Storyglossia Issue 41, November 2010.

Things that have happened since noon on Thursday

by Samantha Cohen


1.  I take Alice to the garden behind my house and show her the fig tree, the avocado tree, the lemon tree with the gaudy green and yellow lemons bursting forth. I point out each one. Here is a fig tree. She says it smells good back here and that she likes the long fuchsia flowers dangling over us. I say it is like a chuppah and she smiles at me sadly. I tear a piece of sage and hand it to her. She smells it and said it smells like nature. She says she'll put it in her car. She says the figs look like testicles.


2.  Alice asks me to walk her to her car. Tanis's car is in the driveway and I say, fuck why is Tanis home. I wonder if she heard me cry. We walk down the path to the front of my house and I say, look at the roses, look how full and colorful they were when I clipped them for you that time, before they rotted on my way over. Alice says yes.


3.  I walk her to the sidewalk in front of my house and look at her silver spaceship car across the street and stop. Across the street seems too far. Like if I walk over there, I won't be able to get back. Alice says I'm sorry. She looks at my face and says something about what she's doing to me. She's sorry about what she's doing to me. What she's doing to me, I guess, is something she can see on my face.


4.  Alice kisses my temple. Alice kisses my shoulder. Alice lifts my limp hand, kisses that. I do not look at her face. I do not hug her.


5.  Alice walks to her car and I stand, still looking down. I turn and walk to my front door and do not look back at her.


6.  I lay on my bed with my face on my pillow.


7.  I lay on my bed with my face on my pillow


8.  I lay on my bed with my face on my pillow.


9.  I stand up.


10.  I pull on jeans, a red hoodie, think to myself that I have to go to the Trader Joe's for MFA Visiting Artists wine and I don't have to think about how to spend the rest of the day. Just pick up the wine. Baby steps. I pull my hair into pigtails. They protrude from my head, ridiculous nubs.


11.  The sky is white and the inside of my car is dark red cloth and I drive past two square green lawns before I light a cigarette. Jens Lekman is playing. Jens was a gift from Alice. Breakup music, in advance. I pass a middle-aged man watering something behind cacti. He looks strong and happy. Gymnastics rings hang from a branch above him. Alice hadn't known that I'd once spent an entire year listening to Jens. Jens would radder be your friend than to never see you again. I am not as sure.


12.  In the Trader Joe's, the tomatoes and orange peppers are grouped by fours and wrapped in cellophane. All the food looks sad and the people look happier than me, but still sad, like maybe everyone has been broken up with this morning, or maybe someone's husband got sick or kid was called a problem child and expelled. It seems amazing that we are even here, walking around, able to choose foods that seem delicious and healthy and economically reasonable and I think, what if we all looked at each other's faces and walked outside and dug up radishes and picked pears from trees.


13.  Even though I know the Trader Joe's etiquette route, I can't remember any of the things I need and I walk in stupid circles. I have a cart. The cart is red and unwieldy. I stop at the free sample counter and there are paper cups. I just want to take a cup but I know the Trader Joe's people are supposed to talk to you, so I look at the guy behind the free sample counter and wait. He is tall and robust with black hair, an eye-brow piercing. I wonder if he has been broken up with today. He lists the ingredients of the smoothie: Non-fat yogurt, pineapples, mangoes, strawberries . . . The list of fruits seems to go on forever. I don't understand this free sample—what product they are trying to sell. It is not like the gnocchi and peas, where you can take it and say yum, and the person behind the counter says "Isn't it great? It's new!" and gestures to the bags of frozen gnocchi and peas on the adjacent table. This smoothie seems like a gift. The smoothie is sweet and cold and I take small sips from my paper cup.


14.  I get the wine first. This was why I came here, wine. Two bottles each of Shiraz, Cabernet, Sauvingon Blanc, Chardonnay. I can go now, but I know I don't have any food at home. Eating will be necessary. I pause in the aisle, trying to remember what kind of food I eat. I look up and there is a man in front of my cart, staring at me. This man thinks I am an idiot. Nobody is going outside to pick fruit with me.


15.  I head toward the cheeses, thinking of the smoothie. The guy is gone. I could steal another sample. I vacillate on the edge of this. The guy comes back. I think maybe I should ask him for a blenderful, tell him I need it. My stomach is growling and this smoothie is the only thing I can imagine taking in right now.


