A Short Enumeration of All My Flaws

I think very carefully before I speak and sometimes it still comes out wrong.

There’s a dripping faucet and I can’t get my mind to turn off the sound, drip, drip…

I don’t know why I just wrote out the onomatopoeia for a dripping faucet. Everyone knows what a dripping faucet sounds like. Dripping faucets sound the same all over the world. All dripping faucets sound alike. Beisdes, ‘drip’ isn’t really an onomatopoeia at all; it’s a verb. The faucet is dripping. A more accurate description of the sound the dripping faucet makes would be ‘plink, plink.’ “The dripping faucet sounds as though it is dripping,” is essentially what I just said. 

When I was in middle school I didn’t wash my hair; I took plenty of showers and I didn’t smell, I just always put my hair in a shower cap before washing

Like, what’s even the point? it takes more time to shove 15 centimeters of hair into a shower cap than it does to work in some shampoo-

 

I don’t know the metric system; I have no idea how long 15 centimeters is. I am American and it is my fate to never know how long 15 centimeters is, or how many miles is a kilometre. I say it’s because I am American but really I am just lazy. 

 

I can never fall asleep. It’s 2:44 a.m. when I’m writing this. I bet you could tell. But you’re too polite to say anything.

I’m too nice. I befriend the misfits and other lumps of breathing flesh that no one else wants to be friends with. Then I find out why no one else wants to be friends with them (usually, they have horrible personalities and also they smell) and then I regret being so nice. Like a saint or something. That’s what I am.

I’m horrible; I say things I don’t mean. I have a lot of enemies, but I’m too nice and don’t say anything to them and they don’t know that we are my enemies. Mortal enemies. They probably think we’re friends. They are so wrong.

 

I’m too short. I wish I could count it as a disability. I can’t reach anything and my legs are stubby. I just want the parking decal. I hate to park so far away. 

 

Once I was pushing a shopping cart back to the place where all of the shopping carts hang out and snigger amongst themselves after dark—the shopping cart paddock. The shopping cart stable.  And I was being lazy and thought that it would be okay to not put the cart out to pasture and instead lean it against a large statue of a giant sphere. This was at a supermarket. I do not know why they had such a large statue of a giant sphere, but there it was. I leaned the cart up against it and started to walk away. The sphere was on an incline, as spheres are wont to be, but I did not know this about spheres at the time. The cart’s wheels gave way to gravity and the whole thing was yanked down the slope and started to roll into the traffic circle where people pull up their cars and make minimum-wage shopboys put all their bags away for them.  There was a woman in a bright red car that looked new, and the cart chugged towards it. She screamed at me to snatch the cart but I didn’t do anything about it and just stood there like I was dumb. The cart hit her red car that looked new and probably scratched up the paintjob and left a dent. I ran back into the store and pretended to look at comics while my mind raced. Is shopping cart negligence a crime? Could I be arrested for letting my cart roam free? I worried about it this for months. I also slept with the lights on because I was afraid of Bruce Willis’ ghost coming to haunt me. I was ten years old and The Sixth Sense had just come out. My emotions were very fragile.

 

Most of all, even now, while I sit in bed, at 2:57 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, I am still thinking about the day when I was ten and let my shopping cart ding up a lady’s red car that looked new and then after went home and slept with all the lights on. 

Falleth From the Vine

(I’m not much of a poet, but here goes…)

“…As the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as the falling fig from the fig tree.” Isaiah 34:4

 

 

As the leaf falleth from the vine,

As the fig falleth from the fig tree,

You shall fall into my mine open arms,

And we shall tumble in the reedy boughs,

And all the world shall slumber.

 

And while they sleep

A thousand sheep

Shall be met with the sword of God.

And a thousand goats, and a thousand steeds,

Shall fall thereto.

 

The ground is soaked with blood,

The sky is grey with vengeance,

But we are perfect before his eyes

(Fallen into my arms)

Here among the reedy boughs.

A Cosmic Event

 

I.

