Oral Fix-Nation!

moral_oral

Every time I’ve tried to fall asleep for the past ten-or so years, I’ve spent the first twenty minutes–eyes closed–thinking the same thing; it takes the average person seven minutes to fall asleep. 

Next, I decide it’s time to quit smoking. This goes on for another fifteen or so minutes before I get too stressed-out and need a cigarette.

Last night I sat up in bed, smoking and deciding it was time to find a real solution. I texted my friend Maggie who’d quit the year before and asked her how she did it. She texted me back:

“I gave you their card. Go to sleep.”

In fact, she had. I got up and managed to find it in my box of paper-related junk. I remembered now, I’d made fun of the name relentlessly: ORAL FIX-NATION!

I put it on the pillow beside my head with a mental promise to call in the morning. And, with one hand patting myself on the back, I did.

I stood outside their offices just before my three o’clock appointment having my self-proclaimed last cigarette.

When it finished, I still had five minutes. I lit another, just in case the therapy worked. I only smoked half though–only half.

I took the stairs by twos. The offices were clean, cold, dentist-like. A thin, attractively flamboyant man took down my name and made a call. For seven minutes I waited, itching. An older man came walking out from a back hallway, he tipped his hat to me and smiled. His teeth were black.

A moment later a woman in a white coat came to fetch me. She had kind eyes; certainly not the dentist. She could tell I was apprehensive, and I was. She watched me fidget. I watched her watch me.

“So?” I asked.

She smiled, “are you ready?”

I frowned, “for what?”

“For therapy,” she said, and as she did, opened her lab coat. She was top-less, her breasts round and full.

“Uh,” I said, pushing myself and my chair back a few inches. “What?”

She frowned, “they should have explained everything in the consultation.”

She closed her jacket and picked up the clipboard.

“Shit,” she muttered. “Oh I’m sorry, this is a consultation! Apologies, I didn’t sleep much last night, my brain is all wah-wah-wah!” she put down the clipboard and crossed her legs, doctorly. I couldn’t figure out what to say, so I said nothing.

She took that as a sign to begin, and she did; “here we focus on the root of the problem with smokers, which is often that they did not have, or had inadequate amounts of breast feeding as a child. We have found that the most effective way to kick the smoking habit is to give your psyche what it has been craving all this time.” She motioned to her breasts, a little red in the cheeks.

I stared and tried to regain my composure. “Hm, uh–well, I am pretty sure I was breast fed a lot as a baby,” I said, quietly, “I called it la-la,” I added, then frowned.

The doctor, or nursing-nurse–or nipple dentist–I was unsure what to call her–smiled.

“It is not just the length of nursing. There are a number of factors such as technique and adequacy of nipples–”

I held up a hand, “I don’t want to talk about the adequacy or inadequacy of my mother’s nipples.”

“Of course,” she said, and opened her jacket, “just try, the first session is free.”

I stared at her large breasts and apparently adequate nipples. She held open her arms to me.

“Come, come,” she said, motherly. I stood and walked toward her nipples as I might have approached a dog chewing on my wallet.

I arrived.

“There, there,” she said.

I kneeled down, she put her hands gently over my ears and pulled me closer, closer, closer. I could smell them and all I could picture was the black teeth of the man who’d come before me. I jerked my head back.

I tried to say ” no” but all I managed to say was “AH!”

I stood up and ran to the door, I turned back and pointed at her; jacket open, kindly look gone a little sideways.

“Ahh!” I cried at her.

I ran. As soon as I got down to the freedom of the sidewalk I reached for my pack, pulled out a cigarette, lit it, smelled it, dropped it and walked home in a daze.

 

 

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H to O

water_bar

Going out on a double date when you have a girlfriend is awkward.

“But she said she would only come if she could bring her friend,” Q protests.

I sigh, “Come on man, it will just be weird.”

“I need you, as a friend.”

I shake my head, “I love my girlfriend.”

He frowns, “I’m not asking you not to–plus, friendship is more important than love.”

“Uh-huh, how so?” I sigh, starting to put my jacket on.

He smiles, standing up, “who are you going to talk to when the person you love drives you crazy?”

I don’t reply, but I follow him to the door mumbling something about “one hour, max.”

The bar is a ten minute walk from my place, which is a relief. It’s got bubble letters for a sign.

“H to O”

I look inside, it is well lit–too well lit, like a frozen yogurt factory.

“This is a bar?” I ask Q. I turn. He is waving at someone. Two girls come walking toward us. One is in a trench-coat jean jacket, half her hair is blue. The other is wearing glasses I could spit through and striped pants that make her legs look comically long. I groan.

“C’mon Q,” I say, “how old are these girls?”

He looks at me. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, no self-respecting adult would dress that way.”

“And I suppose you consider yourself a self-respecting adult?”

I glare at him, “I consider myself un-advertised.”

