Back Here

Anytime someone asked me what I did for Thanksgiving, my answer was “you mean the ‘Gilmore Girls’ revival?” Actually, anytime anyone has asked me anything for the last two weeks, I have answered in the form of Gilmore Girls. I do not mean talking fast and making references – that is the manner to which I am accustomed – I mean my world has assumed a new shape. And old. Sort of like a pair of jeans you find at a thrift store which are exactly like ones you had years ago that were shrunk in the dryer – shrunk in the dryer that started on fire – shrunk in the dryer that started on fire which became a pyre – shrunk in the dryer that started on fire which became a pyre for jeans you admired* – and so when you get another pair, it’s like going back, but you’re here, and it’s good to be back here.**

Here is Stars Hollow, the town of “Gilmore Girls,” which many viewers have suggested*** would be an ideal setting for “The Twilight Zone,” while seeming to forget that it practically was – in the episode “Walking Distance.” A 1959 Mad Man “living at a dead run” is fleeing Manhattan in his car through the countryside, when he stops at a gas station and recognizes the area is within walking distance of his place of birth, Homewood. At some turn in the route he is transported 25 years ago to his childhood, a place in the summer, with a merry-go-round and cotton candy and band concerts. That atmosphere is very breathable to me. When someone asks where I’m from, I always end up listing several towns, saying “I’m from East Troy. It’s Stars Hollow. It’s Mayberry,” then explaining the reference and/or justifying the comparison with: “We have a square. And a trolley. And a vintage ice cream parlor.” So I understand why the man in “Walking Distance” stays home long enough to realize how much he’s longed for it, only to learn, in his father’s words, that he doesn’t belong. “You’ve been looking behind you,” the father says. “Try looking ahead.”

As a writer, what is behind has always possessed more potential than what is ahead. When I watched the first season of “Gilmore Girls,” I was staying with my sister, a teacher, who had the entire series to that point on DVD. While she was at school, I was getting schooled by the show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, particularly in the reference, a hyperspecific metaphor. It was a technique I had observed elsewhere, most notably and obsessively in Myra Breckinridge. The reference uses literature, film, music, history – as coordinates for a specific moment, an X marks the spot, the X a cross, of course, one line being the time you are in, another line being the time of the reference, so you are here and there, the one who knows, who can be asked for directions.

“Gilmore Girls,” now more than ever, acknowledges that it is “never or now.” A vital member in the original cast has died, everyone has aged, and the world of 2016 is not as we remember it in 2000, or 2007, the years when the show premiered and ended. Its creator and sustainers, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, left the original run a season early, due to lack of support from the network. The actors were never certain what the final episode would be. So this is one revival where everybody took Arlen and Koehler’s advice to get happy – and get ready – for the judgment day: this might be the end, more than the might before, and a manic energy, an emotional undertow, shoots through the series like an arrow, to a bull’s eye ending, those famous last four words to which Amy alluded for years. But I didn’t watch for those four words. I watched because, in a small way, it was a resurrection, and I always want to believe in that.

“You hardly ever get a chance, at any point in life, to appreciate the moment you’re in, while you’re in it,” said Lauren Graham, who plays Lorelai Gilmore. “I was just walking around [set] like…’you’re here, and thank you so much for being here’…I was just a freak, I had so much appreciation it was actually very overwhelming and…I’m not a person who cries very easily. I would cry every day.” Graham rightly insists that crying in character is different than crying as yourself, but still, it is not difficult to believe she cried every day; there are so many gradations of grief in her performance. I’ve never seen such a range, in any of Graham’s performances, or anyone else’s. Indeed, for a character and actor renowned as fast-talkers, some of their finest moments in the revival are silent, grounded in truth and floating on emotion.

“Without silence there is no solitude. Though silence sometimes involves the absence of speech, it always involves the act of listening,” writes Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline. Foster’s book does not mention “Gilmore Girls,” but surely that is because his most recent revision was 1998? Watching the revival, it was like someone was listening to me and speaking for me, simultaneously, in a rapture of understanding. I was in my sister’s living room, 10 years ago; I was in my parents’ living room next to my sister, now. And when Sam Philips’ song played over the final scene, just as it played over a similar scene in the original series, we wept together. I felt like one of my hands was holding the past, just as the other was holding the present – and even though both were empty, my eyes were reflecting light.

