This might be distinctly segmented; I wrote the first part a few days back and finished it now, with "Blinded By the Lights" from The Streets on repeat, my mind going off perhaps a bit too much: it might get a bit too crazy there at the end or for the last five hundred words which would constitute more than just the end, I guess. Not all that much else to say at the moment.
“But Monica, you know how they named you, right?” Her sister looks up at her threateningly. “You were supposed to be another Mona after mom and then they took one look at you and ick, they had to change that name somehow, because no one would want something named after them that looked like that. So they did the easiest thing they could, simply injected their disgust into the name. Huh, Mon-ick-a? Did you know that?”
She’s being a horrible sister, but with good reason. She talked to Bill the other night and he said that he felt like he couldn’t do anything to help Monica out of her bad moods and that it just made the whole relationship very depressing for him. So she talked to Carl about it and he said she should bad cop, good cop it, without either of the lovers knowing.
“What is that on your forehead? Monica! Is that a zit?” So she’s putting it on thick, because this is a simple violence, one calculated to land her sister in Bill’s arms, that man’s embrace made all the better for those involved on account of the fact that he can easily tear apart these simple lies. But you are sometimes too beautiful for me to be able to stand it, Bill might say, Carl postulated to her, while they were alone on the sofa in the living room. It’s a fool-proof plan, her boyfriend told her, letting her in on a secret, the one thing that you know you can tell your significant other is how attracted to them you are, how arousing you find them. You get scared, I mean, in my experience, so I guess I’d have to say you get scared as a man, that you’ll be taken as shallow, because you know that what you see that pleases you, well, that’s what you can most easily shape into words.
Feelings, he would’ve continued, are much more difficult to talk about, but she had stopped him, kissing him sweetly, but quickly and lightly, hoping no one would walk in and see. “Monica! Stand up straight behind that cart you’re pushing and watch where you’re stepping! You’ll end up getting grandmother’s hump if you keep slouching, and with all those cracks you’ve landed your gargantuan feet on, it’s a wonder that our mother even has a back left at all!” Now she’s nit-picking, but she has an excuse to be angry. Her sister probably thinks this is payback for reading her diary, when she came up to visit her at the college. She hopes Monica can see it in this way, because although she wants to disturb her, she doesn’t truly want to hurt her, and worse, hurt her unproductively. She wants her sister to be upset by what she hears, but essentially see them as meaningless, a counterpart to the sweet nothings that Selena imagines her sister’s lover will whisper into her ear: the words that he says not mattering as much as his hand on Monica’s shoulder, steadying her, holding her.
But this is getting lost in another illusion, a trick of the light in this department store, and she pulls herself away from her sister and her troubles and falling back into herself, begins to think about her own issues. In case it isn’t obvious, she doesn’t like to contemplate herself, so she skips this track on the album, hitting the right-pointing arrows in her mind like this is one overplayed single that she was tired of even before it was played hourly on every radio station.
The person to think about, then, is Carl, but considering her present position she can’t get her sister out of her mind, because she sees them as so alike; her own worries are simply transpositions onto the image she has of Monica in her mind, a coping mechanism allowing just that sort of self-contemplation that gets us through our lives, without making her suffer through it.
She needed to be convinced to do this, but maybe you can’t tell with the amount of apparent enjoyment she’s getting. Call it sibling rivalry or self-hate, it all means the same, because the world is never as complex as you want it to be. Look, he said to her, we’d just be allowing Bill to cheat a little in the oil painting of his love, accentuating a particular feature, only that’s a bad metaphor, because that one is entirely visual whereas here, what he’d be making all the more apparent would be the physical, what can be seen, so instead of explanation I’m running into basic synecdoche; too bad this isn’t a poem, I can never get this complex in my writing.
He’s working himself into a bad mood and she knows she has to do something, because he would in her position, and has in the past, or so she believes. But that glimmer of uncertainty, of doubt, provides her with precisely enough guilt to effectively vanquish itself like every smart suicide working on the next to top floor of your everyday office building. Now, looking back on the conversation, she draws up a mental image, a bit of an out-of-body experience, watching herself say to him, “Well, how has the writing been, then?” Because as far as she has known him, he’s always been excited to go off on long talks in this direction; not losing control of himself, he could stop if she told him that she really didn’t know what he was getting it on about, but she rarely stops him, simply watches the glee in his eyes.
But something was a bit different at that time. She asked him and he said, “It’s a weak writer who gets caught up in similes and confusing changes of tense. These days I don’t know if I’ll ever write another complete poem again, or maybe the poem won’t be complete until I’ve written all my words down and the last few will be my epitaph, and you know, there’s that eternal fear that it’s all just sophistry, trying to make yourself feel like you are better than everyone else. The idea that the writer is one of an elected few, or even one of a select many, I’ve never been comfortable with that. Which is why it’s a bit of a problem to imagine how other people can get through their lives without doing this; without writing. And that’s stuck up as hell, but it’s a bit of a quandary in my soul right now.”
So this time she does end up cutting him short, “But you’re okay, right?” He realizes he’s scared her with this most recent uncovering, starts cursing himself for not taking this metaphysical striptease more slowly.
“Actually, mentally, I think I’m the best I’ve ever been.” The truth, fittingly comforting, coming to his lips.
“Selena!” She looks up at her sister and understands that they’ve made it to the checkout line. She puts down her items of purchase, the screen fading, first to a simple black and white, while the frames per second hesitates, turning this into a snapshot that is then overexposed until you are just holding a piece of blank parchment on the street corner and the person behind you tells you to hurry it up.