CCLaP Weekender From the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography
June 6, 2014
New fiction by Faith Gardner Photography by Brendan Ă“ SĂŠ Chicago literary events calendar
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THIS WEEKâ€™S CHICAG
For all events, visit [cclapce FRIDAY, JUNE 6
7:30pm Five Poets at CHI-PRC Chicago Publishers Resource Center / 858 N. Ashland / Free chiprc.org Poets Nick Demske, Rauan Klassnik, Hannah Gamble, Anthony Madrid, and Cassandra Troyan all perform from their newest work.
SATURDAY, JUNE 7 9am Printers Row Lit Fest Printers Row neighborhood, South Loop / Free apps.chicagotribune.com/printersrow The largest free literary event in the Midwest, this year celebrating its 30th anniversary. Taking place all day on Saturday and Sunday. See online for the hundreds of individual events and booths to be found at the fest. 1pm Thea Goodman Seminary Co-op Bookstore / 5751 S. Woodlawn / Free semcoop.com The author reads from her debut novel, The Sunshine When She's Gone. 3pm Benjamin Landry and Peter Campion Seminary Co-op Bookstore / 5751 S. Woodlawn / Free semcoop.com The poets read from their new Phoenix Poets books. 5pm Maya Lang City Lit Books / 2523 N. Kedzie / Free citylitbooks.com The author discusses her newest book, The Sixteenth of June, in conversation with fellow author Rebecca Makkai.
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GO LITERARY EVENTS
7pm Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain Bucket o' Blood / 2307 N. Milwaukee / Free bucketoblood.com The authors discuss their newest book, Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose. 7pm Ruben Quesada Myopic Books / 1564 N. Milwaukee / Free myopicbookstore.com The poet performs as part of the "Myopic Poetry Series."
SUNDAY, JUNE 8 7pm Uptown Poetry Slam The Green Mill / 4802 N. Broadway / $7, 21+ slampapi.com International birthplace of the poetry slam. Hosted by Marc Smith.
MONDAY, JUNE 9 6:30pm Laura Krughoff Harold Washington Public Library / 400 S. State / Free chipublib.org The author discusses her newest book, My Brother's Name. Held in the library's Cindy Pritkzer Auditorium. 8:30pm Open Mic Kafein Espresso Bar / 1621 Chicago Ave., Evanston kafeincoffee.com Open mic with hosts chris and Kirill.
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TUESDAY, JUNE 10 6pm High Rise Stories Seminary Co-op Bookstore / 5751 S. Woodlawn / Free semcoop.com The editor of this anthology about Chicago's public housing projects, and several of the book's narrators, read and perform. 6pm Ruben Martinez Harold Washington Public Library / 400 S. State / Free chipublib.org As part of this year's "One Book, One Chicago" program, the Mexican artist reads and performs from his literary and musical work on the subject of immigration. Held in the library's Cindy Pritzker Auditorium. 6:30pm Sanela Ramic Jurich City Lit Books / 2523 N. Kedzie / Free citylitbooks.com The author discusses her newest book, Haunting From the Past. 7:30pm Tuesday Funk Hopleaf / 5148 N. Clark / Free tuesdayfunk.org This month's performers include Claire Zulkey, Patricia Skalka, Sara Ross Witt, Theodore Goeglein, and Ted McClelland.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11 7:30pm Ana Castillo Women & Children First / 5233 N. Clark / Free womenandchildrenfirst.com The author reads from her newest novel, Give It To Me. 9pm In One Ear Heartland Cafe / 7000 N. Glenwood / $3, 18+ facebook.com/pages/In-One-Ear Chicago's 3rd longest-running open-mic show, hosted by Pete Wolf and Billy Tuggle. 10pm Elizabeth's Crazy Little Thing Phyllis Musical Inn / 1800 W. Division / Free, 21+ facebook.com/ElizabethsCrazyLittleThingPMI This month's show features Kate Cullan. 4 | CCLaP Weekender
THURSDAY, JUNE 12 5pm Box Brown Challengers Comics / 1845 N. Western / Free challengerscomics.com The author signs copies of his graphic novel Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. 7pm Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke The Book Cellar / 4736 N. Lincoln / Free bookcellarinc.com The authors discuss their newest novel, Your Perfect Life. 7pm Meags Fitzgerald Quimby's Bookstore / 1854 W. North / Free quimbys.com The author signs her newest graphic novel, Photobooth: A Biography.
To submit your own literary event, or to correct the information on anything you see here, please drop us a line at email@example.com.
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Photo: Steve Calcott [flickr.com/stevec77]. Used under the terms of his Creative Commons license.
STORMS OF THE 6 | CCLaP Weekender
My twin sister Leda is practicing crying again. She faces herself in the medicine cabinet mirror with blue-green eyes open wide. Her manicured hands grip the countertop. She doesn’t blink or move. I stand behind and watch her watching herself. “Boring,” I say. “Waitwaitwait, it’s coming.” A tear rolls down her cheek, a mascara rivulet. I straighten her microfiber towel on the rack, pick at a spot on the counter that matches Leda’s nail polish exactly. I yawn. I stretch. Leda wails.