 ~ ~ ~

*Apologies to Rose Bonne, and you. I just couldn’t stop.

**And hear ye, year ye, those who aren’t familiar with the show: become familiar with the show. Start at season 1 and watch through season 6 and skip season 7 – the only season without Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, which was basically Madame Tussaud’s wax figure of Rowan Atkinson, frightening, lifeless and without purpose – and proceed directly to the revival, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.” It’s all streaming across that beautiful banquet hall called Netflix, booked solid with reboots and reunions.

*** James Poniewozik in The New York Times and Todd VanDerWerff at Vox, to name a few who can write.

The Lion of Lucerne

At a distance, the monument, a rock relief, reminded me of Petra; emerging from the stone, both composed of – and separate from – its source; real and fantastical. There was also a sense that I was discovering it, although surrounded by people taking selfies.

The subject is a fallen lion, spear thrust into his side, with only a shield for a pillow. The lion’s expression is almost unendurably anguished, a tangled but clear knot of emotion: sadness so ancient and deep it must be woe, an agony of confusion, a total resignation. There is such nobility to him, such beauty, the death seems an injustice that cannot be understood, only witnessed.

“He’s so sad,” I said through a throb in my throat, not really to anyone; I said it, trying to send the sadness back to the Lion, but it was a cord tying us, taut. I looked at the spear in His side as my father read aloud from his phone:

“The Lion of Lucerne [was] designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and hewn in 1820–21 by Lukas Ahorn. It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris…”

Even after hearing this, I couldn’t receive the monument as anything other than a tribute to Aslan, however chronologically incorrect and thoroughly disrespectful that may be. For those who haven’t met Aslan, he is a character in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, “the lion, the great Lion [who] isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.” Aslan allows Himself to be slaughtered in exchange for the life of a traitor.

I wanted to walk away, I wanted to be alone with the Lion, but neither were possible. I could not contain the tears, so I collected them, one at a time, with my finger. “Nothing is black and white,” my father concluded next to me, putting away his phone. My eyes felt red. They were looking into the eyes of the Lion.

tunnel

What would be best is if, when I parked on the street, a tunnel would appear, connecting the driver’s door of my car to the balcony door of my house. A two-way waste chute, really, through which I could rise and fall, unseen by neighbors. Neighbor. The one who, as I was walking up my front steps, pulled me into her tractor beam by shouting “you called CPS” and “I will punch you in the face” and “mind your own business,” though when your business is interrupted by the sounds of a child being beaten and screaming, it’s difficult to mind.

Nevertheless, when my roommate heard it, she shouldn’t have told me, who shouldn’t have called CPS, who shouldn’t have come to their door; the neighborhood commandment of “you should mind your own business” must not be broken. Oblivious to such an argument, or accustomed to it, a child tapped me. “You haven’t been outside,” he said. “Yes, I have,” I replied, almost adding “but I won’t be anymore.”

The morning after the confrontation, I left for a wedding in upstate New York, at an hour similar to the one before God created the universe. It was so early that, in the airport terminal, there was no light through the windows; they were like the fake kind on a big box store, opaque, dark, void.

“The system is just broken,” my fellow traveler, a friend who was abused as a child, said. “When a CPS employee showed up at my house, I just wanted them to leave, I was so scared of being punished. When a teacher asked me if everything was alright at home, I said yes, but I kept thinking, can’t you make it stop? Whether you report it, or you don’t, it’s terrible.”

“My father forced me to fight competitively,” a young man told me at the reception, arranging and rearranging the food on his plate, “and you have to maintain a certain weight, so I’m mindful of calories. I still eat like a fighter.” He was thin and smiling through a wiry beard and lipstick that matched the color scheme of his sister’s bridal party. I wanted to feed him.

“You did the right thing,” a friend with children said over the phone.

Blocks before the neighborhood, my heart pounds like a headache. At the end of the street, I try to see who’s on the porch next door. I park the car in front of my house. I keep my sunglasses on. I don’t look around. I look down. I look at my keys. I open the door.

Hell is Other People

and I wonder what else you believe,

that I don’t believe,

that I don’t know about yet,

that would scare me to know you believe.

And when will I find out about that.

And then I wonder if someday you’ll convince me of what you believe.

And then I sit here and I think about me,

a version of me, say, two years from now.

