The Tale of Skinny Boyfriend

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.26.59 PMnce upon a time there was a noblewoman named Rachel.

She ruled over a powerful Co-Op Board in a rapidly up-and coming neighborhood. The real-estate lords had recently renamed it SOKIPA (South of King’s Palace). Rachel loved many of the joyous excesses of her kingdom: locally grown flowers, designer blue jeans, and home design catalogs. But she loved two things most of all:

The first thing was Sir Gregory, her boyfriend of 4 years. Gregory had light brown hair that turned red in the summer. He was exactly five inches taller than Rachel, which made him ideal for kissing. He wielded his smile with skill; he had, as they say, looks that could kill. He also had a trust fund that could make any man seem immortal.

Sir Gregory was in a band. He played guitar and wrote great love ballads for lady Rachel. He praised her eyes, and her mouth, her laugh and all her other features that were like totally specific, girl. Gregory had been courting fair Rachel, who wasn’t going to be 29 forever, through many summers and winters, so he better step on it.

The second thing that Rachel loved was food, in particular the variety known in her kingdom as dessertDessert was revered for its magic ability to bestow upon those who consumed it great joy and energy, followed by great guilt and sadness, followed by great hips and buttocks. Dessert was reserved for special occasions, only afforded by the fat-wallets of Christmas bonuses, or the lean thighs of the athletic. Rachel had no need of a Christmas bonus, she had no lean muscular extremities upon which to seductively lay her layers of lipids. She had only a persistent craving for sugar. It appeared the moment she awoke, followed her until she slept, and often into her dreams.

The inherent problem in the situation was one that many hetero-normative once-uponers suffer from, and that was that Gregory, boyfriend of four years who better step on it, was too skinny. Skinnier than Lady Rachel, which just would not do.

                  At first, fair Rachel was able to pretend. Through the early months of their courtship Gregory brought her to many feasts, at which lady Rachel consumed only the greenest of salads. Lettuce hung from her lips, painting her like the most noble of bunny rabbits. Rachel suffered through each meal, even the obnoxious bits of lettuce that remain at the end, stuck to the plate and impossible to pick up with a fork without creating a squeaking noise that distracts the entire court from their feast.

                  Try as she might, lady Rachel could only hold out for so long. In time, as her strength waned, her weight gained, and her resentment of Gregory grew with it. So strong was her jealousy that it began to consume her, and she to consume every morsel of sugar in sight. Gregory dismissed her worries with casual laughter, often biting into a slice of pizza as he did so. One night, Rachel snuck down to the kitchen for a midnight snack. As she sat crying over a tray of brownies, she concocted a plan.

The next day she sent out a decree, over email and twitter, calling all of the doctors and dieticians of the kingdom to come forth. He who could make Gregory larger would be rewarded with an insurance payout fit for a king. They ran blood tests and measured his body mass index. But it was to no avail, for Sir Gregory remained as lean as ever. So, the doctors were banished, with only their malpractice rates increased.

So Rachel summoned forth all the great chefs of the kingdom, who for three weeks held great feasts, the tables overloaded with dishes dripping in fat and sticky with sugar. The entire realm filled with the perfume of fresh baked cookies. For weeks Gregory ate, and smiled, but he did not gain an ounce. Rachel watched angrily from outside the feast, chewing on celery.

So, in a last attempt, Rachel summoned forth the great un-credentialed masses. The food bloggers arrived first, and mostly photographed the food. An army of body builders lumbered in, hoisting barrels of whey protein and vials of injectable potions. The hairdressers who swore tah Gawd they gots a cousin who ate only almonds and bananas for two friggin months and he gained like 25 lbs.  Yet Rachel did not have two months, her patience had run out.

Rachel raised her cellphone angrily into the air, threatening to banish all of the crackpots from the twittersphere. A hush fell over the crackpot convention as they all looked up in fear. Just then, a small voice called out from the crowd,

   “Follow These 3 Easy Tricks to Gain 15 lbs. in 2 Days!” it cried.