PRESENT ALONE BY FAITH GARDNER June 6, 2014 | 7
“Bravissimo. May I go now?” I ask. “But how does it look?” “Honest opinion? Unnatural. People blink when they cry.” “I’m just getting started.” The tears gain momentum. Her makeup’s blurred. She blinks and the black droplets stain the countertop. “‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine!’” Her spittle flies onto the mirror. It’s no mystery who will be wiping it off later. At first this scene feels absurd, ha-ha funny. But then I get this pang and my throat prickles. Look at us. We have almost the same haircut. Shaggy, shoulder-length, bangs. Mine’s grown out from being half-shaved but I’m sure hers is some hundred dollar LA ‘do. We make it to our mid-twenties, we move to opposite poles of the state, and still we can’t escape each other. “I’ve been thinking about cutting my hair,” I say. “Short.” She’s too busy wrenching her face in pretend-misery to notice. I pull the door shut as I leave. In the hallway I notice her things are starting to spread from her room. Cowboy boots, bottle of suntan lotion, crumpled Cosmo. When it was Oliver and I sharing this apartment, it was skateboards and composition books. I almost prefer that. I leave the house for groceries and fresh air. Oliver calls on my walk home and we have the same conversation we’ve had every day for three weeks now: he asks to come home, I tell him no, and I use Leda as an excuse. But really of course it’s his Laundromat job. It’s his world’s-fucked-and-going-to-endat-any-moment attitude. Our distinct moodinesses not jiving. It’s the fight we had three weeks ago, drunk, where I threw all his books down the stairs and he followed them. He told me words were the money of fools. We were fighting about Hobbes. I’m so sick of fighting about Hobbes. “You should really find a place already,” I tell him on the phone. I’m panting, walking uphill, beneath the bristling shadows of plotted maples. “You can’t couchsurf forever.” “Every place I’ve looked at is a joke.” I hear the rhythm of thumping in the background and imagine him on his usual stool near the colorful swirls of transparent dryer doors, obscure philosophy book on his lap, stubble on his chin, maddeningly attractive scrunched brow. I stop and grasp a parking meter to catch my breath. I’m standing in front of the converted Victorian that is my apartment building. “Maybe…if you had a better job…finding a place would be easier.” “Thank you kindly, Unemployed Woman, I’ll keep that in mind.” I swear I can hear him smiling. “Yeah, well, I’ve got an interview tomorrow. So shut it.” “My extended congrats. Where is this alleged ‘interview?’ Starbucks?” “You’re so hilarious,” I say. “No. Small press. They’re looking for an editor.” I trudge upstairs and fumble for my keys. “I’m sure my awkwardness will botch the interview, as usual.” “How’s the internship?” “Tedious and thankless.” The pale grad student-types who ostensibly 8 | CCLaP Weekender
exist but whom I’ve never met are emptying the apartment next door, box by cardboard box. We nod as we pass in the hall. “Hey, the people next door are moving out,” I whisper when I get to my door. “Really? They exist? You verified this?” I clear my throat. “Listen, I’m home now, I’ll call you tomorrow.” “Love ya.” “See you,” I say. Bleep. End call. I open the door and put down the groceries in the kitchen and when I look up, Leda is standing in her bathrobe, green mud mask on her face. She’s bawling, holding a knife in one hand and half an onion in the other. “‘I’m fine!’” My jaw drops, and I close the door behind me. “Leda—” “‘I could jog all the way to Texas and back…but my daughter can’t!” My sister’s doing a dead-serious Sally Field impression. The sobs seize her, quake her, shake her chest. “‘She never could. Oh God I’m so mad I don’t know what to do-o-o. I wanna know why! I wanna know why Shelby’s life is over—’” “Enough,” I say loudly. “Put down the knife.” “Am I believable?” asks Leda, voice dropping an octave. She places the knife gently on the counter. “You’re terrifying.” “Because I want to get an A on this assignment so bad.” “The thing is, I don’t know about how your teacher is going to feel about you bringing an onion onstage.” I squint at the living room behind her. There are black-framed pictures on the walls, photos pink and obscure. And my couch has been moved. “What happened to the living room?” She’s still squeezing her eyes shut, sniffling. “I hung some things, you know, rearranged a thing or two.” I go and take a closer look at what appear to be photographs she hung. “What are these—pink blurs?” “Nipples.” She cries. “I think I got onion on my eyeballs.” “Nipples?” “My nipples, super up close. It’s art, okay? Fuck it burns. I’m going to go wash my face and rinse my eyes.” She leaves the room, and I am left staring at the photograph, jaw unhinged. “I don’t want nipples on my wall,” I say as she splashes her face in the sink. “And—watch it—you’re getting water everywhere.” “What? Can’t hear you.” “Ugh, never mind.” I leave and go to my room and shut the door. I sit on the foot of the bed. I think of Oliver. I think of my apartment, which is changing in unthinkable ways since the whirlwind named Leda came to town. Change. Synonyms: transformation, metamorphosis, revolution. I decide it’s unavoidable. I should just roll with it. Imagine a short haircut, edgy, a blunted bob cut. A tattoo, a new boyfriend who looks a lot like Oliver. He isn’t Oliver though. Things will be just dandy. Just lie down and take a few breaths. June 6, 2014 | 9
