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We’ll Never Have Paris Ž

Volume 3

A small press, print-only literary journal. For all things never meant to be.

...contributors... Oh My Goth

Russ Josephs

The Relative Importance of Ideas

Alexis Clements

Two Pieces

Jennifer Viale

Watching People Die

Andria Alefhi

Living in a Manhattan Nunnery

Mary Francis Flournoy

Jerkface

Dave Cole

Odejscie

Amanda Boekelheide

At the Cheese Counter

Martha Grover

Between Here and There

Redguard

For submission information,sales, praise or questions contact: neverhaveparis@ gmail.com neverhaveparis.blogspot.com Zine photos,editing and printing by Andria Alefhi, NY NY. All rights reserved. Cover design layout by www.nathanschreiber.com Thanks to the readers and writers for your encouragement and to the independent bookstores and distros everywhere for your support of consignment sales.


Oh my Goth! Russ Josephs When I first moved to New York, I had no money and few friends. Of the handful I did know, none would allow me to stay with them except one, although he made it known that this would be the most temporary of arrangements. This was fine by me, as the ceilings in his box-like studio were so small that neither one of us could stand up straight. It was no less wide, and you could literally jump from one end to the other. Once, when my friend was at work, I did exactly this. I then timed myself to see how long it would take to run from one end of the studio to the other. My record was two seconds, but I’m sure I could have broken it if he hadn’t come home early, his futon and all his possessions pushed up against the wall, me in my underwear, in sprint position. After that, I was given two weeks to move out. So I stepped up my search for a place to live. The next one I looked at, which was described in the paper as “shared space,” was nothing more than two men in a studio, the only dividers between their living areas being stacks of their possessions. And if this setup wasn’t intimate enough, they wanted a third person to share the apartment. “Now this over here would be your area,” Chris, my host told me, leading me to a corner of the studio. “As you can see, it is clearly separated from Darren’s space by his pile of books on one side, and his plants on the other.” Meanwhile, Darren sat on the floor silently staring at me, his face partially obscured by a fern. “Now, I don’t know your work schedule,” continued Chris, smoothing out his T-shirt that hung so far down over his shorts he looked like he was naked underneath, “but Darren enjoys watching television, usually late into the night. He’s willing to turn the volume down to accommodate you, but I thought this was something you should probably know.” I thanked him, and then bolted for the door.


The next place was even more interesting. The woman who greeted me at the door was dressed in a long purple dress, her neck draped in silver and turquoise necklaces, her wrists covered in thick bracelets, fingers lined with rings. She had the appearance of a gypsy or fortune teller, and perfectly matched the unusual aesthetic of the apartment. The rooms were each painted a different color (kitchen: blood red, hallway: deep purple, bathroom: navy blue), and the main room was a goldish-yellow that was distinguished by its collection of antique, campy furniture. A zebra-skin couch sat next to a blue velvet chair with long white tassels hanging off the sides. Ornate tapestries and paintings adorned the walls, and thick, colorful rugs the floors. Chandeliers hung in every room. The available bedroom, painted a dark green, was the smallest of the lot, but by no means unlivable; it was about the size of my friend’s studio. The most impressive room in the apartment was her own, which she showed me as soon as she got a chance. It was obscenely large, and was painted a glaring hot pink. Her bed, which looked to be even bigger than a king, sat dead center, and had carried the pink theme onto its coverings. At least thirty stuffed animals sat on top of it, and there were many more on the several dressers and armoires lining the walls. These were also framed pictures everywhere - of dogs. “My babies!” she cried, realizing I had noticed them. “This one here is Frank. He never photographed terribly well, but you get the idea. Over here is Gerome. And this one, this one here, is Leonard, my favorite. I just adore Leonard. Isn’t he beautiful?” “Yes, he certainly is,” I said, examining the picture. I wondered how she could tell them apart as they all looked exactly the same - small, hairy and brown, like overgrown rats. “He’s dead now, of course. Poor thing. They all are, unfortunately. But I still have them here,” she said, clutching her chest. “They’ll always be with me. Sometimes I even feel them, their presence, here in this very room.” I didn’t know how to respond so I just nodded my head, as if what she had just said what the most normal thing in the world, and she was not some old, psychotic woman who had totally lost her mind.


