“God help us…”

Most people don’t believe in ADHD.

    AD/HD Inattentive Subtype

  1. Six or more of the following symptoms of inattention have persisted for at least six months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:
    1. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
    2. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
    3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
    4. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
    5. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
    6. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as school work or homework)
    7. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
    8. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
    9. Is often forgetful in daily activities
  2. AD/HD Hyperactive/Impulsive Subtype

  3. Six or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity have persisted for at least six months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level

    1. Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
    2. Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
    3. Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
    4. Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
    5. Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
    6. Often talks excessively
    7. Impulsivity

    8. Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
    9. Often has difficulty awaiting turn
    10. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g. butts into conversations or games)

(American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1994.)

Then they meet me.Ohhh, now I get it…!
Yeah. Now please shut up and go away. Only the introductory lesson is free, sorry. Come back next week for our Ritalin™ special and get a free spin in the Distractadome™ May not be combined with any other offer. Virtual Deficit, LLC. takes no responsibility for any negative social consequences that may result from the residual effects of our programs. Free after $50 mail-in rebate. _Haha, suckers._

“Elinor saw nothing to censure in him but a propensity of saying too much what he thought on every occasion, without attention to persons or circumstances. In hastily forming and giving his opinion of other people, in sacrificing general politeness to the enjoyment of undivided attention where his heart was engaged, and in slighting too easily the forms of worldly propriety, he displayed a want of caution which Elinor could not approve.”
-Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

There is no way to diagnose AD/HD without a frame of reference.
There is no value judgment, just a comparison and then an observation.
An impaired ability to parse culture
Individual A is an aberration, though they belong to an identifiable sub-group with defining characteristics

I stare at words
Ticks and scratches with hats and feet
Marching my eyes
Dart laughing behind, voices
Whispers, phone
Screaming, Slash
the pages, Drown
it all in Muted

The old VHS tape clicks into motion—rotational to lineal to magnetic to image.

The air is filled with echoes of deep past—I feel reverberations, but this video is my primary source. The camera settles on a fidgety boy of about five years that is not me, happiness and innocence bubbling from his grinning face. He begins his joke while my parents film and chime in at the appropriate moments and feigning just enough surprise. But only one eye is ever on this boy, for their attention is demanded by a more awesome force: ME.

There is a cartoonish blur; a body, celestial or earthly it cannot quite be told, streaking across the background. Light is faster but sound is not far behind, the words rattled off form a blur of their own. One parent’s voice splits off to the side, and we hear a stern, embarrassingly simple instructing only barely clinging to a distant pleading, to desperate God help us and our hellion of a child. The first boy completes his joke, delivering the punch-line twice, this time getting it right.

There is a disconnect between intention and behavior. Between your perception of your behavior and its perception by others. Between your perception of others and others’ expectation of your ability to perceive them.

I am five, in Kindergarten, and it is still two long years until my meetings with the school counselor, Mrs. Whiteside. Her kind dark brown face, one of only two among the lily-white faculty, and perhaps a dozen more among the 500+ students—heard first as a firm yet gentle rapping on the classroom door. Out I go, excited to be missing class, boring class. Mrs. Whiteside is slow and deliberate, but it is okay; she brings calm to my rough seas. She gives me blocks to fit together, pictures about which to tell stories. At some point the visits stop, and my parents tell me somehow (though I have no memory) that I have been diagnosed with ADHD. Their bookshelves sag with newly purchased tomes espousing the best way to “deal with your hyperactive child.” 15 years later my girlfriend will find these books on the shelf in our tv room and giggle in delight. I smile with a strange sense of pride in my hellaciousness (and repossessed “otherness”).

If life was a board game, and you had a different set of rules, what would happen when you tried to play with others? What would they think about you? About your intentions? About you as a person? Where does personality end and disorder begin?

