December 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
The Viewing Room
The room itself wasn’t much. Pushed against the right-hand, goldenrod wall: a ’70s RCA console TV and a push-button VCR without a remote. Boxes of storage and two broken wooden desks piled in front of a two-by-three window, facing out onto the commuter parking lot and the L curve of the building, the science stacks. As resident Humanities majors, you never visited either.
Still, this room was your hideaway on campus—your roommate from Little Rhody, who worked the front desk on Tuesdays and Thursdays, told you about it, but Bryan became the sole reason for going.
You first watched West Side Story and several Rockys and Platoon and Forrest Gump when it was a new release. You cried through Terms of Endearment and A Room with a View with Bryan on the ratty dorm-refuse sofa beside you, then nearer to on top of you. On Tuesdays without a night class or a Saturday with nothing else to think-up but get drunk, count quarters for laundry, or read the assigned Camus, you’d rendezvous at the Beinke Viewing Room.
Here, your freshman year, you traced the roof of Bryan G.’s mouth with your tongue and he tasted like garlic and sweet cloves and his fingers ran the dank length of you until you shivered, emboldened because you couldn’t see yourselves in that room without mirrors. Sometimes, his class ring bruised your right breast but it was worth it, to be curled-close with the lights off, crushed into him while your faces glowed blue-orange-red with reflections of whatever tape from the library’s stash you were only half watching.
You’ve wondered these fifteen years after Bryan’s transfer to State: did he become a history teacher or did his dad guilt him into the family business? Has he maybe Googled you? There were three possible guys with his family name on Facebook, but all are bald and slumpy, with trying-too-hard smiles and kids, so you resisted sending a friend request. Not one of them is the Bryan you knew, your assigned presentation partner for the European Empire seminar who swiftly became more, the one you shared the dumpy couch and countless explorations, cinematic and otherwise. You’ve gained twenty pounds and never married, so surely you’re not who you thought you’d be by now, either. Life itself never a movie, but many scenes that seldom add up to an arc.
Despite the Dylan Walsh sideburns and the overcoat he brought back from Christmas break and called dope, you had something. In his hands– the first to snake your thigh. In the dialogue– that could never be called canned when it happened to you: “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”*
Sure, maybe you weren’t Taylor and Burton, nor Bogey and Bacall, but in that room you had something.
* From “When Harry met Sally”
MK Miller has two degrees and limitless curiosity. She has written about a wide array of topics, including the cultural significance of go-go boots and authentic communications tips. Her writing has appeared most recently in Revolution House, Verdad Magazine, Tawdry Bawdry, and Tiny Buddha.
Image: Twin Breath, By Leigh-Anne Fraser
July 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
Everything I Have Is Broken
I tell her that my pots and pans have scratches that never come out. My mother’s old china no longer reflects. Its value is now estimated as drywall. The coffee maker can’t process java. It doesn’t heat–just gurgles and dies. It dies each morning. The toilet needs some artful juggling. Yet, despite all of it, she likes me because of my smile that reminds her of HIM, who was yesterday. She says that whenever there is steel against sky there is the possibility of love. She loves the smell of old bridges after a rain. I remind her how the neighborhood is going downhill, how at night there is the sound of cockroaches imitating humans making sex sounds with clenched jaws. The cockroaches go and die somewhere else. Still she insists she won’t leave without a flag. You’re the one, she exclaims wordlessly. I can read it in her yesterday eyes that were once bluer. She still believes I could be HIM, if I could just polish my act. I keep telling her that I’m today with no future; my apartment is only walls and punched-in holes. I keep telling her that I’m a veteran of three wars and we’re still losing Avenue C to the bankers from gangrenous side-streets. I tell her I’m out of insecticide. I’m shaking an empty can. She doesn’t care about that.
Kyle Hemmings is the author of several chapbooks of poetry and prose: Avenue C, Cat People, and Anime Junkie (Scars Publications). His latest e-books are You Never Die in Wholes from Good Story Press and The Truth about Onions from Good Samaritan. He lives and writes in New Jersey.
Image: Road, By Leigh-Anne Fraser
June 15, 2012 § 3 Comments
My pen was quivering before I started to write. It may have been the Four Loko from last night that seems to carry a hangover of trembling hands; or, maybe it was my own plain shakiness when writing in public, at a desk, in class; or, it may have been my system being nervous about writing about a place I’ve never been to– her place. She called it her ‘loft.’ I bet it looked like her wardrobe– that worn forest green color she wore too often; it probably looked like music, like John Brown’s Body. It probably looked disorderly with a tint of clean. She probably draped some curtains over the window–curtains her mother probably made. I imagine, they might have been an ugly maroon no one but I would have liked. Her nightstand was probably stacked with borrowed books. She might have had an ashtray, but probably for things other than ash. Things like fortune cookie papers, pretty marbles, or change. It probably smells like her back does in the mornings. Blankets seem to peel our skin for their own. Every night I sleep alone I am reminded of how she and I smelled together: like a live acoustic band, something raw and ready and clawing for nothing but stillness about it. I still haven’t washed my bed sheets; I think it’s because I like to hold onto things that are already gone. I still have that bottle of shitty wine, two glasses stained from cold hot chocolate, and her tea mug. I haven’t washed it– sometimes, I drink water from it. It still clings to an after taste of vanilla chai.Then again, I don’t listen to Bon Iver or Mumford and Sons anymore, because I can’t. I bet that’s what she plays on her CD player. It probably sits on a bookshelf, near her bed. And yes, I’m guessing she has a CD player. But, this is all guesswork anyways; I don’t have any real answers.