I look up at the stars, and the glare from the city lights links them together, like a connect-the-dots, like the stars were meant to be. There are greek heroes and giant beasts and ladies of great beauty up there, and they will always be up there, as they have always been.

There is no one who I can tell about the stars tonight, for everyone is asleep, or ornery, or both.

 

II.

The best night sky I ever saw was around a campfire in Yosemite.

It was the fourth of July, but it was cool in the mountains, and the fireflies twinkled all about, and we threw woodchips into flame as kindling and the fire grew higher and higher until, I swear, it touched the heavens.

You can’t get stars like this in the city, the park ranger said, as she told a tale of Indians and of bears and pinecones, or something like that.

 

III.

The second best night sky I ever saw was in Paris, in the fifteenth arondisement, where the streets were crumbling and old houses that stood for centuries gave way to a bulldozer, a drill, and a project to expand the city metro. We sat smoking on the balcony, our legs dangling over the edge, and I swear I could see a couple fucking in the balcony across from ours, far across the street.

Isn’t it beautiful? I ask.

The fucking? She replies.

No, I say. The stars.

They are few, and they are hazy, covered by the smog of thousands of whispers, thousands of cars rumbling along the stone streets, thousands of lost poems and stories, scraps of paper thrown into gutters, and now our smoke, rising up to meet the stars, until, I swear, it touched the heavens.

 

IV.

The worst night I spent underneath the stars was in the mountains of the Shennandoah, the crooked, winding curve of the Appalachain trail. The mosquitoes bit, the water was almost out, and I swear, oh I swear, that I heard a bear scratching at our foodsack, tied up high in the boughs of a twisted tree.

I thought I was going to die.

Are we going to make it home? I ask.

She tries to calm me down, but I’m weighed down by guilt. I whisper to God, please let us make it through this night, please, please, oh lord, my god, the god of my ancestors, the god of Israel…

But god is too busy with wars and famine and babies being born, and babies dying, and people cursing the heavens, so I am met with silence and the whir of angry crickets in the moonlight.

The moonlight.

It streaks through the mesh canvas of the tent, and I look up and marvel at the stars.

They would be beautiful if I wasn’t going to die so soon.

I say to myself, I wish I could live to see another night, a thousand nights, a million nights. I wish I could live to see another night like the night in Yosemite, or the night in Paris. I wish I could live to watch the stars with my children, swinging on a porch swing (on my back porch, my very own).

Gee, I say to myself, wouldn’t that be nice.

 

V.

I lived, of course, to see more stars, like the stars tonight that I couldn’t tell anyone about, because everyone was asleep, or ornery, or both.

 

VI.

Somewhere, somewhere far from here, a little boy looks at the stars. And he sits, dangling his legs out the balcony of a grumbling ghetto apartment. And the bombs ricochet against walls that lie only a few blocks away, and the ground shakes. And the little boy is a descendant of David, a great king, but he’ll never know it, for this little boy is not great, but is only, merely, a little boy. He likes to play hopscotch on the cracked sidewalks with cobblestones as markers and dirt as chalk. He likes to shoot at pigeons with his slingshot. He likes to watch the television when he goes over to his friend’s houses (he doesn’t have one, and never will). He likes to color in the margins of his tattered schoolbooks. He likes to read old crumpled up newspapers that he finds in gutters. He likes to lick the juice from a tangerine out from the rinds. He likes to look up at the stars and imagine they are vendors in a giant bazaar, and all the airplanes and flashing satellites are the customers and they buy fine silks and rubies from the stars. The satellite that broadcasts the television programs the boy loves so much buys some emeralds from a distant star. The star thanks the satellite as it takes golden coins as payment, and then it implodes on itself and a black hole forms and sucks all the nice linens and jewels that the star sold away, and no one will ever get to look at them again.

 

VII.

