The shorts below were written by some of our contributors for the month of June, which, as we know, is typically a month associated with gloom. But rather than focus on April showers and May flowers—the weather and nature that springs up this time of year—our contributors focused on the way gloom has seeped into their own lives.
The story of how I ended up naked on the internet seems a lot more complicated than it actually is. The truth is simple.
It started with a boy named Tyler. Six-foot, thin, baby-faced Tyler.
He was my first date since my breakup with a longterm boyfriend, who was completely his opposite. It was a big day, and I was really just looking for a hookup, and yes, women can say that, too.
But the night came and went, and I remained firmly unlaid. It was full of science and art and history and music and booze and food until 5 a.m. but not a look down my shirt, not a grab for my ring, not a tongue in my mouth, let alone anything else in my anything else.
I walked out of his apartment after the sun was up with a hug and some new music but completely bereft. What the hell? What man would rather have a friend more than a vagina? What was wrong with me? It must be because I’m…fat? Am I fat? Did he hate my thighs?
It was then that I missed my old boyfriend more than ever—my boyfriend who knew what he wanted, took charge, could fuck like a man, and called me the right names. And who always made me feel sexy as hell. Maybe I’d made a mistake in letting him go.
So I did what any 28-year-old, freshly graduated girl living in Gresham, Oregon and looking to win back some of her self esteem would do: I slapped a pic of my boobs on a site called ratemeplease.com and waited to be judged—obviously a classy choice, since the domain name had “please” in it.
The average scores of others were lots of threes and fours, and the highest on the hall of fame didn’t even hit 8, so I wasn’t expecting much.
But then my scores and private messages started pouring it by the hundreds, and before I knew it, I was #12 on the entire site out of thousands (not now, so don’t bother looking)—my highest achievement after my master’s degree.
And the messages, or “fan mail,” as I like to think of them, well, they included it all, some sweet and others nasty enough to get me pregnant just by reading them. The only thing they always left out were negative comments. I never got one.
There’s more to this Missy’s-naked-on-the-internet story (so much more), but the only relevant thing is how one rejection in June can devastate the usual confident woman, and apparently winning a boob competition is the way to respond. Also: Tyler missed out, and I’m a respectable 7.8.
It was supposed to be a joyous transition, one from novice to master. From the student to the teacher. But I crashed hard. What started as relaxation morphed into a thick gloom that weighed heavy on my shoulders, on my chest, on my mind. I couldn’t move, or breathe, or think. The record of my tumultuous mind kept skipping and chanting “What am I going to do now?” I had a list of activities and projects to get started, but somehow my days were stuck on repeat: wake up when fiancé leaves, get up from bed, go to couch, nap, count down hours until I wasn’t alone again. Do nothing, say nothing, write nothing. Excuse this catharsis, but I feel the best way to tackle this is to somehow write myself out of it. Force myself to put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, mind to work and write. And while this might be short, it’s at least a start. More updates on comic chats and teaching artifacts coming soon, just be patient with me as I ask the muses that be to get off their butts and remove this gloom from my eyes!
“Why won’t anyone talk to me?” Nick screams from inside his bedroom. He’s drunk and belligerent, but also high. This time he tells us it’s just pills. Xanax. But it’s obvious it’s something else, or something more. Chris and his mom, Kristi, still don’t talk to Nick. They don’t even seem to hear him in there, shuffling around his cramped room, throwing his things around like confetti. I worry the neighbors will hear and call the police and then we’ll really never get to bed. And I’m tired, so tired of all of it.
“Chris,” I say. He stops arguing with his mother for a moment. “The neighbors have a baby.” I point my finger towards the wall our townhouse shares with the neighbors. It’s not thick. I sometimes hear the man who lives next door shout in Chinese. Or what I think is Chinese, though I can’t be sure.
“Nick,” Chris shouts through his brother’s bedroom door. “The neighbors have a baby.”
“They have two,” Kristi says. It’s silent for a moment, except for the cats in the other room. Steve chases Duchess around relentlessly, even though he’s been fixed. Now, she hisses loudly. Good girl, I think.
“Why wouldn’t you tell me mom? Why would you do that?” Chris shouts.
“Don’t yell at me.”
“Why then?” His voice grows harsher. Though quieter, there’s an edge to it. “What would have happened if you weren’t home?” She doesn’t answer him. I follow her gaze, which is planted on the carpet on the stairs. There’s a hole in one step where the cats have clawed through. But it doesn’t matter because she’s replacing it all, ripping out the carpet, putting in wood flooring (or something that looks close enough), and slapping on a fresh coat of paint. She’s doing everything she can, just enough to get out of this place. I want to go somewhere, duck my head in the sand, but there’s no where for me to go, so I stay and watch the show. “What would have happened mom?” Her voice is small when it finally comes out.
“He would have died I guess.”
“You guess,” Chris spits her own words back at her. “You guess. You’re a nurse, but you guess. You’re a nurse, but you can’t even see that your own son is high out of his mind every day.”
“I drug tested him,” she says, this time with more conviction.
“You drug tested him. Who cares! You left him a cup to piss in and went to work. He knows how to fake it.”
“I didn’t fake it,” Nick screams from his bedroom. He’s still shuffling around. His door’s off the hinges, but propped against the frame. He slides it over and peeks his head through the open gap. “It was diluted,” he says.
“There you go,” Chris says, facing Kristi. “How bad was it?”
“He was turning blue when I found him.”
“Oh my god.”
“See, this is why I didn’t tell you. I knew you wouldn’t support me.” I wonder if it was a mistake coming back here. If I should have stayed in Portland, where there’s more heroin addicts per square mile but at least I wasn’t living with one. But I’d wondered that about everything, always. Did I do the right thing? Did I make the right choice? All I know is that Chris is here, not there. That, together, maybe we can finally make it out for good.
“Why is everyone ignoring me?” Nick is shouting again. He’s left the door halfway open, and I can see him pacing and tugging at his hair. His voice sounds desperate, like a plea, and I don’t know why I care at all anymore. I don’t care. But there’s a sick feeling in my gut. Chris and Kristi’s arguing has become static.
“I think you two should get in there.” I nod at Nick’s bedroom door. “Before he does something stupid. Like kill himself.”