummerbund that matches your dress. Yes, I’ll go to prom with you. Well, I guess that’s about all. I hope you’re not mad at me, because I love you, I really do, don’t hate me, I’ll talk to you soon”

And so I called him back and I told him, no, I don’t hate you, I love you too, and we all have busy lives and I understand why you haven’t called, I haven’t called, either, so don’t worry. Tell me about your film, I ask, and he says that he borrowed some money and saved some money from his last job and is borrowing equipment so he can do the filming.
“I have the production costs taken care of, but I have no idea where the post-production money is coming from.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know, maybe get some credit cards.”
“Maybe there are some companies that could use a tax deduction and would be willing to help finance your film.”
So we talk a bit more and I tell him that I wish I could help him out more, and he says that I have because I validate him and what he does in everything I say and that although he had no money he felt like finally he had control over his life. And that now he knows that no matter what he chooses to do with his life, and no matter what happens to him, that he has control over his life and he can handle anything. And I told him I was so glad he felt that way, because I think most people never get to feel that way once in their life. I was proud of him.

And then he asks if he could use a song of mine in his film, and I told him I would be honored, and he said, no, he’d be honored.
I guess it’s just nice to know that I will be a part of such an important film.












picking my friends

I had a friend while I was in
high school, her name was Kim,
she was a bit... progressive,
shall we say, a bit outspoken.
She was the type that followed
rock bands with hopes to get
a photograph or sleep with them.
She had bright red hair in a mohawk,
wore dark make-up. I remember once
she came over and dad looked
at her and said, are you going
to sue your hairdresser for what
they did to you?
Well, anyway, I spent a lot of
time with her while I was in
high school, and while I didn’t
chop all of my hair off (I was
too insecure to make a statement
with no meaning at fifteen),
our friendship had an effect on
my well-being. She was often
ill-tempered, and I found myself
getting into arguments with
her, feeling stressed because
of her. And mom saw this, and
long after the fact Sandy told
me that mom considered telling
me I couldn’t see my friend
anymore.
But she decided not to, thinking
I had to make my own decisions
about which friends I had, and
besides, if she told me I couldn’t
see Kim, I’d just want to see
her more anyway.
And yes, I learned, and I ended
the friendship soon after the
trouble began.
Well, I know I’m not supposed to
know about that, but I’ve always
wanted to thank her for the trust,
for letting me make my own
decisions.











plush horse stories
ice cream parlor,
candy shop, bakery, 1986-1990
work stories

please drive through

john once asked
a pair of construction workers
for their drivers licenses
when they ordered
scoops of
run raisin.

they actually gave them
to john

he said,
thank you,
please drive through












poker face

every once in a while
mom would play cards with us
but her poker face is just awful

she’d draw a card,
one she evidently wanted

look at it down her bifocals
raise her eyebrows

"ooh, ooh, ooh!!"
she’d say

we all knew then
we should fold












precinct fourteen

it was a long night for us, starting out
at your apartment with your roommate’s
coworkers coming over and making

margaritas until two in the morning,
but of course we then decided that the
best thing to do would be to go out

and so off to the blue note we went,
found some interesting people to talk
to, closed the bar, i think that was the

first time i ever did that, closed a late-
night bar, i mean, and at four-thirty you
drove me home down milwaukee ave

and i know it angles, and you can see
the traffic light for oncoming traffic
as easily as you can see your own light,

but i’m sure the light was green, and not
red like the cops said, when they pulled
you over. you could have been in big

trouble that night, no insurance, no city
registration sticker, a michigan driver’s
license when you’d lived in illinois for

over a year now, a cracked windshield,
running a red light, probably intoxicated.
so they brought us to the station at five a.m.,

and all they did was write you a ticket,
and they gave me a business card, said if we
had any problems to give them a call.

you drove me home, and the cops met
us there, too, hitting on me again, and
although we both agreed that the night

was a lot of fun, even with the involvement
of the fourteenth precinct, i still believe
that damn light wasn’t even red.












realistic dreams

I had a dream the other night; my dreams
are different from other people’s dreams:

other people’s dreams aren’t realistic, but
mine always are. They stay with you longer

that way, they make you think they really
happened. Recently I had a dream that someone

wanted to hurt me; they wanted to hurt me
and they followed me and appeared in the

same town as me and one day I was standing
at a street corner and they were just standing

there, talking to someone else, on the other
side of the street. So I panicked, and I turned

around and started running, ran down the block,
dropped what was in my hands off at my house,

and kept running. I don’t know how far I ran,
or where I was running to, all I can remember

is what I was running from.












reason to stand

The dying weeping willow
looked like a thin, frail old man

trying to stand in the wind
when he cannot find a reason
to stand












resurrecting the dead

do i ask for too much
do i expect too much

i know it will be the same
as it always is

something will go wrong
and you’ll come crawling back

do you expect me to pick up the pieces
again?

am i supposed to watch it all
fall apart

then make everything
right again?

you never give me
the benefit of the doubt

you think someone else is better
well, maybe i’m cocky
but i know better

and soon
your world will crumble again

and i’ll come back,
because i have to

resurrecting the dead












sadness

She looked down at the little kittens
in the box. Her neighbor was trying
to give them away. Why did she have to
knock at the door now? Why did she
have to come along now? Her husband
might get upset if she talks to her
neighbor too long. Something might
give him away. Her neighbor keeps
pushing the box under her nose,
to try to make her look at them.
"If you look at them just once,"
her neighbor was saying,
"you won’t be able to resist them."
She finally opened her red eyes and
looked down at the box. There were
four grey kittens and one white one.
She looked to the white kitten.
It wasn’t just white, but it was stark
white, as if it had never been touched
by the outer world. Suddenly she
imagined that the kitten grew, and
jumped out of the box, into the air,
landing on her face and tearing
at her flesh. She imagined the bright
white fur turning a dirty deep red
as the silence was broken by her screams.

She closed her eyes, then opened them.
The red in her eyes contrasted
with the paleness of her skin.
A bead of sweat ran down her face.
"No, thank you. I can’t
have them around. I’m sorry."












Seeing Things Differently

I was sitting at Sbarro’s Pizza in the mall taking a break from shopping and eating a slice of deep-dish cheese pizza when I caught parts of a conversation happening two tables next to me. It was two-thirty in the afternoon, so it was kind of empty in the eatery.

“So what’s it like to be back?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, to be free again - I mean, to be back to the places you haven’t seen for so long?”
“Well, of course I missed it. It’s strange being back, actually.”
“How so?”
“Well, everything looks different now.”
“Well, it has been nearly six years, a lot happens, even to a suburb. There’s been a lot of construction around here, and -”
“I don’t mean it looks different because it changed. I mean it looks different because I have.”
“How have you changed?”
“You mean how did being in prison for half a decade affect me?”
“Well, what do you mean you see things differently? Like colors look wrong? I don’t get it.”
“No, it’s not like my vision is different, at least not literally. It’s just that people seem different to me now. The places all look the same, one street looks the same as the next, it looks the same as it did five years ago. But I see things about people now, things I never noticed before.”
“Like what?”
“I don’t know, exactly. But I read people. It’s like I know what they’re thinking without having to talk to them, or even know them.”

Then they both paused. I guess their timed pattern of one person eating while the other one talked finally got messed up and they were both eating at the same time. Oh, did I mention that they were both women? One had a baby in a stroller sleeping next to her, that one was the one that didn’t go to prison. They both looked like they were about twenty-eight years old. Regular suburban women.

“You see, it’s like this: when I was in prison, I was all alone. Being in a federal prison means the crimes are big time, so everyone in there had a big chip on their shoulder and wanted to either have you for their girlfriend or beat the shit out of you when you were on laundry duty. And of course everyone knew that I was the cop killer, and everyone also knew that I swore up and down that I didn’t do it. So when I went in there they all thought I was some big sissy, and I knew right away that I was going to be in big trouble if I didn’t do something fast.”
“So what’d you do?”
“Well, I figured they knew that I wasn’t a tough bitch or anything, so the only persona I could put on that would make people scared of me would be to act like perfectly calm ninety percent of the time, calm, but tense, like I was about to snap. And periodically I would have a fit, or threaten violence in front of guards, timed perfectly so that I would never actually have to do anything, but enough to make everyone else think that I was a little off the deep end, a bit crazy. Then they’d give me space.”
“So... did that work?”
“Yeah, for the most part. But the first thing I had to learn was how to make my face unreadable.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you can see someone walk by and know they’re bored, or sad or angry, or happy, right?”
“Well, sometimes...”
“Well, I had to make sure that when people looked at me all they saw was a complete lack of emotion. Absolute nothingness. I needed people to look at me and wonder what the hell was going through my head. Then all I’d have to do is squint my eyes just a little bit and everyone would see so much anger in my face, you know, because usually there was nothing in my face to give me away.”
“And when you got angry -”
“- And when I got angry and threw a fit and smashed chairs and screamed at the top of my lungs and contorted my face all over the place; I just looked that much more crazed and in a rage. Like out of control.”
“Wow. That’s wild.”
“And I became completely solitary. I talked to two other people the whole time I was there, at least in friendship.”
“Wow, two people?”
“Well, in a screaming fit, or in a fight, then I’d be yelling at people, but yeah, I had to limit the people I talked to. Couldn’t let others see what I was like.”

So I was sitting here eating my pizza listening to this, and then I remembered, oh yeah, I remember this story from a long time ago, they convicted this women of killing a cop, shooting him at point-blank range, and just in the local paper three weeks ago they found the person who really killed the cop, and they let the women they convicted of the crime five years ago free.
It seems the cop pulled her over and had her license in his car when the murderer
came up in another car, and this woman managed to get away, but the cop died and her license was there on the scene. So I get up and go to the fountain machine and refill my Diet RC Cola and come back to my seat and I just start thinking that that’s got to be rough, I mean, going to federal prison for over five years for a crime you didn’t commit and then having them come up years later and let you out early and say, “oh, we’re sorry, we had the wrong person all along.” It’s like, oh, silly us, we made a mistake, please do forgive us.
But how do you get those years back, and how do you get rid of those memories?
So I just spaced out on that thought for a minute and the next thing I knew they were talking again.

“And I knew from the start this one woman didn’t like me, I could just tell from her face. We never spoke, she was like my unspoken enemy. And so once I was doing laundry work, and there are rows of machines and tables for folding and shoots for dirty clothes to fall onto the floor and pipes running all along the ceilings and steam coming out everywhere. And there were others there with us, and guards, too, but once I looked up and it was totally silent and no one else was around except for her. No other prisoners, no other guards, nothing. And she was just standing there, facing me square on, and she was swaying a bit, like she was getting ready to pounce. And I knew that she planned this, and got some of the other inmates to distract the guards, so that she could kill me.”
“Oh my God, so what did you do?”
“Well, I turned so my side was to her, and I grabbed a cigarette from my pocket and put it in my mouth. Than I said, ‘Look, I’m not interested in fighting you, so-’, and then I reached into my pocket, the one that was away from her, like to get a lighter, and then I took my two hands and clenched them together like this, and then I just swung around like I was swinging a ball-and-chain, and I just hit her real hard with my hands.”
“Oh my God.”
“Yeah, I was hoping that I could just get in one good blow then get out of there, like teach her not to fuck with me again.”
“Oh my God, so what happened?”
“Yeah, so here’s the punch line, so when I hit her she fell back and hit her head on a beam that ran from floor to ceiling, and just fell to the floor. So I go through a back hallway and find everyone in the next room and just sort of slip in there, but then I hear a guard asking about Terry, that was the woman I hit. and everyone looks around and they see me, and I have no expression on my face, so they don’t even know if Terry saw me or not, and so everyone starts to look for Terry and they find her dead, right where I left her.”
“Oh my God, you killed her?”
“Well, she hit her head on the beam, my blow didn’t kill her. But no one knew who did it to her, and of course no one bothered with an investigation, so there was no problem. But after that, no one ever bothered me again.”
“Holy shit. You killed her. When did you know she was dead?”
“When they found her, probably. Not when they saw what kind of shape she was in, but the instant they saw her I thought, ‘she hasn’t moved.’ And I knew then she was dead. It was kind of unsettling, but I couldn’t react.”
“Kind of unsettling? I think I’d be screaming.”
“But that’s the thing, all these women had killed before, at least most of them had. I’d be condemning myself if I reacted.”
“Wow.”

