Saturday, June 13, 2015

Seeds | Penthouse

Dr. Mark Hayner is a literal genius.
"Writing is a way to open doors in the human psyche. In reading novels or poems people voluntarily explore philosophical thought as opposed to involuntarily getting their faces shoved into philosophy textbooks. It's like you can make people think things without them knowing that they are being subconsciously influenced. It's because you're showing and not telling. Now if you're going to write, it needs to be important. So it needs to be something that inspires you and can inspire others. Your midterm is to be inspired and to write something important-something with the capacity to change the world. It can be anything-a novel, a poem, a short story, whatever-but it needs to have passion and a higher sense of thematic weight. Alright. Get out of here."
I stand up and prepare to leave the classroom when Dr. Hayner calls me over.
"Troy. Can I talk to you for a sec?"
Raising my eyebrows expectantly, I edge around a pack of students and walk up to the front of the classroom. Dr. Hayner smiles and waits for a couple of students to get out of hearing distance.
"You're a bright guy, Troy. I can see that you love literature and creating it but I don't think your readers can."
"What do you-?"
"Just let me finish, Mr. Holden. May I ask you some questions?" I nod. "Why do you write?"
I grit my teeth and look at the wall behind him as I realize I don't have an answer. "I don't kn-"
"Yes you do."
"I guess I want to leave something behind. I want to have some sort of permanent impact. I don't know."
"You have important ideas to be shared. That's true. What else?"
 "Okay my mother-Anna Karen Earnshaw-she was a writer and she's gone now but she didn't publish the majority of her work and I'm afraid people will forget her and I'm afraid people will forget me too."
"Troy, you shouldn't write so people will remember you. It should be because you have an idea that-"
"No that's not it. Okay. My mother used to say that-that a poem is like a fishing net for memories. I guess I write to-I write to keep her memory alive. God, that sounds disgustingly cliché..."
Dr. Hayner chuckles. "I knew it! I bet Professor Ward twenty bucks that you had a soul!"
I curl my lip and twist my face into a grimace at the memory of what I just said.
"Now Troy, I want your readers to see how motivated and passionate you are like I just did. I don't know how you are going to do that but I trust that you are capable of opening up to them like you just did to me." I nod. He starts. "Oh! I have something for you!" Dr. Hayner opens a drawer in the desk behind him and pulls out a book. "I recognized your name but didn't say anything until now. I don't think you-well-um-" He hands me the book. I look at the cover.
Seeds: Selected Poems by Anna Karen Earnshaw
I look back up, confused.
"I was her editor for almost ten years."
I stand there looking blankly at Dr. Hayner's face for what feels like a million and a half years until I can finally speak.
"You were her-and-what-what is this?" 
"This was her last book. It was going to be published in 2004 but know... so this is the proof copy of the manuscript. Your dad didn't want us to publish it."
I can't move. 
"It's yours, Troy, if you want it." 
I nod rigorously.
"Good. There's a bookmark at page 83. It's my favorite." he smiles, "Now go home. There's another class in here in five minutes."
I almost want to hug him. "I just-are you-thank-"
"I know." He pats me on the back and I leave the room without another word.
Once outside, I drop onto a park bench and flip to page 83.

seeds: For my son Troy

if i had a         seed                for every time i
thought of you
, i could plant an endless garden.
and if the
burgledeegook of the world ever hugs me too tight
i know you can hug me tighter. and its good
i could skipple
 my garden path
ignoring the yucky roses and hurimphing the      yummy
gardenias(i love gardenias) knowing
                                                its you and you
and always you.
i dont fear splashing through puddlewonderful glosh
because it waters our
love flowers
and how many are yellow
? we can hold hands             if you want     and
                        watch paintbrush clouds up in the up there.
                                                while our happy seeds race each other
                                                 under our happy toes.

