Ever feel like the doors of opportunity are real-fake doors? Ali Pica wrote this poem out of ennui and listlessness of searching.
I Know How To Waste My Time
I know how to waste my time.
I took too many selfies
That all looked the same
Minus the duck lips and cleavage.
I swiped left on my phone,
Edited, and re-edited
A bio no one read.
Vintage vinyls and art,
I struggled to figure out
If someone actually liked me
Or if it was an accident?
As Bob Ross said, there are only happy accidents.
Then, I thought I would be more productive
And use an app to apply for jobs,
Which I kept swiping left, editing,
And re-editing my profile
That no one read
Until I applied for a nursing job by mistake
And received a free resume analysis, which said,
“You have no accomplishments.”
Now I get messages from men
For potential random part-time jobs
Or meet-ups in coffee shops for potential hook-ups.
It’s all the same to me.
A few summers ago, an older gentleman
Rolled up in a BMW convertible
And chatted with me
While I waited for an oil change.
He gave me his business card, which read:
“Service with Happy Endings.”
The card was littered with hand prints
Like that of a child would press against the wall.
He offered me a job waxing boats while wearing my bikini
And promised I could live in his condo on the beach.
I politely declined and moved back home after two masters degrees.
Daniel Rosler is a local NEPA writer and musician. He writes and performs with his bands, “Esta Coda” and “A Fire With Friends.” He has published a short story, “Dog Whistle,” in the Jawline Review, and a non-fiction piece, “Technology and the Death of the Individual: Chaplin’s Critique of Modern Times” for Moviejawn. He enjoys literary criticism and theory, particularly psychoanalysis and Marxist criticism, as well as continental philosophy. He is a graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, a minor in psychology and received the 2016 Academic Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in English. He currently works at the Scranton Times-Tribune and is debating whether he can afford pursuing his Ph.D at Binghamton University. He’s the loving father of daughter, Nora Kate, his dog, “Dobby” and grateful for his girlfriend, Ashley Farrow.
Daniel Rosler’s excerpt from a longer fiction piece is called, “Remembering Jane.”
“There’s nothing funny about the situation,” she would say matter-of-factly.
“As a matter of fact,” was something she also said a lot.
I met Jane in the summer. She wore a sundress that I thought was strange but later found out was a supposed rare, vintage outfit she picked up at a thrift store in her hometown. Either way, I told her then, and still believe now, that her shoes were stupid.
We ran into each other again at a mutual friend’s house shortly after. This time, and maybe it was the wine, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The summer was nearing end, but it was still hot as hell. I watched her wipe sweat from her forehead near our friend’s pool. She refused to go in because she was afraid of public pools. I explained to her that a pool in someone’s backyard was hardly public.
“That doesn’t mean I know who’s been in here,” she said.
“Who cares who’s been in here?”
That’s when she pushed me in the pool. Everyone laughed. As soon as I came up for air, I laughed too. She had a huge smile. I hadn’t noticed it before.
“Now, I’m definitely not getting in there,” she said.
Later that night, she joined me in the back of my car, and there was hardly any time to come up for air.
We started dating. Became a serious thing I guess. We moved into a small, upstairs apartment. Jane would sit on the floor and listen to her records. Said she could feel the music better there. I told her she was crazy and would pour myself a small glass of Scotch and watch her. She would keep her eyes shut and stay there for hours. I remember her saying she could hear eternity like that but could never explain what that meant.
“Can you flip it for me?” She would ask every so often.
There were a lot of nights like that. Even though I thought she was nuts, I never minded.
She told me that when she was younger people would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she’d tell them, “myself.” The grown-ups got a kick out of that. They’d laugh, always noting that “kids say the funniest things.” They stopped laughing when she turned eighteen and her answer didn’t change.
“Just being yourself is hard enough,” she would whisper to me in bed. We liked to lay under the sheets and talk. I thought it was strange, but she said she felt safe like that.
I worked for a local garage and she stayed home working on her paintings. I guess she was pretty good at it, too. I wouldn’t know. Sometimes, she’d tell me in great detail of what she was trying to say in her art. A lot of it was political. A lot of it was about environment. And war. And peace. And people. And religion. And the economy.
It just looked like colors to me.
One day, I came home from a long day and Jane wasn’t home. I passed out early. When I woke up the next morning, Jane still wasn’t there. I started to worry, pacing around our living room. That’s when I finally noticed her newest painting. It was a portrait of me. She never painted me before. There was a note underneath it that said:
“You are the kindest, most gentle, and loving thing that’s ever happened to me. And yet, for some reason, I’m still not happy. I can no longer accept how unfair that is to the both of us. One day, you will hear from me again. I promise.
With all the love I can muster,
I spent the day sulking, had a little too much to drink and decided to drive around town to see if I would find her anywhere. I knew it was pointless. But people used to tell me love was pointless, and every single one of them still tried.