16.  I choose sliced Havarti. Already-sliced cheese seems appropriately extravagant. I wonder about slicing a cheese so soft—the resulting crumble, the disposal of parts.


17.  The checkout girl has a China doll face and she asks how my day is going. Is the question a cruel joke or should I tell her that inside my body feels like there is liquid concrete dripping through my chest and into my stomach and hardening there? I manage to emit a slight hum.


18.  I take a shower. Loofah orange-honey-chamomile scrub all over my body.


19.  I meant what I said when I told Alice she should date other people. I like to set people free, to be chosen again and again over all the other possible people. I like my lovers to look at all the other possible lovers and say, how could any of these people compare to you, no, I choose you. I've done this before, but I've never not been chosen. They've been on one date, but somehow this matters a lot to her. It's feelingsy, Alice says. Tanis says the girl is just something to make me jealous, something distracting. I nod, but I know it isn't true. Alice, in my bed this morning, asked why situations like this seem fun when they're on Friends between Ross and Emily and Rachel and then tears streamed down her face leaving dark, messy stains on my gray t-shirt.


20.  I put on my favorite dress, hoping it will make me feel better. I have to wear Alice's tights. It is cold, and they are the only ones I have.


21.  I sign onto gmail. Alice is there. Alice, with a tiny video camera icon next to her name. I could see her face right now. But would videochatting her be psychotic? Yes. It would be psychotic. I compose an e-mail to Alice, telling her that I can be in an exclusive relationship with her if she wants. I list the things that our exclusive relationship would include. It is a good list. Circle one, I write: yes, no, maybe. Charming.


22.  I gchat her. Tanis broke up with Billy today. That's why her car was there. She makes an emoticon— :/. It doesn't rotate because she forgot the nose. It looks squished and sad. She sends it again, with the nose this time, and it rotates. The first one looks more like how I feel. I'm going to send you an e-mail right now, I type. Do you want to stay on gchat, and we can talk about it after I read it? She types back. No. I'm running late. I hit send.


23.  The drive to school is invigorating. She will love this e-mail. She will call immediately and say yes, of course, yes.


24.  There is some sort of girly electropop on this CD, after the Jens, and it complements my anxiety. The music is loud and there are clacks and whooshing sounds beneath the cutesy bells and voices. Then there is an annoying beep. A really annoying beep. Maybe she will not say yes. Maybe she is on a date with the other girl right now. A date with square outdoor tables and baskets of bread and sunglasses.


25.  This beep is really annoying. I turn down the music. The beep is much louder. I think of Alice laughing at a joke as her new girlfriend tongues a maraschino cherry from her stupid blue cocktail. I realize everyone's heads are turned from their car windows, staring at me. I realize the beeping is my car horn. I hit the car horn with my palm. Nothing happens. Because the horn is already blaring, loud and consistent, on its own.


26.  I pull into CalArts and a boy runs out of the driveway onto the lawn, looking terrified. I try to make a hand gesture that means "My car works fine, the horn is just blaring for no reason." I flail. A security guard in a golf cart chases me. I shout to him out the window "It's not my fault. I'm trying." I park, turn the car off. The horn still blares. I turn my wheel all the way to the right and it locks into place. The horn stops. I cannot drive home like this.


27.  The microphone is locked in the classroom, probably, but I check all the other rooms anyway. I chat with some members of my cohort. Sara Gerot and I talk about acrylic nails. She tells me that nail salons will only give acrylic nails to children over ten years old. This is because they whittle away your actual nail with a machine.


28.  The door to the couch room is made of frosted glass which means people sometimes make out in there. I feel nervous about opening it. I open it and the teacher poet Jen Hofer is lying face up in an A-line skirt and striped stockings. She smiles. "I'm sorry to interrupt you," I say. "You look so comfortable. But. Actually you don't have to get up. I just need keys to the class room."


29.  Jen tells me that she is not comfortable. That she is ill. But that she likes my dress. It makes her feel better. I feel happy to know that my dress is capable of making other people feel better. I vow silently to always dress with the goal of making other people feel better.


30.  Sergio says this horn situation is something that would only happen to me. I smile, because someone understands this.


31.  Sergio introduces me to his friend Eddie who is a mechanic. On our way to the parking lot, Eddie says, "My name isn't Eddie." Then Eddie and I lie under my car looking for the plug to the horn. I am in a dress and tights lying on my back, looking up at dark machinery. Gravelly bits are poking into all the parts of my body. It feels good to have something touching me, wanting to stick.