             The crowd opened around the place the voice had come from, and as they parted out stepped a tiny, adorable, dimple-cheeked dumpling of a girl.

  “Who might you be?” asked Rachel.

   “It is I, KaleAndOreos13! I have a blog and a pretty popular instagram, it’s for binge-eaters who also dabble in the dark arts. Send these people away safely, and I will help you”

Rachel invited KaleAndOreos13 into her bedchamber, where she instructed Rachel to disrobe, and drew upon her body in great circles of black marker, outlining all of Rachel’s flaws. KaleAndOreos13 spoke in hushed tones and explained to Rachel what must be done,
 “Tonight is the full moon. First, you must give Gregory a draught of this potion with his dinner, so he will sleep like the dead.”

She reached into her bag, and handed Rachel a blue bottle, marked with a skull, and labeled Nyquil. Then she gave Rachel an elegantly decorated dagger, a spool of red thread, and a long golden sewing needle.

“At midnight exactly, gaze into your mirror, take the dagger and cut the unwanted pieces of flesh from your body. Sew them into place onto Gregory, then speak the following incantation three times:”

Othingnay Astestay As Oodgay As Inthay Eelsfay

Midnight arrived, and Rachel stood in front of her mirror, dagger gripped in one hand, a wobble of thigh fat pinched in the other. In the reflection, she could see the great stripes of black marker on her frame, and behind it, Sir Gregory sleeping soundly.  She could not proceed. At dawn, KaleAndOreos13 saw that Rachel had failed. So, she pulled Rachel aside and said, 
  “Well, there is one more thing we could try. “

And that is how sir Gregory was made to join Weight Watchers, along with Lady Rachel. After two weeks of being forced to count up food points all day, Rachel found him secretly eating the last of her stash of brownies. Soon, he had to loosen his belt two notches, and she had to tighten hers. The kingdom rejoiced with song and dance and 3 point Giant Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream Bars for all.  

 

[ˈæləsən]

      They’re always bitching at me not to leave my till. Todd, Margaret, all of them. Always bitching. Though, they never explain just how it is that I’m supposed to know what the lady standing in front of me means when she says,
“A grande-caramel-latte, and one of those on the end”
and starts pointing her accusing finger toward the end of the pastry case.

      I mean, that latte bit I‘ve got down. I could take that order in my sleep. Hell, I could take that order and ask if you’d “like to try it with our new coconut milk” without turning my head to the cool side of the pillow.

      But I have no idea what she is pointing at. Not a clue, this being the second day of October and a whole new rotation of specials we’ve got on offer. It’s probably a pumpkin-something, a cinnamon-whatever, some damn spiced crumble etc. The lady, she is wedged into place by the crowd behind her that is raging for a cinnamon fix. I am standing, chained behind my register like a good boy, just like I promised last night, when they made me sign that employee responsibility paper. I was all, “It won’t happen again, sir” and so on.

So I stall, and ask the lady for a name to scrawl on the grande-caramel-latte. She says,
“Huh? My name? It’s A—–.“
Well, actually, what she says is,
“Huh? My name? It’s Al-uh-suhn.”
But if we’re going to get all technical, which people like to do with their names, what she says is,
“Huh? My name? It’s [ˈæləsən].”

      I mean, give me a break. Do you know how many damn ways there are to spell [ˈæləsən]? There are at least 7 if you only count the common versions. You’ve got the old stand-by, Allison but heaven forbid you use it if she spells it Alyson, or Alison, or god knows what else. I knew a girl in 4th grade who spelled it Alysen, like her parents had something to prove. So [ˈæləsən] is standing there, pointing and pointing, while I consider writing “Ellison” on her cup just to mess with her. Or, really, just to make use of my degree for the first time since I graduated. But I doubt Todd, who is working the espresso machine, would even get the joke. He doesn’t seem to have read much of anything outside of the employee handbook. 