I tried for hours that night.
I stopped in a local pub, and the bartender Bobby told me I looked like I had seen better days.
I feared I had already seen the best.
Years and years passed before I finally heard from Jane.
It happened yesterday. A neighbor of hers called me. She told me she didn’t know of Jane having any family or friends. Told me she would check in on her when she could. After Jane died, her neighbor helped clear some of the stuff from Jane’s house. That’s when she found a photo of Jane and me. It was taken many years ago outside of an art show Jane had one Friday evening. The photo made it into the paper and had our names beneath it. Her neighbor told me she looked me up and decided to call me, thinking maybe Jane and I stayed in touch. She seemed disappointed to tell me the funeral had already happened. I told her not to worry about it, and she told me Jane passed peacefully. I’ve always thought that was a weird expression, but I thanked her. I couldn’t help but feel a little numb to the news.
I spent that night nursing a Scotch. I set up an old record player and put a Sam Cooke album on. Jane loved Sam. I used to hear her humming “You Send Me” while she painted. I flipped Sam Cooke records over more than any other.
That’s when I remembered something Jane told me once, that she could never be content with just “trying.” She said she had one life to live and that it didn’t mean anything unless she left something behind to feel proud of. She was full of passion, but I disagreed with her and still do now. I used to tell her to at least try meant everything. Made a world of difference. I wonder if she ever learned to agree with me. Or if, even better, she felt she had reached whatever goal she had set for herself. The kind of goal you can’t really explain to another person.
“Maybe those kind of goals are unattainable,” I would tell her.
“Nothing in this world is unattainable,” she would tell me.
She painted her whole god damn life away, and all I ever saw were the colors.
Today’s contributor for “The Obsequious Pen” is our own columnist and creator of Thirty-Third Wheel, Ali Pica. Her poem is titled, “That One Time.” She will be reading her works alongside other local writers at this Friday night’s “Love Bites: Writer’s Circle” reading at the Game Chateau in Wilkes, Barre, 7:30 p.m. and at the Writers’ Showcase, next Saturday at 7:00 p.m. This poem was inspired by the song “Two Blue Lights” from Songs: Ohia on his album Didn’t It Rain.
That One Time
I think of you
That one time
You held my hand—
For sentimental reasons
I rejected the possibility of stars
In this universe.
I saw you smile
That one time
Through the haze of your smoke
And self-deprecating humor
Intertwined in the binding
Of literary analysis,
You lit up a ring of laughter
Underneath the flood lights.
That one time
I thought you were into her and
I was invisible as an auditory hallucination,
When I listen to your voice,
I know you know I am real.
That one time
I thought I loved you
And still do—
Don’t know what to do
That one time
I will have to.
Ali along with other local talented writers will be reading their love-scorned works at the “Love Bites, Writers Circle” reading, Friday, February 23, 7:30 p.m. at the Game Chateau, located 1112-PA 315 Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702. The cover is $5 at the door.
Today’s song is “Answer” by Phantogram on their album, Three.
It is what we owe each other. Not what you or I are owed: we are owed nothing.
Or at least that’s the way it should be.
I used to be bullied all of the time as a kid: I was called names, had garbage thrown at me, and had been threatened from time to time. In my adult relationships, I was verbally, emotionally, and physically abused. I used to absorb the hatred and blame myself. Now, I vow to take in hate and produce love like a tree takes in Carbon Dioxide and produces Oxygen. I give air for people to breathe to the best of my ability.
Gestalt theory states our whole perception is greater than the sum of its parts. If we apply this concept to society, shouldn’t we be greater than just the sum of individuals? Then, what the hell is wrong with us as a society? Why do we treat each other the way we do? Why are we so selfish?
I used to think in terms of what I did or didn’t “deserve.” It’s not about me anymore or any of us, specifically. Our world is too fragile to distribute “just desserts” all of the time.
I had an intense discussion with my college students yesterday about the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Gun control aside, I asked them, as mental health advocates in training, what are we going to do to help prevent these tragedies? How do we identify those suffering and stop them before they cause destruction? How do we heal those who have survived? They discussed how they felt unsafe on our campus—a place I see so picturesquely serene and isolated from the world. I vowed to do something to protect it, to protect us, but I don’t know what it is yet.
It is each of our responsibilities to be a part of the solution. We need to stop focusing so much on ourselves to the point that we destroy the people we love or let them succumb to the evils of this world, like self-harm. We may feel as if we do not have control; however, we do. We can love the people we care about so much it hurts. We don’t have to love everyone, but we don’t have to hate either. Hate is a choice.
So, what are we going to do about it? We need an answer.
Today’s song is “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” by Courtney Barnett, from her album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit.
