He keeps a fly trapped under his tongue. He’s never seen it, but he knows it is there. It has many jointed legs and buzzes quietly so that only he can hear it. He will not open his mouth. If he does, it will fly away and he does not want that.
Doctors have tried to pry his jaws apart. He is growing thinner and thinner because he will not eat, despite the feeding tube that they have tried to force between his teeth. He is dying and he will disappear. He knows this. He also knows that, when he does die, his skin will separate from his bones and the fly will escape between his unprotected jaws.
You may be wondering, then, why he’s trying so hard to hold on to this fly in his mouth. I certainly am. Hundreds of people are wondering. His parents are wondering. People come from miles around, across the whole world, to try to puzzle out the reason for the fly and the boy who will not let it go. We ask him, “Insect boy, you will lose your fly when you die, so why not just open your mouth and let it out now? Maybe you can catch or grow another fly later, if you live. You can create or consume hundreds, thousands more flies in your lifetime!” He does not answer. He does not say anything because he will not open his mouth.
He has his reasons, we are sure. He knows something that we do not, and he is not going to tell us. He will die with his little scrap of wisdom and the fly will escape. This story will fade because it never was actually story, just a scene, and people will fill in their own reasons for his strange behavior. He was sick or he was dumb or he wanted to die. The fly will escape and we will make up our own ending.
I still don’t have anything to say. How is it that the world is filled with people talking and I can’t think of anything to say?
It’s been a while, internet! I’m not saying I’m going to be back here a whole lot (I don’t think you ever really noticed I was gone), but I’m here. Still making the same old noises I’ve always made from the same places I’ve always been. I’d send you a post card, but you’ve been here already and I’m sure you don’t want to be reminded of it.
I’m applying for jobs now. Nothing unusual there. I’ve got one, but it’s not very good and it doesn’t start for a while. I want a coffee and a cigarette and I’m not letting myself have either.
But I’m applying for jobs now, and I am willing to go anywhere except where I’ve already been. I will not go back there. People around me keep asking if I “know what it means to miss New Orleans” or telling me how marvelous it is to be there or how much they want to go back. I don’t. I hated it there, if I’m going to be honest. It was a dirty city. It lived in its own gutters and smiled at its own grimy teeth in the mirror. The trees always looked sad but the mold looked happy. The cockroaches clicked when they walked across my floors. They’d keep me up at night. Maybe you’d liked it there. I don’t know. You tend to like the spaces where teeth used to be and the smell of blood rusting under your nose.
I’m back in PA now, and I’m re-learning what roots are. What sounds birds make. How to hold a shovel. It’s amazing what sorts of things a person can forget. But you know all about that, already, I’m sure. You’re a master at forgetting things. I’m not saying that as a bad thing. It’s good, really, to be able to leave things behind. I wish I could.
When I hear fireworks, I wonder if someone is getting shot. When I’m out after dark, I begin to shake. I trust fewer people than I used to and I check and recheck and check and recheck recheck check check recheck check check everything. My mother wonders why I wash dishes in sets of five and why I don’t like knitting. It’s because I count count count the stitches and rows and then take them out because I never get the same number five times in a row and if I don’t get the same number five times in a row, I will have a bad day if I keep it. I pick at my face. My parents are worried that it will scar. I don’t let the scabs dry long enough to find out.
I am gradually disappearing from everywhere. Friends don’t answer letters, phone calls, texts. I’m not trying to insult you. I know it’s not your fault. You’re busy. But so is everyone else and I’m picking myself apart one piece at a time and I’m probably just resentful because you are going places and I am not. Don’t take it personally. Everyone is doing it. Don’t worry too much. My cat still wakes me up in the morning and my brother still talks to me about things I barely understand and my mom shows me her plants and my dog dies slowly, but he needs me there to do it. It must be wretched to be old. That’s one thing I have in my favor— being young. At least relatively speaking.
But anyway, internet, don’t pay any attention to me. I’m just shouting at you because no one else bothers to answer anymore. I guess everyone is sick of me making the same sounds over and over again. I am too. It gets old really fast. I wouldn’t read all of this, either, if I were you.
In other news, Sense and Sensibility is Jane Austen’s worst novel. Don’t read it. If you want a good book that she’s written, pick up Northanger Abbeyinstead. If there’s one thing you should bring away from this very long monologue about how much my life sucks because I’m crazy, it’s that last thing about Jane Austen. Seriously.
