n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

more fictation: Swallow

Here's another blip developing "Sparrow's voice." So's to let ya know, I've changed Sparrow's name to Tahina, because the "Sparrow as name, Swallow as title" thing was confusing. But I'm open to name suggestions because I've pilfered the name Tahina from a real person I know and that is a no-no. But it has to be as good a name as Tahina. That's the tough part. Oh, and here are the links to the other Tahina/Sparrow sections for the curious (er, maybe?): 1st Bit and 2nd Bit. Oh, and I need some bites, nips, or licks soon, or I will have to start twitching.


The sheets below me are too white. That type of white one only finds in a place where everything must be washed extra hard. I am thankful for the coarse white. It's rough against my skin and this is something I can feel. I can strip nude, with nobody here to see it, and rub myself against the sheets until I am completely raw. But I feel every inch of it, this sensitivity. Even a single finger’s touch would hurt. When you rub yourself raw, there's no part of you that disappears.

I stand up from my bed, my naked body roughed up. The sheets below wrap around the past tense of me. I look at it. I go and look in the bathroom mirror; I watch my face so blank. Not even I can tell what’s going on inside from the expression that looks back. A pointed face, tiny and composed; green eyes with blond ashy eyelashes; hair chopped short and then grown to a flapper’s length and dyed black as if I could reclaim the part of me that comes from picante and recardo rojo. A mirror, that’s what it is.

And I’m so worn through with my thoughts. I talk to him at night, stalking. There is nothing but repetition in the tale. Or maybe that’s not true; maybe I tell the story over and over again for the differences, for the small little details that come up from nowhere. This is when I’m not sure whether I’ve made everything up, or whether it was there all along for me to see.

I throw on my clothes without thinking about them. I want my skin engulfed and hidden red with freckles and a patch on my thigh that I can’t feel.

I want to hear my own voice.

“Multiple Sclerosis,” I say to myself and then sound out the phonetics of my disappearance. “multitudinous scllller o sis.”

“Chocolate,” I say in conciliation. My shirt goes on over my head and I don’t put on a bra. I don’t want a bra, don’t want the constrictions, the pretensions.

Everything underneath will be what it is. The shirt brushes against my shoulders and I leave it there a second, my arms straight overhead, my eyes closed, fabric that smells like me: a faint grease, cobblestones, panic, citrus lotion. My nostrils widen, and then I drop the shirt down over my cool breasts and furry stomach. Jeans come next, no underwear, I will be bare down there too. Sandals, no socks, and an empty backpack that will return with chocolate and wine. I open the door, take a breath, and leave. I tumble down the stairwell, not tumble but walk with uncoordinated fervor.


Night truly begins with a lust for chocolate. The day: I’ve spent it inside with the spider, with my chalk, with the chalked line I’ve drawn for practice. Outside: an increase in noise, the shouts outside, angry lovers everywhere, lovers willing to scream. I’ve never had a will for that noise, but I do have a will to eat chocolate. Before I go, because I know everything is going to come—including him, including him—I spend some time contemplating the chocolate I will indulge in.

Once in the store, I will walk around the tightly packed aisles. The storetender will wear a turban and have eyes that follow me everywhere. There will be little green fruits peering out of light yellow husks, and I will not know what they are. I will look carefully at the packages, sound out the words. Caldo de pollo. Arroz. Atun en aceite. I will find the wine and grab the green stuff, the kind that still bubbles when you open the lid.

“Que tipo de chocolate recomiendas?” I will ask the storetender.

“Que le gusta, nina?”

“No se. Un tipo rico.”

He will hand me my chocolate, a square bar wrapped in white plastic. I will pay for it and the wine, and leave.


I was seven minutes late, to be exact, and in a hurry, walking quickly down the streets. It was autumn and the leaves weren’t falling yet, but smelled crisp and brown along the sidewalks. Night was approaching, the sky a dark blue with four stars already visible. Objects were already going to break, even that first night. I was almost jogging, and had left my jacket at home under the enforced delusion that it was still warm outside. I didn’t want to think it was really the end of the summer. Leaving my jacket at home helped me believe it was still summer even if my skin warped and bumped and my whole body shook. I was wearing a thin sweater, the kind where you fix only the top button. And a brown silk shirt. I wasn’t thinking about you yet, although I was highly conscious of being late.

I didn’t intend to give you a chance. I was happy, strangely so without any explanation other than the fact that I could still pretend it was summer and four stars were out and most of my neighbors had planted flowers like chrysanthemums and impatiens, which were still going along their sidewalk paths. My family was nearby but not so nearby that I needed to be with them. I had my own place, no sharing, nothing staring me in the face.

