submit or we throw that guy under the train
You bought some books, they were fashionable books and that is why you liked them. There was no reason for you to buy them; we had a house full of books. "This one is about the rhythm of nature," you said. For the next week you became convinced that falling rain was what gave man the idea to paint stripes on his wall. I said it was something more effortless, like the blades of grass and the stems of flowers and the trunks of trees. In the movie theatre you almost broke down watching the previews. You wanted compliments; you were going to have to buy something to wear with the books because nothing you had matched. You bought a series of shirts printed with the columns of Greek temples, the pyramids of Egypt, and the skyscrapers of America. The shirts were so charming, everything pointing upward, day after day, the temples and buildings of man rising toward the sky. People gave you compliments and you felt good. "Almost nobody builds a house, church, or any kind of building underground," you said. For the moment, you were calm, we went to see a play, but walking out of the theatre you became upset because it was a modern play and for ten minutes of the second act all the actors did was emulate the drowsy hum of a bumble bee. You began to question the logic. Why the hum of a bee? Why not the chirp of a cricket, the roar of the lion, the lonely howl of a coyote, the gurgle of a brook flowing to the bottom of the sea? You cried in the car and I started crying too because I didn't want to be middle-of-the-road. On the way home we stopped at a bookstore in the mall. You talked to the girl behind the counter about the zebra and the tiger, the graceful neck of the giraffe, the delicate hoofs of a goat on a ledge, the scoop of a cat on a pillow. But it was hard because you knew you could not be one of those actors just playing a part. You bought a book about the unseen rhythms of electronics and a shirt you said represented the drift of clouds across the sky and the constant pulse of circles on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.  

That night in bed I said, "Do you remember when you bit down on that tube of lipstick in your mouth?" I thought this was a funny memory, something that would cheer you up, but the lipstick had been a special flavor of cherry, something you could never replace. You had put the tube in your mouth so that you could use both hands to pour yourself some wine. This was when we still drank wine out of red plastic cups and got drunk in the driveways of rented houses. When you were pouring the wine a spot of it dripped on your favorite shirt and you tried to say, "Fuck it all the hell," because, back then, you really liked to say fuck. But what you did instead was bite down really hard. The shirt had been a favorite of yours; you had worn it to impress someone who doesn't really matter anymore; now the memory of that person and the stained shirt and the ruined lipstick matter to you. The wine is important now too because you realized how you liked the way wine looked in a silver foil bag. The memory of all this made you long for the past and you fell asleep talking about how we use to love Irish folk songs. "The Irish love American jazz," you said. "Sometimes American jazz and Irish melodies combine to make a single song." I fell asleep knowing there are no accidents in nature, that in Bechuanaland there are beehive huts that look like Japanese pagodas. I think you probably meant to bite down on that lipstick. But what do I know?

When we were seventeen you told me a ghost story about a girl who died after kissing a boy who swallowed a fly. "The boy tasted bitter to the girl," you said. "She was sure he had passed some disease on to her." You said the girl died six months later and spent the next ten years following the boy around, forcing him to buy Spanish shawls, Persian ties, and jackets made of her family's Scotch plaid. I told you I didn't believe in ghosts but resolved to walk with my mouth closed whenever we were together. I took a job at a radio station that broadcast nothing but Cuban music and convinced myself that I had a small but significant cult following that would one day catapult me to fame. In between commercial breaks I broadcast subliminal messages that suggested you buy nothing but pink shirts. When we were nineteen the station began alternating between classical music and guest speakers and I interviewed a bacteriologist who worked for the CDC. "Most people catch diseases from mosquitoes," he said, "not flies." But you weren't listening, you were at a late night cafeteria eating cheese grits and scallions with a man who made a living playing the guitar and covering Bob Dylan songs.  He liked the ghost story, said he liked stories about the mouth, and that he liked to use his mouth to kiss, not his lips. I asked you to marry me. At first you declined. "Certain tones on the piano or violin hurt a dog's ears," you said. "The tones make them howl."  There were so many people around back then. You loved the taste of Jasmine tea. You still believed a person could get the hiccups for life, and you liked the sound of men plowing or sawing or breaking rock.

[Forever after at


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