Slumber Citizens (Excerpt)

Slumber Citizen 3 comes over for some late afternoon sex. When she has sex, she sweats. He doesn’t, but she does. This time though, she sweats so profusely that she slips from his grip. She wipes the sweat off with the sheets, and he reaches to pull her back in. His penis slips out. It slips out again. They try various other combinations and positions, but his penis keeps slipping out and can’t find its way back in.

When they’re done, he doesn’t speak aloud what’s weighing on his mind. Neither does she. He wonders whether all this slipping was the manifestation of his dream or hers. What did she dream last night? Does she remember it? If so, then this excessive sweating happens to be the manifestation of her usual self, her usual passion – just enhanced to an elevated degree. Which is fine and dandy because it should be all about passion. But what about all his slipping? Maybe her slipping from his grip is entirely his fault, or the fault of his dream. What was this dream? If he asks her whether she remembers her dream, she will chafe and refuse to say. She loves the experience of various selves, the excitement and the thrill. And so she never questions it. He had loved it, but now he can’t stop himself from consciously reflecting, nor does he want to.

He’s not aware, and neither is she, that this was her last night’s dream:

She’s driving an old red Volvo station wagon. The car is hers. She drives slowly behind another car, but she can’t reach the break. Her leg is either too short, or the brake peddle too far down to reach. She stretches her leg to try to reach the brake. Her car is getting too close to the car in front. Her car is accelerating now, and she can’t reach either the accelerator or the brake. Her body is sliding down the seat and she can’t see out the window any more. She slides further and further down until her body goes full circle, full circle, full circle…

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Road

Know the road
make this turn
curve, like a horseshoe
every morning
each return

Sting in nose
reach for tissue
box, nearly empty
every season
each week

Know the back of that
car, like the back
of that man
every stop
every go

this song playing
on the radio

Simply because
I’m tired of living
says the note in this
last empty box
by the road.

A letter from Slumber Citizen 1 who is very tall to her mother who is very small

Dear Mom,

It was great talking to you on the phone today. I’m glad I picked up. No one writes letters anymore, and I want to change that right now – beginning with myself.

There’s something I need to confess to you, and somehow it’s easier in writing than face to face. I don’t feel that I’m being cowardly by writing rather than speaking to you in person. No one writes letters anymore.

I’m sure you are aware of the big discrepancy in size between you – my mother – and myself. I have always been secretly ashamed, not so much of your literal size, but of the fact that you are average in intelligence and appearance. Let’s face it – you haven’t really accomplished anything of real value. You always dress in khaki pants, a denim jacket, and tennis shoes. Now that you are old, do you ever wonder what people will say about you when you are gone? We are not judged by our intentions, mother, but by our actions. What have you done?

Again, it was great talking with you today. And I’m glad that in addition, I’m also taking the time out of my busy schedule to write to you.

I hope this letter finds you safe and sound.

Love,
You Daughter Forever

Experiment

I’m tempted to try an experiment. What if for a short period of time I try to be someone different, or give up the things I normally do such as writing and reading compulsively, neurotically demanding peak performance of myself in every realm (including teaching – putting up rigorous effort into planning, preparing, etc.). What would be the effects? Would I become a different person? Release another aspect of myself? Would it be freeing or maddening? Borges (one of my writer-gods) claimed that there is no such thing as personality (“The Nothingness of Personality”) and that we are not just one self (“Borges & I). The most obvious self is the public role we take on. I look at the difficult roles that others take on and seem so good at in appearance, such as those with heavy responsibilities (deans, chairs, managers, etc.) But what are we like when we’re alone? Truly alone? Well, I’ll see if I can try the experiment, even in a small way. Maybe it sounds crazy, or a little off. I don’t know. But I imagine I’m not the only one who secretly (not anymore) desires to just not be ‘ourselves’ for even one day…

Nearly done with 2666…

I’m nearing the end of 2666, and it’s difficult for me to find the right words to describe this novel made up of 5 distinct parts that seem, on the surface, to be unrelated, and yet somehow coincide perfectly – relentless? persistent? unflinching? in its pursuit of the unspeakable, in unraveling human empathy gone numb. I don’t know yet how it will end, but if there’s one thing I’ve figured out after some 700 pages or so, it’s not a matter of some big mystery being solved, or the revelation of some great epiphany, or close to an epic journey; it serves (for me at least) as a quiet outcry for the forgotten, the faceless, the ignored, and as a testament to the madness that lies just beneath the surface if you peer deep enough…

Slumber Citizens (Excerpt)

From the angle at which the book lies flat on the ground, a photo of the young Borges is visible – stiff white collar, slicked back hair, dark eyes.

I never met you, but I remember you (or is it Borges?) as this studious thinker, writer of fastidious, insightful essays, the library the lover of your youthful and elder days. You, and Borges, and the nothingness of personality.

I love the smell of coffee, Jackie Kennedy’s style, and antique lockets. All the other versions of me love the same things, but for them these are merely things to accommodate. For me, dear Borges (if there is indeed a me), the exterior world is not in charge, but the interior one.

Excerpt from Slumber Citizens (In the Waking Day)

He’s 6’2” but not in the non-thought of slumber. He does not remember this next dream:

Something grips his shoulders and pins him to the wall. This something is invisible. It is an invisible demon – the most terrifying kind. He feels the weight of a body push up against him, but when he pushes back, there’s nothing there; the nothing there swings his arms up in the air so that his chest feels naked and exposed, and then squeezes his crotch so that he yelps. His father who is standing there in the same room doesn’t hear him. He feels his lips frozen in the shape of a smile and his gums sting, and the invisible demon moves his arms up and down like the top half of jumping jacks. His father lets out a loud belch and laugh as he feels a slap to his right cheek, then his left.

In the morning when he wakes up, he breathes in deeply and stretches his arms out. He heads for Sunday morning church, dressed in a pen-striped white shirt and black tie, black slacks and his newest pair of Velcro shoes.

After crossing himself in front of the statue of Christ, he excuses himself to the mens room. He chooses to urinate in the stall, and then takes out a permanent marker from his pocket. He draws a demon with horns on the door and then ex’s it out. He hums a little tune audibly. Someone’s happy, he hears a voice coming from the urinal say. Yes, he answers, as he draws another demon and crosses it out. I never hum in public, he adds, as he listens to the other tinkle. But today I feel so alive.

It starts off small.

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