The house I rent, I used to rent with my gf, but she up and left three months ago. I sort of like its garish, green shutters. I like its large and useless yard. I like that it sits at the end of a dirt road and no one bothers me.
The house has its issues. There are most likely snakes in the crawl space. That’s why Brenda boarded up the door that goes down there. I think about that sometimes now. I wonder if those coils of snakes in the basement are just down there thrashing about, twisting up mice in their unhinged, psychotic jowls. I wonder if they will find some breach in security and come up the stairs. I wonder how many people could be hacked to bits in the space that I have never ever seen and won’t go in. The door is in the bedroom, beside my nightstand. Sometimes there are small noises that I choose to ignore.
I start my days now by making coffee in the French press—Starbucks, the good stuff. Then I exercise for an hour using my Jillian Michaels’ DVDS. (At least the TV and the Blu-Ray were mine. The stand is gone, the couch, the chair, the rugs. But I have the TV.) Then, I read. I read for hours and hours. I read cool guys like Junot Diaz. I read classic stuff like Wuthering Heights. I read the weirdoes, the misfits, the malcontents: Charles Bukowski, Denis Johnson, George Saunders. I read and read. I make more coffee. It’s summer time and all I want to do is spend time with my books, eat pussy and watch The Twilight Zone marathons on Sci-Fi. I don’t have a job; I don’t have any offers; I don’t even have interviews. The loans will come due, but right now, just now, things are okay.
I put in queer porn and masturbate, wondering when I will be able to get out there and get a girl again. I like porn stars that like being porn stars. I like to hear them talk about how it feels good to get paid to be this hot fuck machine and to get all of these gorgeous creatures. I wish I was a fucking porn star—somebody really beautiful. Brenda didn’t tell me that I was beautiful all that much. I watch the stars melt and shudder all over each other. I watch the hard muscles of their strong tattooed arms as they pump and pump. I perform my simulation. I wash the carpet with the same rag and disinfectant as the day before.
I’ve become intimate with the carpet—an old deep green carpet that feels moist. It looks stark against the bright white walls, starker still with almost all of the stuff emptied out of the house. I haven’t brought anybody back here since Brenda. She was such an efficient leaver—blindsided me and took all the stuff in one swoop. I came home and there was my broke down coffee machine with a note on it.
There is going to come a day when I get out there again, but this week I haven’t gotten further than my mailbox. I stared down the long dirt road and watched an old pick-up thump through all of the pits and bumps. The flyer in the box said “Vote Berman.” The catalogue was for soy candles. It said “Brenda Farwell or Current Resident.” It felt good to be outside. I looked at the trees, the grass, the dust of the road, felt the sun beating down on me. That must have been Tuesday.
I washed the windows all day Wednesday, just hoping to scrub through the grime and feel that same sunlight. They were coated so thick with dust that it took a lot of paper towels. The glass in the panes is old, frail under the insistent pushing and spraying. There was a cat in the yard, large and grey. It sat watching me. Its eyes followed my swirls and streaks until it grew bored and walked on. The summer light made him look illuminated, a fiber optic cat. I swirled and swirled over the image of him walking past, like I could erase him before he was gone.
The Twilight Zone marathons are better with the clean windows, although the carpet now looks worse. A few episodes in, I switch to porn. I dial the automated service and order soy candles in hazelnut, cotton linens, and cherry jubilee. They cost $36.48. Madison Young masturbates with the Hitachi. I hang up. Shipping takes a week. She’s so beautiful when she comes.
The UPS guy brings the candles. The day is burning hot and both of our faces are steak red. He offers me the box and I sign for it on the digital pad. I take the box into the backyard and open it while sitting in my fold-out lawn chair. I sip my vanilla vodka, watered down with melted ice. The candles smell ok. I line them up on the tray table that my drink is perched on. I take the barbecue lighter from underneath the chair and light them. I down the rest of the vodka and close my eyes.
The phone book has an area that they designate as the area to write in phone numbers. That part just looks like lined paper. I try to draw the girls that Bukowski is writing about. He’s always talking about their legs. My pen traces out a shaky take of a mud flap silhouette. Everything smells like cherry jubilee. I pour the hot wax over the carpet and watch it harden. It chips in little pieces and it stains the stains of the carpet darker. I trace over the mud flap girl outline, holding a wax chip under my nose. I give the girl large dark nipples. Above the image, “Miss Cherry Jubilee 2012: Brenda Farwell.” I put the chip in my mouth and the taste is terrible in a way that I did not expect. I swallow because it seems like the easiest way to avoid tasting it again.
