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slate and marrow

a collection book through scars

included on this page:
with select writing from Janet Kuypers

Eugene Window doug painted nick in illustrator jan forest vicki crackallure

My motherMy motherMy mother

by janet kuypers

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 finallly 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 could’nt
have come at a better time, and nothing she could do would
spoil our trip.

Brad bars

seeing things differently

by janet kuypers

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 diffeent 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 bigtime, so everyone in their 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 engry 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, the 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 camp 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 punchline, 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.”
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.

Eugene Window

i see the scene

Every once in a while
I see the same scene again:
I lay in the bed
the field of daffodils
with you draped over me
folding over me
conforming to my body
like a rustling curtain
rippling in the breeze from an open window.
I do not sleep.
I couldn’t,
I would never want to.
Our contours interlock,
our limbs intertwine.
Your breath rolls down my stomach
like the breeze that brought you to me.
I take your hand,
and although you sleep
you seem to hold me
with all the intensity you possess.
And with each beat of your heart,
with your heat,
comes the cool night air in the wind
caressing me
until the light from the morning sun
awakens our silhouette.

head2solarize inverted

motions on the planet

I don’t let anybody in to see me
to be a real part of my life
I talk to people
I get close to people
the only person that I can count on is me
I just need something that I can count on

what can I really lean on
what will never let me down
what will never desert me

nobody lives on this planet
people go through the motions

people are too afraid
to open themselves up
and they never get the chance
to really live

I don’t want to go through the motions
I want to live
but I’m afraid
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



autumn reason

7-2-82 10:00 p.m.

I took care of the neighbor’s kids today. They’re so cute, but I was feeling a little tired so I wasn’t in the mood for them jumping around all day long. But we colored and made some pictures, they both made ones for you. By the time you read this letter, you should already have the pictures. Ellen, their mom, melted down old crayons and poured them into bunny molds, so now we have a bunch of crayons that are shaped like rabbits. The kids love them.
And I’ve been playing with my zen rock garden, too... I’ve had it ready for a while, but I never got sand for it. Well, I finally did today, and once I started to use it I loved it, so I learned how to use Dad’s saws and made you one, too (but you already know that by now, too - I really hope you like it. It’s quite addictive, and slightly creative - very relaxing). When I called Susan later on I told her that I made one and she said that she had always wanted a rock garden, so I made another one this evening. I feel like such a busybody.
Let’s see, what else is going on? There’s still a bunch of things I have to do. See a professor about getting a job as a history professor... I don’t know if I want to move to another city to do a job I’m not even sure that I want, much less can get.
I wish I had other options. I wish I could get on track. Sometimes I know what I want to do with my life, and I’m determined to let nothing stop me. But there are other times when I feel as if the entire world is pitted against me, that others don’t want to see me happy specifically because they don’t know what they want to do with their lives and they want to feel like everyone is in the same boat as they are. They want everyone to work in the same mind-set that they do, because they can only compete in their little world. If someone doesn’t want to climb their little success ladder that they chose to climb up, others can’t handle it because they don’t want to believe that their standard is wrong.
It’s like this: people don’t know what they want with their life, so they do what is expected of themselves, climb the “ladder” of whatever career track they choose, mix in the appropriate social circles, work toward making money, even if they don’t know if that’s what they want and doing it doesn’t make them feel any better. So then they see someone else that has decided to not even acknowledge the ladder that the people with no direction have decided to climb because they don’t know what else to do. And this other person won’t have as much money or as many friends as these ladder-climbers do, so it becomes really easy for the ladder-climbers to dismiss them and unsuccessful - and therefore they must be unhappy.
But I think that these ladder-climbers don’t want to admit to themselves that they are jealous of these people that have found what they wanted with their life.
But in order to achieve their dreams (if they even chose to acknowledge them consciously), the ladder-climbers would have to give up their social circles, their prestige, probably some of their money. And they’re too afraid of not succeeding, because they’re only comfortable with the efforts that they have been putting forth in their ladder-climbing lives, they’re so afraid of not succeeding and losing what they already have that they don’t see the effort as worth it.
So they hold a resentment toward someone they see as a visionary - someone who does what they want with their life.
So then what? They make fun of them for not having enough money, for having no friends. They may even try to sabotage the plans of the creative one, solely because their value systems don’t match.
It’s amazing how people need a mob in order to have a belief in something. Shouldn’t that be evidence enough that they really don’t care about their beliefs, if they need the support from others in order to live with those beliefs?
Anyway, my point from all of that was... Well, I’m no visionary, and I haven’t decided to chuck the whole system into the toilet. But I do want to use the system for my own needs, so that I may be able to do what I want to with my life, whether or not that fits in with what people expect. And I think that scares every person I meet, and I think others resent me for that, and I feel like all these artificial barriers are put up in front of me so that I may get discouraged and quit.
And the thing is, I know what kind of work I want to do, but I’m wondering if and how I can do it. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t even try, like the odds are against me. And I have to try to fight that. It’s a constant battle.