But at some point, I stopped, even though I was late. A scent came over me and it made something close in my throat. Tight, like the way one wants to squeeze a kitten. I’m not sure what the scent was.

Near decomposition? It was a scent colored brown and orange, cool, a tiny bit of seaweed in it. It made me remember something. A small image scrolling past from a camper window, a tree bending in the middle of an empty field. The sound of The Cars in the background; Neecie, Cedra, Fish and Gustafo all singing along softly. It was the smell of us all there, packed tightly in the back of a camper, curled up in the bed compartment above the cab, plastic up above, and rectangular fuzzy windows on all sides. Cedra on her back next to me, holding her piece of cloth and being still for a change, her arm just barely touching mine as I looked out the windows and saw a tree bent in an empty field.

I smelled all of this when I was walking to see you, and it made me turn sideways from my path and walk over to a thin maple standing in the elementary school playground. I wanted to take a second. Although late, and highly conscious of being late, I was going to commit myself to the scent for a few seconds.

I didn’t intend to give you even a few seconds: you were plain and couldn’t stop staring at me whenever we were in the same room. You spoke very little and poised your hands on your knee like you didn’t know what to do with them. It wasn’t really awkward or nervous, but instead a little pretentious and I wanted to bark at you when you stared at me like that. Sure, I was going to meet you, and I had even invited you to the date, manufactured a meeting, but I was intending to either get bored of you in a few seconds, or to use your body and then wave goodbye. That was all you were going to get.

But even though I was so conscious of you waiting for me, of you sitting with that look on your face in the coffee shop where we were to meet individually for the second time, even though I felt so sorry for you, I was going to climb that tree, and I was going to make you wait. If you didn’t wait for me, you weren’t worth even a few seconds. So I jumped up, caught the lowest bough, and yanked myself up into the branches and sat there for a long time, thinking about what was going to come, thinking about the tingle in my fingers, what I held over you, but far more than that, thinking about the near rustle of the leaves, the way they were still hanging on, the last sounds they made before wrinkling down and losing their grip. I can’t tell you how pleased they sounded just to have to wind rubbing them raw and sweet.

And I saw you clearly in that moment. I saw you sitting there, your legs in slacks crossed. Your glasses perched preciously on your face, hair neatly combed to the right but with individual sections sneaking upwards as they dried. You were trying to drink some coffee, but your fingers would sneak out and tap the table. People moved by, locals, all of them looked like locals, and even if you weren’t one of them, you looked mostly that way too. You did wear black slacks, which didn’t quite fit, and your shirt was white, done up under to your chin, but there was something almost stylish about the way you did that. You knew that too, and worked it when you were in the halls at work. A nerdish sort of suavidity, pants just one step too large but no more.

There was something not local about that; the others in the coffee shop wore their clothes like part of their bodies. Hardy scratched-up carhardts from off the docks, a paint splash here and there; sweatshirts wrapped tighter with vests; jeans creeping around the butts; a black seaman’s hat with the rim rolled up; a baseball hat slightly askew but not very. A girl with blond hair and long lashes looked at you as she passed by on her way to the counter, and the two of you had the same reaction to each other. Complete disinterest and minor scorn. You looked back down at the book you brought to make sure that it seemed as if you weren’t waiting although it was written all over your body that you were.

From my tree, I watched your eyes skimming over the black surface of the print, and knew that you weren’t seeing the words. You were thinking of me. You were wondering where I was, and whether I was standing you up. For the first and only time with me, your emotions were directly halfway between painful hurt and pretended nonchalance. I was okay with that; I wanted you to feel it, and not because I was cruel, but because I thought you would remember it, and it would make you happier later. Even if I didn’t intend to give you more than a few seconds.


Long walks in the night, I take. I try to see it all over again.

“You can’t change the past, mi hija,” said Mafer before I left, “You can only change the way you feel about it.”

I want to change the way I feel about you. I want to see you differently. I want to pick over the bones to see if it was something in the marrow of us, because maybe if I saw it that way, it would carry something other than the soft shuttle of time misspent, time malformed and all out of order. I want to shape light. And feel differently about me too. I want to see myself as I am, and not as everyone else has defined me.

I look at my reflection in every window I pass. If anyone were to see me doing it, they would think me conceited. Maybe they would be right. Maybe this hypnosis is a form of vanity. But I look nonetheless, and see the other me watching this me out of the corner of her eye. She is baggy-draped and walking down a stone path in Barcelona. Behind her, el Barri Gotic, an ornate and inexplicably sinister wall of passing buildings. The evening hasn’t yet set in, and shadows stretch out over iron streetlights and balconies. Several people pass the other me: two tourists with cameras, a boy in short pants moving in an almost-run; a small girl in a white dress… and then her parents, arm in arm. The other me in the window slows down, stops. Above only me not her, a blue strip of fabric, not quite a flag, billows. Everything smells slow, something like piss on concrete as it gives heat to a burgeoning evening.

