Gross Boy

I am gross.

I’ve been living on my own for almost three years, and my bad habits have become exclusively my own.  I leave my dirty dishes in the sink, sometimes for days on end.  I judge the cleanliness of my clothes by smell more than anything.  I change my sheets when I start to stick to them.  Sometimes I eat mint chocolate chip ice cream instead of brushing my teeth, because cool and mint, is kinda the same thing, right?

But lately… lately I have someone in my life who makes me want to clean.  She teaches me things, like dish soap is different from hand soap, and laundry is something to be done regularly and not when I’m out of clothes.  And floss isn’t just for when things get stuck in my teeth.  I learned to exfoliate and moisturize.  And I use daily sunblock, almost every day sometimes.

And I like it.

Bump it with:

Moving Targets Pt. II

I stopped writing about relationships.  I stopped writing about finding love.  Because it happened.  And at first I was disappointed with myself.  Had I lost my passion?  Had I settled for something less than I imagined?   Had I gotten too comfortable in my own skin too quickly?

But in truth, I am the well fed man no longer hungering after food.  It was easy to daydream about candy and pizza while I was ravenously empty.  It was easy to write a book about all the meals I didn’t have.  But upon being satiated and satisfied– the target moved.  I had inadvertently stumbled up the staircase of Maslow’s hierarchy.

And when I dusted myself off I was working on my credit score.  And repainting the guest room.  And trying to figure out how to cut branches from the tangerine tree without it dripping acid sap on me again.   So bundled up in gloves and linens like some wilderness man on a stepladder with pruning sheers in hand… I took a look around, and realized this is who I am now.

And I’m happy.

Bump it with:

Childrens Books

I grew up in a very literate household, with teachers on both sides of my extended family.  My grandmother was a teacher, my aunties were all teachers, and my mother was a teacher. The vast majority of my adult cousins grew up to become teachers or school administrators.  So for Christmas and birthdays we didn’t get toys– we got books.  And all that literature made us speak good.  And read good.  And right good.

I didn’t realize it then, but as an adult looking back at some of the things I read as a kid… some stories are fucked up.

The Rainbow Fish
ing026

What it’s about:
Here’s a story about a fish that is born inherently shiny and beautiful.  All the other fish don’t like him because his beauty makes them feel uncomfortable and self-conscious of their own inherent value.   So the shiny fish has no friends.  But he figures out by giving away one of his scales to every other fish, eventually they all become his friends.  By the end of the story everyone is the same because they all have one shiny scale, taken from the Rainbow Fish.

Why it’s wrong:
This is a book that is supposed to be about friendship and sharing.  And from a cursory six-year-old read through– sure it is.  But when you think about it, those other fish with whom he’s sharing his scales– they’re assholes.  They don’t like the shiny fish until he gives them something.   And it’s not like he’s not giving them a snack, or a soda, or one of his Pokemon or some monetary appeasement to make them happy; he is giving them an essential part of himself.  He IS the Rainbow Fish, and they resent him for it and take it away from him piece by piece.  But it’s just as much the Rainbow Fish’s fault; rather than face and overcome adversity, he lowers himself to their level of mediocrity.  The message is, “Don’t shine to bright, or others will resent you”  or conversely “If you are dull and ordinary, you can gang up on unique and brilliant individuals with superior numbers to pull them down to your level

I want my kids growing up embracing their awesomeness.  Childhood is rough, and nobody escapes unscathed but I want my kids to be able to handle criticism without buckling and conforming to the status quo like the Rainbow Fish.

Five Chinese Brothers
Fivechinesebrothers

What it’s about:
As the title would suggest, it’s a book about five Chinese brothers.  They all have seemingly random super powers, like a dialed down Mr. Fantastic if he was only able to stretch his legs, or one brother is fireproof Khalisi-style, and one brother can’t be decapitated (which raises the question, how did he figure out he had this power?)  Anyhow, one of the brothers inadvertently murders a kid and is sentenced to death.  The rest of his brothers take turns standing in for him during his execution using their unique powers to avoid death.

