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a reaction against enlightenment

a collection of work by Robert Dulaney prose. 1 sticky hands 2 hikikomori 3 the middle 4 sanctimony

poetry. 1 coffee 2 my eyes get tired sometimes, and i try to throw up. 3 shelter 4 popcorn park zoo

drama. 1 bliss 2 social courtesy


prose. 2

sticky hands. I wake up early and make pancakes. The house is quiet. The house is always quiet. I wonder what it would feel like to stick my hand into a bowl of maple syrup. I can see myself going through the motions. I feel the cold bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s in my hands, the shape of a robust woman’s body, as I empty it into a mixing bowl. I placed one hand in the bowl, and then the other. I get dressed for work. The clothes on the floor are a shallow swimming pool. I cannot swim, but i dive gracefully into the puddle of neutral colored pantsuits. The clothes swirl above my head, and i emerge fully dressed. I look like a real estate agent, but i feel like a ghost. I look in the mirror, more out of habit than anything else. I always look the same. The car is in the driveway. It is always in the driveway. I count the stepping stones to the driver’s side. 15. The radio is tuned to a gospel channel. I am not religious, but make no effort to change it. I pull out of the driveway, and begin my painfully ordinary drive to work. Up a hill. Down a hill. Up. And back down. Three more like this, two stop lights and a left turn. The same drive for three years now. Three years in which i haven’t sold a house. i feel glad that i am the only that can operate the coffee pot.


Up a hill. Down a hill. Up. AND BACK DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A wooden carriage blossoms around the hood of my Buick. A tall, skinny boy is staring into my eyes through a rose colored windshield. There are three others floating in a sea of debris. A horse has fallen on his right side, and is gently whispering a sort of wild lullaby. I sit behind the wheel, close my eyes and breathe. I breathe in. 1-2-3-4. I breathe out. 1-2. I repeat this pattern several times. I open my eyes. They are still there. This is real. There is a blue house on the left side of the road. I shuffle to the door. A small woman with white hair answers. I say nothing, and step aside. I point to what I have done. The woman moves quickly to the back of the house. She doesn’t move, she floats. She returns with a cordless phone in her hand. She is talking quickly, but quietly, as she hands me a blanket and a glass of water before she heads for the door. What can she do? It seemed like hours before red lights began flashing. Above, something was cutting through the air like hot knives. I stand in the doorway of the blue house. The small woman with the white hair is moving like a traffic cop, swinging her arms to direct passing cars through the mess I have made. The tall, skinny boy (the one on my hood) is now drifting away in a helicopter. I whisper, “I am sorry”. The two men and another young boy are all lying in the grass across the street. Splinters of wood are sticking out of them, they look hurt, but they are quiet. They are always quiet.


hikikomori. i sat in front of the bathroom mirror for an hour this morning, while eating a bag of chex mix, and tried determine what my best qualities are. i walked from room to room in my tiny apartment, assessing the things i own and wondering how i would use them to paint a picture of my truest self. i am myrna ellis. i type in lower case letters to make my words seem more like a whisper. i live alone. there is a single box of spaghetti in my pantry. inside the fridge, there is a half empty jar of spanish olives and a few packets of ketchup. in my bedroom, where "the magic" never happens, i have a single mattress (no box spring) on the floor. next to my pathetic sleeping area, you will find this laptop and my hamster (lenny’s) cage. i wish i was a hamster. i barely ever leave the house, now. there’s no point. the weight of failure is so heavy outside of these walls that sometimes, i feel as if i could just implode. if doing nothing, walking on eggshells, and staring at a blank wall are your idea of good time, leave a reply below. X.


myrna. the middle I can almost fit into the cabinet under my kitchen sink. I discovered this one day while trying to disappear. If i pull my knees up to my chest and do a "sort-of" forward-roll, I could probably make it through the little fairy door that keeps my kitten from drinking the Windex. I would nestle in, between the used grocery bags and ostentatious cleaning supplies; a safe place to hide. sanctimony Last night, i had dream that a nun taught me how to pray. We were fully clothed, but resting our elbows the edge of my bathtub; our hands clasped tightly. She said that this would have to do, because there were no pews in my house. I do not understand the concept of prayer. I thought about that dream all day. I stared at my afternoon coffee, as if the black grounds were a projector screen replaying my dream in sepia tone. It has been so long since I have even thought about prayer. I feel “high� on coffee as i begin to face the day ahead of me. I had read once, somewhere, that if you imbibe enough caffeine you begin to have auditory hallucinations. On a routine trip to the bodega, I feel small and lost. I begin to run up and down each the short aisles. Frantically, I begin to search for my parents. I hear their voices in aisles other than the one I am in. there are not there. I know they cannot be