I’m sitting in a Starbucks™, my eyes are fixed on the trail of ink left by my rhodium nib. My ears dart back and forth, from the the Starbucks™ brand Musak to the clang of a nearby cellphone. “A dysfunctional group, or a core group…” A meeting. A child eating, a cookie. A barista laughs, “It really is!” he chortles. “A life coach” “Cause I know a lot of people who are stuck…” Tamborines, the scent of coffee, the buzz of refined sugar and amphetamine derivatives dancing their dance with my neurons. My savory soup of neurotransmitters churning away inside my braincage. The pungent air holds the snarl of coffee. I’m wondering how the corporate bozos at Starbucks calculated that this “music” would make anyone want to buy coffee. It makes me want to buy an ice pick and a smile. Everyone else is writing more than me. not really, but my brainvoice is telling me so. I snarl, and with a wimper it retreats back into the damp cave from whence it emerged. The grind of beans splintering floats above the din. It isn’t quite a din. the music continues. How many cycles do I waste on hating it? How many process moments — bits of ethereal phytochemical liveliness? My mother wishes she could ask them to turn it off.

“Do rock climbers dream of falling or flying? Do hyperactive kids dream of solitude on a granite mountain? Or do they dream of this: dancing and laughing, surrounded by friends, the mountains a distant mirage?”Michael Shay, “Are We Distracted?” from In Short, Kitchen and Jones, Eds.

Michael Shay is distracted by his 8 year-old ADHD son, who is not me, but happens to be scaling an 80-foot sheer face of granite with reckless abandon. He was also distracted when, at two, his son began displaying his climbing proclivities by scurrying up a 50-foot spruce at the playground.

Why do we climb? To escape this world, with its hard chafing edges; to conquer the ultimate contain-er… gravity.

Attention; alertness, awareness, mindfulness, presence of mind, intentness, advertence, heed.

Individuals with AD/HD are often severe underachievers.

AD/HD has been associated with certain personality traits that can be seen as other defining “symptoms”: High energy, creativity, alternating extreme empathy/unempathy, strong sense of intuition, trouble/frustration making self understood…

Someone once posited that ADHD is a genetic remnant from our primal hunting days. Hyper-vigilance. Obviously, this person did not have Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder. Michael Shay used his experience with his 8-year-old ADHD son to intuitively reject the Hunter Hypothesis, on the ground that impulsiveness is not beneficial in such a context: i.e. Charging head-first into a herd of mammoths without forethought. But this misses the point almost entirely. Would he send an 8-year old non-ADHD kid out hunting? Surely not, at least if he was worried about impulse-control… Every child is impaired (undeveloped) in this regard, the ADHD kids just fall behind in their development (and may never fully catch up). While impulsiveness is at the core of what it means to be/have ADHD, in the hunting context, it is the much more bland distractibility that would be our downfall. Here’s how it would really go:

Me go hunt now. Oooga oohoooh.
…Uh, tiger! I go other way…
nice birdiees me smell boar, yes, mmmm. Me hungry.
(boar tracks! follows them…).
Ooh, flowers! Pretty flower! I pick some. mmm smells nice, Me make bouquet.

At this point the story takes on a familiar theme: insert Little Red Riding Hood, except instead of finding a wolf posing as my grandmother, I would return to the tribe with no food—but a very nicely styled 1/2 bouquet of flowers (got distracted), and some pretty rocks. Maybe I shot a bird, but forgot to bring it home. That would be my last time on hunting duty.*

Confidence, self-evaluation, judgment. The inner editor. The inner critic. Impatience. High levels of impatience. No ability to wait to see how things turn out. Why bother? We’ve seen this movie before; we know how it’ll end…

*Part two: Village elder is furious, throws rocks and flowers into fire pit. Flowers are incinerated. POOF. Rocks slowly crack apart, turn red, and start to ooze. One of the children notices, and is pulled back by his parents before he can lose a finger demonstrating the effect of molten copper on human flesh. ADHD was the true source of copper discovery.

“Neurology offers a biological explanation which distinguishes between the ‘maladjusted’ child and the AD/HD child.”(Rafalovich, 411)

There is a look that I have grown to recognize; one that creeps up mid-conversation and fills me with dread. It says “Ok, I hear you. Uh, yeah. Okay. I get it already”. It says “Why is he still talking?“ It shows a polite disinterest, a rising level of conversation-fatigue. My mind floods with questions: How long have they not wanted to listen? How do I rescue the situation? Why aren’t they interested? Was it the way I was explaining things? Did I say too much? Too fragmented? Too much detail? Too tangential? It only happens at parties, or at dining hall.