Why it is awesome:
Okay first off, you might be going “wait wait, one of the brothers murders a kid?  Explain yourself.  Well one of the brothers can hold the ocean in his mouth, and he does so with his kid-friend so the kid-friend can pick up seashells and treasure off the ocean floor.  The kid is given specific instructions to come back to shore when the brother he waves his arms or else he might spit out the whole ocean and drown the kid.   So of course the kid is a little shit and doesn’t listen to the brother, and ends up getting stuck at the bottom of the sea and killed.

swallowthesea

That’s the first great lesson in this children’s book: “Follow directions or you – might – die!”

Okay the second great lesson: Family.  The family of brothers band together, each one offering up their own lives as forfeit to the executioner in order to save the one brother.  Granted each one has a special ability that helps them avoid death, but they’re still all at risk.  The executioner could easily say “Y’know what, instead of trying to burn you, because I’ve heard rumors one of your identical brothers is immune to fire… I’m just gonna shoot you in the face”  But the family works together to help the brother get away with the murder of a small child.

Yay…  I think.

Butter Battle Book
Butterbattlebook

What it’s about:
Two feuding nations feud over whether it’s better to butter toast on the top on the bottom.  A small act of aggression by one side results is an arms race leading to near nuclear annihilation.

Why it is awesome:
Oh let me count the ways.  One. they’re feuding over toast.   It’s a super laughable premise but it’s extremely applicable to real life.  Swap toast for religion, politics, nationalism… and you pretty much have most of the world’s problems explained.  Two. the illustrations are awesome.  One guy starts off with a stick with some pokey things at the end of it.  In the ensuing arms race they get bigger and bigger weapons.  I’m talking one guy with eight cannons sitting on two elephants:

butterbattle
(pew pew pew pew!)

Finally, the ending is great.  The two characters are standing on the border of their countries with little red bombs that will ensure their mutual annihilation.  Each one is poised to destroy the other, waiting for the slightest provocation to use their weapon of mass destruction.  And then the book ends!  Just like that.  No happy warm and fuzzy ending.  No peaceful resolve with everybody coming together singing Christmas carols even though the fuzzy green guy jacked all their stuff.  Just anxious anticipation of the inevitable.  “Who’s going to drop it?  We’ll see

And that’s a great message for kids.  Nuclear destruction is just a button push away.  Sleep tight!

We Don’t Ask Where Darren Is

We don’t ask where Darren is.  

He was the bravest and strongest of us as kids.  When we played ninja turtles swinging from the playgrounds he was always Leonardo, the fearless leader.  Each day he’d arrive like a snap of lightning, smiling and ready to play with great discoveries to share, our Moses from the mountain.  From magic cards played on sleeping bag forts at drive-in movies, to hair gel and combs that look like switchblades, which were perhaps the coolest thing an eight year old kid could own.  He let the charge for our roller blade formation zipping through the old neighborhood, and was always there to lift us from our scraped knees and bruised chins.  He was the first to stick his marshmallow in the campfire, but always made sure the sticky fingered little ones had gotten their fill.   

We don’t ask where Darren is.

Ever since his wedding day we watched him parade down the aisle with his white clad bride waiting at the end, never knowing that this was perhaps the last we’d see of him.  Because in the stories we heard as children, it’s dragons and foul beasts that steal fair maidens– not maidens stealing knights with silk scarves and swollen abdomens.  Especially not the bravest and strongest amongst us men, disappearing from the table at birthdays, and anniversaries without so much as a fight.   

We don’t ask where Darren is.  Because we know… his bride stole him away.  

Rainy Day Car Ride

I have a playlist called the “Rainy Day Car Ride”.  It’s a compilation of all the emo music and dramatic stuff I listened to in high school, plus a whole myriad of other songs and artists I’ve picked up along the way.  It encapsulates that theme: what to listen to on a rainy day car ride… when the world is pouring misery and gray, and yet life continues in a constant forward trajectory through it all.   Basically everything downbeat, muted and depressing.  I used to listen to it a lot last year.  Practically every day on my drive everywhere…  But bit by bit, it stopped being so important.  It stopped being the soundtrack to my life.

Tonight is my birthday.  Every day is the oldest I’ve ever been, but birthdays in particular give me a day of reflection.  I haven’t played my “Rainy Day Car Ride” playlist for so long, it seemed appropriate that I listen to it on my drive home.  To remind  me what it’s like to feel sad.

Because I haven’t been… in a really long time.

Fear of the Future

I used to be terrified of dying alone.    But now, I have fears of extinguishing hope.