7-6-82 11:35 p.m.

You know, there was a man I knew once, he was the type of guy that tried to have sex with as many women as possible, a real sexist womanizer type, and one day we were talking about the fact that he’s a republican, and he’s so conservative, and then he said he was a good Christian and that he prays every night before he goes to bed. And all I could think was that this this guy was such a hypocrite for sleeping with anything that moved, then praying to his God every night before he went to bed. I wanted to ask him if he prayed in front of all the women he was usually sleeping with, but instead I asked that if he believed in Jesus Christ, how could he justify having sex before marriage? Then he proceeded to tell me that nowhere in the Bible does it say you can’t have sex before marriage.
And the moral of that story, I guess, is that people can justify anything they want when they don’t live by a cohesive value system. This guy managed to pervert his values and the wording of the Bible in order to go against the vast majority of the Christian interpretations of the Bible in order for the value system he decided to adopt to jive with what he wanted to do at any given moment.
So I really want to do something now, I really want to feel as if I’m accomplishing something with my life. I feel like I’m in such a heavy state of limbo that I’m going to just fall off the face of the Earth and no one would be the wiser. I hate that phrase, “no one will be the wiser,” but I just used it. I’m so ashamed. Anyway, I said something to Susan about you going back to school in the fall, and then we both made a really weird laugh. We’ve been so ingrained with the idea that we’ve graduated that it just seems so foreign to think about taking more university classes in the fall. I know I’ll be there all the time, doing work there, going out and all that jazz, but it’s just weird to think about going back as a full time student. I’m even thinking about being a teacher there, or at least at another university, instead of doing what I’m doing now, so that would definitely keep me back in the university system. But being a student again - it just seems so out of the question.
I just used another phrase I hate, and once again I’m ashamed. “All that jazz.” What does that really mean anyway? And why on Earth did I feel compelled to use it?
Now this has got me thinking about all the strange phrases we use in our every day language. “What on Earth.” “The whole ball of wax.” “A hill of beans.” Someone’s probably written about book about these things.
Speaking of books on useless things, remember how I wanted to know why women’s shirts button the opposite way men’s do? Well, Catherine pulled out a book she had about useless facts and in there it explained why men’s shirts button differently from women’s. Men at the time buttoned their own shirts, especially if they were going off to war, but rich women had maids to dress them, which wanted the buttons the opposite way to make it easier for them to dress the ladies. Interesting.
And did you know that zippers were invented to replace not buttons but shoelaces? Very strange. Well, I’ve gone on long enough. I’ll write more soon -


Here I am again, bored. It’s still the first day, and I hate looking like I have nothing to do here. I have my own office and no one else is in it right now, but I’m afraid that someone will walk by and see my feet up on the desk and fire me or something. Geesh. I wish I brought some work from home to do while I was here. I wonder if this is what careers are really like - a lifetime of trying to find something to do so you look important. All this time I’m sitting here trying to figure out what photographs to bring tomorrow to put up on the wall in front of me, should I bring frames for them, how will I put them up on the wall.... I really can’t believe I’m sitting here trying this hard to do absolutely nothing.
I’m starting to worry that this is actually what people do for all of their lives. That their occupation is trying to look important, or busy. Worthy of a raise when they’re really not doing anything. This one guy, Tom, told me once that the trick to being respected at the office is to always look angry, always look like you’re in a rush, that you always have a lot to do. Put extra papers on your desk, make it a little messy, always have stuff in your “in” box (even if it isn’t work to do), always remember to make a phone call or jot down a very important reminder when someone is trying to talk to you. Always make everyone wait to talk to you - even if it is just for ten seconds - while you attend to some sort of made-up “business” - whether it be finishing up a fake phone call or writing something “very important” down. Act like you have to get up to do something, even if it’s only getting coffee. And always have a furrowed brow. Sigh a lot, try to look a little tired, or a little sick (that way you are thought of as a “trooper” for coming into the office even when you’re not feeling well). People think that you have so much work to do that they want to give you time off, even when they don’t know what you’re doing.
And neither do you.
Urgh. Is that what life is all about?
I can’t believe that this person actually thought this way, that this friend of mine had actually put that much effort into trying to look like you’re doing something when you’re actually doing nothing. Don’t you think that’s a problem to actually get to that point?
But I think I’m starting to get to that point too.
I don’t want that for myself. I want to do something I like. I’m driven, and I can’t live like this.
Or does this just happen when nothing else in your life works for you, and you finally get tired of striving for dreams that never seem to come true?
I remember having a teacher in high school and he seemed really smart, but it just seemed like he got so tired of the screaming student, and trying to make kids care, that he always walked a little slower, never smiled, just gave us our work to do and then went to his desk to finish his work. And I remember thinking then that he was burnt out on the school system, that he tried for so long to make a difference, but faced one too many kids who just didn’t care. And now he’s like a robot, making almost no impact on anyone’s lives.
Including his own.
Is this what everyone else in the world ends up like?