I run home, throw myself down at my typewriter and don't move until my heart is on the pile of papers in front of me.
Days later, Mark Hayner receives an email at 2:09 am with no subject, bearing the words :
"I want us to publish the book. There's some stuff I want to change though. Can we meet?

*         *         *         *         *         *         *

A knock at the door pulls me out of book-signing mode. I put down my fountain pen and current copy of Seeds: Poetry of a Mother, her Son, and their Reflections on Memory, Love, Art, and Life by Anna Karen Earnshaw and Troy Campbell Earnshaw Holden. I push my glasses up my nose as they have slowly drifted to the very tip and are currently threatening to fall off. I had forgotten how much I needed my glasses and had sentenced them to a lifetime in their case until recently. Shaking out my hand, sore from signing, I hurry to the door, pull it open, and grin at my editor Mark Hayner and my dad, Robert Holden.
"Nice place you got here!" My dad exclaims as he strolls across the doorstep and over to the grand piano by the window.
"See dad? I wasn't lying last year when I said I lived in the penthouse. I had just forgotten the date."
Dad laughs sarcastically and accepts a shot of whiskey from Mark who has just filled three shot glasses in the kitchen. 
"It's time to toast Troy's nomination for the Griffin Poetry prize and his new penthouse!" Mark starts.
He hands me a glass but I refuse.
"I don't drink anymore." I explain.
"Jesus! Who are you anymore?" Dad splutters.

"I'm happy." I answer.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Memory | Apartment 221

"I think memory is the most important asset of human beings. 
It's a kind of fuel; it burns and it warms you...
That's why I want to write a book."
-Haruki Murakami

The penthouse was always warm. I remember that. 
I am standing in front of the upright piano by the penthouse window. I run the back of my index finger gently along the length of the white piano keys so the notes do not play but I can distinctly hear the tick tick tick tick of my fingernail as it moves from key to key. I turn to look outside when thunder cries a warning of approaching rain. In surprise at seeing the sky, I back into the piano which protests with a series of dissonant chords. The sky is a painful magenta that stings my retina like a billion tiny needles. A soft creak comes from the piano bench next to me like someone just sat on it. I look around and, seeing no one, look back outside. A cool breeze curls the hairs on my neck and I turn around again, expecting somebody to be there. I am alone. 
Hello? My voice sounds far away and empty in my ears. I take a step forward and find that the ground is covered in a foot of water. There must be a leak or a plumbing problem that began after I left. I knew Maggie Bitch shouldn't have fired me. Looking around the room I see a flash of blue reflecting in the water that has risen to my hips. The wall is covered in blue graffiti like the kind from the alley. My eyes scan a phrase 
The dark messenger will be forgotten

Memory is an odd thing. So much is forgotten, I think before noticing that the water is up to my neck.

I awake with a splutter, jerking my head out of the sink where I must have fallen asleep, and wiping the chocolate sauce-infused water out of my eyes. Christine is standing, unimpressed, at the entrance to the kitchen, arms folded, hip cocked, and eyebrows up. Her mouth is a straight line, tight and rigid. "Go home Troy."
I open my mouth in panic to protest and soapy water dribbles out over an open box of cupcakes on the counter.
Christine cringes and continues, as if reading my mind, "You're not fired yet, don't worry. It's hard to take night classes and keep up a job, I understand. But Troy, don't expect me to let you off the hook so easy next time. Go home and get some sleep. I expect your full dedication in the future."
I nod and blink a few times.
"Please take those cupcakes with you. It's your mouth or the trashcan." She motions to the box of soapy water covered cupcakes on the counter in front of me.
I pick up the box and hurry home. "...let you off the hook so easily," I correct under my breath once I'm out of hearing range. Does anyone use adverbs anymore?
Once back in the safety of my apartment, I examine the soggy cardboard box. The cupcake in the top right corner is untouched by the soapy water monsoon so I pick it up carefully, scrape off the icing into the trashcan, and bite into the cake part. It could be worse, I guess. 
After three hours of dreamless sleep, I eat a second cupcake with the icing scraped off and brush the crumbs out of my pseudo-beard. I look at my reflection in the microwave window. Pseudo-beards are not a good look for me. 

