Guernica:I’ve found there’s often a sense among writers or creative types that, “If I go into therapy, I’ll be giving it away. It needs to be filtered through my own work.” It sounds like you’ve had the opposite experience.
Gary Shteyngart:Right, and I think that just is ridiculous. The way I’ve experienced it, there’s been none of that. When I entered psychoanalysis, I was drunk out of my mind. I couldn’t do basic things. I was dating a woman who ended up in prison a year later for bashing this guy’s head in with a hammer. So the answer is no. I spent five years spinning my wheels on my first book because I didn’t have the wherewithal to bring it together. Now, yeah, some of those experiences formed my fiction and my nonfiction. I’m glad those things happened. But was I better able to process those experiences once I entered analysis and my life stopped derailing? Of course. Without that I’d probably have one book at most and be living in a hut in Albania somewhere.
Guernica:Did you interview the ex that attacked her boyfriend with a hammer?
Gary Shteyngart:No, no. I couldn’t get in touch with her. <i>The New Yorker</i> ran an excerpt about that and <i>they</i> couldn’t track her down. Or they could and she wouldn’t respond to their questions. So she’s out of my life.
Guernica:Probably for the best.
Gary Shteyngart:I think so. I don’t want to wear a Kevlar helmet anymore. I feel more secure.
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor:“Dirge” is an interesting word. I come from a culture that has refined the art of the dirge to a sublime level, so it’s an interesting idea. Perhaps a dirge to a dream, a broken dream, that as a nation we never quite acknowledged, and we’re longing for some form of resurrection within that.
Guernica:Is that something the characters are hoping for in <i>Dust</i>, some form of resurrection?
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor:I feel they are. It may not seem that way, but I am an absolute optimist, an unrepentant optimist.
Guernica:I read this as an optimistic novel, ultimately. The characters, for the most part, find the answers they’ve been seeking, and there is an astonishing resilience among them.
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor:Good! I’ve been surprised by the Kenyan reaction: it’s largely been warm and receptive. But I think what strikes me most are the conversations I’ve been having with a lot of the younger readers who are either very poignantly saying, “We didn’t know at all,” or, very reflectively, “We need to talk.” That was something unexpected.
“He said to himself: No, I’ll go on foot, I’ll control the situation better. The situation, what situation?, well, the situation he was used to controlling at other times. Back then, yes, it was rewarding: your Target was walking ahead of you, unaware, calm, going about his business. You too, apparently, were going about your business, but not at all unaware, quite the opposite: of your Target you knew each and every feature from the photos they’d made you study, you could’ve recognized him even in the audience of a theater, whereas he knew nothing of you, to him you were an anonymous face like millions of other anonymous faces in the world, he went his way and going his own way he guided you, since you had to follow him. He was the compass for your route, you merely had to follow him.”—The Dead at the Table by Antonio Tabucchi, translated from the Italian by Martha Cooley and Antonio Romani - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
In the rescue project’s early days, conditions at the archives were precarious at best. Lacking chairs, workers sat hunched over for eight hours daily on concrete blocks; they inhaled clouds of dust and assorted molds, which lay heavy and bright across the rotting pages like strokes of paint; and they were exposed to the waste of rats, bats, and other vermin. Riskiest of all, in light of the retribution faced by other activists who sought to plumb the depths of the state’s wartime abuses, they affiliated themselves with a potentially dangerous initiative whose future was uncertain.
In a country with fewer than ten trained archivists, previous archival experience was impossible to demand; no available training, whether in criminology or history or forensic science, would have been adequate preparation for the unprecedented task of rescuing 80 million documents under such dramatic constraints. Instead, the original volunteers and workers were evaluated by one measure: confianza. In this setting, confianza’s literal translation as “trust” was a thin description; its deeper connotation was a certain level of dedication to human rights work and memory politics. Confianza, explained the project’s assistant director, was not easily quantified, but it essentially meant “that the people are referred to us by people or organizations we trust; that we know their trajectory, their level of commitment; that they’ve been linked to the causes that are worth fighting for in this country.”
As such, the initial volunteers and workers at the archives—who later became a minority as the team grew—were no average citizens plucked off the streets.
Gary Shteyngart:I work in bed. I wake up around 11:00 a.m., do a little writing, maybe some breakfast. Go to sleep. See my shrink, cry a little, have dinner with some friends, couple of drinks, go right back to sleep.