On my bus ride to the interview the next day, I spot two erroneous signs in downtown Oakland storefronts. One says “Wig’s by Tiffany” and another advertises “cigarretes.” Palm to forehead. These are enormous weatherworn signs that I gather cost the shop owners a pretty penny, and it makes me distressed for humankind in general that such an error could stand, unashamed, in public view. I wish I could get a job fixing these blaring typos. I wish someone would let me. I’ve gone to eight unsuccessful interviews since I graduated from Berkeley in May. Of course the recession is partially to blame, but I’m also suspicious that people just don’t like me. Like the interviewers can smell my inexperience. My cheeks blaze. I stutter. My mouth refuses to communicate with my brain, which screams smile, you idiot! Smile! I hate, despise, loathe getting interviewed, having to answer premeditated questions on the spot, no time to revise or better my statements. My first drafts are always awful and my first impressions the same. I take refining. The woman who interviews me is named Glenda. The sign on her door says “HUMAN RESOURSES.” Cringe. “Hello Io, how are we doing?” she asks as we seat ourselves in the office. She’s wearing pantyhose. Maybe I should have worn pantyhose. “Well.” I clear my throat. “Well…” “Just—just well.” “Oh! Oh, I see. I thought you were going to say ‘well…’ and then, you know, something else.” “No, just well, as in, I’m doing well today.” This is not going well. “Berkeley, huh?” she says, waving my resume in the air. “Yes.” “How’d you like it?” “Mmmm—mixed bag.” “Oh!” she says, like this information has pricked her. Mixed bag? No one wants to hear that. Must…explain…self. “I mean—it was great. I guess I’m just—skeptical. Of institutions in general.” Her smile fades a bit. Brain to mouth: brain to mouth: cease fire. I clear my throat. “Educational institutions, I mean—” What kind of company was this again? Small press what? I look at the company brochure in front of me, the one Glenda handed me when I walked into her office. Sunshine Educational Products, it says. My cheeks feel the familiar warmth. I close my eyes and imagine the word idiot. Synonyms: imbecil, moron, fuckingstupidhead. I open my eyes and see that Glenda has her arms crossed in front of her suit jacket. “Your door is misspelled,” I blurt. “Good luck,” she says, five excruciating minutes later. “Thanks.” I feel like I’m already on the descending elevator even though I’m standing in the lobby. 10 | CCLaP Weekender
I go to my unpaid internship at a travel magazine in the City. I get there early and sit at a desk next to the other intern, a guy named Daniel who wears eyeliner and has never once said hi or asked how are you. I vacuum the carpets and lick envelopes and when the pot gets empty, I brew more coffee. “How’d the interview go?” I do like how grammatically correct Oliver’s texts are. I do like that. “Bad. Don’t want to even discuss.” “Stop by the ‘mat on your way home?” “Okay.” The longer I’m away from him, the more unfamiliar he is, the more striking Oliver becomes. Those eyes, that jaw, the brown-black shade of his hair. I like the smell of his deodorant when we hug and I can imagine the brand and the scent. The color of the soap he uses. The shirt he’s wearing, with the alligator on it, is an old friend. Little details, little secrets. He pulls up a stool and we watch the tired people moving their clothes from bin to washer to silver cart to dryer. The children, fascinated, noses pressed to the dryer doors. I tell Oliver about the interview and he hides his grin with his Camus book. “What? Not funny.” I swat his arm. “No, no, I know.” He nods and I can tell he’s biting his lip to stifle the smile. “I want to not be a joke,” I tell him. “What am I doing?” “With what?’ “Everything.” He shrugs, grins. “What are any of us doing? Nothing. Who cares?” A woman starts screaming about how the goddamn motherfucking machine ate her goddamn motherfucking quarter and he raises his voice and stands and argues with her. I wave goodbye and walk home. There’s a barbershop and I get this feeling, as I stare through the window at the bored girl in her black hairy apron, like I want to be trimmed and made perfect. I pay the girl who gets shampoo in my eyes and burns my ears with the blowdryer. I pay her forty dollars plus tip, and I go home different. You know, altered, amended, modified. I read Leda’s Cosmo—find several superfluous commas in an article titled “How to Win Him Back”—and around 7 Leda blows into the apartment like a hurricane. I stand up, excited to show off my hair and we both stare, stunned, two reflections on either side of a mirror. We both cut our hair. We both cut our hair the same way. “What the fuck?” she says. “I told you.” I stamp my foot. “I said I was going to cut it—” “I do not remember that.” “It was yesterday! You were practicing crying in front of the mirror—” June 6, 2014 | 11
“No way. I went into this salon today and the lady recommended this cut. I didn’t even ask for it. She said I have a model-like face.” I collapse on the couch, which I moved back to itself rightful place against the wall this morning, and plant my face in my hands. “My monologue went so well, by the way,” Leda says. “Spectacular.” “I just kept the teensiest little piece of onion in my pocket, and then right before I went up, I rubbed my finger on it and touched my eyeballs.” “Genius.” She sits next to me. “God, that is soooo trippy that we cut our hair the same.” “No it’s not.” “Stop being a sourpuss,” she says. She takes out her The longer I’m away from compact and presses a powder him, the more unfamiliar he puff to her nose. “I’ll take you out for Thai.” She sings the last is, the more striking Oliver word, like Tha-ai. becomes. Those eyes, that “I don’t care about Thai. I jaw, the brown-black shade of miss Oliver,” I mutter. “Why’d you break up his hair. I like the smell of his with him again?” She pumps her deodorant when we hug and mascara, flits her lashes through I can imagine the brand and the wand. the scent. The color of the “He doesn’t want to grow up.” soap he uses. The shirt he’s “And you do?” wearing, with the alligator I watch her pucker up on it, is an old friend. Little for the gloss. “I just graduated. Nutty as the concept may sound details, little secrets. to you, I want a real job, a better place. That’s what people do. They improve. They get refined, they get better. They don’t just do the same old nothing forever.” “I was thinking about changing my name to Jane.” Leda tousles her hair. “Like a stage name.” “For a community college class?” “Well, they’re having auditions for some student-written production. I’m trying out for the part of an alien from the planet Zarteck.” That sounds horrible, I think. Horrible. Terrible, ghastly, awful. I stare at the wall. “I don’t want those nipple pictures up there,” I tell her. “They don’t even look like nipples, they’re obscure. That’s the point. Am I allowed no artistic expression in this house?” “Not until you pay me rent.” She frowns. “I’m looking for a job, okay? I just got my last unemployment 12 | CCLaP Weekender
