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.