For the first time in a long time, I shave and shower. The water in the shower is clear, refreshing, and not chocolate-infused. I close my eyes and let it run over my recently shorn face.

I also apply deodorant for the first time in a while. Feeling sufficiently appropriate for the public, I leave Dreamwood Terrace just before ten.
Arriving early, I settle down in my usual chair towards the center of the advanced creative writing class. Next to me, a man close to my age is already here, sketching with a stub of a pencil. I lean away from his elbow in fear of his fast, jerking movements and the potential harm they could do. He is hunched over the paper such that I can't clearly see his face but he looks somewhat familiar. 
What's he doing here? Go to a visual arts class for that shit, man, I think to myself.
A tap on my arm pulls me away from my thoughts. Oh God, the man is Rick, the bartender at O'Harleys. I raise an eyebrow to which he flicks a smile and gestures at his pencil that has fallen under my seat. Handing it to him, I must look confused, because he explains, "Recently I've found a new passion for writing. Like, I've always loved drawing but I want to pursue this too, I think. Hard to believe bar-tending isn't my dream job, huh?" 
"Oh, yeah." I mumble, returning a smile.
"You came in the other day didn't you?" He continues. "Yeah! You showed up like exactly at opening time right?"
"No judgement man. We open at eleven for a reason."
"I suppose you do."
"Anyway, thanks for uh-" he waves the pencil around and gets back to his sketch.
I nod and smile but he is too absorbed in the drawing to notice.
Students begin to trickle in and I pull out my pen. I glance Rick's pencil and roll my eyes.

I like pens more than pencils. They're more permanent. I like to think that I have a more permanent, lasting contribution to the world. 

Class begins. There are smarter people in advanced creative writing than the intro class but some people still make my skin crawl with their utter stupidity. 
Stop pretending you're deep when you're just lonely, I want to say. 
Even so, I stay silent.
Loneliness can be alright. It gives people space to be with their memories.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Boiling | Apartment 221