They sat in silence, the young mother staring at the other while she ate the last of her pizza.

The murderer grabbed her soda and drank in between words.

“Yeah, so prison - and everything after that, really - seemed different. I figured out how to remove all emotion from myself when I had to.”
“...That’s wild.”
“And once I figured that out, how to make my face unreadable, it was easy to be able to read what other inmates were thinking. I could read anyone’s face. Someone could twitch once and I’d know whether they were afraid of me or not. Any movement made it obvious to me what they thought of me, themselves, or their life. That’s why I look around here and just see what everyone else is feeling.”
“Really? What do you see?”
“I see some dopey men and some bitchy women.”
“Shut up.”
“No, it’s true - and they care about little details in their life, but they don’t give a damn about the big picture. They scream if someone cuts them off in traffic, they freak out if they have food stuck in their teeth after a meal. But they don’t care what they’re doing in their lives.”

They got up and walked over to the trash can, dumped their paper plates and napkins into the trash.

“I see a lot of people walking around with a blank stare, but it’s not an emotionless stare. It’s that they’re all resigned, it’s like they all assume that this is the way their life has to be.”
“Oh, come on, it’s not that bad.”
“Yeah, it is. It’s like they all were in prison too.”

And they walked out into the mall, and I sat there, staring at my drink.












some people want to believe

so we were sitting there at
denny’s in some suburb of
detroit, i don’t know which
suburb it was, but we were
there at like ten in the morning
eastern standard time, i was
grabbing a bite to eat before
i crossed the ambassador bridge
and travelled into canada. you
know, i really only associate
places like denny’s with
travelling now, i always
stop at some place like denny’s
only when taking a road trip
and just stopping for some
food. i think if i went into a
denny’s and i wasn’t travelling,
i’d get really confused. well,
anyway, like i said, we were at
denny’s, and it was morning, so
the both of us got breakfast.
being a vegetarian, i ordered
eggs with hash browns and toast,
right? and the waitress says
to me, like they always do in
some no-name town in the middle
of america, "yuh don’t want any
MEAT?", like it’s so unheard of
to not eat meat at breakfast.
so i say, no, no meat, thank you,
and then my friend orders pretty
much the same thing, and we
sit for a while, and talk and
stuff, and then the food comes.
so then she asks me, "you’re a
vegetarian, right?" and i say,
yes, and then she goes, "but
you’re eating chicken."
and i’m just like, well, no, i’m
not, an egg is an animal by-product,
not animal flesh, and i was about
to say that that was the difference
between being a vegetarian and
being a vegan, and she says,
"but if a chicken sat on it long
enough, it would become
a chicken."
and i’m just like, well, no, it’s
an unfertilized egg, there was
never a rooster around that hen,
so it could never become a chicken.
and she’s like, well, it’s a
chicken, though,
and she just couldn’t think
that this wasn’t a chicken. and
i’m just thinking, my god, does
she really think that a chicken can
lay eggs without them being
fertilized? like only worms and
stuff can procreate
without two sexes present. so
our voices start getting a little
louder, and then it ends up where
i’m saying "so are you having an
abortion every time you have a
menstrual cycle? are men who
have wet dreams mass murderers?"
and she’s looking away and saying
"i’m not listening to you -"

and then i realized that some
people, with logic thrown in their
face, will still believe what
they want to believe.












soothe me just this once

when i called you from the pay phone
at the hotel
after he hit me

i got your answering machine
i tried to tell you
as quickly as i could

a woman came up to me while i was
in the lobby
asked if i was okay

that’s when i realized i was scraped
up, bleeding
i told her i was fine

please just tell me you’re at home
screening calls
pick up the phone

you think i brought this on myself,
don’t you
please just this once

pick up the phone, listen to me
soothe me just this once
help me












plush horse stories
ice cream parlor,
candy shop, bakery, 1986-1990
work stories

sparkle

so pete came into the shop one night, he worked
there, but he had the night off, and he comes in
saying he’s really drunk and can he sleep on the
couch in the manager’s office in the back for a
little bit and sleep it off before he goes back to his
parent’s house? and marty, the manager, says
sure, and so pete goes to the back and before
you know it he’s out like a light. but john was
working that night, and pete and john were good
friends, so john wanted to get him, so he got a
bottle of sparkle glass cleaner, the only glass cleaner
that’s purple, and he started spraying it on pete’s
crotch. pete didn’t wake up, and after a few minutes
of john pressing his luck pete’s blue jeans were
soaked with sparkle. we were buckling over,
laughing so hard. pete finally woke up, mad but
too drunk to do anything about it. he had an
extra pair of pants in the car.











squid

once i was sitting in the living room,
i just got home from school, and i
said i need to go wash my hands. so i
walked upstairs, went over to the
kitchen sink. mom, sitting in the living
room, didn’t mention that the sink
was half-full of raw squid for her dinner.
I shriek. mom laughs.
"are their beady little eyes looking
up at you?" she asked.
the little devil. i’m upstairs, in the
kitchen, shrieking, and she’s laughing.
it is kind of funny, looking back.











still no answers

the parents refused to believe
that their son would kill himself.
it’s not like our son; he was not

a quitter. the police believed the
blood on his shirt was from an
act of violence he committed

just before he went into his own
garage and fell asleep. he wasn’t
willing to face the consequences

of his violent actions; maybe he
killed someone, maybe someone
would come forward and put him

in jail. no, no, his parents said,
there must be foul play here. and
they managed to have the case re

opened when they discovered only
trace amounts of carbon monoxide
in his blood stream. he was dead,

or dying, before he got to the
garage. the blood was probably
from a struggle he had in trying

to survive. this was murder,
made to look like suicide, but who
did this, is that their son’s blood

on his shirt, did he suffer, did
her even die while he was in his
own home? still no answers.












sunrise

The last time I actually remembered seeing
the sun rise was at my junior prom
I was in a car, getting a ride home
All I could think was that the sun was
in my eyes, my dress was uncomfortable,
and that I wanted to go to sleep

But this was different
We just moved into our first apartment
together the night before
He made me dinner after pulling
dishware and candles out of boxes
that were still packed

Dennis called my name
woke me up
"Janet-- Janet, get up!!! You have to see this"

I think it was the most beautiful
sunrise the ever existed
I leaned up against the window
while he stood behind me with
his arms wrapped around me
It felt like he would never let me go.

"I didn’t know this apartment came with a view"












taking out the brain

i’m a med student
and for the past few weeks
we’ve been working on a cadaver

at first
i didn’t want to know anything
about him
i covered the head of the guy
wanted to pay him some respect
i didn’t want to think
tat this person lived
before i dissected him

i had a hard time
taking out the brain
cause you know, that’s where
the memories are
that’s what makes him
him

it’s not so hard now
they get the bodies from the morgue
they’re homeless people, mostly
no family
it’s not so hard now












tanya’s story

(tanya’s middle name is marie, and her sister’s name tasha anna negron. she likes her sister’s name, but i told her that her name was nice, too. this is a story tanya made up for me at logan beach cafe. she was eating nachos with salsa. tanya is nine, going on ten.)

this is a story about summer. phil was riding his bike. phil is my brother. (how old is phil?) phil is 17, going on 18 years old. so he was riding his his bike in the park, and it was sunny, and joe-joe, he’s my other brother, he shot a bow and arrow at phil’s tires. and he hit the tires!!!! and phil got MAD. phil fell over, he hit his arm, but he was okay. so, since phil was mad, he ran after joe-joe, and he caught up to him and threw him on the ground. they started fighting, and my sister tasha came and told them to stop. but they didn’t stop, and so she called my dad. dad came came with the belt (ooh! -that’s my addition to the story. sorry.) it’s really a mexican belt. (what’s the difference between a mexican belt and a belt, say, not from mexico? am i asking too many questions?) it really big, and i got hit with it once. (ouch. -that’s my addition again. sorry.)

(oh, wait, she had to go get a drink, she was thirsty. making up stories is hard work.)

(okay, she’s coming back now.)

(so, what’s the end of the story? what happened?)

my brother joe had a black eye, phil gave it to him. so dad came and he hit them. and they stopped fighting then.

(okay, so we got the good-guy/bad guy thing covered, and an action scene, and a resolution. so most stories have a moral, so what’s the moral of this story?)

not to fight.












tell me

envision a person unable to achieve their dreams. maybe it’s due to forces beyond their control. maybe it’s because of inner flaws. that doesn’t matter. just envision a person that has a dream in life, and can work as hard as they can all of their life, but never achieve it. they are doomed to never getting what they think they want from their life.
now envision another person, who has the power, and manages to achieve their goal. and then they realize that achieving their goal did not make them happy. and so on to the next goal. and they work harder and harder and they manage to achieve that goal as well. and achieving it did not make them happy, either. and then they do this until they realize that they will be unhappy all of their life, that none of the goals they achieve will make them happy, and they are doomed to this life of everyone else admiring their successes, but feeling miserable because nothing is capable of making them happy.
which of these people have it worse? the one who never gets their dream? but the concept of a dream exists, and it doesn’t for the person who destroyed their dream by achieving it. is the second one better off because they can have wealth and admiration? but they aren’t happy with what they achieve, in fact, it irritates them that others think that their life is so wonderful. they have no hope. but did they have hope as they were trying to achieve any one of their goals?
why am i even asking you these questions? i’ve been trying to figure these questions out for myself. if someone has any ideas. someone. anyone. tell me.












