"No thank you, I'm full." Is a gunshot in the air.
My ears ring, tongue licking lips to clear them of the gunpowder.
The duellists beneath this yellow lighting- a ninety-one year old immigrant grandmother, and a thirty-something girlfriend.
I watch, my eyelids peeled against my will (my torturer; the grip of familial penchant for drama).
My grandmother grins. All rates-ratus (grab a pipe, or a glass of wine)
"Ai-th-ee, please see this whorish-mule of a woman out."
She says to my brother; the boyfriend.
Shotgun shells litter the floor as she pushes her chair back, and disappears to pray.
Life’s but a Movie
We are each the director of our own life story.
We only ever watch the world on a screen, we never experience reality directly.
It’s a tale we craft in small words and grand gestures, in moments of clarity and confusion alike.
Behind the lens of our perspective, every scene unfolds, colored by the choices we make.
Yet, the irony is, despite our role as the director, we often find ourselves as mere spectators.
Veils seem to separate us from the raw, unfiltered world, casting shadows and altering the hue of our experiences.
Rarely do we gaze upon the world without some kind of barrier, and rarer still do we recognize these barriers for what they are.
And isn't that the never-ending challenge?
To step back.
To peel away these layers.
To confront reality in its purest form.
Yet, every now and then, when the stars align and the context is just right, we manage to get a glimpse of the untainted truth.
It's those moments, those rare instances of genuine connection, that remind me of the profound beauty and mystery of existence.
Because, isn't that what it's all about?
Not just to narrate, but to truly live our story.
Gone Like Summer
It is an awkward thing, watching. Swaying alone on the breeze in a seat for two, waiting. First the one side a-kilter and then the other from her weight, the chains creaking, the wood groaning with uninvited effort.
It is brazen, somewhat evil even how the leaves cackle on the drive, skitter-scattering atop the chalky concrete, their spirals gathering to a swarm prior to sudden and unpredictable lapses. Befitting her mood she cheers the frenzy on from beneath her blanket; silent hurrahs for the old leaves crawling, and the new ones falling; orange ones and red ones both somehow golden, their circles fueling her angst, kickstarting a tepid pulse which weakens more with each sad lapse in the wildish winds.
Gray and stark the day. Windy and woolly the sky, it’s swept clouds mussed as her hair, with no one to care.
And with shameful finality not even a dusk to mark the day, but rather a nightfall like rising water, sinking her, and the leaves, and the wind in chilled darkness until kisses and lovemaking and happiness are pulled forever away under their whirlwinds.
He is gone like the fresh breath of summer. The gnawing grows inside her. And he’ll never come again.
He is gone. Gone like summer.
Douglas and Lisa knew their time was short. They had been putting off this decision for quite some time. They talked about it on end. They found a way to bring it up in conversation morning, noon, and night. The offer expired tonight and they were expected to make their decision by that time.
At first, the offer seemed repulsive. Who would want to participate in such an activity? Douglas heard of such people who did and Lisa read about this in one of her romance novels, but that was fantasy. Lisa and Douglas lived in reality. People like them didn’t do these things.
But the memory of that night, that single moment where they made the proposition still lingered in Lisa’s mind. She was disturbed at first, but with each passing day, she became more intrigued. Mark was certainly capable of providing the services he offered and Lisa believed the time Douglas and Glynnis spent together at work would make the transition easier, but, and there always was that but, Lisa and Douglas were married and had always respected their vows.
But that was then and tonight was approaching.
Playing Devil’s advocate, Douglas said they should purchase the required attire. Who knows? If he and Lisa should chicken out, they may try this lifestyle on their own. Having the correct clothing (and the other new equipment) might add a certain spice to their life.
Douglas went along with the offer, in principle, as long as Lisa had no objections. Lisa knew she should be the one to draw the line in the sand, but she almost found herself excited with each passing moment. Mark and Glynnis chose this time because of the special lights Mark installed just for this occasion. That and their home was the last on the block and no one could “accidentally” peek at the progress of the four.
Should there actually be any progress.
Douglas and Lisa decided to don their new clothing and walk quickly to their hosts. It would be dangerous to do so, but it might make breaking the ice between the two couples easier. Douglas was ready for the sweaty evening ahead. Lisa felt somewhat exposed by the shortness of her skirt and the grip Mark promised to show her on his shaft. Memories of him whispering, “It is all about control” and “Pace yourself, this will be a long evening” kept running through her mind. Lisa’s face began divulging her eagerness to participate.
