Trouble With Emergencies

"The trouble with emergencies is that I always put on my finest underwear and then nothing happens." - Zelda Fitzgerald

Three hours in Lafayette Park. Seeing things. Hearing things. Horses and carriages spin around the square much too quickly. The people, also, seem like they are moving in fast forward. She squeezes and paws at a bunch of Spanish Moss that’s fallen off the live oaks which she’s molded into what looks like a giant hairball. 
She sits and stares at Our Lady of Grace Cathedral for about an hour and a half. She watches a group of teenagers leave choir practice, or youth group, or something. They all say goodbye to “Father.” Father puts something bulky and oddly shaped in the backseat of his car, and races off in front of a horse-drawn carriage. She thinks about the cobblestone paths and about how Flannery O’Connor supposedly raised chickens in the square as a little girl. 
After a while, she takes a walk around the cathedral; passing the rectory and the school - St. Vincent’s. She then circles back to the square and sits on a bench facing the Flannery O’Connor house. A group of middle aged women yell excitedly in front of the house. They seem drunk and agitated, and based on how briskly they are walking back and forth over the same stretch of sidewalk, she wonders if they have lost something. Their search spreads out frantically across the corner perimeter of the square; yelling at each other good-naturedly all the while. Their pacing becomes increasingly frantic and one of them, apparently, strays too far from the group. She has designated the loudest one the leader. The leader screams, “LAWANDA!” The others yell, too, and Lawanda starts to make her way back to the center of the search party.
Based on the commotion being made at midnight on a Wednesday, she begins to wonder whether they are on meth or coke, but she is momentarily distracted by a hearse led ghost tour beginning to circle the square. She turns in its direction to her right. When she turns back towards the gang of women, what couldn’t have been more than thirty seconds later, they have disappeared completely. And, she is again, left alone in the thick southern air of the antique Savannah square.

Three hours in Lafayette Park. Seeing things. Hearing things. Horses and carriages spin around the square much too quickly. The people, also, seem like they are moving in fast forward. She squeezes and paws at a bunch of Spanish Moss that’s fallen off the live oaks which she’s molded into what looks like a giant hairball. 

She sits and stares at Our Lady of Grace Cathedral for about an hour and a half. She watches a group of teenagers leave choir practice, or youth group, or something. They all say goodbye to “Father.” Father puts something bulky and oddly shaped in the backseat of his car, and races off in front of a horse-drawn carriage. She thinks about the cobblestone paths and about how Flannery O’Connor supposedly raised chickens in the square as a little girl. 

After a while, she takes a walk around the cathedral; passing the rectory and the school - St. Vincent’s. She then circles back to the square and sits on a bench facing the Flannery O’Connor house. A group of middle aged women yell excitedly in front of the house. They seem drunk and agitated, and based on how briskly they are walking back and forth over the same stretch of sidewalk, she wonders if they have lost something. Their search spreads out frantically across the corner perimeter of the square; yelling at each other good-naturedly all the while. Their pacing becomes increasingly frantic and one of them, apparently, strays too far from the group. She has designated the loudest one the leader. The leader screams, “LAWANDA!” The others yell, too, and Lawanda starts to make her way back to the center of the search party.

Based on the commotion being made at midnight on a Wednesday, she begins to wonder whether they are on meth or coke, but she is momentarily distracted by a hearse led ghost tour beginning to circle the square. She turns in its direction to her right. When she turns back towards the gang of women, what couldn’t have been more than thirty seconds later, they have disappeared completely. And, she is again, left alone in the thick southern air of the antique Savannah square.

A Watched Pot

She stands there staring into the pot slowly heating on the stove. As tiny bubbles begin to rise from the bottom, she adds a few pinches of kosher salt in encouragement. The grains quickly dissolve, clouding the water like a dense fog. Next, she adds a tablespoon of olive oil, so they don’t stick together. She hates that. She glances to the right of the stove and sees her mother’s old copy of ‘The Joy of Cooking’. The binding is coming undone and the light blue cover has been stained and burned; a testament to the feasts prepared under it’s direction. The cap to a red pen is peeking out from between the pages, marking a recipe for roast chicken which she should know by heart, but can never remember. She stands there and waits. And wonders what it would feel like to stick her hand into the low boil. Like those times before - standing at the cutting board, holding a carving knife, wondering if I she had it in her to lunge it into her chest. Or run it across her abdomen, disemboweling herself Seppuku-style. But instead she just stands there, and stares, and once the bubbles are quarter-sized, she pours in the pasta.

It is 10pm and she hasn’t eaten anything since breakfast. She hasn’t been hungry. She use to have an insatiable appetite. As a lanky child, adults would always tell her how eventually her eating habits would catch up with her. Even into her teenage years, she was able to eat pretty much whatever she wanted. She finally packed on some pounds in college due to John Belushi levels of self-destruction. But once she graduated and had her first real breakdown, she was put on antidepressants. She was excited to start taking Prozac; like when you’re twelve and all your friends have braces and you want them too. Or being the last to get your period. It was a right of passage. Only now, she had to remind herself to eat.