Attention: The span thereof. The ability to regulate and allocate the necessary attentional resources. Impulse supression; the ability to resist extraneous stimuli and retain task focus.

AD/Hyperactivity has several real-world manifestations beyond is theoretical murkiness, and perhaps more importantly, its skeptical appeal. Some of these effects are blatant and thus find remedy (for the lucky ___ %) in panaceaic medicines such as Ritalin™ and Adderall™.

Over 70% of all individuals diagnosed with AD/HD are also diagnosed with a related disorder. Depression. Mood Disorders. Conduct Disorder. Depression.

Depression: A rotting twine’s torsion, that one impossible organ deep within my chest where the feelings lie. lay. lye. lae. lae man lay-man serviceman. its spiny tendrils slowly killing cells, one at a time-mechanically tightening with each breath. In come the happy pills-Boom. Everything goes

Enter the blessed ones
Methylphenidate methyl a-phenyl-2-piperidineacetate C14H19NO2 Molecular weight: 233.31. Bioavailability: 11-52% when taken orally. dextro,levo-methylphenidate 50:50 racemic mixture: Ritalin® (Ritalina®). dextro-methylphenidate: Focalin. Also Concerta® (time-release), Metadate®, Methylin®, Rubifen®.
Adderall 25% Dextroamphetamine Saccharate 25% Dextroamphetamine Sulfate 25% Amphetamine Aspartate 25% Amphetamine Sulfate. Amphetamine 1-phenylpropan-2-amine C9H13N

“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder is a neurobiological disorder. People with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder tend to have inordinate amounts of trouble maintaining attention-discipline, may be impulsive, and especially at younger ages are often hyperactive-uncharacteristically so for their age and level of development.”

disorder: lack of order, our minds are disorderedwe like to think they have thier own unique order.

This, the age of doom and destruction, the failure and betrayal of humanity by reason and modern progress—now the innovators are brought into the folds. We, the “thinkers outside the box,” are the prophets of the 21st century.

No-one has yet to recruit AD/HD-ers outright, and perhaps they never will, but we can dream…

Trains and Bostonia

>The physical condition of the traction properties in Chicago is now at its maximum, and unquestionably is above that of any other city in the United States.
–Bion J. Arnold, Chief, Board of Supervising Engineers. _Citizens’ Bulletin_, Cincinnati. June 15, 1912.

In the old days, back in 1630, it took two days to get a shipment of frieght from Winnisimet (Chelsea) to Boston, and by ox cart at that. Today, the trip via passenger train takes 10 minutes. This may not be true.

>On a normal saturday in June, 1909,… the number of passengers compelled to ride without seats was 88,490. –Ralph E. Heilman, “The Chicago Subway Problem.” _The Journal of Political Economy_, 22:10. (1914) pp992-1005.

The first chartered transportation service on the continent was born to replace this frustrating circuitous journey through Malden, Camrbidge, Brighton and Roxbury. Of what did the Boston air smell? Surely, the stifled city breeze was not yet even a speck on the horizon… What colors were the waters of Boston harbor? The infamous Charles river?

The railroad, it means many things to this people. _Tink… Tink… Tink… I’ve been a-workin’ on the_ the metronomic slaving of sledge against iron, spike inexorably driven deeper into the virginstolen earth. Our ancestors, or perhaps the slaves they brought, or the workers they hi4red — those who built a country out of blood, sweat and tears. Good ‘ol fashioned hard work. Don’t see much of that anymore, not these days. The few who wield a hammer do so with righteous indignation, and only between catcalling a passing piece of ass.