Just before they exited their own home, Douglas gave his wife of seven years a small kiss and a grab of her exposure to confirm what they both already knew. No excuses. No hang-ups. No morning lamentations. Lisa’s flushed face agreed. She wanted Mark, tonight, as her partner. Glynnis said he was patient and caring when she would need it; powerful as a bull, when she deserved it. Douglas would find Glynnis to possess the athleticism to offer Douglas a new perspective in a game he thought he had mastered.
Walking quickly, avoiding the looks from neighbors, Douglas and Lisa boldly went forward tonight.
It was not the first time they played tennis at night. It would be the first time they played mixed doubles with nationally ranked pros. They could only get better with such assistance.
I’m late to Maggie’s funeral. If I told her I was fashionably late, she’d tell me I wasted my time. I’m wearing a trench coat because it’s raining. Maggie would remember this one, and she’d say it’s whorish of me because it goes down past my knees, further than my dress, so it looks like I might be naked underneath. She used to tell me that I should buy a new coat because this one’s too big for me, but I told her that it was my mother’s. She said that’s even more reason to get rid of it. Someone else has already taken the time to enjoy it. It’s no longer a waste.
She’d probably laugh if I told her I’d worn it to spite her. If the funeral were open casket, I’d whisper it in her ear and hope she can hear it wherever she is.
I remember once she told me I was going to Hell and I told her I’d see her there.
She said “I know, and I’ll be glad to see you. As always.”
I’m surprised she invited me - glad, honored, really, but surprised. Maggie hated almost everyone.
She hated Adam at first and said he was bad for me. I wonder if she knew how things worked out, not in the psychic way, but if she found me on Facebook before she croaked.
Adam and I are both late. I didn’t expect Maggie to invite him. I think now that it was probably her way of getting back at me, since she can’t say “I told you so”.
On the metro, I’m holding onto one of the poles in the middle of the crowded train. A man I don’t pay any mind to is holding onto the same one.
Until, I hear, “I like your jacket.”
It’s low, like he wants it to be a secret that he’s talking to me. Maybe he doesn’t even really want me to hear it, but I do, and I almost say a polite, “thank you”, when I realize.
“Surprised you even remember me,” he says, sarcastically.
I tell him with a bit of pride in my voice, “Guess where I’m going.”
“Did she invite you, too?”
“Of course, I was her favorite tenant.”
“Oh come on!”
I’m really pissed off at Maggie by this point.
“Watch your step,” Adam says, when we’re getting off the train and it almost looks like he’s offering me his hand, but I ignore it and snicker at him.
I scrape my knee when I hit the pavement. Adam doesn’t say “I told you so” when he offers me his hand.
“Thank you,” I say, and take it.
He notices I’m limping after I tripped in those heels, and he keeps my hand in his while we cross the street.
We walk into the church and everyone stops crying for a second to sneer at us for being rudely late. Adam sits down with me in the back row. Most of the people here are old, so the microphone is turned up to the max volume and we don’t miss a thing. I stifle a laugh when someone makes a speech calling Maggie “the sweetest woman”.
Adam notices and gives me a tiny grin, thinking the same thing I am.
During the time it takes for another person to stand up, Adam turns to me and whispers, “I hope the church is capitalizing on this - all the guests here are gonna be in the market for a funeral soon.”
I don’t expect him to say it, so I don’t have time to hold back my laughter, so everyone turns to me while I’m cackling in the back of the church. I don't apologize, though, because Maggie would've thought it was funny.
I turn to Adam and say, “They should replace the hymnals in the back of the pews with brochures with coupons in them.”
He starts laughing and his laugh is so stupid-sounding that I start laughing harder, and it looks like we’re about to get kicked out of Maggie's funeral.
But then, I stand up and ask if I can say a few words. I go up on stage and Adam looks way too excited.
“I just wanna start by saying thank you to Maggie,” I motion to the casket, continuing, “for kicking the bucket because that’s what brought us all together today, right guys?” No one is laughing except for Adam who's getting a kick out of it.
“Tough crowd,” I mutter, and then continue, even though no one wants me to, “I wore this coat here today for Maggie because she hated it and I wanted to spite her. And by that I mean that Maggie was the best landlady I ever had. She was like a grandmother to me. This coat,” I’m showing off the coat to the crowd while I speak, “was special to us because Maggie used to tell me I looked floozy - or whatever else old people say instead of just calling you a slut - and I wanted to wear it to honor her memory.”
