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A Collection of Writings Left Behind

Kristen Humbert

WASTE //3\\ A girl with bright blonde hair and dark thick eyebrows goes by. She’s wearing the shortest plaid shorts and clutching the flimsiest umbrella.

“I am wearing the most inappropriate outfit for this weather,” she says.

WASTE //4\\

I killed Gertrude because she refused to wear her teeth. Growing up Gertrude had always abused her seniority. When I was thirteen she was sixteen. Our parents bought her a car on the stipulation that she would drive me to my piano lessons twice a week when they were at work and couldn’t get me there. She never did. Instead she told me to lie to our parents. She told me to tell them that Gertrude always drove me without a fuss. She threatened to tell our mom about the fact that I put on make-up at my friend Cindy’s house before going to school everyday. So I walked, the three miles there and the three miles back, to piano twice a week. I hated Gertrude. But once middle age set in, and all youthful transgressions were supposedly behind us (kid stuff) I regained my power. I became the younger one. Gertrude’s wrinkles formed first. Gertrude’s teeth yellowed first. Gertrude’s husband died first. Poor Gertrude. Neither of us ever had children – Gertrude by choice, me by infertility. When Peter died, I had no one left but Gertrude. So we consolidated, moved in together. Two old biddies, but no cats. I refused to get cats. Besides the murder, that Monday was a typical day in a week of typical weeks in

WASTE //5\\ a year of typical years. Monday was bridge with the widow club. I sat at a table stuffed with women that had nothing to do but complain about their children, or their arthritis, or the weather. I hated bridge with the widow club. I still hate bridge with the widow club. But I went anyway. I always played bridge with the widow club. Gertrude had decided to stay home, brooding in one of her moods. She had been having more of her moods lately. She stopped eating anything but peas. Sometimes she wouldn’t even eat those. Sometimes she would hold them in her mouth for a few seconds and then spit them right back out. Gertrude had stopped blinking. She took to staring out into the backyard for hours at a time. She watched as the finches and the robins landed on the empty bird feeder, and, seeing that it still had yet to be filled with seeds, flutter away. That Monday, after enduring the whines and moans of the widows, I returned to our home. I walked up the cracked and uneven concrete path that leads to the porch. I climbed the pale blue painted steps and entered the living room to find Gertrude sprawled out on the floor. “Gertrude?” I said, curious if she was dead. Her foot twitched. I walked to her and leaned over her face. Her eyes were open. She smiled up at me with this big gummy smile. “Gertrude, where are your teeth?” I asked.

WASTE //6\\ She didn’t answer. Gertrude just kept on smiling, all pink. “I’m going to go get your teeth. You look silly.” Gertrude closed her mouth tight. I went up to the bathroom cabinet and grabbed Gertrude’s teeth from the little plastic container she kept them in. When I returned downstairs, she was still lying on the floor. I stepped over her body, covered in its brown thin skin, and planted one foot on either side of her gray-haired head. “Open up!” I declared. Gertrude’s mouth stayed closed. “Fine,” I said, and reached up and with my free hand, pinched Gertrude’s nose closed. Gertrude stared up at me. We stayed that way for what seemed like a while. Finally Gertrude’s body began to twist and writhe. She still didn’t open her mouth. She continued to squirm and I continued to hold fast to her nose. Then all of the sudden, her limbs stopped twitching. Her eyes rolled back into her head. Her mouth went slack, revealing those pink gums.

WASTE //7\\

Gertrude was dead.

WASTE //8\\ I wanted to stop and ask directions. You said you wanted to go your way. You were mad I wouldn’t give in, so you pushed me out on that highway. I’ve got my thumb out now, and it won’t be long before some new man comes and scoops me up. I’ll ride next to him, and we’ll go far, far, far away. Far away from your way. And when you get that postcard in the mail, will you still be so sure that it should have been your way or the highway?

Her ass looked strangely obtuse in the curve of the bathroom doorknob.

WASTE //9\\ I don’t think I ever loved her. Convenience. But how dare she not love me.

If only forever meant four days, four hours, four minutes, four seconds. F-o-u-r-e-v-e-r.