here in this store. I lost them and my faith when I turned nine. How could a righteous savior leave me all alone? To be fair, I never really felt very spiritual. At church, with my parents, I would pretend to sing the songs by opening and closing my mouth. When the kneelers were pushed down, I would sit on them like a toilet and think about ice cream flavors that would never exist. I had never actually participated in a guided prayer; which is why prayer had probably become such a foreign idea to me. I gave up pretending to be faithful on the day my parents died. The day unfolds in front of me. A hodge-podge of hallucinations and flashbacks accompany my every action. A trip to the Laundromat, a long casual lunch, and walk around the park all become incredibly austere. Why have i become so detached? At home, I lay my head down to sleep without praying, leaving the day and the dream behind me; maybe stuffing them into the pillowcase, like those little Mexican worry dolls made out of bits of string. I start dreaming and continue to see my parents. They look so real. It is them. Olfactory hallucinations suggest the smell of their reality. I awake thinking they are still alive. I had no idea where i would find one, but i had to get to a church quickly. The dream of the nun, then of my parents was clearly a message. As a child, i once heard prayer was always the key. Faith would lead you into the hands of “god�; as long as you were in his hands, he would never misguide you. I found a church just forty minutes from the city. Inside it was


dark, except for the light of a few candles. I walked down to the first rows, found a pew to rest at and began to talk. I was not sure to whom, but I knew someone, somewhere would hear me and I would get an answer back if I listened closely enough. I can’t bring myself to acknowledge “god”, so I begin to direct my directionless prayer at my parents. I ask them how they’re doing; I tell them I’m well (I am lying). I exchange minutiae with my dead parents through a ceiling, and decide that this is complete bullshit. I’m suddenly self-conscious of my formalities. I sit back in the wooden bench and peel my hands apart from “holy-telephone” position. I want to leave, but fate would have it that I stay. Again, i am reminded of the nun in my bathtub. I decide to try again. My extreme focus must have ushered me back to sleep. I awaken to a whisper “You were washed. You were sanctified. In the name of the lord Jesus Christ.”; the dream nun touching my arm. I look, first rubbing the sleep from my eyes. It’s not a nun, its father “whoever”. I run from the tub, naked into the street. Awakening yet again; this time cold, sweaty and fully clothed. No tub, no nun, no priest, no parents, no “god”. Still no prayer. Deciding that enough is enough, I lower myself to my knees at my bedside, I decide that someone has to eventually answer me if I just keep trying. Maybe it won’t be a voice, or even a message, but maybe an event that will give me some insight as to what this all is supposed to mean. I had long accepted the death of my parents and no longer seeking the approval of my ailing mother had stopped going to church so long ago. Why are these thoughts coming to me now? Haunting me, almost. 8

Maybe one day I will get the answer I am so desperate for. If it takes forever before it comes, am I willing to wait, like my parents did? Finally giving up at the moment of death? Maybe I should just go and find the answers myself, leaving the thoughts of “god” to do what he does best (nothing); maybe that’s just what he wants, for us to make or own way and not depend on him so much? still no prayer.


poetry. 10

coffee a satellite needs coffee. i am a satellite.

it's all in my head? this is not a placebo effect.

connectivity cannot be established without a catalyst. i take a sip.

coffee makes me feel closer to other people. you are 'other people'.

i look down at my knitting. seven stitches complete a pattern.

i look at you, and take another sip.

what am i supposed to say?

my eyes get tired sometimes, and i try to throw up. My eyes went all black and fuzzy I was too tired to hold up my own head I catch myself wondering what might have been 11

I sometimes miss a step and fall My main problem was that I felt like a train had just hit me

So I decided just to try it, to try throwing up one day after dinner My thoughts are so tempting. I don't know how it got so bad. It wasn't me at all, but a chemical reaction to the buildup of certain foods in my system!