I had a bad dream last night - one where my mother died. I normally don’t have dreams that are that violent, that vivid, that scary, or that hit so close to home. I woke up a 4 in the morning shaking. I had to wake Catherine up. I talked to her, she told me to think of something nice, to get my mind off it. I went to bed, and I imagined that you were there, and you were consoling me, letting me know that it was just a bad dream, that you were there. And I imagined you kissing me, curling up next to me. And I felt better, and I was able to go back to sleep.
I want you to be there in the future, curled up with me, making me feel better. And I want to do the same for you. I want you to be there when we pick out furniture together. I want to have stupid arguments with you over nothing, and then I want to make up with you. I want to have all those dances with you. I want to go to bed every night and know you’ll be there, too. I want all those little times in my life, the good times, the bad ones, I want to have all those times with you. But you have to be around long enough to let that happen. Please be around long enough. I love you.

10-19-82 7:45 p.m.

I can’t stand Catherine. She’s driving me absolutely insane, I’ve got a huge migraine from her (I mean, I can’t even turn my head without being in pain), and she HAUNTS me. I mean, she won’t let me be in a room by myself. I tried to start this damn letter to you and SHE came in, talking about something really pointless and stupid to me.
She’s just such a moron. She can’t do much of anything right, and then she gets so stressed out that she gets even less accomplished, and then she feel like she can do nothing, and she becomes less successful, and the vicious cycle goes on. But it’s all her fault. And I can’t pity that. It only makes me sick.
I designed a new resume today. You would almost think I was someone successful or important or something by looking at it, too. Someone who wasn’t earning an income below the poverty level. I guess I shouldn’t complain about Catherine’s inability to succeed until I’m no longer living in the glass house, right?
Fuck. She just came in again. She keeps coming in and she keeps bothering me. Why does she think that I actually want to talk to her? It’s like she has to be in the same room as me. I just want my privacy. Now Catherine just told me she wants to use my computer when I’m done. Nice of her to ask. Well, at least I know she’ll be busy using the computer and I’ll be able to just sit and read without her bothering me.
Fuck, she drives me nuts. I know I’m swearing a lot, and I know you don’t like that, but I’ve got a lot of emotion here, and it’s hard to let it out and feel better when all I’m doing about it is typing at a stupid keyboard. I’m very emotional, and this is one way to keep me from blowing up.
It’s just so irritating to deal with a roommate that is so incapable of living or excelling when I feel so driven. But what am I driven by?

10-28-82 8:38 a.m.

I feel like I’m selling myself every day here. The work I do, if it’s good, people don’t appreciate it, if it’s crappy looking, they’re in love with it. They ask me to change the good stuff. I hate that. And I take it as a personal slam on me if they don’t like what I consider to be good, and I know I shouldn’t do that, but I can’t help it. Everything I do becomes a part of me because I created it. And they tell me it’s crap, a bunch of losers in this stupid business, and I’m not supposed to take it personally.
I don’t like being at my apartment, either. Great - where is there for me to go around here that I can stand? One of my jobs, maybe? I think not. And I don’t feel like socializing around here.
Fuck, this is a pretty miserable life. And the scary thing is that I know it could be a lot worse. Something to look forward to, I suppose.
Why do I have to be here? Why does my life have to go like this? I want something good to happen, something to change in a positive way. I don’t want to be depressed with my life. I don’t want to hate everything I do. I don’t want to feel like I’m settling for anything.
Isn’t it amazing that I never talk about this when I’m visiting you? I never want to talk about my life while I’m there. It’s a little escape.