32.  I drive home. I plug my phone back in before I pee, hopping around as I hit the power button. My blood rushes around in anticipation of Alice's thrilled message. But there are no voicemails, no texts. I check my computer. Nothing. I fall asleep.


33.  I am woken up when the phone rings. It's Tricia. She sounds panicky. She had a dream that I died. "I didn't know whether to go to Detroit to be with your family, or go to LA to be with your body. I wanted to be in both places but just felt like I couldn't move or do anything. I've never thought death was sad before, but I realized that if you died, I'd be really sad." She says she needed to hear my voice, to know that I was okay. I roll over. My MacBook falls off my bed and lands on the wood floor. "Alice dumped me," I say


34.  I would have called Tricia immediately to tell her, but Tricia is depressed and maybe insane and part of her depressed insanity is that she hides her phone from herself. Her phone makes her anxious. There is no way to get in touch with her, really, except to concentrate hard on sending her information cerebrally, and then she has these dreams. I may have thought I was dying, but that wasn't what I meant. I feel a little bad. At least I got through.


35.  Here are some similarities between Tricia and Alice: They are both obsessed with dinosaurs, in a purely aesthetic little boy way. They both organize their clothing by color. They both have solid stars tattooed on their backs. They both think their armpits are fat. They both clean so regularly and compulsively that they apologize to visitors for the spotlessness of their homes. They both use the slang words "bomb" and "totes" regularly in speech. Both admit that the Postal Service kind of changed their lives in 2004. Here are some differences between Tricia and Alice: Alice likes talking about feelings. Tricia plays it cool—you have to talk in metaphors and read into things. Alice is gay and Tricia is straight. Alice is in graduate school and is optimistic about the future. Tricia works at Starbuck's and sometimes says she wants to get hit by a truck.


36.  I grab my computer off the floor and hit the power button. The entire screen is white with rainbow stripes. I remember that it fell from my bed. I think, Alice.


37.  I have to dog sit for Jenny's dog. I drive to Greenpeace to pick him up. Adam is there, in a meeting with volunteers. They are all just sitting there, the volunteers, meeting in the main room. All these people who care so much about polar bears and forests that they are willing to sit in this stupid room and have meetings on Friday afternoons with Adam. It's awkward between Adam and me because he slept in my bed once, years ago, in New York. We cuddled silently for no reason and now somehow, he's here in LA being Buck's other babysitter. "Come on Buck," I say, leashing the dog and patting his head. Then I look at everyone in the meeting. "My computer broke this morning," I say to Adam. "I had to tell someone." What I meant to convey was, "Everything in my life is falling apart, but somehow I am here, picking up this dog. Look! Look at what humans are capable of!" They all stare at me and then look at Adam for affirmation that I'm crazy. Adam chuckles uncomfortably, hands me Jenny's keys. All the earth-savers keep staring.


38.  When I get inside, I forget to unleash the dog, head straight for the computer to check my e-mail. Nothing except work e-mails and one from my college friend Julia. "Don't you think Elton John looks like Nick Kaplan in this video? (Don't worry it's before he was gay)" and a link. I click. Elton John and Kiki Dee are singing "Don't Go Breaking My Heart."


39.  Windows are open: Alice's Twitter, Alice's Facebook, gmail, Alice's blog.


40.  My schedule: Smoking on the balcony, checking each computer window, smoking on the balcony, walking the dog, smoking, checking. The dog lies in a sad pile at my feet. I decide I hate dogs.


41.  I go to the bathroom. There is no toilet paper. I decide I hate people.


42.  I check the Internet. I need to do something else. I pick a book from Jenny's shelf. I read the first 100 pages of American Gods.


44.  I check the Internet. Alice's gchat away message: "drunk." Alice's Twitter: "Things I love: California. Today was/is amazing." I think about the sunshine. There is so much fucking sunshine. I imagine Alice with her pretty new girlfriend sitting at an outdoor table in the sunshine. Laughing. I start crying. I curl myself into a ball. The dog looks up at me, pathetically.