      So, I hedge my bets and write out “Allison” but I kind of squish the two L’s together, like, maybe there is only one. I squiggle the “o” indecisively. Like, maybe it’s an “e” or maybe my pen is running out of ink. Like, maybe I’ve been using it to write the next great American novel on recycled napkins. Like, maybe I am the guy who gets her, who knows exactly who she is. Like, maybe I could tell she had a relatively normal upbringing but that her parents just wanted her to be a little bit unique. Like, maybe she knows that I am clearly overqualified for this position. Like, maybe she could tell I’ve got a master’s degree and a lifetime-membership card to the ivory tower. Like, maybe we should get coffee sometime, somewhere else. Like, maybe she will love all my jokes about Derrida. Like, maybe she’ll forgive me for messing up the rest of her order and I won’t get written up for it. Like, maybe this [ˈæləsən] is the Allison or the Alison that changes everything.

      All the while, [ˈæləsən] is holding up her resilient elbow, pointing toward whatever it is that I am about to get wrong. The moment is more or less a metaphor for my entire romantic history.

 And of course, where is Margaret now? Margaret, our fearless shift supervisor, who is supposed to be working the pastry case. Margaret who wore out her lungs from bitching at me about leaving my till. Margaret who is evidently taking a ten minute break, now of all times. While [ˈæləsən] is waving her finger toward some mystery cake. [ˈæləsən], who left her glasses at home and can’t read the damn sign. [ˈæləsən] who looks like every other damn [ˈæləsən] I’ve ever come across, like she doesn’t have the time to look at me. 

      The line of customers is stretching out past the door, all of them frowning, all of them decaffeinated-cranky. Here I am, alone, strapped to the register. To my left, Todd has barricaded himself behind a wall of paper cups and syrups. I can hear the espresso machine hissing and spitting, then suddenly it stops. Todd has run out of steam, I‘ve thrown a wrench into the machine. Ominous, that silence.

So I look up at [ˈæləsən], who is dangling my future off her left index finger, and ask,
I’m sorry, could you at least describe it for me?”

 

 

Sugar and Spice and Everything is Pointless.

It’s matter of the it factor. I don’t have it, never have. Without it, baking is just glorified manual labor. I think about the anxiety that I was going through all for the sake of, what? I spoiled my health into submission, my thyroid gone lazy and my god my body is so revolting. I had great illusions for so long that I would end the cycle of abuse in foodservice, but I don’t think I am up to the challenge. The profit margins are too small, and there’s no room in the budget to afford the costs of being a human. After overhead the largest expenses are usually labor and butter, coming close to a tie. I guess I can’t blame the chefs for choosing butter over happiness.

Trust me, the end of the world is nothing like you imagined. It’s probably a muffin, or a misread order form. It’s 15 orders due at 10:00 a.m. and 14 of them are finished, and none of those are picked up. But the 15th shows up right on time.
It’s under-baked two minutes.
It’s the lie of a clean toothpick.
It’s slightly under-mixed or over-proofed or you probably forgot the salt.
Dear god pray you didn’t forget the salt.
Call in the National Guard, she forgot the salt.

Or it’s the button on the oven timer, always screaming. It’s when you check the timer, to see if the fucking-whatever is done and set it for 3 more minutes then you press start-and the button beeps but what has actually happened is you pressed the button so fast that you pressed it twice, so the clock stops again, hangs still at 2 minutes and 59 seconds and the fucking-whatever will burn. Because in the course of the next three minutes you will set your mind to at least 4 other tasks
and there is nothing like the smell of something burning to really make you contemplate suicide.
Though if you were to stick your head into the oven you probably wouldn’t even do that bit right.

I used to do my best writing in the kitchen. Repetitive tasks, the brief release earned by years of practice. Like a long drive on a mostly empty highway, like riding a bicycle as they say. Rolling croissants, rolling hundreds of them. That was nice, I wrote things then.
Perhaps it wasn’t really the rolling, the mind wandering. Maybe it was the pleasant terror that longing brings with it.

