I value freedom most.
value the ephemeral in
our lives while also walking
tall, three inches taller than I am,
always on tiptoe
sort of dancing
sort of twirling and
touching things,
making threats in the air
when angered and
you say I am

for-mi-da-ble,
          a bit virulent
is how you say it and
before we seek the advantageousness
of everything, it’s Friday
and we are
processing hard truths.
tell me,
where do you keep
your pocketknife?

 life is rushing and swamps
with its shades of
blue; azure
  (you name things)
sky, or cobalt fluid
or nightmare
like a wall of nail polish
you’re reading every
dressed up inch of you.
your rehearsed malignance.
your cocked smile.

 

the moon moves
from womb
to waste
to task those
unsewn wounds
and you embrace things now
with reticence
but you’re open to the epitaph
scrawled across the rock hard
eyelid
temperance,
you made him carve across
your eyelids that night
on Jupiter:
I remember everything.

but you didn’t ask for anything
else.
you just opened a door
and walked in.

 

“throat”

“Wait, I’m sorry,” Marisol started shaking her hands. “YOU get to make a rule.”
She pointed at the woman.
“A rule?”
“Yeah, earlier I said best but I meant first. The first storyteller makes the rules of the game. Liiike, if you want a theme for the night, you know, only stories about worst firsts or a story about how you got here,’” she held her hands out. ”We can all do the same thing.”
“Ok. Umm.”
“We can make suggestions.”
“It’s ok. I have an idea. Since you’re guessing, I imagine you want a few extra details and to challenge me as well.”
“Definitely,” Marisol said, grinning.
“After the first story, I’ll let you ask me one question to get clarity. Only one question before you have to guess at the end.”
“As a group?”
“Hmm. I thought individually, but group is more pressure. Kind of fun.”
Marisol beamed and sat upright in a fawning position, leaning her body closer to the woman. Jack began to watch them.
“A group,” Jack said. “Then we would have to deliberate in front of you.”
“Well, then maybe you’d sneak a peek at my reactions and I’d give it away.”
“Something bit me,” David said.
“No, David, it’s the acid.”
“You’re on acid?”
“No, something bit me look.’
David began to lift his pants above his ankle.
“There’s a spider in the cabin,” Lilian said.
“What?” Marisol said.
“Wait, you guys are all on acid?”
“Look,” David said.
There was a tiny red welt, like a mosquito bite.
“It was warm earlier. Were you out?”The woman asked.
The assurance of the question was dominating.
“I think I will have a glass of wine,” the woman said. “Just to catch up slightly if everyone is on acid.”
She stood and Marisol mirrored her happy to pour her a glass. David looked at his leg and saw a scrape where there had been a bite. There was no welt, it was a scrape from when he had climbed the tree earlier. The woman stared at the empty piece of foil on the table. Nothing left. They’re all on acid.

“At the risk of sounding naive,” I began, “I was wondering if it’s all right if I break the tension in the room. I know I have to spend the night here and I am grateful but I am also having trouble with the silence.”
They had been sitting for ten minutes; a world record. I wasn’t sure what direction to go but I could not sit at this fireplace for hours while the world turned black. I needed entertainment, solace. His attention was held by the fire. I was surprised by his neglect of me, truly. It was as if I wasn’t even in the room.
“Of course,” he said, barely turning his attention back to me.
I was sitting up, hands folded in between my legs, a masculine stance. Swallowing hard, I began, “Maybe we can get to know each other.”
I was not used to such apathy. We are mourning, I tried to remind myself, but I also couldn’t stand the chill. Maybe this was just valor, but it felt stifling.
“Sure,” he began to snap out of it. “I didn’t want to pressure you.”
He shifted his direction away from the mantle, mirrored my position and smiled. Sometimes people think you have a plan when all you really have is a prayer.
“Why don’t you tell me about yourself, Ava? How you got here?” He waved his hands, “Here, as in today, Philadelphia, this room.”
And sometimes when the moment comes, the moment of action, the invitation, the way it feels when you wake up on a set or something, like this has been laid out before you
“Well, gee, how far back should I go?”
you leap.
“I’d love to hear the whole thing and we have so much time.”
He sat back on the couch and stretched his legs out. I stayed in my stance, murmuring little thank yous in my head. You leap and the net appears, or as I like to say, you can will anything into existence if you fixate on it daily and even in duress if all you pictured was one giant net, the tightrope will manifest first.