And she believes what you believe,

and she believes what I don’t believe, not right now.

I think about that future “me,”

and I think about that future “me” thinking about the “me” I am right now.

That version of me thinks I’m stupid for thinking what I think now,

but also,

I’m here thinking that she’s so wrong,

and I don’t want to think something so different from what I think now…

…because there’s a slipping that happens.

The Christians, Lucas Hnath

As a young adult I developed a slipping phobia. One of my friends called me a “moral hypochondriac.” I clutched one version of truth, afraid of catching anything else. Something had to be right or wrong, it could never just be something. Of course, there was no love for God in this, only tide after tide of fear, and eventually I was like, “screw it, I can surf on this.” And so I did. Not surf. Slip.

Yes, I spent years slipping into the glove of addiction until I thought the glove was my hand. I was trying to heal a wound by covering it, which works to a certain point, when it begins to fester, to infect. You have to expose it to air, so it can breathe. But then it gets too much air, too much wind, its gets windburn and it wants everyone to burn, burn in the light of its truth.

What is it again?

The wound, yes, the wound that wants everyone to hurt, but for a good cause.

Even when I was in the cycle of sin-sorry-not-sorry-sin, the thought was if I reserved the serious infractions for once or twice a year, I was still superior to others who were racking it up; I was still winning the numbers game. But there was no attempt to stop, to turn around, to start again; just making a paper chain of the days until the next deviation, and then rip, rip, rip.

Repenting has meant setting both sides of my freeway going the same direction, away from the natural disaster. I expect Christian friends to understand, but most seem to think the disaster isn’t nature, it’s nature gone awry. If it was contained within a certain area…

“A quiet resentment can creep in that comes from believing that they’re sacrificing so much for God, while others get off easy,” writes Rob Bell. “Hell can easily become a way to explain all of this: ‘those people out there may be going to parties and appearing to have fun while the rest of us do ‘God’s work,’ but someday we’ll go to heaven, where we won’t have to do anything, and they’ll go to hell, where they’ll get theirs.”

Like Bell, I am actually not a universalist, or a relativist, or any kind of ist. I am an ict. An addict. Someone who doesn’t know when the party ends. So they don’t want anyone to have parties. “Is it weird,” a friend asks, “that every time I see you, I want a beer and I want to go to church?”

I’ve been listening to Lucius’ latest album, Good Grief. The booklet unfolds to form a poster of the lead singer against a black background, embracing a black figure that blends in completely. “I am lost,” she sings, “in my own home.”

Prayer

Lord,

out of the depths we cry to you

our souls melt for heaviness;

they are weary with sorrow

they are downcast

bowed down to the dust.

Our tears have been our food

day and night.

 

We mourn for the loss of Your children

who came to what they hoped

was a space where they could be safe

and the space was violated.

 

They were teachers and parents

great friends and brand managers

overprotective brothers and army captains,

contagious personalities and pharmacy technicians

good kids and assistant producers

blood brothers and ride operators

the best godmothers and Target employees

beautiful souls and high school graduates

cancer survivors and baristas

dancers and the kindest people you could meet.

 

But first and last and always

they were, and are,

Your children.

We mourn for them.

We are in mourning.

And we will not move on

we will not move on

no matter how undignified it may seem

or how uncomfortable anyone becomes

we will not move on

we will not move forward

we will not move away

we will not move from this spot

until we have flooded our beds with weeping

until we have soaked the dirt with tears

until the roots of injustice are permeated with grief

and while we grieve we wait.

 

We wait for you, oh Lord,

more than watchmen

wait for the morning.

 

And we ask, “who can show us any good?”

 

Let the light of your face shine upon us, oh Lord.

for only You can turn our darkness into light.

Surround us with songs of deliverance.

Cover us with Your feathers,

give us refuge under Your wings,

prepare a table in the presence of our enemies:

for those we have mistaken for our enemies

but are brothers, sisters

whom we are called to love

because we are the Church

even if we don’t understand

even if we don’t agree

if we can live in complete unity

then the world will know

You are Love

and they will know us

by Your Love

the Love only You can do

for You are Love

and Love

is a promise that preserves our lives,

everlasting to everlasting,

unfailing,

full of redemption,

always protecting,

always trusting,

always hoping,

always persevering

always displaying your power

among the people

the people whom

You Love

You Love

You Love

with a

jealous

dangerous

amorous

scandalous

Love

Love

Love

 

One thing we ask

this is what we seek:

for Your children lost,

Your children here,

Your children here who are lost,

let us dwell in Your hiding place

the shelter of Your tabernacle

high upon the rock of our salvation

let us dwell in Your house

Forever and ever

Amen.