It’s important to brush one’s teeth, that’s my only advice. That wakes you up a lot, and even if you’re just writing, your breath should be better than it was when you woke up. Sometimes the shower can wait a little bit. Depends on how fast you want to get to work.
“And I remember this, too, though I know it can’t have been real: Daddy standing up, stepping over the edge of the boat, and walking across the water to the shore, with me and Scotty in his arms, walking across the top of the ocean, taking me home to Momma, Rena, and Carly. I remember the way he cradled me, like I was still a baby, even with Scotty in my arms, and I remember that there was part of me that wanted to close my eyes and let it be a dream. Instead of closing my eyes, however, I looked down at Daddy’s feet leaving ripples on the surface of the ocean, and then out to the rocks and the shore of Loosewood Island, as he carried me across the water.”—The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
“But in the case of these war survivors, this strain was compounded many times over by the fact that the names appearing in the documents were theirs, belonging to their friends, their acquaintances, their schoolmates, their loved ones. Some workers even learned from the documents, for the first time, how a close relative was killed. “In there, I found out how my brother had died,” Dolores told me. “I had never known. And still today in my house, my mother, my siblings, and I, we can’t talk about our brother. We’ve been living with this for twenty years, and we still need to learn how to talk about him as he was… I was one of the lucky ones, to have been able to learn this.””—Official Histories by Kirsten Weld - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
“The butterfly rose in flight, made two turns over the head of the statue and went away. I need to tell you one thing, he said rapidly, as if he were talking to the butterfly, I need to tell you one thing, it’s urgent. The butterfly disappeared beyond the trees and he lowered his voice. I know everything about you, I know everything about your life, day by day, everything: your women, your ideas, your friends, your travels, even your nights and all your little secrets, including the tiniest: everything. He realized he was sweating. He took a breath. Of myself, on the other hand, I didn’t know anything, I thought I knew everything and I knew nothing.”—The Dead at the Table by Antonio Tabucchi, translated from the Italian by Martha Cooley and Antonio Romani - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor:In my perfect imagination, with stern discipline I rise with the first bird, salute the dawn, have a healthy breakfast of fruits, wander over to my faux-oak desk, tap the On button on my Macbook Air, acknowledge the muse, and skip into the world where the story flows over the day and into the night.
The truth, and nothing but the truth, is that dawn begins with a wrestling match with my soul and a systematic rejection of all the other useful possibilities a day offers. I make obeisance to the story, its characters, and the muse with burnt offerings. I do need to find inner tranquillity and get into a “zone” before I switch on the computer to work on a story. Only after this do I enter the story world, where I meet the characters and, together, we work through the day and night. When conditions are right, it is a simple thing to forget that time and food exist. If life’s other offerings prove more tantalizing, I succumb to temptation and go gallivanting and do all sorts of other meaningful things in the manner of most professional procrastinators.
“My own memories start on a boat. I was small enough that Daddy cut me down a rod, I think, though it might even just have been a stick with some twine tied to it. Whichever it was, it did the trick: I went to cast my line and I hooked Daddy’s lower lip with my lure. The metal was speared completely through the flesh. Blood spilled out of Daddy’s mouth, the silver dangle of the lure flashing in the sun. I remember that I cried when he yelled at me, but he says that I’ve got the story wrong, that it was the other way around, that he yelled at me because I cried, and that sounds about right for my father.”—The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Disclosed secrets, interrupted silences, fabricated identities, and the (im)possiblity of truth-telling animate the new issue of Guernica.
Rabih Alameddine, the Lebanese-American author who disdains hyphens, tells Dwyer Murphy that when we construct anything like the truth of another culture from the work of one author “we’re in deep shit.”
Gary Shteyngart talks with Michael Hafford about what it was like to step out from behind the distraction of humor in his new memoir, Little Failure. “You realize that whatever myths you had built up about yourself overcoming adversity and turning into a great person are not exactly true.”
In an excerpt from Kirsten Weld’s Paper Cadavers, Guatemalans work to excavate the “largest collection of secret state documents in Latin American history.” Volunteers sort through decaying mountains of paperwork after four decades of silence and civil war to learn how their friends and loved ones were “disappeared.”