Life is a long process of getting tired And at last I had to give it up.

shelter a bored houseplant defends a despondent hamster. (an arbitrary hedge).

a vacant hat hovers over careless hair. (a solitary man).

an arduous hand swings a casual hammer. (an apathetic harpoon).

popcorn park zoo. I fed fruit loops to a wolf, once. Rainbow teeth and tongue. An oracle ate from my hand; in his eyes, a prism. I fed fruit loops to a sheep, once. 12

Rainbow teeth and tongue. The sheep was a blind sorcerer I fed fruit loops to a sheep, once. A wolf; but in disguise.

The sheep is a blind sorcerer A wool coat hides your bad fruit. A wolf; but in disguise. Put on your sheep’s clothing!

A wool coat hides your bad fruit. Find comfort in a lie. Put on your sheep’s clothing! It’s a cozy place to hide.

I fed fruit loops to a wolf once. It didn’t bite my hand. I fed fruit loops to a sheep once. A sheep who was a man.


drama. 14

bliss. Setting: A small living room, furnished with thrift store finds and a large overstuffed floral couch. (Ezra is laying the couch covered by several quilts and blankets. A humidifier is blowing clouds of vaporized water across the floor. He is in a “vacant and pensive mood”.) (A telephone phone rings. He digs into the pile of blankets and finds the source.) (He picks it up.) Ezra: (coughing) Uhhhh uhu UH hh… (quietly) hello? Ezra’s Mother: Honey, are you okay? I saw your update on Facebook; you have a cold? Have you taken anything? Is there anything I can do? Ezra: I’ve been in a Dayquil induced haze for at least a week now. I feel disgusting. My nose is running in my sleep. Every morning, i wake up to a snot covered pillow. I have absolutely no appetite, and have eaten nothing but Christmas cookies from the time I open my eyes until I pass out on the sofa. (The humidifier is filling the entire room with puffy white clouds) Ezra: Don’t make a big deal about it. You are always overreacting! I can handle myself. There is nothing you can do, being as far away as you are. I’m a grown-up now, and have to deal with this kind of stuff all of the time. Don’t worry Ma, I’ll be fine. (Ezra hangs up the phone.) (Daffodils begin peeking out from in between the floor boards and the cushions of the couch.) (The set is covered in clouds from the humidifier; and hundreds of tiny daffodils. It resembles a field of flowers on a foggy morning.) Ezra: (laying back down, and covering himself in quilts) Solitude is bliss….

Social Courtesy: a five minute play Setting: A community college cafeteria. The tables are clearly segregated, one placed on each side of the stage. The table to the left is occupied by awkward kids in quirky outfits, some wearing full costumes. The table to the right is occupied by a smaller


group of people, dressed in more conservative ensembles. The room is loud and bustling, people walk in and out between the tables before choosing a place to settle down. (A hush goes over the room, but the students appear to be animated; still engaged in lively discussions) (Lights fade) (A single spotlight is placed on one student to the left, dressed as a “vampire doctor”; another is focused on the smaller group of students sitting at the table on the right.) (The “vampire doctor” throws his garbage in a trash can found center stage; he walks towards the right looking at the floor. He avoids eye contact with anyone outside of his respective group.) (An older student named Spencer, from the table on the right, makes a hand motion to the “vampire doctor”; ushering him over to the small group.) Spencer: I saw you do a funny little Michael Jackson dance yesterday, while I was drinking coffee in between classes. Would you do it again? My friends would love it. (“Vampire Doctor” obliges, doing the entire choreography for the “Bad” video in a silent room. He returns to Spencer’s table breathing heavily, but smiling ear to ear. He is eager to impress the group.) (The entire table is silent, and looking down at their cell phones; clearly unimpressed, possibly on the verge of laughter.)


(A girl in a green polo, wearing topsiders engages the “Vampire Doctor”.) (the sound of a rolling twenty sided die is heard) Girl: Like, what are you supposed to be dressed as? I don’t get it. It’s not even Halloween. Spencer: (answers quickly, before Vampire Doctor can reply) He’s a vampire and a doctor, like in that movie. I think it’s awesome. (He turns to Vampire Doctor) You look really cool. It must have taken hours to do that makeup. (again, the sound of dice rolling.) Girl: But, what’s the point? All of the kids that sit over there (gesturing to the left) are just freaky little retards. (Vampire Doctor looks at his friends on left side of the stage; who have now pushed together all of the tables. They are playing Pokemon: The Card Game. Still, they are animated but silent. He looks at the floor.) (Spencer puts his arm around VD’s shoulders.) Spencer: Dude, she didn’t mean that. She’s been having a shitty week. Her cat died or something. What’s your name, man? Vampire Doctor: (confused, but still eager to talk to Spencer) It’s… it’s… My name is Eric. (Spencer looks at his friends and smiles)


