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03/04/2019 – Chastity

It was on their wedding night that the girl first saw the boy turned into a man, and it was a very ugly thing, indeed.

She sits by the open window, a warm breeze tugging lightly at her hair, beckoning her out beyond the gently-rustling curtains and into the still of the night.

If the fall were farther, maybe she’d listen.

Instead, she wipes at her eyes, lights a cigarette, and looks at the man who lies asleep in the bed.

Yes, the man, for that’s what he is, though he hadn’t always been that way.  Not to her.  No, up until this night, he had been a boy.  Her boy.

He’d been the boy on the playground, pushing her off the swings and yanking her braids, only to follow such acts of juvenile cruelty with a surreptitiously-passed note ending in “Check YES or YES”.  Two boxes, one possible answer.  That’s all he’d ever given her, and that’s all she’d ever needed.

He’d been the boy who waited, because she told him she wanted to wait.  He’d been the boy who never protested, never pleaded.  Never tried to snake his hand where it didn’t belong.  He’d been that rare kind of boy who was too bashful to even let his eyes drop anywhere south of the hollow of her neck, even when she was wearing a swimsuit or a snugly-fitted top.

“Wait…not even once?” one of the bridesmaids had exclaimed that morning as she was helping the girl primp her hair.  “You two have been together since, like, forever, and you’ve never…?”

The girl’s responding smile had been one of both gleeful pride and diffident innocence.  She looked at the bridesmaid’s reflection in the big vanity mirror, curled eyelashes batting bashfully, and said, “Not even once.”

Hip cocked, holding the hair curler out to one side like a magic wand, the bridesmaid said, “But you guys, like, did other stuff, right?”

The girl shrugged.  “I mean, yeah, we French kiss all the time.  And once I let him put his hand on my chest…over my shirt, of course…but that was just because I’d drank half of Alyssa’s beer at Jessica Tomlin’s party in tenth grade.  Everyone had gone outside, and it was just me and him in the basement, and we started kissing and obviously it got a little out of hand.”  She giggled at the unintentionally turned phrase.  “But we stopped after a few minutes and went outside with the others.”

“Oh my god, honey,” the bridesmaid said, her eyes wide, “How can you marry a guy you’ve never slept with?  I mean, fuck, you don’t even know if he has a nice dick.”

The girl blushed, and shrugged again.  “I don’t know the difference between a nice dick and a bad one, so whatever he has will be just fine.”

The bridesmaid rolled her eyes theatrically and said, “Darling, you’ll know.”  She set the hair curler down, indicated a distance with two raised index fingers, and said, “If he’s not at least this long…”  She paused appraisingly, then decreased the distance by an inch or so, amending, “Okay, this long, just to be safe…if he’s not at least this long, you’re going to have serious problems.  Of course, girth is really important, too, and…”

The girl put her hands over her ears and said, “Lalalalalalala, stop, I’m putting on my earmuffs.”

Now, the girl looks over at her sleeping husband, thinks about the space between the bridesmaid’s fingers, and sighs.  She holds the cigarette up to her face, glances once more over at the man in the bed, and feels fresh tears burn her eyes.

How different it had been, just one day previous.  How different he had been.  He’d been her boy.  In her mind, she sees that roguishly handsome prince, hair blowing in the wind, bouncing between the broad shoulders of a galloping white stallion.

But that boy is not in that bed tonight.  That boy is nowhere to be found.

Now, it’s just the man.

The great, oafish man, sprawled across the tousled sheets, the pallor of his flesh reminding the girl of long-curdled milk.  Dense tufts of curled, wiry hairs erupt from the oddest and most unseemly places on his body.  His toenails are jagged and untrimmed, and the heels of his feet are scaly and cracked with dead skin.  The glossy sheen of oily perspiration in which his body is encased carries with it a pungent odor of overused athletic gear.  A grumbling, sputtering snore-like noise emits periodically from deep within his nasal passages.

“Do you even know how, like, um…how everything works?” the bridesmaid had asked, regarding the girl’s mirror-reflected face with troubled concern.  “Do I need to give you the, uh…the talk?”

It was the girl’s turn to roll her eyes.  “Oh, stop, I know enough.  I’m not worried.  It’s going to be special and beautiful and perfect.  This is how it’s supposed to be.  It’s how Jesus intended.”

