Friday, August 15, 2008

The X In Christmas

Hi readers! Because everything has been so hectic, I'm going to post a story for the next few days called "The X in Christmas." It's something I started working on many years ago when I moved to Detroit.

The X in Christmas

"I was getting eaten alive out there," Glory says, carrying two beer bottles, one dangling from each hand, blood on her thighs from killing mosquitos with her palm. She sets the bottles on the floor near a lone mattress, everything else in Will and Ann's apartment loaded into the U-Haul by a group of graduate students who'd come over to help with the move. After dinner, a paper plate affair served at the wooden picnic table in the center of the apartment complex, scraps of paper exchanged with promises to write even though I'm really bad about that sort of thing as the common chorus, address books dug out of purses, goodbyes said, a string of awkward hugs and handshakes between people for whom these gestures rarely come into play, only Mike and Glory remain. Outside the screen door, pizza boxes sit open, attracting flies.

"Love among the ruins," Mike says, opening a bottle with his t-shirt and handing it to Glory.

This is how she thinks of their relationship, of them, such as it is, such as they are. Glory and Mike met in graduate school, sharing a cramped basement office area plagued by plumbing problems, huge roaches that thrived under the dank conditions, and a relative who's who of the socially disaffected for office mates, that Glory's misguided notion of the ivory tower being a place for attractive, articulate scholars was shot, but she felt more at home than she would have had it been otherwise, a promising dance career and a not-so-promising marriage already behind her. Twenty-five, with the proverbial breath knocked out of her early, she believed herself through with serious relationships for a while, and Mike surprised her. Fourteen years older with the air of an aging jock, he seemed very male in a way that was unfashionable for men closer to her own age, a strange combination of concern (jackets and sweat shirts offered when she was cold, food left at her door) and distance (a curious lack of discussion about relationships, a process he referred to as "paralysis through analysis") that grew on her.

Now she's losing Mike to a new job scheduled to start a month from tomorrow in Chicago, a city two thousand miles away and much to the surprise of people they know, but not to her, neither one of them has said anything about it. Mike studiously avoids the subject, and she has subsequently spent the last three weeks of the two years they've dated trying not to cry, and the effort shows on her face, the downward turn of her lips, the bright red marks under her eyes caused from rubbing them whenever she gets nervous which is way too often. For the first time in her life, everything makes her sad. She who never cries now gets misty-eyed over the news with the crime reports that seem to get longer each day, the horrible human interests stories about girls drowning their newborns in toilets, and more recently, a mother who let her daughter get up to the impossible-to-imagine weight of 650 pounds before the child died of heart failure, the mother, indignant at accusations of child abuse, claiming that she was just like any other mother. Glory thinks about how downhill everything seemed to have gone since her childhood, a general loosening of standards happening as long as she can recall, serving to impart a desire in her not to not do bad things, but to avoid the appearance of having done them.

And concerning matters of her own appearance, Glory, moderately obsessed, finds her reflection mesmerizing and horrific, and she excuses herself to the bathroom to stare in the full-length mirror at her skinny legs sticking out of cut-offs, brown hair in a high ponytail, and her feet that look huge to her, encased as they are in an old pair of Nikes with a turquoise swoosh. She pulls up her t-shirt to see if her ribs are still visible after the one piece of pizza she's eaten, and they are, painfully jutting out, undeniable. She switches off the light and turns around for one last look, but she can't see anything in the sudden darkness. Just like that, she's not there.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"To me death is not a fearful thing. It's living that's cursed." Jim Jones

Cocktail Hour
Drinking snack suggestion: Frito Pie -- chili and cheese over fritos -- this is as close to cooking as I get

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!


Anonymous said...

I fear my Glory days are over. The tether is back on. I don't think Howard Dean likes me.--Kwame

Anonymous said...

I share some of these teaching experiences. My first office was also in a basement.--Herman Northrop Frye

Anonymous said...

And were gonna take back the White House!!!!!!!!Wooooooooooooooooooooooo--Howard Dean

Sheila said...

lovely picture michelle!

laughingwolf said...

harsh as life, michelle...

JR's Thumbprints said...

I can certainly identify with Glory on one level, having checked the obits every Sunday to see how many folks are my age.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm still laughing at the ivory tower being a place for attractive people. That's a pretty good one. Most of the time. There are exceptions, of course.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy this passage. :)