that dress

both years i went to prom
you made me my dress
the first, pink and mauve

i looked like a parade float,
i think

the next year,
something a bit more
dramatic
i wanted black with a touch of ivory,
you convinced me to have
ivory with a touch of black

you made a dress
with a fitted jacket

i could take the jacket off
wear a pair of long dress gloves

you know,
you never liked having
your picture taken
mom

but i’ll always keep
the photo taken just before
my prom night
of the two of us

i’m leaning my head
on your shoulder

i loved that dress












that’s not what i’m here for

every once in a while
i want to talk to one of them

see if they’ll actually listen

but i’ve learned by now
they’re not interested in

what i have to say
that’s not what i’m here for

they think they’re using me
i guess they are

but what they don’t realize
is that i’m using them, too

maybe that’s why
they don’t feel the pain i feel

but i still use them, they use me
but i do it anyway












the carpet factory, the shoes

i heard a story today
about a little boy
one of many who was enslaved
by his country
in child labor

in this case
he was working
for a carpet factory

he managed to escape
he told his story
to the world
he was a hero at ten

put the people from the factory
held a grudge
and today i heard
that the little boy
was shot and killed
on the street
he was twelve

and eugene complains to me
when i buy shoes
that are made in china

now i have to think
did somebody
have to die for these

will somebody have to die
for these












The Christian Coalition and the Religious Right

Because of the religious ties the Christian Coalition has with the republican party, the platform in American conservative politics - particularly when it comes to life-and-death decisions - is riddled with oxymorons and philosophical fallacies.
Not that there are not discrepancies with the theories with the democratic party, but the liberal party - and leftism in general - though nonsensical to some, is at least consistent with its views. The involvement of the morals of Christianity in the conservative party are what give the republican platform the additional inconsistencies.
For instance, the Christian Coalition - and Christianity in general - is supposed to take the stance that all life is sacred, that no one has the right to take a life except for Christ. Hence the pro-life movement becoming a primary political issue. However, the republican party - supported by the Christian Coalition - also is in favor of the death penalty.
Now, I personally can see the reason for an argument on the issue of abortion (though I do not see the reason for the intensity of the debate politically when it is not a political issue, but a philosophical one; besides, there are many other political issues that have to be taken care of that are neglected). People can argue that the rights o a woman are infringed upon; people can say that a fetus is not a viable human being (while others can argue the opposite). However, there is pretty much no argument that a prisoner - a person convicted of a crime in the United States - is in fact a viable human being. I would think that it would follow (with the logic of Christianity) that that life - the life of the prisoner, the person who committed whatever crime our judicial system found them guilty of - is just as viable a life as that of an unborn fetus. It would also follow that since Christians cannot (under their own code of ethics) be the ones to decide who lives and who dies, only Christ can, they cannot give the government or the judicial system the right to decide who can die.
Yet this is the stance the republican party as a whole, which is backed by the Christian Coalition.
This scenario also applies to the government’s ability to call a draft and declare a war on another country. A Christian cannot claim allegiance to an organization or a government (according to their doctrines) that commands them to go against their religious codes. A Christian under no circumstances is able (according to the New Testament) to kill another person - even if they have been commanded to do so by another person, organization or government. Yet many people that volunteer for duty with any one of the branches of America’s Armed Forces (and are not merely drafted and forced to go) are Christians, and see no problem with following orders to kill someone else. Even if a Christian was drafted, they should, according to their beliefs, peacefully protest and refuse to go into battle. If that required leaving the country, that should be done, because a Christian’s allegiance to their country is less important than their allegiance to their God. This reasoning would be the only line of action that would be in accordance with their beliefs.












the missing onion

Every Fourth of July mom and
dad would have a party for all of
their friends. Sandy and I at
night would get a ladder and
climb to our rooftop so we
could see the fireworks from
neighboring towns. Well one
year, at the party, mom was
getting all the food together,
she always made so much food
for everyone, and she was
finishing the salad, but she
realized that she was missing
the onions. "I know I cut an
onion for the salad," she said.
"Help me look for it." So Sandy
and mom and I were walking
around the kitchen looking for
an onion, cut up. Frantically
searching. Not on the counter,
not in the refrigerator. "It’s
coming to me!" mom yelled out
during the search, and we all
stopped for a clue toward finding
the prized minced onion. "It’s...
it’s in tin foil." Okay, so now
we’re looking for a smelly ball
of wrinkled metal, this is a good
lead. And we’re all just laughing
so hard because we’re looking
frantically for an onion mom
misplaced this morning. Well,
mom finally gave up and left the
search party because she had to
bring the salad outside, with or
without the beloved tear-jerker,
and so she starts to toss the
salad, but something is heavy
on the bottom. "Oh, silly me," she
says, and pulls the aluminum foil-
laden vegetable out from the
bottom of the bowl.

To this day, whenever we
remember something, we say,
"It’s coming to me," and laugh.












the state of the nation

my phone rang earlier today
and I picked it up and said "hello"
and a man on the other end said,
Is this Janet Kuypers?
and I said, "Yes, it is, may I ask
who is calling?"
and he said, Yeah, hi, this is
George Washington, and I’m sitting here
with Jefferson and we wanted to
tell you a few things. And I said
"Why me?" And he said Excuse me,
I believe I said I was the one
that wanted to do the talking.
God, that’s the problem with
Americans nowadays. They’re so
damn rude. And I said, "You know,
you really didn’t have to use
language like that," and he said,
Oh, I’m sorry, it’s just I’ve been
dead so long, I lose all control
of my manners. Well, anyway, we just
wanted to tell you some stuff. Now,
you know that we really didn’t have
much of an idea of what we were
doing when we were starting up
this country here, we didn’t have
much experience in creating
bodies of power, so I could understand
how our Constitution could be
misconstrued

and then he put in a dramatic pause
and said,
but when we said people had
a right to bear arms
we meant to protect themselves
from a government gone wrong
and not so you could kill
and innocent person
for twenty dollars cash
and when we said freedom of
religion we included the separation
of church and state because freedom
of religion could also mean freedom
from religion
and when we said freedom of speech
we had no idea you’d be
burning a flag
or painting pictures of Christ
doused in urine
or photographing people with
whips up their respective anatomies
but hell, I guess we’ve got to
grin and bear it
because if we ban that
the next thing they’ll ban is books
and we can’t have that
and I said, "But there are schools
that have books banned, George."
And he said Oh.












the twin within

The music was still blaring, even at 4:30 in the morning, it was a movie opening after-hours party, Hollywood style. All the top models were there, all holding cigarettes in one hand, drinks in the other. The lights were pulsating in time with the throbbing music, dancing in the smoke rising to the ceiling and the condensation dripping from the outside windows. Some movie stars were there, all in little groups, trying to look more important than the rest. Of the few musicians left, the ones that were not still on the dance floor were in corner booths of the club, tossing white bags at each other. Some of the cast made an early escape, but the leading actor was still there, at a corner table with a few agents and lackeys.
His date wasn’t in this film, but her fame was great enough that she was still the most wanted at the party.
They were the perfect couple, the tabloid writers thought, two starlets of the silver screen, partying together, winning all the awards together. The young actress knew just as well as the young actor that their relationship was only for the cameras, they knew that this was the price they chose to pay for the lives they had.
For the money, for the fame. The loss of who they were.
It bothered Veronica less than it bothered Alan. He needed to cover his homosexuality in order to get the roles that would make him famous, and their relationship for the press worked perfectly. And she knew that with this man by her side at these parties, she would be guaranteed more media coverage.
Not that she needed it. She had won awards for two films in three years, her newest film hit the box offices three weeks ago and was still breaking records in ticket sales, and everyone under the sun wanted her in their new movie. She was gold, and she knew it. But she was a business woman at heart, a marketing agent, and Alan was added security.
She didn’t have to mingle at this party; people came to her in waves. She knew she made enough appearances for the night, besides, it would be breaking up soon, and she signalled for someone to make sure her limousine was out front, then walked over to Alan’s table.
“Alan, honey, I’m going to go, are you going to be all right?” she asked.
“Sure, honey, go ahead. I’ll talk to you when I get back.” Alan usually used the same term of endearment for her that she used for him if he couldn’t think of one on his own. No one noticed.
She left the building, and the two bouncers at the door escorted her to the door of the limousine. Even at 4:45 in the morning a small crowd waited for her.

She crawled into the back, opened her purse, found the half-pack of cigarettes and tossed them to the floor. She only smoked when she was at these damn parties. Thank God I don’t have to go on the set tomorrow, she thought. As soon as one movie is over another one begins. Can’t even enjoy the riches for a minute.
“At least I have tomorrow off,” she groaned aloud to the empty back seat of her private limousine.
If there is a God, she thought again. She rolled her head back against the car seat and tried to find some stars in the early morning sky as she rode through Manhattan.

The driver escorted her to her door before he parked the limousine. She got into her home, kicked off her shoes, left them where they fell. She could do that, she thought, because she was famous.
“Maybe I am God,” she said aloud to the empty, well-guarded house. She walked upstairs.

12:30 rolled around this particular Sunday afternoon when Veronica rolled over in her bed and reached over to her phone. She dialed her chef, asked for a good amino acid breakfast shake. She then dialed One World Spa, the best place in town, the only place that happened to have a standing reservation for her. She said she’d be there at 1:30.
At 1:40 her limousine driver escorted her out of the black Mercedes and to the front doors. The afternoon was needed for rejuvenation, she thought. She used facial peels, but avoided the mud baths and favored the massages and water tanks.
Back home she went, after shopping a little. She told her staff they could go home for the rest of the evening, so she could have the house to herself. She told her chef to have a pizza delivered before he left. That always irritated him.
She went upstairs to find her shopping bags waiting for her in her bedroom. One by one she pulled out her purchases and spread them across the bed. She tried on one straight silver dress and walked downstairs. The house was so quiet when she walked through it and no one was there. No chefs, no maids, no guards, no landscapers or decorators. The heels of her shoes clicked against the marble hallway floor. She stopped, watching the shadows her furniture cast over the walls. She turned around and watched her own shadow. It must be fifteen feet long, she thought, and then she stretched her arms over her head in a triumphant arc, watching the shadow stretch even further.

After surveying the house in her first outfit and seeing that no one was there, she walked upstairs, back to her bedroom, to her safe in her bathroom. In the back of the safe was the key she needed; she closed the safe door, covered the safe with the wall panel, and walked to the end of the hall to the top of the stairs.
Her staff knew the two doors at the top of the stairs; one was to the roof, which only she was to go on, and the other was for the storage attic. Tonight, instead of sipping champagne and watching the east coast from her rooftop, she opened the second door.

She told Monica the coast was clear. She reached over and turned on the light by the door; it was a small light that only half-lit the attic. The kitchenette and bookshelves were well-lit now, but the back half of the mini-apartment was still in darkness.
At last, as if making her own grand entrance the way only Veronica would, Monica slowly walked toward her, out of the darkness.
“God, Ron, could you have waited any longer to get me out of here?”
“Just come downstairs,” Veronica replied, “I bought some new dresses.”

They sat on her bed, three hours later, Veronica wearing her new silver satin dress and Monica wearing a black strapless cocktail dress, eating the last bites of the pizza.
“Oh, I’m stuffed,” Veronica moaned as she threw her body back on the bed, staring at the ceiling.
Monica got up, and walked over to the mirrors. “I think we look good in this black dress, but we have so many. No one can tell this one apart from all the others. Couldn’t you get something more contemporary?”
“They can tell it apart, Monica, and we can buy as many dresses as I want.”
“You’re being frivolous. And selfish.”
“I’m being whatever I want to be, because I can.”

For a while, the silence in the bedroom was only broken by Monica turning from one side to the other in front of the mirror. Veronica remained face-up on the bed, staring at the ceiling.

“Ron, why don’t you let me out more?”
“You know I bring you out whenever I can. It’s tough to get the entire staff out of here. We have to be careful.”
“I know, it’s always careful. But I fidget up there. I could take your place more - you know you could use the rest.”
Veronica looked at her twin sister in the mirror, and wasn’t sure whether or not she was looking at herself.
“Monica, you know that’s not a good idea. You’d go out there and look like me but not remember a thing that happened the day before. I can only brief you on so much. We agreed that the only time you’d replace me was when I was ill and needed some time to recuperate.”
“Well, you’ve been Veronica for a while. I can’t stand it up there. You’re getting to call all the shots out there.” Monica walked closer and leaned over the comforter. “I want to live, too.”
Veronica sat up on the bed. “Monica, you know it’s better this way. We agreed.”
Monica sat on the bed next to her and looked at her twin sister. They looked over to the mirror and stared at themselves. Veronica put her arm around Monica’s shoulder and smiled.
“Besides, we both reap the benefits of this success,” Veronica told her sister. “You’re up there now, but when we get enough money for the both of us to retire we can get away from here and live in luxury and never have to worry about a thing again. You want that, don’t you?”
Monica paused. “Of course,” she said under her breath as her eyes darted away. She knew she couldn’t argue with Veronica, even if she wanted to. Even though they were twins, she always thought she couldn’t fight her.
“There, that’s better. Do you want to stay down here tonight? I can set the alarm early so that things are clear before the staff comes back.”
Monica didn’t know what to answer.
She realized it didn’t matter, that she’d still have to go back sometime, whether it was now or a few more hours from now. “I don’t care,” she answered.