I know people who do not care about the stars, and they do not care about the earth, or the streams, or the valleys. They do not care about the salt in the ocean air, the tangy breeze after a heavy summer rain, the smell of the cold air right before a snowfall. There are people I know who hate great literature, and they loathe themselves. I get along with these people, but I would never tell them about the stars tonight, because they wouldn’t care.

 

VIII.

When I was little I was very lonely, because I was small and sickly and had no one to play with. I wondered why God made me so bushy and small. I wondered why he made my eyebrows so thick and my skin so red and freckled. I wondered why it was that when my cuts and scrapes would heal they would leave white marks that would linger for a year or more. I fell one summer and scraped all my joints, and I couldn’t move. By the time I was healed the leaves had turned colors and it was time for school. I sat at my window and wondered how long it would take these scars to heal. The neighbor boy called from his back porch, come over, come over!

I decided not to, and the neighbor boy sat on his porch and watched the stars while a dog panted softly on his lap.

 

IX.

I have a scar under my chin that has never healed. I once tried to connect all of my freckles together, but there were too many. The first boyfriend I ever had said he liked me for my freckles.

They’re cute, he said. I don’t know anything about him, and I never did. All I know is that I was young and lonely, and he was older and lonely and needed someone to kiss for a few days one summer. A month ago he called me, though I don’t remember ever giving him my number. He breathes into the phone, long, labored breaths. I talk to him out of pity, because the one thing I do know about him is that he is still lonely, and I am not.

The stars are nice tonight, I say.

They aren’t really anything special, but I say it anyway. From wherever he is he says he can’t see any stars. Try, I say. They’re there even if it’s cloudy, even if you’re in a city. Go outside.

I’m in my basement, he says. You tell me how the stars look.

I hang up the phone, and I don’t answer when he calls the next day, and I don’t answer ever again.

 

X.

Seven years ago there was a cosmic event; all I remember that it was a once-in-a-lifetime cosmic event. It was all over the newspapers. The sad thing was, no kids would get to see it, because it was going to happen at 3 a.m.

 

My parents woke me up to see the sky that night. It was a chilly April, and I didn’t have time to throw shoes on.

 

I asked what I was supposed to be searching for in that sky.

 

I don’t know, they say, and we go inside and forget it ever happened, and it doesn’t happen again in our lifetimes, and we don’t notice either way.

Fugitives and Vagabonds

The following piece, along with the previous entry in my blog, were written in the Spring of 2011. I was going through a fascination with the simplistic yet elegant writing style of the Bible. I am not religious, nor have I ever been. However, adapting biblical stories into modern narratives can be a fun and secular exercise . The following is based upon the biblical story of Cain and Able, from the book of Genesis. 

——————–

Eve thought she had done her best.

She and Adam were married a long time before Cain was born. There were some complications

When he was finally in her arms, Eve wept. Adam stood firmly by her side and rubbed his thumb against the smooth valleys of her knuckles. They swaddled him in a plush blue blanket and strapped him in a second hand car seat they bought at the Goodwill on South street. Cain cried when Adam revved the engine of the Ford pickup truck. Cain cried the entire half-hour car ride. Cain cried when Adam pulled the truck into the gravel driveway in front of their new farmhouse. Eve spent her days rocking the baby while she prepared wool to sell at the local farmers market. The sounds of the wool pressing through the carders made Cain cry. The lull of the spindle made Cain cry.

Adam said unto Eve ‘we’ve got to do something about the god damn crying.’

Eve said unto Adam ‘what do you propose?’

Adam proposed to spend longer hours outside, milking the goats and pulling the crops. He took their small yield to the farmer’s market more often, and networked with local organic groceries to stock their strawberries and raw wool. They didn’t make very much money, even with the doubled efforts. Adam’s angry muttering made Cain cry.

When Cain was two Eve became pregnant again. It was a miracle; that’s what the doctors said. Adam grumbled and took up smoking. Cigarette butts littered the strawberry field. Abel was born two weeks early. He was a strawberry blonde with a button nose. His cheeks were ruddy and his lips were lush red. Abel was silent when he was delivered. Abel was silent when he was buckled into the urine soaked car seat that Cain had bruised to pieces. They couldn’t afford a new one so Cain sat on Eve’s lap. Abel made Cain cry.

