Why I fiction

20 03 2017

I think perhaps many people in this world generally feel pretty good about themselves. Once in a while, they get rejected, or they do something embarrassing so they lose this positive sense of self, but they recover.

I am the other kind of person. The kind with a dark, hard kernel of self loathing at the very centre of her being composed of every stupid, shameful, embarrassing thing she has done since infancy. The kind that tries to write a blog post three times, and deletes all three because she decided they were 1. Too embarrassing 2. Too ‘what I should be writing about’ 3. Too weird or honest.

I keep a secret tally of all the stupid things I have ever done, and once in a while, I go over them mentally so that I can beat myself up about them.

One of my earliest memories is of playing with a friend while I was still in China. I remember she slapped me. The act was inscrutable, so I ran to her house to tell on her. Her house was dark and narrow. Her father was lying on the bed with one leg in a cast. I blurted out what his daughter had been doing then immediately felt ashamed about it because they seemed poor, and he was injured.

I’ve carried this weird scrap of memory with me for 27 years but I can’t remember what I ate for lunch two days ago.

I also sometimes revisit how weird I was in my early teens. I’d just gotten out of a childhood where I spent large chunks of time totally alone, just marinating in my own fucked up child brain, and I really did NOT know how to live in a world where people suddenly care what you wear or how you behave. And I wanted friends. I really really wanted friends. So I thought the best way to make friends would be to yank on peoples’ backpacks so that they would fall over onto the ground or to hit them on the head with a stick of beef jerky. One time, I thought I saw someone I knew, so I went up behind her and smacked her on her pretty blonde head with a giant stick of cured meat. She turned around, and she wasn’t one of my lowly nerd friends, oh no, she was a popular girl, and I was then doomed to be embarrassed about the stupid incident for the REST OF MY LIFE.

I still feel embarrassed about it, even today. Even right now, this instant. My cheeks are flushed and I am experiencing a slight urge to pee, because that’s what embarrassment feels like to me.

It isn’t fair that such a non-event should stay with me all my life and become central to my being, while Brianna gets to live her life without even a memory of the event.

Then again, maybe growing up, her dad pooped in her shoes on a regular basis or something. I don’t know. Can’t judge a pretty blonde book by its cover.

Then again, maybe she’s one of those super tall and skinny girls who, like, works as a taster for a Russian caviar company or has her own lifestyle blog that gets profiled in Vogue or something.

Then again, maybe she is also staring at the onset of her 30s while the realization dawns that her talents, dubious as they are, will never gain more recognition than Courtney Stodden’s tits.

As an aside. I really feel like I understand women who get boob job after liposuction after boob job. If I thought getting plastic surgery would help dissolve this papilloma of self-loathing I’ve got, I would do it. One hundred percent. But they just look more and more miserable, then they get older, and their eyes fill with fear because they’ve obsessed so much about their appearance that they forgot to get a personality.

The world fucks me up sometimes. It’s like the moment you learn to comprehend, shit just starts piling up on top of you.

Intentionally or unintentionally.  Like my mother, who even today sent me an email asking if I would like for her to buy me some coffee that would help me lose weight. That’s how she says “I love you.”

I would prefer it if she would simply say “I love you” or “It’s ok that you are who you are.”

But even if she suddenly became someone who could say things like that, it would be too late, because I’d never believe her because I’m trapped in this perpetuating continuum.

Death Spiral

20 03 2017

After I thought I lost everything, I found I could lose just a little bit more.

It started with the dieting. A meal skipped in the morning, a lunch and dinner merged. Another lap around the park. Then another. I lost. Oh how I lost. And all along the way they kept goading me, kept saying, yes, yes, you look good, you could look better if you just lose a little more. Let go of your desires a little more.

Until the day they stopped. Until the day a stranger told me to eat a burger.

Eighty pounds. Eighty pounds I carved from my body through sheer cussedness and starvation. Maddening, backbreaking exercise. Salad after salad after juice cleanse after salad. I found out that the world still ran contrary to my desires, and with that, I lost the belief that there was SOMETHING I could do, SOMEHOW, to get the amount of approval I need from the people I need it from.

I gained the feeling that I was always cold. A constant, bone-deep chill.