She then asked if I was interested in the room. I told her that I was, but I was looking at others, and would have to get back to her. “Well don’t delay,” she said, trailing me as I tried to make my exit. “It’s going fast you know.” “Oh, I’m sure it is,” I said, almost at the door. “I’ll call you as soon as I can.” “No, you won’t,” she said, suddenly angry. “I can tell.” And with that she opened the door, lightly pushed me outside, and closed it. I turned around, and there it was, in front of me - I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before - a large, brass doorknocker, in the shape of a monstrous, beady-eyed dog. I was beginning to lose hope. My friend was ready to throw me out. The next day I picked up a copy of the Village Voice, where I spotted the following ad: 1 room available in cozy 2-bedroom in W. Village/Soho. Must be quiet and courteous. No yuppie scum. I wasn’t a yuppie, and certainly not yuppie scum, so I called the number. The woman who answered sounded nice enough, and the next day I went to meet her. When I saw her, I suddenly missed the dog-loving freak. Standing there was a girl about my age, wearing a flowing black dress, with black stockings underneath. Her hair was dyed a bright, translucent red and her lips painted a dark purple, which contrasted greatly with the ghostly white of her face. Her eyebrows were nonexistent, and instead she had painted them in, creating two thin, curving lines that looked like frowns. Her fingernails were also black, and her shoes were something out of a Hans Christian Anderson villain’s closet. She looked like a cross between Stevie Nicks and the Grim Reaper; a Goth extraordinaire; an even uglier Marilyn Manson, if such a thing were possible. When I first saw her I gasped, but, realizing that this was perhaps my last hope, I quickly recovered. I chatted with her as if she were a normal, decent-looking person, and not some horrid creature one wakes up from


in a sweaty dream. Despite the fact that all of my instincts were urging me to run as fast and as far away as possible, I remained, long after the other prospective tenants had left. I even flirted with her, smiling and looking long into her eyes, longer than, I imagined, anyone else before had dared. The available room was quite large, with white walls and wood floors, and the rest of the apartment, though mercilessly small (the bathroom was so tiny I had to rest my arms on the sink when taking a shit), was clean and stylish. So when she called the next day and offered it to me, I gladly accepted. My new life, that with a troll, was about to begin. At first, everything was fine. I spent my days looking for a job, and my nights with my new roommate Olga in the tiny living room. And these interactions were surprisingly enjoyable, as she was not unintelligent, and had strong views on everything under the sun. Some of these views, particularly in regards to fashion, were much more extreme than mine; but all the same, we spent many hours engaged in discussion, bonding over our mutual disdain for big business, the class system and the religious right. I slowly got used to her appearance, and after time became almost desensitized to it. But then, one day, when I spotted her wearing these little black shorts that showed off her hairy legs, my repulsion returned. They looked like something out of Planet of the Apes. Here was a girl who had completely removed her eyebrows, yet stubbornly refused to touch her legs (“Why should I give in to a patriarchal society?” was her excuse). I caught her once lounging around in her underwear before she had drawn in her eyebrows, waving around those sasquatch legs, and a more horrible site I have never seen since. I was also growing tired of our talks. The nightly dissections of society’s ills, the enormous hopelessness of it all, were starting to bring me down. It wouldn’t have been so bad, had she any other friends to spend time with, and I could get a break now and then. But she didn’t, except for a strange, impish boy who came over sometimes late at night. I was never sure if they were an actual couple, although they would disappear into her room for hours, and I could hear them in there, cackling and plotting God knows what. I began spending more and more time outside of the apartment, and Olga