“Trap them in the room. The smaller the better. Repeat the story twice, slightly different to confuse them. lead them to believe you have some key. There are no windows. Begin to use an accent. Say it like this.

There is no Sarrrr- uh here. My name is Cot-treen Cos-rick.

If the candles blow out, laugh.”

“What?” Marisol yelled from the kitchen.
David headed upstairs to use the second bathroom without responding but could hear Lilian.
“I let a woman inside who was dripping wet on the back steps. She looked like was going to catch pneumonia. She is showering to dry and then we can figure out what to do.”
David continued upstairs, trudged loudly in fact and slammed the door shut. It wasn’t out of anger but confusion. They had all just ingested tons of drugs and Lilian was the only sober reliable person here. He flipped up the lid and avoided looking at himself in the mirror. How can he trust himself around this stranger? It was an issue of ego, pride. This weekend was slowly being ruined and he felt to blame.
“I shouldn’t have invited her,” he watched the wall in front of him.
He slammed the lid shut and didn’t want to wash his hands. He didn’t want to look at the mirror in front of him.
“And don’t look in any mirrors, dude.”
He didn’t want to watch the distortion and he felt nauseous. Should
I throw up? Wobbling, a bit he stood in the center on the gray shaggy rug without making any moves. Glancing to the right, he caught his jaw line and then threw the door open.
“And don’t get caught in any small rooms.”
He walked out of the bathroom before answering himself or keeling over to try. At the top of the steps, he heard the kettle, an amicable exchange between his three friends and the shower stop. Four steps down he heard the chatter of his friends stop. Seven steps down he heard footsteps walk into the living room. As he rounded the corner, the tenth step down, he heard dishes clank again. He heard nothing more from the bathroom. On the last step, Jack smiled.
“You want to continue the game?” as if nothing unusual had begun.
“Seriously?”
“Yeah,” he sort of smirked, “a stranger may be a welcome addition since we have heard all of our stories.”
Lilian was placing a bottle of honey on the wooden dinner tray and had her back to everyone. Marisol was getting sugar from the cabinet. Is everyone crazy? Lilian finished setting everything on the tray and brought it to the living room, not saying a word to David, who appeared skeptical, brow furrowed, tight lipped and unwavering in her way. She set everything on the table and Jack continued to drink a beer. It was if this woman was invited to their party. David peeked around the corner to the hallway to see no one had cleaned the footprints yet when the door swung open.
She walked out with hesitation, slowly, pausing just a step outside and locked eyes with David. He turned all the way to face her and she was disarming. No change in facial expression or posture, she stunned him with her stature which was unassuming, possibly frightened, a look of dilemma, fear, confusion on her face. She is in a house full of strangers in the middle of the woods, David. Lilian’s clothes. She was wearing Lilian’s clothes. The gray hood was up so he couldn’t see her face that well, just her eyebrows which had a bit of aristocratic lift to them and her eyes, wide, and a bit of hair, brown, past her shoulders. From this distance, he couldn’t make out any color on her face but she seemed refreshed, a little rosy from the shower. That made her less threatening. She didn’t appear to need immediate medical attention although Lilian was going to make a big deal about this. Don’t scare her. With that thought, he lowered his head and turned back towards the living room giving her a sidelong glance to invite her to enter.
The woman didn’t move right away. She waited, possibly until the tall man blocking her passage moved ever so slightly so she could enter the living room without feeling like she was passing through a guard at a gate. He took a couple steps to the left and she took nine feet to get to the living room. Marisol was just sitting  down next to Jack when they all saw her; Lilian settling back on the green armchair and David standing near the floor lamp and window, trying not to stare but suddenly entranced by the situation. He no longer felt uneasy but admired Lilian for handling the situation. What could have been a crisis, averted. She was warm, showered, standing inside of a shelter as the rain raged on.
“Hi,” she held her hand up.
“Hi,” the choir began.
“I took a fast shower because, you know. I left my wet clothes on the floor.”
She glanced at David. No one moved from the couch and the woman didn’t step any further into the living room. Marisol leaned forward and coughed as a way to draw attention to herself. Her insecurity drove that. Even in hooded garb and sweats, the stranger was striking: high cheekbones, lightning eyes and Marisol was used to being the prize in the room. She squared her, possibly on accident, but after Marisol coughed, the woman moved her feet so she was squaring Marisol.
“Don’t worry about the clothes and you could have taken as long as you wanted,” Lilian smiled. “Would you like some tea?”
She nodded and walked in. There was one more chair near the lamp, close to David, and the last seating option. Hesitating, her eyes glanced back to the kitchen, looking for benches or a place to lean that wouldn’t make her stand out. Lilian had already poured the tea into a mug so she only had to pick it up, take a seat.
“There’s sugar here,” Marisol eyed her from below. Marisol’s contribution to the platter. “We are happy you are warm and dry.”
She dug her nails a little into Jack’s thigh and the woman noticed. Giving a wan smile, she picked the cup up with the handle and stepped back averting her eyes from the couple, avoiding looking at Lilian, avoiding the room. She stood in the center momentarily, sort of swaying before deciding on the armchair afterall: tan and soft and big. She sunk in and let out the tiniest of sighs.