Then Greg told me he was leaving. Not because he stopped loving me, but because he loved me too much, or some lazy, half-sincere blather like that.

I couldn’t blame him. I hadn’t eaten since May, and my behavior of late had been…shall we say, less than kind.

Then they fired me. Something about being difficult to work with, or inability to concentrate on the task at hand, or emotionally unstable….

Then my parents were swept away, and in their wake, I jutted from the earth like a concrete monolith. Far too singular. Far too still.

I lost the ability to define myself against their greater shadow. Absent of the dark, the light is rendered only beige.

The house and the car…I didn’t lose them so much as give them up. The payments. It wasn’t going to…I wasn’t…they kept calling so…

I lost my number. The number I used since I was a tender green shoot of overweight 14 year old.

And I lost consciousness here and there and there and here. Kept losing weight. Though by now it was more of a listless drift than a concerted effort.

I found out how easy it is for a regular member of middle class society to just slip through the cracks like that. How no one can see you flailing in your own head, and no one would be bothered to do something about it, even if they could see.

It reminds me of this thing that Greg told me back when we were still together.

I was lying in bed, flattened in the aftermath of one of those crying jags that comes out of nowhere, and paints the inside of your head the color of a hospital wall. Greg had pulled out a box to distract me from my inexplicable grief, and when I opened it, it had a ring in it. A pretty little ring with a black pearl at the center that sent the linoleum flat landscape away for the time being. I put it on, and he told me he bought it because he wanted to propose to me with it, but was afraid to because it wasn’t expensive, and it wasn’t a diamond. Then he grabbed my hand, and did it anyways.

After I’d said yes, and we were lying there, content and on and off glancing at each other when Greg suddenly said

“Did you know a pilot once ejected from a plane in a nose-dive, and after he jumped out of the plane, it landed safely on the airstrip?”

“No, I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah, the first thing he heard after he ejected was one of the other pilots saying ‘you better get back in'”

“How did the plane land by itself?”

“Something to do with the physics of ejecting the seat. When the pilot launched himself out, it pulled the plane out of the death spiral.”

“Death spiral?”

“It’s this thing when you’re in a plane, and it’s going at constant speed. If you tilt just a little bit, your plane might start slowly spiraling toward the ground like an object swirling towards the drain. There’s no way to physically detect it. That’s why an artificial horizon is so important.”

It occurs to me that the source of all unhappiness might be found in the curious conundrum which arises when one attempts to be oneself, while the voices of others still somehow permeates the consciousness; so that any action is either in defiance of others or a reluctant compromise that makes no one happy.

Two Dreams

20 03 2017

I dreamed about you last night

I was walking along and suddenly, there you were. Sitting alone at a cafe. I had to sit down across from you.

It was joy. Full on.

Then waves and waves of sadness, regret, guilt, panic, and private pleasure. I wasn’t supposed to talk to you anymore, but there you were.

I dreamed about you last week

We were lying side by side beneath your kitchen table. Your specific, nondescript kitchen table.

You were naked from the waist up. I touched your skin, the height of your shoulder was again, just right and too high for my neck like it always has been.

I tamped down on the impulse to extemporize on how the height of your shoulder is a metaphor for my feelings about you.

Your flesh was hyper-real. Smooth and muscled. Warm. Home.

Then the sadness. Waves and waves of sadness, regret, guilt, panic, and secret pleasure.

1 03 2017

It is a small ache in the chest, that with time, may give way to a sweet throbbing akin to the wake of a passing orgasm.

For now, it is still too fresh and keen. The Grey Man casts his big grey shadow across her mind. A living ghost.

She is living a life composed of a series of exorcisms. Writing, listening to sad songs, exercise, taking care to clean up after herself. A first for her. As if living to these carefully regimented new routines will change her into somebody who never met the Grey Man.

It is a curse that the Grey Man casts on those who wander too far into the dark unfathomable.

She had picked a direction and walked off one day, into the woods. Careless eyes on the new, no mind for the trajectory.

He appeared disguised as a fellow traveler. Unconcerned. Not appearing to have any intentions centered on her.