“Things divide up, don’t they?”

“Yes,” she says. “Right down the middle.”

“What’s on your side?” I ask her. I want to know.

“Oh, just another future left to die as soon as you leave this frame.”

“That’s not very optimistic. Couldn’t we keep it alive too?”

“If you want to be in front of a thousand windows at once, never looking through.”

“Staring at myself, I suppose.”

“Yes,” she says.

“Staring at a thousand different illusions.”

“Yes,” she says.

“Isn’t it the only means available to see the place where I am standing?”

“You ask for a lot, don’t you?”

A man comes out of the door next to the window that houses my other me. He pauses in the doorframe. He rubs a hand over his mustache. He tilts his head.

“Can I help, señorita? You are lost?”

I can feel my eyes crinkle as I smile. Tight, like one wants to hug a kitten.

“Gracias, señor. Solo estoy pensando.”

Esta es la lengua de mi otra vida, la unica que todovia esta viviendo con familia en un pais se llama Mexico.

When I first arrived here, this street, el Carrer de Pi (3.14159), saw my backpack stolen and recovered. I stepped off the bus and started walking west. Any direction as long as I was walking. Finally I stopped along this street and sat down on a bench. I took off my two backpacks, medium and small, and sat them next to me, studied a telephone booth nearby. I was so dizzy and wasn’t sure I could stand upright any longer. My upright was diagonal, and I felt sick and shaky with cold. I wanted to call someone. I couldn’t think of a single name. And then my backpack was gone, the small one.

I stood up as soon as I was sure. Not stood, I flew up. And looked west first then east. Off in the east, a boy medium-height in jeans flying off down the path. I started to run after him. I started to run back, to the medium pack. I started to run after him again. And then… whump!

Another boy came out of a doorjamb, his hand smacking flat against the runner's shoulder. The runner spun backwards off the new boy’s hand. I saw his face just once, quickly falling: an open mouth, darkness for eyes in the distance. Then he continued spinning and by that time, came completely off his balance and hit the ground with his pelvis. But still spinning, one arm pushing him back off the Carrer de 3.14159 and up again. My backpack slowly came off his other arm. And he kept running.

The doorjamb boy picked up my bag first. Then looked up straight at me, not smiling. I wondered if he was going to claim it, and there I’d be, still ten feet from the medium pack and a bench. Feeling dizzy and sick. Wanting to give up and go back. But then he slowly walked towards me, and all the different arrangements splayed out in front of us: I was going to have to pay him; I could invite him out to dinner; we would fall in love over a bottle each of beer; he would chastise me for being such a careless tourist; I would hang my head.

He walked over and handed me my bag. His hands were three times thicker than my own. We could have even measured them on the spot. They were nice hands. He turned around and started walking off again.

“Señor,” I called after him.

He held up the back of one very nice hand and waved it back forth over his head. He continued to walk away.

That’s what it’s like here, I tell myself. That’s just what it’s like.

“Goodbye,” I say to the confused man in the doorjamb and also to the reflection me that will pass into another reflection me as I continue on to the Placa de Pi, where I intend to open my fizzy wine and watch the night come home completely.
This story reads differently than the others that I have read of yours. I realize that it's a continuance of "Swallow" but the way you wrote it is somehow different. Maybe a change in the style of writting? I don't know but it was easy to read and I liked chewing on the "bites" of imigery!Yum!

There were a few sentences that triggered some memories of my childhood..."kids piled tightly into the cab of a camper", "maple trees", and "elementry schools". The reference to "tightly,the way one wants to squeeze a kitten" is kind of disturbing to me. It reminds me of a kid I used to know that liked to squeeze kittens a little to hard at times, just hard enough that he wasn't truly hurting the kitten, but still hard enough that one realized the kid was a little bit psycho!

Anyway, I very much enjoyed your writting! I lick it!
uh oh. i hope the voice isn't changing too much. i'll have to go back over it. i did, of course, boot her out of the hostel. but hmmmmm, how much should that change the voice (rhetorical q). anyhow, thanks for input, girl.
I don't think it changed too much. Just a little and in a good way!
haha. well, thanks; i'm still trying to nail down the quirks of each narrator. it's a really good reason not to write in first person... But it's also a good exercise; i've been walking around thinking about the characteristics of everybody's voice. I wish I took the class on it. I wish I had a transcription of a bunch of different people speaking so I could look at the grammar of it all. anyhow.
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