this was a very short-lived project, but molly still writes all the time. you can find her at ofgeography.tumblr.com!
this was a very short-lived project, but molly still writes all the time. you can find her at ofgeography.tumblr.com!
"once you’re gone, you’re gone for good. (so please don’t go.)"
foreign slippers, “don’t go.”
"something causing fear to fly"
prompt fill #4
And afterwards, everyone always asks: do you see the world any differently?
No, I tell them. No differently at all.
I go to the cemetery. I sit before every one of the stones and I press my forehead to the names and I whisper: I’m sorry.
I whisper: rest in peace.
I whisper: I will never forget you.
But that is a lie. You can see how it is a lie. You can see how I do not close my eyes when I pray, you can see how already I am forgetting the nuances of them, how even the imagined details have begun to fade. The man beside me: was he obese, or merely chubby? Was he balding or wearing a baseball cap? Did the family of three really have twins, or were they merely brothers? Were the seats gray or blue? Did I drink Coke or Pepsi?
They don’t seem like important details, no, not like how the man beside me is dead—obese or chubby, balding or cheering, he is dead, he is dead. This is a detail I do not forget. This is a detail I cannot get out of my head.
But his eyes—were they brown or blue? Was he wearing a tie? When I sat down, did he say hello, darlin’ or darlin’, hello?
Already I am forgetting. Already their faces, their tics, their habits, their neurosis are fading. I am left in a jungle with smooth, blank trees, left in a ring of oil with nothing but a match, left running up and down the aisles screaming God don’t you know you’re going to die?!
Please, I say, but I don’t know what I’m asking for.
By the time you read this, everyone will be dead. The woman speaking French in hushed tones into her Blackberry will be dead. The baby with its too-big head and drooling mouth will be dead. The large man with his stomach peeking out of his un-tucked shirt will be dead. The punk rock lesbian with the lip ring who scared me for reasons I cannot explain will be dead. The pilot, his voice kind but gravelly and hoarse—he, too, will be dead.
They will all be dead, their bodies burning amongst scorched grass and liquefied metal, their eyes and skulls too shriveled to see all that blue sky above them. The twin six-year olds pushing each other while their mother frantically tries to control them. The freshly shaved thirty-something gentleman with the pressed collar and the smooth, wicked grin. The bald man sleeping against the window. The couple holding hands, their fingers entwined. The teenager, tense, nervous, flying alone for the first time. The Hispanic man and his wife, bickering in the back in a language no one but them understands except the few obvious snippets: gracias, amor, puta.
They will all be dead.
And this, too: the can of soda the stewardess is holding, the one with lipstick on her teeth, that too will be gone, melted, seared into the burning seat fabric. The Sky Mall magazines and informational In Case Of Emergency packets, the little bits of paper and old gum wrapped stuffed into the seat pouch—all gone. Barely even ash.
These things will all be lost, they will all be swallowed by fire and by smoke.
But not me.
The clouds are going by so fast, a blur of white and gray and blue, and just for one single instant it’s easy to forget what’s happening around me, easy to block out the screams and the sound of the pilot over the intercom saying I’m sorry, I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.
My oxygen mask isn’t working and I don’t know what to do with my hands.
Ten minutes after we take off I get hit in the head by a bouncy ball. There’s a burst of quiet giggles that are silenced the minute I turn around. The guilty twins are sitting on their hands, looking straight ahead, stone-faced, and their shamefaced mother breathes, “Oh, I’m sorry,” to me. She ducks her head. “Boys,” she whispers, meekly, “Say you’re sorry.”
They do, but they’re giggling so hard that what comes out sounds like why worry? I smile. “It’s okay,” I assure them. We’re in the air. New York in fifty minutes. Everything is better now, everything makes more sense when you are this far above the world.
I think: go higher. Let’s all just go higher.
One of the twins leans towards me. He has green eyes. His brother has blue. “It was me,” he confides, looking proud. “I hit you with the ball.”
“No,” his brother argues, shoving him out of the way. “It was me.”
“It was not,” the first twin cries, affronted, and shoves back.
The screaming doesn’t bother me. The desperate pleas of their mother doesn’t bother me. New York in fifty minutes.
It feels like being passed by a car on the highway. The ground is rushing towards us, the clouds are running away. The world is falling, not me.
A fleeting, laughable thought: my iPod. Did I do this?
The man in seat 17B is chubby, a little thin on top, and when I try to squeeze by he gives me a smile that carves dimples in both his cheeks. “Darlin’,” he drawls, and his teeth are startlingly white against his tan face, “hello.”
I smile back. Fleetingly. Too tired and stressed to bother responding. By the time I’ve shoved my carry-on beneath the seat in front of me he’s lost interest, perusing a Sky Mall magazine and grumbling about how it’s all written twice: once in English, once in Spanish. I think: so don’t read it in Spanish, what’s the big deal? But I don’t say anything. I put in my iPod. They always say to turn off your electronics, but what the hell sort of damage could an iPod do? It doesn’t even have a signal for radio.
I’m thinking about New York. I’m thinking about Boyce, Virginia. I switched to an earlier flight this morning so I could get back to NYU as soon as possible.
When the moment comes (and the moment must come) I close my eyes.
I don’t want to see.