check in the mail. God, it’s like living with mom all over again. I need a little time to get my career off the ground.” “What career? Your acting career? Yeah, people don’t really launch their acting careers in Berkeley, California.” “My career as an acting coach. You are in a foul mood, sister.” She stands up. “Who moves away from LA and then decides to become an acting coach?” “Me.” “Right, rhetorical question.” I shake my head. “Number one,” she says, red fingernail pointing in the air. “I’m not going to be here forever. And number two, I’ve loved acting all my life.” “What I remember is that you loved working behind a makeup counter for years.” “I did! And that was acting. Telling ugly people they look good is pretty much acting.” She shakes her head, scrunches her brow. “Why are you so critical? Just because you went to some fancy school?” She flings her arm open. “Fuck you!” she shouts. Then she looks at me. “How was that?” “A little much,” I say, and go to my room. I sit on my bedspread and do crossword puzzles. I can hear Leda gabbing on the phone and blasting the TV and running the blender in the kitchen. I lay on the left side of the bed, Oliver’s side, and I call him. We talk. He asks to come back. I say no. Then he says he thinks he might have found a place. I get a stabbing pain, make an excuse, and get off the phone. I sit. I feel the pain spreading from my chest to my stomach and throat, to my head and hips, down my legs, up my arms. But still, I can’t cry. I get up and go to the kitchen, open the fridge, cut a piece of onion. I go back into my room and touch my eyeballs and water up. The sobbing feels so relieving, I smile. There’s no word for this, though right now, I wish there was. I go to an interview the next week at a coffeeshop. Sigh. Yes, this is where a forty thousand dollar education gets you. But seriously, I tell my wounded pride, this is absolutely a hundred percent temporary, and soon I will get a real job where I wear pencil skirts and leather pumps and blazers and ride BART into the city and get direct deposit. This is simply supplementary. “What do you know about roasting methods?” the bald man with the bony hands asks me. He’s reading off a sheet on a clipboard in front of him. There are coffee flecks in his teeth. His hands shake. “Umm—well, there’s dark roast, right? And light roast.” “Uh-huh…” He jots something on his clipboard. It’s hard to tell what from this angle. “Anything else you maybe want to elaborate on, or add?” I was on the Dean’s list, I want to scream. I wrote an honors thesis on twentieth century poetry. I can talk about Marxism, modernism, post modernism—hell, I can talk isms all day long. “No,” I say. June 6, 2014 | 13
“Allrighty.” He flips the page. “So, what would you foresee as your least favorite part of the job?” Oh no. He probably wants me to say something like, “I’m kind of an overachiever” or “I love my job too much.” Something that seems like a negative, but is, in actuality, a positive. But don’t sound braggy. Be practical, maybe. Be honest. “I don’t especially love scrubbing toilets,” I tell him. His expression darkens and he shakes his head. “Well—we do clean toilets around here, I hope you know.” “Oh, I was just—” “There’s no way around it. It’s not like some people clean toilets and some people make cappuccinos. We cooperate. Everyone does a little bit of everything.” “Sure—” “And it’s a dirty job. There’s often plunging involved. Sometimes the toilet has been known to overflow. Those are bad days. You can’t be squeamish about it, though, you can’t be like, ‘I don’t want to clean toilets.’” “But you were just asking—” I wish I was back in the comforting cold plastic chair of a lecture hall, just listening, just taking notes, just thinking, not talking. “Nevermind.” “Good luck,” he says at the end of the interview. He nods at me like he feels sorry for me and I BART to my internship. On the train, I feel jealous of all the women in pantyhose and the men in suits and ties. They look like somebodies. Some of them are probably doctors who save lives, or lawyers whose arguments make or break the fates of others, or professors whose names are published in journals with article titles halved by colons. I’m not like them. And I’m not like the kids with backpacks and MP3 players and neon sneakers, either. I hold my breath as the train goes beneath the Bay, whirring like a phantom, windows black. I see my reflection and I wish, for a second, the mud and the Bay would swallow me whole. At my internship this week Daniel starts talking to me as we shred paper in the shredder. His girlfriend broke up with him for a banjo player and he’s devastated. “I knew something was wrong. She’d never listened to bluegrass before, and suddenly it was Earl fucking Scruggs and Alison fucking Krauss.” He likes to talk, I like to listen. I go home one night and find the previous weatherworn street sign has been replaced with a new one, and this one is misspelled. VIRGENIA, it says. I shake my head and trudge up the stairs of the Victorian, and wonder why the hell I can’t be the world’s editor. It’s Friday night when Leda comes home bald as a boiled egg. “I got the part!” she waves a script in the air. “What part?” I glance up from my computer screen, Netflix paused, glass of white wine in hand. 14 | CCLaP Weekender