I’m afraid of tracking dirt across your life.  Because I’ve been places and done things and had the indecency to write a lot of it down.  And for the longest time I was proud of this growing ledger of clever anecdotes and stories and jokes to tell my friends over drinks… but upon meeting you, I wish I had an eraser rather than a history.  I wish I had a blank page empire, rather this long and harrowing tapestry.  But if every black eye and bad choice was what it took to end up with someone as great as you, then I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m afraid of your parents, and the heavy silhouette they’ve imagined for your Happily Ever After.  From your first baby steps, to your satin graduation caps they’ve been imagining a man deserving of every moment of your glowing laughter.  And when they meet me I’m scared I’ll never measure’ to everything they’ve had in mind.  But I’m determined to show them just who I am, and exactly what my intentions are for you.  Which is to make you happy as frequently and as deeply as I can for as long as I can.  And to buy you cats.  And hello kitty things.  And possibly one day in the future, a genetically engineered hello kitty cat.

 

Bump it with:

The Mother Loom

Every time I try to write about you, it tumble-crumples down and out as one big cliche’.   These heavy hackneyed words that someone else has mouthed and slurred– and I hate it.  Because to me this is the most uncommon-and-uncouth uncut-diamond-in-the-rough Prometheus discovers fire for only the third time in his life.  And I hate the way everything I say feels like something someone else already said…

But then,
I think:

Maybe this is my inclusion into the great union of poets, all those pining’ rhyming fools striving to twist the written word to confess their undying love.   Each leaping from the shoulders of their predecessors, screaming “what I feel in my breast is original and unique!” but all unknowingly-sewing from the same machine, spouting one single woven fabric from the Mother Loom that ultimately all these iterations spill forth… some indelible swelling well-spring beneath humanity that is coursing and bubbling and brimming to the top with those same fathomless words whispered by so many, reverberating and echoing against the halls of mankind until they resonate in one voice, in one singular symphony, the words– I love you.

Because I do.

Neither first, nor last but somewhere smack dab in the great sea of humanity, are these blinking twinkling moments– of Me and You.

Bump it with:

Shelf Life

So many of my stories begin with a ticking clock.  A temporary fling, swiftly burning to the ground, and I try to see how long I can keep the coursing kerosene running in our pumping veins.

But with you, with you there is no shelf-life.  There is no clumsy, fumbling for the ripcord to escape-eject.  And this slow and steady upward traject’ory has me scared.  Because I never want to see you in hindsight.  I never want to write the epitaph to this story.  You don’t get some clever nickname and a few strung together paragraphs of how I made it all blow to hell.  No, I want you until I’m old and gray and they drop me into a deep hole and shovel the earth in after me.  Because now that I’ve found you I don’t plan on spending another day on this Earth without you.

And the tools of my trade, the adventures and the games…  One by one they fell down into the dirt along the wayside of where I was.  Discarded willingly, like baby teeth falling from my mouth with something more permanent sprouting up just below the gum line.  And I haven’t felt this way in a long time.  And you’re more frightening than any blazing flame to light my face… because with you… I never want to put you out.  With a hasty breath or a clumsy miss step.  And I am not proud of where I’ve been but if it took all that wander’ing to bring me here then the journey was worth it.  All I can hope now is that I deserve this.

Bump it with:

Gay Thoughts

I have natural proclivities for homosexual tendencies; I like fashion to the point where I own more clothes than most girls I date.  I have a jewelry tree, ladened with accessories.  I own more rings than I have fingers and toes.  I wear a headband.   I like musicals, plural like I know the lyrics to most musicals and I can do both halves of the male-female duets.  I like Taylor Swift just a little too much.  My favorite bar is a gay bar.  I’m small and lithe, and was never particularly good at sports.  And the list goes on of stereotypes and archetypes for what a gay man is.

So I thought to myself, “What if I’m gay?”

I had a prostate exam a few years ago, and I realized there’s a reason so many men die from skipping this particular appointment.  Even if there was wine and dancing and good conversation, I can’t think of a scenario where I’d particularly enjoy something in me again.  So I thought maybe I could be a giver and not a receiver.  So I tried to imagine my potential gay lover.

He’d have to be smaller than me, because if he were bigger he’d probably bend me over.  At least I think that’s how these things work.  For some reason I imagine two gladiators circling round and round.  Like fresh caught crabs in a bucket opening and closing their one massive claw as they size each other up, circling, each unwilling to present their vulnerable back to the other.  Yeah that sounds about right.