I guess my determination in my work stems from the fact that I want to fight, I want to get over all these feeling I have. This is my way of doing it. But I think my depression stems from the fact that I’ve been taught all my life that my work isn’t important, won’t make a difference. That I won’t succeed.
Now I’ve got a job that pays me under 10,000 once taxes are removed, I live with a roommate I hate, and people like my sister still hang around - people that I can’t respect, people like her that have caused me to feel most of the pain I’ve felt in my life, who continues to give me pain whenever she speaks to me. How am I supposed to heal now?
I want to get on with my life. I want to get away from this limbo I’m feeling. I want to start progressing. I feel like I’ve already hit a huge brick wall and there’s no way I’m going to get around it, over it, through it. I’m going to work here forever, live here forever, be miserable forever.
And then I feel so bad when I think of all the suffering other people go through. Jim tells me stories, other people tell me stories... Is everyone out there suffering from some sort of mental or emotional problem? Who am I to complain? I’ve got a roof over my head, I’m not on lithium, I’m not having panic attacks, I haven’t had my car stolen, my boyfriend doesn’t treat me like dirt. But sometimes I feel alone, even if I’m not. Sometimes I break out and cry, and I try to stop it, but I can’t help it. Yesterday I cried in my office because William hit me on the back of the head. I thought it was rude, sexist and entirely unprofessional. But if I was in a good mood I’m sure it wouldn’t have bothered me. It was a tap. He meant it as playful. And on the way home yesterday from work I just cried and cried. I didn’t care what people in the passing cars were thinking. There was no point in worrying about it. There was too much else to think about.
And I flipped in a restaurant because they messed up my order. Big deal. But I started swearing, raising my voice, then I started crying. Why?
Why anything any more?
I went to a bar tonight with a few friends of mine. I’ve been there for a while, I just got home, I had a good time. They know nothing about me. That’s probably a good thing.
I miss you. I want to feel your arms around me.
I was driving tonight and I thought about suicide. I mean as an option. I haven’t thought about that since high school. Since I lived in my parent’s house. I thought I’d break up with you, try to piss you off so he’d hate me and wouldn’t be hurt by my killing myself, then try to kill myself when no one was at home. If they found me before I died, at least they’d know how serious I was. They’d know how much they hurt me, how much I hated them.
There are times when I wish I wasn’t afraid of death.
There are other times when I wish I wasn’t afraid of life.


Tomorrow I’m going to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family - everyone except my mother. She is out of town. Every family get-together is always pointless. We eat, maybe watch T.V., the women cook and clean, the kids fidget and leave the table early. It’s not as if we bond in any sense of the word when we’re together, if anything, I get bored or aggravated about something.
That’s even how funerals are. You’d think it was a holiday the way my family acts at a wake. They chat and laugh, talking about current events or whatever. No bonding. No feelings.
I was almost 10 when my grandfather died. I was devastated. Someone died. I talked to them last week, now they’re dead. The last thing my grandfather said to me was “you’re the most beautiful girl in the world.” My sister tells me now that he once held my grandmother and my dad at knife-point, threatening to kill them.
And I was at the wake, and everyone was laughing and talking about stuff that had nothing to do with where they were or what had happened. I just wanted to say, “Hey, there’s a dead man in the front of the room. And you’re related to him. Doesn’t that bother you?” But I was 9, and I didn’t know anything. My parents wouldn’t let me go to the funeral because it was on a Monday and I had to go to school. They wouldn’t let me take the day off to go to my grandfather’s funeral. I thought they were heartless.
I just want to ask my family: you mean it wasn’t obvious? Were you just that uninterested with things in my life, or were you actually afraid to think that someone actually did that to me? That you all did these things to me? Or did you care?
“Maybe if I don’t think about it, it won’t exist.” Well, that doesn’t work, everyone. It’s still there, whether or not you try to ignore it. I’m a shining example of that. How much longer do you think you can avoid me?
All my life, whenever I dealt with my family, I felt like I could never say anything to them. They made me feel as if they didn’t want to hear, they made me feel like I shouldn’t talk back, they made me feel as if my opinions didn’t matter.


I get tired of fighting. What am I supposed to do then? give up? I don’t know how to. I don’t know how to change the way I feel. If I gave up, it would be me resigning and then losing all touch with reality. I couldn’t do it any other way. I couldn’t just become a cog in the wheel, and be happy with it, like all the fucking peons here at work. I’d die. I couldn’t do it. I could never be happy here.
Is something wrong with me because I can’t just be happy working, making money, and there you go, that’s life? It doesn’t seem right to me. I wish somebody could just show me the steps I’m supposed to take. I think I’ve proven that I’m willing to try.


