Natural Causes

I only remember two things about her. That she liked Chinese food and that once she told me that she didn’t need to be happy if her family was happy.

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He tricked you into calling him.  You told him you would let him listen to your voice so that he’d be sure you were a woman.  The conversation lasted over an hour.  He kept on feeding you possible scenarios that seemed appealing.  At first he sounded like a geek  but then you started to suspect if that wasn’t just a trick to lure you.  If it was, it worked.

They don’t get to penetrate so the next best thing is to be penetrated by you.

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Fear of History

On November 9th she only wrote about the weather.  The week before it had been almost 100 and that day it was 50.  She wrote that in Iowa one day it was 75 and the next 30.  Fifty-degree fluctuations in temperature within two weeks are becoming the norm everywhere.  She says she knows what’s happening.  So do most people but they don’t feel like worrying about that.  It’s useless.  They will deal with it.

Every other day she dreams that she’s running away from a tornado and barely escapes.  When she awakens she wishes she would have gotten caught in it just so that she would find out what it feels like to be inside a tornado.  Since it’s only a dream, she would survive it.  And when she awakened, she would know she survived it.

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Husband Killer

I was in the middle of reading a story about a tennis referee who was famous because John McEnroe screamed at her once, when I got the urge to go out.  She bludgeoned her husband with his World’s Best Golfer coffee mug and then stabbed him with the shards to finish the job.  It had been weeks since I felt like leaving the house.  Even though I knew I wouldn’t get too far, I took a shower and got dressed.  I decided to go to the dirty part of the neighborhood so as not to be reminded of my unhappiness.  An attractive, young and hip couple in love crossed my path and I got as far as the nearest bus stop.  I sat on the bench; dizzy with envy and nauseous from the traffic exhaust fumes and waited for the next urge.

After 15 minutes a thirty-something woman in a very short dress and opaque tights sat next to me.  She hauled a cart full of dirty laundry.  I had never seen a white person with a cart like that. In this city, only immigrants carry those carts to the Laundromat.

It wasn’t long before she started to talk.  She told me that going to the Laundromat was a constant reminder of her failures.  She believed that not owning a washer and a dryer was a failure.  Because of this, not laziness, she stressed, she let the dirty clothes pile up for weeks.  Also, she could wait because most of her garments were dry clean and she had a lot of underwear because rather than washing it, it was easier to buy more. Last time she counted she had 89 pairs of panties, not including the tattered ones she couldn’t bring herself to throw away and that she wore during her period.

She’s a panty hoarder, I thought.

It really bothered her when men looked at the contents of her laundry basket.  It seemed that washing underwear should be a private activity.  She was disgusted when she caught a glimpse of manly skid marks and no one needed to see what she wore under her skirt. She had a predilection for black lace and leopard print thongs.  She took the first breath of this one-way conversation and continued.

The biggest shock of her life came late and alerted her to her naïveté.  People seem so normal until they casually reveal something that happened in their childhood. As if it was no big deal. But it’s so huge that of course they had to be affected deeply.  Like getting molested or date raped in college.  Nothing ever that big happened to her but she started to question whether she was as normal and well-adjusted as she thought she was.  She spent hours trying to recall her childhood, which until that point she was convinced was a happy one.  She tried to remember the one thing that might have fucked her up.  Anything that could be considered a “trauma” sure didn’t measure up to other people’s traumas.  Her father wasn’t as present as he could have been, but she thought that was a good thing.  She thought hard and tried to remember a man that owned a small convenience store in her neighborhood.  Her mother often talked about how he was smitten with her as a little girl and gave her whatever she wanted from the store.  Maybe he…he could have, she guessed.  She couldn’t summon any unpleasant childhood memories and gave up on that notion.

And then she began to question her own mental stability.  Maybe something she did that she thought was normal was perceived by someone else as flipping out.  It was all subjective after all.  She did flip out that one time when she told off a “friend” and sent him to hell.  He’d only contact her when he needed something and, if she didn’t provide it, he’d badger her over email.  She let this go on for over seven years of knowing the selfish asshole and when she had enough she told him to fuck off.   Not in person though.  She sent an e-mail and then blocked him from all her social media accounts.  It was a first for her and it felt good even though she questioned her rationality after doing it.  After that, she told people whom she didn’t like to fuck off quite often.  It felt good and she never regretted kicking people out of her life.