She sits down on the couch and turned on the TV. It is tuned to the History Channel and there is a special on about ancient astronaut theory. It’s a bunch of nut-job talking heads, but she doesn’t change the channel, either because she is too lazy, or because she’s actually interested. Her phone rings and it’s Scott.

“Hey.”
“Clara! what’s up?”
“Nothing, watching TV, eating dinner.”
“Anything good?”
“No. Just flipping.”
“Well, what are you up to tonight? Wanna come over?”
“Sure. I’ll be there in an hour.”

Their paths have crossed for almost ten years, but it is only recently that she and Scott have become friends. Mainly because it is too awkward for them not to be. They don’t have much in common, but despite their differences, they have forged a place in each other’s lives. They both grew up in Atlanta with mutual friends, however, because they went to different high schools, they didn’t know each other. They met when they ended up at the same college, and, again, found themselves moving within the same social circles. But Scott transferred to an Ivy League school their junior year and Clara quickly forgot about him. After graduation, she moved to Chicago with a boyfriend and started running into Scott at bars. He was there working in real estate and she was working as a low level assistant at the Art Institute. Eventually, these random encounters became too frequent for them to remain casual acquaintances. So they started calling each other to meet purposefully. At the time, she didn’t really know anyone in Chicago besides her boyfriend, so she was thrilled to have a drinking partner of her own. After several moves and failed relationships, she found herself back in Atlanta and Scott would call her when he was in town. He would ask her to be his date to weddings and holiday parties, and she always said yes. She usually didn’t have anything better to do, and he always had good coke. He was back now for a few months, studying for the LSAT, and staying at his mother’s house in Buckhead.

She drives up to his house about an hour and a half after his call and parks her dented ‘92 Integra behind the shiny BMW in the driveway. She doesn’t recognize the car, but then remembers how Scott told her he was selling the Mercedes he had just bought on Craigslist, because it was a piece of shit. This must be it’s replacement. Before she can ring the bell, Scott opens the front door and Clara notices his Wayfarers sitting on top of his head despite the fact that it’s almost midnight. “You want some champagne?” he says with a wine glass in his hand.

“Obviously.”

Scott has been alone in the house for the past couple of weeks while his mother is in Dubai, or Abu Dhabi, or somewhere. Scott’s dad is the US Ambassador to Argentina and hasn’t lived in the States for years. Since he’s had the house to himself, he and Clara have gotten into a little routine: she comes over at night, they drink champagne and maybe a bottle or two of wine. Then, they fall asleep in his bed, but nothing happens. The first couple of nights, she throws herself at him, but he never takes the bait. Finally, she gives up and wonders if he is gay, but at the same time she doesn’t really care enough to ask. She feels a little like they are back in high school, which is maybe why she likes it so much. The routine has become comfortable and she will be sad when it ends. 

She walks into the house and sits down at the granite-topped island in the kitchen. Scott pours the champagne and begins the gossip.

“Did you hear about Cash?,” he begins.
“No, what happened?,” she asks, even though she doesn’t want to know.
“He flipped his car Friday night and walked back to his house not remembering what happened. He was covered in blood and told his roommate he ran into a ditch, but the next day the cops found his car overturned on Moreland. ”
“Oh my God!” she says, feigning surprise.

Cash has been an alcoholic for years and these stories have become increasingly common. At this point everyone is just waiting for him to die, and she finds herself annoyed that he keeps delaying the inevitable. She wants to scream, “Either get your shit together or just fucking kill yourself already! But quit making us have to listen to these fucking stories!” He has become a terrible cliche and she is sick of having to pretend to be shocked and troubled. Rather, she is relieved that she’s not a close friend and doesn’t have to go to the interventions or talk to his parents. But she don’t tell Scott any of this.
“Holy Shit. That breaks my heart,” she says according to script.

They sit there in silence for longer than most would find comfortable; the kind of pauses that have come to define their relationship. “How’s the job hunt going? Did you ever hear back from the Botanical Gardens?” he finally asks. She immediately despise anyone who asks her about her search for employment. “Yeah, I have a second interview on Tuesday with the Director.” As she says this she already knows that she won’t get the job. They will find her resume impressive and the interview will go well, but she will never hear from them again.

“Let’s watch a movie,” she says as she gets up and walks into the living room. Scott follows her with the bottle of champagne, which they quickly finish off. In the morning, she wakes up next to him, and doesn’t care whether he is gay or straight. She is just thankful that his body is warm and that they never have to talk about anything real.

A Watched Pot


She stands there staring into the pot slowly heating on the stove. As tiny bubbles begin to rise from the bottom, she adds a few pinches of kosher salt in encouragement. The grains quickly dissolve, clouding the water like a dense fog. Next, she adds a tablespoon of olive oil, so they don’t stick together. She hates that. She glances to the right of the stove and sees her mother’s old copy of ‘The Joy of Cooking’. The binding is coming undone and the light blue cover has been stained and burned; a testament to the feasts prepared under it’s direction. The cap to a red pen is peeking out from between the pages, marking a recipe for roast chicken which she should know by heart, but can never remember. She stands there and waits. And wonders what it would feel like to stick her hand into the low boil. Like those times before - standing at the cutting board, holding a carving knife, wondering if I she had it in her to lunge it into her chest. Or run it across her abdomen, disemboweling herself Seppuku-style. But instead she just stands there, and stares, and once the bubbles are quarter-sized, she pours in the pasta.