WASTE //10\\

MARINA Good enough for what? I was born into a world where me wasn’t me. I was what they wanted me to be. But by myself... different. When the rooms were quiet and all there was for company was my mind, I was me. I had these long conversations where my speech was the prettiest I had ever spoken. I could never speak that way to him. My tongue would flick off of my teeth in the most acrobatic ways, but not beautifully. Stumbling. Stunted. Speech. No wonder. Not good enough. TOM Did you ever notice how those women look in the magazines? Perfect. There are so many perfect women in those magazines. My Dad left my Mom to chase that dream. PERFECT. He left my Mom with a hole. A hole in the sky so big that the stars came tumbling through at night and landed in my dreams. Big, perfect stars. She would cry over those stars‌and I could only have them in my dreams.

WASTE //11\\

BEN Insulation. That’s what my therapist calls it. My fat is insulation. I thought at first that he was referring to how warm I always was…but, no, he meant “a barrier between yourself and the world, because the world lets you down.” Yeah, down. Down in my fridge where happiness is an endless flow of food. That’s the good thing though. Food doesn’t talk to you. It can’t do anything but give you satisfaction. I eat until I burst…burst with that false idea that when I am full I am whole. SAUL It’s a cruel joke that God makes us all shrivel up like potatoes. Even Robert Redford looks bad. My wife wants to get Botox. I told her she looks as beautiful as the day I met her. She said back that her thighs weren’t as big when I met her. It’s true. But I love her big thighs and her potato face. Because she’s my potato face.

WASTE //12\\

Fever. I have spring fever.

I went to kiss your neck as you kissed mine. My heart exploded And I woke up

WASTE //13\\ I’d rather kiss skin Press lips to flesh Hold Lips to lips Like an embrace Slowly trace your honesty Along your spine Along your hips Circling your belly-button...

want to press you against my wall. (my wall) have my way taste your have my have my Taste. Have your taste Your taste Lips ... Neck ... Fingers .... Thighs Lips. Sweetest places. Teasing towards conclusions.

WASTE //14\\

Small tits, Full lips, Tight hips, Sink ships.

WASTE //15\\

WASTE //16\\

WASTE //17\\

Harriet had a tendency of stealing napkins from restaurants. She wasn’t particular about what kind of napkins, but she had a sore spot for the plain white starchy kind, the kind of napkin that you wouldn’t use to blow your nose or wipe your ass. It began as a casual habit, almost like collecting those cardboard coasters from different bars, but then it became a bit of a game. She would glance inconspicuously around, making sure that everyone was not paying attention to her, and she would slide the scratchy white material off of the table and slip it into her bright red leather purse. That didn’t last for long. Harriet grew more and more bold. She stopped looking around before slipping it into her purse. Then she started doing it while giving her order to the waitress.

WASTE //18\\ The stairs are marble and dramatic, allowing no give for aching feet. Light landing only in heavy squares on the wall from the corridor below, methodically revealing my weary travel-mates, passing upwards one by one with hopeful and apprehensive faces. Next, a too-tiny elevator with a mirrored wall and the smell of old sweat and dry mouths, and alcohol on the breath of the congenial Scotsman. Landing on the top floor, looking down into the courtyard, hanging over the weak banister of cold twisted black metal, the kind of barrier that protects English gardens from the stomping feet of little children. The black of the metal rubs off on my palms. We are already falling, falling for Budapest. Faux light from yellow walls and the dim-blue glaze of a television set and the warm white of an Ikea lamp give us fragile hope. We sleep on stained mattresses precariously balanced on rounded wooden floors. We sleep covered by Mickey-Mouse sheets and flimsy flowered comforters. Leaving in the early afternoon haze, a woman with falling skin and a man with a dog glower up at us from the floors across and below. More strangers in their fortress. A crumbling palace with intricate black rounded symbols on the courtyard tiles and disintegrating, gnarled, yellow-orange walls. The next night we get vodka and juice. I want champagne and a joint. I want to dance on the mattress in my black underwear, drunk and giddy and all very bohemian.

