The Middle Distance

I nod, clumsy hands sweating
As they hold a phone to my ear,
But I cannot find words to answer
Beyond “mhmm” or “yeah” as my thoughts,
Tangled like my hand in my hair,
Lie in knots on the ground around me.
Knots I tied myself because this
Is harder for you than me.
You need to relay information
And I need to hold it together
So you can make another call after this one.

I press my forehead against the cold brick
Of the bathroom I’ve locked myself away in
So you don’t have to compete with the noise around me.
So you don’t have to repeat this more than you need to.

There is a window that ends just below
The brick I’ve put my head against
And I stare out it, eyes unfocused
As I gaze into the space between
The window and the world outside it.
I lose myself there, in the middle distance,
Until decisions are made and I have details
To focus my unspooled thoughts on.

When I emerge, I stay in that middle distance.
The people I was with know something is wrong
And they move from far to near to help,
But I’m stuck in the middle distance.

I am still stuck there,
Trapped between the news I received
And the future I can’t bear to see
As I focus on lists and plans,
Losing myself in the things I need to do
Even though I know there is only so much time
Until the middle distance has been eaten
By feet that, even now, still carry me forward.

All Natural

It was one of the parks in the city big enough to let you forget you were surrounded by concrete and glass. Lucia wouldn’t know he was there.

His phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket, saw her face, and silenced it as he fought down the rising panic. It was only three in the afternoon and he had plenty of time. As the panic started to win the battle, he hauled himself to his feet and started walking toward the parking lot.

Half an hour later, his bugout bag in hand, he bought a greyhound ticket. Once he got to the state park, it was easy to find someone willing to sell him camping gear. He had plenty of money and most of the people he saw didn’t really want to be camping anyway.

It was early morning by the time he began setting up camp. There was no way anyone would be able to find him. He basked in that peace for two days, surviving off the fat of the land and drinking from crystal springs. But then he approached his campsite one night and heard voices.

Abandoning his gear, he immediately turned around and headed toward the nearby mountain. He walked through the night and didn’t stop until the sun had set again. When he gave up trying to sleep, the sun was rising. He walked toward a cliff to check his surroundings. As he admired the beauty of this national park, his phone rang. He pulled it out and answered.

“Hi, Lucia.”

“Sweetie! Where have you gone?”

Adam pulled the phone away from his face and bellowed. “You’ll never find me, you devil.” He threw his phone as hard as he could, watching it sail into the distance, and shouted after it. “I quit!”

The Ellipses

Once upon a midday dreary, while I browsed, bored and bleary,
Over many a wikipedia page of unverified lore–
While I drowsed, my head swinging, suddenly my phone was ringing,
It was my favorite band singing, singing about a red door.
“Someone is calling,” I muttered, “ringing like some common bore–
           Who calls someone anymore?”

Oh, so clearly I remember it was in the grey September;
As the warm summer’s dying ember was smothered in a downpour.
Impatiently I had waited for plans my friends had slated
To meet the woman I dated–though she’d have called it more–
A woman I had met at school who called herself Eleanor–
           A name she uses no more.

The always surprisingly loud sound of thunder from the rain clouds
Stilled me–chilled me with a thought I could not possibly ignore;
“What if she wants to change our plans?” And fumbled ringing phone from hands,
Clumsy like they were paper fans, dropped noisily to the floor—
“I hope my phone is not broken like the last one was before.
           That would really be a chore.”

I picked it up and in relief fsaw my phone had not come to grief.
“Hello?” I called out, not realizing I had hit ignore.
“Hello? Is someone there?” I said before learning the line dead.
I pulled it away from my head and saw a name I adore.
The person I had hung up on was my girlfriend Eleanor,
           The person I most cared for.

I began to apologize and completely overemphasize
How sorry I was by texting faster than ever before.
My texts continued unbroken as I offered every token
Until the last word I’d spoken hun unanswered: “Eleanor?”
This I repeated after five empty minutes: “Eleanor?”
           One word only and no more.

Through my house I began pacing as fear set my heart to racing,
Soon I heard a buzzing louder than the ringing was before.
“Surely,” I said,”that is her text. She would not leave me so perplexed.”
“Unless,” I thought, “she’s truly vexed and does not set any store
By my attempts to explain my unintentional ‘ignore.’”
           It was Twitter and nothing more.

In a panic, I checked the time since I had committed my crime
And saw twenty minutes passed since I dropped my phone on the floor;
No reply had graced my phone so I let out a wailing groan
“C’mon, sweetie, throw me a bone! Is that too much to ask for?
It was an accident and I sent apologies galore!”
           Silence answered, nothing more.

Then suddenly a change occurred and all my worries felt absurd.
The ellipses appeared! I had not ruined our loving rapport!
“Thank god” I breathed deeply and said as all my texts were marked as “read.”
“I’m glad I have nothing to dread.” I smiled as I waited for
Whatever angry words or gracious answer she held in store.
           Only periods, nothing more.

Much as I wished for a response to reaffirm my nonchalance,
I knew hasty words little use and even less meaning bore.
For we can certainly agree this moment forbade repartee
Or any glib smartassery that would encourage an encore
Of the petrifying silence that ended moments before.
           I’d be patient a while more.

But the ellipses bouncing there, cheerfully mocking my stare
While I waited for a response from my darling Eleanor,
Refused to change to a bubble of text to absolve the trouble
That made me wish to redouble my apologies once more.
I sat silent, watching and drumming my feet upon the floor.
           Only periods, nothing more.

Unsettled, I leapt to my feet and bid a hasty retreat
To the pacing I had taken comfort in minutes before.
“What is taking her so long to say something simple that would allay
The concern I tried to convey when I said that last ‘Eleanor?’
Could she not see the meaning I put in that last ‘Eleanor?’
           Should I say something more?”