“Relax,” Marisol smiled.
No, she sneered. Even David noticed this peacocking, two lionesses sizing each other up but he was swaying too. He was unsteady in mind and body and wanted to pace about his cage too. Lilian was staring intensely at him. Why? He was unnaturally suspicious tonight. He wished everyone would leave including her. No, keep the stranger here. Wanting to undress her, not to see her naked, to see her as Lilian had, wet, shaking. What would he have done?
“What is your name, doll?” Marisol asked the woman.
Holding the cup away from her body, she had yet to take a sip. Statuesque, frozen in some kind of previous terror, David could not place her reaction to the room. It wasn’t fright but some kind of stoicism, a poker face. No, you’re high.
“I am not that high,” he said out loud.
Marisol crinkled her eyebrows towards him and Jack laughed.
“You should know, we were having a bit of a party.”
She nodded.
Marisol repeated, “What’s your name? Where are you from?”
Jack patted her thigh, “Don’t bombard her.” He winked at her. “Besides, maybe you can play our game. “
“What game?” Lilian asked.
She was suddenly knitting. A nervous habit. She brought her knitting everywhere.
Jack looked at her incredulously, “Truth or….”
“Oh,” Lilian turned her attention back to knitting.
Marisol leaned towards the woman as if she was going to pat her leg but dug her nails even deeper into Jack, “We always play a guessing game called Truth or Lie where you tell two versions of the same story and whoever does the best gets to pick the consequence for everyone. It’s a derivative or Truth or Consequence or Truth or Dare and the best storyteller gets to make the rules.”
David cut in, “You’re ok though?”
She turned, surprised, almost as if she forgot he was behind her.
“I am ok. I got caught in the rain.” She shook her head. “Actually, I’d love to take my mind off today for a while.”
“We had just started,” Jack leaned forward and pointed at David, “but David tells the same stories and forgets we know them all.”
“But you’re new,” Marisol winked. “Fresh meat.”
Lilian cleared her throat, “You should know that not only does David tell the same stories but the consequence is always, without a doubt, to tell the room the weirdest thing about you.”
Marisol whipped her head so fast her ponytail hit her own cheek and David smiled a little, “That’s not ALWAYS it.”
“It’s always it.”
“Ok,” Jack stuck his hands out. “We have not actually played this game that long. We played a similar game once at a party and kind of made it our own and we do usually,” he gestured to the air, “ask the loser to reveal the taboo things about themselves.”
“Who is the winner usually?”
“We have only played twice,” Lilian focused on her knitting without looking up. “Each time, Marisol won.”
“Annnnd,” Marisol twirled the bottom of her hair with her fingers avoiding the room’s weight, “I asked for the weirdest thing about everyone the first time and their strangest fantasy the second.”
The woman nodded as if that made sense.
“So practically the same thing,” Lilian stated.
She had an edge to her suddenly; a sharpness.
“Soooo,” Marisol continued. “Since we don’t know anything about you except you are caught in the rain and you don’t look like a serial killer,” she winked, “you can play if you want because it will be more fun to guess your stories than here David tell the biking accident story wrong and out of order one more time.”
“Of course,” Lilian chimed in. “You don’t have to do anything because you just got out of the rain and we are strangers.”
“Have a seat, man,” Jack gestured to the hassock near them.
Lilian and the woman had the two armchairs and the cabin had only a love seat. He was rocking back and forth without noticing.
“Yeah, we are just having fun,’” Jack continued looking at her. “It sounds like you had a hard day.”
She bit her bottom lip and held her tea on her lap. She had only taken one sip and stared at the steam, avoiding eye contact with everyone.
“I just got a little lost hiking and turned around. Then the storm came. Bad timing,” she sighed and lifted the mug back to her lips. “Honestly, I like games. I’m also exhausted but I’m not on the right trail and I can’t walk back to my car yet.”
A cacophony of of course not and never began to swirl her head and everyone was enthusiastically nodding. Marisol was playing with the bottom of her ponytail. She had released her grip on Jack and was allowing the acid and beer to swim in her bloodstream.
“I’d love to play,” she leaned forward. “I like stories and games and could use a release. I’m only worried I may get too tired.”
Lilian kept knitting and nodded, “Whenever you feel like laying down, I can take you to the extra bedroom upstairs. We rented a cabin with three bedrooms hoping another couple would join us. The storm scared them off and now it’s free.”
Marisol suddenly laughed and clapped her hands, “Wow, what great timing!”
She beamed from ear to ear. Her teeth were pearly white and her skin was tan. She was objectively stunning and appeared to suddenly wake up in an internal luminescence. Where she first sized the stranger, she beared no teeth at her now and held her hands out; a gesture of camraderie.
“Why don’t you finish your tea? We were about to pass a joint. Feel free to partake, grab wine, a beer or not. And we’ll begin when you’re ready.”
She ended the declaration with a little shrug and leaned back, sort of sitting on Jack but also oblivious to him. Her eyes moved around the room as if she was in thought. The woman nodded and sipped her tea.
“And…” she slowly started, “if you think I’m lying, I confess the weirdest thing about me, right? That’s how it works?”
“Yep, that’s how it works,” Marisol nodded again, bubbly. “Well, wait, is that what we decided for this game””
David was still rocking. He hadn’t sat down and images of fire began to formulate around the woman’s shoulders. They all only took a half a tab so they wouldn’t have visions as much as sensations but he saw fire.