The woman then stood up, grabbed her cart, and walked to the Laundromat which was just across the street from the bus stop.  I went back home and finished reading the mariticide story.  The 70-year old tennis referee was arrested in New York, where she was working as a line judge at the US Open. She tried to explain to the police that “She surmised her husband had fallen down the steps, had a heart attack and managed to get back upstairs to the bed before he died.”  As soon as I finished reading the article I realized I had forgotten what freedom felt like.

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We won’t forget.

He was going to be gone a few hours so I sat down to make a to-do list while I listened to the radio.  It’s mostly useless to listen.  The situation is the same everywhere but some in the media insist and struggle to report on what they view as tiny sprouts of hope.  It has been years since I’ve felt anything resembling hope and it’s interesting to me that a few can still muster it.  These stories distract me for a few minutes.

The reporter narrates:

A young girl who’s volunteered to translate asks me the same question the rebels asked in the police station: Why won’t anybody help us?

I tell her my country doesn’t want to get mired in another costly war, especially not now, in an election year. I feel like I’m saying something normal, but it shatters the girl. She starts to cry and can’t stop. She eventually tells the other women in the room what I said.

The women stare at me. We won’t forget this, the sister of the dead man says finally. When we control our country, we won’t forget that you forgot about us.

And the story ends with that.

I didn’t understand the girl’s language, but I sensed what she was feeling because she wasn’t adept at controlling her emotions.  Her loneliness was too big and it didn’t fit in that room.  I felt an urge to comfort her; to tell her it would never fit anywhere but, if she managed to survive, she wouldn’t be helpless again.

Before he left to run his errands he caught me looking through the pictures in the box.  He lectured me and told me he had already been old twice and that he didn’t like it.  He said he was not going to do it again.  He said all of it was in spite, not because, of me.  These statements didn’t seem arbitrary.  Nothing ever is random with him.  He always speaks in absolutes and I’m certain he has never been aimless for one second of his life.  Maybe this is why we can’t get along.

I have an edge because he’s easy to read even though he thinks he’s being deceitful.  The temperature of his body against my skin gives his intentions away.  In the beginning he was warm like anyone else. Later, the more determined he became, the colder his skin got.  One night I felt in love so I decided to give it one more try.  I put my hands on him while he slept.  He was an ice block.  That’s when I knew it was either going to be him or me.

I don’t care for the result. It’s the same to me.  If it’s the same to him as well then it’s going to be more difficult.  He was either going back into the earth or I was going to die.

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The Final Walk


I search in and out, above, about and below for the pieces of the puzzle.  I know the pieces don’t exist yet, but I still try.  I have nothing better to do while we wait for someone to do something.

Temperatures rise, the pavement cracks and the streets are frozen with fear.  I’m an invisible entity amidst a panicking crowd.  It’s bullshit no one saw it coming.  No one wanted to listen, so they didn’t.  Most destruction was done by us hacks who could not choose between good and evil.  Now they hope the television tells them it can be reversed.  I’ve accepted it.  I feel fine.  I sleep.  I eat.  I get off.

There isn’t a lot of time and the only thing I want to know is if it really happened.  I’m tired of longing for something I do not know.

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Today the newspaper published photos of soldiers posing with the mangled remains of Afghan suicide bombers.  The paratroopers posed for photos next to the Afghan police, grinning while some held — and others squatted beside — the corpse’s severed legs.  The photos made me think of one of her last journal entries which was bookmarked with a letter handwritten on silly glittery stationery.


[Month and day unreadable] 2012

Amy knocked on my door.  She didn’t say anything, handed me a pink letter and left.

Dear neighbor,

I was doing pretty good in life until the man I loved hurt me.  At first I thought I hated it and then I thought it wasn’t too bad and then I thought, wow, I like this.  But by that time he was gone and I couldn’t get him to come back to me.  So I tried to find men that would hurt me the way he did.  You’d think it would be easy, but as it turned out, it’s almost impossible.  For the most part, men just want to fuck you their way and to be left alone with their beer and pizza.  You really have to do a lot of pushing and shoving and bitching and complaining to get them riled up.  Then they leave and never answer your calls.  Not one would raise his fist and punch me on the face.

I posted an online personal seeking a “woman beater.”  I got a lot of funny and concerned responses.  It never occurred to me that people would not take the ad seriously.  Someone suggested I pay a boxer to kick my ass.  Many sent abuse hotlines and shelter addresses.  Mostly, the post got flagged and removed.