Author Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, too, speaks of memory and destructive silence, which has kept her native Kenya from reckoning with its past. “Even if we want to eradicate our ghosts, our dead, our murdered, somebody remembers,” she tells Michael Halmshaw.
From Polish director Karolina Breguła comes The Offence, a film about the “paradoxical” liberties of censorship in a Hungarian town. Poets Simon Perchik and Sarah Crossland look to the body for answers.
Plus new fiction from Alexi Zentner that mines the familial landscape of King Lear from a lobster boat in the cold waters off New England. And, translated into English for the first time, Antonio Tabucchi’s story of an aging spy who ambles through his life’s love, loss, and deception.
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Guernica:What do you mean when you say that Americans don’t engage with the world?
Rabih Alameddine:We pick one writer from every country and think that’s what that literature is. Colombia—Gabriel García Márquez—yay! Chile—Roberto Bolaño—yay! One writer from each country begins to represent an entire worldview. I should tell you now, I represent all Lebanese. No—all Arabs. Read my books and you’ll understand what all Arabs are like. [a thoughtful pause] If I am supposed to represent the Arabs, we’re in deep shit.
Inspired by Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz’s 1937 novel Ferdydurke, in which obsession with youth and the new takes an absurd and unnatural form, The Offence is a short story in the form of a film. The narrative follows a chorus of characters in a provincial Hungarian town, obsessed with tradition and fearful of the unknown. The unassuming hero of the story is a town official who decides to rescue his fellow citizens from their backwardness by an unusual method: with an uncanny understanding of the human desire for perversion, he forces progress through unnecessary prohibitions and restrictions that he knows will be broken. The film is about the paradoxically liberating effects of censorship, capable of attuning society to its needs and desires.
When the country did detonate after its disputed 2007 elections, and all the pent-up unacknowledged rage exploded, and we shocked ourselves in our madness so that it required the intervention of outside friends like Kofi Annan and Benjamin Mkapa to calm Kenya down, I went down to one of the epicenters of the national chaos with a group of friends—other writers—led by Binyavanga Wainaina. In retrospect, it was very naïve of us, but as Binya put it when he showed up in front of my house in a taxi loaded with other bemused Kenyan writers, we did not have a fucking choice.
There we met our displaced compatriots, and some of those doing the displacing, the shielding, the hiding. We wandered as witnesses, eavesdroppers. We looked, we saw, we touched hands with our frightened, wondering people. Mostly we listened, and were struck by the explanations, their very old roots, ancient grievances that in our now-established Kenyan manner were very swiftly buried in shallow graves. This whole experience changed me and changed the story that finally became Dust. For one, I could attach the memory of a hundred real haunted gazes to characters in the story.
Guernica:Did you feel any hesitation in writing from a woman’s perspective, a worry that readers or critics would be skeptical of the project?
Rabih Alameddine:I’m surprised how often I’m asked about being a man with a woman narrator. I’m not the first, nor will I be the last. It’s been done forever, but we seem to forget that. The whole notion of “write what you know” is not just boring, but wrong. Lately it seems like every novel has to be a memoir. I’m a boring person, but I’m a writer with a relatively vivid imagination. And when people ask me about how I find the voice of a woman, I tell them that my life is run by women. I’m very close to my family—my mother and my sisters. In some ways too close. When I’m around them, we can’t be separated, and then I want to kill them and they feel the same about me, in a good way. We interfere with each other’s lives regularly and I like that. There’s my agent, Nicole Aragi, too. I jokingly call her my dominatrix. If I don’t do what she says, she just calls my mom.