“Mmm hmm,” Lilian nodded, focused on the green quarter finished scarf on her lap.
“Don’ you guys run out of tidbits like that?”
“Oh, honey,” she leaned forward and flapped her hand the way women do when talking to each other, an emphasis of solidarity and gossip. “This group has secrets.” She winked.
Why did she wink at me? David thought. What is she saying?
“And we’ve actually only played twice,” Lilian interjected again. “The first time at a party with others and the second time, we were kind of drunk so…”
“Well, you weren’t,” David sharply cut in.
Marisol kept her focus on the woman, “It’s all for fun. We just like games. And we don’t know you so it will be harder to guess!”
“And you will know the difference between the two?”
“The difference between a truth and a lie?” Marisol asked to clarify.
“No. The difference between how I got here and the weirdest thing about me.”
Marisol guffawed and clapped her hands and turned to Jack, pointing at her.
“That’s right, we want to know how you got here. That’s what I asked. Sure. Keep it simple.”
She suddenly spread her legs to take up more room, placing her elbow on her knee and her chin in her hand. It was an active listening masculine position. She was clearly leading everyone in the room.
“Davey, come sit,” she stared at him.
David felt the entire room turn to look at him towering over the woman behind her. At least, I don’t have to go first anymore. Don’t look in any mirrors. Don’t go to the bathroom. Don’t smoke that weed. Very stocky in his movements, he lifted his feet like they had been glued to the floor, the way a horse prances when its being shown for show or parade. It felt like it took him minutes to get to the hassock but everyone went back to the woman just as fast. He watched Jack’s face closely, smiling, happy, watching the stranger. He could feel the buzz between those three: a happy love triangle. They’re gonna have sex. What? Stop. He was trying to avoid the woman’s eyes but he caught her staring. It felt dark and controlled. He made her nervous. He felt Dr. Gonzo, Duke’s lawyer in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and she was poor Lucy trying to hitchhike her way back and suddenly roped into some drug-addled, manipulative, truth telling frenzy. He smiled in a way that looked pained. She stared blankly back.
“Ok,” she began. “Any other rules?”
“Umm,” Marisol scratched her chin. “I don’t think so. Lil?”
“When we played the Halloween version it was different. We simplified it now.”
“Yes,” Jack said, suddenly alight. “We did play two different versions. Let’s play no rules.”
The exchange between Jack and the woman harmed him but he didn’t know why. Don’t drink anything but water, David thought. Jack seemed too happy with her. Lilian seemed colder than usual.
“I’m gonna get some water,” he hopped up and pointed towards the group. “Anyone?”
“Oh, Dave, perfect. There’s a pack of bottled water in the fridge. The owner left. Maybe for everyone?’
He nodded and retreated to the kitchen. Breathing heavily, he opened the fridge to time the noise of the suction coming undone as the fridge opened with his breathing so no one heard him. Marisol had opened the package earlier so he didn’t have to fumble with the plastic. He began to gather five bottles and his stomach turned in knots. There was supposed to be six of us, not five, and then four, not five. For some reason, that thought felt profound and unusual. It’s an odd number. I feel like I can’t remember my thoughts. He walked back slowly, carrying a bundle and started with her, the stranger.
“Thank you.”
She was prim.
“Thanks, Dave,” Marisol got up to collect the rest and pass one to Lilian.
“Thanks,” she tucked her knitting away only to take the bottle, open it, and sip it before returning.
Dave rocked in the center for a moment. He had this thought of the warehouse suddenly and New Year’s and what that meant but it didn’t last because she began faster than he reckoned.
“The day I arrived it was hot, not snowing like I had thought it would be, or should I say, like I thought I had been promised. It was scorching.  My feet were sore and drenched. I wore socks, always, even in these temperatures. Well, if I was wearing sneakers or boots which I often was as they are easier to walk in, I always wore socks. People who don’t wear socks with their sneakers are disgusting. I wore boots that day with a short blue floral sundress. They were old, both the dress and the boots. The dress was a hand-me-down gift from someone, possibly seven years ago and the boots a present to myself on a rainy day when I needed to walk puddles. They were from the thrift store: brown and big and clunky.”
It’s not that David had heard this before but that he felt this before. Not the acid, but the serpentine way the room moved like a clock being wound backwards. Jack’s goofy grin. Lilian’s general apathy. Marisol’s sunny lioness. I can’t breathe. Just listen to her story, a voice said. You don’t have to say a word. But words were unsettling. He remembered what he did and reached into his pocket to pick out the black stone that he had found right outside the cabin.
“Sometimes, I use little grounding objects to stay centered. Remember I am on drugs. Your thoughts will deceive you because they suddenly personify feelings you’re having. Touch the object, remember you’re on drugs. Bite your tongue a little and ride the wave of discomfort. These are just feelings,” Clark passed him a lavender joint. David fingered the rock and repeated her first sentence in his head: the day I arrived it was hot, not snowing, like I had been promised. It was October, the high today was seventy-seven, and now it was a cool sixty-three. Normally, at this time of year, it would be in the fifties. It was the word promised that stood out and the joint was lavender. He looked up at her, not realizing she was staring solely at him.