“The part. In the community college play. Jessamine, an alien with ‘sexy tendencies.’” Leda sits next to me and takes a swig from the bottle. “Sounds quality. And you shaved your head …?” “Because Jessamine’s an alien and it’s a well-known fact aliens are bald. I went back to the salon and they shaved it right off. With a razor! Felt so amazing. And they only charged me fifty, because they remembered me from last time.” My mouth drops. “Fifty bucks to shave your head? How do you have fifty bucks right now?” She shrugs. “What the fuck, Leda?” “BTW, I’m going by Jane now. Jane Doubt. Isn’t that cool?” I shake my head. “Fifty bucks.” “Come on, Io, lighten up.” I shut my computer and go in my room. The new tenants moving in next door are bumping around, scarping furniture across hardwood floors, blasting music. Wonderful, now loud people are moving in. I try to read but I’m too aggravated. It was definitely better before with Oliver than now with Leda. I should have known better than to invite Leda to move in when I heard she lost her job. We couldn’t even share a room when we were ten. I call Oliver. “I miss you,” I tell him. “I hate everything and I miss you.” “That’s sweet that your hatred for everything and your love of me go hand in hand,” he says. “It’s how I am,” I say. “I’m confusing, and confused.” “These things I already know.” He’s panting. “Hey, come out to the hall.” “Why?” “Just do it.” My heart hammers. Is this some serendipitous visit of his, coming to rap my door right when I need him most? I miss him. Not just that, but I haven’t had sex in weeks, and I’m starting to become an irritable, horrible human being because of it. And cuddling. I miss cuddling. Whenever I stop by the Laundromat, I hug him longer and longer. I step out into the hall and guess who’s standing in the doorway of the recently vacated apartment? Yes. Grinning at me, shirtless. His friend Patrick is behind him, saying “snap” and completing the statement with a literal snap of the fingers. I shake my head, cheeks ablaze. Instant heat in my throat. “That’s fucked up, to move in next door,” I say. “What if I don’t want you near me like that? What if I’m trying to move on?” “This has nothing to do with you whatsoever,” Oliver says, and leans on his broom. “See, I happen to know the landlord.” “I hate everything, including you,” I say. Autumn darkens the sky and shortens the days. It’s breezy and the maple leaves forget the trees and scatter on the sidewalks, free. For our birthday, Leda says June 6, 2014 | 15
she’s going to have a party at the apartment, with all her new acting friends she’s met through city college classes. She made flyers as invitations. Color flyers, on thick glossy paper. This abstract-looking desert is in the background of LEDA’S TURNING 25!!!!! “What is that?” I ask, pointing to the desert. “Oh, that’s my armpit, like right here,” she says, and points to her underarm. “Part of that photo project I did.” “With the nipples.” “Yeah, that one.” “You do realize it’s my birthday too.” “Right. Did you want to be mentioned?” She rummages through her sequinny purse and pulls out a pen and adds a small “+IO” to the top flyer. “Nevermind.” The bald head actually brings out Leda’s pretty face. The delicacy of her features. She’s been wearing a lot of pink lately, and a lot of makeup, as if to make up for it. The rehearsals for the alien play go late into the night, and I drink more wine, and I watch more instant movies. I’m mad at Oliver. I explain the whole thing to Daniel as we organize the recycling and take inventory in the warehouse and he, a future therapist “or some shit that helps people,” decides Oliver is psychologically “effed up in the head.” He says I deserve better, and then glances down my shirt. I BART home confused. I can hear Oliver and Patrick’s low voices through my bedroom wall, I can hear the murmur of their TVs and stereos, and I have to buy a noise machine to block them out. I want peace, tranquility, blankness, zero, nothing. Our texts become downright Dr. Seussical. Still mad? Don’t want to come see the new pad? Still mad. Don’t want to come see the new pad. I have another interview, this one at a tech magazine that I already know is a crapshoot and I won’t get. It’s famous. I know nothing about technology. They want me to blog, and I have never blogged. I don’t even like to say “blog” and am angered that the OED recognizes it as a bona fide word. In the waiting room, I scan an issue of their magazine and find several errors, two grammatical, one spelling, one punctuation. I mark them with my trusty red pen and imagine giving the issue to the interviewer. Bad idea, fun fantasy. It’s odd how people squirm when they’re told they’re doing something wrong, even if it’s for their own good. And if I warn them I just come off as an asshole when really I’m just trying to do the right thing. Like when I called the City of Berkeley the other day to complain about VIRGENIA and the man said he didn’t like my tone. I tuck the magazine in my purse. The man who interviews me seems bored. He keeps getting up while I talk. He looks out the window and stretches and yawns loudly. At one point, when I’m trying to tell him where I see myself in ten years—top copyeditor 16 | CCLaP Weekender