It is 10pm and she hasn’t eaten anything since breakfast. She hasn’t been hungry. She use to have an insatiable appetite. As a lanky child, adults would always tell her how eventually her eating habits would catch up with her. Even into her teenage years, she was able to eat pretty much whatever she wanted. She finally packed on some pounds in college due to John Belushi levels of self-destruction. But once she graduated and had her first real breakdown, she was put on antidepressants. She was excited to start taking Prozac; like when you’re twelve and all your friends have braces and you want them too. Or being the last to get your period. It was a right of passage. Only now, she had to remind herself to eat.


She sits down on the couch and turned on the TV. It is tuned to the History Channel and there is a special on about ancient astronaut theory. It’s a bunch of nut-job talking heads, but she doesn’t change the channel, either because she is too lazy, or because she’s actually interested. Her phone rings and it’s Scott.


“Hey.”

“Clara! what’s up?”

“Nothing, watching TV, eating dinner.”

“Anything good?”

“No. Just flipping.”

“Well, what are you up to tonight? Wanna come over?”

“Sure. I’ll be there in an hour.”


Their paths have crossed for almost ten years, but it is only recently that she and Scott have become friends. Mainly because it is too awkward for them not to be. They don’t have much in common, but despite their differences, they have forged a place in each other’s lives. They both grew up in Atlanta with mutual friends, however, because they went to different high schools, they didn’t know each other. They met when they ended up at the same college, and, again, found themselves moving within the same social circles. But Scott transferred to an Ivy League school their junior year and Clara quickly forgot about him. After graduation, she moved to Chicago with a boyfriend and started running into Scott at bars. He was there working in real estate and she was working as a low level assistant at the Art Institute. Eventually, these random encounters became too frequent for them to remain casual acquaintances. So they started calling each other to meet purposefully. At the time, she didn’t really know anyone in Chicago besides her boyfriend, so she was thrilled to have a drinking partner of her own. After several moves and failed relationships, she found herself back in Atlanta and Scott would call her when he was in town. He would ask her to be his date to weddings and holiday parties, and she always said yes. She usually didn’t have anything better to do, and he always had good coke. He was back now for a few months, studying for the LSAT, and staying at his mother’s house in Buckhead.


She drives up to his house about an hour and a half after his call and parks her dented ‘92 Integra behind the shiny BMW in the driveway. She doesn’t recognize the car, but then remembers how Scott told her he was selling the Mercedes he had just bought on Craigslist, because it was a piece of shit. This must be it’s replacement. Before she can ring the bell, Scott opens the front door and Clara notices his Wayfarers sitting on top of his head despite the fact that it’s almost midnight. “You want some champagne?” he says with a wine glass in his hand.


“Obviously.”


Scott has been alone in the house for the past couple of weeks while his mother is in Dubai, or Abu Dhabi, or somewhere. Scott’s dad is the US Ambassador to Argentina and hasn’t lived in the States for years. Since he’s had the house to himself, he and Clara have gotten into a little routine: she comes over at night, they drink champagne and maybe a bottle or two of wine. Then, they fall asleep in his bed, but nothing happens. The first couple of nights, she throws herself at him, but he never takes the bait. Finally, she gives up and wonders if he is gay, but at the same time she doesn’t really care enough to ask. She feels a little like they are back in high school, which is maybe why she likes it so much. The routine has become comfortable and she will be sad when it ends. 


She walks into the house and sits down at the granite-topped island in the kitchen. Scott pours the champagne and begins the gossip.


“Did you hear about Cash?,” he begins.

“No, what happened?,” she asks, even though she doesn’t want to know.

“He flipped his car Friday night and walked back to his house not remembering what happened. He was covered in blood and told his roommate he ran into a ditch, but the next day the cops found his car overturned on Moreland. ”

“Oh my God!” she says, feigning surprise.


Cash has been an alcoholic for years and these stories have become increasingly common. At this point everyone is just waiting for him to die, and she finds herself annoyed that he keeps delaying the inevitable. She wants to scream, “Either get your shit together or just fucking kill yourself already! But quit making us have to listen to these fucking stories!” He has become a terrible cliche and she is sick of having to pretend to be shocked and troubled. Rather, she is relieved that she’s not a close friend and doesn’t have to go to the interventions or talk to his parents. But she don’t tell Scott any of this.

“Holy Shit. That breaks my heart,” she says according to script.


They sit there in silence for longer than most would find comfortable; the kind of pauses that have come to define their relationship. “How’s the job hunt going? Did you ever hear back from the Botanical Gardens?” he finally asks. She immediately despise anyone who asks her about her search for employment. “Yeah, I have a second interview on Tuesday with the Director.” As she says this she already knows that she won’t get the job. They will find her resume impressive and the interview will go well, but she will never hear from them again.