Besides those hairy burly barrel chested guys never really struck me as attractive.  i’d want him thin, and smooth skinned.  Maybe with long silky black hair. I’d want him to have delicate high cheek bones, and a soft spoken voice, and big doey eyes.  I’d want his collar bones to protrude from the top of his blous… I mean shirt.   And I’d want him to smell of fresh cut flowers, and to taste like honey.  And then I’d bend him over and grab his supple breasts… and that’s where the imagination ends.  Because really, I want what I want. Hardwired into me, call it instinct or biology– I want a woman.

Because vaginas are a beautiful magical mystery to me.  They are the prize at the end of the pubescent marathon I’ve been running since I was fourteen.  They are soft and delicate, hidden under lace and denim.  Eager hands grasping upskirts, only exposed to me in the most intimate of moments.  But butts (haha), I have one of those.  And I know what happens with tacos and hot sauce or a binge night of beer drinking.  I know what it’s like to drop coils of soft-serve-disgusting into the porcelain bowl.  I know what it’s like to exclaim “Hey corn, I remember eating that!”

Butts, not for me.

Bump it with:

Blue

crash-site-of-a-spaceship

I found more wires.  I hope these are the ones we need.

P. S. What’s your favorite colour?  
~L.C.”


‘Blue.  My favorite color is blue.’  I reply on her notepad.

I hope She never asks me where the meat is from.

I cut the grey flesh into jagged pieces, a piece of control panel as my makeshift cutting board, and a jagged metal slat as my knife.  The twisted metal juts from the bulkheads and dangles from the wall like the broken ribs of a dying animal. The skin on my cutting board tears and rips, into tiny bite sized pieces.  I am thankful my hands are working.

I put the control panel over one of the many holes in the floor.  This hole, a ruptured exhaust line, burps heat.  God knows this planet is hot enough without the ship spitting out more fire, but it’s concentrated enough to cook.  Soon the discolored meat on my tray begins bubbling on  my makeshift grill.

The life support generator hums beneath my feet.  It rattles precariously, like an old dusty man on a ventilator wheezing his last breaths.  Dim yellowish lights flicker overhead, shuffling in irregular in time with the palpitating power supply.

I run my hands over my face and my arms.  Sunken eye sockets, narrow tallow cheekbones, scratchy scabs along my forearms.  But at least the skin is there.  At least my skin has grown back.    My eyes fixate on the only other light in the room besides the faint ruddy yellow glow of the life support lights– the blue glowing tube in the corner of the room.

– – – –

The headache starts.  Soon it’ll be the teeth.  That’s how I keep track of time.  Not by a ticking watch or a blinking light, but by how sick I am.   I lost count of the days.  All I know is every day I die a little, and I come back a little less each time.

There probably were a lot of us at first.  Survivors.  Huddled together in the darkest bowels of the ship, like fleas clinging to the carcass of a rotting lamb. Most of them probably died alone and scared in the dark.  Trapped under debris or burnt to death in the subsequent fires that tore through everything.   I still encounter pieces of them.  Bodies fused into the side of the ship.  Skin and metal charred together, bones wedged into walls, femurs and steel girders, hair and wires all thrown together in a chaotic smoldering tangle.  I scrape off what I can’ into my metal can.

I was lucky.  I found the Medical Officer.   “We’re on a planet too close to a sun.” he said.  And sure enough, within a few short hours there was the thirst, and then the vomiting, and then later the blisters and the peeling.  Our hair was falling out, and then teeth,  and then the skin just sloughed off in sheets and people collapsed into piles of used-to-be.

It was the Medical Officer’s idea to use the tubes.  With a crew of two-thousand people, injures happen.  Every ship is required to have at least two.  We had four.  A lot of good that did us.  Two smashed in half in the crash by a collapsed beam.  One too broken to repair, and the last one… miraculously intact with a patient still inside.

…Her.

– – – –

I never asked why she was in the tube.  I was awake during the whole crash.  Tumbled around in the wreckage, trapped in the smoke and chemicals, hearing the cries of my crew mates echo through the darkness.  I know how we got here.  But to see her startled face, awaking to five charred survivors looking expectantly at her, forcing her out of the only safe place left on this whole planet to share in our misery.  It felt like we were robbing her.

