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..:: CONTENTS ::..
   Volume IX, Issue II

..:: POETRY ::..


..:: PROSE ::..

..:: ETC ::..
   Contributor's Notes

..:: ARCHIVES ::..
   Volume I, Issue I
   Volume I, Issue II
   Volume II, Issue I
   Volume II, Issue II
   Volume III, Issue I
   Volume III, Issue II
   Volume IV, Issue I
   Volume IV, Issue II
   Volume V, Issue I
   Volume V, Issue II
   Volume VI, Issue I
   Volume VI, Issue II
   Volume VII, Issue I
   Volume VII, Issue II
   Volume VIII, Issue I

   Volume VIII, Issue II

   Volume IX, Issue I

 
Poetry


Something New
William Southern

 

We meet in a bar. I get there by following the directions in your text messages, and by the look of things you've already had a few. You're draped all over your chair and your shoes are off, you stare at me for a full minute and then you say something to your friends which makes them laugh, then you unbutton the top button of your shirt and wink at me and make the horn sign with the outside fingers of your left hand.
-
You make fun of my apartment. In the morning you get up and yawn and stretch and go into the bathroom, then I hear you walking around and opening doors and cupboards, then you come back into the bedroom and stand there without a stitch on and look down at me and say, 'We will have to do something about this. I'm not going to be with a man who lives in a garbage dump.'
'I like my place just the way it is,' I say.
'All things change,' you say, 'it is the nature of life.'
'And you are going to change me?' I say.
'I am going to create us,' you say, 'please don't fight me too hard.'
-
The next day I meet your parents. After everyone shakes each other's hand and they pass out tea and fig bars and you tell them everything you know about me, which isn't a lot, your mother takes me into the sun-room and shows me her quilts.
'This one I call Bertha, because it's big,' she says. 'I made it when we were living in Japan.'
'Oh,' I say. 'It's very big.'
'And this one, with all the yellow, I call Nancy, after my high school calculus teacher who always wore yellow. See the integrals in it?'
'It is very yellow,' I say. 'But I think you're going to end up dividing by zero in that one.'
'Yes,' she says proudly, 'you are the first Anglo to notice that.'
'Can I see the top of your head?' she says, and I bow at her, and she says, 'From the top you look Japanese,' and then she smiles at me beautifully.
-
I like you more after meeting your mother.
-
I am to call your father Jimmy.
-
The day after that you move in. You bring up a suitcase and say this is the first of many as you have a lot of stuff, so get ready, but first you have to re-arrange some things in my apartment to make room, and I say this has been the most invasive situation I've ever experienced, and at that you say,
'Lan Chou said that left all alone in his cave a man (without a woman) will end up defecating in his own bed because the nature of a man (without a woman) is to do less and less until there is nothing left to do but not move.'
'And?' I say.
'And I will tell you about my time in Japan,' you say.
-
Your father moved the family there when you were in high school.
You loved the countryside, but Tokyo was overwhelming.
After a while you were able to get around Tokyo without your parents.
After a while you learned some of the language.
After a while you got to know some Japanese kids your age.
What you liked most was the Tokyo boys and their motorcycles.
When you moved back your mother cried, because she liked the Tokyo boys too.
Which is why your father moved the family back.
-
I realize, as I see your shoes in my closet and your makeup in my bathroom and your vitamin water in my refrigerator, how much I don't know about you. The government knows everything about everyone, of course, and I wonder who I'd send money to, to get a report on you. I think about how somewhere there's a data folder with your name and social security number on it, telling all about your internet habits and what you've said in emails and what you say on your phone, what your grades were in school and what your teachers thought about you, where you've lived, where you've worked, who you've slept with, what you spend money on, where you shop, your credit report, your medical records, your job reviews, the fact that you lived in Japan. And now I'm part of your folder, and now you're part of mine. It must drive them crazy to keep up with it all, and I wonder if they'll start restricting the things people can do just so their data can be more manageable.
-
'What does your mother think about this?" I ask, waving my hand at all your boxes and suitcases and bags.
'Why do you ask?'
'I was just wondering,' I say. I pull out a few of your books and look at the covers.
'Did she show you her quilt of the Tokyo boys?'
'I don't know,' I say, putting the books back and rummaging around some more in your bags. 'She showed me lots of quilts.'
'In normal society, it would be called pornographic,' you say, 'but maybe some would call it art.'
-