The next day was back-to-the-set day, Veronica worked the next few days, but after the fourth day she felt very tired and wanted to stay home. This isn’t like me, she thought, I never get sick.
Monica pushed a little harder every night in her attempt to get outside. “Look, Ron, you’re obviously not feeling well, and you don’t want to mess up filming at this point. Let me fill in for a few days. I mean, you said that that is what I’m here for.”
Her arguments were winning Veronica over, and two days later Monica slept in the master bedroom while Veronica stayed in the attic. Before Veronica moved into her secret hideaway, however, she made a duplicate of the attic key.
“I’m making an extra key, Monica, so don’t get any ideas.”
“Did you really think I’d do that, Ronnie? I told you I’m doing this for both of us. Now, don’t worry, I won’t screw anything up, and I’ll check up on you tomorrow night when I call off the staff, just like we discussed. Now get some sleep, honey - you’ve been so exhausted, you probably just need to sleep this illness off. There’s vegetable soup for when you’re hungry, just use the hot plate to heat it up.” Monica paused.
“Are you going to be okay?”
“Yeah, sure.”
Without another word, Monica walked out of the attic and became Veronica.
The new Veronica walked down to the basement, to the second bar, and dropped the wrapper from the jar of sleeping pills in the trash can. She couldn’t have Veronica find them while she was staying behind the second door upstairs.

For the next few weeks they went back and forth, and although people noticed a difference from day to day, the main difference was mood change and slight forgetfulness. That everyone attributed to the stress of filming. And possibly the trouble Veronica was having with Alan.
The tabloids were revealing the fact that Alan was getting more and more destructive in his lifestyle, and more and more depressed. Everyone else thought that had to be having some effect on Veronica.
And one day Monica - Veronica - went to see Alan to make sure he was okay. They usually didn’t bother getting together unless it was for appearance’s sake, but his behavior was starting to affect Veronica’s appearance in the public eye, so off she went.
Alan was sitting in his living room. His apartment was clean to the point of being antiseptic - the walls were white, the couches were white with black accents, the tables and cabinets were black with white and chrome accents. The walls were bare, except for one black painting framed on the north wall, above the bar and adjacent to the entertainment center. Mozart was playing through Alan’s speakers. Alan, holding a low-ball glass with his fingertips, was sitting in the center of his couch. The ice spun around with the thick, clear tan liquor when he moved his hand.
Monica - Veronica - walked into the living room. Alan sat slouched, head leaning back, instead of sitting upright, as he normally would, paying attention to his posture, his appearance, or his guests.
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing.”
“Don’t do this to me, this affects me, too. Tell me what’s going on.”
“Oh, as soon as it affects little Veronica, oh, then we have to do something.”
She stood in silence next to the couch. She didn’t know if she should stand or sit.
A moment, or a minute, or ten, passed. She finally sat down on the couch next to him.
“Really, Alan, I want to know. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
Alan turned his eyes toward her. He let his drink slip out of his hands on to the carpet, spilling all over the floor. He didn’t move.
“Veronica, we put on this show for everyone, and all the while I have to hide my lover, hide who I am. Do you know how that makes me feel?”
She didn’t answer.
“Do you know how it makes my lover feel?”
She could have answered, but didn’t.
“I’m tired of this, Veronica. I don’t know how much longer I can go on with this game.”
She looked over and saw a shattered bottle on the adjacent floor; streaks of tan liquor dripping from the black painting on his wall.

Monica came home, ordered the staff out immediately. Within ten minutes they were gone, and she made her way for what was normally her bedroom.
“Ronnie - get out here. There’s a problem.”
Veronica stepped outside into the hallway.
“Alan is thinking about going public. He’s freaking out.”
“What - why? Was he going to tell me?”
“I had to fight to get it out of him. Ron, do you know what this means if he comes out?”
“It means I’ll be the laughing stock of Hollywood. ‘I didn’t even know my own boyfriend was gay, and had a lover.’ It’ll destroy me.” Veronica paused, in exasperation, and leaned her head against the hallway wall. “Shit, what do I do?”
“You mean what do we do, Ron. I got you this far, and -”
“And the more we mix roles the better chance we have of getting caught. We’ve got to stop this, so let me get to Alan, I can shut him up for a while, I can call him tomorrow and -”
“And nothing, Ron. We’re not playing it your way anymore.”
“And since when did you get so cocky?”
Monica paused, then turned to walk away. In a quick moment she turned back and pinned Veronica by the neck to the wall. “Remember, Ron, according to the rest of the world there’s only one of us. No one would miss us if one of us happened to disappear.” She let go of Veronica and walked down the hall to the staircase.
Walking down the hall, Monica continued: “A body floating down the canal two weeks from now wouldn’t look like Veronica anymore. It would be some Jane Doe, some runaway teenager, the police would think. Besides, why would anyone think it was Veronica? She’d be still alive, filming her best movie yet.” Her voice became more and more quiet, more and more calculated with every word she spoke.
She took the first step down the stairs at the end of the hall, then stopped and turned back. “And I’m not disappearing anymore,” Monica said before she walked away, leaving Veronica bruised and shaken at the top of the stairs.

The next day Veronica was on the set, she got to the studio at four-thirty in the morning for make-up and was in front of cameras by seven. They filmed at the studio and on location in the morning, and by eleven-thirty she was starved and ready for a drink. She walked over to her trailer, her make-shift dressing room and second home. Inside she poured some bourbon into a glass and sat in the only chair not covered with costumes.
Someone knocked on her trailer. “Who is it?” she asked. A young male voice responded, “Hi, my name is John, I’m a really big fan. I just wanted to say hello and tell you how good your work was.”
She knew every male thought she was beautiful, and no male thought twice about her acting. She got up and moved her way to the door. As her door creaked open, she saw a handsome young man, nervously grinning from ear to ear.
“Well, you can say hello, but actually talking to me will cost you.”
The young man stood there, a few steps below the trailer, dumfounded.
“Look, kid, I’m starved. Get me a sandwich and I’ll talk to you while I’m eating before my next scene, okay? I could go for a falafel or something. There’s a place down the street that makes them - would you mind?”
“No problem - I mean - I mean, it would be my pleasure. Falafel - okay, cool, no problem. I’ll be back in a minute -” and the young man turned around and ran off toward the next block.
Waiting for some food was killing her. She rummaged though her mini-refrigerator and found some white bread and cheese slices and gave up on the young fan. She was getting used to fast food and hard liquor for her lunches, hard liquor and cigarettes for her dinners. She didn’t want to go home much anymore. Monica got a hold of the extra key, so now anyone could take over, if one of them would slip up and let the other take over. The longer Veronica stayed away from the house, the longer Monica had to stay there to protect their secret - and the longer Veronica was Veronica.
Her fan never showed up with lunch, but she didn’t care. Someone else will always get her food. But she liked the idea of talking to someone new.
At eight-thirty at night, after working sixteen hours, Veronica sat in her trailer again, this time eating a rice cake with her bourbon. A knock came on her door again.
John appeared as she opened her door and let the fan into her trailer, even without food.

It was nice, she thought, to have a fan adore her like this. Even if it was two in the morning.
For hours John sat there, leaning forward, eyes widened in amazement that he was actually talking to Veronica. He would ask a question, and Veronica would tell him all about life with fame, what this actor was like, how she got into show business. It was nice, she thought, to have someone think so much of her, to pay her so much attention. He was just some nobody to her, she couldn’t even imagine what he looked like, even though she was sitting right there with him, staring him in the face.
But she didn’t care what he looked like. What she cared about was that she was still loved, for one reason or another. And so she gave this fan what he wanted - time with her. And she talked.
And after two in the morning, John left. And Veronica passed out in her trailer.

The next thing she realized was that someone was knocking on her door. She woke up. Looked at the clock. It was already eight-thirty in the morning, she had no sleep, her make-up wasn’t ready, and someone outside was expecting her to shoot the next scene. She couldn’t even remember what scene the crew was filming today. She dragged herself out of her make-shift bed and got to the door.
“Ms. Phillips - are you ready for the first scene?” asked a young stage-hand. He was wearing a t-shirt, jeans, a baseball cap, a crew badge around his neck. He was holding a pot of coffee.
She looked at him in silence, leaning on the door frame. She was barely conscious.
“Oh, Ms. Phillips, did you hear the news already? Oh, you don’t look very good. Why don’t you sit down - I can get you some coffee.”
“What news?” she managed to say.
The stage-hand then realized that she hadn’t heard the news, turned and ran away.

It was the director who came to her trailer with the morning paper. He poured her coffee as she read that Alan died the night before of a drug overdose.

The next three days were a blur to Veronica. She had to act sad, and although she didn’t want him dead, she really didn’t care about him, either. So she put on her actress face and did her best mourning job, wore some of her bast black dresses, and gave up being social. Besides, all she really wanted to do was stay at home and drink herself to sleep.
But Monica was more concerned about their future. “You don’t think any of Alan’s sexual past will be dug up, will you?”
Veronica leaned against her bar and rubbed her face in her hand. “You know, I really don’t know. What would anyone have to gain from that?”
“Ron, you mean to tell me Alan’s not going to have a bunch of male lovers popping out of the woodwork saying they have a right to part of Alan’s estate? What do we do if that happens?”
“Well, there’s nothing we can do now, is there? If Alan’s reputation gets smeared there’s really nothing we can do about it.”
Monica paused, then went to the bar to get Veronica another drink. “There’s got to be something. And if I were you, I’d mourn a little more. If some of his lovers do come out of the woodwork, you’ll look like a jealous ex that found out he was gay.”
“And what difference does it make?”
“Just keep our bases covered, and we should be fine.”
“I have nothing to cover up, Monica. Besides, there was no foul play involved - he just killed himself.”
Monica leaned back and lit a cigarette. “All I’m saying is that you could stand to look a little more clean.”
Veronica put her head down for a moment, then got up the strength to get up and go to bed. She reached the end of the room when Monica spoke.
“Oh, and Ronnie - you look like hell. I’ll cover for tomorrow.”
Veronica just turned away and walked out of the room.

At 5:07 the next afternoon Monica slammed the attic door open. “Veronica, turn your television on. This is it.”
Veronica walked over to the set, turned it on, and stood there for a moment while Monica changed the channel. Veronica tried to fix the reception while they both listened to the press conference on the evening news.
“I have every reason to believe that Veronica Phillips murdered Alan. Coroners found traces of cyanide in Alan’s bloodstream, and Alan didn’t do drugs - he was a drinker, but he never shot up.”
The press standing below him roared with questions. “But why do you think it was Veronica Phillips?”
“She was nervous about her career being shattered if her boyfriend - Alan - came out of the closet - which he was contemplating doing.”
Another roar from the crowd ensued. “And how do you know all of this?”
“Because I am his real lover,” the young man said.

“Change the channel,” Veronica said. When Monica did, the police chief of the local county police department was being questioned. “With the findings from the Coroner’s office, we definitely agree that there was foul play. As for Veronica Phillips, well, we’ll be contacting her to answer some questions, but that is all we can say at the moment.”
Veronica got up and turned off the television set, then sat back down on the bed. Monica lit up a cigarette. “Well, you better call the lawyers,” Monica said as she took a long drag.
“But I didn’t do it,” Veronica mumbled under her breath. She dropped her head into her hands.
“No, of course you didn’t, Ronnie,” Monica said. She took another drag. “You know that, I know that -”
Veronica looked up. “Oh.” She sat in silence.
Monica sat in silence with her.
Veronica figured it out.

