To read my short story about a teenager’s reaction to the death of Kurt Cobain, follow the link below. Thanks!
To read my short story about a teenager’s reaction to the death of Kurt Cobain, follow the link below. Thanks!
Published today by Microfiction Monday Magazine
Her smile leads the way. She is a dream leaning against a streetlight, breath coming from a doorway. Glossy and detached, she presses against you. There is the roof of her mouth. You enter her eyelids. A breeze circles your ankles. You swim inside her remedies. She owns your footsteps.
The next day, her smile sits upright in a booth. Time is a tunnel and she pulls you through it.
Later, the soft sidewalk. She is drunken streetlights, a locked car, red lips breaking into dark buildings. The moon is an apron and the night inhales.
Published by http://www.thevoicesproject.org/
This is how it happened.
I was 11 years old.
Two girls in my class pretended to be my friends.
They stole my diary.
They picked the lock.
Spreading my secrets across the playground like jelly.
I wrote about boys,
how they didn’t like me because I was fat.
I wrote about hating my mother, how crazy she was.
I wrote about hating my body.
Trying to lose weight, then
eating a half gallon of ice cream.
Those girls, picking the lock to my soul.
Opening it with a wrench,
a straightened paperclip,
a pair of pliers,
Blasting it open with a stick of dynamite.
Screaming everything wrong about my life.
I never kept a diary again.
I learned to keep everything inside.
How I felt, what I needed,
who I liked,
all the sadness.
This is what I know. You can’t trust anyone.
This is my motto.
I live by it.
Here is a short story I wrote that has just been published by Kallisto Gaia Press in the Ocotillo Review…
The day before Valentine’s Day, Lah kicked off her shoes in the tiny back office of the fabric store where she worked. She leaned back in the computer chair, eating jellybeans for comfort. Lah’s boyfriend Milo had recently broken up with her and she was feeling so alone. True, they’d only been dating for three months, but she’d given him her heart.
It was good to be by herself today without Mrs. Johnson, the owner, breathing down her neck. The store was small and it had been in the Haight for ages, with narrow aisles between the rows of colorful material. It never got too busy. Lah blinked, staring wide-eyed at the computer screen, one photograph of Johnny Mathis fading into the next while he sang It’s Not for Me to Say. Off-key, she sang along with him.
Lah had discovered Johnny Mathis through her aunt who played his records on an ancient hi-fi set with removable speakers. Over the past few weeks, she’d fallen in love with his songs. She didn’t care if he was a 1950s pop idol. Lah liked old people, old clothes, old things, and she often felt as if she’d been born into the wrong decade. On the Johnny Mathis website, it stated that his was the voice of romance. That was true, she thought. His voice was like nothing she’d ever heard before. It was like the sun shining on her. It was like everything good she could think of.
The bell tinkled as someone stepped into the shop. Lah kissed her fingertips and pressed them against the screen, swinging her long legs onto the floor.
“Can I help you?” she asked, striding toward an older woman standing near the button cabinet. The woman’s gray ringlets formed a halo around her head and the dark circles beneath her eyes gave her a creative look, as if she stayed up nights working on a tragic novel where the heroine died a violent death at the end.
“I’m looking for some new buttons to jazz up an old dress of mine,” the woman said, and pulled a red shirtwaist out of a shopping bag. As the woman draped it over her body, Lah fell in love with its stand-up collar and elbow-length sleeves. It was a red vintage dress right out of the 1950s. Covered buttons started at the collar and continued all the way down the full skirt.
Lah privately was delighted in this woman’s sense of style. She had gotten so tired of waiting on people with crummy taste. “That’s one terrific dress. I think I’ve got something you might like,” she said, using her best salesperson manners. Behind the woman, through the storefront window, Lah could see the gray foggy day, the hustle and bustle of the street, shoppers with shopping bags hooked over their arms, bags filled with Godiva chocolates and other Valentine’s Day presents, she was sure. The scene made her sad.
Lah rummaged around in the little unit drawers of the button cabinet until she found what she was looking for. “How about this?” she asked the woman, holding up a red glass button with a gold filigree design.