He moved around her in such wide circles that she thought they were walking parallel to each other, and by the time she realized he was penning her in on all sides, drawing clear, thick, straight lines that she could not traverse, she was mostly caught.

She still could have gotten out then. Broken the rhythm of his leading, her following. But he was leading her to places she had never been. Showing her ways of looking that she had never seen.

A curious double-vision of the world appeared before her. The Grey Man’s world. Not quite identical, superimposed over hers at an angle. Off kilter.

He started leading her to sudden drop-offs. What appeared to be flat ground would give away in a sudden plunge of vertigo, and she would find herself at 90 degrees to her former orientation, walking up the trunks of trees, breaking the treeline to see birds in the distance. The sky stretched in front of her face forward forever.

Then he started flipping her orientation by 180 degrees.

Letting her fall screaming into the sky. Hours. Days. She was gone, and he didn’t have to hear her screaming.

When he flipped her back down, sometimes he would do it gently. Sometimes not at all so. But she would always feel grateful to have her feet back on the ground.

She was so long in the Grey Man’s company that she began to forget the existence of other people. He began to grow in magnitude as she began to shrink.

She shrank so much that he began to hold her in the palm of his hand and tell her how small, how very small, and pointless she was. He would sometimes take the sky away with his other hand, and hold her down flat with his thumb.

She was so small, and grateful. To exist. Because of the Grey Man.

He would tell her things about herself. What she looked like. Who she was. Her longs and shorts. He sketched a new face on her. A new body. A new cunt. A new mind.

He put a price tag on her. He wrote a definition for her in his dictionary.

She had been so amorphous before he did this. A non-being who cost nothing. Who was practically free.

He told her what she liked, and what she hated.

She was so grateful, because she had always had such trouble deciding. And here, he had decided for her.

The Grey Man loved to talk. When he talked, his voice would block out the sun. It would shake the earth and scatter the birds. It would send a hook down and snag itself on a lid inside her that she never knew existed, and pull it shut.

She was sealed so tight and safe by the Grey Man.

The Grey Man would threaten horrible things sometimes.

He would threaten to throw her away. Tiny as she was. He would threaten to lose her. Dig a hole and chuck her in. Reverse the sky and let the speck of her fall forever.

She would beg and weep and beg when he did this.

She would bargain, though she didn’t have much. She would bargain with promises: “I won’t…anymore”, “I’ll stop…”, “I’ll change”, “I’ll be…”

Sometimes the Grey Man would convince her to dance. Then he would sit back, so he could laugh his earth-shaking laugh. Sometimes he could only see her red little face, and he would have to squint and try so hard to see the rest of her.

Sometimes the Grey Man would be kind and touch her face or her hair, and she could grow a little bit bigger for a while. Almost up to his knee.

Sometimes the Grey Man would tell her how important she was to him. How clever. How different. How she was the only one that understood him.

Sometimes, it sounded like a slogan.

Sometimes the Grey Man would hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And kiss her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And kiss her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And kiss her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her. And hit her.

It was never the Grey Man’s fault.

It was usually her fault.

She wasn’t:



She didn’t deserve. Because she wasn’t anything to him.

Sometimes she would dream of being something, and get the vague impression that there was someone shouting at her from behind a thick, heavy door. As if? She had? Been something? Before?

But it would slip away like a twig in a strong current.

And she would be come nothing again.

She became nothinger and nothinger and nothinger

The Grey Man became everythinger and everythinger and everythinger.

Soon everything was the Grey Man while nothing was her.

One day, she was so nothing and he was so everything, that while he was hitting her and hitting her, he simply forgot she ever existed, because there was nothing left to hit. Not a puddle. Not a tear. Not a smudge.

The Grey Man paused, and said


and left.

She was nothing for a very. long. time.

12 universes formed. 7 died.

One day she remembered something.

The starting tumble of Fantasie Impromptu.

Another day she laughed at a queer sentence that popped into her head, and she couldn’t stop for a very long time.