You killed her
The paint is still there. I can see it from my window.
It’s funny; I don’t remember being sad at first. I was seventeen then and all I can remember is an orange blur of anger and hatred. I hated her for messing up dad and I hated her for leaving us. You know, we didn’t even find her suicide note until almost two years had passed. I was a freshman at Princeton and was home for Christmas break when I found her letter folded up and shoved behind the front cover of an anthology of Poe. It was a sonnet. My mom was the only person pretentious enough to write a suicide sonnet. There was one stanza for me, one for my dad, one for her parents and two brothers, and the last couplet was for miscellaneous friends, family, and colleagues. She didn't leave a will. The stanza for me read:
My Troy, I will smile at you from above.
Your words are your gift and I wish you knew
Your life is meant for creation and love.
I only desire that you loved me too.
I think that was when the sad began. I had wasted so much time being mad at her for abandoning my family and ruining my father when I was the one responsible for her death because I never loved her enough. I killed her.
I wasn’t sad for long, though. The sad was like a summer rain shower that lasts for an hour or so and then disappears into the blue sky. I didn’t want to end up like my mother or father so I stopped thinking about them. I ignored everything that reminded me of my previous life.
I have always been very good at ignoring.
The problem with ignoring is that you can't really leave a top on a boiling pot of water without expecting it to overflow when your eyes are closed.
In the kitchen, my pot of water overflows while I look out my window at the graffiti. I rush to rip open the ramen packet so I can eat lunch before going to my first class at the community college.
Community college is just like high school. It doesn't even deserve the title "college." All the girls are trying too hard to move their hips when they walk and I can see the lines of make up along their chins where they tried to paint on new faces this morning. All the guys have spent hours making their hair look like they just got out of bed and their eyes have judgment instead of bags and shadows when they look at me, an almost-thirty-year-old, walking into B66, the Intro to Creative Writing classroom. I lower myself in slow motion onto the chair closest to the door and watch the glorified high school students parade in like a wave of swinging hips and artificial bed heads. Finally, a man about my age struts in wearing glasses too big for his face in his feeble effort to appear younger and hipper than he is. He looks at me, smiles, and nods, causing his snorkel-like spectacles to tumble off his nose and onto the floor in front of him. The girl closest to me snorts and covers her mouth to conceal her laughter. I look over to see that it is Lucia, the girl who dragged me to the bowling tournament the other week. She grins and flails her phalange spasms in some sort of enthusiastic wave. 
Kill me now. 
"Uh okay so we're going to-uh-get started now with-um-" The professor trails off and straightens his glasses. 
Of course I get a professor who cannot successfully complete a sentence.
"Right so the-uh-creative process is what we were-you know. Right. Yes. Okay. Now remember that I was explaining on Tuesday that to takes a lot of focus and-well-effort to come up with inspiration for a piece because-um-"
His presence is painful and he is completely wrong about everything that has come out of his unnaturally small mouth.
"Writers have to-like-actively investigate their environments to find-"
"That's not true." I couldn't help it.
The professor looks at me like I just stepped on his puppy.
"I'm-um-sorry? What?"
"The job of writers is to observe the world and write about their subjective observations. Not peel apart their surroundings looking for some bullshit to knead into prose."
"Sorry-uh-but-um-Mr. Holden is it? I don't-" His shaking fingers push his glasses up his nose.
"Do you know anything about writing or are you just some idiot they pulled in off the street to waste people's time?" I find myself standing in front of the class. "If you try to find inspiration, you will fail. You have to let inspiration find you. You know? Just like a watched pot never boils, a search for inspiration never succeeds."
The professor-I never bothered to learn his name-stands, stunned, opening and closing his tiny mouth like a goldfish. 
I storm out of the classroom, fire in my eyes, ready to request a transfer to advanced creative writing.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Blue | Apartment 221

My day starts early when I wake up having rolled off of the couch and slammed my head on one of the many loose floorboards in my apartment. Why am I not sleeping in by bed? Shit! Dad's here! I shuffle to the kitchen to make something that passes for breakfast. Breakfast seems like a lawyerly thing to do.
I hadn't noticed that my dad's snores had ceased in my bedroom. I turn around to see him holding a stack of bills from the mail. Bills from the If I don't open them, they don't exist pile that usually stay under the radiator.
"Why are they addressed to Troy Holden at Apartment 221 of Dreamwood Terrace when you live in the penthouse?"
I freeze. Every sound seems louder. I swear I can hear the train whistling through the woods behind Dreamwood Terrace. I'm no damn actor and there's no point continuing this charade. I take a deep breath and tell him everything.
His face is like melting candle wax that sags and drips with disappointment and confusion. He is silent for three minutes and six seconds before he looks up and growls, "Well you better get a degree if you want to write for a living."
"Dad there's no way Princeton will let me back in to-"
"There's that community college down the street. You could-"
"There's no way I'm going to a fucking community-"
"Language Troy!"
"I am too good for a community college filled with idiots who can't even get into a real university!"
"And I can't even afford air conditioning! How am I going to pay for-"
"I will pay for it."
I don't know what to say. Thank God my dad's phone rings and he answers. 
The candle wax melts even more. He puts the phone down."Robert jumped." I am clueless about how to respond. His face is completely expressionless.
"But you're Robert."
"Robert Smith. The other one." 
I'd heard my dad talk about the other Robert, his best friend. 
"Troy. I need to go. A nurse is picking me up"
I nod and open the door. He leaves without either of us saying anything else.
I sigh and run my hands through my hair, grabbing it in fists which pulls my forehead back until it hurts. I need a drink. I shove my feet into my blue socks worn at the soles and pull on the closest shoes. 
Walking down the street to O'Harley's, I stop dead. 
In the wall of the alley, blue graffiti reads "You killed her." 
My legs give out and I lean against the bricks, gasping for breath. I slide to the ground. "I didn't I didn't I didn't I didn't-" Some change lands at my feet. I glare up at the figure passing. "What the hell!? Do you think I'm a fucking hobo!? Are you literally so stupid that you-"Oh Christ.
Bonfire girl. Graveyard girl. Hope is the thing with feathers girl. Her eyes widen and threaten to spill.
"I am so sorry- I thought-" I start. Too late. She pivots on her heel and is gone. I am seriously the hugest asshole.
Turning to look into the window of the Sunny Side Up diner I see my undoubtedly homeless looking reflection. I haven't shaved in about a week and the stubble in coming in unevenly like a patchwork quilt. I have deep indigo circles under my eyes and I am pretty sure I smell like death. Now I really need a drink.
"Eleven in the morning's a little early for whiskey isn't it?" says Rick when I slump down at the bar.
I send daggers with my eyes and he raises his eyebrows and begins pouring.
After spending all my earnings from the past week on cheap booze I stumble out onto the sidewalk and into a woman with glassy orb eyes framed with wrinkles. She clasps my hand in both of hers and hisses, "It will open like a blooming tulip."
"Sorry-what will?"
"Your world. The you will realize that you are not the center of it."
I shake her off and walk to work at Christine's Cupcakes with my head down, not looking back, just like always.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mail | Apartment 221