“Please, spare me the Jesus freak shit.  Let’s get real, here.  There are things you need to know.  You can’t just go bounding blindly into your bridal bed and expect everything to go as you imagine it will.”

“I won’t be blind,” the girl said, “for the Lord is my shepherd.”

Swiping at her eyes once more with the back of her hand, the girl looks out at the starless night sky, and she does not see God.

She had indeed bounded blindly into her bridal bed, and things had not gone as she’d imagined they would.  She did not feel shepherded.

It had been inelegant, clumsy, and disjointed.  Their clammy, naked limbs had tangled together like knotted seaweed.  Her breath came out in nervous gasps, his in loud, heaving grunts.  They fumbled about, twisting and groping awkwardly as they attempted to align themselves in the most logistically sound position for the task at hand.  Each time he went to clutch some part of her, his grip was too tight, too cold.  It was like being prodded and probed with kitchen tongs.

And then, all at once…the metamorphosis.

As soon as he entered her, he changed.

Lying on her back, struggling for breath and squeezing her eyes closed in a vain attempt to shut out the revulsion twisting within her stomach, she felt her husband morph into a man.

Gone was the sweet boy of her dreams.  He’d been replaced by this maladroit mass of tectonically shifting flesh that ground atop her and pushed the air from her lungs.  His face, prickly with stubble, was buried in the side of her neck, his breath bursting out in hot plumes like smoke from a steam engine.  She could hear gurgling digestive noises bubbling within his stomach.  She imagined all of his internal fluids, all that blood and bile, mucus and pus and diluted, befouled water…all of it jostling around inside of him as he fucked her.

In that moment, the girl considered the possibility that she’d made a mistake.

In this moment, watching him sleep while contemplatively dragging from the cigarette with awkward, unpracticed motions, she thinks to herself, No.  No, I’ve definitely made a mistake.

She looks back out the window, peering down to the ground just two stories beneath her, and finds herself wishing they’d taken the hotel concierge up on his offer to upgrade them to the bridal suite on the fifteenth floor.

“That’s okay,” she’d said in declination, smiling up at her new husband.  “We don’t need anything fancy.”

He turns over in his sleep, snorts, and then lets out a protracted expulsion of gas.  The girl cringes.  She feels nauseated, and she can’t tell if the cigarette is making it better or worse.

“You know I’d never touch one of those,” she’d told the bridesmaid when she’d held the pack out to her after she’d finished with her hair.

Rolling her eyes, the bridesmaid thrust the pack into her hand.  “Trust me,” she’d said.  “There’s nothing like cigarettes after sex.”

The girl doesn’t think this is what the bridesmaid had in mind.

Trying to ignore the pain throbbing between her temples, she takes another dejected drag and holds the smoke in her lungs until her eyes burn and tear up again.  When she exhales, she finds herself wondering, with increasing despondence, what else she may have been wrong about.  She’s been married for a matter of mere hours and has only just lost her virginity less than thirty minutes ago, and already life is revealing itself to be a disappointment of seismic proportions.  She wants to be angry…that, she feels, would be the appropriate response…but she’s unable to find anything at which she can direct said anger.  Her parents, for not preparing her for what was in store?  The boy, for not living up to her expectations?  Walt Disney and Nicholas Sparks, for creating those expectations?  Or herself, for allowing that omnipresent torrent of mystical hopes and dreams to sweep her off her feet and drop her down into that wretched, sweat soaked marriage bed?

She suspects all of them had something to do with it, but the lattermost one guiltily hangs its head the lowest when standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the others in the lineup.

Deciding it isn’t helping, she flicks the cigarette out the window.  Her eyes trail after the yellow ember as it makes its descent before crashing onto the asphalt in a muted explosion of sparks.

Then, her eyes flick over to the phone on the nightstand.  It rests languidly in its cradle like a sleeping dog.

Biting her lip, she thinks about her future.

She doesn’t have to think for very long.

Advancing on tip-toe, she creeps over to sit down on the edge of the bed, and then she lifts the phone and dials the front desk.

“Yes, um, hello,” she whispers into the receiver, looking over her shoulder to make sure the man hasn’t been startled out of his slumber.  “Yes, my…um, my…my husband and I…”  She pauses, her mouth dry.  She licks her lips, eyeing the open window.  “Well, I’ve changed my mind.  I would like to have that bridal suite, after all.”

