Etiquette in the Digital Age
Somewhere around an hour before blacking out
I would become inspired
lock myself in my room
and call every single person I knew
because I had become convinced
they were not real—
that I had made them up
imagined them in the middle of some
psychotic defense mechanism
against the isolation I’d felt
from the age of three
when I woke up in a hospital
locked in an oxygen bubble
and which I’d managed to embrace
except for those moments
when the beer was gone
and the bowl was cashed
and the whiskey bottle
was nearly empty and
none of it felt real. The walls
the bed the desk the phone
all melting through dissolute fingers
and falling through
the gradually dissipating floorboards
and into the center of the evaporating earth
while the oxygen decomposed in my lungs
leaving what little was left of me
to implode in a starless vacuum void.
Maybe I just needed to hear the sound of my own voice
so I could be convinced of my own existence;
so I could know I hadn’t just
made myself up too;
that my entire life wasn’t just
one long breakdown – which
if I had known then
the things I know now
I would have embraced
instead of dragging my feet
in the name of some textbook definition
of what it means to be normal.
no one answers the phone
I send desperate
the same old conversations
until I am left
with no one to type to
because there is no humanity
in an LCD screen
except for a lonely programmer’s
of that girl from high school
who never gave him
the time of day.
BONUS SHORT: Back Page Item
After the paper came out, Denise sat in her cell and decided on her course of action. Everyone knew, anyway. Everyone always knew everything before the paper came out on Wednesday; but they never knew enough, and what people didn’t know, they made up. All anybody would see was that she had been arrested. No one would be surprised. And no one would bother to listen, either.
Denise liked Sheriff Cleary because he was an old man who still looked at women as the weaker sex and in need of protection. Even when he was forced to arrest one he made sure they were as comfortable as possible. He let her have the starched white bed sheets to put on her bunk, let her keep the toilet seat, and even put a little chair in the cell to give her someplace else to sit. The only other thing in the cell was a rusty sink and an old Gideon’s Bible. Pages were missing and what pages were left was covered with obscene drawings.
She knew if it were up to deputies Marty and Erle, she would have had none of those things. She knew them and knew what they were like. They weren’t men like Cleary. They were like what men had become. Men who saw women as either fuckable or as marriage material, but not both. And both of them had, in their time, fucked her. They fucked her the same way their fathers had fucked her mother in that small apartment above the old laundromat. They fucked her because she was just a townie whore. That was how you treated a townie whore.
That she had been defending herself wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t matter to the judge, who had fucked her mother and had once offered a then 15 year old Denise extra to let him fuck her, too. It wouldn’t matter to the prosecutor who wouldn’t leave her alone even after she married Jeremy and bore two sons. You can take the whore out of town, he told her, but you can’t take the whore out of a whore. It wouldn’t matter to her Public Defender, who was also an evangelical minister that believed she was an evil sinner. All that mattered was that she’d kicked the shit out of Jeremy when he came home drunk and angry and wanting to beat her until she bled again; and she had done it while his young sons watched. And in spite of all the humiliations heaped upon her in front of her sons by Jeremy, to cause a son to lose respect for his father was the greater sin.
She made sure the noose was tight and she hoped the starched white sheets would support her weight. As she kicked herself off, she hoped there was a God and that he would watch over her sons. She also hoped for the sake of her unborn daughter that God wasn’t like the men he’d created in his image.