I am predictable at best and satisfied at worst, I am always in some unnecessary panic.
I am the pot calling the kettle, just to hang up when it goes to voicemail.
I am the pot that loved the kettle.
I am the pot that left the stove to all its burning.
I am the pot that can’t take the heat and honestly,
I just don’t see the point of putting all that hate into the world so that someone can eat breakfast and have no idea of all the pain that went into it.

Sugar and spice and everything is pointless.

A letter to the words that got away.

Dear Muse,
I thought I’d escape the confines of the screen for an afternoon, see if my hands remember how to move. To trace along the outline of the moon. I thought of you, sweet poem. But, you know, addictions of modern convenience, opiate of the masses, and the online profiles of false idols and blah blah blah. I will get off my organic, sulfate-and-paraben-free soap box for the moment.

I promised myself I would spend more time shaking my restless bones toward the sunrise, that we would give up our nocturnal leanings and that I’d leave here with more freckles. I seem to have failed, and the pressure to sleep tonight will likely keep me up. Thinking about the to-do of tomorrow and the what if I am not off enjoying some great adventure? I have barely written down a thing. I have very few stories to tell and everyone speaks English.

Today my love seems sleepy, like the delayed selvage of the drinks we each had on Friday has finally hit. There was a moment he led the bar in a rendition of some Smiths song, this being some sort of a Manchester thing, I have gathered. Man-che-staaar. He had bad dreams last night and has been distant since he woke up, hasn’t revealed very much. I had an optimistic moment where I thought I might write letters to everyone. About the nothing, the slow death my muscles have been performing. And you, I was hoping you would be there in them. The sadness of rainy days and I guess I have always been this boring, this lazy homebody with no energy. I wish I could quit the love of screens. The issue of insomnia has been a complication, indeed.

I fear that the words in me have all fallen asleep. I don’t quite remember what inspiration feels like. How you used to wake me in the middle of the night. How your steps fall into place when I am tripping over myself toward some amorous horizon. Saying, look at me I make such lovely sentences would you like some of them?

I used to do my best writing in those rare moments of comfort. Repetitive tasks, the brief release earned by years of practice. Like a long drive on a mostly empty highway, like riding a bicycle as they say. Rolling croissants, rolling hundreds of them. That was nice, I wrote things then. Perhaps it wasn’t really the rolling, the mind wandering. Maybe, yet again, it was the pleasant terror that longing brings with it.

I guess I am predictable at best, but I can’t let my mind go on like that. Only awake when the lust is freshly brewed and an arms reach away. I can’t resign myself to only falling in but never being in love. I mean, I can, I do. I have and hope to stay this way I just wish that the writing would feel the same way. Perhaps, that’s it. Ah, damnit, this is it’s own example of the nonsense my love has been telling me about, somethingorother language. I don’t want to ask for the word but, you, dear poem(muse, muze), are like my own version of it. You are the catch 22 that keeps bringing me back to you. Does that make any sense? Do you know?

Have I told you that I have missed you. Have you been upset with me this whole time or have I just taken you for granted so long that I’ve forgotten how to fit you into my routine, My daily tasks of lazing about in my sedated-lovely just get me so stressed out.
I just have to sleep, I just have to sleep so that I can go to work tomorrow with enough energy to panic all day, and into the afternoon and well past the second cup of coffee and the swollen left knee.
I have to shower, and I have to put on concealer to hide how tired and sickly my skin looks and I have to subdue my gender but not too much
and I have to cram all the extra layers of fat that have grow like moss under my skin into an elastic torture device. This is how I mask my shame and my penchant for binge eating.
I have to take my vitamins, but not yet. I can’t take them for four hours because I have to take my thyroid medication right now, and my birth control. Which I probably shouldn’t take at the same time but I can’t risk forgetting it.

So I just don’t have time to love you today.