was none too pleased. Suddenly I was no longer allowed to use her pots for cooking. No longer could I be a few days late with the rent. No more was I able to skimp on my assigned list of chores. And this last one, the chore list, became my downfall. Every week, without fail, Olga would write down our various chores, which she posted on the refrigerator as if it were a sacred scroll. Everything that had to be done was displayed in dazzling color and perfect calligraphic lettering. Now, all we would do was simply switch turns, you know, Russ cleans the floors this week, Olga the next. Very simple. But this was a girl who had nothing to do. She didn’t work (I don’t know who would have hired her anyway, as she made not the slightest attempt to appear remotely presentable), and her life was the apartment. Thus, she took great care in creating The List, and made sure everything was carried out exactly as it should be. On one too many occasions I either forgot or blatantly disregarded my duties, and one night it all came to a head. It was Halloween, and I was shocked to notice that Olga was dressed, for the first time, in an outfit that wasn’t all black. Instead, she was covered head-to-toe in white, in a wedding dress no less. But she was not meant to be a normal, living, breathing bride. How could she be? Instead, she was an undead one, complete with blackened eyes, fake blood dripping out of her mouth, and even blood on her dress. She looked like Steven King’s Carrie if she had gone directly from her prom to her wedding, and had somehow died and come back to life along the way. When I saw her I literally shrieked and barricaded myself in my room. Our relationship had come to such an impasse that we hardly talked anymore, and instead communicated by writing each other notes. At that moment one came sliding under my door. This is what it said: Russ, I noticed that once again you’ve failed to purchase toilet paper. Maybe this isn’t such a big deal for you, being a man, but I would assume, seeing how you’re supposed to be this writer and all, that you would be sensitive enough to know that as a woman I cannot exist for long without it. If this was the first time I would have ignored it, but this is not the first time. Or even the second. You have failed to buy toilet paper now a total of THREE TIMES. You have also failed to take out


the garbage on several occasions, missing the pickup, which meant bags of garbage lying around and stinking up the apartment. You have also inadequately cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen several times. While you insisted that you had, I found very little difference between the way they looked before you claimed to have cleaned them and afterward. I’m giving you one last chance to get your act together, or else I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Do we understand each other? For your sake, I hope so. Olga I laughed out loud as I read this, and immediately wrote her a reply. In it I addressed her as Neurotica, one of my nicknames for her (the others were Jezebel, Harpy, Morticia and Elvira), and told her that yes, as a “sensitive writer-type” I was certainly familiar with a woman’s need to have toilet paper around at all times. I added that I was never fully convinced that she was a woman, however, having never completely made her case, and so never took the chore seriously. I also promised that I would never again pretend to have cleaned something when I obviously hadn’t. From that moment on, I wrote, I would clean nothing at all. The next day she slipped me a note that said I had until the end of the month to get out. Back to square one, I began my search anew.


The Relative Importance of Ideas Alexis Clements I wrote an essay on Foucault. It rambled, I’m afraid, but was wellintentioned. I wrote it early in my undergraduate career (I don’t particularly like people who use the phrase ‘undergraduate career’). I got a good grade for it, encouraging comments from my professors. I was proud of it at the time, proud that there was an interest in what I had to say, proud to feel I had grasped something difficult and sometimes vague. An ex-boyfriend later told me that pride was a shameful thing. The paper has been hiding in a vertical file ever since, tucked away under a house I no longer live in. My mother and father and my uncle and my grandmother wander over it unknowingly as they prepare their meals or walk in and out the side door, sending ever-more specks of dust and scraps of insulation tumbling down onto the box in which it is contained. Once, not too long ago, when I was visiting home, a friend, an old friend, asked to read it, this paper on Foucault. I shook my head no and laughed, telling her I didn’t think she would find it very interesting. She assured me she would. I offered instead a thesis on puzzles as we made our way out to a nearby restaurant for drinks. She only got two or three pages into that one before giving up. At some point in the evening, when the conversation lulled, that friend of mine, my thesis in her hand, asked me if I missed writing papers, missed lining ideas up in a row and making some kind of sense of them. I told her no, I didn’t think so. I laughed and sipped my drink, looked out the window at the nearby parking lot, people moving back and forth, traffic passing by on the street, the slow movement of lives coming and going. To be sentimental an idea seems somehow just as shameful as pride. Ideas are meant to be used, spent, examined, replaced, but not looked on fondly, missed, coveted. They are practical things, not emotional trinkets. I never really grappled with the question of God; never really struggled with religion. Didn’t spend much time on the universe either—on physics or chemistry or any of that. And politics and I have always had a tenuous relationship. But in college I considered Foucault, as if he was something to be considered, an institution onto himself, separate and special, removed from the ordinary flow of days. And now all of it, all that time and effort