Hi. I just set up the appointment with the new job prospect downtown. yes, it’s downtown, and the computer set up they have is about 3 times better than the other place I interviewed at - at least 3 times better. In fact, I was looking at the two three-dimensional programs she has in a catalog today, to see which ones I would want to get.
I have to wait a week for the interview, though, and that wait is going to kill me. I’m going to put a ton of stuff together on my computer to show her next week. I want to show her how fluent I am on the computers. She’s going to have me do work on the computer while I’m at my interview, too. Test me. Wow. Now instead of being depressed I’m going to be manic for the next week, until she turns me down, of course, or until the president hires a buddy for the job.
You know me, I just like to work, and I like to work a lot. I can just sit in front of a computer for hours doing one task and the time will just fly by. This is exactly what I want to do.
And i’d have access to all the great computer stuff. It’s like having all the tools i’d ever need to do anything I want. I’d love it.
Lunch time. I should be social. If there was something here that drove me to do work, believe me, I’d do it, but until that day comes, I’ll take my time at lunch with the girls. I’m sure there’s so much more to say, but I think by now you know it all. I’ll talk to you soon.


on an airplane with a frequent flyer

by janet kuypers

“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 tiolet, 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 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.”

head2solarize inverted

backbone family act


head2solarize inverted

exploring power

Imagine a perfect society. Swaying trees, sunny skies, a cool breeze. When you walk down the all-too-clean streets everyone you see is friendly. Everyone is good and kind and giving. Imagine being able to come home from the job that you love to a warm, safe home. There is never a disagreement in this society, and differences in people (like gender, race, age) are not hated like they are today but loved and appreciated.
It’s a hard society to imagine, I know. The hardest part of this perfect society to imagine is the fact that power, as we define it in today’s terms, does not exist. Power, by definition, is the ability of one person to make another person do something against their will, or the ability of one person to do something against another person’s will. Power can be physical brute force, the power that a father and mother have over their children, the power that a man can hold over a woman, or the power of one race over another. The problem with power is that it is too often used - and too often used in poor ways. For example, in today’s society obedience is considered a virtue in reference to a child’s behavior toward their parents, but it is merely a submission on the part of the child to the power of their parents. In most cases the fact that most women care more about their physical appearances than men care about their physical appearances is a demonstration of the woman’s submission to the man’s power. The statistics show that white men still hold much more than their proportional share of jobs than black men do - and these statistics show that the black race is unwillingly in submission to the power of the white race.
Power as defined above would not exist in this society. The ability to possess that power would not even matter - for each and every individual in that society may have the capacity for possessing power (in the same way that each and every individual in society may have the capacity for becoming a mass murderer, but don’t realize that potential). In this society, no one would want to possess that kind of power (in the same way that not one member in the society will want to become a mass murderer). No one would want this kind of power because no one would want to feel as if they were hurting someone, and no one would want to force someone into doing something against their will. No one would want to have a job if having the job meant that they were taking the job from someone who was more qualified, even if that person was from a minority group. No child would want to do something that would hurt their parents, and no parent would want to have to reprimand their child (and wouldn’t have to if their child had not only their own, but also their parent’s best interests in mind). No man would want to force a woman into a situation that she did not want to be in, and no woman would feel the burdens of society to find a husband. People would no longer marry for economic reasons but for love.
The kind of power that would exist would only be an entirely self-contained power - a kind of power that we all possess but seldom actually tap and use to our advantage. The power that would exist would be a power that enabled people to accelerate and do the best that they could (for themselves and for others). It allows personal achievement to become a reality in the pure sense of the word, and it shows how the individual can move ahead if they want to and be proud of their accomplishments. This kind of power will not hamper others, and it involves no competition, but only the completion of personal goals. This kind of power would let people feel good about themselves, knowing that they as humans (even humans that stand alone) can accomplish almost anything that they want to.