Taking the button, the woman inspected it and lay it against the dress. “I’m flying to New Jersey in a month to see an old friend,” she said. “I plan on wearing this to an oldies but goodies concert we’re going to in New York City.”
“Oh, you’re like me! You’re into singers from the past,” Lah said. “I love Johnny Mathis.” She looked down at her floral print dress that matched the pink barrettes holding back her dark curly hair.
“There will never be another Johnny,” the woman said, smiling, and Lah nodded in agreement. Johnny Mathis had opened Lah’s heart. When she listened to Wonderful, Wonderful, the song softened her into a tiny candlelit glow where before there had only been darkness.
“Actually, now that I think of it, it may have been this very dress that I wore to see him years ago when he performed in San Jose,” the woman said.
“You wore this dress to see Johnny Mathis?” Lah reached over and touched it, reverently stroking the fabric.
“Yes, things were way less casual then. You actually got dressed up to hear your favorite teen idol. Not like today,” the woman said.
Lah regained her composure, admonishing herself for getting too personal about the dress. “Oh, well, this must have been a perfect dress for such an occasion.” She stood up straight and cleared her throat. “Um, where did you sit, if I may ask?” What she really wanted to know was whether the woman had gone with her boyfriend, and had they been in love? Had he pressured her to have sex with him?
“We had great seats. I sat fairly close to the stage. He’s from here, you know.”
Lah swallowed. “He’s from San Francisco?”
“That’s what I’ve heard, although I’ve as yet to run into him.” The woman laughed. It was a bright little note that floated through the air. Again, Lah looked out the window at the gray day. What would she say if she ran into Johnny Mathis on the street? Would she even be able to get her mouth to work?
“Did you like the way he sang?” Lah asked, trying to be casual, as if a line existed that people drew around themselves and Lah needed to be careful not to step over hers.
“Yeah, I did. I guess we all did.”
“Let me give you some other choices to consider,” Lah said, hoping to detain the woman so she could squeeze more information out of her. “You know, buttons can definitely make or break an outfit.” Opening more drawers, she picked out red buttons studded with diamonds, red buttons trimmed with black, red buttons with wavy edges, four-holed buttons, two-holed buttons, ladybug buttons, buttons shaped like hearts.
Lah lined them up on the counter for the woman to see. “Did you have a favorite song of Johnny’s?”
The woman toyed with a few of the buttons, alternately holding them up to the dress. “I’d have to say I like his older songs, like Chances Are and Misty.” She picked up the heart-shaped button and eyed it closely.
“Oh, I love Misty!” Lah gushed. “I’ve memorized the lyrics to it. It’s so romantic, not being able to tell your hat from your and glove. I mean, could you ever imagine having that effect upon someone where they got that confused? They wouldn’t know what hit them.” She doubted she’d ever have that kind of power over anyone, but she longed for it.
The woman laughed, but this time Lah felt foolish, as if she was laughing at her. “Listen, honey, when you get older you won’t want all that drama,” she said. “Believe me, it gets to be too much.” She placed the heart-shaped button back on the counter. “You know, I think I like the first ones you showed me the best. Do you have enough of them? I would need twelve, but let’s make it fourteen to be on the safe side.”
Lah checked to see how many buttons of this sort she had. “I’m just wondering, did Johnny’s songs have a certain impact on you?” she turned and asked the woman. “When I hear Wonderful, Wonderful, he makes me feel important. He lets me know that in my own way I’m special and lovable.”
“Well, he did have that effect on lots of us,” she said, “but that was ages ago. I’m afraid I need to get going.” Lah realized she’d gone too far, and tried to sound professional again. She focused, counting out six of the filigreed buttons. “I can order more and have them for you within a week or so.”
“That would be fine,” the woman said.
They walked to the cash register. “I’m sorry if I got too personal,” Lah apologized. “It’s just that I’m… a virgin, and my boyfriend wanted to have sex. He made me feel awful when he left me, like that’s all I was good for.” She paused, struggling to find the right words. “When I listen to Johnny, I start to feel that maybe somebody else could love me. You know, and not just want sex.” She started crying.
The woman put her hand on Lah’s shoulder. “Sorry, dear, but I have other errands to run,” she said, and turned to go. “Now , you take care.”