has been put away, waiting for rare moments such as these, when I think of it again, reminisce about the importance of ideas, from the perspective of one who rarely allows herself the time to consider them.

TWO Pieces Jennifer Viale You are fast, he whispers in my native language with his foreign tongue. The reproach launches in my mind. I am fast? How is it decided that it is I who is fast, when we were both there at that moment? You kissed me, undressed me, caressed me, entered me, came in me. Yet, I am fast. Instead I say nothing and relive the moments of passion, the taste of the evening’s conversation, the memory of wine and cheese, and the rhythm of music that first lured me to such an immediacy I had not been allowed in so long. Taking in the swirling thoughts, the stillness of the room, thinking of Paris just outside his door, the bed comforts me and I sleep until the sun rises, and with it, our assumed identities. Or the identities we assume for one another.

I met a boy of 9 years of age today and couldn’t help but think of you. I counted the years back: 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. You would have been nearly the same age as he is today. The boy was lean and strong. He had his father’s eyes and his father’s sensitivity. He, the boy, made it seem so easy to be alive. The father made it seem so easy to be a father. Seeing this display of life before me caused me to long for you, but for a moment. The questions popped into my head and an overwhelming sadness silenced them. I gazed at this boy and felt for the first time that perhaps I had made a mistake dismissing you so quickly. Perhaps I should have thought of you then as this 9 year old boy of now. Would it have made a difference had I had the foresight – or as others say the maturity – to think of you and not only of me? I will never know. You will most certainly never know.


WATCHING PEOPLE DIE andria Alefhi RP is even more detached than he was when I met with him last month. In the waiting room, I speak exclusively to his wife. His eyes are vacant, and even though I try to make eye contact in between his wife’s conversations with me, I see that he feels himself slipping away. Their lives are not the same. They had to cancel their trip to Florida. His wife is disappointed and still seems pissy about it, and I wonder if she is just trying to go on through life normally, with normal expectations and emotions, even though she sees the writing on the wall, or is she not getting it that her husband is dying of cancer. When I had first started interpreting for them, it was seven months ago. At that time, I really enjoyed their company. One son was always with them, and we would all talk, and it felt like we were all family. RP would value my opinion about gun control or my traveling experiences. I liked his signing style, and I liked that they thought I was Jewish like them. (Everyone does. That’s another essay). Back then, RP only had cancer. Now, I can see that he is dying of cancer. The tumor has grown. He has lost weight. He now gets talked about, and not talked to. He has aged. I do understand. I have seen this before. The sick person starts to let go of what and who is around them. How they used to love their Tuesday bowling club. They still go but now RP just watches while the others bowl, and I can read his mind from here. When they go into the consultation room, he stills smiles and puts on his most polite hello to the nurses, emphasizing that he is fine, but then changing it to “I’m OK”. I then go on to ask him the standard questions: Are you vomiting? Do you have pain? Do you have medication for the vomiting and the pain? I get through this assignment and I am shocked that only one hour had passed. It felt like a 5-day bus trip with no heat and bumpy roads. I have them again on Monday and I wonder, if I just stopped coming and a new interpreter picked it up, would their lives be any different? If he does die, would I be invited to the funeral, or would I interpret the funeral? Is it strange that my mind has already gone there? I guess he is not doing that badly, it is not as though he is confined to a hospital bed. In fact, he drove them himself to this doctor visit. I Then I look around and realize that in fact, holy shit. Everyone here has cancer.