I got mail today for the first time in nine days. I used to love getting letters in the mail when I was younger. I loved the excitement and anticipation as my fat, pre-puberty fingers scrambled to rip open the envelope chrysalis that separated me from my destiny or whatever. These days letters usually mean bills or another notification from some literary journal thanking me for submitting writing and informing me that it will appear in next month's edition and I can expect a check in the mail within the next three weeks. The first letter is addressed to Troy Campbell Earnshaw Holden, my full name. It takes all my strength to rip open the envelope. The goddamned letter sealer must have overactive salivary glands.
"Mr. Holden, Thank you for sharing your work with us and for expressing your interest. We appreciate the chance to review these pieces, but won't be using them in the magazine. We wish you the best of luck placing them in other fine venues...." Disbelief feels like a sudden downpour of rain covering every inch of my body and multiplying in weight every millisecond. The weight seems to muddle every thought and image as it tries to drag me towards the ground. A rejection. I have never been rejected.
I hurl the letter across the room where it tumbles under the radiator. I will leave it there and ignore it into eternity. I am good at ignoring. I sit cross legged on the floor and pick up the second letter hoping that it will distract me from the first one. And it does. It's from my dad.
His team of therapists said that he should have a weekend away to come visit me and get him out of the hospital since apparently he's doing better. Of course, they say that he's doing better all the time, even when he's not. I continue to skim the page, "I hope that you will be comfortable with me staying in the guest room of your penthouse the weekend of the thirty-first unless you have engagements previously arranged..." Shit. Today is the thirtieth.
I need to create an escape plan or at least another network of lies before tomorrow.
I grab a piece of paper and dig in my pocket for my fountain pen to write out a list of potential game plans. I fumble around with my fingers, itching to feel that familiarly smooth-except-for-the-A.K.E.-of her initials-steel that is always in my right front pants pocket comforting me with the last physical connection I have to my mother. My dad and I got rid of all her other possessions after she died because his therapists said they were "triggering" for him. I didn't protest because I didn't want to remember my mom. I didn't want to be sad and end up like like my dad did-or like she did. I only asked for her fountain pen. I pull it out and write out a list of lie options to tell my dad.
1. I'm sick and highly contagious so he should wait for another weekend 
2. I have a new roommate to share the penthouse with me so there is no more spare bedroom space
3. I will be out of town doing lawyer things ( I need to think this one out a little bit more)
4. The penthouse is experiencing plumbing difficulties (or vermin?) so I have to temporarily stay in a loft on the second floor while the plumbers (or exterminators?) deal with it
I end up choosing option four and calling my dad to let him know. It looks like I will be sleeping on the couch tomorrow.
I decide to take a break to clear my mind by walking in the park by the community college.
Some stupid college kids are having a bonfire. Little fuckers. 
I start to feel a loose tension in the space right behind my stomach. It boils and the steam and pressure crawl up my throat. It's the feeling of a poem. I don't have time to move so I throw myself onto a bench and start scribbling. I feel someone sit next to me. I can feel that whoever it is is about to talk to me. Sneaking a peek, I catch a glimpse of the long blonde hair of someone who is clearly a female. I can feel the questions leaking out of her pores. Don't speak to me don't speak to me don't-
"What are you writing?"
Maybe she's blind or visually impaired and can't see my notebook two feet from her face.
"A poem." Idiot.
I look at her and my breath stops short. Her eyes are the same eyes I see every morning in the mirror.
They are the eyes of someone who has lost another. You see, they have layers like a brussels sprout. You have to peel the outside off. The outside layer is cheerful and adventurous, the second is scared, the third is curious, the next few are smart and witty, but the yellowish inside of the brussels sprout is sad. 
Not with me though, I don't have the energy to have layers anymore. 
I don't even have the energy to come up with good similes or metaphors anymore. 
Brussels sprouts? What the hell?
Before she can ask me another question I make up some excuse about the diner or something and hurry off to finish my poem.
A little before nine while walking back to Dreamwood Terrace with my finished poem, I see bonfire girl walking to the graveyard from K. Rogers. I jog after her, meaning to apologize for being rude. I don't catch her in time. She jumps over the fence and squats in front of a small gravestone. I hear her talking. Is she on the phone? I walk along the fence to the corner where she is.
"...And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all..." She's reciting Dickinson to the grave.
She might have been annoying as hell but at least she has good taste.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Snow | Apartment 221