at fancy magazine/ publishing house/ newspaper, possibly able to work from home in my pajamas—he interrupts and tells me someone is ticketing his car and he’ll be right back. I wait for five minutes. Ten. I wait for twenty minutes and finally I just leave the magazine on his desk, open to display the article I edited, and take the elevator down, down, down. “I feel like giving up,” I tell Daniel as we clean the office kitchen that day. He’s standing next to me, scrubbing the counter’s coffee rings, and I’m unclogging some sort of fruit-smoothie-gone-wrong from the drain. “This is where an English degree at a famous university gets you.” “You’ve got to work your way up, girl,” he says. I keep scrubbing. I can feel his gaze. “You look damn snazzy in that dress,” he says after a minute. “Really?” I look down. Technically, I’m wearing a skirt and matching jacket, not a dress, but I don’t correct him. “I was aiming for professional.” “That too.” He clears his throat. “How’s the boyfriend sitch?” “Sitch?” “As in ‘situation.’” I grimace. “It’s copacetic. I ignore him. We text sometimes, but, you know.” “What an asshole, moving in next door like that. If my ex did that, I would be like, ‘that’s hella wack.’” “It is pretty…wack.” “Did you get that email Ross sent around about not withholding federal taxes? I was like, ‘what the fuck, you’re telling me I have to pay taxes on everything now? You think I got the funds for that?’” “Wait.” I put my sponge down and look at Daniel. “Back up—” “You didn’t hear about this shit?” “You—you make money?” I stare at Daniel. We’re standing very close. As in, our arms are crossed and his elbows are touching my elbows. As in, I’m close enough to see his eye boogers are as black as his eyeliner. “Yes.” “But I make nothing,” I say. “What?” He kind of sings the word in a surprised falsetto. “That’s bullshit.” “I come in here for free.” “I thought I was getting shafted, but damn.” A sharp voice interrupts us. “Io.” It’s Nancy, from Human Resources. Nancy is carrying an empty coffee cup. “My office. Now.” “Good luck,” coughs Daniel. Nancy’s wall is plastered with posters of Kokomo and Tahiti and South American resorts. I wonder if she’s ever been to any of these places. I know I never will. Her office has a view of the City, which from here seems cold and June 6, 2014 | 17
mean, a jungle of telephone poles and shiny things that move too fast. “I’m sorry to say we’re going to have to let you go,” Nancy says when she closes her door. She really does sound sorry, in a fake kind of way. “Page sixty five in the employee manual explicitly states that employees of TravelCorp Media are never to discuss their salaries.” “But how can I get in trouble for discussing a salary I don’t have?” “The details don’t matter. A salary of zero is still a salary.” “No it’s not,” I say. “A salary constitutes income. And by the way, why is Daniel making a salary for essentially the same job?” “Some interns are paid, some are unpaid.” “And you’re firing the unpaid intern.” “You were discussing your salary, which is an terminable offense.” “I was discussing nothing.” I seriously want to jab this woman’s eyeballs with a Bic pen right now, but I get up to leave. She wants me to sign a severance paper but I refuse. I pass Daniel, who doesn’t look up from his desk, and I hope TravelCorp Media, and all its stupid articles about rich white people eating fried insects and swimming with dolphins, burns to ashes and disappears. But as I ride the elevator down, down, down, with the ding, ding, ding, I know TravelCorp will be just fine. It’s me I have to worry about. It’s my birthday. The snack mix is out. The punch bowl is filled, is spiked, is damn delicious. I’m watching Leda powder herself in the mirror. She’s wearing a purple wig. “I’ve never understood why women wear so much makeup just to look like they’re not wearing any makeup,” I tell her. “It’s the way the world works,” she says. “Don’t question.” We look different, side by side. We could be fraternal twins or just plain old sisters. I’m in a pair of ripped jeans and she’s wearing something akin to an eighties prom dress. And then there’s the long purple wig. “Is that makeup from the place you worked at in LA?” “Yup, Sassy Lady products, RIP.” “Didn’t they get in trouble for testing on animals or something?” “Apparently they blinded rabbits,” she says, dabbing some eyeliner beneath her eye. “That’s why the business folded.” “And you continue to use their products?” “Well, I wouldn’t want to waste.” “At least those bunnies weren’t blinded in vain,” I say sarcastically. “Exactly.” She smacks her lips and stands up. “Io, I want you to be nice to my friends.” “What? I’m nice.” “But you know what I mean. Don’t be all judgmental.” “I don’t judge.” “Ha! You find a problem with everything.” This stings. “Like what.” 18 | CCLaP Weekender
“Every job prospect. Every guy in your life is too dumb or too unmotivated or too into Hobbes and yada yada yada. Every movie you see. I saw your Netflix account! You’ve never given anything more than four stars.” “Five stars is—is essentially deeming something perfect.” “I’m just saying, be nice. And just—everyone calls me Jane Doubt, so, you know, just roll with it.” She leaves the bathroom. I stare at myself in the mirror for a second before following. “Everyone calls you Jane Doubt?” “Yes.” “What’s wrong with Leda?” Leda’s straightening the already-straight snacks on the table. “Well, first and foremost, she fucked a swan. That’s disgusting, and I’ve always thought it was really inappropriate of mom give me such a name.” “What about me? At least “She’s a classics professor.” “Whatever. There’s Hera, Yeats wrote about Leda, Io there’s Athena. But no. I’m a doesn’t even mean anything. swanfucker.” “What about me? At least It’s the name of a fucking Yeats wrote about Leda, Io cow.” I realize that I’m doesn’t even mean anything. yelling. I stop and look at It’s the name of a fucking cow.” I realize that I’m yelling. I stop the wall behind Leda, where and look at the wall behind the nipple pictures and Leda, where the nipple pictures and several other flesh-colored several other flesh-colored abstract photographs have abstract photographs have reappeared on the wall. “Oh reappeared on the wall. “Oh my God, I don’t want the nipple pictures.” my God, I don’t want the “You know, people are nipple pictures.” going to be here any second, so you can stop yelling now.” “You don’t listen.” “It’s my birthday! Can I have a little space here to entertain my friends?” “It’s my birthday too. And you haven’t even paid me rent—” “I got a receptionist job, okay, so keep your pants on, I’ll have rent to you in a couple weeks.” “You got a job.” “I start the day after tomorrow.” The doorbell rings. It’s a fat man with a dozen roses. He’s wearing a Fedora hat and he sings happy birthday like an opera singer. I leave halfway through to go sulk in my room. I listen through the door. People arrive. They talk loud in high-pitched, theatrical voices. They’re talking about the alien play, which is apparently called Zarteck. June 6, 2014 | 19