It’s a fucking cancer hospital. So if my guy lives, the bald guy eating a salad with his wife over by the window could die. In July of 2003, those Iranian conjoined twins underwent never before done surgery to separate them at the head. Remember that? My mother was dying at the time herself, and I was in the hospital a lot at that time. I was so shocked that the twins did not make it. Truly shocked and let down by modern medicine the power of the media. It was on TV, wasn’t it? Lots of people were rooting for them. Top surgeons from around the world had flown to Singapore to do this 24-hour operation, and they both died. That same month, another family was in the waiting room hanging out night and day with us. They had at least 10 family members at any one time in the waiting room. I guess the father had recently had a leg amputated and other health issues, but now had fallen out of bed and as a result was in a coma. They were waiting for signs of recovery, just as we were. At that time, my mother appeared to be slightly improving. Their father did not, and they had to pull the plug because he was completely brain dead. Again I felt shocked, and in an instant the bond between them and us was broken by life and death. The camaraderie, the sharing, the hope was all gone. I felt guilty, like a winner, and I knew she felt it too, the daughter who I was talking to. We never saw each other again. We don’t know who the fuck is going to make it and who is not. In fact, Christopher Reeve died just a few weeks after my mother, in October 2003, and I cried about that too. He was fucking Superman, for Christ’s Sake. For what we can and cannot control, and for nothing else to believe in, I am reminded that the will to live means everything. Everything.


Living in a Manhattan Nunnery Mary Frances Flournoy So, straight after college I decided to attend graduate school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The problem was where to live. I searched Craig’s List, Apartment Finders and other search engines online in an attempt to find a place to live. After living with college roommates in Boston I was ready to have a place of my own. After doing lots of research, I came to the realization that looking for decent affordable apartments in Manhattan is nearly impossible. My mom comes up to me one day while I’m on my search and suggests this great place that was recommended to her by a friend. It’s a womens’ residence run by nuns. And by that I mean no boys allowed. “Ha Ha!” I say in response to mom’s suggestion and push that idea aside. No way am I going to do that. I want to have a life in Manhattan, right? Well, after weeks and weeks of searching for an apartment, trying to decide if I want to room with a stranger or sleep in a converted room that is supposed to be the kitchen or living room or both, I decide to take another look at this women’s residence.In the Nunnery (as I like to call it) each woman has her own room, shares a kitchen/ common area with TV, communal bathrooms and showers, a roof with tables and chairs, fitness room, washer and dryers on each floor, and cleaning ladies that vacuum and clean everyday. Not to mention each room is furnished with a bed, desk, shelves, drawers, wardrobe, sink and small refrigerator. Hmmm…. this nunnery is starting to look more and more attractive with each $2,000 monthly rent for a bare bones, tiny, run-down Manhattan apartment that I look at. Ok. Fine. I’m sold. Sign me up for the nunnery! Well, turns out there is quite a long waiting list. So, with a month before the move to New York, I assume I will still have time before school starts to move in. Not exactly- I’m still waiting once I’ve already arrived in New York, so with a friend’s gracious hospitality, I sleep on her bed bug ridden foldout bed/sofa. She has a cute studio just two blocks away from the nunnery, but her studio costs double what my room in the nunnery would cost. After one month, I get the sneaky suspicion that my friend doesn’t want