Q rolls his eyes and the girls get within earshot. There is hand shaking and introductions. Their names fall directly into the dead-leaves pile in my brain. I hold the door and follow them in. The menu is all in Russian.

“Just get me a beer,” I tell Q, heading for the bathroom. It isn’t a large place. I find the bathroom beside a surfboard and hammock display. There are bamboo plants and spa music playing as I stand in the bathroom.

When I get back to the table, Q is chatting away with the girl in the jean jacket trench coat. She’s removed it to reveal a sleeveless dress shirt covered in cat faces. I turn to the girl in the fake glasses, she smiles.

“Why did you come to Russia?” she asks.

I look at Q, look up, look back at her. “No idea, I just like it here.”

“I like it here, too!” the girl with the cat-faced-shirt jumps in. She goes on, “did you know they fly the water in from all over the world. I got the South African–Peruvian blend!”

I take in what she is saying, I look at Q, he looks down at his own hands.

“What the fu–” I start, but I am interrupted by the waitress placing four clear glasses down on the table. I look at my glass, then back up at Q.

“You said this was a bar,” I ask, tense.

“A water bar!” cat-faced-shirt chimes in.

I look down at my glass, close my eyes, trying not to listen.

“It’s new! They started in LA and then London. They fly water in from all over the world. You can even get water from America, if you want.”

When I open my eyes, I just look at Q. He won’t meet my gaze. I look back at the girl across from me, through her fake glasses.

“Do you think friendship is more important than love?” I ask her.

She looks at me, timid, then at Q, then back. “I–I think they’re the same thing, really.”

I take a breath, lean back, and can’t help but smile.

“Huh, alright,” I decide, taking a sip of my water.

 

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The Center of the Universe

centrical

Dave called me in a panic.

“Hey Dave, what–”

“Hey man, so, you’re pretty religious right?”

“Uh,” I frowned at my open refrigerator, I closed it. “Yeah, Dave, I guess. I mean–I go to Church like everyone else.”

There was a pause at the other end, one of those tense serious ones.

“Dave?”

“Yeah, yeah. So, you know, do you think Earth is the center of the universe?”

I decided to take a seat. “What?”

“The center of the universe. So,” he took a breath, “if–hypothetically, earth were the center of the universe and we could prove it, would that mean something to you?”

I tried to imagine the universe, Earth at the center. For some reason it just made me think of my uncle’s swimming pool I used to play in as a kid. Dave interrupted the thought.

“Would that be important, yes or no?” he pressed, he sounded scared, rushed.

I shrugged, “well, yeah I suppose if earth were at the center of the universe, I mean, that’d have to mean something, right?”

Dave sighed through the phone. “Okay, but, what if it meant nothing, it just happened to be the center of the universe because somewhere had to be and that’s just the fact of it, would that be okay with you?”

“Well, it would make sense, God created everything, I suppose he’d want us at the center of it all,” I tried. I knew how smart Dave was, far smarter than me, I wanted to give him the right answer. But, on the other end, he swore.

“Dave?” I tried, “Man, I really don’t understand what you want.”

I could hear Dave break something, he came back to the phone a bit calmer. “It’s nothing, just–I learned something today, I’m not sure if I should tell anyone, the consequences–”

“Dave, I’m not you, but I’m not an idiot. Did you find out that Earth was the center of the universe?” I cut in, unable to contain the excitement in my tone.

He waited, breathing.

“Dave?”

“Yeah, maybe–but, just, can you understand that Earth can be the center of the Universe while at the same time that can mean absolutely nothing at all?”

We are the center of the universe, I thought.

“I knew it!” I cried. Unable to contain myself. “I have to tell Barbara, Oh–and that hippie neighbor kid who’s always blabbering on about energy and karma and crap. Man, thank you! I’m glad you chose to tell me first! I needed this man, I really did.”

I drummed the table, even stood up and jigged; every doubt I ever had, falling away. I don’t remember when I picked the phone back up, but Dave wasn’t there when I did.

God’s TED Talk

ted's_god

As God, I try to create things–new and wonderful things that fit together in ways you can’t imagine. But first, I’d like to talk to you about something we all understand very well, failure. Failure and the power of mistakes.

I’m going to start off by telling you a little story about the first time I created life. You see–I always wanted to create something new. I wanted to find what I called The Factor. That aspect of life that made it more than just entertainment.

My first attempt at this was hunger.

(Laughter)

I know, it seems simple now, silly even–it gets worse. I created a species of life I called Migs. Migs were these small, rather adorable, creatures you can see here:

(Laughter)

Yes, I was not much on an artist in those days–but these adorable creatures didn’t last very long because I forgot one crucial piece of the puzzle. I didn’t create them with the knowledge of their own hunger, or how to satiate it. So, of course, they began eating the only thing they could think to eat–themselves. Don’t worry, I didn’t bring pictures of that.

(Laughter)

Needless to say, they didn’t last long and I was forced to start over. I refined hunger, directed it best I could and came out with the first human beings, as you can see here.