“We’re named the Kings, and we’re the closest thing to royalty on Loosewood Island. The story goes that when the first of the Kings, Brumfitt Kings, the painter, came to Loosewood Island near on three hundred years ago, the waters were so thick with lobster that Brumfitt only had to sail half of the way from Ireland: he walked the rest of the way, the lobsters making a road with their backs. He was like Jesus walking on the water, except there was no bread to be found anywhere.”—The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
“A sudden gust of wind raised napkins and empty cigarette packs from the ground. Often in Berlin it happens: on a muggy day all of a sudden a cold wind arrives that whirls the debris and changes the mood. It’s as though it carries memories, nostalgia, lost phrases, like this one which came to mind: inclemency of weather and loyalty to my principles. He felt a rush of rage. But what loyalty, he said aloud, what loyalty are you talking about, in your private life you have been the most unfaithful man I know, I know everything about you, principles, sure, but which ones, those of the Party you’ve never wanted to know about, your wife you always cheated on, which principles are you raving about, fool? A little girl stopped in front of him. She wore a skirt that trailed on the ground and was barefoot. She pushed under his eyes a piece of cardboard on which was written: I come from Bosnia. Get lost, he said to her smiling. The little girl also smiled and went away.”—The Dead at the Table by Antonio Tabucchi, translated from the Italian by Martha Cooley and Antonio Romani - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Wherever the nurse touches you
more gauze is needed
though the shoreline stretches out the way your blood here to there
drifts off course, not remembering
why the sea motions not to move let your arm float on the few drops
still beating—you are wrapped
in salt, close to being buried absorbed by a sharp rock
and what feels like rain
is the handful that has taken so long.
In this installment of ENDNOTE, we read about writing. Featuring: What do writers eat? MFA or NYC? Why do we procrastinate so much? What happened to lyric poetry? And an interview with Roxane Gay on writing and self-care, or lack thereof.
This is a very beautiful essay about writing while charming, scared, gay, and in and out of love. It is also about the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and New York City. Here is the paragraph that caught me first:
“What I did have were my looks, a sharp eye, a sharper tongue, and a penchant for making a spectacle of myself, which I would then use to observe people’s reactions. I could do this and be amusing enough that most people didn’t mind. Also, all the schools where all the people who knew each other went had at least a few men and women like me around — which is to say, we didn’t necessarily have an alma mater in common, but we did have being gay. This was sort of like when I used to meet people outside parties because we both smoked.”
2. The Food Faces Series, Shane Jones, The Believer
I only just discovered “Food Faces” and I’m so upset because writers are fantastically weird people with strange eating habits and reading about them is a delight. In the latest installment, Jesse Ball muses on the potential joy of eating a raw chicken: “In a barnyard setting the chicken would be living and warm with its own life and blood and might taste delicious, though there is the matter of the feathers.”
As I write this blog post, three drafts are staring at me, stone-faced, with deadlines that have already flown by. Why are writers such terrible procrastinators? McArdle posits that it’s because we did well in English class—and that we’re terrified of turning in a bad draft. A neat, psych-oriented look at the phenomenon that dominates editors’ inboxes worldwide.
In this thoughtful, structured essay defending flarf and conceptual poetry, Gardner writes: “Through evolution and with the eventual development of culture, sunlight stored by plants made behaviors like poetry possible. What starts as photons emanating from a star ends up as a poem. All poetry comes from the sun.” If you have been ever been confused or curious about the ongoing infights in contemporary poetry, this essay is an excellent place to start.
Roxane Gay’s interview is refreshingly honest in that she does not sugarcoat the reality of writing in the midst of self-doubt and depression. Reading it also, paradoxically, made me feel less alone. Writing and indeed the fact of being human is grim work: says Gay, “Keeping myself very, very busy is kind of all I have to keep from really sinking into the void. I suspect work is the most effective way of self-care I have right now.”
Have any compelling, charged, or otherwise fascinating reads? Send them to us and they might end up in ENDNOTE.
I usually idle by Spades Check Cashing on 8th Ave. and catch folks that way. The Homestead cops, they moved stations from a little up Amity to down on 7th, which is closer to Spades, but they leave me alone. I’ve drove jitneys almost ten years. Only been cited twice, arrested once. My woman, she don’t mind my work. We never married or nothing, so it’s okay to stay out; sometimes I think she wants a child, and I wouldn’t mind that, but the extra cash is good.
Kid knocks on my window. Young dark-skinned dude, probably needs to go up West St. Couple bucks. I roll down my window. “Need a ride?”
He says, “Yes sir,” real polite. Funny ’cause he looks like a little thug. Zip-up jacket and saggy jeans. “How much to the Greyhound station, sir?”
“Downtown? Shit.” That’s farther than I like going. I think it over. It’s late—I just finished a cup of coffee, but I’m still tired. The kid seems jittery. He keeps holding at his side. Behind him’s two bags on the curb. He needs the ride; I cut him a break. “Ten bucks okay?”
The kid grins; probably the first good thing he’s heard all day. I unlock the doors. He sits in the back, puts one bag next to him and the other on his lap.
“Wanna come up front?”