The next day, she remembered something else: the smell of Rosemary

Here is a list of things she remembered after that:

  • Tetris tiles fitting together
  • Rain on asphalt
  • A German Shepherd her parents had looked after for 2 weeks when she was 16
  • Crying like the world had ended when he went away
  • Her parents
  • Being 16
  • New notebooks
  • Chanel lipstick
  • Vietnamese Pho
  • The lives of suicidal penguins narrated by Werner Herzog
  • Slam Dunk Manga
  • Pooping in a box once when the water stopped in her apartment
  • The brief delight of throwing the box down the garbage chute
  • Christmas nostalgia
  • The sea
  • Clean white sheets
  • Her body
  • How to make other people laugh
  • Other people
  • White pepper in egg drop soup
  • Cat gifs
  • Sex
  • Words
  • Clouds over Sunset Point on Route 19
  • Falling in love

She was growing. Little by little.

She did not grow into the same shape and size she was before.

She avoids the woods now. Is afraid of dark places. Of men. Blue men. Brown men. Grey men.

Her bodies remembers, and goes searching for the Grey Man.

So she is still afraid, because she has caught her body wandering around the Grey Man’s part of the woods at night.

She has to admit she looked for him.

She has to admit she misses him.

She is afraid, and she is different. His curse will forever be inside her. Be her.

She thinks she might have to grow. Grow so big that if she should see the Grey Man again, she might be the same size. Or even bigger. Big enough to pick him up and tuck him into a neat little drawer, and slide it shut. Big enough to blot out his sky.

All the same. She would prefer not to see him again. She tells herself.

Fairy Tale for the Clinically Depressed

1 02 2016

There once was a girl who wished she was dead.

Her friend invited her to a birthday party. She told jokes that made everybody laugh. They played musical chairs and everything was fine

but at the end of the party, she wished she was dead.

She met a boy who took her to the seaside. They walked along the boardwalk and admired the waves. They ate cotton candy and fed the gulls. She smiled and laughed, and nothing seemed wrong

but the end of the night, she wished she was dead.

She went to college and got lots of A’s. She edited the newspaper and talked about poetry. Anyone would have said her life was perfect

but she ended most days wishing she was dead.

She worked hard at a job that led to a career. She purchased a house and bought stuff at Ikea. She started dating someone she really liked. If it wasn’t love, it was near enough

but when she lay next to him in bed, she wished was dead.

When the wishing turned into planning, she threw her life into turmoil. Quit her job. Broke up. Moved countries. For a while, she got ahead of it

but eventually, she started wishing she was dead again.

She met a man who turned off her brain, who knew how she felt and knew how to stop it. When she was with him, she wanted to live, to see him smile and hear him talk. She never wanted to be anywhere else. She never wanted to be doing anything else. And she certainly never thought about how nice, how nice it would be to slit open her wrists like a sealed envelope and pull out the contents.

She thought about his eyes and his voice, his arms and his lips, his kisses and his cock, and they seemed like good reasons to live.

Then he took her aside, and told her he wanted parts of her, but not others. Her words but not her lips, her company but not her body, her mind but not her fantasies.

And he began to act like half of her was invisible, or not good enough, or uncomfortable for him to see. And all the while his eyes said to her, “I love you, but not all of you.”

He confirmed. That. Some part of her. Had always. Been. Wrong.


Isn’t it funny? Isn’t it a laugh?  He granted her wish and he killed her. Just like that. As easy as taking off a hat. 


And for ever after, for the rest of her days, she lived a bit dead.

Sunset would be too obvious

21 01 2016

Waking up and trying to fall asleep again at around 5 AM this morning, I realized that everything is the same, except I’ve lost some inner refuge that lets me go to sleep easily.

It’s not inner peace, it’s more like the ability to lull myself, to settle in.

It’s kind of like putting weight on a sprained ankle. I don’t notice usually because my muscles are all tensed around it, but at night, when things relax. I can’t get away.


26 10 2015

in part, how I feel about you

is a gradual slowing, a low melting, a pooling and a warming.

A pitched focus on the infinitesimal details of you,

cleft of your chin, split of your tongue, rift between your teeth – a trinity of dichotomies,

then a premonition of significance about these noted details, this one three of twos.

What I am saying is that you

give me a sensation that precedes realization,

like the left side of an epiphany,

or sehnsucht on the brink of, at last, sufficiency.

So what I am saying is

I’d like to know, so push me over.