draft excerpt (for the homies in cell block D)

How does writing ever get done? I find no time, no time, and then suddenly too much time. As soon as I can do whatever I like, of course, I'm supposed to should shall will write... but I can live without ever gracing the pages of Zoetrope or Harpers. (NB character names=placeholders.)

6. Metastasis
Months before the trip signs of strain between Jack and Sarah grew into hieroglyphic billboards. Her tears would trickle down to the soft point of her chin, framing her sad lips as she told the story. Her friends were in a war of all against all, yet they stood phalanx against outsiders. A minor misunderstanding, backbiting, and injustice led to recrimination that lasted only until the next crisis. It was a regular occurrence; eminently predictable, only the characters changed from week to week. A codependent nunnery might run the same way, like Lord of the Flies with thirty Sylvia Plaths. Jack would hold his hands up at elbow level, lean in and feel the softness of her cashmere sweaters–the last time, a bit warm for Cinco De Mayo–as she clutched at his shirt. The wetness under her nose disappeared into his collar, and he would think about uselessness. The best thing to do, he'd decided, was to question himself about all the movies he had seen for her and figure out what to do that way.

He tried out some lines. When it was over, she didn't open her jaws in his presence for half a week. Like Junior High. Freshman year, in those days when Doc Martins were still a plausible footwear choice, and even the most serious of the baseball team, Jack included, knew the words of the imminant poet Kobain.

Any of her discomfort even slightly expressed sent chills of helplessness through him. We are taught now to be listeners, but Jack heard nothing, saw nothing, and spoke not a whit of his own frustration and anger. Months sleeping pajama-covered platonic. Nod at pauses in conversation, automatic from the eyesockets down as thought drifted to anything else, anything but the present. When did I trade half what I wanted for the other half? The lady and the whore? The friend or the sister? Fuck. The woman or the girl? Her emotions were all about him.

Then, they were just how he had wanted them to always be. They laughed together quietly after an absurdist German film, poking fun but for once not at each other. The intimacy of a fresh joke, the secret smile shared as she alluded to it again days later. The two of them in the kitchen, a bottle of wine. Chuckling over the overwrought sexuality of eating strawberries; the real heat that followed. Not love: play. On cool nights curling their limbs together and making the familiar mumuring sentimental sounds with dry quiet throats. Lying.

Sarah hated overland travel unless she could sing to the top volume of the car stereo with her music. She agreed to go with her eyes on his forehead while Jack glared while trying not to glare, saying, "I guess it sounds like fun."

"You'll love the desert."

"I do hate people."

"Me too. There's pretty much nobody out there. Northern Nevada, it might as well be the Moon."

"God, I hope so," she muttered.


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