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Variations on a Theme: Short Takes Inspired by Michael Ondaatje’s “Elimination Dance”

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1. Text fight

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: Your peacock footprints are imperfect

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: I have no idea what ur talking about

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: I woke to peacock ftprints in kitchen. Thought I was going crazy

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: were you?

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: haha why would you do this, I thought you brought a live
MESSAGE FROM SANDY: peacock into my kitchen, was really mad

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: lololololol

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: not funny, I spent 2 hours disinfecting

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: ??? :o u have a problem

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: You left a peacock feather so I would think a bird was there!!

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: how do u know it wasn’t? peaCOCK & I are at the bar right now

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: I researched peacocks online and saw that their footprints didn’t
MESSAGE FROM SANDY: match exactly, so I knew you had intentionally drawn them in mud

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: u researched peacocks before cleaning?

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: After. I wanted to read up on peacock-communicated diseases

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: LMFAO

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: It is NOT FUNNY!!!! #!$!!

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: what does ##!! mean?

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: it means SWEAR WORD YOU

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: oh it means FUCK you

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: YES!!!!

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: best prank ever

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: WHY DO YOU DO RIDICULOUS THINGS?

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: fun

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: who puts PEACOCK TRACKS IN A KITCHEN?

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: i didnt think you would be this upset

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: my point is, who thinks of doing that? No one.

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: thank u for noticing my originality

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: but you always do things that don’t make any sense!!!

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: I knew you would obsess all day about it.

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: what?

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: i knew youd figure it out. its not like I brought peacocks home for real

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: you have done stranger things, it is not beyond you!

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: fair point. but its my job to keep u on ur toes

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: driving me crazy makes you happy obviously. WHY?

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: u r hot when u r mad

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: eyeroll, you just like attention

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: it works. u were thinking about me ALL MORNING

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: about what an ass you are!

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: still counts

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: I don’t understand u at all sometimes

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: admit it, this was a good one.
MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: come on, it was funny!
MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: hello? anyone? *crickets*
MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: it was one of my best jokes ever…

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: if it’s impressive at all, it’s only in how deranged it is

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: YAY YOU THINK I’M IMPRESSIVE : )

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: Shut up. Don’t be late for dinner.

MESSAGE FROM MARIEN: ok. hugs and kisses?

MESSAGE FROM SANDY: Hugs and kisses. Moron.

 

2. Webpage titles for very specific porn sites.

“Naked Women Playing the Accordion”

“Famous-author lookalikes masturbating on their own books”

“Cunnilingus in elevators: watch them go for hours and hours!!!”

“Videos set in an alternate universe where people’s junk are made with diamonds but can only get a clitoris or penis as a gift.”

“Close ups of book pages falling on naked sweaty feet.”

“People in old-timey swimsuits arguing about Xenophon.”

“Men in furry whippet costumes have sex with people dressed in fuzzy Bic-lighter costumes.”

“Sleeping bag dungeons in real people’s homes!!!”

“Pig farmers spanked for not being bilingual! Watch them squeal!”

“Medical delivery boy living in a palace of stolen urine samples.”

“Hot gurlz spit on people while reciting poems by Sappho.”

“HOT STAPLED MEN”

“Water dripping out of ears and noses in FULL SLOW MOTION”

“Naked women with indigestion”

“Watch people who have given up on everything else find comfort in sex”

“Mounties fucking hockey players: ‘Now THAT’S what I call a stick!!!’”