If you really want things to be better, then you’re going to have to give a little bit more than you are. Tell your friends. Give something back. Stop with the comments while I can hear them, I’ve been trying and trying and the best you can give me is a shout out the door when I’m already too far gone. That’s not a whole lot of reason for me to keep trying.
I haven’t been doing much for the last year or so. I’m “in love” and therefore I am not doing much of anything besides being afraid. I am not doing much. I am in graduate school and I am studying books without reading them and learning things without really caring if I know them. I am not doing much this year. There is someone sitting at the computer next to me and I do not know who he is, but I wish he would go away. There is work I should be doing that I am not doing. I am not doing much this year. I have been put on antibiotics, antidepressants, and antihistamines. I have nightmares in which I cannot move and in which my teeth are falling out. I listen to trains go through this drowning city without wanting to catch them. I write “help” over and over on steamed up windows without expecting anything to happen. I am not doing much today, even though I should. Love turned out to be something slimy that people use to help themselves to better things. Everything else has ended up worse. I can no longer imagine what it will be like to wake up in the mornings, certainly not where I am. I am not doing much this year. I sometimes have screaming fits in the bathtub, consumed by fears I cannot articulate and a rage that chokes words in my throat. Love wants me to stop doing this. Love is frustrated with me. Love thinks I am acting silly. I am always angry and I am always completely alone with my anger. It scares me, and I do not like being afraid and so I get angrier. I imagine beetles in my hair and scratch my scalp past bleeding. I imagine picking at my bones. There are vultures above my head. I am not doing any of the things I ought to be doing. I sometimes imagine how much nicer it will feel to be dead than it feels to be alive. There are three little people in my head who all take turns shooting themselves and blowing up like cartoons and screaming. Everything is always screaming and shaking. I do not know why mornings persist in coming or why days always seem so long. Love thinks I am making this up. Love wants to be doted on and does not want to tolerate the ways I cannot move or change fast enough. Love is a word made for maggots. I am not doing much this year, and I sometimes wish that I was dead. That I was bones and beetles and things for maggots. I am more useful dead. I will be better loved by dirt. I am not doing much. I am not. I am not. I am not.
"Somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff. Not my poems or dance I gave up in the street, but somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff
like a kleptomaniac workin hard & forgettin while stealin. This is mine; this ain’t your stuff. Now why don’t you put me back & let me hang out in my own self.
Somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff & didn’t care enuf to send a note home sayin, “I waz late for my solo conversation or two sizes too small for my own tacky skirts.” What can anybody do wit somethin of no value on a open market? Did you getta dime for my things? Hey man, where are you goin wid alla my stuff? This is a woman’s trip & I need my stuff to ohh & ahh abt. Daddy, I gotta mainline number from my own s***. Now wontchu put me back and let me play this duet with this silver ring in my nose.
Honest to God, somebody almost run off wit alla my stuff
And I didn’t bring anything but the kick & sway of it. The perfect a** for my man & none of it is hers. This is mine. Notzake ‘her own things’ that’s my name. Now give me my stuff. I see ya hidin my laugh and how I sit wif my legs open sometimes to give my crotch some sunlight. And there goes my love my toes my chewed up finger nails. Niggah, wif the curls in your hair Mr. Louisiana hot link, I want my stuff back. My rhythms & my voice, open my mouth, & let me talk ya outta throwin my s*** in the sewar. This is some delicate leg & whimsical kiss. I gotta have to give to my choice without you runnin off wit alla my s***.
Now you can’t have me less I give me away & I waz doin all that til ya run off on a good thing. Who is this you left me wit. Some simple b**** widda bad attitude. I wants my things. I want my arm with the hot iron scar and my leg wit the flea bite. I want my calloused feet & quik language back in my mouth. Fried plantains, pineapple pear juice, sun-ra & joseph & jules, I want my own things. How I lived them & give me my memories. How I waz when I waz there. You can’t have them or nothin wit them. Stealin my s*** from me, don’t make it yours- makes it stolen.