“You have never understood our peaceful nature, earthlings,” some girl is saying. “Us Zarteckians are the only race to have achieved true peace through Gonglia.” People laugh. “Hey, happy birthday Jane Doubt,” people say. Jane Doubt, Jane Doubt. I shake my head. When I sit and try to read my book, I can hear Zarteck talk on one side and techno music in Oliver’s apartment on the other. I turn on my noise machine. I check my phone. There are missed birthday calls and I don’t care. I have an email from the last place I interviewed at, asking me to come in for a second interview. I should be excited, right? But I’m not. Another interview, I think. Wonderfuckingful. It’s when the dancing and the Gaga starts, the hurling clopping drunken wailing Gaga dancing, that I decide I must leave my apartment. I stand in the hallway staring at Oliver’s door and finally I get the courage to knock. He answers, Nietzsche in hand, mismatched argyle socks on his feet. “You’re here.” He grins. “I just wanted to say hi.” “Happy birthday.” “Leda’s having a party.” “I figured that wasn’t your Gaga.” I look at the floor and suddenly it’s like onions on my eyeballs. I wipe with my sleeve. “Can I see your place?” “Sure,” he says, all upbeat, like he doesn’t notice the waterworks. His place is all right. They have leather furniture, which is a minus, but these diagonal bookshelves that are a plus. Patrick is smiling and typing like a madman on the computer. He says hi without looking up. He laughs every now and then. I stand and read all the spines of Oliver’s books, remembering their places on my makeshift milk-crate bookshelf, remembering the weight of each as I threw them downstairs. I decide that overall I like his apartment more than mine and this makes me cry harder. “Want to see my room?” asks Oliver. “Yes,” I say. Patrick laughs and types faster, oblivious. Oliver’s room is simple and neat. There is no shag rug covering his hardwood floor, no pictures and bulletin boards cluttering his walls. His guitar is in the corner on a stand. He has two blue lamps by his bedside. His room has a window overlooking VIRGENIA street—let it go, self, just let it go— and all the maples scattering their leaves. “Nice,” is the only adjective I can muster. “Your room is right there.” He points to the wall. I nod. We sit next to each other on the bed and I hesitate a moment before resting my head on his shoulder. “How’re the job prospects?” he asks gently, his cheek against my hair. I close my eyes and shake my head. “You want to work at the Laundromat?” I close my eyes and shake my head. 20 | CCLaP Weekender
“Well, we’re hiring if you need it.” “I don’t know what I need.” I look at him. He’s wearing his glasses. I love it when he wears his glasses. “I make mistakes I can’t undo.” “No such thing,” he says. His lips look chapped. I hand him my chapstick and watch him put it on. We sit here quiet, silent, peaceful, the thumping music in my own apartment distorted and far-seeming. Change. Metamorphosis. Transformation. Altercation—I mean, alteration. He takes me out for Ethiopian food. We drink honey wine, so thick and sweet. We wear scarves and walk home arm in arm, and when, back in his apartment after he’s opened another beer, he starts pacing and rattling off about Hobbes, about meanness prevailing, about materialism and selfishness, about a world beyond repair, I pass his books on the diagonal shelf and go home, ten or so feet away, and fall asleep on my side of the bed, wondering if there’s a word for what we are. C
Faith Gardner once shaved her head bald. Several of her stories have been adapted into “Lifetime” movies. She is also a pathological liar. Maybe she has a website and maybe it is faithgardner.com.
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Like millions of other only-child Chinese twenty-somethings, Turtle Chen is graduating college and vicariously desperate (via parental pressure) to find a job, though he would probably settle for a girlfriend. He speaks English. He studied abroad in America. Employers, ladies, what’s not to love? With a bit of bravado and some hometown luck, this engineering grad lands himself an entry level position working for the state news agency; not that he particularly cares about politics or journalism, not that they particularly want him to. Through a class assignment, Turtle learns that his grandmother’s village will soon be inundated to make way for a dam construction project. His parents tell him not to worry about it. His bosses tell him not to worry about it. He would be only too happy to oblige, and yet despite his best efforts not to care he finds himself on the front lines fighting bulldozers, next to what some villagers claim to be the ghost of Chairman Mao. There’s bribery, corruption, computer games, and text messages imbued with uncertainty. Air pollution, censorship, and a job fair where students attack employers with paper basketballs. And it’s all told through the eyes of a young man with impeccable English (‘impeccable English,’ that’s correct, yes?), who’s right there in the middle of it all. Welcome to the delightful world of “Turtle and Dam,” the literary debut of Washington DC analyst Scott Abrahams.