>As if the first railroad workers _didn’t_ ogle women? If they didn’t, it was only because there were none. Whatever version you tell, it is still just that, a story. You join in with all the other bodies. Down, descend into the bowels of the city, hot stale air rushes past, floating to freedom. Further into the holes carved by sandhogs, or those huge tunnel-driller machines that chew through the bedrock pillow, it’s seismic shocks lost to those above. The ground-rodents, if there are any left, are the only ones who sense that something is wrong, something is different. They run into their burrows to hide, safe with the young — but the feeling only grows stronger– deeper, darker, louder. Instinct has failed.

I rode the T to work almost every day of almost every summer since I was 16. A quick, lonely walk down Beacon St. in Newton Center. Beacon St. in Newton Center is similar to Beacon St. in Boston by name and association only. Beacon St. leaves the quaint Victorians for the anachronism that is Newton Center proper. When we first moved here, my parents remember for me a 2 screen movie-theater, and an assortment of other stores that sold things beyond boutique jeans and mortgages. Newton Center is the new banking capital of Newton. Who knew there could be so many banks? Everyone I know goes to one of two banks. In Newton Center alone, there are _at least_ 822 separate bank branches. Sky scrapers cast morose inky shadows and blot out the daycare I remember. They have since posted floodlights above the playground, which are used only during daylight hours. The buildings are comprised of alternating shops and banks, one to a floor, a thin winding twisting monstrosity of a structure, all the way up up to the reaches of our little slice of ionosphere.

Turis Fatyr the Viking Goat Pirate

Words: Flight, Root Beer, Viking, Title: Turis Fatyr the Viking Goat Pirate (Turis?)

Turis the Viking Goat who sailed the seven seas — with trusty crew manning the ropes, for Nature is a cruel mistress, who saw it fit to deny Turis Fatyr the use of opposable thumbs (one day!).One more seemingly impossible obstacle to overcome, one more leap for Goat-dom.

And here he was , sailing the seven seas with trusty crew of roughshod sailors. He stood atop the poop deck, front legs planted solidly, gazing over the sea’s vast expanse. Wide open ocean as far as his goat-eyes could see, and see they could. Oh, how he longed to feel the cool waves lap against his skin — yet again, nature was cruel.

“I see you’ve found yourself a goat.”

From a five minute in-class exercise using the following constraints: must contain a ninja, a goat and take place in Belgium, in the rain

>Bring me a bowl of coffee before I turn into a goat.
_–Johann Sebastian Bach_

They walked without saying a word. Kurosawa was glad he was no longer alone; his black shirt and pants clung to his skin in the rain, it rained endlessly here, was there ever sun? Down from the grey skies, over tiled roofs, and down cobblestone streets; into labyrinthine sewers older than time itself.

She recognized him at once; he was the only Ninja in all of Belgium, and he sulked his way through the rain down the main boulevard, looking less like a ninja then a dejected schoolboy in November. She did not, however, recognize the goat by his side.

The sky was stained crimson the night they met–it was in Yokohama, 15 years ago–before her trouble with the police pulled them forever apart. Or so she’d thought. She fell from the face of the earth. And she was averse to admit it, but she had grown used to life alone. It replaced that dislocated longing for completeness that only comes from many years of solitude.

“I don’t need anyone to protect me!” she said, to no-one in particular. The young man at the table behind her looked up from his newspaper, only to cock his head in goatish amusement, and return to reading.

The little dog started barking, its owner had left it tied up in the rain, and it was beginning to take on the look of a drowned rat–she was pulled from the haze of memory into the very real, and surreal moment of staring a goat straight in the face.

“Hello Kurosawa,” She purred. “I see you’ve found yourself a goat.”

Cats, Marbles, and a School Teacher: Another Un-braided Braided Essay

>I don’t know what whore you give the tip on this Night of Joy, but our boys have been in there almost every night and they haven’t turned up anything.
–from “Confederation of Dunces”

The __cat__ had escaped through an open window, onto the fire escape of their 13th floor apartment in the City. It began its descent to street level.

Every day she rode the red line through, well, under Cambridge, past the putrid waters of the Charles river, and into Boston. There, she switched to the Green line, which took her out to the lily-white streetcar suburbs of Boston.

The machine screamed and ground to a halt. “Shit,” he would surely be fired. They had no time for lost production, it was the height of the __marble__ season and they were already two weeks behind schedule. Assuming he still had a job, he could be sure there’d be no year-end bonus coming his way.