Lah sucked back her tears. “Oh, well, I’ll need to get your phone number so I can call you when the rest of the buttons come in.”
“Tell you what,” the woman said. “I’ll check back with you for the buttons. I don’t live too far away.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll be happy with your choice of buttons,” Lah said. She forced herself to smile. “You know, since my boyfriend left me, I’ve been kind of depressed. But like I say, Johnny Mathis is helping me to believe that someone else could love me. Love isn’t supposed to mean you have to do things when you’re not ready. That’s not love. That’s not what love means at all, but I really miss my old boyfriend,” she said, sniffling. “I really do miss him.”
“Listen, my mother used to say to me: “This too shall pass. You’ll see.” Lah imagined getting fired for crying on the job. “Please don’t tell Mrs. Johnson that I got emotional,” she begged the woman. “She might let me go.” Tears stung her eyes but she blinked them away. “My life sucks.”
The woman turned towards Lah. Lah was unable to tell what she was thinking, but when the woman gave her a pitying look, Lah changed her mind about the woman being a writer. She wasn’t that special and didn’t deserve to listen to Johnny Mathis because she had no soul. Lah decided right then and there that if the woman told on her to her boss, she’d deny the whole thing.
Once the woman left, Lah moved to the window and stared into the street. She ran her hands over the fabric of her dress, thinking how glad she’d be when Valentine’s Day was over.
I often feel like this
Something under glass
on someone’s shelf
Pastel wallpaper behind me
On display I am for
the wrong people to see
I wouldn’t mind so much if it
weren’t for the gross misrepresentation
I don’t always look so bad
Hair a mess, eyes bulging,
Frozen in a scream
If you were to see me on
my better days you’d
like me more
I’m actually put together at times
Hair combed and not so frantic
They caught me on an unfortunate day
when the traffic drove me crazy,
my check bounced and the
twins wouldn’t stop crying
I look like a sick mermaid but
only on the days I need
Here’s the first thing
You have to be patient
Nothing grows complete overnight
Not me, not babies, not trees in the woods
Here’s the second thing
Expect the unexpected
Just because you think you know what I should look like
Doesn’t mean I’ll grow that way
I may mutate
I may transform
Part animal, part tree
Here’s the third thing
Expand your concept of beauty
Don’t called me disabled
Call me whole
But mostly just beautiful
You’ve known people like her. We all have. Their big personalities take over and they make you feel so special. They shower you with attention when they first know you, then give that attention to someone new, leaving you behind wondering what happened. You wane in importance.
Cherise was like that. Her heart was colorful, but empty. She had more than one heart. She handed them out and took them back. She wrote us on the wall, but it became useless graffiti. Her feet were planted on the ground but her head whirled – what was she missing out on? Who was more interesting? More important? Her eyes wandered as she offered you a pastel turquoise chair. Do sit down. Be my guest. Just not for too long.
The wall, scribbled with old promises, turned into chaos. The longer you knew her, the more confusion. She might be exciting, but she was limited. In the end, you wanted stability, someone you could count on.
Today, my flash-fiction story titled ‘My Etceteras’ was published by Queen Mob’s Tea House. In it, a 94-year-old woman reflects upon her sexual history and the men she has slept with, or her ‘etceteras.’
I’m ninety-four years old and people often ask me how it feels to be my age. What they are really asking is how does it feel to be ancient. Well, luckily I have all my faculties and so I can still think for myself and I’m still in charge of my body so I can tie my own shoes if I need to. Of course I get around more slowly and I do a lot less than I used to, but in our crazy bustling world, is that really so bad?
People assume that because I’m so old I no longer have sexual feelings. Many women my age who are friends of mine don’t. The juices dry up and the desire goes away. This is not so for me. I still think about sex. You might be thinking that what I really want is to have my hand held or to be hugged. You’re wrong. What I think about is sexual intercourse. And I think about someone going down on me and me going down on them. I don’t have the energy or the inspiration to find someone to do this with anymore, but my point here is that I haven’t forgotten, that I’m still human, and that I still have needs on the physical realm. I hope this never goes away.
