Sunday, February 24, 2008


"That tree looks rather like..."

No, I must have been imagining things. My mind plays tricks on me sometimes and makes me see things.

For instance, sometimes I see faces on the bark of pine trees, and these faces resemble the people I have loved over the years and throughout time. In moments like these, best to not read too much into them.



Wilkins wasn’t the kind of person who normally quoted cultural theorists. Nothing kills a party like saying, “Well, Baudrillard would say….” If you’re busting out a line like that, Wilkins liked to joke, you better hope you hate getting laid.

Wilkins didn’t like sounding pompous, and he certainly didn’t like quoting things he didn’t fully understand. And yet, ever since working for the internet non-profit, he’d been thinking a lot about Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others.

On Monday morning, Wilkins poured himself some coffee. Then he put on his putty-colored headset and dialed the phone. “Hello Mr. Phelps,” Wilkins said. “I’m calling on behalf of the Improved Life Foundation. Would you like to make a difference in the life of a child for the small donation of only a few hours’ wages?”

A complicated sigh from the other end of the line: agitation, displeasure, guilt. “Listen,” the potential patron said, “I’m on food stamps right now and between jobs. Can you just send me some pamphlets and I’ll get back to you?”

“Of course, sir, thank you for your time,” Wilkins said.

Back when he first started, Wilkins had joked about the people he telephoned. He had called them “marks”: “I sweet-talked this mark and got a grand out of her.”

Now, he just called them “patrons.”

He put a note in the database to send potential patron Phelps a pamphlet that afternoon. After lunch, Wilkins slid the glossy brochure into the business envelope. Before sealing the envelope with his soft, yellow sponge, he removed the shiny, high-resolution brochure and studied it.

There are so many photographs of suffering, but the human being only has so large a reserve of empathy.

After sealing the envelope, Wilkins stepped out to the gray parking lot for a break. He watched the smoke of his cigarette climb upward as he felt the nicotine refuel his body. How big was the world, he wondered, in relation to the size of his cigarette? He could understand the cigarette, but not the size of the world.

Almost Famous

I look like Maddox. Do you think Angelina and Brad would adopt me?

I want to travel around the world, go to a French school (until I have to travel around the world), and be in People magazine (my new parents would get paid for those photos).

Maddox and I could hang out. It'd be cool. But don't think I'd be a babysitter for the rest of them. That's not happening.

Still, I could hang.


Four hundred million years ago, my ancestors pioneered these shores, crawling up from the ancestral salt of the ocean to test the land. We were the first.

Before us, the land was still, moving only at the pace of the algae, the moss, the fern. My people ruled them all, and the edges of the waters as well.

We broke this land, and after four hundred million years of shuffling and scurrying and watching the rise and fall of others, you, mammal, take hold of me with your opposable digits, pick me up helpless.

But, I think I will be here when you are gone.



I rolled over and patted the cool spot on the bed. "Jared?" I called. "Jared?"

Someone moved on the other side of the room, near the window, someone who had Jared's height and bulk, Jared's rough shape and gestures, but he didn't do what Jared would do. He didn't come to bed, or answer reassuringly. He didn't scratch his ass or fart as Jared would. He didn't strain for the sound of my voice as my husband did in the daytime.

He just stood by the window, a stranger in my bedroom.