me there anymore when I overhear her phone conversation with a friend that her ‘’roomie’ is studying when she really just wants to watch The Hills. Jeeze! How annoying!’ Ok. Fine. So, still stuck on the waiting list, I find a sublet on Craig’s List just twenty blocks north that is willing to take me for another month or until I have an available room in the nunnery. Marcella- her voice sounds like a drag queen on the phone, and I’m a little nervous for what I might see when I arrive at her apartment for the interview. Surprisingly, it’s a nice building- doorman and marble floors await me but once I arrive inside Marcella’s apartment, it’s cheese central. Lace doilies adorn the sofas and side tables. Precious Moments knick-knacks sit atop an old piano that I’m sure hasn’t been played in years. Marcella is nice- a busty woman from Argentina who performs lie-detector tests on people. She asks me if I have every committed a crime or have any bad records in my past but then laughs when I answer ‘no’ saying she could just test me anyway, regardless of my answer. Hmm… So, I move in with Marcella who offers to feed and clothe me with her old clothes that don’t fit anymore and gives me lots of notepads thinking I might use them for school. I don’t stay too long with Marcella, because I get a phone call from St. Mary’s not too long after the move-in that there is a space available for me. Finally! After two weeks with Marcella, she confides in me that she’s dating a man she found on the Internet whom she has wild sex with and that her dream-goal is to make erotic furniture- furniture that can be used for sexual pleasure. So out of Marcella’s and into the nunnery in one night. Here, I feel like I have finally found my real home away from home. Here I don’t have to worry about bed bugs or folding up my bed every morning or think I might come home to an Argentinean sexual fiesta on the furniture. I find solace with the nuns. Sure, you have to watch over the safety of your pots, pans, and food left out in the kitchen because the nuns will take whatever is out of place. Sure, I can never have my boyfriend, dad, uncle or any man ever see the inside of my room or anything past the lobby. Sure, I can’t have alcohol, candles, a coffee machine, or a blender (I still do). But what it all boils down to is


me. I have everything I need and I’m perfectly comfortable. I can walk around my floor in pajamas looking like hell and not care because it’s all girls and girls can look like hell if they want to from time to time. The girls here are between the ages of twenty and forty and are from all parts of the world. My next-door neighbor, Heeju was from Korea and had a terrible time with the culture here (she got in many fights with the other girls here over misplaced stew pots and monopolies over the TV) and had to move back home to Korea, but while she was here, she introduced me to kimchi (smells like spicy rotting butt), soju, and dead snake-soaked water that Korean men drink to increase the libido. Most girls here are either in school or young professionals, dancers, artists, or girls dumped by asshole boyfriends- and in desperate need of a new place to live. We share magazines, food, boyfriend stories, etc and it’s like being at summer camp. I have become good friends with my cleaning lady too- Milka from Hungaria. Milka looks after all of the girls on her floor like her own babies. Because my room is directly across from the janitorial closet, I hear her every morning around 8am rooting through the trash to separate out all the recyclables. She kisses the bread that has been discarded as a tradition in her family to say goodbye to uneaten and wasted food. Every Thursday, there is a trash parade outside my door as she sorts through all the recyclables and places them in their designated bags waiting to be taken out of the building. Milka also gives me advice on my diet and recommends her favorite rib shack around the corner. She waits to see my outfits before I head out for the day. Not much talk of the nuns yet, right? Well, as a matter of fact, I don’t see the penguins all too often. Here and there, but mostly they stay on the second floor or in the chapel. From time to time they tell girls not to sit too close to their male visitors on the sofas in the lobby lounge and secretly cringe as girls leave the building in revealing outfits. But there is never any mention or pressure to attend Mass or to convert people to Christianityaside from the silent crucifixes that adorn the walls, of course. I won’t have a fancy dream apartment for a while on my meager students budget, or wine and cheese parties to host, or a place where my boyfriend can rest his head, but I will have girlfriends to chat with on a lonely day or to watch Dancing with the Stars with. And for right now, I find that pretty grand.