Really, it was a coincidence that I realized after I’d already left the house, but I probably would’ve chosen the coat on purpose if I had remembered, so I ran with that version of the story.
“I also want to say something to Maggie directly,” I turn to her casket and say, “First, you were right, Adam was absolutely a bad choice for me. We’re divorced now, but guess what, you can’t say ‘I told you so’, so ha! The joke’s really on you, Maggie.” I think I’m finished, but then I remember, “Oh and fuck you, you old hag, for inviting Adam! It's rude to invite your favorite tenant’s ex-husband.” Everyone is horrified, except Adam, who is pretending not to laugh. I’m about to get the microphone taken away when I say, “See you Hell!” and then hand it over.
I’m still limping from the fall and Adam has to carry me out of the church, bridal style, which is ironic. We leave early for obvious reasons.
“Do you wanna get lunch? I’m starving.” He asks.
“Do you think your new girlfriend will mind?”
“Ha ha,” he says, “You know I don’t have one.”
“Bet you’re wishing you could take me home, then.”
“You act like I can’t afford you.”
“What?” I say because I really don’t get it at first.
“Sorry, guess I’m mistaken. Jacket makes you look like a whore, you know?”
I’m torn between saying “I know” and “Fuck you!”, but before I can, a car comes flying by, spraying rainwater all over Adam and I’m laughing too hard to say anything at first.
“You want my jacket?”
“No, it looks cute on you.”
“See, Maggie?” I look up to the sky and whisper, “Even Adam thinks it’s cute.”
9000 Rejection Letters
As of October 23, 2023, I have amassed a total of 9000 rejection letters. I also have 210 published works (books, short stories, and poems). In my nearly decade-long foray into writing, I have been successful an astonishing 2.33% of the time. The stack of rejection letters, if neatly piled upon each other forming the rectangular parallelepiped it so richly deserves to be monikered, would reach an altitude of 36 inches. While not rivaling the infamy of other authors, this stack serves as a symbol for failure 4 standard deviations from the mean and the same symbol for effort 4.1 standard deviations from the same mean.
Statistically, the company who rejected my work the most is (ironically) the same company that accepted my work the most. Five hundred times from four hundred publishers, I have received, “Thank you for submitting your work with us. We appreciate the chance to read it, but it is not quite right for us. We wish you the best with your writing and in finding a home for it elsewhere for this piece.” Should I italicize the word “this”, almost as if pompous English professor wearing a Central Casting brown corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches in sharp contrast to his scarlet turtle-neck sweater referred to the superiority of his work over that of the other eight billion upright bipedal hominins while emphasizing that most important, worthy of being italicized monosyllabic utterance . . .
But I digress, lost in a sea of false equivalence amongst a disastrous run-on sentence and stereotypical dependent clauses.
Whether it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or something similar William once said.
I should be used to this by now.
9000 reject letters with 210 publications is better than the percent ore richness for mining diamonds, gold, silver, platinum, rhodium, nickel, or iridium.
However, 2.33% (note the customary use of significant figures for those with access to calculators) is well below the expectations of juggling flaming (active) chainsaws, NBA half-court shooting, five coin flips all landing on heads, drawing a three-of-a-kind in poker, or anything associated with the Mendoza Line.
Thus, it is all relative.
My personal expectation, in 2015, was to reach 100 publications before 1000 rejection letters.
In 2017, it might suffice to acquire 125 publications before 3000 rejection letters.
In 2019, if asked, I would settle for 150 publications before 5000 rejection letters.
Today, 300 publications before 10000 such letters would be a milestone.
In response to a query as to whether Tomas Edison really did fail 10000 times while trying to invent the light bulb, he optimistically replied, “I’ve successfully found 10000 ways that will not work.”
And that is the reason I continue to sojourn as I do.