(He introduces the people at the table; clockwise. Each nod as their name is said; except for the girl in the green polo. She crosses her arms and looks away.) Spencer: Well, Eric; I’m Spencer, this is Blair, Preston, Graham and Courtney (green polo). (He whispers) just ignore her (and smiles). (Eric waves shyly to the group; after no response, he shoves his hands deep inside his pockets.) (Spencer pulls up a chair) Spencer: You can sit with us for a while; I don’t have class until two. He whispers again: Courtney should be gone in a few minutes. (Eric places his hands on the chair; contemplating his next action.) Eric: I really… well… I have… I guess I could hang out for a little bit. (Spencer smiles and pats Eric on the back; this contact was unexpected and Eric lunges forward a little each time Spencer’s hand touches his back.) (The table remains quiet, everyone is looking at Spencer and Eric; waiting for a cue from Spencer or some signal that this is some kind of joke. Spencer remains stoic.) Spencer: (in an almost businesslike tone) Eric, is this your first semester here? Eric: No… no. I graduate in the spring. Spencer: Really? Me too! (An awkward, slightly missed hi-five is exchanged) 18

Spencer: I haven’t ever seen you here before; did you transfer from another school? Eric: No, I’ve been here for two years. We had Public Speaking together last semester, remember? Spencer: Really? You’re kidding! I guess I should go to class more often. (He nudges Eric with his elbow)(Forced nervous laughter)(He winks at the rest of the table). (Eric looks upset. He feels invisible and is now concerned with Spencer’s intentions.) (Spencer senses the tension and stands up.) Spencer: I’ll be right back!!! Don’t go anywhere, Eric! (Everyone at the table looks up from their distractions: cell phones, books, chicken fingers; and stares at Eric. He gives them a nervous smile and fidgets until he pulls a giant outdated cellphone out of his own pocket. The group giggles and Courtney makes a barely audible “pshh”-like sound. She does not approve.) (Spencer rushes back with two smoothies, and places them on the table.) Spencer: The lunch lady gave me a free smoothie, you want one Eric? Eric: (excited) Uhhhhh… really? (calmer)I mean yeah, I guess so. Spencer: Nice, it’s yours BUDDY!!! (Spencer is always enthusiastic; but this display seems artificial, even for him) Eric: Thanks! (suspiciously) Spencer, why are you being so nice to me? I don’t think your friends like me very much.


Spencer: Dude, they just don’t get it. (Eric looks at the screen of his cell phone to check the time.) Eric: (jumping up quickly and grabbing his backpack) I’m fifteen minutes late for class!!! I have to go. (He is frantic; he shoves all of his things, including the smoothie, into his backpack.) (He heads off of the stage, his backpack dripping from the smoothie.) (Courtney is irate. She lunges towards Spencer.) (the sound of dice rolling) Courtney: WHAT…THE…HELL…WAS…THAT?!!!!! If that creepy little shit sees me around campus, he is going to think that it is okay to talk to ME. He’s probably telling all of his card buddies that we’re, like, best friends or something. (The students on the left side look up from their card game.) Who do you think you are, inviting him over like that?! (Courtney gets louder. Blair, Preston and Graham hide their faces in embarrassment and slump down in their chairs.) I thought you were going to do something funny; trip him or something! By the way, I know that lunch lady doesn’t just give things away. You paid for that smoothie. Why would you buy that freak a drink? What’s going on with you? (the sound of dice rolling) Spencer: (still collected and rational, says quietly): Courtney, you are such a bitch. Can’t you see how happy he was to make new friends? You need to be a little more


open-minded. I bought him that drink as a peace offering! Do you think he didn’t notice you, sulking in the corner? I probably made his day, maybe his entire week. Besides, if that (mocking Courtney) “freaky little retard” decides to blow this place up; I’ll be the first to know. (Courtney storms out. The others follow behind her. In fact, the entire cafeteria is now empty. Spencer stands alone in the center of the stage He faces the audience.) Spencer: (deadpan. holding a large twenty sided die in his hand) I was saving my own life. (Spencer walks over to the table on the left, pulls out a chair and joins the game in progress.) (Curtain closes.)


a reflection against enlightenment  

portfolio for creative writing I.

a reflection against enlightenment  

portfolio for creative writing I.