Excerpt: 'Postures, Erasures' by Grant Maierhofer
From ERASURE I:
You develop habits. You learn to relish your time in the shower because it’s the only place you truly feel alone. You learn to relish therapeutic techniques like writing or reading time because those are the only times you feel truly free with your ideas. You learn to enjoy the rather drab elements of evening television and movie nights because as entertainment alongside one’s kin it’s simply all you’ve got. You learn to get past the emotion in your sister’s voice when you speak over the phone about all your friends, about how they’re worried about you and they wish you would come home, about how mom and dad told them you were getting special eye surgery and were spending time with a tutor so you could learn how to write properly again. You learn to fool tutors, learn to test quickly out of subjects because you don’t want to exercise your mental faculties with them; you want to do that alone. You learn what it means to lie and to be lied to, learn just what medication is capable of. You learn from other occupants that drugs might be the ticket to a better and more interesting life. You spend hours staring out the window at one bird on top of one tree and you wonder if it’s the same bird from a day ago, from two days, from three. The bird changes its habits, some days it’s on a wiry branch taking all the risks in the world, and some days it’s on a good firm branch because the wind is causing its feathers to ruffle horribly. You learn to appreciate those black birds, and you learn from certain writers that sadness doesn’t always have to be bad, but that it does always have to be. You develop a habit of masturbating quite often and this in turn mellows you out that much more. You get good grades, invent craft projects, listen to the music on the radio and even sometimes sing along when you and the van full of kin go to the YMCA. And when you’re finally ready, when it’s finally time to leave that place, you don’t want to go, and you wind up staying another half a year because you’re too scared to see what the outside will look like. You’re too scared to see the movies or what your friends will now have in their lives. You’re too scared to eventually be honest with the friends that matter about your misery because you think they’ll think you a freak. You’re beginning to obsess over little, trivial things like what color your mother’s car was before you came in. You’re wondering what a Frosty from Wendy’s would taste like on a hot summer day, wondering what your father’s voice would sound like when he calls from the living room that something interesting is on TV, and all of this slowly plucks, and plucks, and plucks at you until finally your parents tell you it’s time to leave, and you do, and nothing in your life can ever remain as it was before you stepped into that cafeteria—blood dripping from your leg—and keeled over in awful submission to the spectacle of the world.
X rode the train home in an empty car and exited at the Wellington stop to an empty street. It was late, and that part of the world went to sleep early during the week. A few stragglers ambled down the street past him with hurried expressions on their faces and heavy bags on their shoulders. He ignored everything; held a long conversation with himself instead.
“You know, it’s like I’ve spent my entire life leading to this empty plateau, and I can’t decide what to make of it. Obviously I’ve endured. I’ve fought, and earned a few things that make me feel good about being alive, but there are other, simpler elements that leave me feeling farther away from some happiness than I ever imagined. Sometimes I think it’s girls. Like I just need a girl, but then I figure how fucked up I actually am. The things I do. The thoughts I think. All of it compounds on itself over and over again the second any notion of becoming normal comes to light,” X held these interviews with himself at low tones, nearly every time he walked around the city or went from A to B, “the sad truth is, I think I’m doomed to be this way my entire life. And that doesn’t scare me really. Doesn’t make me feel like I’m going to topple over some prophetic edge and suddenly change or anything, but it does confuse me. So much of my existence has been about moving forward. Moving away from things in my past. Moving toward some future that’s so bright it will blind eyes of men and women who’ve told me how crazy I am my whole life, but now I’m not so sure. All I want is some quiet place, it’s like that Nobel Prize acceptance line, ‘A writer’s life is, at best, a lonely life,’ who said that? Gotta look that up later. That’s all I really hope for. Give me a couple good slobbery dogs and no other fucking men around and I’ll be good.” At that point some young guy walked by him, obviously hearing. They bumped shoulders, and X continued on, jeering, “Who’s this fuck? Fuck you. Fuck you guy. This fucking fuck, people always have such bad attitudes when they walk by. Why? Am I a fucking loony? Am I some fucking mad man? I don’t know. It’s all so stupid, this guy’s so fucking stupid. I wish he’d come back here, I’d stick my thumbs in his eyes. Stupid fucking piece of shit. Fuck him.” X held his hands in the jacket’s pockets and imagined himself the butcher in I Stand Alone when things became tense in public. Useless endless thoughts and occasionally he slips or realizes he’s walked the wrong way, his mind is full-up.
Nobody was home. X threw the mail down on the kitchen table and turned on “Is there anybody out there?” an interlude from The Wall by Pink Floyd, which was probably his favorite piece of guitar music. He went into his bedroom and grabbed the four or five bottles of pills and vitamins from the dresser, holding them in his arms like a small child. He went into the bathroom, locked the door, and listened as the music took hold, knowing again he was more right than wrong for doing this.
First he wanted to get rid of the sleeping pills, and with a small splash they hit the water. He wondered what would happen to them if he’d simply let them sit, if they’d turn to powder or something. He couldn’t worry about such things. He poured in the rest of them, until a final pile of chemical shit mounted in the bowl, bright reds and oranges and whites, and X laughed, thinking how good it all was; the pills being at the bottom of this quite human item just then, being turned to the shit they were. Destroying them for all they’d done.
He started to hurt a bit; hands started to sweat profusely and he didn’t know what to expect next. X flushed the toilet and just to ensure it all went down put a few sheets of toilet paper atop the capsules and tablets. It flushed, was gone. X watched them spin down the bowl and felt a weight lifted from his shoulders; but there was that coldness, and sweat dripping from his hands. He started to worry that a certain withdrawal would overcome him, and decided he’d better plan ahead in case the next few days gave any trouble.
They are young and at a carnival. Bea tells X all is fine and he believes her, she and X sit far above it in white and red seats smiling at the animals. They feed them peanuts and X marvels at their strength, the bright lights above teach him something, carry him somewhere away from crying.
A trumpet sounds, and real men and women fly high and away from them as she holds his tiny hand.
‘The king, The king, bright as the sky as the dandelions sing!’ Bea’s voice, here and far away, covers X like the leaves parting between their fingers in piles on the ground.
She writes X letters, tells him stories in them about her home away from him, and he listens and try to understand too much.
The onset of neurosis is like the time-lapsed bloom of a rose. The things X begin to believe then will be the things he believes forevermore, and at once he is a small, unique, King of everything he sees.
They feed him cereal and on May Days he tries too hard to kiss the neighbor-girls. X is damned and smiling on Halloweens in droves of apprehensive, deceptive children.
X is teary-eyed by the time the elephants leave, wanting to fly away on their backs, wanting to swim in their huge black eyes, wanting to place his tiny hands on the back of the mother and fall asleep as she trundles along to an oasis in the fog.
About the Author:
Grant Maierhofer is the author of ODE TO A VINCENT GALLO NIGHTINGALE (Black Coffee Press/Drunk Uncle Chapbooks), and The Persistence of Crows (Tiny TOE Press). His work has appeared in Gesture, Brawler Lit, Bright Stupid Confetti, The Open End, We Feel Pretty, HTMLGIANT and elsewhere. He lives in Wisconsin.