Call it power, if you will, or give it another name so that people of this society don’t get confused with this self-fulfilling power. Call it self-determinism. Call it the power over yourself, and not the power over others. Call it anything you want. Maybe in this society people wouldn’t even have a name for it - maybe people would know that they have some sort of abilities without even giving them names. The most important fact is the fact that this is the kind of power that will exist and dominate in this society, and not the kind of hurting, oppressing power that we in this society are used to.
This power would lead to the most efficient society - it would be economically be producing at it’s peak, it would have no crime and thus be a safe place for women and children as well as men to live in, and it would be filled with love for others instead of resentment, jealousy and agression. A hierarchy of power to implement laws would be unnecessary, and prices of goods and services would not be unreasonable, therefore giving people more money to spend in the market and eliminate both unemployment and competition. The power structure that we see in today’s society would not exist in this society. Power in any sense of the word would not exist. This “new” power comes from inside a person, and doesn’t hurt others - it only helps others, as well as helping the self. Therefore, the only amount of power that would exist in this society would be as much that the members of this perfect society would want. Hopefully, that amount of power may be limitless.
I know, I know, this is a very hard sort of power to imagine, for it seldom exists in this society and it never exists in its pure form. I have a hard time fathoming how this kind of power may affect me, and what may be the end result.
So many times I set out to accomplish a task and I find that there is some sort of obstacle in my way that I have no control over. It may be something as simple as walking out at night alone (that I feel I cannot do because of a fear for my safety), or something as important in my life as trying to get the job that I want, but not getting it because I am a woman and there was a man almost as qualified for the job that took the job from me. An obstacle that has been created by the self can be eliminated and is therefore a problem that can be overcome. However, when there are factors that seem to be outside of one’s own control that take precedence, it can become very frustrating. It often makes me feel as if there is no point in even setting goals for myself when there is such a great chance of not being able to achieve that goal because of other people having unfair power over me.
With this sort of power eliminated, I can’t help but wonder if there would be anything that I wouldn’t be able to do. It’s an exhilarating feeling, to think that I would be able to go through life not having to battle other people to accomplish my goals but only battle the person that is my greatest competetor - myself. If I didn’t accomplish what I wanted, I could learn from my mistakes and set new goals for myself, not feeling any vengeance or resentment. If I was able to accomplish my goal, then I would be the better person for it. The sense of satisfaction would be great, I would have tangible proof of my achievement, and I would have done it all on my own, with the help or the hurting of no one. I would then be able to set new goals for myself and improve myself (and possibly the lives of others) even more.
With this outlook, I can’t imagine how much better my attitude would be about myself. I would know what my potential was; I would have a better chance of achieving my full potential. There would be no regrets in my life. I would never have to be ashamed of myself, because I would be my best. Everyone would have this feeling of self-satisfaction. How could it not be a perfect society, if everyone felt this way?
In a society like this, with an outlook like this, everyone would have the same opportunities and the same goals. Everyone would then be treated equally, for everyone would be the best that they could be. When people are looked at for their ability, they are seen as capable people - and not as people that are inferior. There would be no need for discrimination, and there would be no need to look down on other people. There would be a feeling of total respect and honor for other people - you would honor every other person the way that you would honor yourself, for they - like you - would be able to achieve anything that they wanted. This philosophy would eliminate the differences that people see today in ages, races or colors of the skin, or genders. With the elimination of this kind of power, this weed that has infested society, the seeds of respect would be able to grow and flourish.
Yes, I know, this kind of society doesn’t exist. People depend on using and abusing others in order to get what they want instead of depending on the abilities that they possess within themselves. Maybe the reason that people don’t rely on themselves alone is because they are too afraid that they wouldn’t be able to achieve all the things that they would want to. But they would, if they only tried. Maybe the reason the people don’t rely on themselves alone to do the things that they want and to get the things that they want is because they feel that it is too easy to achieve their goals while stepping on others, since the opportunity is there. But there are others - the oppressed, the downtrodden - who would tell you another story. The people who are oppressed, who are being abused by this power, want to have the same opportunities that others have. And it wouldn’t take anything away from the people in power now - if anything, it would only improve the lives of all. The only thing that this society would do is give everyone the opportunity to be the best that they could be. There wouldn’t have to be hurting anymore.