You have many houseplants. You bring them into my apartment by the dozens and you put them by the south windows, which is where I have my weight bench, and you say that I have to get rid of it because we need the room and anyway who am I kidding, and then I make a muscle with my arm and you kiss it and say 'Kando-ushita' huskily, and shortly after that you have your first real orgasm with me, you turn your head to the wall and you get very still, and then your chin goes up and your eyes close tightly and you snort, then you start nodding and grabbing the sheets and stretching your feet, and then you are very still and quiet for five minutes, and I deduce by your silence that it must have been a very good orgasm.
-
You put your pictures up one length of the hall and down the other. One set is of groups of Tokyo boys on motorcycles, all smiling in this picture, all scowling in that one, all giving the peace sign in another. In every picture, they are all doing the same thing.
Another set is typical tourist pictures of pagodas and gardens and mountains, and in every one there is a pasty-white faced girl peeking up at the camera.
'Arata,' you say. 'She was my best friend there.'
'She is very pale,' I say.
'She had a skin thing, from the bombs.'
'Had?'
You shrug and move on to another picture, this one of a group of Tokyo boys on stilts, all dressed up like Elvis in 10-foot pants.
'That is the strangest thing I have ever seen,' I say.
'They invented strange in Tokyo,' you say. 'Once you've been there, everywhere else is pretty bland.'
I move down the hall a few feet and look at a picture of your mother. She is wearing a short summer dress and has pink John Lennon sun-glasses half-way down her nose, and is standing on a chair in the middle of a group of Tokyo boys who are all pointing up at her and grinning.
-
Down the street from my apartment is a food truck. They sell Oriental and American, sometimes it's run by an old man with a very long moustache who everyone calls Alpha because he's always bossing people around, other times it's a pair of young Asian women who dress alike and act alike and finish each other's sentences. You talk to the women like friends and make a point of stroking their hands whenever money changes hands. They don't seem to mind, it's like a familiar custom to them.
-
The next day we go out for lunch with your parents. We sit at a table in the park, facing a busy sidewalk, all on one side, first your father, then you, then me, then your mother, and Alpha brings over spring rolls and unsweetened tea and heavily salted curly fries.
You are watching the people as they pass by, smiling at them and commenting on how beautiful their babies are.
Your father is obsessed with trying to get just the right amount of Wasabi sauce on his spring roll.
Your mother is talking about mathematics and repeats, word for word, some things her Calculus teacher had said, as if she were quoting a religious leader.
'Calculus is the study of change,' she says, and, 'The closer they get to finding out how things work, the less they understand why.'
'Because of the uncertainty principle,' I say.
You look over at me and stare. Your mother looks down and smiles and blushes. Your father nods approvingly, then takes a large bite of his spring roll.
To make conversation I say, 'Einstein once said the biggest mistake he ever made was to get started on quantum mechanics, which he didn't want to deal with, because it uses probabilities to determine the location of particles, which to him sounded like chance.'
Your mother laughs and says, 'Albert, more than any of them, did not like not knowing.'
Your father leans forward and looks back and forth between us and says, 'Jesus.'
We all take bites of food, and I realize your mother has placed her foot on top of mine.
-
The next day when I get home from work there are pictures of babies all over the apartment, cut out of magazines and taped to the walls and laying on tables and floors and on chairs and in windows, everywhere I look there are pictures of babies, and it is eerily quiet.
'In here,' you yell from the bedroom and I walk in and you're under the covers and I say, 'What if I'm not ready?' and you say, 'I can fix that easy enough,' and I say, 'That's not what I mean,' and you say, 'You get ready for babies in stages, this is just the first stage,' and I say, 'Well if you put it like that.'
And while we're doing it I can't help thinking about your mother and then I'm the one turning towards the wall with my eyes closed and making funny noises and stretching my feet and when we're done you say, 'Well now that was a very good start,' and I say nothing for five minutes.
-
The next night your mother calls and says she's had an argument with your father and she's coming over to spend the night and you say 'Perfect, just perfect,' and we hurriedly re-arrange the apartment so there's room in the kitchen for a cot, and then the doorbell buzzes and all of a sudden there she is, standing in the middle of my living room smiling beautifully, and I walk up to her and give her a hug and motion to a chair and say, 'You must be exhausted,' and she looks at you in your pajamas and says, 'No, you must be exhausted,' and we both laugh and I make her a drink and then you walk over and stand between us and say, 'Mother, we are going to be married and there might very well be a baby on the way, so...' and your mother looks at us as if she were searching for something positive to say about marriage that wouldn't be a lie, and then she shrugs and spends the rest of the night in the kitchen on the cot reading two books at once.