It’s that time of year again, the Hallmark of b.s. holidays we fall for every time we see it, like a horrible ex, who was great in bed: Happy Valentine’s Day! We spend money on wilted flowers, sparkly mushy cards with professions of love that read like a word salad, lard churned drug-store Whitman’s Sampler chocolates, and overpriced-under portioned dinners at restaurants where we are sardined in a can, hoping to get something in return.
I may be a little jaded, but I would rather take it all back. I would rather drink with my friends on Galentine’s Day. Or any day, really.
Consequently, Valentine’s Day has a way of nagging away my painfully single human existence, just a little bit. It’s only painful if I cared. Then, I reminisced lately about the past as if it were something great, someone great. The thoughts would ebb and flow as I zoned out to whatever I have been binge watching all week.
I recollected my past relationships and romantic encounters as if I were trying to remember what to buy at the grocery store.
I got a text last night, which read, “I was thinking of you and just wanted to say hey.”
“I’m thinkin’ of you too…”
I didn’t actually text that in response. I said something like, “same here” as to be slightly vague and sarcastic. He knew what I meant. We both stay in touch randomly, which I suspect is to ease his singledom. It doesn’t matter to me.
His random text made me think about how a few years ago I had a different life. I would have dates booked back-to-back on weekends, and went to upscale restaurants, roof-top bars, and concerts. I was always surrounded by people, but somehow felt even more lonely? Did I not appreciate it?
As I shift back to the present, I think I would rather bury myself in my hoodie and watch Rick and Morty than deal with the constant search, the mind-numbing dry-wall conversations, the awkward good-byes. Rinse and repeat.
But what’s the point of the mundane every day? I make it sound as if I am as lonely as a microwavable dinner, but I am lucky for what I have. It’s not all bad. I enjoy loving myself and others in my life, even if it’s not the romantic love of partner. I love my spending time with my family. I love having close gatherings with friends. I can talk to anyone if I feel like it or choose to simply be. I love making people happy even if it’s just cracking a joke to make my students laugh, because they had a bad day or listening to a stranger’s problems, because I “seem like I am a good listener and won’t judge. ”
No matter how alone we feel at times, we must remind ourselves of how we fit into the universe and that there are people in that universe, too. Our actions can have a ripple effect on others, good or bad. True happiness comes with self-acceptance in numerous ways. I accept that although I will be single on Valentine’s Day, I am not alone. You are not alone either. And sometimes if you are physically alone, it can be a good thing. Take some time for yourself and enjoy your place. Remember: “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.” It may not be a life-changing quote, but it can get us from the present to the future. It may not be a great place where we are, but remember, there is a possibility it can change for the better, tomorrow.
Marcie along with other local gifted writers will be reading their love-scorned works at the “Love Bites, Writers Circle” reading, Friday, February 23, 7:30 p.m. at the Game Chateau, located 1112-PA 315 Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702. The cover is $5 at the door.
His comment struck a chord with her body. His words felt to her as if he strummed her very essence, like a steel string, ground in between the metal entwined grooves with his jagged fingernails. This left her with a reverberating sound, his voice, which resonated in her throat as if she caught his voice and kept it as her own.
“Who gets the couch?” he asked.
She parroted to herself quietly, “Who gets the couch?”
“I guess I will take it since I paid most of the bills anyhow. It is my place after all,” he answered his own question.
“I…” she paused.
“You what?” he asked.
He had a chipper musical quality to his being that she hadn’t heard since they first moved in together. He sounded like a customer service agent who was also a morning person.
He held the neck of a bottle of craft beer in his left hand and talked with his right. Then, he reached out his left hand as a truce.
“Cheers,” he tilted his bottle towards hers. However, she didn’t reciprocate the cheer.
“What’s the matter? You know you wanted, we both wanted this for quite a while!” he bemoaned.
“It’s not the fact that it happened. It’s the way that it happened. You tried to cheat with my best friend!” she piped up with a flicker of fire, then snuffed out the flame.
“You mean she tried…” he said now with an angrier tone, spacing out his words as if he were chewing on a piece of bloody steak.
“You didn’t object if that was the case,” she mumbled.
“What was that? Oh, nothing I am sure, because you know this is all in your head. You were looking for an excuse to get rid of me,” he labored over his words as blood seemed to dribble from his mouth.
“It doesn’t matter,” she sighed as she grabbed her bag, and walked out the door.
She didn’t look back.
“To new beginnings,” she spoke to the air as she pretended to toast to an imaginary recipient, dumped her contents onto the grass, then threw her bottle in a nearby recycling bin.
She didn’t care about much, but felt there was no need to stop caring about the environment.
The Writers’ Showcase is an event that features readings of poetry and prose from Pennsylvania based writers. The Writers’ Showcase: Spring Edition will take place on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W Market St. Scranton, PA from 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Admission is $4 at the door.