I must admit
that there’s a definite proportion
with how good you look
and how much alcohol I’ve consumed
yes you are important to me
too important
and I think that scares me
for I don’t care what you say
but the only person
I can lean on
is myself
and I don’t want to frighten you
with my coldness
but I’ve been hurt
too many times before
and I’m sure as Hell
gonna try to stop it
from happening again
I’ve had to realize
that you can’t be my crutch

I do care about you
too much
it is unhealthy
for when we go our separate ways
and I nkow we will
it will kill me
I know that you love me
and I know that you want to protect me
but I need to know
if there are other people
who care for me as well
I am not an animal
in a cage
and I have a life to lead
I know I’m being cold
but it’s what I have to do
call it a defense mechanism
call it sobering up

Modern Day Footbindings
and the Oppression of Women

I have never been one to think about my predicament. It’s a common predicament... I have to face it every day of my life, and it indirectly causes me problems wherever I go. I can’t walk alone at night because of it. I can’t look a male stranger straight in the eye because of it. I have to worry about the kind of clothes I wear, the implications of the statements I make, and even the way I walk because of it. But I’ve never given it a second thought.
My predicament is that I am a woman. At first it doesn’t seem to sound like a predicament at all, but the more one thinks about the lack of freedom sentenced to a woman solely because she is a woman, the word ‘predicament’ becomes more of an understatement. In this male-oriented society, women are reduced to objects: pornography sells more than the top news magazines, the videos that MTV broadcast flaunt the woman’s body for just anyone to see, and instances of rape are at an all time high. Women today are held down by forces that are blind to many - society has evidently become a jail cell so large that its prisoners cannot even see the bars. But there are bars, and if we only look for them and see them for what they really are, we may then be able to make the changes that will make this society a more equal one. And a safer one.
In China, one man created the custom of wrapping up the woman’s foot so tightly that it restricted the woman’s walking because it caused so much pain. It was a way for men to be sure that women in their society were entirely dependent on them. In many third world countries, women are forced to wear dresses that cover up their entire body, for one man has no right to look at another man’s possessions. They call it tradition. If this is so, then tradition dehumanizes the woman.
Even in the United States these bindings are all around us, and these indirect restrictions are so commonplace that we have failed to notice that they are even there, keeping us “in our place”. I will only give one example. I feel that only one example is necessary.
I used to get a subscription to a women’s magazine. I enjoyed flipping through the pages of Glamour, even if it did only make me feel inadequate as a woman and as a person. As I read, as I flipped through the pages and saw the photographs of beautiful women staring me in the face telling me that I was no good unless I was beautiful and was able to attract the best looking men, I began to feel that I had to change my image in order to become the objectified model that society had typecast to be “the best”. These women’s magazines devote about one fourth of their contents to careers, and probably about three fourths of their magazines to looking good. These magazines focused on looking like the stereotypical woman, looking sexy, and doing this all for a man. That’s half of the problem right there.
But just the other day I looked through a neighbor’s recent issue of Glamour magazine, and I came to a startling realization. As I flipped through the colossal number of advertisements that appear in the first half of these magazines (you often can’t find an article until you reach page 50), I looked at the women. I looked at the underlying messages that these advertisements were relaying. And I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Here is an example that illustrates my point. “Every Valentine Needs A Hero.” The quote itself, from one of the first ads that I saw, gives the impression that a woman needs a man in order to survive. As romantic as the ad may look, I couldn’t help but notice the subtle signs: the woman is lying down on the bed, looking up at the man; the man is standing over her, looking down on her. Her back is turned to the camera, so that you can’t see the expressions on her face and so that you can’t see her humanness. The woman’s arms are crossed, evidently covering herself. A rose is placed right in the middle of the tray (remember... nothing in advertising isn’t planned). Yes, the man is the hero, and the woman needs him for support. How would she function otherwise?
“Valentine... I got you just what you wanted.” This ad, as I looked at the couple plastered on the page, seemed to scream “submission” to me. As the woman’s face is turned toward the man, she is turned away from the camera - and becomes more of a body than an actual woman. Her arms are folded around him in a way that makes the viewer feel that she is clinging on to the only thing that matters to her. Furthermore, the two wide silver bracelets on her hands give the impression that she is handcuffed... attached to the man, whether or not by force. The man, however, is merely smiling (maybe “smirking” is a better word) as he looks away from the woman. His happiness seems to stem from the fact that he has this relatively valuable possession.
Even the words in this advertisement are misleading. How handy it is that the woman has given her man just what he wanted. And she should, too. It’s her duty. She’s a woman. And what exactly did she get him? Why, “she got him a year of...” wait a minute, let’s put a little pause in there, one just long enough to make your mind wander... “GQ”. This relatively innocent ad has taken on a different meaning altogether in this new light.
Then I turned the page and saw another advertisement...and it appeared to be a centerfold. My only question was: how on earth is a clothing company supposed to advertise clothes when the clothes are barely on the model? Then, I’m afraid to say, I answered my own question. This company, like most others, isn’t advertising for the product that they are selling, for their products have become the means to another end, as opposed to the end itself. They are advertising an image... an image of the woman being dependent on her looks in order to achieve success. Keep in mind that this - good looks - is the possible extent of a woman’s success. The concept of talent has seemed to fall by the wayside.

