parallax background



Laurie Stone

Artwork by Uman

I passed a woman on the street shouting into her phone. Her face was red, and it sounded like a break up. I remembered the feeling of being left, the way you cannot see or breathe in a way that is similar to falling in love. I told a friend, “Donald Trump could eat a baby on camera and the people who voted for him would still feel okay.” My friend said, “I personally don't see anything wrong with eating a baby.” I said, “Eating babies is among Trump’s most attractive qualities, that and enjoying being peed on.” My friend said, “If I weren’t vegan, I’d always be eating babies.” Everything was reminding me of something else, and I wondered if it would ever stop. I was in a meadow of tiny lambs just up and wobbly on fluffy legs. Their triangle faces looked out expectantly. As I approached, they scurried to their bedraggled mothers. Pink and blue dye marked their wool, and pearly light shone through the tender membranes of their ears. There were white lambs with black legs and coal black lambs with dots of white over their ears. I twisted through stiles built to pen them in. They were not yet experienced in escape. An artist wanted me to strip in public but not in private. I walked topless down a side street in the town where we lived and did not tell him. As soon as a robot knows it’s a robot, it is no longer a robot. There is a point in fires when things burst into flames. How do they know how to do that? I like the hopeful smell of toast. I like a kiss that awakens the mind. The psychoanalyst who molested me as a child turned out to have done it to dozens of others, and I saw it was not personal. It was a relief and a disappointment. I had a friend who used to call me every day when she was in love and it was not going well, or it was going well and she was afraid it would end. She wanted to know if it was something about her or if life was just like that. I said it was life. She believed something had to last in order to be real. How long did it have to last? When she got off the phone with me, she would call the next person on her list. At twenty-six, I dreamed I would die that year. When I did not die, I thought I would die at thirty-six, but by then I had met a man I loved and thought I could do anything I wanted because he was too old for me and it was not my real life. I saw a mouse in a house I was visiting. Its fur looked very gray against the red maple floor. Its ears looked like leaves about to unfurl. The woman whose back was to the mouse rose for a bottle of wine and said, “See, there are mice here all the time.” I wanted to touch her. I took a picture of the mouse, its fur rising up and down like the edge of a napkin lifted by a breeze. Siblings can fall into a kind of love that does not change. It also cannot be used, like furniture in a museum you are not allowed to sit on. My sister settled herself in the recliner she had chosen for her first round of chemo. The arms of the chair were soft and the pale color of putty. She said, “My wig itches,” edging it off her forehead. It was curly and blond and had about it the futility of a gated community. She said, “If the cancer recurs, I will not do this again.” It was a time of hope. I polished a cup I found at a yard sale, and the name “Gertrude” gleamed out in a calligraphic font. My friend said, “It was Gertrude Stein’s cup.” I said, “The Steins would not have bought their daughter silver plate.” My friend said, “It was a gift from the gardener.” I ran my finger over small dents, imagining baby Gertrude flinging it to a cold stone floor and laughing. My friend said, “Don’t sell it,” and now when I look at it I remember my surrender to her will. I like the romantic indeterminateness of a dark bar. I like a fear you find nowhere else. After the man I loved died, I had sex with a doctor two times, and two times I cried. The doctor was an oncologist and explained things to me about the bone marrow cancer that had ended the life of the man I had loved. When I cried the doctor said, “What is going on?” I said, “Sadness comes over me.” He said, “I make you sad?” I said, “You make me feel whatever I feel.” One night in a restaurant he touched a vein in my neck and said, “I would like to insert a cannula in that.” I said, “Why?” He said, “I don’t like to see a good vein go to waste.” A friend said, “There are stories that are mine to tell and stories that are not mine to tell.” I do not make this distinction. The breasts of the Russian woman swelled above her open blouse. Her hair was white, and she carried a silver cane. She reminded me of my grandmother with her mischievous eyes. She had injured her hip running in a flak jacket. She said, “I love the smell of men in war. Do you know the perfume Shalimar? It is that smell concentrated.” I said, “What do you smell like in war?” She said, “I had no one to ask.” In a restaurant a woman said, “I am a man, and I want to know what you want from me. What am I supposed to do?” Her eyes were large and troubled. I said, “If you are a man, what does that make me?” I like pet names and code names. I touch the face of a person before a kiss. A stranger carried my suitcase up several flights of stairs and cut his finger. I wrapped a Band-aid around the cut. He had lifted the bag as if it contained feathers. As my train pulled out, I saw two drops of blood on the suitcase, red and glowing, and I touched them. One summer I lived in a potato field where I was slowly poisoned by pesticides. It became difficult to think, and day became the same gray color as night. I was surprised I could become ill. I was in love. We don’t have language for units of sensation, only less and more. Free will is an unobservable fact. One summer in Crete I watched an eagle hover over a deep ravine. I was on a road beside the drop, and the bird and I were face to face. It was as if we could touch. Its guide feathers shifted an inch as it searched the shadows for blood. I like gray clouds over smoke-colored water. I swam in lightning, knowing I could be struck. I think of human remains as indistinguishable from other kinds of objects, but when I think about my father’s ashes and my mother’s ashes, I feel faint. I was a young man in an asylum, intense and nervous, and my name was on a list of people who would die. I circulated among the more mobile patients. One was a dark-haired man, shorter than me and muscular, a real man who knew about the outside world. I was shivering on a road, and rain was dripping down my neck. The man and I were buying clothes on St Mark’s Place, and clerks began to whisper about us. We ran out of the store. We ran to the suburbs and threw ourselves backwards into a field of snow. It was our only escape, and we held our breath under a whiteness like death. The snow became a sea, and we swam to an island. If I stayed there long enough, everyone from my past would show up. I wondered what I would say.