Pulse

“I was looking at their ages…[they] might’ve been out for their first night at a gay bar…” someone says on the radio. “Seeing, you know, what I consider to be children have to face this…”

I consider them to be children, yes. Older than the children at Sandy Hook, at Columbine, but still children. I consider myself to be a child at that age. In my early ‘20s. In 2005. In Orlando. In Pulse.

“We went there,” a friend says on the phone, “we went there all the time.”

I remember going there and pacing around the block for an hour before deciding to go in. Or was that another club? That was another club. It could have been any club. It could have been me, it was not me, it is with me, it is over me, a large black umbrella that was handed to me a long time ago and it was not heavy at first but I’ve been holding it so long that my hand is shaking.

“You seem focused,” a roommate says as I unload groceries.

“I lived in Orlando.” I say. “I was at that club every weekend.” The roommate is holding the refrigerator door handle but I don’t realize and reach for it; I accidentally grab his hand, he instinctively pulls away, I open the refrigerator. I place bags of celery and carrots on cold shelves.

I reread the names, the ages. I look at their pictures again. I feel as though I am attending the ceremony of the dead in Sartre’s The Flies, where the departed souls return, enraged. They are rattling me like a chandelier in an earthquake. I want to sit in a gay bar and drink. I want to go to a gay club and dance. I want to have sex with as many men as possible. But I am in recovery. I am celibate. I am not going to do any of these things. So I get a Judy Garland film from the library. I Could Go On Singing.

Judy plays Jenny, a part written for her, a part that is her. Dirk Bogarde plays her ex, David. “I can’t be spread so thin. I’m just one person,” Jenny says to him, slightly drunk but getting sober. “I don’t want to be rolled out like pastry, so everybody get a nice big bite of me. I’m just me. I belong to myself. I can do whatever I damn well please with myself and nobody can ask any questions.”

On the radio they are interviewing someone who is placing white carnations and notes on the car windshields of family and friends of victims as they meet with the FBI. The note says, “You are loved.”

David starts to say he loves her, but Jenny places a finger on his lips. “Don’t – don’t say it. Because if you said it now, and if you didn’t mean it – I think I’d die – I think I’d die.”

Expected Result

I was at my parents’ house, otherwise known as the supply depot, looking for a legal pad. “Why do you need a legal pad?” Dad asked. “Because it fits in my padfolio,” I responded, though in truth the padfolio was his and as we’re being truthful I didn’t know it was called a padfolio until consulting the Internet during this writing. “But that’s 8 ½ by 11,” he said, “legal pads are bigger.” “When you say legal pad, people think of yellow and lined and bound at the top,” I replied, sounding like a riddle. The answer was dad giving me a different kind of pad: a “Project Planner,” published by Priority Management International. There were fields such as Project, Objective and Expected Result.

That last one pissed me off. I sat on the porch in April, shivering, wearing jeans, two shirts, a bathrobe, a winter coat with hood and sunglasses. This is an Expected Result of living in Wisconsin. After Valentine’s Day, any time the temperature reaches 40 degrees, we autorreact by proclaiming the arrival of spring. Basically we are Corky in Waiting for Guffman, absolutely sure the honored guest for which we have waited has arrived.

It was in this seasonal denial I returned to Wisconsin, almost ten years ago, in defeat. The Result was not Expected, then, either. Where I had been and what I had done is irrelevant, I suppose, and could be swapped with anyone’s Roaring ‘20s. But it was the first time a dream died in front of me. The grief prevented me from functioning and then functioning prevented me from the grief.

In Truly Madly Deeply, Juliet Stevenson’s husband comes back from the dead and she doesn’t know what to do with him. I can relate to that. Every day now I wake up and the dream is beside me, warm and breathing, for the first time in years. But then mirages often form out of a desire for relief. An oasis for the thirsty. Stability for the insecure. Which brings us to the Result of now, also not Expected. The key investors since returning here, those who spent their time collecting interest in my life, are withdrawing. Roommates are moving out, collaborators are moving away, friends are moving into houses for their children, and I am moved to emotions I cannot express.