Cain grew into a sturdy child with thick shoulders and thighs. His lips were permafrost into a scowl, and his dark bangs slid in front of his chestnut eyes. He gorged himself on the fruits and meats of the farm. He was quick to hunt, sharpshooting his first turtledove at the age of five. Eve was distraught, but Adam said they shouldn’t let the gift of food go to waste. They no longer could afford to fuel the truck, and town was so far away. Abel asked for little. He wept for a moment when Cain thrust the dead dove onto the kitchen table, but only for a moment. Then Able bowed his head and laid his fingers on the bloody dove and had peace.

When Cain was nine he started to help with the farm chores. First he helped by force but soon he took to it, and ran to the field to help tend the crops rather than sit inside and read alongside Eve and Abel. The boy was gifted, and the yield increased. Cain felt the land, by instinct, deep within his soul. Soon they planted apple orchards and, for the first time, were able to reap grapes from their tangled grove. Eve gave up on wool and started to press the grapes and age them into wine. They used the cellar of the barn and experimented with fermentation. They sampled the wine themselves and thought it was the finest they had ever tasted. When his parents weren’t looking, Cain filled his thermos with the wine and took it up to the tree house. Abel begged him to return the wine, but Cain drank it down in a single gulp. He was sick for a week. The ladies of the farmer’s market loved the wine. A local bottling company offered to bottle and sell the wine. They asked what they should call it. When Adam bought the farm from an old milkmaid’s daughter there had been a sign on the barn door that read ‘Little Eden’. It was faded now, and caked with mud, so Adam dug it out from the pig’s slop and painted it new.

Little Eden vineyards started to make money.

When Abel was nine he begged to help like his older brother Cain. Only, Abel wasn’t very good with picking fruit from trees or vines. He was a skinny, frail thing and barely big enough to pick up a watering can. Cain made the daily chores into an excuse to push his brother into whatever thorny bramble or slimy puddle he could find, so Abel often ran off and spent his mornings sprawled out on his back in the sheep’s paddock, making shapes out of the clouds. He wasn’t scolded for his sloth because Adam and Cain knew that Abel was her favorite. She knit him hats constantly to manage the unruly swath of orange hair that carpeted his scalp, and made him overalls out of taffeta and gingham.

Abel proved his worth one morning, when the pregnant goat in the pen next to the paddock began to bleat in pain. Adam and the now teenage Cain were off in the now sprawling vineyard. Abel stood fast while the goat began to deliver. He did not cry out for help. He felt a kindness with goat and knew instinctively how to help her deliver. Eve set out later that evening to call Abel in for supper, only to find her son in the pen covered with goat’s blood, grinning ear to ear. He named the baby goat Seth.

With Abel’s careful watch, the goats and sheep, a once overlooked herd of livestock, prospered. Eve once again began to card wool and knit beautiful handbags, which she sold in town. The goat’s milk was bottled and sold by the same grocery as the wine. Some residents of the town refused to drink any other milk- they said it tasted sweet like honey, and pooled cold in their mouths and spilled warm down the back of their throats. The goat’s meat was flayed and seasoned, and Adam and his sons ate well.

Cain was eighteen. Abel was fifteen. The rain dried up. The ground became desert, and the fertile soil that allowed the vineyard to sprawl turned into a crusty dust heap. The strawberries were ruined. Only the orchard remained, but the apples tasted bitter, for the soil was rough and the roots dried up. The family still did well, for there was still plenty of wine in the cellar to be sold, and the goat’s milk had never been so sweet. Abel had become a favorite son of the town. He was showered with praise and was very good looking. Girls often stood at the paddock’s gate to watch him tend the sheep. Abel was quiet and reserved, and did not speak very much. But he smiled, and that was enough.