She padded her way purposefully down each link of the fire escape, pausing only once to watch a man groggily swat at his blaring alarm clock. She continued.

Through the chaos of this, the first train station in America, _Park Street Station_. She thought about how different the city must have been then, as she passed the historical display plastered with nostalgic Black & Whites.

He wiped the sweat from his grimy brow, and squinted into the murky bowels of the machine. At least his wife made some money teaching those rich white kids in suburbia.

On Leftist Gorillas and Industrial Decor (with Kyle)

Pipe-fittings adorn the wall, screen sconce fades its light across antique chests and clean-cut stone counters.

_To some people, the five South American dialects she spoke and translated, sounded like birds clicking and squawking at each other–to her it sounded_

like rain on a summer’s eve.

The house sat in the middle of the rain forest–each piece having been lovingly hauled across the root-covered ground.

_A pebble on the ground caught her attention–she didn’t know the word for “pebble” in this part of the Amazon. She asked, then put it in her pocket. She collected new words like some collected shells._

Her husband had been kidnapped by radical leftist gorillas. How ironic; if anyone would appreciate her industrial decor, it would be them.

_She walked inside the house, pebble in her pocket and ran her hands across the walls, the pipes, the stones. She wanted to live here forever, in her industrial-amazon dreamland._

But not until she rescued her husband.


From 3/2/08

A Circle

Round curvilinear. A square connected gracefully from midpoint to midpoint with no corners, none. It is a measure of perfection–circumference to diameter always. Circle forms the basis for life; our life, at least. The sun, an abstract circle shining light onto the 2nd most prolific — the moon — both gazing down onto our humble blue-green oblate spheroid (sort-of circles).

A Spiral Staircase

The only way to enter the forbidden chambers are through a secret door, and a dark, dank spiral staircase. Torch in hand, its flames licking the moss-covered stones as they whirl past, you lose track of time and space. Up or down? Moving, or merely trying not to fall as the world spins around you? Never able to see beyond the next edge…
Get one today! 1-800-Spiralz

Classical Music

Through this confluence
of sounds we
gaze into worlds gone by
a saccharine pop ballad
for a lady with corset-fractured
ribs, and impotent, hunting husband.
Play on, as the shark-infested waters rise,
lap across your leather loafers
Yet the waltz swings overtop,
floating effortlessly over the screams of
drowning passengers — conjuring a mirage
of civility amidst the embodiment of civil

Water Fountain, Terrified

Cold, grey steel; a bar embossed, PUSH. Chrome pipes crawled from the wall up, up, into the bowels of this infernal contraption. The stream of water would surely explode, filling the hallway with the roar of rushing torrents–and sucking undertow.

The water fountain of DEATH.

Fiction Reflection

Much like creative non-fiction, writing fiction has been a transformative, crystallizing experience that served to draw together my scattered experiences in out-of-class writing into a recognizable enjoyment of making stuff up. So, in other words, It showed me that I like to make up stories. The chance to just let loose and see what happened was both terrifying and fascinating (and fun). I like how a fiction work can just go its own way in every dimension, unlike creative non-fiction which must maintain its integrity as a representational work. As I’m sure others have said, and will always say, such leeway is both energizing and paralyzing, especially given my personal tendency to feel overwhelmed by any number of choices or options. However, once I imposed a structure (especially in class writing games, or at least the first one when we did the café scene) and was given a shock (in the form of a prompt etc…) my ideas were able to charge ahead fearlessly into the unknown (sort of). Then, of course, I hit another wall upon realizing that the thing had to become a whole coherent story and the block came back. Also, I had lots of trouble trying to get excited about the story, and care enough about the characters to find out who they are etc… But persistence, and emphasis on interactive, verbal planning, as well as just generally self-confidence boosting meetings with BG helped me get over the last hump, to get things out of a jumble and more into the narrative as it wants to be shown. So, I really love the creative, free side of fiction–without this essential ingredient I wouldn’t have enjoyed creative non-fiction nearly as much. But at the same time it can easily be overwhelming, though by writing many “chunks” and then stitching them together the monumental task is made much more manageable, provided the chunks can actually be successfully integrated (see the refuse).