“Oh my God,” whispered Veronica. Veronica couldn’t say any more. Monica picked up her head and looked at Veronica and waited.
“Monica, you did it, didn’t you?” she finally asked.
Monica then looked down at the cigarette she was inhaling from. She pulled the cigarette away from her lips. “Well, honey, I’ve got to take care of you, now, don’t I?”
Veronica jumped up from the bed. “I can’t believe this! I can’t believe you did this to us! Now you expect me to cover this up? What if someone saw you there, or saw you going there? Or what if someone from staff here saw you? God, Monica, this is why I’m the one on the outside most of the time, this is way out of control! You can’t go around killing people! Do you think this is going to make my life easier? Monica, we need to have only one of us on the outside at a time - oh, God, and now I’ve got to figure out a way to get us out of this? Take care of me? You call this taking care of me? You’ve turned our life upside-down, you’ve possible destroyed our only chance for the future we wanted, and you call this taking care of me? And another thing, I’m the one that takes care of you, not the other way around. I’ve managed perfectly well so far, I’ve managed to not kill anyone, and then you go out when you’re not supposed to and do this. And what if we have to go to jail?”
“First of all, Ronnie, only one of us can go to jail. The other one would have to go into hiding. Remember that there’s only one of us on the outside. Second, this is a perfect time to have both of us on the outside. I went there at twelve-thirty or one in the morning, and since you weren’t home I knew you were at a club, so you’d have a room full of witnesses to back you up. You have an air-tight alibi, Ronnie. Third, Alan was only going to be trouble for us later on, and -”
“Monica, I wasn’t at a club, I was talking to a fan in my trailer until two in the morning. Jesus Christ, I can’t even remember his fucking name, it was, oh shit, it was -”
“Veronica, you didn’t go out that night? Damnit, Ronnie, you can - but wait, the fan, just remember his name and he’ll come forward.”
“Um, I think it was John.”
Monica sat for a moment in silence.
“John.” Monica paused. “John - that’s all you can think of, John? No last name?”
“He never told me his last name.”
“So what we’re saying here is we’re supposed to go out on a search for a fan named John in all of California?”
“Well, don’t blame me, I’m not the one going around killing people.”
Veronica put her head back into her hands. Monica got up and walked to the door. “Well, you will be blamed if you don’t find this mysterious John. So tomorrow, you go to your lawyers, tell them the whole story about John. Then talk to the police, with the lawyers, of course, and tell them exactly what you did. The more details you give, the more convincing it will be. Then have a press conference, looking for the fan. I’m sure he’ll show up to get more fame, to see you again, and... To save his damsel in distress.”
Monica opened the door and checked to make sure the upstairs hallway was empty. She leaned back in the room. “And yes, Ronnie, remember that you aren’t the one going around killing people. I am.”
Monica turned away and shut the door behind her.
Veronica watched the cigarette smoke Monica left behind glide up toward to solitary ceiling light. “But if this doesn’t work, which one of us goes to jail?” she spoke out loud to the four empty, cold walls.

The next day went perfectly according to plan. Veronica got her team of lawyers together, and she explained everything. She put on her most conservative suit and went to the police without being asked. She had her lawyers set up a press conference for five o’clock in the afternoon that day.
As everything was happening around her, all she could think was that if this didn’t work out, if Veronica Phillips was going to go to jail, then she would go into hiding and let them drag Monica away.

But five-o’clock rolled around, and the room was filled at Veronica’s press conference with news reporters, photographers, other actors, anyone who could get a badge. Veronica looked out from the edge of the stage, and wondered if they all came because they loved her or because the hated her.
This would have to be her best performance yet, she thought, sound intelligent, look sweet, act conservatively, use emotion, but not so much that it is unbelievable.
Her head lawyer went up on stage first, delivered a seven-minute speech, then fielded questions from the press. They questioned him for nearly ten minutes. Then he handed the stage over to Veronica, and she started her carefully prepared speech. Explaining that she wasn’t alone but talking with a fan in her trailer on the set, all she asked was for that fan to step forward. Hot lines were set up, toll-free phone lines were activated, all he had to do was call. John was the only thing that could prove her innocence to her, and she was sure he would step forward.
At least that is what she said in the press conference.

Veronica went home that night feeling worse than in the morning. She delivered her speeches to the lawyers, to the police, to the media flawlessly, but no John had stepped forward. She waited at her lawyer’s offices, waiting for John to call, for hours. He never did.
“What if he never comes forward?” she asked herself over and over again in her limousine ride home.
Hordes of media were waiting at the edge of her driveway, following her car in after eleven o’clock that night. The police cars that followed her home pushed the media away long enough for her to get into her home. She had her lawyers call for bodyguards and security for 6 a.m. the next morning.
Veronica went upstairs, and a moment later Monica came back down. She asked her staff to close all the shades that weren’t already closed, then to go on a small vacation. The less people around, the better. “I’m sure you understand, and I appreciate your consideration during this time for me. When I need you again, I’ll call you all back,” she told her staff.
Within twenty minutes the house was empty. Veronica went downstairs to the bar and poured herself a glass of bourbon. She sat at a chair, with her elbows on the bar, her left hand on her forehead. She couldn’t move.
Monica circled around her, pacing back and forth. “Well, we’re going to have to come up with something. And you, Ronnie, you look like hell. That better be an act because we need your mind sharp when you’re out there.”
“Monica,” Veronica responded, “Alan is dead, you killed him, and everyone thinks it was me. I look like hell because I’m in it.”
She looked down, swirled the bourbon around the bottom of the glass, and finished her first round.
Veronica poured herself another glass. Monica started to walk out the room when Veronica spoke.
“So, cyanide, huh? How did you give it to him?”
“In his drink. He was already sloshed.”
Veronica paused. “Did you take the glass with you?”
“Of course. And yes, I wore gloves. Don’t worry, Ronnie.”
Monica walked up the stairs.
Veronica wondered how many opportunities Monica had to lace her drinks, too.

For the next few days she had the lawyers call her at home and visit her instead of going out herself. She had security posted at every doorway, and a few monitoring the windows around her property. She felt like she was already in prison.
During the third night, while Veronica sat in her living room with a glass of sherry, Monica leaned over the back of the couch and whispered in her ear, “Are you beginning to see how I’ve felt all of these years?”
Veronica closed her eyes. She was afraid to say anything to Monica anymore. Monica walked away, whistling.

The fifth day was when the phone call came. John called at noon, and they immediately arranged a press conference for five o’clock in the afternoon. By three-thirty, John was at the police station with Veronica’s lawyers. Veronica stayed at home and prepared for the press conference.
She only first saw him when he came on stage to join her. Here eyes turned into saucers when John walked on stage, but she quickly regained her composure. They answered a few questions, then Veronica took her lawyers, and John, out to dinner. By eight o’clock that night, the police issued a formal statement that Veronica Phillips was not considered a suspect in Alan’s death. A celebration was in order.
Everyone went back to the lawyers’ offices and drank from their private bar. At nearly two in the morning, they decided to leave.
Veronica stayed in the parking lot with John while her lawyers, one by one, drove away. In a few minutes, the two of them were alone.
She turned to him. “You’re not John.”
“Yes I am, Veronica, John Lowry. I-”
“Sure, you’re John, but you’re not the John I met.”
“I know.” He paused. “I was wondering what you’d say.”
“What are you doing? Why did you come forward and say you were the man I was with?”
“Miss Phillips, your fan wasn’t coming forward. I know you didn’t do it. I know you couldn’t do it. And I’m sure you were with a fan. I couldn’t let the police drag you over the coals, and they were about to do it.”
“But where were you then? Could someone identify you as being somewhere else at the same time?”
“Miss Phillips, I live alone, I have no family around here, and not many friends, either. I work as a pool cleaner in Beverly Hills. No one knows anything about me, and no one saw what I was doing that night. I was alone, in my darkened apartment, on the phone with no one. I was reading a book, in my bedroom, which doesn’t even have any windows. You have nothing to worry about.”
“But what if the real John comes forward?”
“Miss Phillips, if he were going to come forward, don’t you think he would have done it by now? I think you feared that he would never show up. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have remained silent during the press conference.”
Veronica leaned against her Mercedes in the parking lot. A street light illuminated the ground behind her car, leaving the two of them just out of the spotlight.
“But why did you do it?”
“I told you. I know you’re innocent. I know you wouldn’t do that. And -”
“And what?”
“And... I’m a big fan, too.”
They sat in silence together, both leaning against her car.
“I don’t know, just to be able to meet you, to talk to you, that’s a big enough thrill, but I thought, hey, it would be an honor to help you when you needed it.”
“But I don’t know how to thank you, I mean, I could give you something, but then it would look like I was paying you off, and -”
“I’m not asking for anything. I mean, I got something - I’m the only person that could save you, and I did.”
John looked up at the insects circling around the street light.
“Maybe, Miss Phillips -”
“Yes?”
“Maybe you could keep in touch. A phone call, or dinner once or twice a year.”
“I think I could do that, John. But one thing -”
“Yes, Miss Phillips?”
“You have to call me Veronica.”
John looked down as a sheepish grin came across his face. “Sure, Veronica.”
She gave this stranger a hug before she got into her car and drove away.

Veronica called her producers the next day and told them that she would have to take a few days off from filming to recuperate. She stayed in bed late.
Monica walked into the master bedroom at eleven-thirty in the morning. “Why aren’t you on the set?”
“I called in and told them I needed a few days for myself. They understood. I told them less than a week.”
“Ronnie, why the hell did you do that? I could have covered for you. You don’t want people to wonder what’s going on.”
“Monica, people will wonder if I’m able to just go right back to work after all this happened. It’s natural to need some time off after something like this. It’s traumatic.”
“You are such a whiny bitch, Ron. You should have checked with me first.”
Monica walked out of the bedroom, but popped her head in for a brief moment.
“Oh, and get this, Ron, the morning news updates say that Alan’s lover is now the primary suspect. What a riot. Now the little fucker will get his for pointing the finger at us, right?”
Monica started to laugh as she left Veronica’s bedroom and walked down the hallway.

Veronica spent the afternoon drinking. By four-thirty in the afternoon she decided to make a phone call.
“Doctor Wolcott’s office.”
“Yes, I’d like to make an appointment to see Doctor Wolcott as soon as possible. It’s a bit of an emergency.”
“Have you visited with Doctor Wolcott before?”
“Yes, but it hasn’t been for a few years. Look, is there anything available in the next day or two? Tell him it’s Veronica Phillips, he’ll remember me.”
“Oh, Ms. Phillips, let me check with the doctor and see what we can do.”
She made an appointment with her psychiatrist for the next afternoon.

