Saturday, May 22, 2010

DJ Defibrillator


Sometimes, you’ll be at a party and the sound system will blast so loud, the bass will make everything tremble. Your sternum rattles in your chest and the pulse is so hard you think your heart might start beating in time with it, instead of to its own tune. Me being me, I sometimes worry that the rhythm will disrupt the electro-whatever of my heart—you know, like the stuff they measure in EEG’s but for the heart?—and my heart will falter.

But it gives me that rush. You walk into the room and your chest wall quivers like a preteen at her first middle school dance and you think, damn, this might’ve been worth getting dolled up for. It’s that same rush I get when I’m putting my face on before going out and I get caught up in how grown-up I feel, how old and cool and self-possessed.

This party, it was getting there. It had that feel. The entire place reeked like beer and I stepped in a soggy patch of carpet. I passed a darkened hallway full of twisting limbs and things to regret in the morning. In stumbled in my tasteful wedges and Tucker caught me and pulled me out of the flow of traffic.

“A hotbed of sin,” he shouted in my ear. Tucker did that. Started off with a witty rejoinder, hoping to set a standard.

I shook my head. This was not exactly fertile ground for sophisticated conversation. “Where’d Luna go?”

“Succubae like her feed off this. Don’t worry, she’ll be fine.” I glanced at him, startled. He sighed, grabbed my forearm in that way guys do. You know, where they wrap their whole hand around your arm and their fingers and thumb overlap and you feel tiny and it’s quite clear you could never make them let go…they’d have to choose to?

Tucker’s not usually this dominant. He must've been buzzed. He pulled me to the kitchen. He sat me at the breakfast table and thrust a bottle of water at me. He nodded, “Crack it open.” I leaned back and tilted my head at him. He reached out and swiped it. “Seriously…sealed for your peace of mind and all that.” He wrenched the seal with his big dominating hands and took a long swallow then passed it back. I threw my head back and drank half the bottle. The “hotbed of sin” was not well ventilated and I was dehydrated.

I lowered the bottle to find Tucker watching the movements of my throat. I met his eyes, emboldened by earlier partaking. He lowered his, embarrassed. I felt a little burst of pride. Power, I finally had some power. His cell buzzed.

“Shit,” he said, flicking it open and closed. “That’s Paul. Listen—” he tossed his keys to me “—I’ll go get Luna. Get my car and pull it on to the driveway of that house.” He pointed out the back door of the kitchen, to the darkened house on a parallel street.

“Wha—?” I was confused by the sudden urgency and lethargic because of my sudden confidence in the way this party was going.

“It’s the Police. Move, soldier. Before all the runners clog up the streets.” And he was gone, tripping down the corner and around the stairs. I fumbled with the keys, knocking over a chair. I ran out the back door into the cool but damp night air.

It was the first time I’ve ever driven at night. Luna mumbled inanities in the backseat and Tucker glared at the glove box, until I flicked on the radio and someone started moaning about wasted chances. The music industry just doesn’t know how to connect with its listeners anymore.

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the watering hole


All crowded and packed and full of that weird clingy heat generated at parties. The most terrible music grinding through a superb sound system—some suburban rap? It’s absurd because the only time knives show up in lockers is attached to those expensive Swiss Army ones boys never use for anything but filing their nails.

But it was like those fairy revels you read about where everything is insane but looks like glorious fun and if you could just have a sip of that fey wine you know you’d join the carousing and dance until the night ends or eternity, whichever comes first

But I stumble sans inebriated and people around me laugh because they think I’m wrecked and being wrecked with other people who are wrecked is funny, as opposed to being wrecked alone, which is just pathetic and sad. But I’m not wrecked so when Tucker catches me and hauls me off I don’t appreciate the condescendingness til we get to the kitchen

the kitchen’s weird at these shindigs. This kitchen was darkened and recently vacated. Good for talking and having one of those high school sweetheart love-at-first sight moments, I thought. Where you were both dragged here by friends, but it’s not “your scene” and instead you spend the whole night connecting and by the morning you’ve planned out how many kids you’ll have together. It was empty, but I liked it. It was like a treehouse you visited at 3 am all quiet and secrets and stealthy fun.

And Tucker glanced over and I looked at him through my eyelashes and weird, is this a moment? But Tucker and the persistent buzzing ended it and he read the text and

Run? Should I take the water bottle? It had my and Tucker’s DNA on it, and if they decided to run a genetic profile of all saliva samples, to see who had been engaging in underage drinking… And, God, fingerprinting! Surely that was less expensive than DNA scans. But that would just prove presence. Or was the rule that if you were in a house with underage drinking, you could be punished, even if you didn’t drink? I could say we had been here for a school project a couple days ago…but what teacher would back my story up? Then I remembered none of this would matter if they caught us and administered a breathalyzer so

I tripped over a hole and grass-stained my cute wedges and scratched Tucker’s car against a mailbox and waited sweaty-palmed in a driveway until Tucker disgustedly threw Luna in the backseat and hopped in the passenger seat and muttered “Drive!” at me but I couldn’t because by then the front yard was full of flashing lights and the back was full of people fleeing the scene like a great herd of gazelle before a lion or rats from a light flicked on in the subway and I was stuck and we were going to get caught and—there was a side street. A few quick twists and we hit a quiet road and then another and we were home free.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Discarded Skin


Lying in the dark, I put a hand to my lips. The lamp burned beside me, on my bedside table, and I rubbed my eyes, allowing my hand to smooth down my cheek until it encountered the puckered planes of my lips. They were puffed out, swollen. Running my middle finger over my bottom lip I felt the protruding skin of chapped skin.Carefully, gingerly I slid my finger tips around the edge of my skin and peeled up. I felt a little jolt of pain but kept pulling. Soon, I felt some wetness pooling on the little dimple in my lips formed by the press of my fingers. While I pulled that wretched piece of skin up, I thought about what a Biology teacher once told me. Our skin, our senses are not actually capable of feeling "wetness." Rather, we feel coolness, weight, slipperiness, and other things, and put it all together.

I looked at the little bit of flesh in my hand, at how it distorted the light. While the blood felt cool, slippery, heavy, and other things on my mouth, I looked at that little bit of skin. Nothing had been so important to me in that single moment as peeling off that dead and damaged layer, that layer of light-distorting cells that separated my internal veins and muscles and organs from the outside world. Nothing had been so important as getting that layer off me, until my skin was smooth and free. But I still got satisfaction from peeling it up.

I could practically feel the blood clotting in the exposed air, but I got it up and laid that thin little layer on the top of my bookshelf, near a bouquet of dried roses and a book on devilish fairies. When I had lain back down, I licked my lip hesitantly, only to find that the blood had not clotted.

While the metallic, primal tinge of it filled my mouth, I lay back and switched off my lamp. I fell asleep thinking about primal, instinctive things.

By the end of the month, that single slice of skin on the top of my bookshelf had developed into a pile of dead, lifeless individual layers of cells. Every night, I peeled off as many layers as were necessary.

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