My husband died decades ago. We had a bad sex life. I didn’t feel cared for or listened to regarding sex, or much else to tell you the truth. There were two of us in the bed, but we occupied separate worlds. What I needed was for him to ask me what I wanted and to do his best to please me. I wanted to be treasured but he assumed that what was good for him was good for me. He assumed that what he liked I liked. You might be asking me why I didn’t speak up, why I didn’t make my needs known. I did, but it didn’t change anything. I suppose all of this is rather vague. Let me be more specific and tell you exactly what I’m talking about.
But first, you need to know I was a virgin when I got married. I was twenty-two years old. Women were courted by men and expected to be virgins on their wedding day. Men were expected to have experience so they could teach their wives about sex. But they didn’t go to school to lean about a woman’s body. They didn’t know about the clitoris any more than we women did. I had no idea I had anything down there but a tube the pee came out of and a rectum for the other stuff. Where did babies come from? I’d never really thought about it. Maybe I assumed they came out of the urethra. Or maybe I didn’t think about it at all.
My husband was not the right man for me. We had little to talk about besides the children. We were sexually incompatible. He liked missionary-style intercourse and that was it. Once he ejaculated, be fell asleep. In minutes, he’d be snoring. I would lay awake next to him, unfulfilled and resentful. I liked him being inside of me, but it didn’t bring me to a climax. When I would ask him to touch me, once in awhile he would, but only through my underwear. He didn’t, of course, like oral sex. I started hating my body, thinking there was something wrong with me. I was ugly. I was undesirable. Isn’t it interesting how we women do this to ourselves?
After awhile, I realized that our sex life was written in stone. It would never change. If I was going to find satisfaction, I would have to look outside of my marriage. Now, we are all used to hearing about men having extramarital affairs, but little is spoken about women who seek comfort outside of their holy union, other than the standard joke that she does it with the milkman. By the way, for those of you too young to know, the milkman was someone who delivered milk to your home. This practice stopped a long time ago.
Anyway, it’s a big lie that women didn’t have affairs. Think about all those hours women spent at home alone with the children off at school, and these stay-at-home women did more than housework, making beds and sorting laundry, doing the dishes and dusting knick knacks. Oh yes, and I was one of them.
My first affair was with a man named Don who went to the same church as me and my husband. At first I was so afraid that sleeping with Don would be a re-run of my present sex life, that all men were the same. Then where would I be? Except this didn’t happen. I felt no love for Don but he was a good man and a good lover. It was important to him that the sexual experience was pleasurable for both of us. Yes, I was thirty years old when I had my first orgasm, and it was with him. I didn’t come during intercourse, and in the future I never came that way. Don would go down on me, and he was quite talented with his tongue. He called my vagina his juicy peach and he liked my body overall. He loved oral sex, both getting it and giving it. He taught me what he liked, how to hold his shaft while giving him a blow job. And I found it exciting and fun. Don and I got together in my home during the afternoons once a week. We had sex in my marriage bed. This went on for several weeks until I became so fearful of someone finding out that I put an end to it.
After I had my first affair, it made it easier to have the next one. And the next. Etcetera. No longer did I bring these men to my marriage bed, not because it felt morally wrong because my resentment toward my husband ran deep, but because it raised the stakes of me getting caught. Divorce was unthinkable in these days of the 1950s – it wouldn’t become acceptable until the late 60s and throughout the 70s, and if I was doomed to stay in my unhappy marriage, well then I didn’t want to make the home front worse, having my husband hating me. By now, my husband and I were no longer having sex relations, much less talking to one another other than for the simple things like did you buy the coffee. We just never had much to talk about. Very rarely would he try to be physical with me, and when he did, I always had an excuse handy.
My etceteras. So many beautiful etceteras. Once I met Don and got over my fear that all men would sexually be like my husband, I gained confidence in myself and saw that hating my body was a waste of time. The men after Don? We met in motel rooms and hotels rooms around the sprawling city where I live. How did I meet them? At church, through friends, even at the hardware store. These were the days before personal ads became the vogue, and people met online. There was no Craig’s List or dating websites like Ok Cupid that my daughter told me about, a place where years ago she met her husband.