Benjamin Bouvet-Boisclair is currently a SUNY Cortland undergrad student working towards a Professional Writing degree. When not writing he is playing board games with enemies, shooting hoops, or doing magic tricks for invisible crowds. He lives in Cortland, New York, inside of a small room with a big couch.
Image: Unfolded Wing, By Leigh-Anne Fraser
May 6, 2012 § 1 Comment
after Stan Dragland
he is sorry he mentions the possibility of going to frobisher bay. she wants him to go. we need the money she says. he agrees to go to frobisher bay for eighteen months.
she spends some of the money he sends home on a plastic and chrome living room set that she orders from the eaton’s catalogue. when he comes home for a break after six months, he loathes the new furniture. he flies back to frobisher and the family is glad he’s gone. (he will have a brief affair with a nurse.)
she gets to know mr smith from next door very well. mr smith works in the refrigeration department at eaton’s.
in frobisher he feels honoured to meet a gentle but famous oblate missionary who gives him an 8 x 10 photograph of himself meeting pope john paul II.
he gives his sixteen year-old daughter’s photo to a french co-worker in frobisher who is twenty-five. that man writes a letter to her. his daughter answers it briefly for politeness sake.
he misses his daughter’s graduation from teacher’s college. he sends through a friend, an enormous frozen fish called a char. no one knows what to do with it. we do not have a freezer.
she feels lost during the day. dr. b puts her on valium.
his now-best-friend in frobisher sends the daughter a photo of himself sitting on his bed with her high school graduation photo pinned to the wall behind him. he is not attractive and the daughter does not answer the letter.
on his second trip home he invites his frobisher friend to the house. the daughter retaliates by having her boyfriend come over, sits close to him on the plastic sofa.
at the end of his eighteen month contract he asks his daughter why she did not like his frobisher friend. he is not pleased when she says she says the man gives her the creeps.
he has acquired a projector and two movies in frobisher. one is too sexy he says to show his children. she has done her hair tonight and wears a fresh dress, and evening-in-paris cologne. from the back bedroom the daughter hears the whirr of the projector, the crackle and creak of the couch, their muffled sporadic chuckles.
she’s a bit disappointed in the movie; all it shows is a woman hitch-hiking on a country road. all she does is raise her skirt just above her knee. she thinks, my goodness, those men up north were desperate! still the movie brings back the wild whirl of early days when they went for picnics, the excitement of being deep in the cremazie woods on a blanket, alone with her catholic boy.
Note: That gentle but famous missionary was Father Pierre Henry, missionary Oblate of Mary, who lived on King Williams Island under the same conditions as the native people. The book Kabloona by Gontran de Poncins, has a section about him.
In poetry Claudia Coutu Radmore’s ‘Accidentals’ (Apt. 9 Press, Ottawa), won the bpNichol Chapbook Award, 2012 (Canada). Her fiction placed second in the Kingston Literary Awards, and won the Backwater Review’s First Annual Hinterland Award for Prose. She has written the foreword to, and edited letters for ‘Arctic Twilight: Leonard Budgell and the Changing North.’ (2010, Blue Butterfly Books, Dundurn Press, Toronto) claudiacouturadmore.ca and ynklings.wordpress.com
Image: Light after the Fog, By Leigh-Anne Fraser
April 15, 2012 § 12 Comments
I was only eighteen and deferential to people I regarded as “grown-ups,” maybe because I grew up in a little town in Iowa and was going to college in another little town in Minnesota. I’d just completed my freshman year. It was why I put on my super-polite voice to ask the lady with peroxide hair if I was in the right waiting line for the bus from Laredo to Guadalajara. I was going down there for the summer for a college art program, making pottery and learning Spanish. Plus, I was afraid she’d be brusque with me, annoyed. Afraid she’d say, “Get lost, kid. Can’t you see I’m busy?” But no, she seemed genuinely pleased to be asked. Yes, I was in the right line. She herself was going to Mexico City, where she lived. For a person my parents’ age she was in good shape, not unattractive. “My bus is over there.” She pointed. I thanked her.
“What are you reading?” she asked before I could turn away.
I glanced down at my book. “Creative Evolution. It’s by a French philosopher named Henri Bergson.” It made me feel smart to say this, and I was glad this was the book I was holding rather than the usual unsophisticated junk I read.
“Mmm,” she said, as if she knew all about Bergson and the élan vital, a concept that seemed so mystical and sexy to me, humanity’s natural creative impulse that drives the evolutionary process, according to Bergson.
“Bergson was Jewish, but he converted to Catholicism.”
“Jewish men have circumcised penises,” she said. “Is it true that most men have uncircumcised penises?”
I didn’t know what to say. Why was she asking me this? She must have seen my confusion.
“I’ve read that circumcised penises are more sanitary.”
But this didn’t help much. I continued to stammer and shrug.
“Look, if you get to Mexico City, give me a call.” She wrote her name – Barbara – and her number on a piece of paper and handed it to me. “Bye!” she said. “Nice meeting you!”
Later that summer I went to Mexico City. I dialed the number she’d given me, but a man with a Mexican accent answered the phone and I hung up. I was pretty sure I’d dialed the right number, even though she’d written it in pencil and it had faded some since she’d written it. I never tried to telephone again, but I continued to take the piece of paper out of my wallet, just to remember her.
Charles Rammelkamp lives in Baltimore, Maryland in the empty nest with his wife, his daughters having grown up and left home. He edits The Potomac, an online literary journal – http://thepotomacjournal.com. A collection of poetry entitled Fusen Bakudan, which involves missionaries in a leper colony in Vietnam during the war, will soon be published by Time Being Books.
Image: Ferris Wheel, By Leigh-Anne Fraser