There was nothing Cain could do about the yield, and in his boredom he started to shoot heroine. He would drive the truck into the city and shoot up behind the shadow of a brothel. There was not much left for him on the farm, and he had ignored his education for many years. He was often gone.

Abel was unassuming and greeted his brother warmly when he returned.

When Abel turned eighteen, his parents decided to throw him a lavish party in the shadow of the orchard trees. Cain was late, and arrived after everyone had gone home. Adam and Eve were asleep inside the farmhouse. Abel was cleaning up under the moonlight.

Cain stumbled over to his brother. The rays of moonlight splashed over Abel’s ardent curls and danced in his blue eyes. Abel rushed over to embrace his brother, but stopped mid-step when Cain began to vomit up blood. Afraid, Abel turned to the farmhouse.

‘Brother, I worry for you,’ were the last words to leave Abel’s lips. Cain, in an instant, pulled out his paring knife, which he had once used to cut red grapes from the vine, and gouged the blade through his brother’s chest. Abel was still small, and the blood that gushed out within a few moments was enough to black him out. Cain pulled out a cigarette and had a smoke over his brother’s body. He really wasn’t sure what had happened, but the fact that Abel seemed to no longer be present was a comfort.  He dragged his brother to the far reaches of the abandoned fields and drove back to the city, where he washed the blood from his palms and drove a needle into his arm.

Cain passed out at four and was visited by the Lord God. And God was not happy with Cain, for he had rid the earth of one of its purest shepherds. God punished Cain, and said he was a fugitive and vagabond from heaven.

Cain said, ‘What else is new.’

Adam called his son the next day and asked if he had seen Abel. Cain ignored the call and then texted back ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’

Cain stayed away from Little Eden while the investigation mounted. Cain watched the news at the bar and saw the screen flicker with images of his mother and father crying over his brother’s bloody body. Cain stopped shooting heroine and turned to liquor. He married a stripper and had a son.

His son was named Enoch, and he came out brash and screaming and remained that way for many years. Cain was unaware of this, however, as he had drunkenly stumbled into the middle of the highway one night and was plowed over by an oil truck.

Eve always knew it was Cain who had slain Abel, but the case turned cold after Cain died.

Eve didn’t know where she had gone wrong.

Adam and Eve weren’t young, but she became pregnant again. Adam sorely missed his sons, and was glad to have another, though he was getting old and frail. They named the boy Seth, and he was good, and brought honeysuckle boughs to his brother’s grave every Sunday.

Genesis 6:8

It’s 5:00 in New York City and Noah Adom sits at his desk, furiously working. He types out his weekly reports, pausing only briefly to sip from the plastic mouth of the aluminum water bottle on his desk. By the time 6:00 rolls around, Noah is bathed in sweat from his furrow to his collarbone, and his sleeves are rolled up several inches above his elbows. His knuckles are red. The cleaning lady asks him to leave at 6:47 because she wants to lock the office for the night. Noah agrees, begging her forgiveness, and helps her drag her bag of faded-label cleaning supplies and well-worn rags down to the curb. He waits with her until her bus arrives, and then mounts his bike and cautiously peddles to the tenement house where he lives. His apartment is a modest studio with a sofa that doubles as his bed. His refrigerator is stocked only with a gallon of water and a carton of strawberries. His cupboard houses boxes of off-brand cereals and water crackers. Noah doesn’t own a television. He owns a few stacks of Russian literature, hapless volumes saved from library rummage sales, and they sit, haphazardly placed, on a lone oak bookcase that came with the lease.

That night, the daughter of the Latina cleaning lady knocks on Noah’s door. Her name is Esperanza, and her mother’s name is Delora and she starts rambling as soon as Noah fills the doorframe. Esperanza says she lives with her mother in the Bronx in the postwar baby boomer projects. She says she works three jobs so her mother might soon be able to retire, because Delora’s back is so weak she can hardly lift her arms high enough to windex the bathroom mirrors. She says that she knew where Noah lived because they’re both friends with Jimmy Adelbaum, only Esperanza met him at the laundromat and Noah went to Hunter with him. She says Delora came home and said “Bless Noah Adom, he’s carried my bags to the curb for two weeks.” When the elevator broke last month Delora thought she was done for. Already, Esperanza gulps as she hurriedly tries to finish off her tale, Delora’s back is improving form not having to lug that sack up and down al those stairs.