“Ok, sooo start over, but from the beginning. Just exactly how it is.
“ I told you already exactly…”

“Yeah, you have, but you never, ever EVER tell it in linear order.”
“You always say lin..”
“I mean, you always fill in a detail way later, way after the accident, and then you start talking about what happened that day. It’s like a….what is it?” he turns to Marisol.

Marisol was fiddling with the papers on the love seat. Little green buds dotted her skirt. She raised her right hand and gestured to the air.
“Like, like choppy. Some kind of David Lynch daydream except as not as cool and nobody cares.” She licked the paper. “And you’ll never finish it.”
He waved his hand at her as if to say no way but he sipped his beer and didn’t continue the story. 

“Forget it, tell it later, let’s get drunk first.” Jack said walking over to get a beer from the fridge. 

David chimed back in, “You know I have that acid in my pocket too.”

Jack studied the fridge for a second before deciding which brand he wanted. They had brought so much beer for such a short weekend and small party. Hedonistic.
“I think we should wait,” he said. “Just a little bit longer.”

“What are you waiting for?” Marisol got up from the couch, forgetting her previous project. She wrapped her hands around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. 

“We’re waiting to cut the dose. I thought Marco was coming. Elise for sure.” 

“Just do it, dude let’s do it. It’s still early and it lasts for hours. It’s already 6:30.” David repeated, motioning to his phone.