Some people from a religious group stop by. They say that they are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. They say, no, not Mormons either. I let them in. I tell them that there is no furniture to sit on, so they stand awkwardly in the living room. The woman stares at the porn box on the floor. There is nothing of me in my smile. The man holds out a pamphlet. “I’m not much of a reader,” I say. He frowns. Then he sets the pamphlet down on a rather unwieldy stack of books. No one says anything for a while. They leave. From the window, I see them going into my neighbors’ house across the street. My neighbor is smiling warmly and it seems like they are all old friends. My neighbor has likely baked a batch of cookies and consulted with the husband about the children’s interest in joining local sporting teams. I have no curtains, so I just turn my back and sit down on the floor. Today is Tropic of Cancer and cotton linens.
Today is the day. I have gotten dressed in my best jeans and the black tank that makes my boobs look huge. I put on make-up like it can cover every kind of ugly. At first, the car didn’t want to start, but I got it going and I’m ready. The book group at the library is reading a selection of work by Virginia Woolf, and I’m assuming that there will be lesbians there. I imagine showing up and seeing row after row of chairs filled with doe-eyed, red-mouthed women in bright red dresses. Rows of women in cargo shorts, polo shirts and hemp jewelry. Rows of dreads, nose studs, and Bob Marley t-shirts. Rows of mullets and mohawks and faux hawks. My driving is shaky, but I am practically flying down the road because I can’t wait to get there. Just the thought of it sends a dull ache through me. I drive with all of the windows down even though my eyes burn from all of the dirt and dust, even though the tears stream down my face and ruin the makeup.
Today is the day after. More vodka, more lawn chair time, more The Twilight Zone, more Miller and more Madison Young. Bedroom status: empty. Turned out to be nothing but me and four stodgy old women who couldn’t follow the plot of Mrs. Dalloway and didn’t like what the humidity had done to their hair. One of the women, Margaret, complained that the library should air-condition the smokers’ picnic table just outside of the lobby doors. She was wearing a pale pink sweatshirt that read, “Grandma” in scrolling letters, surrounded by embroidered blossoms in pink and purple tones. I laugh as I think of it now, but I may be drunk as well. It is hard to say. More porn, more masturbation, make a sandwich.
Coffee in the French press, fresh fruit from the farmer’s market. It felt good to go out and buy fresh fruit and vegetables. It felt good to bite into a perfect black cherry, that rubbery, taut little fruit. I don’t know what I have in my bank account, but I mailed out all of the bills after shopping first in the farmer’s market, then in town at the used clothing store. And the clerk at the store—Keesha—she was so sweet. When she stood next to me, she smelled like spicy flowers. She said that purple was my best color. I dream and dream of stretching her out on purple satin sheets while I hold the coffee and the cherries in my mouth.
Keesha has a boyfriend. I know this because I waited for her in the parking lot of the used clothing store, my car filled with purple balloons and tulips. Everything smelled sexy like latex and flowers and I knew that I looked good today. A sparrow hopped around on my hood, peeping in admiringly. It made me feel like a fat handsome robin with a big red chest, puffed up and horny. I felt as good as I ever have, maybe better. Keesha, I thought. Keesha. What would it be like to run my tongue down the tight pattern of one of her long long Lisa Bonet braids? What would it feel like to snag them and bite them with my teeth? Keesha. That’s when she appeared and some dude strode up to her and grabbed her hand and put her in his better car, with its loud pumping droning music coming out of a better stereo. My clown car, filled with balloons and the sad pervert smells of latex and sweat. Keesha has a boyfriend.
Apparently, my checks cleared. I’m running out of money fast. The answer? A lawn chair, a barbecue sandwich from Mr. Quick’s and Angels by Denis Johnson. The pagination is off in my copy and I read whole chapters on repeat, with big thick chunks missing in the center. It makes me feel like Johnson would feel on drugs. I get barbecue pork on a few pages, off-brand soda on others. I heard the snakes in the basement last night and wound up vomiting at 3 a.m.
A new porn arrives with Madison Young on the cover. It took three weeks to get here and was accompanied by a handful of bills, some enveloped in a menacing red. The guy that sold me the DVD lives in Florida, a long way from Michigan. Still, three weeks seems like a long time to wait. Her eyes leer at me from the cover and her long strawberry blonde hair looks like some kind of sweet edible taffy, that’s how smooth and slick it is, her hair. I sit down on the carpet that I have stopped cleaning and stroke. The Miller tastes light and bubbly down my throat and I laugh for a minute thinking that just now, just for a second, this is really the life that I want. I stop. The whirr of the wind tousles the leaves on my yard’s only tree. The large grey cat peers in at me from the screen door and scratches on the “Welcome” mat. The snakes don’t thrash and the humid sticky paint shines like lipgloss. I stop and hold my breath and feel my body’s convulsion, a spasm so loud that it drowns everything. I will never be this perfect, this much myself, again.
Sarah Sorensen’s work has most recently been published online or in print at Black Heart Magazine, Identity Theory, Apt, Knee-Jerk, The Ear Hustler, Metazen, and Staccato. Her work is forthcoming from Queen City Review. She likes cats, tats, and coffee.