Life on the Commuter Train

There is nothing like coming into the city on the train. It’s all here, inside and out, the buildings thick with cranes, the roads with trucks and plastic, the river wide and dark.

We have forgotten what we never had. We have looked back blind. We have let loose with a broken yarn. We are here, magnanimous and incompetent. Yes, yes, yes. Wait. That is the answer, that sound. It will come again. When we are gone.

The boy across from me eats salted cauliflower sticks, one by one, wiping his fingers on his drooping mask, intent on the next page of The Magician. He pokes his fingers inside again, licking off the last grains, crumples the bag, and holds the book up high, a better filter against the pandemic that anyone knew. The couple beside hold hands, the young man clinging, desperately asking her what she thinks through his tight mask. The girls at the front of the train explode hilariously, talking over one another in a spew, “I felt it touch my lips. That was it. I love weed. I was going to put it into the Pringles. I don’t remember a black bag. I will Venmo you right now. You look so good.”

I think of her, still think that we could make it work. I know it is not real, that she would wander away or lie or deny what she did and said, but still it is the idea of her, the magic of that streaming in, with her in a remarkable circumstance, sucking on her great left breast, marvelous in mass, supple and goose-pimpled, believing in everything, stuck in that, even when she laughs and her friend tells her to turn to the camera for the Tik Tok video.

And then it becomes something else, more wide, more clear, held, the way you might hold a piece of nothing like it was god or truth or love and really believe that. And so yeah, seven dollars for two shots and a mega-can of beer. Fuck me. That’s what it’s all about.

Marketing Department Working Overtime

My head of marketing has this idea about how to spread word about my work:

Dude, you just kill me with ur love for pleasuring yourself. How many times per day u are able to pamper ur dongle? You are like an Olympic champion. You look like a mature person. What happens to u? A psycho-trauma?

I copied all your contacts from your email and I am about to share ur habit with your family. 1141USD, Bitcoin 1KZqsAvshQs7VcFkDLqeU7qRAe4raTx3bC, in 48 hours as soon as you read this notice you send my reward and I will sweep off the dirt I have got on you. If you defy me, within ninety six hours ur home movie is gonna be distributed on the net.

It might work, although $1,141 does seem a lot to pay.

Id on Parade

Writing is a spew of the subconscious, or at least a myriad of that, mostly the id. That’s where the core is of what I refuse to realize I am, that fear and pain and stupidity that make me so unique and nothing at all.

It doesn’t mean much of anything. I am alone in this. Except when I write it down here.

In a Flight Delay

I realize that I am the same chunky fellow when I was a kid. The same. That’s what I am thinking about or more about not going anywhere, of staying, doing something else, just not what I’m doing, not this, because that is what’s expected of me.

There is someone at my shoulder. I don’t know here. I ask, “Who are you?” She says something about understanding. It goes on until I finally lose it, “I don’t want to know who you are or wake up next to you, right? I just want to say goodbye. That work?”

I Killed A Crow

It might have been a raven, but I don’t know the difference. One is bigger. I don’t know which. But I killed it. We were hiking in the Italian Alps, and my sister-in-law called to me, “Oh, McPhedran!”

I didn’t know why she called me – except that I post dead animals on social media – but there it was, not a dead crow but a struggling, gurgling crow. It squawked and flapped terribly, on the verge of the abyss.

“No problem,” I replied. “I will take care of it.”

Everyone in the family continued on up as I looked for a rock to bash its head in. I found a good one, the size of my fist, and realized I didn’t have to bash its head in but only had to place it over its neck and step down hard on that. Much easier and much less gory. It struggled against me. I had to replace the rock a number of times, but then I had it in place and stomped hard. And it was dead. Easy. I looked up to see two small girls – maybe ten years old – aghast. I smiled back, trying not to appear a serial killer, and flicked the dead crow down into the bushes.

“Morte,” I explained.

“Morte?” One of the them, tiny eyes wide, clarified.

“Morte,” I repeated. I continued up the hill, after my wife’s family. Done. I didn’t think about it much at the time – oh, maybe a little – but then, later, I did consider the ramifications of my actions. It was a mercy killing. That was how I saw it. But I had killed a crow. Or a raven. Whatever. The portent of bad things and all of that. No, I didn’t really think that. I conjectured vaguely or something about that. And I knew it was ridiculous. Life is life, and death is death, and there is nothing other. You live and then you die.

And then my life began to unravel. It started with my stepson, who doesn’t like me at all, snapping some nasty retort in my direction, and then me overreacting to that and retreating, feeling hunkered and stupid, hiding in my room, writing, and then arguments with my family ensued, followed by me getting overly angry. And so I would not partake in anything with them the next day. I needed to be on my own. That was the thought in my head.

And, amazingly, it was a wondrous day. I went up alone, straight up, no pausing for food or water, and found myself in an alpine meadow. I sat there, remarkably content.

And I am rarely – never – content. I sat and looked out over everything, the air and sun and sky perfect as it was – alone but for some sort of Italian Marmot squeaking for its mate, and thought I could die here. It was a weird thought that I half embraced but didn’t do that and returned to the town. I vaguely thought that I might have cleared the air in myself, and everyone else would see me as so. But it did not go as that. England were playing Italy in the European Championships, and I got too intense about that. I am used to backing a team that never wins and did that too much with the Saxons and everyone got mad at me again. I sent wildly inflammatory messages to a close English friend about the Italian squad, and those were seen by the family, and nothing went well after that.

My bag was thrown from the car, and I was told to find my own way back – which I did – and found a hotel and thought about how I should never have killed that crow – or raven – even if it was going to suffer a bit.

Writing Process: Opening It Up

The key to writing is finding the way into it. It isn’t a question of discipline – although it is – nor Hemingway’s leaving something for the next day – although it is. The route needs to be found. The thing has to open up.

Otherwise, it is just copy and you’re selling jeans with freedom catchphrases – not that I’m knocking it if they’re giving out the pay check. The access point can be as easy as remembering what an ass I was for doing something awful. Not to be obtuse.

Writing Sex

The feeling came into Dee, a distant tremor, hardly there, and then deep and she held it long, making it straight, more fully inside, her truth in this raw pleasure. She dug into the bull-man’s shoulders, pulled on his arms, incredibly, childishly on that.

She held on and then didn’t, succumbing, sliding off, her chin jutting into her chest, all of that streaming out of her, jerking her hips up, thinking if she stayed still, she might climb back into that perfectness again

The Mother of All Writing Advice

A story can’t be self on self. Avoid the Uber Voice. Seeing someone else through another’s eyes just might be the highest level of interiority.

Looking down a cold tunnel at a mother

Omniscient first person, that’s the thing. Whatever you decide, modern literary theory states that it’s all about what your mother says you didn’t write.