“Yeah, but…”

“No one else is coming, right?”
He walked over to the both of them and held his phone up to Jack’s face to show him the weather forecast. FLASH FLOOD WARNING in black bold letters. “The storm is getting worse and it’s a long drive. No one’s coming all the way to the trail to split two hits of acid among like seven people.”
Jack opened the bottle with his keychain, nodding to himself. Marisol held his waist tight, sort of purring next to him. David turned to glance at Lilian but she was completely checked out.
“Are you even getting service here?”
Stunned, she lowered her hand and looked at him.

“I was just playing the card game.”
David nodded, masking his resentment. Not just at her aloofness but having ever left Milah to begin with and for having invited Lilian on this trip or for ever asking what she was doing on her phone. They held eye contact briefly before she went back to her phone.  Jack and Marisol were whispering when David turned his attention back to them. Fuck this.
“Ok, I’m cutting it. Half a dose each.”
He walked past the couple to grab scissors from the counter, still there from when he set them down earlier ready to cut it at three.
“Let’s do it now, otherwise, we will be up all night.”
He had three tabs total. He pulled two out now and cut them both in half, easy, precisely. Not even glancing back at his girlfriend, he remarked, “Lilian, you can sit this one out if you want.”
Lilian tucked a strand of wispy dirty blonde hair behind her hair and stared towards the kitchen but still very much entranced with the graphics from her phone. She blinked and everyone stared back at her. Jack already had his hand out and Marisol was walking back to the love seat to return to rolling the joint.
“Ummm,” she began, clutching the phone but also letting it fall towards her thigh so she wasn’t looking at it.
David and Jack were peeling back the paper and sticking out their tongues. Marisol was back to spreading the flowers over the paper. Lilian was marked by indecision as a rule.
“You don’t have to,” Jack smiled, warmth radiating.
David turned to face the other direction so she didn’t see his visible irritation.  She nodded. Marisol glanced at her and smiled.
“Do you smoke?”
“Sometimes,” she dropped the phone and started running her fingers through her hair with both hands. “Tonight probably.” She glanced at David. “Not the acid though.”
David turned completely around to face her, stuck his tongue out and dropped the paper beneath his tongue. Spiteful, he snapped his mouth shut like a reptile, a crocodile. To the room, it appeared they knew their problems but they didn’t. They both carried distractions like moats blocking passage or transcendence of any real conversation between them. It had been like this. It would probably remain like this. Jack had also stuck his piece under his tongue.
“Marisol?”
. Letting her fingers tickle his abdomen first, she leaned over to kiss him as David watched. Outside the first loud thunder cracked.
“It begins,” Marisol said cheerily and stuck her tab under her tongue.

David put the last half tab back on the foil on the island. Lilian and the gang were separated by it.  The three of them talked amongst themselves as she excused herself to walk to one of the bedrooms. Tiptoed, actually. She made herself useful somewhere else unpacking David’s stuff. An act of gratitude or fear, it was unclear but as she began pulling his sweatpants out of the black duffel bag, she was the one that heard the rap on the door. The back screen door. She was the one that paused holding the gray pants in air.  She was the one that laid them flat on the bed, contrite with her boredom, adjusting the creases on the queen-sized duvet cover. Make up for your flatness. She was the one who left the task, walked out the bedroom door and she was the one that saw a hooded woman through the window. She was the one that opened the door without making a sound to see her, drenched and shaking and she was the one that said, “Please come in” and watched the woman traipse mud across the welcome mat onto the hardwood floors.

 

 


“Please,” Lilian gestured to the bathroom near the backdoor, “let’s get you out of those clothes. I will bring you some.”

Lilian led her into the bathroom and closed the door behind her, grabbed a pair of sweatshirts, clean plain light blue underwear–granny panties, gray wool socks, and a hooded sweatshirt and lightly knocked back on the bathroom door without telling anyone a stranger had arrived to their house. She heard them in the kitchen, laughing, talking, not making out any words just jovial sounds. Her instinct was to help, nurture, ground on Earth. She was a Cancer. She was a mother. The woman stood on the bathroom rug dripping and Lilian saw the rug was ruined; the pale blue now caked in brown. The hardwood leading to the bathroom linoleum was dotted with muddy footprints. They could clean this place before leaving Sunday.