“Let’s watch a movie,” she says as she gets up and walks into the living room. Scott follows her with the bottle of champagne, which they quickly finish off. In the morning, she wakes up next to him, and doesn’t care whether he is gay or straight. She is just thankful that his body is warm and that they never have to talk about anything real.

Devendra Banhart and Rebecca Schwartz in the world’s sexiest commercial for Oliver Peoples. Shot by photographer Lisa Eisner in architect John Lautner’s masterpiece, LA’s the Rainbow House. 

I Don’t Love You    

“I don’t love you. You know that, right?” She’d decided this was the best worst thing she could say. She wasn’t sure when this revelation occurred, but for years she found herself saying it aloud when she was alone or bored. Mostly, while washing her hair in the shower or before falling asleep at night. She rehearsed the phrase as if it were the trigger on a pistol she would need to pull by second nature if her home were burglarized. She had never approved of guns before, but now found it necessary to protect herself. Best not to be caught off guard, she thought. 

She’d originally anticipated its use on a boyfriend who had wronged her. But lately she’d begun to wonder in what other capacity it might be used. She could feel her heart hardening like the crust of a baguette that had been left out after a dinner party. With each day that passed she grew further and further from those she had once loved. The life she had once led. It wasn’t depression. That she had felt before. This was different. What she was experiencing now was more of a split from her former self than a feeling of constant dread and sadness. She didn’t know how exactly, but she was confident that somehow it would all work out. The walls she had begun to build around herself years ago had grown so thick that they were all but impenetrable; a work of masterful masonry only she could admire.

The night before, she’d gotten into an altercation with Jimi Hendrix’s nephew at a bar. (Hence forth, he will be referred to simply as JHN.)

She knew his lineage not because she particularly cared about those things, but because it was repeated to her throughout the evening by everyone at the party; who clearly were impressed. Eventually, he even told her himself. When she did not respond with his anticipated awe, it was clear she had left him with a bad taste in his mouth. They were there celebrating the birthday of his friend with whom she happened to have been sleeping with for the past two weeks. As the party came to an end, they each went to close their bar tabs; but not before he ordered one last shot. As he ordered another Jager, the bartender informed him that he’d racked up quite the bill. She, politely, questioned whether he really wanted to order another drink. He paused, looked her up and down, eyeing her with disdain, then laughed and said, “It’s fine, sweetie.” The “sweetie” was implied.

As the rest of their friends had left, she, her fuck buddy, and he of the Hendrix dynasty, sat there finishing their drinks. It was at this point that the interrogation began. JHN’d had much too much to drink and she’d had not nearly enough. Their disproportionate sobriety had increased both of their aggression, and the altercation became inevitable.

Finally, he got in her face and asked her, “Are you a good person?” Without hesitation, she answered, “Yes.” “Why?,” he replied. “What makes you a good person?”

She couldn’t think of an answer, and realized it was because she probably wasn’t one. Maybe once she was, but that had been a long time ago. And she wasn’t really even sure how much she cared anyway. It wouldn’t be long before she disappeared and was another person entirely. Perhaps then she would be good again.

The boy she was sleeping with. The man she was sleeping with. The boy she was sleeping with, only partially intervened during this altercation, which displeased her. Eventually it was time to leave, and as she’d agreed upon earlier in the evening, she drove JHN back to his penthouse apartment in midtown before driving back to the boy’s house. He invited her in, and she declined. She was not impressed with how the evening had unfolded and realized, more importantly, that she wasn’t really impressed with him either. That would be the first time they wouldn’t sleep together.

He woke up the next morning and texted her apologies with promises of reparations. She shrugged and replied “it’s cool.” But no one in the history of the world has ever said “it’s cool” and actually meant that it was cool. Heated character interrogations from strangers are never cool. What she meant was, “I don’t really care enough about you to fight over this.” And with that, they both made a silent pact to never discuss that night again. Though, each for entirely different reasons. Or maybe their reasons were exactly the same. 

She knew she’d never pull out her pistol on him, but that didn’t stop her from continuing rehearsing her lines every night. 

I Don’t Love You    


“I don’t love you. You know that, right?” She’d decided this was the best worst thing she could say. She wasn’t sure when this revelation occurred, but for years she found herself saying it aloud when she was alone or bored. Mostly, while washing her hair in the shower or before falling asleep at night. She rehearsed the phrase as if it were the trigger on a pistol she would need to pull by second nature if her home were burglarized. She had never approved of guns before, but now found it necessary to protect herself. Best not to be caught off guard, she thought. 


She’d originally anticipated its use on a boyfriend who had wronged her. But lately she’d begun to wonder in what other capacity it might be used. She could feel her heart hardening like the crust of a baguette that had been left out after a dinner party. With each day that passed she grew further and further from those she had once loved. The life she had once led. It wasn’t depression. That she had felt before. This was different. What she was experiencing now was more of a split from her former self than a feeling of constant dread and sadness. She didn’t know how exactly, but she was confident that somehow it would all work out. The walls she had begun to build around herself years ago had grown so thick that they were all but impenetrable; a work of masterful masonry only she could admire.