My parents’ dogs were panting and pawing at the door, molesting my permission to be released. They wanted to greet the neighbor’s dog wandering through the yard, a Labrador Retriever whom I call Black Beauty because she is the size of a miniature horse. When I opened the door, they tore across the lawn, leaping at her, growling and yapping. “What’s the matter with you?” I snapped at them. “You know her.”

The next day I shared this incident with my grandma; an attempt at in-flight entertainment as we were destined for yet another doctor’s appointment. Occasionally she spasmed, then squirmed, trying to wrench from the grip of an unspeakable pain. My father informed me they had an hour-long conversation about assisted suicide. “If there was a number to call,” she said, “I would call it.”

The dogs and I came inside, to lose the chill, or regain it. As the songs were already playing in my head, I decided to actually play the final album from School of Seven Bells, a duo comprised of Alejandra Deheza and Benjamin Curtis, who died from a sudden attack of rare cancer during recording. The music is a lake at sunset, reflecting light from the surface of formless dark. “We are free to dream,” sings Alejandra. “This is our time of our becoming.” I have to believe her.

Beton Brut

“The author of the James Bond books, Ian Fleming, named Goldfinger for a real person—an architect by the name of Erno Goldfinger, who made giant, hulking, austere concrete buildings. Fleming disliked these buildings so intensely that he immortalized their architect as a villain in pop culture…Some people refer to this building style as Brutalist architecture, but Brutalism is a big, broad label that’s used inconsistently, and architects tend to disagree on a precise definition of the word. Furthermore, the word brutalism has intense connotations, even though it’s not actually related to brutality. The word originates from the French béton brut, which means raw concrete.”*

– – –

April 26, 2007

We slaughtered the small talk and closed in on my favorite conversational prey: dysfunctional relationships, with a side of sexual deviancy.

I blamed it all on Nabokov, citing both of my quasi-sexual experiences with a forty-two year old and an eighteen-year-old as evidence. She laughed – the way someone laughs when they haven’t read Nabokov and don’t understand just how devastating it can all be – but I didn’t mind.

It felt like we were David Niven and Kim Hunter in the opening scene of A Matter of Life and Death – when she’s on the radio with him as his plane is going down and they experience this gorgeously spontaneous connection.

By the time we were done she’d massacred the muffins and I’d had even more bubbly thanks to that damned waitress. I realized I’d reached “the moment” of the conversation when I either mystify the participant with glamorous ambiguity or intrigue them with contradictory complexity. I remember picking a tactic, then saying something altogether different. It went something like this:

“My pelvis wants a man and my mind wants a woman.”

Her gaze was fixed, as if through intensity she could lift the hood of my head and see if the oil needed changing or if the transmission was toast.

– – –

“When Boston City Hall was built in 1968, critics were put off by the concrete style. It was called ‘alienating’ and ‘cold.’ And since it was a government building, this criticism became impossible to remove from politics. Boston City Hall became a political pawn as mayors and city council members vied for public support with promises to tear it down. But tearing down Boston City Hall has never come to pass. Doing so would take an incredible amount of effort and money. And so, government officials have largely chosen to ignore the building. This so-called active neglect happens with a lot of concrete buildings—they are intentionally unrenovated and uncared for. Which only makes the building more ugly, and then more hated, and then more ignored. It’s a vicious cycle wherein the public hate of a building feeds on itself.”

– – –

February 4, 2009

“Do you like to make out?” He asks. Do I? I’ve done it before. Maybe if I do it again I’ll have a definite opinion. I tell my body to look busy. Is he thinking this is the countdown to copulation? I wonder. I told him “I’ve never done anything”; maybe he interpreted that as “I’m a slacker”?

His hand goes up my shirt. My hand goes up in the air. “Uh, no.” I say. “What?” he says. “Just, no.” I say. He leans back and says, “why are you so insecure?”

I close my eyes. “I don’t want to be a book with just pictures and no words. Or a book with just words and no pictures – that’s probably what I am. Why are you insecure?”

He looks slightly away. “I used to get made fun of a lot.” I nod, then ask: “What’s the worst thing someone did?” He pauses. He says, “This one time a guy made fun of my mannerisms in front of the girl that I liked, and she laughed.” I nod. “What about you?” He asks.