Snow is better than rain. It's like happy rain. Rain seems so angry while it dives and throws itself at the ground in a hurry like business people at the airport wearing their Armani ties and scowls. Snow is like the little children at the airport that are on their way to celebrate thanksgiving. Even though their parents tug them along with their hands that aren't preoccupied with carseats and diaper bags, the kids still toddle all over getting excited about automatically flushing toilets and those automated airport trash cans that compact the trash inside to make room for other trash. Snow takes its time on its way down from the sky and enjoys the view of the world at different heights.
My mom liked the snow too. On snow days when I was in elementary school she would buy packets of Kool-Aid and shake them out over the ground to write our names in the snow. Then we would race to see who could lick up their name the fastest. My dad's from Florida so he hated the cold. He would yell that we would get frostbite unless we came inside right away. He didn't really understand that you can't get frostbite when it's 34 degrees outside. But my mom and I would humor him and come inside to write limericks about winter. She always said that writing was the best way to remember. She said that a poem is like a fishing net that catches fish-but the fish were memories. I told her that I hated fish because they tasted like sewage and hotdogs were better.
So it's snowing today. There are three feet of snow outside of Dreamwood Terrace.
I watch the snowflakes outside my window serenely mosey their way through the air.
For a second it's like I revert to my childhood. The cupcake shop doesn't open for an hour so my brain shuts off and my body throws on a coat, grabs my keys, and sprints to K. Rogers to buy Kool-Aid powder. I get back to my apartment and the autopilot disengages. I look in the grocery bag clenched in my hand and see a bright red box of black cherry flavored Kool-Aid packets. "What a fucking waste of money" I growl to myself.
After helping Christine close up for the night I remember that I've been needing to run by the Sunny Side Up diner to get my toilet plunger back from Flo who borrowed it on Thursday. Walking down the block with snow flurries getting caught in my eyelashes, I run Auden's words through my mind "And death put down his book." Snow always makes me think of my mother. I get to the counter where this new employee-she looks like she's maybe in college?- is reading Slaughterhouse Five.
You know when you are thinking of something and then you want to say something else to someone but instead of saying what you want to say, you say what you were thinking? Yeah.
I meant to ask where Flo was but instead I quoted, "And death put down his book."
I am one panty-dropping bastard.
Before I embarrass myself further, I give up and walk out the door where the cold greets me with a stifling bear hug. And then that employee scurries out after me explaining that some speed dating thing is beginning and her shift is almost over and would I like to go bowling and did she mention her name was Lucia? It's like she's a film on fast forward. I hate bowling but Christ, her eyes are so blue they are painful to look at and I don't want to hurt her feelings-so I agree.
Damn it. I just wanted to get my plunger back.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Auden | Apartment 221