“Remember, Ron, according to the rest of the world there’s only one of us. No one would miss us if one of us happened to disappear. A body floating down the canal two weeks from now wouldn’t look like Veronica anymore. It would be some Jane Doe, some runaway teenager, the police would think. Besides, why would anyone think it was Veronica? She’d be still alive, filming her best movie yet.”
For the rest of the evening Monica’s words kept pounding through Veronica’s brain.
From the living room she heard Monica walking down the stairs. “Veronica, I’m going out to the clubs tonight. Don’t go anywhere, will you?”
“I won’t,” Veronica answered. “Try to look like you’re shaken up, will you?”
“Don’t worry, darling. I’m a great actress.” And with that she turned around and headed for the door.
As Monica walked away Veronica listened to her footsteps. The heels of her shoes clicked against the marble hallway floor. The front door opened, closed. Veronica looked around at the shadows her furniture cast over the walls. She sat with her feet up on her couch. Her drink was almost empty. She reached over for the phone.
“Hello?”
“Hey, Tony?”
“Yeah, who is this - Veronica?”
“Yeah, hope I’m not calling too late.”
“No, honey, I was just going to go out in a bit. What do you need?”
“Well, after this whole fiasco with the police I feel like everyone’s watching me a little more closely. I feel so unsafe, even in my own house. I know you offered this to me before, so -”
“You want a gun for your house?”
“Yeah, Tony.”
“Well, first you gotta learn how to shoot the thing.”
“Would you be interested in teaching me?”
“Sure, Veronica. When do you wanna do this?”
“As soon as possible. Can we get together tomorrow?”
“Yeah, but only at like noon. Do you want me to pick you up?”
“Sure, Tony. And thanks.”
“No problem. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, Tony. Oh wait - I might be going out to the clubs, so if I see you out tonight, don’t talk about this. I don’t want other people knowing I’m getting a gun.”
“Got it, honey. See you later.”
“Bye, Tony.”
She laid the phone down on the cocktail table. She got up and walked into the bathroom. She turned on the light and stood in front of the medicine cabinet. She stared at herself in the mirror, noting the new wrinkles she gained over the past two weeks. She opened the cabinet, found every package of codeine and lithium, as well as two jars of sleeping pills. She walked upstairs and did the same in the master bathroom. She then walked down the stairs into the kitchen and hid everything in a crock pot, and put it in the oven. Monica couldn’t poison her, she thought, if she couldn’t find the drugs.
She straightened herself up, left the kitchen, walked into the living room. She looked around her quiet house. She used to like it when she let the staff go for the night, she like the feeling of being alone. Never before did it feel unsafe, or even lonely. She got her glass, and walked to the bar. She had twelve more hours to kill before seeing Tony.

The next morning went perfectly. Since Veronica was in bed when Monica came home, and probably because Monica was still drunk at dawn, she went to the attic to sleep. Veronica got up, took some aspirin, and got ready to see Tony.
When she saw Tony pulling into her driveway, she walked outside. She got into his car and they made their way towards the shooting range.
“Hey, Veronica, in the back seat - do you like it?”
She looked in the back seat and saw a .38 special laying in the back seat. It looks like it was just thrown there nonchalantly, she thought, by someone who didn’t know what it was capable of doing.
“Is it loaded?”
“Nah. Thought I’d teach you how to do that once we got to the range.”
She reached to the back seat and picked up the gun.
“It’s a beauty, ain’t it, honey?”
She didn’t answer; she just sat there in amazement at how heavy the gun really was.

Tony explained everything to her, and after two-and-a-half hours she felt calm and focused when she shot her new gun. He brought her home by three-thirty, which gave her just enough time to hide her gun in the pot in the oven, change clothes, and take her limousine to her doctor’s appointment.

She walked through a back entrance into the office to avoid the exposure. She walked in with a calm she thought she couldn’t have until after she talked to her old doctor.
Doctor Wolcott’s previous appointment had already left, so he was waiting for her when she arrived. She walked into his office and immediately sat on the couch. He got up from his chair, walked around and sat on the corner of his desk.
“Ms. Phillips, it’s good to see you again.”
“Monica’s getting out of control.”
Doctor Wolcott paused. “The last time we talked was a few years ago, but then you said that Monica wasn’t bothering you.”
“Well, she’s come out of hiding, and she’s on a rampage. I’m scared of her. I’m afraid she’s going to try to take over me.”
“Why would you say that Veronica? You’re a strong woman. You know you can handle her, you’ve done so before.”
“You don’t get it, Doctor Wolcott,” she answered. She paused, took in a deep breath. “She killed Alan.”
Doctor Wolcott leaned his head back. His smile faded.
“It was her, doctor. I swear, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t there. She did it, and I had to cover it up.” Her eyes started to water; she put her hand to her cheek, brushed her hair back behind her ear. “And she’s been threatening me, saying she’s not going to stay in hiding anymore, that no one will miss me if I’m found floating down the river two weeks from now by the police. God, I really think she’s going to kill me.”
“Veronica, she’s not going to kill you. She needs you. She needs you to be alive. What she wants is to take over your spirit and rule your life. What you have to do is fight that, fight her will.”
“No, Doctor Wolcott, you don’t understand. I think she fed me sleeping pills a couple of weeks ago. I keep finding codeine and lithium in the medicine cabinets that I didn’t put there. I’ve had to hide it from her. I’m really afraid she’s trying to kill me off.”
“Veronica, I’d like to admit you somewhere to get some rest. You could be away from Monica then, you’d have time to recuperate, time away from work, time to fight her and win yourself back.”
“Doctor Wolcott, if I do that, then she’ll definitely take over my life. She’ll get out, there’s nothing I can do to stop that. And she’ll make it so I can never get back out. She’ll never let me out.”
“Then you have to fight her will now, Veronica. Let me help you.”
Veronica’s tears slid down her face in quiet desperation. “I have to fight her. I have to get rid of her.”
Doctor Wolcott responded to her comments, but she no longer heard them. For the rest of the hour all she could think was that she had to confront Monica, do it reasonably and rationally, make it a test of wills. She always won in the past. She has to do it again.

At six o’clock, Veronica left the office and stepped into her limousine. She checked to make sure there was some liquor in the back. She told the driver to drive around. She didn’t want to go home yet.
After two hours, she told her driver to stop at a liquor store and buy her a bottle of red wine. When he got back to the car, she asked him to drive her to the shore.
He drove her to a hill near the shore, so that she could watch the sunset without having to leave the back of her car. Veronica sipped her wine as she watched the glowing red sun slide down into the cool blue waters, illuminating the sky with oranges and purples.
“You know, I haven’t watched the sunset in years,” she told her driver as they pulled away from the hill and headed back to her home. Inside, she wondered if it would be her last.

Veronica walked into her home at nearly ten-thirty that night. She heard classical music playing from upstairs. She hoped she could avoid her confrontation for just a little while longer. She kicked her shoes off at the front door and started to head for the bar when she stopped.
“God, I haven’t eaten all day,” she thought, and turned around and headed into the kitchen.
The light was on in the kitchen, and she walked around the island to her refrigerator to grab a piece of cheese. She set the block of cheese down next to the refrigerator and grabbed a piece of french bread from the counter, ripping off the end and shoving it in her mouth. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the oven door slightly open.
A wave of fear fell over her. In a mad panic, she ran up the stairs to her bedroom.

She grabbed the door frame at her bedroom to stop her forward motion. Monica sat in the center of the bed, bottles and packages of drugs and boxes of bullets fanned around her. Veronica’s gun was resting in Monica’s lap; Monica gazed intently at it as she repeatedly ran her fingers along the handle. She didn’t look up to acknowledge Veronica’s arrival.
Veronica stood in the doorway, holding herself up with the door frame, panting.
Monica continued to stroke the side of the gun.
“I’m so disappointed in you, Ronnie. Did you really think I wouldn’t find this?” Her eyes never left the gun in her lap.
“I just bought it. I was afraid of freaks trying to hurt us because of Alan’s murder.”
“And that’s why you were collecting the drugs, Ronnie?”
“No, I was afraid you were going to hurt yourself. We’ve both been under a lot of stress, and I didn’t want you resorting to -”
“Do you really think I’m stupid, Ronnie?”
Veronica stopped making up an explanation and just looked at her. Monica picked up the gun from her lap and got up from the bed.
“I mean, do you really think I’m that stupid?” She asked again, this time louder, almost screaming.
Veronica stood motionless in the doorway. Monica walked up to her. Their noses almost touched.
“I’m smart enough to know that the two of us can’t do this any longer, that the two of us can’t go one being one person any longer. One of us has to die tonight, for the sanity of the both of us.”
They both stood in silence, waiting for the other to make the first move.
“Remember, Ron, according to the rest of the world there’s only one of us. No one would miss us if one of us happened to disappear. A body floating down the canal two weeks from now wouldn’t look like Veronica anymore. It would be some Jane Doe, some runaway teenager, the police would think. Besides, why would anyone think it was Veronica? She’d be still alive, filming her best movie yet.”
Thoughts raced through Veronica’s mind. She finally spoke. “You’re the one who decided that one of us has to die tonight, not me. But I’m not going to -”
In mid-sentence, to catch her off-guard, Veronica pushed Monica down and ran out the room toward the stairs.
Monica quickly jumped to her feet, picked up the gun and ran after her. She caught up in the living room. Monica started to yell.
“What, Ronnie, going to get another drink? You can’t drink yourself away from this one, Ron. I’m not going away. I’m not blowing this entire career because you can’t handle it.”
Veronica started to cry. “I thought we were a team. I thought we needed each other.” Veronica slid to the floor and leaned against the bar.
Monica crouched down next to her. “It’s got to be this way, Ronnie. You know it does.”
“But I don’t want to die,” Veronica whispered. She looked down at the carpet.
“One of us has to go away in order for the life of Veronica Phillips to move forward. All of her work will be forgotten if we’re fighting on the sidelines.”
Veronica looked up. “I’m Veronica Phillips,” she said as she swung her right arm and punched Monica. Monica fell back, but jumped back and lunged for Veronica.
From two blocks away, a pair of joggers heard a single gun shot during their daily run.

It was two mornings later when the police entered the home of Veronica Phillips at the request of Doctor Wolcott. They found assorted pills and drugs scattered on Veronica’s bed. And they found Veronica Phillips laying dead on her living room floor next to her bar, with her gun in her hand.
“I should have done something,” Doctor Wolcott said under his breath.
“Did you have reason to believe she was going to kill herself?” one of the police officers asked while a plain-clothes officer took photographs of the scene.
“No,” Doctor Wolcott responded, “but she was afraid her other personality was going to kill her. She saw me two days ago, she made an appointment for the first time in years. When I worked with her before I knew she had multiple personality disorder, but she had been in extensive therapy with me and she said that Monica - the second personality - wasn’t around anymore, wasn’t bothering her. So, I never admitted her anywhere. And just two days ago she came to my office, saying Monica was back.”
Doctor Wolcott stood back while the paramedics carried a stretcher into her home.
“And now she destroyed both of them,” Doctor Wolcott whispered.

On the set, her director got a body-double to finish the film.
On the other side of town, John was waiting for Veronica Phillips to call.












they never ask me

i get up to find my clothes
sometimes they stay asleep
sometimes they wake up

"why are you getting dressed"
they ask, and i tell them
that i have to get going

they never ask me to stay












this is my burden

I managed to find a seat on the el
train, for once, I was going to work
early enough

so that it wasn’t very crowded. And
the ride was the same as the el train
always is:

some people reading a paper, a woman
putting on her make-up, most
just staring

out the window at the aging, rattling
tracks, the smattering of gang
graffiti on the

nearby buildings. Ordinary day in
Chicago, slightly overcast. I wear
my sunglasses

just to avoid eye contact with other
train members. We all know this
code: we know

we have to somehow keep our
sense of personal space, our
sense of selves.

I hear a bit of a scuffle behind me,
more the moving of people than
an argument;

nothing to ponder over. Then
a gunshot rings out. I turn around
and catch

a glimpse of two men struggling.
Instantly I duck down, as most
others do.

I crawl down to the floor in front
of my seat, trying to protect
myself, having

no idea who has the gun or which
direction the gun is pointing. I
don’t even know

if this seat in front of me could
protect me from a bullet. There are
screams everywhere;

the gun occasionally going off.
I try to look to see if anyone
was shot, but

am afraid of being in the line
of fire. Another few men jump
in the fight,

in an effort to stop the gunman.
Why is this happening? Was it
an argument,

or just someone on a shooting
spree? The el comes to a screeching
halt at a stop,

and now comes the question: do we
make a run for it, and risk death,
or will the

gunman try to escape out the doors?
The train ride to here seemed an
eternity,

and now none of us even knows
if we should try to get off the train.
The doors

don’t open. I hear a few gun-
shots; two men scream. The doors
finally open.

A barrage of policemen cover the
doorways. I could glance up and
see them.