Oh, and I really enjoyed flash fiction. Being able to just zoom alllllll the way in can be really fun, and can make the story take on a cool surreal quality that I really like. (The bit in my short story about the earring getting hot in his ear, or the final scene are both mini-encapsulated flash fictions).

The Earring (v3 95% done)

Who could she be? Hal pictured her clearly as he played with the earring’s dangling silver shards; he saw her walking into his cafe with a look of conscious poise that only barely betrayed her distress. He was hypnotized by the swirl of her solitary earring. He cursed as the double soy latte he was preparing overflowed. He wanted nothing more in the world at this moment than to find this mystery woman—the one whose earring he held. Hal knew the customers didn’t understand; to them, the earring was nothing more than a feeble swipe at society dangling from his ear. He relished their discomfort; he hesitated before handing back their change, watching as they inevitably looked again, they couldn’t help it. He flashed a corporate smile and they ran, caffeine in hand. The morning rush was over and Hal leaned against the back counter, sinking into his elbows. He let himself unmoor

She looked everywhere. The office, the car, the lobby. She asked her secretary, she asked her officemates. She called home and asked her dog on the answering machine. It was nowhere to be found. She felt the odd looks as she briskly moved along the sidewalk against the lunch-hour rush, but she could not be fazed. The looks continued as she surged into the cafe, filled with frustration and the desperate hope that this place was The place; it didn’t help that she wore only one earring, its silver petals sprinkling the morning rays across her neck. What does it mean to be good enough? To make people proud. To rise above ones circumstance; A good poker player can win with any hand of cards—they don’t even have to look. Why was she in law school? It paid well, sure, or it would—eventually. Wouldn’t it be incredible to see her name in lights… ”Young Upstart Litigator Upsets Dominant Paradigm, Successfully Drafts 167th Legal Brief!“ Her headache was back; it was only 12:15. She stared absently down at her salad. She hated salad. Her feet were finally returning to their natural shape, the torturous pumps sat innocently under her chair. She stared at the leaves, and her fingers wandered to her left ear and twirled the air. Then she noticed her earring wasn’t there. She was sure she had worn it, she remembered putting it on, checking herself in the mirror during the morning traffic. Her stomach sank further, removing any notion of food from her mind. It had been taken from her. Even her appetite was gone; she felt violated. She wedged back into her heels and rose to leave. Her feet took her through town, past the bus stops, through back alleys, across bridges. She walked for what seemed like hours, maybe days. At last she stopped; she stood in front of a small coffee shop.

Then Hal was not alone. The mists of his daydream receded; he brought the world back into focus just as the door swung open, and a hot summer wind swirled the newspapers up off the tables, filling Hal’s mouth with the acrid taste of raw emotion. Hal was nondescript. He embodied it, he looked and lived it, but worst of all he felt it. Mediocre. Average. A number. A statistic. He could taste it—it was a bad taste—it lived in his lungs, in his heart. He had tried once to drink it away, but that only changed his category; piled on one more cliche. Sometimes, Hal made himself sick. He lived alone, and Hal was lonely but didn’t know it. He had a cat whose company sustained him, and brought him what he thought at least resembled happiness. His parents called, and the phone rang, and rang, and rang. They meant well, really they did. But sometimes they just didn’t have a clue. There was nothing they could do. The beep, then the voice piping out from the kitchen alcove where the answering machine faithfully recorded every word.

Hal wiped hands across his green apron. He admired the stitching. How much time would there be? Each line of fabric exactly the same as the next, perfectly even. Could he run? Faded stains from distractions past. Maybe he could hide. Every breath, each pull of his lungs it burrowed further, like a vicious cancer it spread, eating him alive. It spread to his eyes; the world had lost its glow. There was now only gray. The lush brown beans the artist in him once admired were now a lush flat gray. They smelled of wet cement, and tasted it for that matter. The sun no longer filtered through him, freeing him from his pains; now it just made him sweat. He did his job well—he could make any of the 64,513 possible beverage combinations, and most in under 2:00 flat. Corporate had timed him once. In they came with their suits and folios, radio-phones. They took his photo; put it in some bulletin to make the investors proud. They liked him. He knew how to do a job right. The stockbrokers who came on their way to the floor had told him he made a mean latte. It gave them something to look forward to every morning. He ground brewed, poured, steamed, mixed, served, smiled. Repeat.