“I ain’t holding, if you’re nervous.”
“I’m cool back here.”
I adjust my rearview. The kid’s sweating. I start to drive and stay quiet. Once we’re across the High Level bridge and heading towards Pittsburgh, I say, “So what’s going on?”
He’s off-guard with that. “Just need to get a bus.”
“Go to school?”
He says, “Yessir,” instantly, like he’s said it to a dozen officers.
“What’s your name?”
He messes with the bag in his lap, finally looks up at me. “Al.”
His eyes shift around. “Thanks for the ride, Jerome.”
I nod. “It’s a school night, Al, why ain’t you in bed?”
He don’t answer; he’s muttering to himself, legs shaking, and playing with the one bag. Drugs or whatever inside. Something. I don’t ask. He sees me staring through the rearview and stops. Every streetlight we pass, his face gets shinier. He unzips his jacket, I notice blood on his shirt. Stabbed, probably. This thug shit ain’t working for him.
“Seein’ Grammy for a while?”
He’s more comfortable with that. “Yes, sir…For a while.”
“When’s your bus?”
It’s about a quarter till so I take some shortcuts. Dude’s still messing with his bag. I tell him it’s okay.
He’s silent until we’re pretty close. “Ever drive a chick named Jasmin?”
“What’s she like?”
He smiles. “Big girl, got short hair, keeps it did good.”
“That’s half my rides on rainy days.”
He frowns, presses his side again. His face is just black, outlined with sweat, two big eyes in the middle. “She rides jitneys sometimes, so, you know, if you see her.”
“Sure. I’ll say hi.”
We get to the station. I park at the cab stand.
He wipes his forehead. “Ten, right?”
He digs in his pocket and pulls out a gum-banded roll. He hands over a bill, half stained dark.
He looks at me. “Like, I wanted to be a man, wanted to provide. But I couldn’t.” He’s looking at me but he’s not talking to me. It’s like he’s staring behind me or through me or something.
Some Mexican in a Yellow Cab comes up behind me and hits the horn. The kid gets out and walks off. I shift to drive.
“Hey, hold up!”
I put my passenger window down. He comes back. “Y’know what—here.” He undoes the gum-band and drops most of his roll into the empty seat. “You see Jasmin, tell her I’m sorry.”
He hears an announcement and staggers off quickly, bag hanging from his shoulder. The Mexican behind me lays on it again. “MY cab stand!”
I take off as fast as I can to get the hell away from him.
Later, heading back, I turn my radio on and think. “If you see Jasmin…” Please. Ain’t my business. Still, I end up feeling sorry for the kid. Nobody oughta be that troubled. I take my time going home. All that money; I won’t need to jitney for a while.
The reception on my radio’s bad, I keep hearing noise. I turn the dial around but it won’t stop. Halfway across the High Level bridge I glance at the rearview and see the dude left one of his bags.
I shut off the radio. The noise don’t go away. I turn right; there’s a Walgreens just off the bridge; I pull into the parking lot, jump out the car, look around, and open the back door. The bag’s half-zipped. I open it and step back. There it is—a boy, I believe. Maybe a month old. It’s not crying, just making small sounds. It looks at me and smiles.
A cop drives by slow, stopping at the light by the bridge. He turns his head towards me. The Walgreens is closed. Nobody else is around. There is a lot of dark money in my car. I hurry and close the door, crouch down and pretend to mess with my front tire. I stand, kick it, and get back in.
I start the car and head down 7th Ave. I hit a pothole. The baby starts crying. I pass the police station. My head hurts and I got no idea what to do. None. I just begin going around the block, trying to clear my head. I avoid potholes. The baby calms down. I look back and see the baby is sleeping. That makes me feel better. I keep thinking. Lord Jesus. All that money. The things people do. The things they don’t. It’s crazy.
Your publishing "internship" isn't an internship. Call it what it really is: a publishing volunteer opportunity. No pay = no internship.
Guernica is staffed entirely by volunteers. Interns don’t get paid, but neither do the senior editors. Currently, the magazine is entirely a labor of love. We would be thrilled to pay everyone— starting with our contributors— but at the moment, it’s not possible. That is a situation we’re working hard to change.
Guernica Magazine is seeking a highly motivated, detail-oriented intern to assist the publishing team. This is a volunteer position and will require between five and ten hours a week, including attending bi-weekly editorial meetings.