I pause. “When I was a freshman in high school my class voted me on homecoming court as a joke. All my friends told me. Which made me wonder if they were my friends, but it made sense. For the next month everybody was sarcastically high-fiving and spanking me,” I say, poking at the past with a stick…yes, it’s dead. I look at him. He is tired, and tedious, and I want to shove his head in a fishbowl and watch the bettas swim in and out of his mouth, and try to kill one another.

– – –

“When people built these mammoth concrete structures, no one really thought about maintenance, because they seemed indestructible. In the early days of concrete, people assumed it was an everlasting material that wouldn’t require any further attention. This has not proved true. But, it can be hard to tell when concrete needs repairing, because its decay is not visible on the surface. Concrete deteriorates chemically, from the inside out. Part of this has to do with the metal rebar reinforcements that help to hold up most concrete buildings. The rebar can rust, and the rust can eat away at the overall structure.”

– – –

June 2, 2010

“Now, put on the first outfit,” the photographer says, demonstrating how a whisper can be a command.

“All right,” I say, looking through the outfits. They are overpowering; they are overdone; they are just over. But he’s a friend, so I put them on. Like Ben Folds, I do the best imitation of myself.

Soon he is telling me to do things I don’t do anymore, while making it look like I do…”give me a cocky pose.” I do. “No, like this.” He does it. I do it. “Umm, not quite, here, mirror me.” He does it. I do it. “No, come stand where I’m standing.” He does it. I do it. click. “Done. Next outfit.”

Years ago I saw Paris is Burning, a documentary about vogue balls in New York City. The participants try to pass for their opposite gender or social class. All I know is they walked down that runway like they were walking away from their old selves.

– – –

“Photography is allowing a new audience to appreciate these buildings for their strong lines, crisp shadows, and increasingly, the idealism they embody. ‘[Concrete buildings] represent a set of ideas about the state of the world and what the future was imagined to be that we want to preserve,’ says Adrian Forty, author of Concrete and Culture. ‘We should remember what people were thinking 50 years ago. If we tear these buildings down, we will lose all of that.'”

 

 

*All selections are from Roman Mars’ fantastic article on Brutalist architecture for Slate magazine.

Just Like Me

Your-own-private-Bose-Idaho headphones are on, canceling the noise you don’t choose for the noise you do; they are connected to your iPhone, which is connected to your hips, which are connecting the bops of Betty Who:

I heard she’s beautiful
A 20 out of 10
That doesn’t keep me from
Wondering how you’ve been

She is in St. Cloud. It sounds like the safest place. It sounds like the name of a TV drama. There was one called that, wasn’t there? In a hospital? No, that was St. Elsewhere. Perhaps that is more accurate. The cop who pulled her over said she did not know who she was. Now she cannot call you. She cannot text you. Her husband calls you. Her husband texts you. You both talk about her like a place card at a table setting; you wonder when the real person will be there.

So if you think you’re falling apart
And I’m the only one you’ll call
If you keep reaching for me in the dark
And can’t stand it anymore

You are doing the dishes, spinning the scrub brush around the outline of the plate, like a tone arm and turntable reversed. At the moment you are happy, because for momentary happiness, Betty Who is your Captain Picard: she makes it so. Especially when you first heard “Somebody Loves You” as the soundtrack of a flash mob marriage proposal between Spencer and Dustin Stout-Reese. It simultaneously went viral on the internet and in you, infecting with false hope. Someday, you think, they will release a study that concludes gay marriages are unnatural and unhealthy. What a terrible thought, you think, and you tell the thought so. It was not you thinking it, you decide, setting a Tupperware container aside to soak. It was a character – a character without an arc, drowning in a flood, because all the other animals have their partner. “At least she is married now,” you told the pastor earlier. “She cannot be alone. I’ve known her for years and I’ve always known that.” “I met her at a performance of your play,” the pastor replied. “she said, ‘it’s so funny that we’re meeting here, because this play is about me.'” In the bead counter of your mind, you try to calculate what is more narcissistic: her imagining your play is about her, or you insisting it is about you.