 

3. How I ended up crying in front of the liquor board

It started when they asked me to explain why I was selling homemade dandelion wine out of my basement. I tried to say that I didn’t realize it was against the rules, but they found my email that told my friends to not tell anyone about the wine since I didn’t want the liquor board to find out. Then I said that I made the wine not for intoxication purposes but as a flavorful marinade that happens to have alcohol, but then they showed me a flyer that I had drawn and posted around town, the one with a cartoon dandelion getting so drunk he tries to hump a clematis plant. They complimented my artwork but not my wisdom. Or my “sophomoric perspective” on sexuality. Then I said that all this was a big misunderstanding and what harm could I have done, really. Then one of the board members said that my wine caused the mayor’s husband to hallucinate giant bats at the opera company’s fundraiser, and I was like, “Well, how was I supposed to know the alcohol content was so high?” But then they found my friends took cell phone video of me drinking it and going “WOOO! You can’t find shit like that at the liquor store, can ya?” So then I said that I was just trying to earn some extra money so I could go to film school because that was always my dream but I had a really bad breakup in college and never got to go and for decades I have wished to change my life and finally I had the chance if only they would give me some slack on this one little thing. And then they asked who my favorite director is, and I said Kurosawa, and they asked what my favorite film by him was, and I said, “Star Wars” and they laughed at me, but I actually was making an ironic commentary on the cultural appropriation found in the film but they didn’t get it. Seriously, just because I’m dumb about drinking and rules and boards and lying and sex and life, doesn’t mean I’m dumb about movies!!! And then they asked me why I thought I could get away with it, and I explained that nobody had never noticed anything I’ve ever done, so why would I think that that would change just because I sold rotten dandelions in bottles? And I explained it and I started to cry, and the strange thing is, I didn’t even mean to, but somehow the more I talked about it, the more I cried, and finally, they must have had compassion for me, because they agreed to let me continue selling wine as long as I promised to look up the recipe for safe dandelion wine. So all in all, it looks like bureaucracy isn’t nearly as heartless as everyone says. Anyway, it’s 10 dollars a bottle, how many do you want? No I mean it, it’s totally legal to buy from me, the Liquor Board said!

 

4. Interesting recommendations found on the walls of the bus terminal restrooms:

Call 423-1591 for a good time. He is not good in bed but is very entertaining at dinner.

Don’t date Kelly C. She is a tramp. Also she’s MINE.

I dated a guy I met at this bus station for four years. He left me to pursue his dream of making ceramic pots that look like goldfish, so I never had to tell him I was having an affair.

Jack W’s penis reminds me of those mushroom houses that the Smurfs live in. 525-9921

Math tutor, 314-1592, when I couldn’t pay, he said he would keep tutoring if I let him blow me. Got an A on the test and a blowjob where he showed all his work.

Melanie P has scars all over, they are so sexy, but if you fuck her don’t tell her you like them she will just get mad 423-1789

Henry J is hung like a horse but calls his mother after sex 229-1629

Allison B can get off without touching herself, just by watching someone eat strawberries 522-1796 -- it is amazing, but be careful, it won’t work with peaches or grapes

Jeff will say yes to anything you want to do to him as long as you let him write about it in his blog 412-1195 no seriously I mean anything

Lem. 525-0001. That is who I think of when I masturbate in bus terminal restrooms. He doesn’t think of me as anything worth looking twice at, so if you hook up with him PLEASE ask him to invite me to a threesome, I’m his roommate, the taller one.

I am 47 years old and these are the people who have tried to give me an orgasm: Jim, Tom, Ennis, Colin, Celine, Marsha, Tim, a different Tom, the first Tom again, Jess, Aron, Keven, Shep, Martin, Anthony, Derrin, Althea, Zach, Poppy, Marvin, Luis, Tina, Bak, Ronan, Malena, Sera, Thad, Ryanne, Faz, Penelope, Jet, Kate, Enzo, Jilly, Samuel, Roberto, and myself. They all failed and I am sick of trying. If you are sick of trying too call me 427-1963

 

5. An Autobiography of love (love is a dance).

When I thought of being in love someday, when I was a child, I always thought of the ocean. I thought of sitting on an island on cold, cold sand, until a man in a rowboat came to take me away, gazing at me as his arms pumped, rowing us across the waves. Or sometimes it was a fish who granted three wishes, and I used the third one to turn him into a human so he would be free to stay with me forever. I don’t know how these images came to me; I didn’t live anywhere near the ocean.