The night before, she’d gotten into an altercation with Jimi Hendrix’s nephew at a bar. (Hence forth, he will be referred to simply as JHN.)


She knew his lineage not because she particularly cared about those things, but because it was repeated to her throughout the evening by everyone at the party; who clearly were impressed. Eventually, he even told her himself. When she did not respond with his anticipated awe, it was clear she had left him with a bad taste in his mouth. They were there celebrating the birthday of his friend with whom she happened to have been sleeping with for the past two weeks. As the party came to an end, they each went to close their bar tabs; but not before he ordered one last shot. As he ordered another Jager, the bartender informed him that he’d racked up quite the bill. She, politely, questioned whether he really wanted to order another drink. He paused, looked her up and down, eyeing her with disdain, then laughed and said, “It’s fine, sweetie.” The “sweetie” was implied.


As the rest of their friends had left, she, her fuck buddy, and he of the Hendrix dynasty, sat there finishing their drinks. It was at this point that the interrogation began. JHN’d had much too much to drink and she’d had not nearly enough. Their disproportionate sobriety had increased both of their aggression, and the altercation became inevitable.


Finally, he got in her face and asked her, “Are you a good person?” Without hesitation, she answered, “Yes.” “Why?,” he replied. “What makes you a good person?”


She couldn’t think of an answer, and realized it was because she probably wasn’t one. Maybe once she was, but that had been a long time ago. And she wasn’t really even sure how much she cared anyway. It wouldn’t be long before she disappeared and was another person entirely. Perhaps then she would be good again.


The boy she was sleeping with. The man she was sleeping with. The boy she was sleeping with, only partially intervened during this altercation, which displeased her. Eventually it was time to leave, and as she’d agreed upon earlier in the evening, she drove JHN back to his penthouse apartment in midtown before driving back to the boy’s house. He invited her in, and she declined. She was not impressed with how the evening had unfolded and realized, more importantly, that she wasn’t really impressed with him either. That would be the first time they wouldn’t sleep together.


He woke up the next morning and texted her apologies with promises of reparations. She shrugged and replied “it’s cool.” But no one in the history of the world has ever said “it’s cool” and actually meant that it was cool. Heated character interrogations from strangers are never cool. What she meant was, “I don’t really care enough about you to fight over this.” And with that, they both made a silent pact to never discuss that night again. Though, each for entirely different reasons. Or maybe their reasons were exactly the same. 


She knew she’d never pull out her pistol on him, but that didn’t stop her from continuing rehearsing her lines every night. 

There are all kinds of truth, your truth and somebody else’s. But behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there’s no truth.  - Flannery O’Connor

There are all kinds of truth, your truth and somebody else’s. But behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there’s no truth.  - Flannery O’Connor