My etceteras were a group of men, some tall and thin, some short and fat, some smooth and some hairy, who cupped my breasts, kissed my stomach, plunged into me while telling me I was beautiful. They were my sexual awakening and my sexual life, my sexual history. My bad times with my husband faded into oblivion. These men opened up to me and I opened up to them. They taught me what they liked and I cherished pleasing them because we were on the same sexual continent. They cared about my pleasure, and me about theirs. They ravaged my body and if they didn’t, I never saw them again.
What I most want you to know about me – this is why I’m repeating it – is that at 94 I have sexual feelings, even if I don’t act upon them. It’s my fantasies that keep me company now. Little scenarios pass through my mind throughout the day and at night when I get into bed alone – and my fantasies comfort me to where I can almost feel my fantasy men are here with me, pleasing me, and me pleasing them. The affairs of my past, those men of my past, once set me free from the chains of my marriage. They allowed me to take and give and finally be free. Just because I am ancient doesn’t mean I am no longer sexual. I hold these men dear to my heart and imagine them loving me to this day.
Published in Issue #2 Voice of Eve
The #MeToo movement inspired me to write this about my sexual history…
Yes, of course the act itself is bad but what happens afterwards just goes on and on. For years, every time I’d have sex I would become hysterical and run to the bathroom where I would cry and then put myself back together. I thought this was what people did during sex, probably because I was assaulted before I was sexually active. After years of this, I had a very understanding lover and he told me to do whatever I needed to do. I was able to stay in bed and cry with him. Eventually, I stopped crying.
I took a night class at San Francisco State University. It was hard to park and so I parked down near the dormitories. I had to walk down an asphalt path through the woods to get there. My class was over at 10 PM and I was walking down the path. I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around to see a man advancing toward me. I started running and I ran all the way to my car, got in and locked it. The guy stood outside my car window, and excitedly told me he needed a ride downtown and to open the door and let him in. I honked my horn over and over, hoping to alert someone in the dormitories. He ran away. I never told anyone about this.
When I was ten years old, my mother worked full-time and left me alone a lot. We had a boarder who rented one of the bedrooms where we lived. One Saturday, he told me we were going to do something fun. He said to lay on the couch on my back. I did it. He took his finger and traced the outline of my lips, telling me that my job was not to laugh. It didn’t feel right but I didn’t know what to do. Shortly after that, I would come home after school and close the bedroom door. I’d take off all my clothes look at myself in the mirror naked. I had no idea why I was doing this.
*I thought it was high-time to infuse our culture with some new slang words for vagina, positive words, and an incident with a friend of mine pushed me in that direction…
When I was growing up, my mother used to put a big X on the calendar to mark the day she expected her period to start. She referred to it as the curse. I never questioned this, later learning that many women from her 1920s generation also used this derogatory phrase. Nor did I question it when I later heard women referring to their vaginas as fishy, as in stinky down there, that nameless place at the meeting of our thighs.
Most of the words used to describe the vagina were crass then and are crass now. Yesterday I had a telephone conversation with my good buddy Panda (nickname) and she told me of an incident that troubled her.
“Some guy at the 7-Eleven just called me a bitch fish taco,” she said. Yuck.
“What’d you ever do to him?” It was so outrageous that I had to laugh.
“He tried to squeeze in line ahead of me and I wouldn’t let him.”
“You’re horrible,” I said. And then: “Did he say it real loud?”
“He said it under his breath as I was leaving the store. I turned around, calling him a bastard dick burrito.”
“I guess bitch fish taco is the new bitch,” I said. She agreed with me.
From there we got to talking about the negative vagina-words floating around our culture. Words like fish taco, slit, gash, bang hole, and axe wound to name a few. Of course there were positive words as well, such as honeypot and muff – I like muff because of its warmth – but let’s be honest – negative words outnumbered them today just like they did in my mom’s generation. This was when she told me that as a writer it was my responsibility to invent new positive vagi-words, as she called them, saying that we needed language that spoke of our vaginas in more respectful terms.
“And this is my job?”
She said it was.
So, I got the idea of creating the ABCs of the vagina, my idea being to go through the dictionary and create vagi-synonyms using each letter of the alphabet. She liked my idea. I did too.