44.  People feel like this. Other people feel like this all the time. Is this what people call heartbreak? It doesn't feel like my heart is broken. It feels like my heart has taken over my entire body. My chest cavity is full and my ankles, my intestines, have an aching pulse. Other people feel like this, I think. Other people actually walk around, buy groceries, feeling this way. What do people do when they feel this way? They cut themselves, I think. I imagine taking a knife from Jenny's kitchen drawer and making small etches in the tender skin of my forearm. I imagine red blood seeping from these etches. Would it seep, or spurt? I feel stupid.


45.  I try to think of things about Alice that I don't like. She has a necklace that says "post post modern" in big block font. This is one thing. This is one very bad thing about Alice.


46.  I call Tricia. "Oy," Tricia says. "Will you take a vow with me right now that you will never wear testament to your aesthetic or political leanings on a piece of jewelry?" I say I'm pretty positive I can keep that vow. "What would that even look like?" I ask. Tricia suggests nihilist anklets. Then she says, "Just kidding. I don't think we're nihilists."


47.  I've often thought that to be postmodern is to be a nihilist. To be postmodern is to accept that there is no truth out there to be found. Postmodernism is kind of hopeless. Kind of depressing. But post postmodern. What does that even mean?


48.  I invent a definition for post postmodern. Post postmodern: to create your own reality from whatever you've got, and then to believe in that reality. To live fully in that reality. Alice is brilliant. Inspiring others to create meaningful realities with a piece of jewelry.


49.  I read a book recently that suggested post postmodernism might be like surrealism. I think about this. The Surrealist Manifesto says that Rimbaud led a surreal life. A surreal life. Maybe a surreal life is like automatic writing. You just do shit. You don't think first. I am going to lead a surreal life.


50.  I take the dog for a walk. Outside in the sunshine, walking the dog, things feel good. I think, we're in Los Feliz. I think the words "I'm so LA right now." I smile ironically. An older hippie lady stops and pets the dog, talks to him in a high-pitched guttural voice, asks questions I don't know the answers to. I tell her again and again this is not my dog.


51.  I gchat Alice. I don't think first. I feel like sending her an IM, so I do, on impulse. I am surreal. I tell her that I at least need her to circle one: yes, no, maybe. Then I copy the link to the Elton John video Julia sent this morning. I send that. Don't go breaking my heart.


52.  She doesn't respond. I feel angry. Then I feel grateful. To be feeling an emotion that has been named: Anger. Anger is a healthy emotion. It has been named.


53.  The video camera icon next to her name turns yellow. She isn't there.


54.  I lay on the couch under a blanket all night. Sometimes I smoke on the balcony. I do not sleep.


55.  I check the internet. I walk the dog. I check the internet. Her camera icon is still yellow. I leave. I go to the Apple Store. Here is a thing that needs to be dealt with. I am a responsible adult human. I am a writer. I need a computer. I will deal with this thing.


56.  The mall is a place I always hate to go. Everyone is dressed in new mall clothes and the fluorescent lights make my heart beat fast. I walk up and down long hallways. I ride escalators. This mall is huge. I imagine the Apple Store will appear at some point, but it begins to seem like this might not happen. Everywhere I go are new stores. Nothing repeats. It's an American dream labyrinth and I wait for one of those giant mall maps. You are here. But there is nothing to tell me where I am. I am in the food court suddenly. There is a smoothie stand. Good, a smoothie stand. I still want a smoothie. I try to remember the list of fruits: kiwi, strawberry, mango, peach . . . But I get to the front of the line and say, "strawberry-banana." I feel as though I am being watched. There is a squat woman in a pink matching sweat outfit next to me. She is looking at the list of smoothies. I look her up and down. At her feet, there is a car seat. Or a baby carrier. I don't know what they're called. Inside is a baby. The baby has light brown skin and pierced ears. It is smiling up at me. There are pink and yellow signs, a huge rack of scarves, a kiosk with walls of rhinestone piercing jewelry, huge ice cream cones, and bright colored lights but this baby wants to look at me. I smile at the baby. I think, yeah, I'd rather look at you than at the rest of this crap, too. We hold eyes, both of us smiling. It feels good to smile. I am human. This baby, too, is human. A kid hands me my smoothie. It is cold and sweet. Finding the Apple Store will be possible. At the Apple Store, I remember, there is Internet.

Copyright©2010 Samantha Cohen

Samantha Cohen lives directly behind the city block sized Scientology building in Los Angeles, California and has an MFA in Writing from CalArts. She's been published in Mary Magazine and has a story coming soon in Pank.