La Petite Mort
 
Clara followed him to his house in a champagne 2005 Jaguar X Type. Her friend Max had gone to Oberammergau that year for the Passion Play, and she’d agreed to watch his dogs while he was in Germany. As Clara was without a car at the time, and Max lived about 30 minutes outside of the city, one of the perks to this arrangement was the use of the Jag. Driving it made her feel free and powerful; things she hadn’t felt in a long time. Years of public transportation gave the simple act of starting the ignition the same weight as a NASA countdown, and Clara relished every second in the driver’s seat. Now, however, that sense of freedom had been replaced with extreme concentration as she tried to keep her eyes focused on the road and car ahead of her, in an attempt to overcome an act of recklessness. She had met him only a few hours earlier at a smoky dive bar. She was there celebrating a friend’s last day of work. By the time she met Timothy it was already late and she’d had plenty to drink. He had tattoos and glasses and made her laugh. After last call, he mentioned he had a bottle of whiskey at his house. She took the bait and they jumped in their respective vehicles. Which is how she found herself driving someone else’s luxury sedan through a “transitional” neighborhood at 2am. Clara arrived about five minutes later and proceeded to walk into one of the filthiest inhabited places she had ever seen. “So do you have a roommate?”  “Yeah, but she’s working late. She probably won’t be home for another hour or two.”  It had to have been at least 2:45am by this point. Clara concluded she was a stripper.  “WAIT? You live with a GIRL?” She asked a bit too loudly. “Yeeeaaah….” he answered questioningly, imitating her tone.  “No you don’t. You’re lying. You’re joking. Right?,” she said as she scanned his kitchen.  He stared at her, completely perplexed. He cocked his head to the side and squinted, as if asking: “Why would I lie about that? What possible end could come from that deception?” The thing is, she couldn’t have cared less that he lived with a woman, that wasn’t where her confusion lay. Rather, she simply could not conceive of a female living contentedly among the amounts of trash that had collected within this East Atlanta domicile. Clara’s only experiences with such living conditions were frat houses and drug dealers’ homes. Both places she hadn’t been since college. So, she chose not to give him an explanation for her irrevocable shock, as she didn’t want to seem rude; which, she was. So instead, she quickly changed the subject. A talent at which she was quite adept, and a task which is made all the easier when both parties are adequately inebriated. Tim walked through the kitchen into the living room towards a medium sized pit bull in a dog crate. “I’ll be right back. I just need to let her out,” he said as he opened the wire door, unleashing a canine so clumsy it seemed made of rubber; like a fawn taking its first steps. “Why don’t you make us some drinks? The whiskey is on the counter.” He walked out the front door closing it quietly behind him. Clara didn’t want another drink at this point, but felt compelled to considering this was the premise of her invite. She walked back into the kitchen and started fixing two whiskeys’ in the first clean glasses she found. As she began pouring the second drink, she saw a liter of Coke sitting on the counter next to where she’d grabbed the Jack Daniels. Did he want Jack and Coke? Ugh. She walked to the front door, opened it, and at a ridiculously inappropriate volume for the hour of night, yelled her question. Yes, that is exactly what he wanted. Back in the kitchen, she made his drink while rolling her eyes and sighing dramatically. Surely, there was nothing wrong with a Jack and Coke, but as it happened to be her drink of choice as a teenager, she couldn’t smell it, let alone drink it, without an immediate induction of her gag reflex. Also, she was a brat. When she finished mixing his drink, she walked into the living room. While surveying the wreckage he called home, a large dark structure against the left hand wall caught her eye. At first she thought it was a dining table. It became immediately clear its purpose was not for dining. “Is that a coffin?!?!” Surely, she was mistaken, she thought. But upon closer inspection, it became startlingly clear she was not. In a cleaner environment such a gargantuan object wouldn’t have been so difficult to discern. The shots of tequila probably didn’t help either. Instead of alarm, her first thought after she realized that this was, in fact, a vestibule for the deceased, was “I should totally get in and jump out of it when he comes back inside!” So, she opened the lid - is that what you even call it? Jesus. Anyways, as soon as she did, the unmistakable smell of high school biology class hit her nostrils like a ton of bricks. At this exact moment, her paramour came bursting through the door screaming, “NO! DON’T!” Terrified, she dropped the lid; fearing that she had desecrated some ancient esoteric relic with her uninitiated hands. 
 
“Will a virgin have to be sacrificed?! Where are we going to find a virgin at 3am?! Do they even have virgins in East Atlanta?!” Her mind was racing with pagan worst case scenarios.  He explained that the coffin had actually been used by an actual funeral home to hold actual bodies of the actually deceased during wakes. He made a point of noting that it was not his coffin, but his roommate’s. His roommate’s name was “Misty” or “Tiffany” or something equally as stripper-like. Clara was callously satisfied that Tim’s history of the coffin confirmed her suspicions regarding his roommate’s line of work.  The ole “coffin-in-the-living-room” number should have been her cue to exit. Instead, she thought, “Oh. Well, it’s not his, so that makes it alright.” Clara had excellent judgment. As soon as she reconciled this Adams Family sex scenario she was about to engage in with her middle class Roman Catholic upbringing, she involuntarily began cleaning Tim’s living room so intensely and awkwardly, that he had to force her to stop. It was at this point that they transitioned to the bedroom; because, I mean, what’s not sexy about this situation? Clara sat on his bed feeling like she had entered a fifteen-year-old’s room. She could hear his mom telling him he had to clean his room before he could go out for the night, and him then yelling back that it was his room and he should be able to keep it however he wanted. She, also, couldn’t help but notice how awkwardly his furniture was arranged. She became fixated on it, and even offered to come back the next day to help him feng shui the place. Finally, they got down to what she had come to this house of mirth for; or almost. Precisely at the point of insertion, Tim? Timothy? She still wasn’t sure of his name preference. Anyways, he looked into her eyes, and with the deepest sincerity, asked her, “What does this mean to you?” Clara’s inner monologue: You have got to be fucking kidding me. What?! Seriously? Why am I totally incapable of a normal one night stand? You have a Goddamn COFFIN in your living room! What is HAPPENNING here?! Do you think this is our “meet cute?” That we’ll be telling our grandkids at Christmas about that funny time Grams found a coffin at Pappi’s house? Of course, this would happen to me…What actually came out of her mouth:Um, I think they call this sex? Regardless of the annoyingly sentimental preamble, the sex ended up being unexpectedly amazing. At least for Clara. By that point it was pretty clear that if one of them had been wearing pants, metaphorical or literal, it would have been her. So, as things stood, she was able to proceed to engage in the most carefree and uninhibited sex of her life. And in the end, she was able to admit to herself that it was nice to go sleep and wake up with someone’s arm adoringly wrapped around her waist. And he made her laugh.
 
The next morning her phone alarm went off sometime around 8am. She lied and told him she had to leave. Before she could protest, he responded by going down on her. She came, and then left. But not before he asked for her phone number. With heavy hesitation and anticipatory hope, she gave him her number, along with her middle name, social security number, and Gmail username and password. By 10am, she’d received three text messages and a request to be his Facebook friend. And in the end, she accepted; she didn’t want to be rude. 
 