-
This is the first time the word marriage has been mentioned.
-
The next morning you shoo us out so you can fix up the spare room for your mother, and we go for a walk around the neighborhood shopping for food we like and she talks about how Max Planck was the most significant person to be born since Jesus, and says, 'When Max was a young man he was advised against going into physics because everything had already been discovered,' and I say, 'Has your daughter had many boyfriends?' and she takes my hand and says sympathetically, 'I'm sorry,' and she slowly rubs her check back and forth against my knuckles like she doesn't want to be the one to break the news, and she only lets go when a young couple walks by and the girl gives her a funny look, and I later find out that she lied and that I am in fact just your third, the first one was very high school and you don't want to talk about the other one. And when we get back to the apartment with doughnuts and rice-cakes and tea you go up to your mother and put a hand on each shoulder so she can't look away and you say into her face, 'Mother, he... is... mine,' and your mother nods slowly like she really does get it and then she goes into the spare room and shuts the door and now I see that this is no longer my space, that I may have some vague right to exist in it because of the lease and the rent paying thing, but in reality it is no longer mine.
-
We decide that living in a house rather than an apartment would be an all-around best-fit, space-wise and money-wise, not to say baby-wise, because you want a lot of those, and then the tediousness of looking for a house begins with all the driving around and looking in windows when people don't show up and meetings with mortgage people who go to great lengths to confuse you about how much things will cost and notaries who are away from the office and bankers that are out to lunch and agents who have life problems they'd rather talk about and owners who try to re-negotiate the price up and also sell you all the junk they don't want to move, and then finally it comes to an end, and in spite of everything everyone can do we end up with a charming four-bedroom three-bathroom house in a nice neighborhood with a mother-in-law apartment over the garage and a large fenced-in back yard that's just perfect for children and dogs and women who like to garden, and the inspection doesn't go too bad, and we sign and sign and sign and then all of a sudden it's ours.
-
We are married in October, your mother and father and friends are on one side, and my own mother and father and friends are on the other side, and we stand in the front and center and try not to laugh. The minister also searches for something positive to say about marriage that wouldn't be a lie, and your mother wears a veil as if she were attending a wake, and your father slips lemon drops in his mouth and chews noisily, and my own father is trying not to stare at your mother, and my own mother is trying not to stare at the minister, and the minister hasn't taken his eyes off your now ample cleavage since we walked in, and my friends get bored and start taking pictures of parts of themselves and sending them to your friends and people start giggling and shusshing each other, and after a very long time it's finally over and now we are married, and then we have a party in the church basement where everyone spikes the fruit punch until it's pretty much straight hard liquor, and the band is somebody's cousins who only know about five songs and your mother makes the rounds introducing herself to young men and your father leaves early and my own parents and the minister are in the rectory reading old books and I imagine the government data keepers are absolutely off the charts now from trying to keep track of all the mingling people who have never met before.
-
You decide on a Japanese theme and get to serious work purchasing Japanese looking things and scattering them randomly around the house, and your father lends a hand by borrowing me the odd shovel and hammer and I sneak out to buy my own tools with money I have kept hidden from you and now I understand why men love their garages and why we purposefully want them to be dirty and dungeon-like as that tends to keep females out of them and no man has ever really wanted a 'garage system', and I soon learn that more than one type of screw is an extravagance, while six totally different table settings are a necessity.
-
Your mother moves part-time into the apartment over the garage, and she has a sign written in Japanese hanging over the door that you refuse to translate, and your father and my own father have donated half of the contents of their garages to mine, and now I also understand that a son- and daughter-in-law with a new house are perfect for everything parents have been trying to get rid of for years, and suddenly half the basement is piled to the ceiling with boxes of books and treadmills and TV speakers and great-grandparent's dressers and chairs that can easily be fixed.

 

 

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