Besides, if I did I would waste it staring at a screen and letting all the Saturdays roll along without me. I would waste it in bed feeling guilty for being there and for having no friends and for having ignored you so long that now you just must have forgotten me. Surely. I would waste all the hours I could have been writing, not going to central park, but understanding that the seasons were changing and that I had probably missed all of autumn by now so what’s the point really.
I woke up too late to love you today.

Then you are gone, all of a sudden. Perhaps the music changed or the meds wore off or perhaps you couldn’t see my apology for the trees, dear muse. All the excuses and look at me stretching for miles around my sorry. But I am, would you please just stay. Just let me stay here.

I know I came into this room looking for something, but I can’t recall what it was that I had forgotten. Trains of thought gone speeding off the track in Philadelphia, and 8 people died. Mine just steam their locomotive into walls, no one searches for the missing.
When you go away all the trains in me keep going, but the engineers lose steam. The conductors announcements just don’t ring out the same. Come back, no, come with me. Bring me with you, maybe.
Tell me where you are going. Tell me how you have been sleeping
and did you get enough breakfast,
and I am sorry that I finished all of the milk.
That I left my towel on the floor.
The dishes that I didn’t wash and I know,
I know, I never bring you flowers anymore.

-A

Why must you always insist on dirt. On your calligraphy of scars. You fell in love and got all boring. You owe me a poem. You owe me three dozen punctuation marks and a translation of all your sign language. You filled all of my pockets with secrets. You owe me less public display of your mixed signals, my body is not a performance venue. What were you trying to prove. That wasn’t a question. Take me home with you. You should have, I mean. Or you could have. But, you knew that already. But you can’t now, the invitation has been rescinded. Or something. It’s been a long time. You owe me 1 euro of postage, you owe me an explanation. A slice of chocolate cake. A small series of contained explosions. I would like to return these daydreams, these extra 10lbs. I will accept store credit.

Native Songbirds of Nederland, part one.

unnamedThere are new words here, and while my ears have finally captured the energy to learn them I’ve been too busy wrapping my shoulders in the sound. I sleep in a room with no windows, and the words grow slowly. A soft bed of moss, I walk over them in my bare feet. All tip toes. My knees are learning to sew their wobble to the cobblestones, to be sure of their wander.

The humans here say, hallo.
We live in an apartment with two roommates, both Italian.
The men have become their footsteps. Coming up the stairs.
Then down. In and out of doorways and so on.

My boss in the states is half Dutch. She warned me that the Dutch do not like doorknobs, stating,
“I hated that when I first came here, I hate doorknobs!”
As if, you know, this is an actual thing to have an opinion on.
But she was right- all the doorknobs here are an illusion, they don’t actually turn. 

For ten days I did not own keys to anything, it was the first time since I could remember. Then Kevin made me a key. So I am once again responsible for the locking and unlocking of important things, it seems.

Kevin steps were the first song I learned to identify. They are the only ones that continue past the first stair case and climb up the ladder to our nest on the third floor. His footsteps always pause, then just before his head bobs over the landing he will say,
sweetheart?

I used to talk to him, too late. This was last year, before he moved to the attic room where we now slumber. He had a window then, and I lost count of the sunrises I watched crawl into the picture frame. I told him to pay no attention to the sky outside his window. So he would tell me instead that the birds were singing. 

Each morning I would ask him what the birds said,
and each morning he would reply,
“I don’t speak Dutch.” 

Though he mentioned once that their song matched mine.
Now, I begin the day with it.

I ruffle my feathers quietly and I sometimes drink coffee in the mornings, now. Kevin makes the coffee. He tells me that his favorite bit about the making-machine is that it provides the option of “extra heet koffie” which is pronounced “Extra hate coffee.” We brew our coffee with just a normal amount of hate. I take sugar in mine, the big turbinado granules that hesitate to dissolve entirely, they curl up at the bottom of the mug. Like they are still sleeping. I nudge them awake with my coffee spoon.

I tell them that the birds are singing, each to each.

I know not what they sing to me.