Then you just call my name
I will do the same
You can look into my eyes and see
If you’ve got a broken heart
Then you’re just like me

At the beginning of the breakdown, she wrote to you in an e-mail, “GOD can play with pretty, fragile, tragic, desecrated, dishonored, shamed and histrionic messes like ‘us’ – and you and I know our heaven was granted because it would not be again the night I feel in love with the band that captured all the songs I shared with you waiting for him…and the songs would have been forgotten if I didn’t know in my heart that you secretly loved me more than you thought I loved you – and I let you in whatever way you wanted because I was always water and I could transcend whenever the world was too much for me to share…This is not good-bye, this is I will find you again when God wants to remind us of his story as he would tell it – but we have to establish what we think our narrative is – so we predict what we don’t want – in the deepest hope that we get everything we need before what we want, because I can only hold the things that are truly cherished in my heart – as you are my darling Ben.”

Just like just like me
Just like just like me
Just like just like me
Just like just like me
Just like just like me
Just like just like me

For Sale

REALTOR: So here we are.

WIFE: Oh my God. It’s so clean.

HUSBAND: Whitewashed.

WIFE: Yes. And quiet.

HUSBAND: Like a tomb.

WIFE: Don’t be morbid. (To REALTOR) He’s a writer.

REALTOR: Ah.

WIFE: Now who did you say lived here? A meth dealer?

REALTOR: Oh, um –

HUSBAND: She didn’t say that.

WIFE: I know she didn’t say that, we know she didn’t say that, I’m saying it now, to spare her the embarrassment of having to say it.

HUSBAND: How would you even know if a meth dealer lived here?

WIFE: I do watch television sometimes.

REALTOR: It was a man named Matthew Jones. (Beat.) And yes, he was a meth dealer.

WIFE(To HUSBAND): You see? (To REALTOR) Did he also use?

REALTOR: Yes, but –

WIFE: A dealer and a user. That’s a regrettable combination. The dealing is bad enough, but the using is just unprofessional.

HUSBAND: Well you have to believe in your product.

WIFE: I don’t think humor is appropriate now, do you?

HUSBAND: It never is. That’s why I like it.

REALTOR: He’s clean now.

WIFE: Excuse me?

REALTOR: Matthew’s clean now. He went through the Teen Challenge program. He’s on staff, actually.

WIFE: What?

REALTOR: He’s on staff at Teen Challenge. He’s speaking at their banquet at the end of the month.

HUSBAND: Is he the one Fox interviewed who said addiction was demon possession?

WIFE: You know that’s the first sensible thing I’ve heard about addiction. All this silliness about it being a disease.

HUSBAND: Everybody wants it to be something that can be exorcised or cured. They don’t want to believe it’s a part of them, like a pancreas or a spleen.

WIFE: The body can function without a pancreas or a spleen.

HUSBAND: It can also function without sex, but where is that going to get us?

WIFE: Somewhere better than here.

HUSBAND: Where the grass is greener?

WIFE: Yes, grown with love instead of bullshit. (Beat. To REALTOR) Excuse my language. It’s just been happening lately.

REALTOR: I understand.

WIFE: Do you?

REALTOR: No, but I find that pretending to understand makes both parties feel better.

WIFE: It does. Say it again please.

REALTOR: No.

WIFE: Thank you.

(Beat.)

HUSBAND: Wasn’t he in the bathtub for three days?

REALTOR: What?

HUSBAND: The meth dealer. Wasn’t he passed out in the bathtub for three days?

REALTOR: I think that was his wake up call.

WIFE: How could he even hear the phone ringing?

REALTOR: Well he did and now he’s speaking at the banquet with the Lieutenant Governor.

HUSBAND: You mean the Private Lieutenant Governor.

REALTOR: What?

HUSBAND: He wants to privatize everything.

WIFE: Including prisons. Just think how much money we would save in taxes if the prison system were being run like a good business.

REALTOR: If it were a good business we’d be trying to keep people out of it. Privatization would have the opposite effect.

WIFE: I wonder if the meth dealer knows about all that.

REALTOR: If not, I’m sure they won’t tell him before he gets up on the platform with the Lieutenant Governor.

HUSBAND: He knows. He’s in support of privatization.

WIFE: I really admire this meth dealer.

REALTOR: His name is Matthew.

WIFE: Who?

REALTOR: The meth dealer – the man who lived here before. His name is Matthew.

WIFE: From demon possession to local politician. I suppose it doesn’t get much better than that.