I bought special FX make up at a party store.  Turns out it’s pretty easy to simulate a bruise.  It was fun at first but the novelty soon wore off.  It just wasn’t comforting for very long.  Then John showed up at my door selling bread.  I got lucky. Very lucky.

I didn’t mind my neighbor’s judgmental glares.  Your contemptuous looks.  No one ever wants to come over and hang out.  You came to dinner once but never again.  I wanted you to know I was a good cook and a cool girl.  I guess we make everyone uncomfortable.  My face made you uncomfortable.  Right?

I’m not pretending that it’s not there.  It just isn’t a big deal to me. At this point, a pimple on my forehead would be more upsetting to me.  My bruises are make-up I don’t put on myself. I never told you this because I didn’t want to confuse you more, but looking in the mirror gives me pleasure.  You’re thinking I should have the courtesy of covering my face with cake makeup and giant sunglasses to spare people the awkwardness of not really caring when society tells them they should.  I guess I’m writing this letter to let you know that I won’t.  It’s your problem, not mine.

One woman’s shame is another’s triumph. So spare me your synonyms.  Pain is pain, but it’s not always bad.


Amy the neighbor

P.S. You’re always welcome to dinner.


Something bad is about to happen. The birds don’t chirp, they sing bass; a hopeless lament. They’ve been waiting for this war.

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It makes sense and it makes no sense.

One of her notebooks was completely filled with

the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning…

It was a warning not an oracle. I didn’t know that back then.

Despite what has happened, I do credit him with telling me the truth that one time.  He had cooked one of his lavish dinners and we sat down to eat. He said, “I’m a sinner who doesn’t give one fuck about forgiveness. The world ends when you’re dead. Let’s toast.”  We lifted our glasses of red wine. “To the night of our love,” he said.  We drank. I waited. And he didn’t kiss me.

So I chose to continue even with this knowledge but now it must end so that I can go back to the beginning. My heart reminds me that I should cry for lost time but I refuse. I’ve never been the crying type.


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The Ghosts in the Wall

I finally had time to read more entries today. Most of them were quite boring except for these two.

March 24, 1999

I was working on a patch of soil for tomato plants when something fell from the sky, barely missing me.  It was a severed foot.  A man’s foot.  Well, I assumed it was a man’s foot because it was hairy and the toenails were long and dirty and the sole was calloused.  It’s quite large and ugly.  I stared at it for a while, trying to decide how to proceed.  I started to dial the police but hung up.  I felt silly calling about this incident when there were probably hundreds of people calling with legitimate emergencies.  What was I supposed to say?

Hello.  I’m calling to report a severed foot in my back yard.  Has anyone filed a missing foot report?  Hello, yes, there’s a severed foot in my back yard.  Can I describe the foot?  Yes, it’s probably a size 12 and it’s in great need of a pedicure.  Hello? Police? There’s a fucking, bloody foot in my vegetable garden.  No, I do not know this foot.

The whole situation was ridiculous.  I stared at the foot for about 20 minutes.  Then, I heard someone sobbing on the other side of the fence.  I asked who it was.  No answer, just sobbing.  It got louder and louder and finally he spoke.

Please give me my foot back.
This is your foot?
Can you throw it over the fence? Please.
All right. I’ll try.

I picked up the foot.  It was heavy and hard to handle with my gardening gloves.  I grabbed it by the toes with both hands and swung, aiming high.  The foot didn’t go very far and fell into the bushes.

What are you doing?
I’m sorry, I’m just not very athletic.
Please, give me my foot back.

I really did not want this man on my property and I had to figure out how to get the foot over the fence.  I picked up the foot,  faced the fence, squatted, and launched it with both arms.  It barely cleared the fence and I heard a loud thump.  The sobbing stopped.

Did you get it? Do you have it?

March 30, 1999

The evening news reported on a local man who cut off his foot and then ate it to make sure it wouldn’t be reattached.  He did it to continue collecting unemployment and disability benefits.

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I found him inside a red tent on skid row.  I didn’t have to talk to him to know that he was right for the job.  He was the right size and fucked up just enough.  When I explained how easy it would be, he didn’t believe me.  I laughed. It was funny that someone coming down from a high had the capacity to be skeptical. I told him that when I need strong men for difficult jobs I find them at the parking lot of Home Depot.  He got the joke and laughed.  Yes, he was the right one and it turned out we got along really well.

Your name is Stanley and you’re my cousin. Got it?

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