I never asked her why she was in the tube.

– – – –

“It takes complex proteins” the Medical Officer explained.  “A slurry of DNA to rebuild the damaged cells on the human body.  We have the commercially synthesized stuff, stocked to the brim in cans.  But really, anything will do.”  I scrape my collection of my fellow travelers into one of the cans.  I stir it around with a long metal rod and then pour it into the intake feed top of the tube.  Really ‘anyone’ will do.

My teeth already hurt like my  jaw was clenched all day. I sneeze into my dirty shaking hand.   There’s the tell-tale dark stain of ash and blood.  I’ve just got to hold out for a few more hours.

– – – –

The shakes make it almost impossible to get any work done at the end.  I slump down at the foot of the tube.  My vision swims and doubles.  If only we had two tubes.  I imagine yanking her out of there and taking my turn early, just to ease my agony.  I shake my pulsing head and push that dark thought as far from me as I can.  Guilt, makes me  throw that thought as far as I can across the room.  In the darkest corner of the far wall, faintly illuminated in the ruddy yellow light, it lands amongst four small bundles stacked neatly side by side.

Desperation makes people do savage things.

Soon I can’t even sit upright.  The shakes have me doubled over, and curled up in the fetal position.  My knees rattle against my chin, my fingernails raking against my shins.  Loose skin comes away like peeling paint.  Just a little bit longer now.

– – – –

The timer goes off.  My eyes are permanently fixated on the tube, my eyelids shredded away into tiny flecking scabs until nothing but my burning eyeballs remain.  My fingers, contorted into twisted little talons clutching desperately at the base of the machine like some plague victim pleading for salvation.  The tube opens with a chromatic hiss, and an Angel steps out and helps me hobble inside.

– – – –

It’s like waking up, but to the same bad dream.  I’m alive again, but just a little less than where I was before.  She’s at my feet, like a broken withered tree.  This time she’s gnawed through her cheeks, her tongue flopping lifelessly in the skeletal cage that is her mouth.  Her pale blue eyes look up at mine.   It breaks my heart every time.  I  pick her up.  She weighs so little.  I put her into the tube.

She left me another note:

I found more sheeting.  Stacked them in the corner for you.   I like blue too.  After this, let’s escape to somewhere blue.
  ~L.C.

– – – –

We keep escaping for a few hours at a time, but never long enough to fully be free.  I’ve made a decision.  Something heavy that’s been in my heart for the past few weeks, growing in weight and size until it’s crashing through my chest like a ship launched off its trajectory as the only thing left.

I skip breakfast and begin work.  The headache begins early without food.  My fingers work furiously bending and molding the metal to fit alongside the tube.  I use the bits of wire she collected to fasten it, and twist the sharp angles into place.  I add more metal upon metal, building upwards from the bottom until it nearly touches the ceiling.

There’s no time to stop and admire my handiwork.  My face is already numb and I can feel the skin bubbling off from my fingers.  I begin opening all the remaining canisters of protein and pouring them in.  All of our supply every bit and scrap of human I could ever find, emptied into my makeshift hopper on top of the tube.

My knees begin to shudder.  Soon I won’t be able to stand.   I need to make this quick.  My knotted fingers punch clumsily at the dials on the tube.  I adjust the timer, from just a few hours, to a few days, to a few months, to… just on.  Permanently on.  At least one of us can escape to somewhere blue.

In the final hours, the shakes have me doubled over and on the ground.  I hope you can escape to somewhere blue.  Escape to somewhere blue.  It repeats over and over in my head as the pain begins to wrack my body with shudders and convulsions.  Somewhere blue, as my arms begin seizing and shuddering uncontrollably.  Somewhere blue, as my teeth begin falling out of my dangling jaw and my eyelids are blinked off for the last time.   Somewhere blue.  My eyes fixate on a distant point on the floor.  Something I’ve never seen before, possibly dislodged by my recent construction.  It’s a medical report:

Lisa Cartel
Sex: Female
Height: 5’4”
Eyes: Blue
Medical status:

My burning eyeballs read further down the page.  These will be the last thoughts, the last memories for me…

Patient is terminal.  Medical Officer recommends prolonged stasis until she can be released to her family to spend her final days at home.

…What, have I done?