 


 

01/28/2019 – Statement on the BizarroCon Controversy

Let’s talk about pizza.

In light of recent events, the time has come for me to directly address the controversial performance that has now brought about the pulling of my book, Dead Inside, and the subsequent termination of Jeff Burk, head editor of Deadite Press. Up until now, I’ve been clinging to the admittedly pretentious hope that someone was going to “figure out” the message I was trying to convey with the skit in question. As I watched hundreds of people…some of whom had been at BizarroCon, most of whom had not…take me to task in dozens of various social media threads, I ping-ponged back and forth in my head about whether or not I should respond. It was tempting for me to jump in and say, “Wait, no, you didn’t get the allegory, what I meant was…” Whenever I started to type, though, I would think to myself, “No, dammit. I’m a capital-A Artist. I shouldn’t have to explain myself. I will not explain myself. If they didn’t get it, that’s not on me.”

What I’ve now realized, however, is that the fact that nobody seemed to get it…even the ones who weren’t actually offended by it…means that I failed in my attempt at creating capital-A Art. The audience isn’t the problem. I am. I was trying to make a statement about a very specific cultural phenomenon, but the statement was so obscure and mired by my own affectations that it failed to resonate. I demanded too much from my audience. Because of that, the hidden meaning (the fact that I didn’t think it was all that hidden is a sign of my own arrogance) of my “statement piece” flew right over everyone’s head like a comet on a cloudy night.

Before we go further, please note that this is not an apology. I already did that, much to the dubiety of my detractors, and I’m not going to do it again.

No, this is an explanation.

I acknowledge, of course, that this could potentially come across like your unfunny, hotdog-loving drunkle attempting to explain a joke in which he garbled the correct punchline. That’s okay. It might make me sound like a fool, but that’s okay, too. A lot of people are affected by today’s announcement, and they deserve to know all of the specifics no matter how it makes me sound.

Even if it’s at the expense of capital-A Art.

This was my first BizarroCon…it was actually my first “con” of any nature, for that matter…and I didn’t know what to expect. From talking with countless people who’d been to previous BizarroCons, I was of the understanding that the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown was a safe place to enact performance art that wouldn’t fly in most other circles. This led me to believe that I would be in the company of like-minded, left-leaning fringe artists such as myself, and thus I figured it would be the perfect place for me to perform a contemporary piece that touches (please forgive the icky pun) on a consistently prevalent theme in Dead Inside. That’s another reason I was reluctant to Explain Myself; I didn’t want to give away one of my book’s precious “hidden meanings.”

Alas, the tide has shifted, and it’s time I shed my high-brow snobbery and just come out with it.

Something I’m very passionate about is how much our country’s political landscape is being torn apart by right-wing conspiracy propaganda, and there’s one in particular that’s so absurd and cheesy (forgive that one, too; I think I’m allowed three off-color puns before it’s considered problematic) that it seemed to me like obvious subject matter for a satirist like myself.

Yes, I’m talking about #Pizzagate.

As a storyteller, I saw the ridiculousness of Pizzagate’s hole-ridden narrative as an immediate affront to my sensibilities and a shameful representation of America’s integrity. Corrupt politicians swapping kiddie porn and child prostitutes with the Hollywood elite in underground murder-sex cults? It sounds like an idea for an abandoned collaborative project between Dan Brown and Edward Lee. I was certain it wouldn’t catch on, but then again, I was also certain Donald Trump’s campaign proclamation was a hoax. And now here we are, with Trump serving 1,000 hamberders in the White House while the alt-right continues their witch hunt for child rapists in the nonexistent basements of pizza parlors.

Obviously, I’ve been wrong about things before.

The point is, I should have been more transparent with the message I was trying to convey through my contest performance instead of going for the obscure, too-cool-for-school hipster approach. Maybe I should have eaten a piece of cheese pizza during the performance, or used tomato sauce instead of corn syrup for the blood. Most of all, maybe I should stop hitting the imaginary “Shift” key in my head whenever I think of my art. Because if my art is getting good men like Jeff fired, then the “a” is decidedly lowercase.

 

P.S. Please take note that I’m not even going to acknowledge the claims that the baby prop wasn’t painted red (to make it look like an aborted fetus) but was actually walnut-colored, because that conspiracy theory is almost as ludicrous as the very one that I was satirizing.

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