“You can catch pneumonia.”
The stranger took her hood off and stared at Lilian. Shivering, her eyes were wide, a little terror in her stare but glittering. The woman was pallid yet stunning. Even dripping wet, she was the mutt picked first, Lilian thought.
Setting the clothes on the top of the toilet seat, she stated, “Please take a bath or shower. Whatever you prefer.” Lilian opened a small closet next to the towel rack to pull out two big fluffy white towels. “For your hair too.” She set those on top of the toilet seat. “I’m gonna make a pot of lemon tea.”
The woman stayed silent. Is she in some kind of shock?
“I will come check on you if you want. Otherwise, we will be in the living room.”
The woman nodded. Lilian left the bathroom and David was coming towards her.
“What’s up?” he said, half smiling.
“I’m going to make some tea. Would you like some?”
“I have to piss,” he headed towards the door.
“No, go upstairs. There’s a woman in there.”

“What?”
“I let a woman inside from the rain. She was soaking wet and pale. She can catch pneumonia. She must have got caught hiking. She was wearing hiking boots and clothes.”

They heard the shower turn on. David looked at her with surprise.
“You let a strange woman in here without telling us?”
They could hear Marisol and Jack from the other room, still giggling, the tab of a beer opening.
“I am telling you now. She was going to catch pneumonia.”

“Lilian, we are in the middle of the woods,” his eyes moved over the hallway footprints, seeing, believing her.
She shrugged, “Yeah. We are.”
She moved past him without saying another word and he heard her say excuse me and he heard some dishes clanking and he heard the stove click, preparing to light the burner. He looked at the footprints. He listened to the shower run. He let his body undulate with warmth as the acid kicked in.
“You can’t be sure about anything, his friend has said to him the first time he took it. Only a half a tab then too. “When you take psychedelics just find a way to remind yourself  you’re on drugs. Don’t believe everything you hear or see.”
He could see the footprints. Lilian wasn’t lying. He could hear the shower running and feel his stomach churn a little; that first wave of nausea that hits when you ingest a foreign chemical. His guts rumbled. Too much beer. Fuck.
“Guys,” he yelled.
He heard more dishes clank and imagined Lilian, preparing the intruder a snack. Fucking dumb bitch. “There’s a stranger showering in our bathroom.”

 

“the woman who told the stories”

 

She heard screams as she passed Sunside Community Center. She knew it was some sort of retirement home and decided it was the least likely place for what she was looking for. Curious though, she paused to listen to the screams. She was trying not to walk on the sidewalk just in case so she was outside someone’s window, skulking around the back. There was a bunch of panic and yelling and she felt it.
“I do not envy those nurses.”
Decidedly, she kept walking. Her outfit was practical: big black parka, big black boots, black hat, black leggings, but her posture was suspect. She really didn’t want to attract any attention. Pursuant, she could walk for miles as long as she kept her mind occupied.
Alligator. Aardvark. Antelope. Anteater. Arachnid. Damn.
“Can I say Allosaurus?”
The snow hit her eyelids and stung.
Allosaurus. Albertosaurus. Ankylosaurus.
Thank god my mother bought me all those animal books.
No, mira, don’t think.
Ant. Alligator snapping turtle.
She watched her boots march through the snow pausing at the edge of the yard and the street.
Armadillo.
She began to traverse the neighborhood, leaving hers behind, meeting theirs and reciting.

“the woman who walked for miles”

“Are you time?”
There were screams coming from the hallway and she was pacing the dark room picking up objects and putting them down.
“Are you time?”
Florence had been gifted a pair of scissors earlier that day, actually. Well, she stole them from the craft box. A nice trinket for her room. Large too. There was a giant bruise forming on her shin where she had just run into her armchair on the way to get them.
Don’t eat your buttons, Florence,” Mya  had said to her earlier
“Where is my cuckold?”
“Girl, what?” she laughed, turning her back to check on Bob and Florence pocketed the scissors with the red handle.
A new shiny object to touch. She went back to touching the pearly white buttons of her sweater and lifting them to put them in their mouth.
“Oh my god, Flo, I have to watch you every second.”
Mya gently took her hands and guided them away from the buttons and her mouth and set them on her lap. She looked her in the eyes.
“Flo, this is not lunch time. It’s craft time.”
“Where is my husband?”
Mya stroked her cheek and walked over to Janette.
“Are you time?”
She picked up one of the pieces of green wire and tried to make it into a fork so she could finish lunch. She began to nibble her fingers. Try to eat your carrots, someone had said. Keep mistaking them for thumbtacks and you stick them in my arm. Keep mistaking them for buttons and you tuck them in your shirt. Are you time? She began to bite her nails and then saw a pea on her shirt. She picked it up and put it in her mouth.
“Florence!”