Many more screams. They don’t
seem to end. The policemen
rush the

gunman, shoot him before he could
shoot anybody else. It was over.
The next two

hours were spent on the train and
platform answering questions. I
had nothing

to offer them; I barely saw what
happened. They informed me that
it was not an

argument but a man trying to stop
a man about to go on a shooting
spree. Then

the man that survived the struggle
walked up to me, and when no one
was listening

told me that the gunman walked
down the aisle, stopped four chairs
short of mine,

and aimed for my head. That was
when he jumped up to stop him.
That man

was out to kill me. But I’ve never
met him before, I said, and the man
said he didn’t

need to know my reply, just wanted
to let me know why all this
happened.

This man’s intentions were to kill
me. But why? Did he think I was
someone else?

And now I think of this every day,
the answers still not coming to me.
And I still

have this burden to carry with me,
that all these people died, all of these
people witnessed

this event, and in a way I couldn’t
explain or justify, it was all because
of me.

And this is my burden. All this pain.
All this guilt. All these unanswered
questions.












this is what it means

my son was shot
now he lives in his wheelchair
I hear him creek as he rolls down the hall

he’s a brave boy
it takes him such great strength to live
he always smiles

he can’t feel from the waist down
but he works so hard
he is so proud

once I came home
and he was so excited
you see, he took a rope

and a laundry basket
filled them up with snacks;
now he could

drag his snacks to his room
this was an accomplishment
he was so proud of himself

I held back my tears
he shouldn’t have to go through this
this is not how he should live

people don’t understand
when he has a bowel movement
he has to

reach inside of him
and pull it out
he can’t feel

this is what it means
for him to be in a wheelchair
to not feel












to be different

Everyone was mulling around, making small
talk, laughing, having fun, doing all the things
that people are supposed to do at a well-executed
party. It was his birthday, and there was a ring
of people around him. He was glowing with delight.
She looked at him from across the room and realized
that he might have loved her, but he knew nothing
about her. She looked down at her dress. It was a
strapless red satin dress, with sequins bordering the
top and bottom. She suddenly wanted to be wearing
her flannel and long underwear, sitting by herself
with a book, or a newspaper, or her thoughts.
She just wanted things to be different.











too far

When he met me
he told me
I looked like
Kim Basinger
long blonde locks
but as time
wore on I knew
I wasn’t her
and I could never
be her and I was
never good enough
thin enough
pretty enough
I got a perm
straightened my
teeth
bought a wonder
bra but it wasn’t
doing the trick
I bought slimfast
used the stair
stepper ate rice
cakes and wheat
germ but I wasn’t
thin enough I
only dropped
twenty pounds
so I went to the
spa got my skin
peeled soaked
myself in mud
wrapped myself
in cellophane
bought the amino
acid facial creams
but I knew they
didn’t really
work so I went to
the doctor got my
nose slimmed
my tummy stapled
my thighs sucked

thought about
getting a rib or two
removed
like Cher
but I figured
they’ve got to
be there for
something
and hey, that’s
just going
too far












top of the mountain

so we were in the car together, Lorrie driving, Sandy in the back seat, the humidity from the Southwest Florida night seeping in through the cracks in the car windows. And it was quiet for a moment, and the lull in the conversation prompted Lorrie to ask, “so if you had an Indian name, what would it be?” and I was completely lost by the introduction of this question, I mean, where did it come from and what kind of Indian name was she talking about? Sequoia? And then Sandy says, “you mean like ‘Fucking Dogs?’, and Lorrie laughs and says yes, a name like Running Bear or Soaring Eagle. So sandy didn't think Fucking Dogs should be her name, so she came up with “Teacher of Children,” and I thought for a moment, tried to encapsulate my life one catchy little phrase, and finally I came up with “One who Rests at Top of Mountain.” Lorrie then explained to us that the names were actually given to Indian boys as a rite to manhood by a mentor of theirs, often a grandfather-figure, and the name was a reminder to them of what they should become. So I changed mine to “Patient One,” but you know, looking back at that night, driving through the musty sticky night, I still think that it is better to say that I shall rest at the top of the mountain.












trying

trying to revitalize
this old, tired marriage

once I wore a black teddy
thong back
beaded front

walked up to him while
he was watching
a basketball game
on the couch

sat on his lap
straddled him

and he looked at me
and reached his arm around
and tried to
grab his drink












tuesday nights

tuesday nights were the nights dad went
out with the boys in the builders tee club
and it was just the girls at home. i
remember a story of when mom and dad
were younger and dad would come home
late on tuesdays, drunk, and one time mom
decided to scotch tape the front door lock,
and dad tried and tried to use his key but
just couldn’t get in the front door.
well for me tuesday nights were spaghetti
nights, because dad hated spaghetti but
we loved it. there was no meat in it, i
could hear him saying. but when i was
younger, i remember thinking that my
favorite day of the week was not saturday
or sunday, free from school, but tuesday,
when he had spaghetti or elbow noodles
in a milk and butter sauce and it was the
girl’s night together.











plush horse stories
ice cream parlor,
candy shop, bakery, 1986-1990
work stories

under his jeans

pete was trying to figure out
how to trick matt;
they were always trying
to trick each other

and so pete had the perfect plan.
he said he was telling everyone
this, the plan was to give matt
an undy grundy by the end

of the night, to yank his
underwear up out of his
pants, but the intricacy to
his plan was that he was telling

matt that they were going to do it
to vince. well, everyone knew
that we were supposed to
act like we were going to get

vince, vine knew to act like
he didn’t know, and so the
end of the night came and
we were all in the back office

and matt and pete started to
walk cautiously toward vince,
and then vince and pete and
john and the rest of them

turned around all at once
and went after matt. matt made
it out of the back office and
into the blue room, but that’s

where they tackled him and
got a hold of his jockeys. the
next thing you know the elastic
band on top of matt’s under

wear is half ripped off, and
he’s tucking it back under
his jeans. we were all laughing
so hard. then i said to molly,

well, i’m wearing a miniskirt,
and it doesn’t feel too safe
around here. i’m gonna go.
and i got my stuff and left.












was immune

I went to the outdoor courtyard today
the first time in i don’t know how many years

i used to sit there, in the mornings
drinking coffee, writing, reading

and he would come up and sit there with me
and draw

it’s the first time i’ve been there
since he turned on me

i knew him
and i knew he had the potential

potential for being a monster
i had heard the stories before

stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars
in merchandise

been in a gang
drove someone’s mercedes over a cliff

but I thought I was immune
to his violence

I thought I could change him
I thought he cleaned up his act

I thought I could be safe
alone with him

a thief
an addict
a molester

I knew him, but I thought I was immune
and now

I see all the places
and they make me think of him

and they make me cry












watching people play

mom and dad’s home in florida is right across
the street from a pool and a pair of tennis courts.
in the mornings, if mom was already out of
the house when i woke up, i’d get dressed,
maybe a swimsuit, maybe shorts and a t-
shirt, and walk outside, down the driveway,
across the street, through the fence and past
the pool to the rows of brown bleachers that
faced the courts. dad might be playing, or
maybe there’s a tournament with our neighbors
and friends. and i’d sit next to mom, both of
us with our feet up on the fence around the
tennis courts, just sitting in the sun. that’s
how we spent our mornings, watching people play.











what we need in life

I don’t know where this road
taking me anymoreand
I don’t know the right lines to say
I don’t feel the things that you’re feeling
down deep inside of youbut
I know this ain’t the way

nothing ventured
nothing gained
nothing changes
nothing stays the same

but you go your way
I go mine
maybe one day
we will find

what we need in life

what we need in life


I watch the ashes from your cigarette
fall to the groundand
I think this fire will die down
I think I now see what is happening here
between usand
I have to say good bye

nothing ventured
nothing gained
nothing changes
nothing stays the same

so you go your way
I go mine
maybe one day
we will find

what we need in life

what we need in life


I can’t stay bitter and lonely
and restless anymoreand
I can’t be here with you
I see the red in your eyes
and it scares me half to deathand
I’ll take this road alone

nothing ventured
nothing gained
nothing changes
nothing stays the same

you go your way
and I go mine
maybe one day
we will find

what we need in life

what we need in life












when you’re gone

i know you’ll be back
to take more from me

i always wonder
how much more i have to give
how much more i possess

sometimes i wonder
if i am spent
if i can take any more

but i always do
and you’re always there

when you’re gone
there will be

someone else

i know it












where to go

It was almost sunset, and there
was no one on the beach. She
went there just to see the sunset,
just to try to calm herself down.
She had to get away, she thought.
She couldn’t take it anymore.
His affair. Her job. The kid’s
problems. Her weight. The
vacuuming and dusting. So
she went to the beach.

The waves gently lapped along
the sandy shore, turning golden
in color as the sun’s rays
darkened into a deeper and
deeper red, into purple, into
blue. A light breeze moved
her hair like fingers running
to the back of her head. An
occasional sea gull flew along
the shore. There was no one in
sight. She sat there, momentarily in peace.

The breeze started to feel stronger
and stronger, and she had to
close her eyes from the burn
of the wind and the sand.
The sand ripped into her arms
like tiny needles, piercing her
skin. The waves grew higher
and higher until they sounded
like they were about to land on
top of her. She finally opened
her eyes. Her burning eyes saw
that the waves were still only
lapping on the shore. The sand
had not moved. There was no breeze.

She stood up. She couldn’t
take it anymore. She took off
her shoes and sprinted away












wouldn’t have to

whenever i hurt myself
playing when i was little,
roller skating or bicycling
in the driveway, mom would
usually do one of two things:
she’d either try to make me
laugh by asking, "did you
crack the cement?", or
say she’d cry for me, or get
mad for me, and then she’d
pout, so I wouldn’t have to











you’ll like them

mom was always cooking things, eating the
strangest things, and trying to convince us to
try them. just because she likes hot peppers
or pickled beets or pigs’ feet or oysters
doesn’t mean we do. so once mom cooked some
garbanzo beans, wanted me to try them. "you’ll
like them, they’re low in fat." no, thank you,
mom, i’m not hungry. "but they taste just like
peanuts." no, thanks, mom, i’m really not
hungry.
"they taste just like peanuts."
sandy and i start a conversation.
"just like peanuts," we hear her say again
from the kitchen. i start to laugh. she’s still
in there, trying to convince me to eat these
things, and she just keeps repeating that they
taste just like peanuts, in that cute little
high-pitched squeak of hers. "just like peanuts."

"do they taste just like peanuts?" i asked.
they were soft and mushy. nothing like
peanuts. nothing at all.












Pornography, an Essay





The language of sex that is forbidden used to be a language like this:
“Bitch,” he snapped, pulling away from her, yanking his dick out of her mouth. “You’re trying to make me come before I’m ready...” She ate up that kind of talk.

John Stoltenberg, “Pornography and Male Sumeracy - the Forbidden Language of Sex,” “Refusing ... Essays on Sex and Justice.”

Think of some woman in a porn magazine or movie. You probably be able to think of one in particular, so just think of the general notion of a woman in porn.

Here’s a woman, which you probably wouldn’t even think to call a woman, doing whatever the said man in the movie wants her to do, on film, for others to derive pleasure from. Now in general, when men or even women look at her, they don’t wonder about her intellect, her personality, even the sound of her voice. You don’t even wonder if she’s a good cook. When it comes to the viewers of this woman, all they’re thinking about is sex - her body parts and what she does with them. That’s all you’re supposed to be thinking about when you watch it - that’s the whole point of porn.

Okay, so now you’re looking at this woman and you’re thinking of her as, well, not even as a human being as much as some sort of object with legs and tits and other things. You’re not thinking of her on any other terms, you don’t want to think of her on any other terms. Her express purpose is your sexual satisfaction. You begin to objectify this woman - you don’t even know her name, and you are shown to think of her as and object derived to fulfill your needs.

