UPPER MIDDLE-CLASS AMERICANS EMULATED ARISTOCRATIC SOCIETY WITH THEIR OWN SMALL, SEMI-RURAL ESTATES
I’m not crazy, just here.
Sink down. Screen ahead. Yard beyond. The water is brown from soy sauce on the plates. The water’s gone cold, I’ve been washing the dishes too long. I’m sad. I have something to do.
I don’t want to.
I’m not crazy.
I don’t want to mow the lawn.
There’s grass out beyond, it’s thick; a nice carpet of green, a paint-y texture.
Today is the day. I have to cut it.
I don’t want to cut it.
This is a problem.
There are other problems.
I'm unfocused, that's a problem.
I lift my hand out of the sink, out of the brown pool and see in my hand. I remember something once held there: a cigarette I’d offered to someone, I don’t remember who, where, I didn’t care enough. But I can see the cigarette in my hand and sense a person there reaching out, taking it to their mouth. Here you go. I move my hand forward. Drops fall into the sink and re-join the whole of the water. Dishes are done.
I wish I was allowed to smoke.
Baby comes into the kitchen and sits at the chair and rocks her legs (the parts below the knee) back and forth. She’s looking bold, wearing some gold spandex thing, some black tight-y pants. I don’t get it. I look at her and think ‘sexy’ but then correct the word (in head) to ‘beautiful’ and then sudden facts that are ever-present in a super imposing way rush forward and I’m sort of stuck inside myself, a ball of mental-knot wound and taut in all directions.
Baby is my sister. Not sexy.
Sexy and can’t be, to me.
I heard about a man who wanted his mother sexually because of a tumor in his head.
There is a good chance I have cancer, I think.
There is a really good chance.
I need to stop thinking. My balls already hurt from thinking about cancer. My balls hurt and my head hurts because I see the tumor, the little purple thing sitting there, throbbing in my skull-bone. It's eating my problems and getting fat on the sadness.
Baby’s walking on the table. Her fingers are painted in a dogtooth-pattern, her index finger kicks out like an eye-high Rockettes kick or something, it makes the kitchen table look like a kind of stage, and her hand a kind of dancer, oddly limbed but elegant and well-shaped and good.
I watch her pretty hands dance on my kitchen table for a while.
I shove three of my fingers into my mouth and close lips over knuckles without even realizing. I’m sucking on myself and realize it before Baby looks up. I’m staring.
Staring, saying nothing. Does she want attention? Why is she here? Baby.
-What are you looking at?
-Nothing, the grass- the lawn. I need to cut it today. Mary said to cut it and I’m going to cut it. I don’t know if I should though. I feel weird about it.
My fingers are drying and I can smell them, the slime they’ve collected from my throat.
My sister looks at me, kind of dully but there’s something going on in her head, a shutting off, she’s saying goodbye and checking out of this conversation, she can sense I’m nervous and she’s learned to unplug from me in moments like this, but really she has never really remembered how to fully plug ‘back in’ and we’re ever in this ‘zone’ of constant misunderstanding. I decide to keep rambling on.
I go back to the sink and run my hands under the water and talk to Baby/the lawn.
-I’m worried though, I think the grass is dying, I see new yellow patches every day, little places where even the bugs stay away and I think it’s because I’m cutting the grass too much. Mary says I’m lazy but it’s not that, I’m not a lazy person, I just think that cutting grass is such a violent thing, you know? I feel like I’m wounding it.
-It’s grass though Frank, just let it grow.
-No. I know, it comes right back up, more like hair and I never worry about cutting hair, it’s just it stains me, the green grass stain and it gets onto my skin and it won’t come off and that’s when I feel it kind of seep into me and sense a deeper pain, the pain of never knowing your potential? You know. Like a little bonsai tree grows into it’s intended shape but remains a terribly small version of it’s potential self. I feel like the grass wants to know a limit, feel closer to the sky.
That’s it, right there and then, Baby is done. She sighs and says something I don’t get and walks right out of the room. I sort of smell her (shampoo, deodorant, general scent) as she leaves and forgive her whatever it is I’m feeling and turn back to the window. I’m getting impatient, talking didn’t help. Nothing will.
I go to the computer room and look at naked pictures of girls drawn by Japanese artists. They are neat and simple and shapely and I click through three or four hundred of those and then delete my browser history and delete my search terms and search 20-30 new sites to cover up the vacancy left by my deletion and I nearly re-search new anime girls after the 20-30 sites because my attention cycle has made a full loop. The fucking checking.
I could be here another three hours doing nothing for myself, to myself. Being inside.
But Mary will be home soon and if she doesn’t see a lawn that looks like the concept of ‘lawn’, she’ll frown at me, say nothing, but frown and hold inside her a sadness that I can’t really clean up. Mary’s sadness is like a collection, things remembered, held inside forever. My mistakes are a pollution.
I work my way outside, slow-go, my sister’s now baking herself and I smell the butter on her crust and think she can’t be hear much longer. She’s taken off half her clothes, Christ. Where do you get those bikinis? American Apparel? H&M? Bally? April 77? Clarks? Miu Miu? J.Crew? Ksubi? Forever 21? Chloe? DKNY? Urban Outfitters? Sears?
I have a little boner.
I pull the cord of the lawn mower three times and the motor hums. Blade motion shakes the machine and vibrates my hands, my cock, my brain tingles with fear and thunder.
My sister just showed up a month ago and Mary felt it best to keep her around. Those two are against me, playing some game.
I should have unplugged the sink and let the brown water drain. I’ll catch shit for that.
I roll the mower down the wooden ramp towards the lawn and feel the metal spinning inside.
My fucking sister tits up legs open, inviting in the unseen. I do a loop around the circumference of my mouth with my tongue, clockwise.
I’m not paying attention to the task at hand. I’m being sick again.
Sweat running down my face, grass slicing and I think of quitting right off the bat, running away but the path I cut is kind of nice, the feeling of smoothing over a surface is nice- calming like watching a zamboni, like adding cake frosting, like applying a soap to real dirt.
I’m done and sad and Mary arrives home. I brush the bits of dead off of me, applying silent prayers to every bit I see. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I wish I could help.
I hate myself. But that’s like, redundant.
Mary tells me I’ve brought too much grass into the house on my clothes and orders me to shake it off and I do so and it’s humiliating. She points out several spots I’ve missed and she gives me a faint kiss, one where the motion is there but our skin doesn’t quite meet because in the gesture we were actually moving away from one another rather than toward.
Mary changes into her two-piece and joins Baby on the deck for a beer and some girl talk.
The sun is burning hot in the sky, making the shingles on the roof look wet. The sun is making my skin taste funny. I keep licking spots on myself and every time tastes different.
< Frances E. Dinger
Heather Palmer >