After looking at the images that bombarded me, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was reacting rather harshly. But then I began to think: what about the images that you see on billboards? What about the flaunting of women on television programs and commercials? What are these images teaching the children of today - the adults of tomorrow that will shape society? I couldn’t help but wonder if these signals were related to the increase in crimes against woman that are so prevalent today. If they are related, when will this ever change? Or will we be forever bound to the system?
Needless to say, I don’t get those magazines anymore. I try to explain to others how women are metaphorically abused inbetween the glossy pages of these magazines. But it’s only one source. One of many. And it seems that even if we as women were capable of removing one form of this degradation, other bars would still be up to keep us in our cell. Only until we break down the walls will we be able to say that we are free.


door frame












I’m alone
no one interrupts my senses

The food is bad
It is loud in here

silverware clashing
into the washbin
by the conveyor belt


something is doing
something wrong


You can hear it pour
rain falling
A light rain
marbles falling

mumblings of a crowd

lighter, and quieter

The metal
loud echo

head2solarize inverted

without religion

God doesn’t make sense

there are other, more rational, possibilities
prove to me to make me believe
be provable

morals, virtues, values
are not based on religion
people see no consequence to being “good”
unless the consequence is a God

people are afraid to face death
people really don’t want to believe
death is an end
it is an end
you simply cease to exist

people claim to have beliefs
but don’t live by them
they’re not beliefs
they lack a belief system they understand

God is your answer
to all of your questions
not the right answer
but an answer

“But God loves you”

If love is unconditional
there is no value in it
it is not earned, it is not chosen
it is not a value, it possesses no worth

Gods have been created
by people throughout the ages
to answer the unanswerable

rain gods explained the weather
people created gods for harvests
gods reflected the stars and planets
God explained how the world began
how to live well
what will happen after our lives end
gods reflected the image of man and earth

but they were all created

take responsibility
and credit
for what you do

joy comes from within
you can’t find joy from within
so you find it in your God

for great minds to prosper
they have to follow reason

I do what I set my mind to
I use the best tools I have
my mind
I succeed
I accomplish my goals

knowing that
believing in my abilities
gives me the drive
makes me truly happy

it is my mind
my mind, my abilities, my power
not some God
that makes my life complete
I have complete dominion over my life
I’m the one I answer to

I fill my own void
without religion
I am whole

Eugene balcony 5

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?”
“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, dumbfounded.
“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 -”
“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.
“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.



compressed powder

a factory
how temporary it is

It’s destroyed

a wheat field after a rainstorm
wet paper

slate and marrow

No one could understand, it was
like every morning I couldn’t
find a reason to wake
up. The world felt cold, like
slate, like the marble tiles
in the front hallway of my
parent’s house, that floor was
always cold, oh, how I’d like to
feel the cold against my feet
now. But there I was, in some
eleven by twelve apartment, room,
running from my past, my
present. Every morning I would
wake up, and I would wake
up from that night again -
when he came uninvited, or
did I invite him? The haze of the
drunken nights from then on,
wearing the dress, knowing the faceless
faces couldn’t care less, as long as
they could have their way
with me later that night. What
would my parents think of me
now? I’m no longer their little girl.
I could feel myself getting older
by the minute, I could feel my skin
wrinkling, my joints getting
stiff. I could feel my bones,
the marrow drying up, my bones
crumbling away. And every morning
I still put on my clothes, got my
work together, headed out the
door. Could I ever get out of this
cycle? And it was if I had never
realized that all this time I was
looking for a purpose. And it was

When I strolled up to the street
singer, I stopped because I saw
your face. Why on earth did you
think you could tell me your secrets
when we only met fifteen minutes
before? And just being in your
presence made me break down, made
me hate everything , made me
love everything , made me want
change. I’d hit you in rage, I’d lean
on you, my slate, and you let me. And
it was as if the marrow was back.
I could just lay in bed at night and
feel the blood running through my
body, I could feel the oxygen as I
inhaled hitting my bloodstream.
I could even feel the marrow, all the
cells in my body moving faster and
faster. My skin would tingle.
I suddenly had power - I could make
blood move to any part of my
body, I could make a pain go away,
I could turn myself into stone, not
so I was cold and unfeeling, but so
I was strong, immovable. And I did it
for me, but don’t you dare think
for a monute that I didn’t do it for

head2solarize inverted

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