I feel the rush of heat and bone-shattering pain of collision, and I hear a scream—two—are we all screaming together?—and the brush of a little body hurtling past, down the aisle, didn’t buckle his seatbelt I realize, seatback not in the full upright position—
I’m not ready, I didn’t have time, never enough but there it is the rush of heat—
I doze before I board the plane. I dream of clouds. Warm and white. Soft. Like a little blanket made of water and mist. It’s wonderful. When I wake I hand my ticket to the stewardess and she smiles at me. She has lipstick on her teeth. Later, she will bring me a soda.
"17C," she reads off the ticket. "Straight down to the left. Have a nice flight."
And afterwards, everyone always asks: will you ever fly again?
No, I tell them, but what I think is: it’s not the flying that scares me.
A Fine Frenzy, “Last of Days.” Prompt 4/12/11.
"I’ve been waiting for the longest time"
Prompt fill #3
riding bikes in a city at war
When he was twelve,
his brother stole him a bike from the neighbors. They painted it
a new color in the garage where no one could see
and twisted the handlebars so that it looked older, more used.
He rode it the next day with fear and power gnawing at his bones,
wanting the whole world to know what they’d done,
wanting to get away with it. He rode it up
and down the sidewalk,
holding his breath every time he pedaled passed the big red door
behind which the neighbors lived, carnivorous.
there’s a wisp of blue on the walls. he keeps his tally underneath it, smelling the sunshine and tasting the birdsong, one-two-three-four-five one-two-three-four-five one-two-three-four-five.
No one ever found out because
two days after his brother stole the bike, the neighbors exploded.
It was a swallow of fire and dust so big it rattled his bedroom while he slept
and burned the skin off the dog.
His dad put it down with the shotgun and a shovel.
They buried it in a pit by the park, under some trees.
there’s a lot of fives, now. at first he’d tried to keep them neat and ordered but the more tallies he makes the harder it is the fit them all beneath the blue. the more tallies he makes the less time he has. the more tallies he makes the more scared he is so he starts putting them in random spots, as if this will somehow keep the days from piling up and displacing time.
He stopped riding, after;
what had felt delicious and tangy before now felt dirty, like licking a callus.
His mother didn’t let him go further than the stop sign at the end of the road, anyway.
The bike sat discarded in the garage, secured with rope
and a lock he’d taken from his father’s toolbox—
this was before his father’s brains were smeared across the corner like brown lipstick.
Sometimes he went and sat cross-legged before it,
spinning the chain along his fingers and watching the pedals move.
Every few minutes the house would shake and the sirens outside would wail:
On Sundays it was quiet.
he’s had cellmates but they come and go. the one with the politician father turned left, but he was the only one. the others all went right, into the buzzer or the needle or the flash-pow. he’s been offered the chance to watch but he’s never taken it, for obvious reasons.
His brother spent four days in the hospital after catching
some shrapnel in the leg. He wouldn’t have even been at the now-ruined school
except that on Tuesdays the staff met during recess
so it was the best time to sell drugs.
The oldest students took turns, one at a time
"getting a drink from the fountain" where his brother would be waiting
with a small plastic bag and an outstretched hand. He overcharged outrageously
but drugs were so hard to come by that everyone paid
without complaint. Some nights his brother
lit up in the bathroom with the window open or
sniffed a few lines off the counter, playing his music loudly so that his parents left him alone because they thought he was masturbating. He never shared.
he doesn’t get the same anger that he used to. everything enraged him when he got here: the conditions, the injustice, the inability to do anything about anything. but he wouldn’t call himself resigned. maybe he is adjusted. sometimes this world makes more sense than any of the other ones he’s experienced. action; consequence. he’s never afraid of leaving his cell only to shake the hand of an unexpected reaper because the reaper is always expected here.
A few days after his mother lost her teeth to the knuckles of a man with medal-pins,they took the bike out again.
He learned to do wheelies while his brother sat on the brown grass and applauded.
He didn’t wear a helmet
because no one had a helmet they could steal except the bike store,
and everyone was spending their money on food so the bike store
had put up bars on the window and set the padlock. He hadn’t seen the neon
OPEN sign flashing in months.
Anyway, it didn’t matter; he didn’t fall. He taught himself
to pull the handlebars up and keep pedaling for a few feet and he learned
to stop by bouncing onto the front tire and letting the back tire whir itself out.
The wheels went
as they spun.
in the beginning, they had asked him a lot of questions, pulled out a lot of fingernails and sliced a lot of skin. now they don’t bother; now they leave him to rot. this would bother him if he’d ever had illusions of bravery. he never tells them anything simply because he doesn’t know anything, and what he knows he wouldn’t be able to describe: the warm summer sunshine behind clouds made of ash; white lines of cocaine blowing out of the window his brother left open when he went to take a piss; the radio downstairs humming along the floorboards, keeping time to constant sirens.
He thinks about that bike sometimes when the moon goes out.
The chain used to stutter
and catch, ruining the brakes.
He learned to use the handlebars to slow town, turning them
just slightly to increase the friction of the wheel against the road—
the first couple of times he scraped the skin off of his legs.
He can feel it
when he closes his eyes and presses his cheek against the wisp of blue and the carved tallies (one-two-three-four-five):
the hot, brakeless air scraping against his teeth and filling up his mouth until he swallowed it down and it lifted him up, up, up, like a dense balloon.
He lets go of the handlebars and falls upwards, looking down at the stop sign getting smaller, his brother getting smaller,
the bicycle tipped over in the street with its wheels spinning aimlessly in front
of where the red door used to be before it
burned up/burned down/burned up/burned down/burned up.
When the time comes, he goes right, like the rest of them.
"Won herself a pass to some far-off moon"
Prompt fill #2