The ellipses still beguiling convinced me to resume smiling
While I made my way back and forth across my living room floor.
There was ample time as of yet before I had cause to regret
That I’d accidentally set my finger on my phone’s ‘ignore.’
Surely she would not stay angry with an accidental ‘ignore?’
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

Thus I paced, engaged in guessing, but no single word expressing,
What was preventing her from sending what words she held in store.
This and more I mulled, divining some trace of a silver lining
While I paced through the confining apartment rooms I could explore,
The apartment rooms she had not yet had a chance to explore.
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

Then, I thought, I felt my phone shake and my heart lurched with hopeful ache,
Push by swelling heart I checked the screen and reached for nearest door.
“Damn it all! Why won’t she text me? Why does she refuse to free me
Of this horrible agony? Why won’t you text me, Eleanor?
Was what I did so bad you no longer love me Eleanor?”
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

“Hit send!” I said. “You’ve typed enough! Just hit send even if it’s rough!
Let me know if all’s still well and if you love me Eleanor.
Sooth my growing anxiety before I flee propriety
And give up my sobriety–message me, please, I implore–
Say there’s nothing to worry about–please, darling Eleanor.”
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

“Hit send!” I said. “You’ve typed enough! Just hit send even if it’s rough!
Just send me anything at all, I can’t take it anymore!
Rip out my heart! Toss it away! Tell me I have led you astray!
Just listen to me when I say I am sorry, Eleanor.
Please just hear what I have to say! I’m so sorry, Eleanor!”
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

“Fine! Let this silence mark the end! There’s nothing left for us to mend
When you hold your words hostage, doing the one thing I abhor
To torture me for some small fault. I will not stand for this assault,
Not when torture is your default–Never more darken my door!
Take your silence with when you go and never darken my door!
           Still ellipses, nothing more.

As if some god laughed at my pain, I felt vibration, clear and plain
While I saw the cursed ellipses vanish forevermore.
Disbelieving, I shook my head and pushed away the rising dread
As I, shocked, read and re-read the reply from my Eleanor.
The reply from darling Eleanor said “Kay” and nothing more.
           That one word and nothing more.

My Dream Car

Lee stood at the window, folding laundry as he waited for his girlfriend. As he moved deeper into a pile of shirts, he saw a car pull up. A moment of excitement, the car pulled away and he remembered Amy was still too far away.

He took a pile of shirts and put them away. When Lee turned around, he noticed a car pull up to the curb, pause for a moment, and then drive away. Curious, he absently picked up another shirts and kept folding. On the fifth, the car pulled up to the curb, hesitated for a moment, and then drove off again.

Gone were thoughts of shirts and his girlfriend. Lee tossed his laundry aside and moved to the downstairs window. A couple minutes later, the car pulled up to the curb, hesitated, and then drove away.

While he contemplated this pattern, it came by again. The interval between the car’s disappeared and reappearance began to shrink until it came into sight as soon as it vanished. After a minute, he noticed the car creeping closer to his window. He jumped back from the window. He couldn’t see the car past the blinds in any of the windows, but he could hear it zipping around.

Just as it sounded like it was about to tear his house apart, he found himself sitting on his bed next to a pile of laundry, phone buzzing in his pocket. Still listening for the rush of air that was the car, he saw his girlfriend’s picture.

“Hello?”

“I’m outside.”

“Sorry.” Lee hurried toward the door. “I dozed off.”

“Really?” Lee unlocked the door and hung up his phone. Amy’s worried face greeted his.“It looks like a bunch of cars drove over your lawn. How could you have slept through that?”

Lost Connection

Dancing dots spin and whirl
As I fret and watch the screen.
Seconds tick and minutes pass
As I mourn what might have been.
Passcodes take too long to type
As I start to make a scene.
Why’d my phone have to shut off
As you started to come clean?

I swear I want to hear you out
As I quickly make my case,
But anger soon fills up your voice
Knocking patience out of place.
My words become lost in yours
And then vanish without a trace
Because your pain and questioning
Have left my answers with no space.

I sit and listen for a while,
Until I can take it no more,
Then I gently set my phone down
And think back to moments before.
That sudden sound of silence
As my stomach dropped through the floor:
I felt relieved that I’d not need
To put up with you anymore.

Flash Fiction and Post-holiday Blues

Since I’m stuck deep in the Post-holiday blues and am almost too tired from them to care, have a bit of flash fiction. If I’m still this down tomorrow, I promise I’ll post some poetry instead.

I wrote this piece a few years ago, while spending a summer working on a show being put on at my college. It was Les Miserables, and this piece was the result of a challenge from one of my coworkers, who took a rather antagonistic (but still appreciated) role in encouraging me to write. He wanted me to write something about someone with a cell phone in the French Revolution, so I obliged. I had a thing for flash fiction warm-ups that summer, so I did this while preparing to write that night and he loved it. I hope you enjoy it and that you’re avoiding any kind of holiday-related blues.


With a crack and flash, guns fired. Someone screamed. Someone died. A cannon roared in the distance. Part of the barricade exploded and fell in as the cannons facing them blazed and belched their iron-fisted demands of surrender or death. Revolutionaries screamed in defiance with their last breath, refusing to retreat or take down their red flag.

Deedle-oo-doo deedle-oo-doo deedle-oo-doo-dee.

“HOLD”

Absolute silence. Nothing moved.

“Mark, if your cell phone goes off one more time during rehearsal I am going to throw you both in the river!” The director waved his arms as he yelled and started pacing through the theater.

Everybody but Mark pulled their cell phones from their pockets and ignored the irate director. Not a single person held a gun, but every pair of hands held a cell phone. Who can ignore the call to revolution, much a less a call from a friend?