Download for free at cclapcenter.com/turtleanddam 22 | CCLaP Weekender
Brendan Ó Sé
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I love London. I lived there in the late eighties in Brixton, a part of London which then was a little run down, impoverished and home to many fellow immigrants, but a place with a wonderful sense of community. I had been buying my breakfast of a bottle of lucozade and a sandwich, and the newspaper in the shop outside my bus stop only about a week when the shopkeeper told me—“Pay me at the end of the week, mate!”. I was quickly welcomed to the community. I recall many the happy night as a young teenager I spent in the Prince of Wales pub near the tube station drinking pints of lager, with the local communists trying to recruit me to the party. The closest I got to joining the party was one Sunday afternoon when they roped me into carrying their bucket of paste for posting their posters around Brixton. I had never known what the “Post No Bills” sign meant in public places, but when the police pulled up next to us, shouting at us, I quickly learned. I also quickly learned that my new friends‘ idea of communism did not stretch to waiting with the young naiive Irishman who was left there literally carrying the can while they scarpered. Thankfully, the police left me off with a warning and I left my communist friends off with a “Well, fuck them!” But I have happy memories of my time living in London. It was my first time living away from home, fending for myself. I worked in an Estate Agent’s office in Putney, employed for a reason I could never make out. OK, I made the tea, ran the envelopes through the franking machine and spent the day chatting with the beautiful Sonia, whose desk was opposite mine, but I cannot remember ever having anything in particular to do. My boss, Sidney, was an old-school English gentleman. He was very kind to me. My first week there he wrote me a blank cheque and told me to go buy myself a new suit on my lunch break. Now, I say a new suit which would imply I had an old one. I hadn’t. I had a trousers, a shirt and tie and a jacket. They matched in the sense they fitted me, but I guess to Sidney’s eye they didn’t match. Walking down Putney High Street I checked out what kind of suits people were wearing. 24 | CCLaP Weekender
In 1987, suit jackets had lapels that stuck up like arrows. I bought a blue suit that day and it had those lapels. When I got home that evening, back to the bedsit I shared with two other Cork lads, I stood proudly in front of the mirror and took a shot of myself in all my grandeur and a few weeks later when I had the roll of film developed I sent the photo back home to my parents with a letter recounting my new life in far-away London. Writing this now, the memories of living in London are flooding back. There were two major incidents when I was there. I passed through Kingâ€™s Cross the night of the fire, the tube speeding through the black of the smoke. 31 people died. Then there was the huge storm that the ruined the reputation of meteorologist Michael Fish who told us all nothing would happen. I slept through it (impossible to believe), but what destruction I encountered once I stepped outside. Years later, when reading Damien Hirstâ€™s book, his comment about how people pass by huge trees every day and think nothing of them, then one day a storm comes and fells a tree and people are awestruck. That morning, sitting on the upper deck of the bus passing Clapham Common and seeing so many trees that the storm had uprooted had me awestruck. (None of Damien Hirstâ€™s art has ever had me awestruck though.) Returning to London is always a little trip down memory lane for me. Looking back as a middle-aged man and thinking that I was there as a naiive and homesick 18 year old amazes me. I was just a boy then. I see London now as an adult and see how it has changed. It is a magnificent city, full of life and when you can find a Londoner in this metropolitian city, you find a polite and cheerful person who takes time to give you directions. Here is a little series of iPhone photographs I took while there. A big shout-out to my friend Mark T. Simmons who I met while there [flickr.com/marktsimmons]. This set is for you, Mark.
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photographicpunctuation.com flickr.com/rebelsabu instagram.com/nadnerb 46 | CCLaP Weekender
An official painter for the Lithuanian Communist Party, Martynas Kudirka enjoys a pleasant, unremarkable life with a beautiful wife and all the privileges that come with being a party member. Yet in the summer of 1989, his ordinary world suddenly turns upside down. Political revolt is breaking out across Eastern Europe, and Martynas comes home to find his wife dead on the kitchen floor with a knife in her back. Realizing the police will not investigate, he sets out to find his wife’s killer. Instead, he stumbles upon her secret life. Martynas finds himself drawn into the middle of an independence movement, on a quest to find confidential documents that could free a nation. Cold War betrayals echo down through the years as author Bronwyn Mauldin takes the reader along a modern-day path of discovery to find out Martynas’ true identity. Fans of historical fiction will travel back in time to 1989, the Baltic Way protest and Lithuania’s “singing revolution,” experiencing a nation’s determination for freedom and how far they would fight to regain it.
Download for free at cclapcenter.com/lovesongs
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The CCLaP Weekender is published in electronic form only, every Friday for free download at the CCLaP website [cclapcenter.com]. Copyright 2014, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography. All rights revert back to artists upon publication. Editorin-chief: Jason Pettus. Story Editor: Allegra Pusateri. Calendar Editors: Anna Thiakos and Taylor Carlile. To submit your work for possible feature, or to add a calendar item, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This week's edition of the CCLaP Weekender, published by the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (cclapcenter.com), features a new...