Somebody almost run off wit alla my stuff & I waz standin there lookin at myself. The whole time & it wazn’t a spirit took my stuff. Waz a man whose ego walked round like Rodan’s shadow. Waz a man faster in my innocence. Was a lover I made too much room for almost run off wit alla my stuff & didn’t know I’d give it up so quik. And the one running wit it don’t know he got it. My stuff is the anonymous ripped off treasure of the year. Did you know somebody almost got away with me? Me in a plastic bag under their arm, me danglin on a string of personal carelessness. I’m spattered wit mud & city rain & no I didn’t get a chance to take a douche. Hey man, this is not your perogrative. I gotta have me in my pocket to get round like a good woman shd & make the poem in the pot or chicken in the dance. What I got to do I gotta to have my stuff to do it to. Why don’t ya find your own things & leave this package of me for my destiny. What ya got to get from me, I’ll give it to ya. Yeh, I’ll give it to ya around 5:00 in the winter when the sky is blue-red & Dew City is gettin pressed. If it’s really my stuff, ya gotta give it to me. If ya really want it, I’m the only one who can handle it.
Somebody almost run off wit alla my stuff!”"
"Somebody almost walked off with all my stuff" - -Ntozake Shange
(From For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf)
There is a trembling of the hinges
that hold my brain shut.
The winds are picking up, see,
the rains have just started.
There is thunder rolling in the distance,
My eyes are trembling
with the sound of distant hooves.
The stampede has started
miles away and the rocks beneath my feet
The storm is cracking like an egg
on a distant horizon.
My hands are,
The water is coming up through the cracks in the dry earth
and I spit mud onto quick flooding ground.
You are sad, they say,
you are sick.
And when you are sick you are,
mean. They don’t
say anything about that.
You are starting forest fires,
talk about death too often for comfort.
Look away, leave me too often,
I am trembling.
I would imagine you hanging in a stairwell,
but I am stuck in the center of a storm
and I don’t get reception too well
in here. I wouldn’t have time to worry, anyway,
because if I wasn’t waiting out a storm,
I would be bailing water out of my lungs and stomach.
I am heavy, pregnant, even,
with muddy water.
So hold me close, baby,
tell me you love me and you hate me
and you’re sick of my poisonous tongue.
I can’t hear you, baby,
my ears are full of wind and rain
and animal feet.
I cannot hear you, baby,
but can you feel me
He keeps from going mad by playing music, while I haven’t written anything in months. Not really. I have the stories in my head, but I’m always needed right when I want to put them to the page. I’m an insect in a glass jar. I’m pinned to the dissection board, exposed and waiting to die. I’m withering in direct sunlight. I’m trapped under glass and he is watching me, confused as to why I’m not happier. I’m fading and I’m shriveling and I keep asking for help but my voice is too quiet and all anyone ever hears is that I am too demanding. She was never my friend, despite her honeyed lies; I was never his anything, despite what the public says. People are selfish, small animals and I am not an exception. But I am tired. I am so very tired.
When you think about yourself these days, you’re wet paper. (Cross and recross your legs. Get comfortable. This is the longest you will talk allday.)Say you’ve been left out in the rain. The ink runs across your surface like veins, your corners curl, you tear easily. You may already be torn, but held together by invading water. You don’t know.
You haven’t read a book in (pause to count the days, weeks, months, since you’ve finished anything you’ve started to read. Don’t finish counting). You are In School and you don’t know why. You wonder why you wanted to do this. You aren’t doing your homework. It’s the first week of classes and already you’re behind. You signed up for a group project for the second week of school in an attempt to get yourself out of your apartment. You are out of your apartment right now, it doesn’t help.
Hide in the library. It’s where you’ve always gone and so maybe it’ll help this time. Probably not. You cry too easily these days to be helped by the dumb presence of books whose lines you cannot follow. Books just remind you of the things you haven’t done recently.
You don’t write anymore. You don’t sing. Music has no comfort. Food tastes like ash. (It registers on your face that you’re thinking about going out and buying a pack of cigarettes. You run your hands over your lips in a familiar gesture. The audience know you haven’t smoked in sixteen months.)
The problem is, you are lonely. The problem is, you have no direction. The problem is (and your sentence trails off, you stare into the white corner behind the screen,sigh).
Celebrate your birthday with a cheap bottle of champagne and your cat. Don’t think about the phone calls you don’t get. Don’t think about glass eyes and foreign countries. Don’t think. Don’t answer the phone anymore. Don’t let anyone in. Don’t finish what you’re doing. Just wait, suspended, for the rain to end.