Now, you watch a porn more than once, you see different porn movies, you see these naked women more than once, you see them in magazines as well as in movies. For your purposes, they could even be all the same person - they’re just legs and tits anyway, right? For all you know, you could have been looking at the same woman on numerous occasions without even knowing it. They have no personality to you in this form, in pornography. And you may even become accustomed to seeing them this way - seeing the women in these videos and pictures as objects of pleasure for the male viewer.

Now tell me, who is to say that on some levels there aren’t men who don’t begin to look at women in general in terms of the images they’re seeing of women - as objects, as sexual creatures? Do men begin to think of all porn stars as women whose personality doesn’t matter to the male, then think of all naked women as objects without feelings, then think of all women in general as tools for men’s satisfaction?


Skin flicks and porn reading matter market women as commodities, denying physical uniqueness, women are presented as “tits and ass” with bulging breasts and painted-on smiles. This caricature of the female body and its reduction to a few sexual essentials is presented undisguised in the “hard core” material and covered up with sophisticated packaging in Playboy, Penthouse, and “soft core” porn films. Whether explicit or implied, the underlying message is the same: women are to be treated by the consumer (the male reader) as pieces of ass.

“Michael Betzold, How Pornography Shackles Men and Oppresses Women, Male Bag, March, 1976”

This woman in the porn movie, on the pages of the magazine, she’s probably not even the type of girl the average guy would want to take home to introduce to mom and dad. For some reason she is acceptable for sexual purposes, but not for relationships. She’s acceptable for what men, in general, prefer for interactions with the opposite sex, but she is the opposite of what women in general want for interactions with the opposite sex.

Pornography promotes our insecurities by picturing sex as a field of combat and conquest. The sex of pornography is unreal, featuring ridiculously oversized sexual organs, a complete absence of emotional involvement, little kissing and no hugging...


Besides reinforcing destructive fantasies toward women, porn promotes self-destructive attitudes in men. By providing substitute gratification, it provides an excuse for men to avoid relating to women as people. It encourages unrealistic expectations: that all women will look and act like Playboy bunnies, that “good sex” can be obtained anywhere, quickly, easily, and without the hassle of expending energy on a relationship.

“Michael Betzold, How Pornography Shackles Men and Oppresses Women, Male Bag, March, 1976”

The male viewer is turned on by her, but these men wouldn’t want to actually have to spend time with her. Now why? Because what she does is unacceptable? Why is it acceptable for her to make these movies, take these photos for the pleasure of men, but because of that she is not respectable enough to date?


But how to chart the pressure sensed by women from their boyfriends or husbands to perform sexually in ever more objectified and objectifying fashion as urged by porn movies and magazines?

“Robin Morgan, Pornography: Who Benefits’

Now tell, me, what is to say that men don’t begin to look at women in general in terms of the images they’re seeing of women - as objects, as sexual creatures, as legs and tits, but as something they don’t respect?


I want the world to know that I have a brain. I want the whole damned world to know that I have ideas, and talent, and intellect, that I’m hard-working, that I’m interesting. But how am I supposed to fight these notions that men have of how women are? Of how I am, or am supposed to be, according to their standards?

Do you have any idea how sick it makes me feel when I see some guy leering at me in the street? But you have no idea why. No, the typical male response of “She just doesn’t want to be flattered” doesn’t make sense, because you’re not flattering me by reducing me to something you can abuse. To tits and legs. To something like an object in a porn magazine or movie, someone who wants to solely be a vehicle for the man’s pleasure. No, I don’t think finding someone attractive is a bad thing, in fact, it’s a very good thing. But that isn’t all there is to a human being, and that surely isn’t all there is to me. If someone is going to stereotype me into one category, I would rather be thought of as smart, or hard working, than a potential fuck.

Every time I see a pornography magazine, I wonder if the owner, or the men looking through it, expect me to look like that, or expect me to perform like that for them. Or if they think I like the submission and degradation. I don’t. Most women don’t.

Janet Kuypers, How Pornography Affects Me, 1994.

“But the women who are porn models and actresses like it, I mean, they’re not being degraded, they’re being paid for it.”

Would you enjoy having a photographer take pictures of you so everyone could fixate on your penis? (maybe you would.) Let me put it this way: would you like it if every interaction you had in the world related and depended only - and I mean only - with your penis? That the only way you could achieve anything in life was only if you exploited your sexual organs? If your brain didn’t count? If your abilities didn’t count? If you as a person didn’t count?

Would you enjoy it if you were trying to apply for a job and all through the interview your potential employer was more interested in how you looked naked than your skills applicable to the job? It would be so frustrating, because that wouldn’t matter to the job, and you wouldn’t be able to prove to these people that you are qualified for the job. It would be so frustrating, because there would be nothing you could do to make these people see you as a person.

You probably think it sounds funny, but in all honesty, these things all relate. Pornography objectifies women, and these views of objectification translate to other parts of society, from looking for a job to walking down the street. And in my opinion, it’s just not fair that women should be treated that way, simply because that’s the way it is, simply because that’s the way men and women have been taught in this society think.

Many men, knowing intimately the correspondence between the values in their sexuality and in their pornography - share the anxiety that the feminist antipornography movement is really anattack on male sexuality. These nervousand angry men are quite correct: the movement really does hold men accountable for the consequences to real women of their sexual proclivities. It is really a refusal to believe that a man’s divine right is to force sex, to use another person’s body as if it were a hollow cantaloupe, a slap of liver, and to injure and debilitate for the sake of his gratification.


When one looks at pornography, one sees what helps some men feel aroused, feel filled with maleness and devoid of all that is non-male. When one looks at pornography, one sees what is necessary to sustain the social structure of male contempt for female flesh whereby men achieve a sense of themselves as male...

John Stoltenberg, “Pornography and Male Supremacy - the Forbidden Language of Sex,” “Refusing ... Essays on Sex and Justice.”

“But women like porn movies, too, and there’s naked men in the pictures. It’s eroticism, it turns everyone on, not just men. What’s wrong with that?”

First of all, the way pornography depicts sex is different from eroticism - the one difference is that pornography is by nature degrading towards women. How? By her submissiveness, her subservience. Is she tied up? Is her aim to please the man? Is rape a common fantasy in pornography, or physical pain, or very young women (even more weak that full adults), or more than one woman serving a man? Eroticism does not rely on one sex submissive and subservient to the other. Pornography relies exactly on just that degradation of one sex.

statistic: 75% of all women involved in pornography were victims of incest.

Think about this, which is one of the most common fantasy scenes when the tables are turned: would you, as a man, like to be naked with another man, the both of you working to satisfy one woman? Would you really feel comfortable being with another man in that situation? No, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to compete. And I’m sure you’d want to know that you are capable of bedding a woman and don’t need to share the responsibility of satisfaction with another man. Would you want the woman deriving pleasure from another man while she was with you? No, I’m sure you’d want to know that she was dependent on you, and not someone else, for her satisfaction. Imagine that situation, really think about it, and tell me honestly that the fantasy of two women having sex with one man is fair, or accurate, or considerate, or even enjoyable for women.


Both law and pornography express male contempt for woman: that have in the past and they do now. Both express enduring social and sexual values; each attempts to fix male behavior so that the supremacy of the male over the female will be maintained.

Andrea Dworkin, Pornography and the First Amendment.

Pornography supports, encourages these situation if submissiveness, like multiple women, or bondage, or rape. And in my opinion, any medium that eroticizes rape is completely inaccurate. Women don’t like it. No women do. A woman may fantasize about rough sex, which could be played out in the bedroom like a rape scene with a trusting partner, but that is definitely not rape, and it doesn’t feel like rape. Why would men want to fantasize that women actually enjoyed an actual rape? To feel secure that women enjoy their oppressed place in the society? Because the men want to rape someone? That’s hard to believe, but if that’s really a possible answer, then where do they get the fantasy of raping a woman? Pornography.

statistic: it currently is legal to sell tapes of real rapes in this country.

And if women like pornography, it might be because they have grown to like it. It is one thing to be sexual, and it is entirely another to support this kind of degradation toward women. In our culture, pornography exists, but eroticism barely does. Women don’t have the choices for pleasure in this society that men do. Playgirl and other similar magazines are designed mostly by men - and revolve around the same fantasies that men have. It is assumed that women enjoy the same fantasies. No one questions whether or not they do. And in fact, the vast majority of readers of Playgirl are gay men.


Pornography contains hidden messages. For example, the recent surfacing of sadomasochistic material in more respectable publications such as Penthouse illustrates how reactionary sexism gets mingled in with the turn-on photos. The material suggests that women should not only be fucked, but beaten, tortured and enslaved≠triumphed over in any way. Penthouse gets away with this murderous message by casting two women in the S/M roles, but it’s no problem for a man to identify with the torturer≠the victim is provided.

Michael Betzold, How Pornography Shackles Men and Oppresses Women, Male Bag, March, 1976

Does pornography produce these subservient, submissive, sexual, non-human notions about women in men, in all different levels in society? It may be one of many forces that produce these notions - and all these different factors feed upon one another. Sexism pervades every pore of our culture, and pornography reinforces these barriers, as do other forces in our day-to-day lives.


There is little understanding that pornography is not about sex but rather is a fundamentally misogynist expression of patriarchal rights...

Gary Mitchell Wandachild, Complacency in the Face of Patriarchy, Win, January 22, 1976

Women are portrayed as sexual objects in almost every form of media today. There are so many more strip joints for men than women, and there are so many restaurants and bars with female employees wearing next to nothing. Women make 63¢ for the man’s dollar in the work place. Women are abused in marriages and relationships, physically and sexually. A single 30-year-old man is considered sexy while a 30-year-old women is considered a hag. One in three women in their lifetimes will be raped, one in four before they even leave college. Over 80% of the rapes that do occur are committed by a man the survivor knew, a friend, a relative, a boyfriend - someone they trusted. Playboy and Penthouse outsell Time and Newsweek twenty times over.

And the word misogyny exists - it means “to hate all women” - and a similar term does not exist for hating men.


No, I don’t believe that pornography should be banned - I also believe in the First Amendment, and I believe in freedom of expression. I just wish that people didn’t support it so much. I wish that these notions weren’t forced on to me by men I interact with, by society in general.

No, I suppose I can’t change the world, but I’ll do what I can to make people understand me. Because every day I have to live with these notions in society, these stereotypes about me. And I don’t like them, and I don’t want to live by them. Most women don’t want to live by them, but they figure it’s easier to go along with it than fight the system. I can’t go along with it. That is who I am - a person who cannot be submissive, who has her own thoughts, her own brain. And if these notions are in my way, than I’ll do what I have to to get rid to these things. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t.

Janet Kuypers, How Pornography Affects Me, 1994.

“Women don’t like pornography because they’re afraid to say they really like it. Women are just jealous of better looking women being sexually active, doing what they think they cant.”


The rallying cry of porn dealers is freedom of speech and the press ... Yet we would be appalled if movies showed blacks being lynched or castrated, Chicanos being systematically beaten and tortured, and we would quickly protest. But we say nothing when the same activity goes on with women as the victims.

Michael Betzold, How Pornography Shackles Men and Oppresses Women, Male Bag, March, 1976

Women don’t like pornography because as human beings they don’t like being reduced to an object for men’s pleasure, a receptacle for a man’s penis. They don’t like being reduced, and in such a graphic way, to a non-thinking, non-feeling pile of rubble. And they don’t like the fact that men can go into many newsstands or video stores and get something commonly sold, or even popular, that supports this. That harbors this. That encourages this.













Copyright Janet Kuypers. All rights reserved. No material may be reprinted without express permission.