Noah asks if she would like to come inside. Esperanza nods.

Noah pours fiber-rich cereal into a cracked plastic bowl and slides it across the table to Esperanza.

“No milk?” she asks.

Noah explains that he’s been vegan for six years now.

Esperanza gets to talking. Her accent is thick but melodious. As she speaks, she drums her plain nails against the maple surface of Noah’s modest kitchen table. She’s dimpled, and has a large freckle on the point of her chin. Her hair is long, but managed. She’s growing her bangs out, and they’re soaked with sweat.  She’s a waitress at the bar three blocks north and that’s why she was in the neighborhood. She texted Jimmy Adelbaum and he gave her Noah’s address.

“Do you mind?”

Noah shakes his head vigorously and explains he hasn’t had visitors in a while. Esperanza hasn’t touched her cereal. The flickering bulb in the light fixture directly above her head makes the flakes of oats look even less appealing than they did before.

Esperanza explains that she’s saving up money so her mother can retire. Then she’ll start saving for school. She had been going to night school for a while but had to drop out to keep a sharper eye on her drug-peddling teenage brother Miguel.

“But, anyway, I better go.”

Esperanza makes Noah write down his number on the back of a bar napkin. She calls him the next day and comes over after her shift. Noah had spent his Saturday reading Tolstoy into a tape recorder to give to the blind Margot Adelbaum. Jimmy never liked to read much; Noah did. Jimmy didn’t really talk about his sister much; Noah met her at a party and helped her find the subway station afterwards. They dated briefly, but Margot was in love with another man and Noah had no desire to stand in their way. She had mentioned her love of Tolstoy once or twice. He still sent her tapes every week.

Esperanza says Tolstoy is shit.

“Give me Dostoyevsky or give me death,” she says, slamming her fist against the table for emphasis.

Noah asks Esperanza to marry him exactly 366 days later. It was a leap year.

_____________________________________________

In the following decade, New York City chokes on its excess. The busses and subways are more crowded than before. The sidewalks become impossible to navigate and the traffic becomes impossible to circumvent, even by bike. In their excess, the people become careless because they live under the assumption that everyone else has become careless as well. Refuse spills out from dumpsters, while the recycling depot shuts down due to lack of interest. People have stopped caring about contraceptives. Margot Adelbaum has six kids. Jimmy Adelbaum died in a car bombing on the lower east side.

Jimmy detonated the bomb.

Noah and Esperanza have three sons: Sam, Henry, and Jay. Jay is really Esperanza’s nephew. The adoption process was easy; Miguel had been dead a long time. They went out for Italian ices afterwards, and then splashed around in a busted sprinkler on Wall Street.

The same day, God decided that the human beings on earth had become wicked. They had become inured to wickedness to the point where it consumed them. The bar on fifth street was a whore house now. Delora had been clubbed to death while walking to her weekly bunko game. Margot Adelbaum got pregnant again; twins. God vowed to rid the earth of all things living, every creeping beast and bird. He regretted ever endowing the earth to the humans, and swore to rid himself of them. Noah, however, had won the Lord’s favor. God saw the world was corrupt, and full of violence, but saw hope in the tireless efforts of a simple man. Noah started to see visions of Armageddon in his dreams. Tears wet his pillow every night; Esperanza laced her fingers between her husband’s and prayed, but she wasn’t sure what she was praying for anymore.

————————————-

This original piece of fiction was written for English 212 at The College of William and Mary,  in Spring of 2011. I may add on to it later. It was inspired, of course, by the story of Noah from the book of Genesis in the bible.

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