(Laughter)

Well, everything seemed okay, they lived, they ate. Then– nothing. And I mean nothing, they just sat around. Occasionally a clever one would take a bite out of another or someone would hit someone with a rock, but it was dull. So, I got back to thinking about that factor. I was sitting there watching one human hit another with a rock, over and over, and over. What started off as a promising–and I’ll admit, humorous endeavor suddenly became very bland. I was losing my funding, I was as low as I’ve been. Here, I made my second mistake. I reached down and crushed the rock-beater into nothing, right there in front of my other creations.

(Laughter)

What happened next astonished me. The other human beings gathered around. They looked up and down, they acted in all sorts of strange ways I’d never seen before. Before I could finish my research, funding was pulled and my project was scrapped. But it was from that mistake that I realized the factor, as you know it now; death.

So, I started over. I put together a proposal, got the funding and started again. I looked long and hard at my failures, my mistakes. I not only implemented an end to life but also gave my creations knowledge of their imminent end. The result, as you well know, produced the longest lasting single most entertaining project in history.

(Applause)

Last thing I’d like to leave you with is a message from my creations themselves: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet.”

 

How I learned to Use Chopsticks

chopsticks

Sometimes I’ll look out of the window of a house in a movie and feel homesick. It will bring back memories that have nothing to do with the window. It brings back smells and muffled voices that become sharp and whole, and suddenly, I’m there, again.

Eric is over. He knows how to use chopsticks.

My father gives up first, forking chow-mein passed an outflow of grumbles and groans. I don’t give up; I like Eric. He has big hands and a lot of hair. He is fond of saying “whatever keeps them out of church,” and I don’t like church very much. He says it all the time, like later in the night when my mother talks about me getting detention he says “whatever keeps him out of church.”

My mother laughs every time, even though she’s the reason we go to church.

I don’t get it but I eventually get the hang of the chopsticks as Eric is telling a story about his time in Namibia where he was in a bus accident.

I ask my father, quietly, where Namibia is. He shrugs.

“Africa,” Eric tells me. He must have big ears under all that hair. He smiles, “I was in the Peace Corps,”

“What’s the Peace Corps?” My sister asks.

My mother smiles, “they go to other countries and help people.”

“Like Dad,” my sister says.

At this, Eric laughs, “not exactly,” he says.

“What does that mean?” My father frowns across at him, fork down.

Eric chop-sticks a piece of broccoli with an adroit flick of the wrist. “Nothing–no, it’s just, does the military really help people?”

My father takes a breath the way he does when he is about to yell. Instead, he looks to my mother. He looks back to Eric.

“Hm,” is all he says. He picks his fork back up and continues eating. I realize my mother and sister aren’t eating, neither am I. A moment later, we’re all fumbling with our chopsticks again. I manage to get some pork. Chewing, I look up, out the window. I can hear Eric telling another story. I hear him say something about being trapped at some airport. I hear my mother say that I want to be a pilot. I look back to the table and smile. I open my mouth to tell her that I’ve changed my mind but Eric is already chuckling as he says, “whatever keeps him out of church.”

My mother laughs.

My father clears his throat as he pushes away from the table. Then, without a word he walks off.

I can hear a door, somewhere, slam. I look at my sister, she shrugs. My mother pats one of Eric’s large hands and says, “oh, it’s alright.”

She pats his hand again, softly.

“It’s just fine,” she says.

But, I’m watching his other hand as it uses the chopsticks to create a graspable pile of noodles. It really is quite impressive.

 

I Hit a Baby in the Face with a Bottle of Gin

bottle

I didn’t mean to, really. It wouldn’t have been so bad had I gotten beer–I meant to get beer. That woman, the shopkeeper, “the gin is on sale,” she said. So, I’ve now hit a baby in the face with a bottle of gin.

It made a dink sound.

“Shit!” I cried, as the baby hit the sidewalk. It could have only been in its first hundred, or perhaps two-hundred steps, ever. I dropped the bag on the ground. It clinked. I bent to help the baby.

“Shit, I’m so sorry.”

The baby’s mother pushed me away. She picked up her baby and looked at me, horrified. The baby wailed against her neck. It was a little chilly outside.

“What is wrong with you!” The mother yelled at me.

“Shit I’m–”

“Stop saying shit!” she cried, holding her baby’s ears.

I stepped back, “sh–I mean, I am sorry, it just stumbled at the last second.”

“It’s not an it!”

I nodded, dropping my cigarette behind my back. I nodded again, for good measure. “I’m sorry.”

The mother eyed my bag of groceries, suspicious. I tried to hide it behind my leg, stepping away slowly. Boy, did that baby wail. The mother checked over its head, then kissed it, seeming a bit calmer.

“Is it okay?” I asked, not thinking. Slowly, she turned. She looked at me with all the fury a mother can muster, and trust me–it’d send God running.

And I’m not God, but still–I ran.