“Letter Unsent: For You a Thousand Times Over, Hassan”
My beloved Hassan, Assalamualaikum. After years of denial | returned to Kabul only to know that death chose you before me. I came back to where I left and you left a part of you for me. I don't know if l could ever amass the courage to choose to stand in front of you right after i left you in a war, around and within. Sohrab has your eyes, he has let my guilt dissipate a bit and here,now I see the war is far from over. God chose you for me ..the brave for the cOward. If there exists a place where I could hold you warm and tight for one last time, a place where you never meet war just know i want to belong there. If you ever comne back l'd read this out for you, over kebabs out in the pomegranate field. f you ever come back we'd make it to "Hassan and Amir -Sultans of Kabul". We'll make the kites fly higher nonchalantly, and let them go to places we don't know exists and this time I'Il bring them back for you..".For you a thousand times over, Hassan."...i wrote this as an extended version a letter Hassan would never receive. 2231
Brandon was fixing his hair in the mirror when the buzzer to his apartment rang. He made one final adjustment and opened the door. A short l stout black lady in pink glasses, a stained lab coat, and pajama pants greeted him with two bottles of cheap tequila in one hand and a bag of McDonalds in the other Brandon smiled and stepped aside so she could enter. He punched in a code on his door and the security measures enabled.
"It's like you knew the way to my heart was to get me drink and feed me bullshit," he said, turning to face her
"I just brought over my normal dinner," she responded. She had taken her lab coat off to reveal a red tank top and was pulling her pajama pants off.
"Well, Admiral Tse approves," Brandon said with a chuckle. "I'm surprised you actually attempted to dress up for this."
"You made it seem like we were doing more than just getting drunk and fucking around, so figured maybe it might be an idea. Plus, more clothes for if we play strip poker again." She unrolled the tank top until it reached just above her knees.
"You're the weirdest person I've ever met, Rheme," Brandon chuckled.
"You were not stripped down to just your thong in strip poker after two hands. I come prepared."
Brandon smiled and kissed her. "It's not like I didn't warn you I was good when we first met."
"Hmm. Do I remember what exactly we did thirty years ago?" She dramatically pretended to think. "I think not."
Brandon's hand slid down just below her waist. "You did drink a lot."
"And smoked a lot of weed. And did a lot of cocaine."
"God, we did so much cocaine," Brandon said, laughing. "I'm surprised we can still smell."
"Shall we get started?"
"Of course, Lauren," Brandon said smiling.
Rheme's smile faded. Brandon's face reddened. "I'm sorry, Rhe, I just--"
"I understand," Rheme said, feigning a smile. She'd pulled away from him and was unwrapping the food. "You still miss her."
"It's not all the time." Brandon sat next to her. She wasn't looking at him. Brandon tried to hold her hand but she pulled her hand away. "Being with you really has been helping. But, I mean, she's the mother of my kids."
"I understand," Rheme said. Her voice was shaky and she was looking at the floor. "I promise it's okay."
She felt Brandon wrap his arms around her. "You're important to me."
"Don't shut down on me, woman."
"I'm not shutting down."
"Thirty years of knowing you, and you think I can't tell when you're shutting down?"
"I just want to eat and get fucking wasted," Rheme muttered.
Brandon just held her tighter. "Not until you talk about how you feel."
"You're the worst," she murmured.
"That's why I'm your bestie with the testes," Brandon kissed her forehead and pulled her into his arms. "Speak your mind."
"I just wish we--I hadn't broken off our engagement."
"I mean, it's not like I don't still have the ring. The kids are all grown, and even if they weren't, fuck them kids, remember?"
Rheme chuckled. Brandon kissed her again. "I haven't been feeling good, B."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't want to traumatize my girls. They already have lost so much. Plus, Mae is getting engaged and Nae has that new job and I can't hurt them--"
"Rheme, what are you talking about?"
"I tried to hang myself. That's why I jumped at the chance to come over again."
"Oh. Baby, I--"
"You know how I feel about that word."
"I'm sorry. I just, I love you. I never want you to do anything like that to yourself."
Brandon was rubbing his finger on Rheme's neck. In the dull light of his living room, he could see the dark line where she had attempted to hang herself.
"You love me?"
"Well, don't sound so shocked," Brandon chuckled. "I know how we started but I mean, there's a reason you're the only friend with benefits I've ever had for longer than a year."
Rheme smiled and kissed him. "Well, I love you too. I always have."
"Well, let's eat so I can show you how much I love you."
Purpose- The testing of the durability of the Human Spirit under extreme duress.
Research- Subject: 815165
Hair: Dk. Blonde
Body type: Slim
Experiment - Subject 815165 will be provided obstacles at core intervals in Human Growth to determine durability.
Hypothesis- "Aegroto dum anima est" (There is Hope as long as there is Life)
To be cont.