“Call me back later with them,” she said excitedly.
“Will do,” I said. This would be easy, right?
“And don’t make them too corny. They have to be real.” But what was real? How real was honeypot?
We got off the phone and I brewed a cup of tea, plunking down at the kitchen table with my faded red dictionary I hadn’t used in years. I needed something tangible. I leafed through its tissue-thin pages, beginning with the letter A. I reminded myself of the assignment. I would come up with twenty-six positive names for the vagina, one for each letter of the alphabet.
I opened the dictionary to the As, considered the word altar – I could see the vagina as an altar of sorts, but it seemed a bit clichéd. I kept on looking. When I came upon the word “ambrosia,” I paused. I remembered eating this fruity salad as a child, people bringing it to potlucks to everyone’s delight. Pineapple, coconut, mandarin oranges, marshmallows. Whipped cream. Sink your teeth into that! In Greek mythology, ambrosia was thought of as food for the gods. Good enough for me. Therefore, my first vagi-word came into being. I added the adjective sweet and voila! Sweet ambrosia. It had a drunk and dreamy feel to it.
I continued with the Bs, sipping my tea. I came up with Bliss Tap but crossed it off. It made the vagina sound like beer. Hmm…How about Beautiful Surprise? Nah. Panda would say this was way too corny. How about, I thought, Ball of Woman Fire? Nah. Pretty ridiculous. A few minutes later I invented Blessed One, and I liked the holy feeling it invoked, making our vaginas a sacred place. And then I invented Best Attribute.
The pretend-conversation in my head went something like this:
“How is your Blessed One today, might I ask?”
“My Best Attribute? Why, she’s doing fine, thank you.” Fun. I was feeling good about my body.
Fifteen minutes later and I was having a hard time finding a vagi-synonym that began with the letter C. It had to be spectacular to counteract that other famous C-word: cunt. Its positivity had to match the latter’s negativity. Another ten minutes, but I came up with nothing. I decided to come back to it later. I moved on. For D, I decided upon The Most Delicious Meal, and a second choice: Dining at the Vagina Cafe, my creativity blossoming.
I continued. E: The Elastic Wonder. F: The Fantastic Wonder. G: The Gymnastic Wonder. I was on a roll. For H, I decided upon Heavenly Palace, and okay, I admit I was lapsing into the world of corny. The letters I, J, and K breezed by, as did L, M and N. Momentarily I got stuck on O, but came up with Opulent Jewel, which I considered one of my best.
P, Q, R, S ,T U, V. Pretty easy. But X? It took me a while, although Y and Z proved pretty easy.
I’d thought I was finished, but then remembered I had to circle back to the letter C. I mulled over new words, the worst of which was Curvaceous Smile – what was that supposed to mean? – and came up with nothing I liked. And then an idea alighted. What if I took the cunt-word and made it positive? In other words, what if I owned it rather than opposing it? In two seconds flat I had my example – Beautiful Cunt. Yes. Beautiful Cunt. I loved it.
An hour and a half after our conversation, I called Panda back. “Are you ready?” I asked.
“Lay them on me,” she said.
“Some of them have more than one example,” I said. And I read her my completed list of words. Language is so important, the names we label ourseleves with.
Blessed One. Best Attribute.
The Most Delicious Meal. Dining at the Vagina Cafe.
The Elastic Wonder.
The Fantastic Wonder.
The Gymnastic Wonder.
Kitten. Kitty Kat.
Yum Yum Tree.
My friend Panda liked them and I did too.
Another poem about Tiger, my grand-dog, my soulmate workout buddy. When you get older, there’s nothing like a good dog to keep you in shape!
Read it here, https://theplumtreetavern.blogspot.com/search?q=eliza+mimski, or easily read it below.
The dog and I climb the hill,
The crepuscular light, twilight,
The birds with their consonants, their vowels.
The dog stops and smells the trees,
Drunk on their elixir.
The dog urinates
To say how much he loves them.
The tree is a bird planted in the ground.
Its wings are branches.
The tree is dark brown lush,
The light shifts,
The sky begins to close
As we make our way up the hill.