It was after dinner and dark, pitch black, unusual. There were moans and yelling and Florence was standing at her bureau stroking the scissors and a shell she had found. She couldn’t remember the day at the beach picking up the scissors but she did remember today at lunch picking up the shell. Try to form a sentence.Try to remember things for whole minutes at a time.I like broccoli. We had wine sometime near November, it was raining and chilly. I wore white with a pearl knit sweater, there were daisies on the table and I almost threw a fit. I saw my mother and try to remember the dance.
Florence began to sway, cupping the scissors and the shell. There was no light from the window and she couldn’t feel the bruise on her leg. Sometimes, she can stand alone for minutes at a time but most days she needs help getting back to her room, undressed, in bed. The scissors had been in her pocket and would have been discovered if Mya had time to change her but she was clean.
“Eat your crackers, Florence.’
She had no accidents in her diaper that day. Mya had helped her with her lunch. Try the zipper; it looks like an upside down fork so let’s eat our soup with it. Where is my knife?
“Here, here is the napkin.”
But what came next?
Try to remember how to pick  up the fork. Florence began pushing the scissors into the shell in an effort pick up the food and eat it. She did not hear the man enter the room or walk up behind her or even whisper,
“Flo, are you ok?”
Eat the napkin?
You wore a white dress that day.
When I was a kid the world was a rainbow and we chased the yellow storms for that sweet pinch of gold. I had goosebumps in September. I lost everything come November.
“Where is my husband?
White and pink trim.
“It’s me, Bob.”
Where is my spoon?
Try the light switch. You just had it here somewhere.
Where am I?
Bob touched her shoulder to get her attention and she remembered the way it felt on her wedding day. The world is a colorful frown. An upside down money dispenser. Luck of the something.
You were petrified and pretty and already broken by a midnight stallion                          so he
“Florence, the power is out.”
She held the red handle firmly and released the shell and steadied herself on instinct. Her movements now slow and forced and wobbly. But she was able to turn around. Where am I? Who AM I? The room was lit only by a battery powered ballerina in the corner so she could see the outline of his face and glasses and checkered collar but nothing from the chest down and she didn’t really notice Mya behind him. She neatly placed the blades to his throat and pushed as hard as she could until he gurgled and grabbed at her arm which was strong from supporting herself on wobbly knees. She was able to push it in further. She was able to stand. No accidents today.
I wore white that day.
I ate cake that day.
I have bean soup somewhere.
I want cake.
This is a button to put in my shirt.
She pressed harder and then grabbed his top bottom. As he fell backwards,  Mya screamed, alarming Florence. Shaken for only a moment, yet mostly unperturbed, she pulled the button off of his shirt and let him fall.
“Something tastes like lilac bleach.”
Get that out of your mouth!
There was a spoon.
I wore white.
I wear white.
It is permanently night.
Mya was screaming and another attending came and she heard gurgling. Steadying herself with her right hand again, she licked the button first and then placed it in her mouth, on her dry tongue and tried to swallow it feeling it lodge itself in her throat. You cried and you cried and you swore
Where am I?
Is it night?
I did listen.
I am listening.
I am listening.
I didn’t do anything: it was a riding lesson.
I am listening.
I was a faithful virgin until you.
The rain is whispering and broncos are chasing you
to canopies of sense and wonder and you wonder.
“Flo, are you listening? I brought you some cake. Vanilla.”
Suddenly two arms were around her and pushing on her stomach until she coughed something out.
And you promised him it was nothing.
Nincompoop.
I’m a ninny,” she said being lowered to the chair
Here him whinny.
Here me whine.
I said something.
I’m a ninny.
I said no.
He said, “bend over, Flo, you will learn to like it.
She turned to both of them, their mouths agape, Bob sprawled on the floor.
“There is my cuckold,” she pointed.
She was sitting in the armchair now listening to Mya cry.
“Are you time?”
The nursing home was filled with cries.

“the black out” or “the woman who was raped by the men”

i don’t know what is better: to write or to have written but I do know that the devolvement I suffered from my creative process is all i was seeking. to be finished, incomplete, that is a promise.  anything else is good luck.

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