So my boss Magdalene Bitch fired me a few days ago. She said something about "dust complaints" or whatever. Essentially, because I am not tall enough to dust the top of the ceiling fan blades, I am not fit to clean any square inch of an apartment. Never mind the fact that I have scoured poop residue from both toilets in the penthouse for the past year and a half. Oh no, it's not like I have been splashed in the face with toilet water when I get really into my scrubbing. 
So while I'm looking for a job I decided that I should stick to the cleaning business since being a full time writer will not even pay for gas and people who drop out of college after their first year are not in very high demand in the job market. College professors are all idiots anyway. They are all teaching creative writing because they can't do it themselves. Poets like myself are better off without failed authors suffocating our creativity and imprisoning our inspiration. Anyway, now I am a dishwasher for Christine's Cupcake Palace or Christine's Cupcakes or whatever it is called. Miss Wright, my new boss has so many sticks up her ass. I don't know how many but I could build a hell of a bonfire out of them. 
Asking me to wash each dish four times in her psychotic way... 
I bet she doesn't even appreciate ee cummings. 
I can't even go to work today though since I woke up feeling disgusting. I meant to get my flu shot earlier in the season but whenever I go to the Minit Clinic there are thousands of screaming Doctor Brian fans. They're all women. They're all scantily clad. They're all oblivious to anything that isn't Doctor Brian. I wish I was Doctor Brian. 
Everything ached. My legs felt like soggy spaghetti. Not even al dente spaghetti. My legs were the spaghetti that you leave in the pot too long and then remember to eat but then have leftovers and have to refrigerate to eat again tomorrow for lunch. I tried to toboggan out of my bed wrapped in my blanket cocoon and roll out of my bedroom but I ended up hitting my head on the floor that I really should carpet. Getting to the kitchen proved to be an ordeal from which I emerged bearing four bruises, a scrape (from that broken floorboard that I really should fix), and a desire to go back to bed. My mom used to say that a cup of tea, fresh air, and WH Auden could fix anything so I made myself a cup of tea (I hate tea; it tastes like dirt and water), put on some sorry excuse for pants (My sweatpants have more holes that a colander but it's unusually warm outside and I don't care what people think), grabbed a copy Look, Stranger! (My mom's favorite), and shuffled to my door. 
I don't care if I get other people sick. I will actually be helping them learn a lesson to get their flu shots in the future. Such a caring soul. 
One and a half steps outside and I am absorbed in Auden’s words. 
That later we, though parted then, 
May still recall these evenings when 
Fear gave his watch no look; 
The lion griefs loped from the shade 
And on our knees their muzzles laid, 
And Death put down his book. 
My mother’s favorite poem. She had the top corner of this page folded down so she could flip to ‘A Summer Night’ in cases of emergency. I run the backs of my fingers down the weathered (mom called it “well loved”) spine, careful not to disrupt the fragile bits of paper flaking off. A funeral bulletin falls out of its hiding place between the last page and the back cover. The picture of mom smiling on the cover reminds me that I haven’t opened this book since I read ‘A Summer Night’ at her funeral in 2003. 
I throw the bulletin into the next trash can I see.