Or maybe that’s just what she told herself. Maybe she realized that the night before she’d come so casually and prematurely close to death, only to be followed by the potential prospect of love. The dichotomy of the two states was invigorating, and she hoped that love was what she’d be left with. And suddenly, a guy with a coffin didn’t seem so bad after all.

La Petite Mort

 

Clara followed him to his house in a champagne 2005 Jaguar X Type. Her friend Max had gone to Oberammergau that year for the Passion Play, and she’d agreed to watch his dogs while he was in Germany. As Clara was without a car at the time, and Max lived about 30 minutes outside of the city, one of the perks to this arrangement was the use of the Jag. Driving it made her feel free and powerful; things she hadn’t felt in a long time. Years of public transportation gave the simple act of starting the ignition the same weight as a NASA countdown, and Clara relished every second in the driver’s seat. Now, however, that sense of freedom had been replaced with extreme concentration as she tried to keep her eyes focused on the road and car ahead of her, in an attempt to overcome an act of recklessness.

She had met him only a few hours earlier at a smoky dive bar. She was there celebrating a friend’s last day of work. By the time she met Timothy it was already late and she’d had plenty to drink. He had tattoos and glasses and made her laugh. After last call, he mentioned he had a bottle of whiskey at his house. She took the bait and they jumped in their respective vehicles. Which is how she found herself driving someone else’s luxury sedan through a “transitional” neighborhood at 2am. Clara arrived about five minutes later and proceeded to walk into one of the filthiest inhabited places she had ever seen.

“So do you have a roommate?” 
“Yeah, but she’s working late. She probably won’t be home for another hour or two.” 

It had to have been at least 2:45am by this point. Clara concluded she was a stripper. 

“WAIT? You live with a GIRL?” She asked a bit too loudly. “Yeeeaaah….” he answered questioningly, imitating her tone. 

“No you don’t. You’re lying. You’re joking. Right?,” she said as she scanned his kitchen. 

He stared at her, completely perplexed. He cocked his head to the side and squinted, as if asking: “Why would I lie about that? What possible end could come from that deception?” The thing is, she couldn’t have cared less that he lived with a woman, that wasn’t where her confusion lay. Rather, she simply could not conceive of a female living contentedly among the amounts of trash that had collected within this East Atlanta domicile. Clara’s only experiences with such living conditions were frat houses and drug dealers’ homes. Both places she hadn’t been since college. So, she chose not to give him an explanation for her irrevocable shock, as she didn’t want to seem rude; which, she was. So instead, she quickly changed the subject. A talent at which she was quite adept, and a task which is made all the easier when both parties are adequately inebriated.

Tim walked through the kitchen into the living room towards a medium sized pit bull in a dog crate. “I’ll be right back. I just need to let her out,” he said as he opened the wire door, unleashing a canine so clumsy it seemed made of rubber; like a fawn taking its first steps. “Why don’t you make us some drinks? The whiskey is on the counter.” He walked out the front door closing it quietly behind him. Clara didn’t want another drink at this point, but felt compelled to considering this was the premise of her invite. She walked back into the kitchen and started fixing two whiskeys’ in the first clean glasses she found. As she began pouring the second drink, she saw a liter of Coke sitting on the counter next to where she’d grabbed the Jack Daniels. Did he want Jack and Coke? Ugh. She walked to the front door, opened it, and at a ridiculously inappropriate volume for the hour of night, yelled her question. Yes, that is exactly what he wanted. Back in the kitchen, she made his drink while rolling her eyes and sighing dramatically. Surely, there was nothing wrong with a Jack and Coke, but as it happened to be her drink of choice as a teenager, she couldn’t smell it, let alone drink it, without an immediate induction of her gag reflex. Also, she was a brat.

When she finished mixing his drink, she walked into the living room. While surveying the wreckage he called home, a large dark structure against the left hand wall caught her eye. At first she thought it was a dining table. It became immediately clear its purpose was not for dining. “Is that a coffin?!?!” Surely, she was mistaken, she thought. But upon closer inspection, it became startlingly clear she was not. In a cleaner environment such a gargantuan object wouldn’t have been so difficult to discern. The shots of tequila probably didn’t help either. Instead of alarm, her first thought after she realized that this was, in fact, a vestibule for the deceased, was “I should totally get in and jump out of it when he comes back inside!” So, she opened the lid - is that what you even call it? Jesus. Anyways, as soon as she did, the unmistakable smell of high school biology class hit her nostrils like a ton of bricks. At this exact moment, her paramour came bursting through the door screaming, “NO! DON’T!” Terrified, she dropped the lid; fearing that she had desecrated some ancient esoteric relic with her uninitiated hands.

 

“Will a virgin have to be sacrificed?! Where are we going to find a virgin at 3am?! Do they even have virgins in East Atlanta?!” Her mind was racing with pagan worst case scenarios. 