The ideal candidate is organized, reliable, and interested in Guernica’s mission as a magazine. Since the staff mainly works remotely, an intern must be efficient at staying in touch via e-mail. Responsibilities include building and updating databases, e-mailing Guernica supporters and associates, helping organize Guernica events, supporting our social media, marketing and publicity efforts, and providing general administrative support to the publisher and publishing team.
This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the inner workings of an award-winning online magazine, and to join the team at a crucial point in our history, as we launch into our tenth year.
Interested applicants should send their resume and a brief cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I don’t know if it’s patriarchy or my deeply ingrained stripper instinct to please, but seeing a 65-year-old man working his fingers to the bone for chichi hipsters moving into Venice Beach and snapping up the real estate, a 65-year-old man with three ex-wives (one used to be a ballerina) and a kid he never spoke to growing weed someplace up in Humboldt County—well, if you care about that man, you want to see that man get laid. I’m not sure why sex is sometimes a gift we want to confer on those we love, but it is.”—The Loneliest and Saddest Kind by Ruth Fowler - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Yasser bin Talal al-Zahrani, Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi al-Utaybi, and Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed al-Salami never set foot in this room. They remained in their cells, silent. They no longer believed in life after Guantánamo. They resisted a system that kept them in the dark about their future. They refused to defend themselves against mere accusations.
They were three proud Arab men, and they despised the America they came to know in Guantánamo. They didn’t smile like the man at the end of the chain. They didn’t offer themselves as spies, hoping that America would let them go.
At some point during their captivity, these three men began to retreat. They no longer touched the food the guards pushed through the holes in the doors of their cells. Their bodies dwindled. Their lives hung on thin yellow tubes shoved down their nostrils each morning to let a nutrient fluid drip into their stomachs. In their minds, nothing changed. They didn’t want to stay, and one night, on June 9, 2006, they decided to leave Guantánamo. They climbed on top of the sinks in their cells and hanged themselves.
In the Pentagon’s view, the men hanging from the walls of their cells were assassins whose suicides were attacks on America.
“Maryann is the only person here who does not talk to me like I am retarded, and one day I think I might talk back. She goes to the church’s private school, has been there her whole life, but has somehow turned out normal, still seems capable of forming a thought that does not contain a Bible verse. We meet on the porch and watch the crowd channel through the front doors and down the steps out into the parking lot. Really she watches the crowd and I stare at her, her face mostly, which is fair and freckled and showcasing wide green eyes like I’ve never seen anywhere else, and also her chest, which always rises dramatically right before she’s about to speak. I shift my eyes away so that she doesn’t feel me ogling.”—Conversion by Sara Nović - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
“I remember bending over, hands on my knees; I nearly retched right there in front of her, my breath accelerating to the point that I thought I might hyperventilate. We were on the back deck, and I could see the pattern of swirls in the wood beneath my feet, the spots I’d missed when I’d refinished it a few weeks before. I think I could see through the wood, through the dirt beneath it, could see straight through the earth to something molten and boiling.”—The Cuckold by James Harms - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
“If this was fiction, I would make sure that each of my characters were rewarded with love or sex or heartbreak—something to spur on the requisite growth, maturity, and change we all expect of people who appear in celluloid or print. But to my knowledge, neither Billy nor Lori have broken their abstinence of the saddest and loneliest kind, and yet they are neither sad nor lonely. Sometimes I think it is I who am all of these things, and that I am somehow inured to the intimacy they both fear, with a string of past lovers and acrobatic sex acts, and even now with a husband, and with a sometimes painful history of leaking hearts and loneliness that I wore on my face until it was erased by visits to the same plastic surgeon Lori works for.”—The Loneliest and Saddest Kind by Ruth Fowler - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Reverend Sherman stood in the spotlight of an otherwise dim room, a small cluster of parishioners gathered in a semicircle around him. Something fat and slick was gliding up his arm and skimming across his shoulder blades.
They were poisonous, he said, and who would like to hold one? A test of faithfulness?
I turned to my mother, whom I’d expected to be making a break for it, but there she was, looking calm, calmer than I’d seen her in weeks, with her hand in the air.
Poisonous, mom, I said. She didn’t respond, eked her hand a little higher. It was the first time my mother had ever ignored me.