The staring man behind the counter. He had dark eyes and a dark complexion; he had the eyes of more than a barista. Then she saw it. Her earring dangling from his left ear. Her heart jumped, and for the first time since high school she had no idea what to do next. She was completely vulnerable, exposed, completely at the mercy of the cafe, its customers, the barista. Her heart stopped beating. Those eyes, she felt them pierce her armor, peering into the depths of her soul– into the places she had left buried so long she had forgotten they even existed.

She breathed out as the train slowed to a stop, and the doors squeaked open. The passengers tumble-streamed out of the train-cars, and scurried off to their destinations. She shook her hair back, trying to shrug off the dizzy claustrophobic heat. The small bits of metal flew free, and sailed onto the tracks beside her. She hated late April, it was already too humid for her blood, and the haze of the city was slowly beginning to form.

He didn’t notice her at first. She stood before the counter, her right shoulder slung with an expensive handbag, hair flipped to one side. He had the vague sinking rolling stomach feeling that he had blown it already; he slowly realized just how absurd he must look wearing her earring. What if she had ear disease? What if he did?! He didn’t think either of these was likely, but still, you can’t take chances with things like this; heart leaping frantically from his ribcage as if to escape across the street. The room had filled with a brilliant light, but Hal did nothing. He made an attempt to shield his eyes from the inferno. The hook of the earring grew hot in his ear. He wanted to take it off and hand it back, return it to its proper owner. His nostrils flared with the scent of his searing flesh; and yet he was still.
They stood; the counter dividing them. Hal thought his legs might be shaking, though he couldn’t say for sure. His neck was stiff, and his eyes glued to the shine of her matching earring. They each stared at the others’; he didn’t know if she had already said anything. The rolling and rumbling grew more violent, and he felt the impulse to melt, though he wasn’t sure if it was his choice to make. The heat in his ear had reached new heights and he was surprised the earring hadn’t just burned through and fallen out. His thoughts danced through his mind as he watched the light play off her neck, the tiny silver petals of her earring not yet settled from their journey.

He realized suddenly that he could not move. She looked at him quizzically, as if she didn’t know quite what to make of the situation. She wasn’t mad, he knew, but he could not make more than that. She seemed to understand his situation and his silence and lack of movement was less troubling to her than he had anticipated. She thought fiercely for a few moments, running calculations by contorting her face this way and that until at last her features relaxed. She reached her hand slowly across the counter, hovering above his own, which had clamped onto the near edge and was snugly attached. She paused again, but only briefly, before continuing towards his frozen grasp, while his eyes stayed frozen on her neck, the dance of lights plucking the strings of his being, in the arbitrary way that such beautiful things tend to; then there was an explosion. The current surged through the first layers of skin and screamed along his various ducts and canals and wires and circuits into his brain, into his chest, into his feet. The force took his breath away, and left his hair standing on end. The earring floated out from his ear at a 90 degree angle, the petals swirling around themselves in space. He could not feel the floor beneath his feet, nor the air on his face. Only the series of shockwaves propagating through his body, hitting the end and rippling back. The crossing waves produced a symphony of harmonics that filled his head, growing to a deafening roar. Each of his senses was quickly overwhelmed, and he was left only with the image of dancing stars on her pale skin.

Earring Refuse

Here is all the stuff that Barbara helped me cut from my short story, preserved for posterity.

Every day Hal rode the e line home from work. He would walk the two blocks down Main Street past the bustling bistros and boutiques, down into the damp underbelly of the city. He rode the rickety. He swayed along, crossing the town line into FUCKTOWN, he always sat by a window, except when he couldn’t, when the trains. When he had to sl. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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