He explained that the coffin had actually been used by an actual funeral home to hold actual bodies of the actually deceased during wakes. He made a point of noting that it was not his coffin, but his roommate’s. His roommate’s name was “Misty” or “Tiffany” or something equally as stripper-like. Clara was callously satisfied that Tim’s history of the coffin confirmed her suspicions regarding his roommate’s line of work. 

The ole “coffin-in-the-living-room” number should have been her cue to exit. Instead, she thought, “Oh. Well, it’s not his, so that makes it alright.” Clara had excellent judgment. As soon as she reconciled this Adams Family sex scenario she was about to engage in with her middle class Roman Catholic upbringing, she involuntarily began cleaning Tim’s living room so intensely and awkwardly, that he had to force her to stop. It was at this point that they transitioned to the bedroom; because, I mean, what’s not sexy about this situation? Clara sat on his bed feeling like she had entered a fifteen-year-old’s room. She could hear his mom telling him he had to clean his room before he could go out for the night, and him then yelling back that it was his room and he should be able to keep it however he wanted. She, also, couldn’t help but notice how awkwardly his furniture was arranged. She became fixated on it, and even offered to come back the next day to help him feng shui the place.

Finally, they got down to what she had come to this house of mirth for; or almost.
Precisely at the point of insertion, Tim? Timothy? She still wasn’t sure of his name preference. Anyways, he looked into her eyes, and with the deepest sincerity, asked her, “What does this mean to you?” 

Clara’s inner monologue: You have got to be fucking kidding me. What?! Seriously? Why am I totally incapable of a normal one night stand? You have a Goddamn COFFIN in your living room! What is HAPPENNING here?! Do you think this is our “meet cute?” That we’ll be telling our grandkids at Christmas about that funny time Grams found a coffin at Pappi’s house? Of course, this would happen to me…

What actually came out of her mouth:Um, I think they call this sex?

Regardless of the annoyingly sentimental preamble, the sex ended up being unexpectedly amazing. At least for Clara. By that point it was pretty clear that if one of them had been wearing pants, metaphorical or literal, it would have been her. So, as things stood, she was able to proceed to engage in the most carefree and uninhibited sex of her life. And in the end, she was able to admit to herself that it was nice to go sleep and wake up with someone’s arm adoringly wrapped around her waist. And he made her laugh.

 

The next morning her phone alarm went off sometime around 8am. She lied and told him she had to leave. Before she could protest, he responded by going down on her. She came, and then left. But not before he asked for her phone number. With heavy hesitation and anticipatory hope, she gave him her number, along with her middle name, social security number, and Gmail username and password. By 10am, she’d received three text messages and a request to be his Facebook friend. And in the end, she accepted; she didn’t want to be rude.

 

Or maybe that’s just what she told herself. Maybe she realized that the night before she’d come so casually and prematurely close to death, only to be followed by the potential prospect of love. The dichotomy of the two states was invigorating, and she hoped that love was what she’d be left with. And suddenly, a guy with a coffin didn’t seem so bad after all.

(Source: bellyroomfanatic)

Years ago, I read a profile of US veterans who had fought in various American conflicts. All of their stories were terribly compelling. However, as awful as they all were, there was one story in particular that has stuck with me all these years. The profile was of a young man with a wife and kids at home, who prayed everyday that he would make it home in one piece. His story wasn’t much different than those of many of the men and women who have served our country; however, in what was a decidedly academic piece of journalism, a short anecdote this soldier shared, one that others may have thrown away as a triviality, affected me deeply and lastingly.


As a single woman with no husband or children of my own, although I could certainly empathize with the fear he battled and admire the valor with which he fought, I can’t say with sincerity that I was truly able to sympathize with his experience. I haven’t the slightest clue what it must feel like to put your life on the line day after day, never knowing whether you will see your loved ones again. So what touched me so profoundly about this soldier’s story was the one thing to which I could relate. The one thing that, for me, is so intimately personal and immediately humanizing, that even an emotionally naive and inexperienced college girl was able to understand this man, not as a soldier, but as a boy not much older or different than herself.


The interviewer asked the soldier what it was that got him through the horror of war, what maintained his sanity, and lent him some comfort of home. His reply was short and simple, but it’s impact resounding. He said that every night he got in bed (when he was lucky enough to have one to sleep in), he put on his headphones, and listened to “Feel Flows,” by The Beach Boys. As he listened, he closed his eyes and visualized his wife and children. And for those few minutes the world was perfect. I can’t fathom the realities of war, but I can relate to being saved by the transcendent power of music. I read that article over ten years ago now, yet, to this day, I can’t think of troops in battle without hearing those hypnotic harmonies.


So, Happy Veteran’s Day. Thank you to all who have fought and those who still find themselves in combat. And, whether you’re in a far away land or a hostile cubicle downtown; finding a little something to bring you back home for just a moment - whatever (or wherever) that may be - might just make the difference between victory and defeat.

Profile of installation artist Motoi Yamamoto, who paints with salt. His technique is equally as fascinating as the finished work is transcendentally beautiful. Video produced by Brady Welch and Arden Sherman for The Avant/Garde Diaries.

Kanye Wes Anderson