May 2000

My new girlfriend was reluctant lying next to me. She was cold to my cautious caress, but I whispered that I had a secret to tell her.

I was visiting home. The house was large, and after unpacking I decided to take a shower. There was no one around. I gathered my things and went upstairs to the bathroom. It was immense, and opened into the hallway and the master bedroom both. Around the shower basin - also large - many layers of shower linings draped loosely, drooping, or dangling from their hooks. A red liner hung so slackly that most of it clung to the basin. Things looked generally unkempt. This did not hinder me. The shower running now, I managed somehow to get soap in my eyes. I hadn't closed the curtains completely, so through the soap I managed to catch a glimpse of something green and cigar-shaped on the tub floor. My eyes stung, so I had to wipe them continually to get a better look. Through suds I could see that the object was moving, and it came to me that it was an immense green cicada. I was scared and angry, not to mention vulnerable. I couldn't imagine a household where the lack of upkeep was such that cicadas could be crawling about freely. I was trying to keep a tab on the insect's slow progress through the sting in my eyes, and swiped the curtains aside hoping the light from the bathroom would lure it. Instead the creature veered the opposite direction and poked its head under one of the drooping shower liners. I flicked at the curtains to try to discourage this, but a closer look revealed the silhouette of a giant moth between liners. With sudden revulsion I leaped from the shower. Standing dripping on the tile floor, I regarded the tub with appropriate disbelief. That's just about when I saw the first legs of the cicada appear up over the edge of the basin. Persistent bastards, I thought. I heard the intermittant buzz as the insect tested its wings, the sound alone tickling the back of my neck. I retreated into the master bedroom. The cicada had now made its way to the floor, and was actually walking steadily toward me. I swung the bathroom door closed without hesitation, and noticed immediately the large wedge of wood missing from it. The base of the door began to taper about two beet from its base, creating a triangular opening between it and the frame. Looking through into the bathroom I saw that the insect was approaching unhindered. I stood my ground, refusing to believe that the insect's steady progress toward me was intentional. Soon enough the cicada was standing still in the crook between the malformed door and the frame. Its wings buzzed... on, off... on, off. Growing behind that was a kind of plaintive warbling, like the vocalization of pidgeons. We faced each other in a kind of standoff, and my repulsion mounted as the reality of its proximity hit me. Suddenly the buzz became quite loud, and the cicada was a blur in the air. I lost track of it, but then felt a new weight in my hair. For an instant I felt disbelief at the my predicament, and that things could have happened so sequentially, so unwaveringly. I confirmed what I had feared all along as I brushed at my head with my hands and found the insect tangled in my hair. I worked to maintain enough composure to keep from slapping at it, but the creeping itch of phantom insects arched my back. Angry and repulsed, I combed my fingers through my hair to extricate the creature. It warbled in protest, and the buzz in my ear went straight to my spine. I scooped my fingers under the long body of the insect, but its clingy, spiked legs resisted releasing my hair. I exerted more forcefully and felt its thin limbs bending... breaking. And the warbles of protest were now very loud in my ear.

Returning to my apartment, I found that the key no longer fit the lock. I knocked (an odd thing to do) and the door was answered. It opened just a crack, and a face looked out - I couldn't see who it was - and then the door closed again. I was mystified. But frustrated as well. I tested the knob and it was still locked, but when I pushed on the door it opened easily. The door hadn't been closed all the way. Standing in the doorway I saw my apartment had been completely reorganized. In fact I didn't recognize anything. It was a modern, spare design, a western interpretation of traditional Asian decor. Something I would normally like a lot. Standing before me, looking surprised and embarrassed, was a young woman. She was very pretty, Asian, short, with medium length hair and a round face. Did I know her? I decided that I didn't. I looked over at my brother, who was lying casually on a futon, head propped up against the wall. "What's going on?" I asked him. "They're closing us down," he responded. I knew by "us" that he meant the two of us and mom. "They can't do that," I said. I was embarrassed to be distressed like this in front of the stranger. But I realized that I had no other choice. "Why didn't they tell us? Where's mom?" Keith said, "She's out." He seemed cold. I took a step into the room and addressed the girl. "Where all my stuff?" She didn't answer, but busied herself with her things. Keith said, "It's all in the hall," he pointed over to the hall area where my bathroom and closet are. "It's... boxed up." Now I was feeling panicked. It was all happening so quickly. Keith added, "We're completely broke." I imagined the last of the money I had saved, now all gone. I didn't know where it had gone. I felt like I'd been away for too long, and had lost track of everything. Keith had now gotten up, and we were both entered the hallway. It was different though... longer, and at the end was another bedroom. Keith was just backing out of his room and shutting the door. "How can they be shutting us down?" I asked. "They can't just move us out!"

I was in a hotel restaurant. My hotel room was not to my liking for some reason, so I was sitting at a table by the doors, my back to the wall, until the matter was resolved. Now, quite a fuss was being made by the restaurant staff to make sure everything was in its place. They hurried about nervously, checking and rechecking every chair, every place setting. Finally the double doors to my immediate right were propped open. Curious, I peered around the door closest to me, and saw a grossly overweight man surrounded by an entourage of silent, confindent-looking men. They made their way into the restaurant, and it came to me then that the man at the center was in fact the local mafia boss. I immediately felt out of place wondered how suspicious it would seem if I slipped out now. I felt suspicious even thinking about it. Guilty, though I'd done nothing. I also felt that I might be singled out if they sensed I was being too smug. I didn't know how to act, so I tried not to act at all. Several of the men in his entourage then broke off and conducted frisk searches of the restaurant patrons. One approached me, and as I was thinking, "This is so not the world I come from," I opened my jacket and let him search me. It was demeaning. And actually, I was thinking that he wasn't doing a great job, and that I could easily be concealing a knife in the folds of my shirt.

Then I was in the basement of one of the houses we lived in in Virginia years ago. I was just visiting, and for some reason I had brought a bag of CDs down to show my stepfather, who had his office set up in the finished basement. I couldn't believe how little things had changed since I'd left. It was as though I had traveled back into my own past. I was kneeling to put the bag on the floor, and looked up to see him sitting behind his desk, which stood in a book-lined alcove. His curly gray hair was sticking up as though he had recently woken up. He looked embarrassed and fidgety, and was shuffling things behind his desk. Instinctively I knew that he was hiding a porno tape, and that I had caught him. Repulsed and embarrassed, I tried to be graceful about it, and pretended not to notice anything was abnormal. I pretended to be suddenly busy routing through the bag of CDs.