JERKFACE Dave Cole When you’re single and sitting at home alone at 3:30 in the morning, those people cheerfully cavorting in the TV commercials seem even cheerier. If you’re also quite drunk then it’s hard to shake the notion that you’re just a few measley dollars away from joining in their bliss. Add internet access to the equation and just stand back to watch the ensuing wackiness. This is why I deny myself the temptation of credit card access. It was on one such evening that one such commercial made me suddenly realize, “You know, I’ve never really given internet dating a fair shake.” Truthfully I’d never given ANY dating service a fair shake but the eHarmony guy was just extra convincing I guess, plus he said that there was a free trial. Imagine that! This wasn’t a scheme by some multi-million dollar juggernaut preying on lonely foolish hearts, I thought, but rather a kindly group of concerned individuals doing the Lord’s good work. Moments later I’d immersed myself in the eHarmony website and set to work filling out forms and answering in great detail questions about the kind of person I think I am and the kind of person I think I could love. During all this time I genuinely thought I was going to find the love of my life. We’d be one of those cute hipster couples you see on the cover of Readymade Magazine often sharing the funny story of how we met. Finally, I finished setting up my profile and was free to begin what would presumably be my final pursuit of romance and partnership. Unfortunately the free trial at most of those sites is an essentially useless window to the rest of the community. That’s where the SERIOUS loveseekers are. No matter, I thought, when I find somebody I’ll get a money order and buy a one-month membership. That way I wouldn’t have to waste money after I’d already found someone to woo. Better yet, I’ll find a way around the fee altogether. Heh heh, poor eHarmony. I almost felt bad for them. What they don’t really tell you when you create a free profile is that not only can you see the community but the community can see you. You show up in searches as someone’s suitable suiter, you just can’t interact with them. So after about a week my inbox was full of messages from eHarmony. Messages along the lines of, “So-and-so wants to meet you.” or “What’s-her-name gave you a wink.” It was time to make my move.


I logged into my profile to see that a couple compatible ladies in my area had sent me a list of questions. They were designed to gather info on the things we each had to have in and couldn’t stand about relationships, to sort of test the waters before the real contact began. I answered in great detail, outlining with great eloquence my passions and distastes. Then it came time to send my response back to my future love. Instead of a confirmation of delivery however I was reminded that there was one more step, a small matter to be taken care of, before the real communication could begin. A mere trifle, I thought. How much could a one-month subscription cost? Surely not more than a first date. How romantic. As it turns out you can’t buy just one-month you have pay for at least six months upfront. That’s a lot of money by the way. “Hmmm”, I thought, “maybe later.” It also turns out that any plan you may have to get around the fee has been thought of and prevented by someone else. So I forgot about it. As a couple weeks went by I got more messages. Some were of the familiar, “look who wants to meet you” while others were a bit more impatient. The ladies who had initially offered contact were giving me “nudges” and generally trying to prod me into action. Some even closed contact and blocked me in disgust. I felt like a real asshole. I was letting people down, people I didn’t even know were disappointed with or even irritated by me. I had with little effort followed by no action opened myself up to widespread judgement and rejection. Reading over the list of ladies I was letting down, I noticed that several of them lived less that half a mile away from me. They were in my neighborhood. These could be people I see when I walk my dogs. This was getting wierd. If I could just figure out who these girls were, they’d know I’m not really that lame. I wasn’t planning to stalk them or anything, I just genuinely wanted them to know that I wasn’t a jerkface. Well hell, I thought, if I can find them in my neighborhood why can’t I just talk to them that way. Maybe even date them...you know? Oddly enough, this whole thing was following the same trajectory as many of my relationships. I got way too excited about something and then refused to completely give myself over to it. Now I was thinking of ways to escape the situation without looking like a jerk. But maybe I was being a jerk. Maybe if I dealt with that then I wouldn’t have to use an international agency that had turned love into a sellable product to quite literally meet


the girl next door. How about that? Eventually, after a few months of immediately deleting the emails, I cancelled my half-realized Harmony account. Who knows maybe I should’ve gone through with it and joined up for real. Instead I resolved to drink at home less and drink in public more. That way I could actually meet some of these other lonely hearts on my block who were reaching out, virtual though the reaching may have been. What I’ve discovered since then is that going out costs almost as much as a subscription to an e-dating service and that single women my age don’t really tend to hang out. Hell maybe they’re jerks, too.

