Friday, July 23, 2010

Never Say Hello

Familiar, but a bit off

The phone rang and I grabbed it. No hello, no introductory small talk. Just "So I accidentally lit my underwear on fire."

Because she never said hello. And she never bothered introducing anything. Everything was now, everything was tumbled up together, everything was a continuation at 100 miles per hour.

And you had your choice: jump on and keep up or jump off and escape.

There was always a reason to whatever crazy thing she said. If you stuck around. If you unpacked it.

She was lighting a candle. In the bathroom. Where her underwear was drying. And the dog knocked the candle over. Knocked it to the floor. But it didn't go out. It lit things on fire.

Things like underwear. And magazines. And maybe her roommate's hash supply.

This was normal. This was how she lived. This was what you had to expect.

The other choice was exile. And you didn't want the exile.

Because it felt good to be part of the circle. One of the ones who'd get the phone calls. Rush to catch up to the insane stories that started in the middle and worked their way in all directions.

The outside was crowded. With exiles who'd never light their underwear on fire, either by accident or on purpose.

Long periods of silence would follow the calls. And then the next call, again starting in the middle as if no time had past.

"So the state trooper wanted me to crush grapes with my feet with him, but I said I'd rather take the ticket," she said. No warm-up, no windup, just the pitch.

And God help you if you weren't ready.

Why would the state trooper want you to join him in crushing grapes with his feet?

That question could never be asked. Or, more accurately, it could only be asked once. Then, immediate exile.

"I shot a bullet hole through my igloo and I need it fixed in the next 20 minutes before the temperature gets down past 40 below."

But how do you know you've been exiled?

"I dreamt you were haunting me after death. So I need you to do a pre-emptive exorcism of yourself."

What's the difference between exile and the long months of silences?

"I know I told you if I were an animal, I'd be a gazelle, but I just realized I'm really a limur."

And how long is her list anyway? How many people does she cycle through before she calls you back again?

"I was just at Starbucks in line behind Ben Vereen and I realized I'd always gotten him confused with Bette Midler."

And where does reality end and fantasy start with her? Certainly not at the same place as with normal people.

So, one day I got a voicemail. "I'm heading into the mountains and the mist is clinging to the peaks like a lovesick teenager. And it's so beautiful I want to cry. But I can't because the mountain goats are looking intently for any sign of weakness."

And I thought long and hard about what really counts as normal.

Then I called her back. But the number had been disconnected.

And the long period of silence began again. Familiar, but different.


Who Am Us Anyway? said...


Proof (well, once you uncover Ringo's version for us!) that ALL the Beatles knew this was a sweet little rocker.

I especially loved John's version here. After reading how badly he felt during the rehearsals, how he thought Paul was staring at Yoko when he sang "Get back, JoJO" etc., to hear him having such fun with this song was just ... really great. I hit the replay a bunch.

Now, these amazing prose poems of yours are going into a book I can buy, correct?

Alex said...

Mr. Who, will you settle for a snippet of Ringo singing "Get Back"?

No immediate book plans -- but some cool news is coming soon. :)

William V. Madison said...

These portraits of women — Alex’s Girl Gallery — really are astonishingly beautiful. I admire them, and I look forward to them.

Holly A Hughes said...

Hmmmm. Without the haze of sexual allure to cloud my judgment (AHEM, fellas), I may view your gallery a little differently. The writing is still amazing, of course, but I KNEW those chicks, and they were mostly either fakes or flakes -- but never true girlfriends. Not that it matters. I think I'd have picked exile way earlier...

William V. Madison said...

Sometimes I wonder whether the women Alex describes are women I've met when we were at school; ultimately, I accept that the great bulk of his life has been carried out far from my view. That lends an extra interest to his writing: I'm catching a glimpse of something I know nothing about. And in any case, these portraits are impressionistic, not photorealist (or biographical).

I don't dispute that the women as portrayed here are "fakes and flakes" and "never true girlfriends" -- that absolutely comes across, even to me. Yet isn't that faky-flakiness a big part of the appeal of the writing? Many of the best heroines of opera are women like these, dancing already and seeking more music; and trying to define a character so mutable and evanescent is an invitation to poetry.