WASTE //19\\ The four of us sleep on one mattress. Too tired to pretend we want to separate. Captivated by a pseudo-bohemian Hungarian stupor. Believing in Janos Arany who wrote,

“In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities.”

“In “In dreams dreams and and in in love love there there are are no no impossibilities.” impossibilities.”

WASTE //20\\ Blue When the touch of the sun lands just right On the cold freckled side of my face I wish that I wasn’t connected to anyone, anything I could go to an island with white beaches And blue skies matching a blue ocean that forms a boundless blue wall I’ll be trapped with a bulging belly, weeping on the sand Longing for the lover that I lost Who died in my arms, floating in with the tide After being tossed and thrown in the waves He will return, only in the blue eyes Of my beautiful baby boy

WASTE //21\\

WASTE //22\\ Her mother stood naked in front of the bathroom mirror, putting on her earrings. A soap opera played on the tiny black and white TV on top of the toilet tank. She wasn’t listening as her mother spoke. She sat on the edge of the tub, twirling her finger in the water that poured from the faucet and leaked out the sides of the spout. Two ladybugs got caught in the flow and were doing their best to stay afloat. Her mother warned her, “TV makes it easy,” as she put on her lipstick. Her mother told her, “It’s better to stay away from boys,” while brushing on some blush. Her mother said, “I hope you grow up to be a lesbian.”

WASTE //23\\

WASTE //24\\

What happened to “us” I thought I had known you forever Now its like it never even begun I’ve learned to wait, though Easy to find distractions So I will wait, for us to become us again Another rocky road weathered. We’ve done it before We can do it again Someday you will come back to me Until then I will become the best you’ll ever have

WASTE //25\\ Chatter. The clatter of plates being picked up or put down. Enthusiastic bellows. An argument or a friendly conversation? A woman’s sharp melodic laugh. A few notes on an accordion. The smell of bacon. A yappy dog bark. Another laugh, another woman, shriller this time. A Vespa buzzes past. Stones and smog mingle in a unique Florentine perfume – muddy and old. A shout of recognition. Another clatter of plates. Laughter, male. The putter of a truck. More smog smells, thick, like a deep pile of mud, lingering. Wait a moment. The air is fresh again. A distinct “Ciao.” More unfamiliar Italian, always enthusiastic. Chatter. White Mornings

WASTE //26\\ Traveling by night, when your eyes can’t see past your horse’s head, you may stumble into the city of Sogni. Sogni comes upon you like a long kept secret, existing only in whispers spoken in the dark. No lights emanate from the formless unexpressive buildings that jumble together in outwardly growing concentric circles around the city square. No other noise is heard as you ride along the winding deserted streets that crumble and crust under your horses heavy echoing step. There is an achingly putrid smell of rotting remains and static sewage that wafts from the grates in the ground up into your nostrils and makes your mare whinny in disgust. In the daylight you will see that Sogni is not beautiful. Buildings, gray squares and rectangles formed by concrete blocks stacked on top of concrete blocks; sink into the mud becoming lopsided and sad. Doors appear like tilted gaping mouths under a windowless facade. All forms bleed into one another, creating a dizzying muck of dull and drab until you reach the center – a circular space left empty and wanting. Sogni is not meant for the living, it is meant for the dreaming. Nothing is real to the people of Sogni except that which they experience while their eyes are closed and their breath is heavy. They sleep alone in rooms carpeted with thick yet airy ivory mattresses. Each mattress fiber is made of the softest fur, stolen from the backs of young rabbits by members of a nearby city. These same people created the buildings of Sogni,

WASTE //27\\ cheating the sleeping citizens because they knew Sogni would be too unconscious to care. Now the construction is done and the mattresses made and Sogni has been left to fall in onto itself. No sound, no light, no one by their side, the people of Sogni hide in fear. Life can be ugly; to escape it means sleep or death. Sogni chooses sleep, where life is still life, but it is always beautiful in their dreams.

