A Glittering Nothing

screenshot-2016-12-27-at-8-42-00-pmWe were just fine living our lives the way we wanted to, thank you very much. We woke up in the pm and went to bed in the am, gathered our socks and shoes around us in bed so we’d always be ready to run away, even in our skivvies. We were about something, although we knew not what that something was. We were channeling Sid and Nancy, just standing there, trying to look cool with our foot and back against the wall, a cigarette trailing our fingers like a conductor’s baton at rest.

We made love in the soft moments of the night, when the cicadas were still at it, their cries the only indicator that there was a world outside our own. We had glorious times filching unlocked bikes from the park and riding them down a hill usually used for sledding, handlebars jolting and jostling, us holding on tight. We had taking bricks from the failed construction across the street and seeing if we could roof them without breaking any windows.

We had a tendency to fight when the leaves were on the ground so that someone could stomp out and crunch them underfoot, wanting desperately for things to be like how they were in the easy days, if there were any.

We had to go get real jobs and settle into a nice neighborhood and have some docile children and live out the rest of our lives in a real swell place. We went out in the rain instead, let it plaster our clothes to our bodies like so much papier-mâché, and our feet were underwater attractions in the aquarium of our shoes. We filed for divorce though we had never married and tore up the documents when they were served, sprinkled them over the server’s head and snapped a shot for his confetti wedding.

We had a creamy nougat center and we knew how many licks it took to get to the center of us. When we wanted something, we simply took it and walked away. We had a tendency to narrate all aspects of our lives, and would stop when you or I had to leave. The narration was for both of us or none of us. We had days where it would all stop like a glittering nothing as if we were on a train car lurching before a big halt, screeching, blaring on the horn though there’s no reason for it. Yes, that’s what it was like.

We gave it all up, then started using again, then stopped kind of. It was complicated. We had a way of preparing it that differed from normal usage. We had the gleaming in our eyes when it hit and we were fire in our selves and everything went slowslowslow till it came and went, and we’d be done with it this time for real. We’d for real be done and through and so Past It.

We were not Past It. We wanted to be just in a couch, not out there getting It, using It, and the way we worked was to capitalize our hurts. How many times did we flush It and trash It only to be knocking on that milky door again.

We gave up for real and let our lives come back. The way it was at first was that everything had the color drained from it. The color seeped back in slow, the way the taste of apples changes when you purge yourself of junk food.

We tested what it was like to be normal humans again. We debated over what our story should be, whether it should be about our shenanigans or our using; the silly or the serious. But maybe we could make it about both. Maybe we could make a flash fiction story called, “A Glittering Nothing” and make this our story in condensed form.

We wrote the flash fiction story called, “A Glittering Nothing.” It was not this flash fiction story, you can be assured. This is just named after that one, in reference to it. That one was far better than this one could ever be. That one had real grit and heart, and it made you laugh in the appropriate places and cry in the appropriate places too.

We had to make sure not to fuck it up. When you’re writing a story, you can only carry on the ruse for so long. You have to keep your audience in mind. Kill your darlings. And all that. So with that in mind, we really trimmed it down. We tried to make it entertaining. We checked our word count and tried to keep it short, but not too short.

We let the reader really peek behind the curtain. We let them in on the writing process, had a Q & A. It was really something, you can be assured. Sorry we couldn’t do that for this one, but it’s a different situation. So for instance, the original “A Glittering Nothing” went silly, then serious, then metafictional. This one doesn’t do that. This part might seem metafictional, but in reality it’s just a polite explanation. We didn’t have to do this, but we thought it would be best. We didn’t want anyone getting confused.

We couldn’t decide just where it would end, but we considered doing that thing where a story bookends itself, giving the reader that precious a-ha moment where everything literally comes full circle. Well, we’re at 911 words right now, so we’d better stop soon. If we go past 1,000 it’ll no longer be a flash fiction story about a flash fiction story but a short story about a flash fiction story. But anyway, we’re not going to listen to your limits. We’ve got no time for that. After all, we were just fine living our lives the way we wanted to, thank you very much.

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The Places You’ve Never Been

The last thing you do is pull your savings out of the ATM and hide the cash in a compartment behind the back seat. You flip through the radio, settle on Chvrches. When you first heard this song you were still with him, riding through the twilight of your town, you singing lead and him backup. You turn the radio off, try to plan your next move. Your dog is in the back, tail as metronome, panting then whining, panting then whining.

You tell yourself our ancient ancestors went days without food sometimes. You don’t use this justification for your dog. You learn not to park at Walmarts, where cops like to patrol at night. You find rest stops, forest preserves, residential streets with no traffic. Once a month you drop thirty bucks on a night in a hostel, the stiff bunk feeling to you like a king size bed, showering two, three times that night. You splurge on dog treats after these hostel nights, come back to your dog in the car, all the windows cracked, and spoil him.

You draft stories in your notebook, use your pens till you have to lick the nibs to get them to work, write by the light of streetlamps when your dog’s asleep and the wind coming through the window sounds like a giant going ooh. When the stories are done you head to the library, wash up in the bathroom, type them up, revise. You look at your author bio, your accolades, the picture you took before all of this happened. You try not to cry. You submit.

For physical contest submissions you fill out your SASE with an address near where you usually park, nobody ever home when the mail comes but staking this place out every day anyway just in case, waiting till the mailman leaves to take what’s yours.

It gets so you can only afford one donut every other day, ripping off a piece for your dog. You can handle this until his whimpers keep you up at night. You are able to convince yourself you’re a freegan, that you’re okay with raiding supermarket dumpsters. The fruits and veggies you devour immediately. The meat you check for green spots, excise the pieces, eat. You start fires with a cigarette lighter, discarded packaging. You hold the meat up to the fire with a plastic fork, hope it doesn’t melt. Your dog licks your hand when he’s done, nuzzles you till you must pet him.

You collect quarters from underneath vending machines, sneak into movie theaters and check for valuables under seats. One day you just do it. You pull a fast food cup from under the passenger seat. You collect change, not able to make eye contact, hating yourself because you actually have a “home.” You tell yourself when you get out of this you’ll give ten bucks to every homeless person you see. When you can’t or won’t dive anymore, you go to the shelter, pocket bread and grayish hunks of meat for your dog, ignore the stares. You tell yourself homelessness exists on a continuum.

You crush pop cans, stack them, put them in a basket you scavenged. It gets so the guy at the recycling center knows you by name. You get better at it day by day, till you need two baskets, then a garbage bag, then two. You buy your dog treats and bones and squeaky toys. You write until you slump in your seat, exhausted, waking to your dog biting at the wire binding of your notebook, bending it out of shape, sitting up and wagging his tail when he knows he’s been caught. You go to the library and transcribe two stories, one after the other. You check out every book that was ever written ever.

You bring your latest haul to the recycling guy, wait as he stares at you. He asks if you need a job and you say yes before he can tell you what it is. After you’re hired, he hands you all the paperwork instead of mailing it. Neither of you say anything. Your first Saturday off after landing the job you stake out your “mailbox,” rush over after the mailman leaves. You see an envelope from one of the contests you entered. The biggest one. You skim the letter for “unfortunately.” You don’t find it. You cry when you see how much it is, walk back to your car holding the letter like it’s the Ark of the Covenant. You let your dog out of the car and run, with him, around the block and out past the neighborhood, where even the cars don’t go, to the places you’ve never been.

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