ODEJSCIE Amanda Boekelheide She went. She could have gone elsewhere, she could have gone with someone else, but she went alone. She didn’t pack much. She took her wits. She took her brains, all of them. She took her eyes, her ears, the sense of touch that she was born with. She didn’t pack a toothbrush, it would have weighed her down. She took her nerve. It took all her nerve to go, but she went. She stepped forward, she didn’t look back. Not immediately. Not even after a week. She kept staring straight ahead. She didn’t ask for directions, she trusted the people along the way. Even those who tried to betray her ended up helping her on her journey. She stepped onto new soil. It was unfamiliar and yet it was soil. She knew the word for this in one language, two languages, even three or four in dim memory, but not the new language. She would learn it. She would repeat it again as a mantra to keep her wits where they belonged, in her body. Her own body. At the end of the earth a sliver of sun sent wan light out, a messenger warming the ground. It licked at her toes. A shiver ran up her legs.


At The Cheese Counter Martha Grover “ I’m looking for an entry level goat cheese,” The man says to me. He has some flour tortillas and a couple of chicken breasts in his shopping cart. He looks worried. I wonder what an “entry level goat cheese” is. I know what a goat is. I know what cheese is. Goat cheese is the result of a process. It’s what happens when grass interacts with a goat, its hormones, a farmer, mold and time. It’s what happens when a bodily fluid is exposed to extremes in temperature, to centuries-old tradition and the market economy. Goat cheese is the result of an accident eons ago when early herding cultures started milking their goats and left some of the milk in a leather sack overnight, hanging from the eve of their hut, or in the corner of their cave. Goat cheese is what happens when you age the goat’s milk, then wrap it in wax, in leaves, or esophageal tubing. I know what this is. But what is entry level- the point at which you enter? Where the grass enters mouths, stomachs, udders? Is it where the milk enters the world, hot and steaming from the teat? Is it where I enter the grocery store, enter my employee number into the time clock and don my hat, nametag and apron? Is the entry level where the wire enters the cheese, splitting it in two? Is it where the cheese enters the plastic wrap, and gets entered into the scale at 15.99 a pound? Is entry level the place where I spend eight hours a day cutting, wrapping, weighing and pricing the bodily fluid of an animal, this cheese, the result of a process that begins and ends with digestion, that begins with the earth and ends with the earth? Is it where I package my own bodily fluids, my blood, sweat and tears into eight hour shifts, ten minute breaks and two week pay-periods? I look at the man, his face impatient, eager to suck at the teat of my vast cheese knowledge. I feel like telling him that every entry level is also an exit level. That all hierarchy is an illusion. That he should follow his heart. Instead I recommend the Goat Gouda, the Goat Jack or if he wants something saltier, the Murcia Curado. He thanks me and chooses the Goat Jack.


BETWEEN HERE AND THERE Redguard Walking back to the train from an East Village underground club. It’s after midnight. It’s cold. I’m almost 37. I feel swallowed by the darkness of deep Alphabet City side streets, the broken sidewalks under my steel-tipped riot boots, the shadows and rats skittering past bent lawn chairs in late winter’s chill. My mind races, drunk, but not from alcohol. From being awake past twelve, in the company of people, some known, some strangers, branded by smoke and chatter and the strong voice and crashing cymbals of a favorite band. I feel the pressure of sleep behind the eyes. The sick feeling in my stomach, like the one you get if you spend more than a few minutes breathing the polyester and plastic recycled air in Kmart. I have a terrible desire to crumple onto the sidewalk and never get up. That’s what happens when I remember: these little moments are all I’ll ever get. Thinking of the Goth queen I danced close with tonight. She was revered back in the day and has only grown more seductive with the years, she is still loved by the scene but no longer enflames hearts, minds and loins like she once did when she was young and thin and smooth, and I can’t understand why. When the DJ was spinning Andi Sexgang and she was dancing so close, the electricity flowed between us, and I could see her making love to me, my hands glowing on her tattooed back. I want to worship in her temple and I don’t just mean that as a sexual metaphor and then the song ends and the dance ends and I am walking alone in the cold and it is six months later and I am writing about it. I will always be writing about it. But I will get up in the morning, make coffee, help my kid get dressed


for school, go to work, and use tonight as creativity fuel. Never once losing the hollow feeling in my gut.


We’ll Never Have Paris ‌Volume 3 all rights reserved

November 2008


WNHP 3 - Narrative nonfiction nanoseconds