WASTE //28\\

Albert Winston had been balding since the age of seventeen. He had inherited this misfortune from his mother’s father, Simon. Albert, now nineteen, took to habitually wearing a yamukah to hide the growing pink circle on the crown of his head. Albert wasn’t Jewish.

WASTE //29\\ Smoke curled out of his unconvincing mouth. He wrapped his arms around her width. The night was still. A current rushed underneath the silence. There was so much ahead of us, so much life to ruin, so much life to inhale. He was practicing. I studied. The confused defining clarity. The words themselves didn’t matter, it was the sound. The punctuality of a statement. The alarm of a question. The anger of an exclamation. Volleyed back and forth – conversation in motion. Youth – announcing its existence, announcing its triumph, claiming the wisdom of age. An early summer night on a high stage.

“In in love there are no “In dreams dreams and and in love there are no impossibilities.” impossibilities.”

It wasn’t like me to love a notion. Align myself with one, yes – fate, God. But I loved them. Together, apart – my muses. I saw through them, they whispered me their secrets with tongues, eyes, breath. They eluded each other, allowed the possibility of forever to drift past the pink of their brains but thought little of it – they knew better. I knew better.

WASTE //30\\

His image would follow her everywhere; forcing itself upon her mind in secluded beaches and heavy witness stands. This is how she passed the time that was not hers to waste, watching his lips moving, watching the words, “I love you,� drop into the palms of her guilty hands.

WASTE //31\\

The ladybugs came en masse, solid and heavy, the day after hurricane Isabelle sent a tree branch through the window of her room. Isabelle was the name of her dead grandmother. Her mother took the damage as a sign, but of what, she wasn’t sure. The red and black beetles crept through the gash in her window and nested on the sill. They crawled over each other and under each other –tiny hair-like legs leaving footprints on round, shiny bug backs. Some traveled downwards to the bare wood floor and a few halted on their path, decorating her wall. She went outside to sit in the grass, her feet bare, the skin hard. The wind tossed the bugs into her hair. They got stuck in the auburn knots — she left them there. One crawled between her toes. One blew onto her tongue. She closed her mouth and felt it explore her teeth and then tickle its way towards her throat. It tasted slightly bitter. She swallowed it.

WASTE //32\\ Tango Dainty, Dirty, Dancing Silent and Romancing

Turning Turning

Tracing a pattern on the wooden floor Clickity Clack Clack She smiles – shyly, coyly, scared Angry stares – he stares Nicely Prancing Creating a stir Around – Around, surround with sound Quiet, still turning, not stopping, still spinning

An Upside-Down World Backwards, Unstable His angry stares upon her He Spins.

WASTE //33\\ They had met when she and her friends asked David and his friends for protection from another group of unappealing and very aggressive Italian men. She had eyes for Cesar. She somehow ended up with David. Poor lovely David, who still wore the necklace his ex-girlfriend gave him. A tiny medal pendant with two Xs and an O. Who told her that the fact that she drove an automatic car meant she was “from the future.”

In the midst of the mutters of the latenight drunkards, and the heady smell of wood and spilled alcohol, David told her his English was bad. She told him that she didn’t speak Italian; all she really knew was “Ciao Bella.” He laughed and gave her a sip of his beer.

They went outside to find his friends and her friends. Sitting on the curb, in the midst of a conversation involving a lot of hand gestures, he pulled her lips to his. She wasn’t ready for the sudden tongue in her mouth. She couldn’t help but think, “American boys do it better.”

WASTE //34\\

We take the train from Vienna. The waiting train to Kelati Pu greets us with a montage of creatures. First car, a jolly man with a full red-brown beard, squinty eyes, and a belly as round as a playground ball. Next car, a little less light, a man with a V-shaped uni-brow and a black mole on his left cheek. Another car, dark, with silhouettes of guilty characters. Eyes, eyes, eyes. The strange perceiving strangers.

WASTE //35\\

She takes a reluctant, dependent, Catholic draw on her cigarette. I want to call her Yvette. She opens the door and lets out the light.

WASTE //36\\


book was printed in Orator Std Medium & Slanted.

Photos From The Decade of Women. A Ms. Magazine Publication


Collection of my discarded fiction.