This is a busy day. My Guggenheim application is due, I have an essay to complete. I am going to workout now, because I feel that I may be having a panic attack shortly and I do not have them--or have not yet--when I workout. I have also composed a 2500 word story this morning. It's is as well as I can write. I write these works and I sometimes I think, "That is the best thing you have ever written," though it it not better than the others. But you still, when you read it back, want to have that honest feeling as you read it, then you remember the others after. I don't want someone saying to me, "You are an idiot, where are your priorities, why would you be writing all of these works of short fiction right now when you are in the situation you are in?" To that person I would say, all I do is create, and works of short fiction represent the least, volume-wise, of what I have written for over a year now, as I bust my ass in a manner that I don't think it's even possible with which to empathize or relate, because I do not believe one can work comparably hard and that is not a knock on the effort someone else might extend. I would also say that if it's not like this in the future and I have my chance and place, I'm going to want to have all that I have, and these works, every last one of them, is a work I will put against any work by anyone else in any medium at any point. If works could throw hands, these will drop those. This is an excerpt from the story composed today, which is called "See Her." It is the thirtieth story I have composed, in full, since June of last year.
“You will hear from her again because she won’t have anyone, come a point, and she’ll need you,” my friend Bitz would say, and it was the “come a point” part that gave her an augur quality. Mystic. This is odd because in every other arena of life, Bitz shoots so straight that if you were a pear in a jar of fruit and she aimed at you, you’d know the apples and oranges were going to be unscathed and you would get it through the heart. Or center, or whatever pears have.
“She is going to do some maudlin shit where she comes out of an alley in the rain, like she has been waiting there for you, with a loaf of bread under her arm and a container of warm soup in a brown bag as a special treat to mark the end of the week, and she’s imagined everything right down to how the street is lit, trust me. Then she will say with warmth, concern, and regret, ‘How are you?’ While thinking you’ll probably just keep moving and that is how life is.”
The longer that Bitz was incorrect—the more years passed—the more she thought this proved she was right, or closer to being proved right.
I guess everybody tries to tell your fortune. Sometimes I play a game and I ask myself would I be willing to see a short film, in my mind, of exactly what my life would be in five years, or ten, or whatever you set the dial to, would I do that, like if it was going to show the room I live in now and who was in it a decade in the future?
Would it still be me, sitting there? Would I look like hell? Would it be someone else because I was in a nicer spot? Or would it be someone else because I was dead?
If the answers were the last ones I wanted, which is not necessarily even the dead part, but me there, on my own, no progression, none of what you hear described as upward mobility, I try to imagine what I would do.
Realize this is ironclad guarantee, not caprice, a busted divining rod, or faulty fortune-telling like I think Bitz does. Presume a certificate of vatic authenticity timestamped by God, Moses, the Vice Admiral of the Future. This is the real shit. Ineluctable. Coming.
You have the news, the details, you know what awaits, but you have to live your life in the interim. What do you do? I’d try to think they were wrong. Which might seem arrogant, but I’m not arrogant, because I’m broken. No. I’m not broken. I think to break you still have hard parts after, snap-able parts that are now in a heap, like jutting steel rods when a building comes down. I trend to paste.
When I tell Bitz this after she buys me an apple when we go to the farmers’ market because that is what we do on Sundays and what she does when we are there—I can predict that pretty well—she will say that holes in us from the past of us get filled in and pasted over if we live the right way which she says I try to do. Every portion of this speech of hers throws me off but especially the “try” part because obviously that is not the same as officially doing something and I am not sure I am meeting Bitz’s stipulated terms of success.
There is an alley by the theater I go to where I watch student plays. They are free and they have no sets. A plaque outside says the theater, which I am pretty sure is not remotely up to fire code—insulation hangs out of the ceiling in the hallway to the bathroom like a gauzy jungle creeper—says the building was a high school for a long time.
When I am at the water fountain that looks like I am the first person to take refreshment here since the 1950s, I imagine who cried nearby and how many times, if parts of you when that happens to you when you are at a school that is no longer a school still live there. Have presence, as a fortune teller, which is not what Bitz is, would say. The absence of sets makes me feel like I know these people. I’m waiting for them to finish and then we may get a drink afterwards but we will of course not get a drink because they are college drama students who are probably going to fuck each other within the hour of the six of us in the audience clapping at the end and I am an adult who is going to go outside.