When I was a youth, I rebelled. I searched for things that would scandalize me, things that would make me feel like I was choosing my own means of corruption. I decided that too many people are sheep, fearing what they’ll find if they throw themselves on the edge. It was then that I decided that there are two types of people in the world: those who avoid depravity, hoping that if they focus on more pleasant things, it will simply go away, and those who run toward it, fumbling toward its riddles, its promises, its ecstasies of unanswerable questions. Only one of these types of people was of interest to me, and so I eliminated a large percentage of “the masses” from the list of things that were worth my time.

The first man that I lived with was an artist. He was needy, egotistical, and obsessive, in all the right ways. He agreed with me about the masses, Jean Genet, and the character of dogs, and disagreed with me about Joseph Conrad, classic cars, and photography; it was a potent combination. Even when he was dreary, he was never too much drearier than anything else. I was terrified he would leave me, and did things I wasn’t proud of to make sure that didn’t happen – and in being not-proud, I discovered that I hadn’t shed as much bourgeois morality as I had hoped.

It all changed on a Tuesday afternoon. He woke up late and stared at himself in the mirror, rubbing his chin as he contemplated his stubble. For ten minutes, he stood in front of the mirror, fingers gliding along the textures of his face (he was a patient man). Finally, he said, “Do you think I should grow a beard?”

I attribute it to the follies of youth that this was the first moment I realized he was ridiculous. But it was so sudden and so apparent, and I was thinking of nothing but how silly he was, and how much I pitied him for his silliness, and he kept staring at himself and rubbing his chin, like he thought that growing a beard would change something, like it would mean something, like it could turn him into someone closer to how he imagined himself. I wanted to grab his arm, spin him around, yell that a beard would do nothing, that it would show nothing of him but how much time had passed since he last shaved, and in that moment he reminded me of those youtube videos where men shave their beards in stages, pausing at each step to contemplate the significance of it all, those silly men trying to say that their face-scraggles revealed something about the passage of time. And I knew in that moment that I would break up with him, even though I had ALWAYS assumed, for our relationship, that it would be the other way around. And it was a terrible realization, and I felt even more pity for him, and I wanted to comfort him, to apologize, but I wanted to laugh at him too, and most of all I wanted to scream at him, because I was in that very moment, in my head, cutting off the most important person in my life, and there he was, still stroking his chin stubble, peering in his mirror for answers.

It wasn’t like he was the only love of my life, of course. Or even the greatest. I once left someone because I found out he once pissed out the back of a moving truck. It wasn’t even disgust – it was that his story made it obvious that he found the experience rather exhilarating, not for some erotic reason, but simply because it was “hilarious.” I could never look at him the same after that.

I once left a man because he made lewd movements to amuse me during the storm scene of the avant-garde all-puppet version of King Lear that I was watching online. He rotated his hips in time with the thunder, and I said, “The thing about your dick is, it’s all sound and no fury.” He smiled weakly and pretended it was funny, and even informed me that I was quoting the wrong play (I knew that, but I didn’t mention it). But it was pretty much over after that.

I once left a man because his hobby was hunting grouse. I count this a totally justifiable end-of-relationship reason that does not reflect on me at all.
I once left a man because he cried too much. Of all the reasons I’ve had for leaving someone, this was the one that made me feel the most petty, the most shallow. He cried when I broke up with him, of course. It was the first time I cried with him.

I kept trying, to my credit, to know someone without finding something I had no choice but to despise. I learned from my mistakes, too. I stopped going out with men who were too full of themselves, men who were too clingy, men who were too insecure, men who were too self-sufficient, men who cared too much about trivial things, men who cared too earnestly about important issues. I learned to eliminate the impossible, the unworkable, the ridiculous options from the scope of my desire.

I am learning still.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to find someone just like me. I wonder what it would be like, to finally have a true match. I wonder if I would learn, finally, to find myself ridiculous.

I wonder if that would make a difference.